- Lifestyle & Sports
- 06 Mar 18
As well as once-in-a-lifetime safari experiences, Nairobi also offers a rich range of cultural attractions.
Where exactly is it?
The Kenyan capital is located in the country’s south-central highlands. It lies 480 kilometres northwest of Mombasa, a journey which takes roughly nine hours by bus if you choose to venture out that way (we highly recommend it).
Why should I go there?
Nairobi is wild, rough and adventurous; the city itself is like going on safari. It has huge skyscraper buildings, lavish hotels and shopping malls. But it’s rough around the edges and chaotic in its layout.
How do I get there?
Turkish Airlines, Emirates and KLM are the main airlines that have flights out to Nairobi. There are usually stops in Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi, but whatever route you take, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the price of tickets. A return flight will cost you somewhere around €450 (skyscanner.ie).
When should I go?
There is a very short rainy season in Kenya, lasting from late October through to December. In terms of outdoor activities and safaris, the absolute best time to go is January and February – although it’s worth bearing in mind that prices do drop dramatically in the rainy season.
How can I get around?
If you’re going for a week or 10 days and have an action-packed, adventure-filled trip ahead of you, taxis are probably your best bet. However, if you perhaps have a little more time on your hands, the matatus are simply brilliant. For anyone familiar with Central America, matatus are Africa’s answer to the chicken buses. Matatus range in size from mini-vans to full-blown tour-buses, and will cram as many people on as possible. They run from the suburbs right into the centre of Nairobi city, taking onboard anyone and everyone they see along the way.
There are no designated stops until you get right into the centre of the city, so all you have to do is flag one down. A 40-minute matatu ride will cost you less than €1. Bear in mind, though, these buses aren’t for the faint-hearted; they travel at the speed of light and don’t slow down over bumps and corners. Also, prepare to listen to some bible readings and preaching, whilst getting hassled to buy the latest piece of crap in the form of a miniature toothbrush kit – or “the world’s best caramel”.
What’s the local beer like?
A popular offering is Tusker Lager, brewed in Kenya and sold all over East Africa. It’s a pale beer and extremely refreshing, especially in the African heat. A six-pack will cost you 960 Kenyan shillings, which works out at €7. Meanwhile, you can also head to Brew Bistro Rooftop, in Westlands Fortis Tower, for a good selection of Kenyan craft beers (thebigfivebreweries.com).
What’s the food like?
The most common food in Kenya is ugali, a cornmeal staple and incredibly cheap. It’s like a dense, solidified porridge and accompanies most meals. Irio, meanwhile, is one of the most famous Kenyan dishes, and consists of green peas and potatoes, which are boiled up and mashed together. Githeri, another staple, consists of boiled beans, corn kernels and sometimes vegetables such as cabbage or spinach.
Wealthy Kenyans will eat nyama choma, which is basically a mixed platter of different barbecued meats such as goat and cow. For the best spread of African barbecue, head to Carnivore Restaurant (tamarind.co.ke/carnivore). Chapati is for breakfast and looks like a thin naan bread, but tastes like a sweet pancake and goes deliciously with Kenyan breakfast tea. Finally, Java House is Nairobi’s answer to Starbucks and supplies traditional Kenyan sweet treats and speedy wifi. Be warned though: it’s not cheap and you’ll be paying European prices (javahouseafrica.com).
What is the nightlife like?
Wealthy Kenyans and most tourists head to Westlands, an area just outside the city centre. Here you’ll find a collection of late night bars and clubs with traditional African pop music blasting out until 4am. Tamambo is a high-end restaurant with impressive gardens situated in Karen Blixen, and has a late-night bar and heated outdoor terrace – around which peacocks and other exotic animals occasionally wander (tamarind.co.ke/tamambo-karen).
What are the touristy things to do?
Everyone that goes to Kenya has to go on safari – that’s a given – but why not take it up a notch and do a hot-air balloon safari? The giraffe sanctuary located in Lang’ata (five kilometres from the centre) is a great day activity, where you get to feed giraffes from a tree top bungalow, and watch wild warthogs shoot in and out of bushes. A hike in the Ngong Hills is a must, but a security escort is required, as there are bush men equipped with machetes and guns who prey on tourists.
However, don’t let that put you off, as it’s easy to find Kenyan police to walk with you. The Masai Market in the city centre, meanwhile, is where all your African jewellery and art dreams come true. It’s open seven days a week and conveniently located in the heart of the city.
If you have two full days of travelling to spare (or a few bob for a flight), a trip to Mombasa is highly recommended. A bus leaves the Nairobi every morning and gets you there in nine hours, although a one-hour flight will set you back only €50 (jetcost.ie). Mombasa is the epitome of a mirage in a desert; the white sandy beaches of Diani, with wild camels trotting along the shore, is a sight for sore eyes. With regard to accommodation, Diani Beach Backpackers feels more like a hotel than a hostel. It costs only half as much as staying in one of the resorts, plus it’s a five-minute walk from the beach (dianibackpackers.com).