What is Kenya really like? Answers from Actual Foreigners

Kenya is more than just the Big Five. Its Capital city Nairobi is dubbed “Green City in the sun” , is a melting pot of so many cultures, local and foreign. It was voted the best city in Africa and 12th overall in the world, according to Expats.

Nairobi is one of the few cities in the world and certainly in Africa, that most expatriates agree, that you can get everything you want that you’d expect in a modern city.

Most Expats acknowledge that if one makes a yearly average American middle income of $60,000, they can afford a luxurious lifestyle in Nairobi that’s not possible in most modern cities.

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Nairobi Express Way

From Nairobi, you can either drive to Nairobi National Park to see the Big Five or take an hour’s flight to the Coast to see one of the Best Beaches in the world. Also, you can fly or drive to the 54 National Parks around the country.

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Amboseli National Park

Kenya, and by extension Nairobi, do have their share of problems like most countries and cities have.

So here is a collection of YouTubers who described Kenya / Nairobi in their own words. We omitted some excerpts not relevant to this article without compromising the context of their conversations.

Check this out👉:20 Reasons Why Nairobi is the Best place for Digital Nomads in Africa

What is it like to live in Nairobi?

Toddre, who lived in California, was a guest on a YouTube channel called Brittney In Africa belonging to Brittney (an American expat living in Kenya). In this video, Toddre describes her first experience in Nairobi.

Toddre: “I recently came to Nairobi. Like in this area we’re in right now, Westlands, there are things here that I am more accustomed to in the States (more cosmopolitan), which is something I wasn’t able to access in Zanzibar.

Brittney In Africa 

“The thing that sealed the deal for me was the urban green spaces. So I’m a Cali girl, and I like being outdoors. I’m accustomed to hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains. On a Saturday here in Nairobi, you can go to Karura Forest (Green Space), and right here in the city, you can go to Arboretum (Green Space), a walking distance from my place. So as much as I love Kampala, Kampala doesn’t have Green Spaces.

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Karura Forest

This might interest you:👉Biggest Culture Shocks Foreigners Experience in Kenya

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Arboretum, Nairobi

“Nairobi is like no other place. It is a special city. I came here, we were just like, oh my gosh, I loved it.

“I also loved the Indian Ocean because I missed the ocean in Zanzibar.’(The Indian Ocean is an hour’s flight or 4 hours ride by train from Nairobi).

Westlands, Nairobi

Where do Ex-pats hang out / food..

Nikki, an American, was touring East Africa when Covid-19 grounded her in Kenya. She says she was glad she did stay and shares some of her favourite places to chill and eat. Nikki notes that there’s more to Kenya and Nairobi than is portrayed in the Media.

NikkiFaye The Wanderer’s YouTube Channel

Nikki: ”You know, that’s been the joy of travel for me: just really being there and immersing myself into the entire culture. So I decided to go back to my home base. Because every maybe year or so, I think of a new home base.

“But I’m so happy to be here because there’s so much to do in Kenya. Let me tell you. So today, I want to share a little bit of my world here in Kenya with you. Because it’s more than just the safaris, and you know that kind of stuff you see in the media in the US about Africa. It’s nothing like that. I mean, granted, there is some poverty. There are some bad things, but I want to show you my Kenya and some of the things you can do when you visit Kenya.”

Here are some of Nikki’s favourite Places:

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About Thyme

”My favourite restaurant here is called ABOUT THYME. It is a small little kitchen but beautifully decorated. It has an indoor-outdoor ceiling, and it’s just so beautiful. I love it. And the food is exquisite; clearly, that’s the most important part.”

Nikki’s second recommendation: KAREL-T LOUNGE Hotel is in a mall called Village Market.

“The mall is in an upmarket area near US Embassy, so it is beautiful. What I mean is, when you come to Kenya, you don’t expect to see something like this. But it’s just amazing. Just the view, and the ambience, is something that keeps you coming back for more.”

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Karel -T Lounge

Her third recommendation was TALISMAN. The hotel is decorated beautifully with a touch of colonial-style décor, mixed with contemporary African design and art.

”The food is amazing. My favourite thing there is the pork belly. It’s honey-glazed, and it’s just everything.”

She says it is where she takes her guests when they are in Town.

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Talisman’s famous Samosa
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There are other Restaurants that she recommends:

INTI – you can go for some sushi, seafood and vegetarian food.

SEVEN SEAFOOD & GRILL – one of the beautifully decorated Restaurants.

SEVEN SEAFOOD & GRILL – one of the beautifully decorated Restaurants.

Nikki has travelled to over 50 countries, and she likes to spend a minimum of three months in each country as she enjoys exploring, taking in the culture, meeting new people, and recognising what sets each place apart.

She has also written a book called ”How I travelled the world with only $2 in the Bank”.

Does Kenya have a Good Quality of Life?

Andrea, who lived in London, moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where she trailed her spouse (who’s working in Nairobi). In the interview, the host of Expats Everywhere YouTube Channel asks Andrea about the difference in the quality of life between Nairobi and London.

Expats Everywhere YouTube Channel

Andrea: “If I’m totally honest, you can get anything here. We have a huge Carrefour (French chain) supermarket five minutes away, with everything. It’s not cheap, but basic food is pretty affordable (e.g., rice, flour, lentils or that kind of thing). But if you want cheese, it’s expensive. I’ve never been able to find olive oil here (only selling extra virgin olive oil). And maybe if you’ve got kids, getting a hold of nice quality kids’ clothes and toys is quite difficult.

Westgate Mall

“However you can get a hold of anything. There are some amazing Facebook communities where if you’re looking for something and can’t find it in your area, post it there. Someone will know where to get it in Nairobi, or someone will know somebody that makes it. And there are loads of small businesses, and that’s how it works. There’s also small business advertising on Instagram. You can get someone that will make you whatever you need.”

How is Kenya a Travel Hub?

Andrea: ”I think it’s a great travel hub for more local-oriented African travels. And within Kenya, you can get to the Coast in a few hours (it is an hour away by plane). You can get to the mountains, a beautiful lake, it’s got everything really, just within Kenya.

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Watamu Beach

“And then you know it’s very easy to get to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, all those kinds of places (very close and easy access). Going to Mauritius, one of the islands is quite easy and going up to Dubai to the Middle East is a direct flight. For anywhere else: like we were looking at going to Morocco, and we more or less had to go all the way home to the UK to come back. Which is kind of crazy, sort of a hit-and-miss, but to be honest, there’s so much to do within Kenya that I wouldn’t go outside Kenya. There isn’t much need to go further afield.”

Is Nairobi safe?

Nairobi is safe depending on three main factors: location, time of day and mode of movement. Like most cities in the world, caution and common sense dictate how safe you can be.

Below is What Andrea had to say about Safety in Nairobi:

Question: How safe is it there, and do you feel safe (on a personal level of safety)?

”Yeah, we do feel safe. Nairobi has a certain reputation. Of course, they’re just things you don’t do. We walk out of our compound onto the street and walk to the shops. So we don’t walk anywhere. We drive everywhere. It’s something we don’t do. Because there is the odd story – they have mob thieves, the same kind of things you get in most cities, to be honest.

”We know people that go running on the streets that go for a jog. We’ve seen them. It’s just not something that we choose to do.

“Once you’re in a mall, once you’re in one of the forests, or just going out to one of the nice cafes, art galleries, or whatever place, everything is perfectly safe. Security is of top quality here. There are always security guards.”

Runda Estate

“You do feel safe in and within our compounds. I couldn’t feel safer, to be honest. There are security guards at the gate 24/7. That’s the standard for everyone that lives here. And we have a security guard on our gate as well (to be honest, that makes it all sound scary, but that is just the standard). Everybody has that in their house. You do feel perfectly safe. And our kids run around from garden to garden, like totally free. We wouldn’t let them run out onto the roads, but you know what, I don’t think people would do that anywhere.”

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