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Nairobi overview

Nairobi has grown over the years to become the capital city of Kenya. Nairobi is blessed with large species of animals and plants, making it a great safari destination for tourists and visitors. Nairobi is Kenya’s largest city and also referred to as the “Green City in the Sun”
It is the only major city to own a world-renowned game reserve i.e. Nairobi National Park within the city. Nairobi is derived from a Maasai phrase “Enkare Nairobi” which translates to “cool water.” The Maasai also used the phrase to name the Nairobi River, after which the city was also named.

Nairobi was founded in 1899 by the Colonial Masters in British East Africa to serve as a rail depot along the Ugandan Railway. Nairobi grew rapidly to replace the old capital of Kenya-Machakos.

Nairobi was officially declared the capital of the Republic of Kenya after independence in 1963. The city, Nairobi is well-known as the centre for the British Colony’s supply of coffee, tea, and sisal industry.  Nairobi is the 14th largest city and owns the 2nd oldest exchange in Africa-Nairobi Securities Exchange.

There are several sights and tourists attraction centres in Nairobi including

The popular Nairobi National Park

The black rhinos of the ParkKaren Blixen Museum, Giraffe Centre,

Karen Blixen Museum

Giraffe Centre

David Sheldrick’s Elephant and Rhino Orphanage

Nairobi National Museum

Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

Nairobi hosts a mix of cultural activities traditional festivals and sporting events that make up the city’s busy annual schedule. Particular highlights of such yearly festivals and events are:

Nairobi Restaurant week is about dining in Nairobi’s best restaurants at a highly discounted prices. It holds annually in January/February.

Kenya Fashion Week staged in June while the Kenya Music week holds in December.

Kijani Festival holds in March.

KCB Safari Rally is a world class motor sporting event held every annually in April in Nairobi.

Tusker Safari Sevens rugby tournament staged in June

Kenya Music Festival in August holds at Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

July is the month of Sigana International Storytelling Festival

Concours d’Elegance classic car and motorcycle festival holds in September.

Kenya International Film Festival holds in a variety of venues across Nairobi every year in October.

Craft of Africa to celebrate local craft and Mombasa Carnival holds in November of every year.

12th December is the independence day or Jamhuri Day which is celebrated stylishly with military parades, air shows and plenty of dancing.

Best time to book a flight to Nairobi

Always book your Nairobi flight well in advance, at least 45-90 days before departure date. The best time to book a flight to Nairobi is always during the dry season between July to March. The animals are always are out in their magnificent natural habitat soaking in the sun.

The peak season for visitors to Nairobi is during the two dry seasons of January to March and July to October. Rainy season is an off-peak season, due to the density of the vegetation and the muddied roads that make visiting the parks difficult.

Best time to visit Nairobi

Nairobi Experiences A Subtropical Highland Climate. Thus, It Has Cool Evenings With Temperatures As Low As 9°C, Especially In The June/July Season. December To March Is The Warmest And Sunniest Time Of The Year, With Temperatures Averaging 24°C During The Day. Nairobi experiences 2 Seasons: Rainy And Dry Season.

Peak Season: The Best Time To Visit Nairobi In Order To See The Glory Of All The Parks, And Enjoy The Festivals Is Always During The Dry Seasons-January To March And July Through October. The Nairobi National Parks Receives Over 100000 Annual Visitors During This Period.

The Animals Are More Concentrated Around Permanent Water Sources Due To The Dry Season, And The Vegetation Is Also Less Lush, Making The Viewing Of The Animals Easier. The Magnificent Bird Life Of Nairobi Is Also Best Enjoyed From January To March.

Off-peak Season: Avoid Travelling To Nairobi During The Wet Season From March To May And October To December When The Rains Are Pouring Down. Travelling During This Period Is Tedious As The Rains Affect The Road Conditions, Leading To Difficulty Visiting And Exploring The National Parks. Furthermore, The Vegetation Is Dense, Also Impacting The Game During These Periods.

Flight Fares Are Cheaper During This Season And Better Accommodation Rates Are Obtainable.

Airlines operating flights to Nairobi

Kenya Airways operate 4 flights per week from Lagos to Nairobi; usually on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday and Fridays. Lagos to Nairobi flight costs $432 and lasts for 5 hours 20 minutes.

A round trip from Glasgow to Nairobi is 9 hours 37 minutes flight time costing $1252 for a round trip. The flight is operated by British Airways.

Qatar Airways operates a 9 hour 30 minutes scheduled flights from Dubai to Nairobi. A round trip cost $325. The flight time from Doha to Nairobi is 4 hours 39 minutes.

Turkish Airlines operates scheduled flights from Istanbul to Nairobi. The 6 hours 40 minutes direct flight costs $609.

Delta Airlines operates scheduled flights from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Nairobi. The 18 hours 50 minutes flight times costs $1221 for a round trip.

Air France operates scheduled flight from Paris to Nairobi at $1123. The direct flight time is 12 hours.

British Airways operates scheduled flights from London Heathrow Airport to Nairobi. the direct flight time from London to Nairobi is 13 hours, costing $1262.

How long is a flight to Nairobi

Visitors, business travellers and tourists fly from major cities into Nairobi daily. The average flight time to the major cities is listed below.

Major City

Flying Time

Lagos

5 hours 40 minutes

Istanbul

6 hours 40 minutes

New York

15 hours 14 minutes

Glasgow

9 hours 37 minutes

Dubai

9 hours 30 minutes

Doha

4 hours 40 minutes

Paris

8 hours 32 minutes

London

8 hours 57 minutes

Singapore

9 hours 46 minutes

Hong Kong

11 hours 4 minutes

 

The flight time is estimated time for a non-stop flight from destination to Nairobi.

Nairobi airport

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (IATA: NBO; ICAO: HKJK) is the international airport serving Nairobi, Kenya’s capital largest city. The airport is located in Embakasi suburb 15km Southeast of Nairobi’s Central Business District Nairobi’s Central Business District.

Jomo Kenyatta international airport operates scheduled flights to over 120 destinations in 50 countries. The airport was opened as Embakasi Airport in March 1958 but later renamed in 1978 after the country’s first President and Prime minister-Jomo Kenyatta.

With over 7 million passengers received in 2016 alone, it is Africa’s 7th busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic.

The airport has 2 terminals: Terminal 1A-C and 1E are used for international arrivals and departures while terminal 1D is used for domestic departures and arrivals. Terminal 2 is used by low-cost carriers.

Kenya Airways, the flag carrier of Kenya operates from its hub at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Airlines operating International flights from Nairobi

Terminal 1

The terminal has a capacity of 2.5 million passengers per year, and 3 levels with 30 check-in counters, 12 departure gates, ample seating, food and retail options. Airlines using terminal 1 to operate scheduled domestic and international flights to several destinations in the world are:

Kenya Airways

China Southern

Precision Air

Air Mauritius

British Airways

SN Brussels Airlines

South African Airways

Swiss

Turkish Airlines

Condor Airlines

Emirates Airlines

Air Arabia

Rwandair

Qatar Airways

Ethiopian Airlines

Air Mozambique

Lufthansa

Egypt Air

Saudi Arabian Airlines

Etihad Airways

Terminal 2 is mostly used by low-cost carriers.

Low-cost Carriers operating scheduled flights to destinations within and outside Nairobi includes:

Fly 540

African Express Airways

Fastjet

East African Safari Air

Fly-SAX

Jabba Airways

Getting from Nairobi airport to city centre

Staying in Nairobi

There are many accommodation options in Nairobi due to the high number of visitors received annually. Accommodation in Nairobi is much more expensive than other parts of Kenya. There are top-end hotels that are fabulously priced and also the relatively cheap guest houses and dorm rooms.

Dorm Rooms and Camping: They are relatively cheap and they provide camping facilities. They usually range from $6 to $12. Kenya Youth Hostel is the cheapest place to get a decent dormitory bed in Nairobi. It offers beds in a shared room with shared bathroom facility. Wildebeest Camp, Bush House and Upper Hill Campsite also provide private rooms, dorm beds and camping options.

GuestHouses: Guesthouse in Nairobi charge between $30 to $60 per night for a double room. The rooms are comfortable and quiet.

Hotels: Hotels in Nairobi include Hilton Nairobi, Fairmont The Norfolk, Nairobi Serena Hotel, and the Boma Nairobi. Other cheap hotels are Aden Bay City hotel, Parama Hotel, and Hotel Greton.

Great places to visit Nairobi

Nairobi National Park: The National Park is Kenya’s first National Park. The park is a haven for wildlife and is just 7km from the city centre. The National Park protects more than 50 critically endangered Rhinos. Visitors to the National Park will spot in the evening or early morning other animals like lions, elephants, giraffes, ostriches, zebras, ostriches, warthogs, buffaloes, and over 400 species of birds. The National Park is also famous for its ivory burning site. Within the National Park is the Nairobi Safari Walk that offers animal lovers the chance to spot wildlife on foot. The park is best visited during the dry season when there are no rains.

David Sheldrick  Wildlife Trust: The wildlife trust is located at the main gate of the Nairobi National Park holding orphaned elephants and rhinos for rehabilitation.  Daphne Sheldrick founded the project in 1977 in memory of her late husband who for several years as a warden in Tsavo East National Park. Visitors can commune with these orphaned creatures as they play in the mud and drink from the giant baby bottles. The wildlife trust is open daily from 11:00am till noon.

Karen Blixen Museum: The museum is located at the foot of the Ngong Hills. It served as the house of Karen Blixen from 1917 to 1931 where she ran a coffee plantation. The house is now open as a museum where visitors can tour the well-preserved colonial farmhouse, a coffee-drying plant in the woodland, and an agricultural college on the grounds. Furniture, photographs, and books owned by Karen are on display in the museum. it is opened daily from 9:30am till 6:00pm.

Giraffe Centre: The Giraffe Centre is on the edge of Nairobi National Park. the park houses endangered Rothschild’s giraffes. The visitor centre displays information about the giraffes, and visitors can also feed the animals from a raised platform. The attraction is a favourite with children and photographers. visitors can enjoy a 1.5km self-guided forest walk in the adjacent nature reserve. It opens daily from 9:00am till 5:00pm. Visitors can expect to pay between 500 to 1000 Kenya Shillings.

Nairobi National Museum: The National Museum is an educational stopover in Nairobi. the museum displays diverse cultural and natural history exhibits including more than 900 stuffed birds, mammals, fossils from Lake Turkana, ethnic displays from different Kenyan tribes, and local art exhibitions.

The museum has a Geology Gallery where visitors can explore the impressive collection of rocks and minerals and also learn about the tectonic plates and the life cycle of a volcano.

The preserved fossil of an elephant and other prehistoric bones and fossils can be found in the Hominid Vault. The Snake Park holds live specimens of Kenya’s most common reptiles.

Combined tickets for the museum range from 1000 to 1500 Kenya Shillings.

Bomas of Kenya: Starkly different from the Nairobi National Museum is the Bomas of Ken which is a living museum celebrating the colourful tribes of Kenya. Visitors to the museum can learn about the lifestyle, art, music, crafts, and culture of Kenyan tribes. The complex houses a recreated traditional village with homesteads or Bomas built in the traditional style of each major ethnic group. A team performs traditional dances and songs in the large theatre every afternoon. The Bomas of Kenya is open from Monday to Friday by 2:30pm till 4:00pm. The traditional village is opened only on weekends and public holidays from 10:00am till 6:00pm.

Railway Museum: The Railway Museum in Nairobi was created to celebrate the rich history of the railroad and its impact on Kenya’s development. The museum has a number of fascinating collections such as train and ship models, photographs from the original construction of the Uganda Railway, railway magazines, maps and drawings, and a silver service set used on overnight trains to Mombasa. There are also on display a collection of steam locomotives and rolling stocks, including a German built MV Liemba still in use along the Lake Tangayika. The museum is located along Uhuru Road, and opens daily from 8:45am till 4:45pm.

The Kenya National Archives: The Kenya National Archives bring to the spotlight Kenyan Tribal culture, Kenyan arts, history and politics. the main floor gallery displays historical documents, photographs, artefacts, and paintings. The second-floor houses art, postage stamps, and the National Archives reading used for personal and professional projects.

Jeevanjee Gardens: The garden is located in Nairobi CBD and is a perfect place to spend quality time and picnic with friends and family. The garden is tranquil and is sprinkled with impressive sculptures, leafy and shady trees and arty benches.

Uhuru Gardens:  It the largest memorial park in Kenya. Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta was sworn in at the park on 12 December 1963 when Kenya gained independence. The centrepiece of attraction at the Uhuru Gardens is the 24-metre high monument commemorating Kenya’s struggle for independence.

Cost of things in Nairobi

Expect to spend at least $10 per night for accommodation in Nairobi camping rooms. Private guesthouse rooms are much more expensive costing an average of $40 per night while hotel rooms cost from $50 to $80.

Meals from local/streets is cheap, costing just about $1, but international restaurants costs upscale $15 to $20.  You can get good food from a sit-down restaurant starting from $5 to $10.

At local bars, you can get beer from $1 to $2.  Eating grilled meat, popularly known as Nyama Chomacosts between $3 to $5.

Tourists pay more for services, as the locals aim to make profits from their higher purchasing power.

Nairobi tips/advice

The most common form of greeting is the handshake. Grasp the right wrist of an elderly person while greeting to show respect. Jambo (how are you) is the most common greet said immediately before the handshake.

Address men over 35 as “Mzee” while you can refer to women older than 21 as “mama”

Travellers should always keep valuables out of sight, especially on matatus and trains.

Always be on alert for thieves and scams.

Large amounts of cash should not be carried around, especially on public transportation. It is always better to use the ATMs/Cash machines in Nairobi.

Walking around at night can be dangerous.

The Slums should be avoided. otherwise, go with a group.

Do not wear flashy clothes and attires due to the high rate of robbery in the city.

Be cautious while taking pictures. Don’t wear any valuable jewelry. Go to busy places with a group of people.

Flight from local city to Nairobi

Fly540 is East Africa’s low-cost airline flying passengers to destinations within Kenya, Zanzibar and South Sudan. The airline operates local flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to other cities in Kenya.  Other airlines flying domestic destinations from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport includes Rwandair, East African Safari Air, Kenya Airways, and Jambojet.

Destinations

Flight Fare

Mombasa

$89

Malindi

$94

Lamu

$154

Kisumu

$124

Eldoret

$103

Lodwar

$398

Zanzibar

$220

 

 

The best time to book a flight to domestic destinations within Kenya is with 15 to 21 days before departure day. Domestic flights link the main cities of Kenya. Make sure to check in advance for the schedules for these domestic flights.

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