Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is a destination in itself. It is a bustling metropolitan that features a wealth of vibrant nightclubs, hipster hangouts, cultural spots and unique attractions that share space with fascinating wild animals. While some others deliberately stay for a vacation, most people merely pass through this vibrant-city-meets-wild haven. If you’re ever one of those who have a day to kill in Nairobi, this guide is for you!
How to go to Nairobi city center
There are several ways to reach the city center from the airport. As soon as you exit Arrivals, taxis and buses already await. Such buses, particularly City Bus #34, runs every 20 minutes. You may also opt to get a rental car. The best option, however, is by Uber. Make sure to download the app prior to landing so when you get to the airport, all you have to do is book the ride.
Another wise option would be to book with a tour operator to assist you. If you do a one day trip, airport pick-up and drop-off is included.
Travel time from the airport to the city center is between 15 to 45 minutes depending on traffic and time of day.
Getting a Transit Visa
Kenya Transit Visas are visas issued to those who are connecting through Kenya to other international destinations for a period of 72 hours or less. Of course, if you don’t need nor want to leave the airport, this visa won’t be necessary. Otherwise, here are the ways to acquire this type of visa:
- Go to your nearest consular or Kenya High Commission’s office.
- Apply for a transit e-visa here. Note that all e-visa applications are subject to a 1 USD service charge and card handling fee.
- Get your transit visa on arrival.
The basic requirements you need to have with you are:
- Travel document that’s valid for at least six months.
- At least one blank page in the passport.
- An onward ticket.
- $20 fee
The validity of your Transit Visa may vary depending on the discretion of the Immigration Official who will issue your visa. Of course, it will be tailored to your particular requirements and will not exceed 3 days.
There are a lot of places to visit in Nairobi. Some are well-known and tourist-flocked, and some are best-kept secret spots. The following are the top must-visit or must-experience attractions in the city:
Nairobi National Park
How often can you encounter a real wilderness in the middle of an advancing city? Nairobi National Park is the only major safari national park within the confines of a metropolitan. The best thing is, it can be reached by taxi or bus! And before you think it’s just like any other zoo, know that this wildlife park covers wildlife-ridden wide-open rolling grasslands, offering authentic African safaris. Best of all, the animals are in their natural habitat. Common animals relentlessly strolling about in the park include lions, leopards, cheetahs, black rhinos, hyenas, zebras, wildebeests, and giraffes. You can do game drives, picnics in the midst of the wild and many more.
Useful information: The best time to visit Nairobi National Park is between July and March. Entrance fee for non-EA citizens (as of August 2018) is 20 USD.
Approximately forty minutes away from the city center, you will be able to pet, feed, stand eye to eye and even kiss a giraffe. What started as a rehabilitation project to rescue the Rothschild Giraffe became a fascinating attraction known as the Giraffe Center. Aside from the giraffes, you can also see unique plants and birds and also do a short nature walk.
On one side of the Center is a gorgeous boutique hotel called Giraffe Manor. It is previously the house of the founders but was now converted into a one-of-a-kind hotel. What makes this place even more enchanting is that you can actually enjoy a meal or two with giraffes peering over the French windows!
Useful information: The Center is open seven days a week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Entrance fee is 1,000 Kenyan shillings (approximately 10 USD).
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Located in a secluded area near Nairobi National Park, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is famed for being a haven for orphaned elephants, rhinos and other animals. This means you get a chance to adopt and maybe even name an elephant!
In here, a mud bath is a common sighting. You also get to observe how the team of conservationists handle and/or take care of the animals. Some of the personnel will tell you stories and fun facts, too!
Useful information: This park only opens to the public for an hour (3:00 pm to 4:00 pm each day).
Karen Blixen Museum
At the foot of the Ngong Hills, which is a great spot to visit as well, sits the home of the renowned Out of Africa author Karen Blixen. Visiting this house-turned-museum gives you the opportunity to step back in time and gain an insight into colonial life in the early 20th century as well as the history of coffee cultivation in Kenya.
Useful information: The museum is open every day from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm including weekends and public holidays.
You’d think that because you’re in Africa, you’ll be dealing (and partying) with wild animals ONLY. Well, that’s where you’re wrong. In fact, Nairobi is well-known for its nightlife and Kenyan party people are infamous for their “anything goes” attitude. Nairobi is also often called “the African city that never sleeps” for a reason. From pubs to sky lounges to sports bars to night clubs, the city promises one of the coolest nightlife in the world. So if you’re lingering around Nairobi airport and it’s night time, fret not! There are still a lot of things to enjoy, a lot of music to dance to and perhaps a lot of bottles to chug.
Useful information: The city’s main entertainment area which is often frequented by many expats is Westlands, but there are other good places in Kimathi Street, too. Legal drinking age is 18.
Weekend bazaars, flea and street markets
If you arrive on a weekend or a Sunday, you can explore bazaars, flea and street markets and hunt for bargains. From homegrown coffee, tea and beans to local craft products including Maasai beadwork, sarong, carvings, Maasai shukas and lesos (African wraps). These are the markets you should check out:
- Village Market in Gigiri: runs every Friday 8 AM to 6:30 PM
- Appellate Court: located at the parking lot of Nairobi Court of Appeal, right next to KICC behind Hilton Hotel, and runs every Saturday through Sunday.
- Adam’s Arcade: also in the city center, and open from Saturday to Sunday.
- Yaya Center in Hurlingham: runs every Sunday 8 AM to 6:30 PM
Recommended Nairobi Short Trips
Aside from day tours that cover Nairobi attractions, there are also other enjoyable tours that start in Nairobi:
Indeed, Nairobi is a must-visit. So don’t just linger around the airport… Maximize your trip! You can also easily have a tailored itinerary by getting in touch with us.