28 Aug

I was asked how life in Nairobi actually looks like… prices, security, traffic etc.

I will try to answer this… Describing a city like this is really hard. From your question I get the impression that I need to adjust the image I gave (seem to have given) in earlier descriptions. No, Nairobi is not a big muddy slum, it is a capital city and the economic hub of Eastern Africa.

Well, I did not eat “wisdom with spoons”, I have only worked here for 5 weeks now. So this reflects only my point of view (as everything in this blog by the way…)

Some basic info and pics can be found here. It has a skyline with banks etc. (highest building 30 stores), modern buildings, parks. The city is pretty young, not much older than 100 years. The centre is approximately 2km x 1,5 km big and most of the streets are schachbrettartig. There are palm trees on the two main avenues (Moi and Kenyatta, the two former presidents of the young republic), some bigger supermarkets, lots of small cloth shops, kiosks on the streets where you can buy cell phone credit and small snacks.


There are different kinds of neighbourhoods and the following is of course simplified: Most of the richer people and internationals live in the north of the city in “mansions” with gardens and their own guards. Middleclass people live outside the city in suburbs in so called estates. That means that a wall with guards is around a group of houses. In an estate there are unpaved streets and small shops. In most of the estates there is a wall around every single house again. The slums are everywhere around the city between the estates. Until now I haven´t found out whether people actually live in the city centre as well. It is pretty loud in the centre due to the traffic 🙂


The roads in the city centre are good. Pavements and everything you expect in a capital city. There is a public bus system and as well the matatu system which is organized by the city council but run by private people. There is a single commuter train and no trams or subways. During rush hours (7-9am and 5-8pm) there are huge traffic jams around the city centre and around the roundabouts outside the city. The government just published a “Kenya vision 2030” which includes improvement of infrastructure.

Internet cafes are everywhere, with a usual speed of around 5-20 KB/s. International calls are possible in some of the cyber cafes. Until now I have not discovered a drainage system in the city, so you can imagine what happens when it rains. There is a private garbage collection service for the estates and companies.


Just to give you an idea: Basic food is a little cheaper than in Germany. Other things are around as expensive, luxury or muzungu stuff is more expensive. 100 Ksh is approximately 1 Euro, so its easys for me 😉

A lunch in the university canteen comes for 80 Ksh, a meal in a standard restaurant for 250. 3 tomatoes are 10 Ksh, a pineapple 70, loaf of bread 50, a banana 10, 1 kg of minced meat is 340. A meal in an upperclass restaurant is around 900. Going out: A beer between 80-120, longdrink or cocktail up to 600 or more. Internet comes for 0,7-2 Ksh per minute, a matatu ride from town to my home (5km) is 50 Ksh, the litre gas is 100 Ksh, an sms is 3-5 Ksh, a minute call is 15-20. Taxi to my place: 600 Ksh. Montly rent for room in a slum house (without electricity): from 500 Ksh. Visiting a doctor in a private outpatient centre is 500 for the basic consultation.

To put that into relation: As a house maid you get less than 10.000 (if you don´t stay with the family) and as a graduate you might get up to 200.000 (only when you are lucky, it starts around 50.000). Thats why you see a lot of people walking instead of taking matatus and not being able to afford restaurants or doctors.


As mentioned above the living areas have walls and guards. The police is armed with machine guns. This is a little strange in the first weeks, but I got used to it. It is not so advisable to walk through the city alone after 8pm, so usually we go in groups from the university to the matatu stage (it is absoutely dark at 7pm). There are some stories about internationals being pickpocketed or even mugged . In the last 5 weeks I talked to 4 people “losing” their phones in a disco, 2 people “losing” their wallets in the city centre and one person being mugged. In some areas of town you should rather take a bus than a matatu after dark. There are stories of matatus being hijacked by people with guns. It didn´t happen to me, so I don´t know…

What happened to me just on Monday was that our matatu was stopped by police at 10pm on the way home. All passengers had to get off, police searched us for idontknowwhat and had a look in our bags. The police didn´t tell us what they were looking for and I rather didn´t ask. I guess they look for guns or drugs, but I have no idea.

I personally feel relatively safe in the city but maybe I am wrong. Of course everybody can see I am a foreigner and my skin colour attracts a lot of people. When I cross the city I get 2 offers for taxis, 1 for a safari and 2 invitations to curio shops. Approximately once a week somebody asks me for a job, a visa or wants to marry me right away. I feel very safe during the day (as I said maybe I am wrong…), during the night it happened to me once that a drunkard walked next to me, held my arm and wouldn´t release me until a male friend walking with me (I call them bodyguards) helped me.

I hope that gives you some ideas of how live is like in Nairobi. Just ask more questions if you want 🙂

3 Responses to “Nairobi”

  1. Ingrid August 29, 2008 at 7:55 pm #

    In youtube gibt es ein Video
    Rural migration to urban ghettos – Nairobi

  2. Matthias September 1, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    Schon den Artikel gesehen:,1518,575645,00.html

  3. manuinkenya September 9, 2008 at 9:07 am #

    Just uploaded pics

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