Nairobbery gets a bad rap from travellers who spend the majority of their time in Kenya’s largest city trying to get out of it. However, it’s not a bad place to be foe a couple of days. Keep your wits about you, dress conservatively and take a taxi after dark. If you have plans to visit, read on for personal thoughts on attractions and services.
Hotel: Hotel Boulevard
Hotel Boulevard likes to call itself a ‘city oasis’…unfortunately, it can be anything but. I stayed here on two occasions. The first night we were in a room facing the main motorway. The second night we wizened up and requested one facing the courtyard. The swimming pool is a nice escape if kids aren’t jumping into it. Getting anything done – like requesting an early breakfast from their supposed 24-hour room service – took a lot of prodding. Customer service was infuriating at points. Double rates: 6680 KSh room/night.
Hostel: Nairobi International Youth Hostel
Although it’s one of the cheaper options in town, you may be better off trying your luck at another Nairobi hostel. Water usage was spotty, the bathrooms reeked and the florescent lights outside the dorm room didn’t let you sleep, even when the long-term residents quieted down! Dorm rates: 600 KSh person/night.
Internet Cafe: Internet at Nairobi International Youth Hostel
Located in a closet in the basement of the Nairobi International Youth Hostel, the internet is surprisingly affordable and fast. There are around 8 computers and it’s usually half full. Rates: 1.5 Ksh/minute.
Internet Cafe: Centrum Internet Cafe
This well-kept city center (Mundi Mbingu St.) cafe offers discounts on trips lasting an hour or longer. If you have your own laptop you can plug it in here. Rates: 1 KSh/minute.
Restaurant: Carnivore Restaurant
This restaurant is a major tourist spot, but locals go here too for a nice meal. Carnivore is known for their offerings of exotic meat like camel, wildebeest and ostrich, however, most offerings are much tamer. Go here when you’re looking to stuff yourself, because it’s all you can eat. Rates: 1,250 KSh for meat, 1,000 KSh for vegetarian: includes appetizer, main or meat buffet and dessert.
Restaurant: Hotel Boulevard Restaurant
The buffet breakfast has a lot to offer, even if none of it is outstanding. The Indian food I had for dinner was good but HOT! If you bought water in town (where it is much cheaper), you can bring it in with you and they won’t say anything. Rates: 400-800 KSh.
Restaurant: Lord Delamere Terrace and Bar (Norfolk Hotel)
This restaurant caters to the rich tourists that stay in the adjoining hotel. One of six places to nosh on the grounds, it’s cheaper than the famous Ibis Grill inside, but still excellent. There are only two vegetarian dishes on the menu. Rates: Around 1,500 KSh for mains.
Tour Company: Brogibro Tours
Brogibro Tours is owned by a group of siblings based in Nairobi – Brogibro means ‘brother to brother’ in their local language. They can arrange anything from city tours to safaris and are very knowledgeable about the area. The larger the group, the better the price. Brogibro will pick you up from wherever you are staying. Rates: Vary. Contact with itinerary.
Tourist Attraction: Langata Giraffe Centre
Hands down the best thing I did in Nairobi, the Giraffe Centre is home to the endangered Rothschild giraffes. Visitors can feed the animals pellets from their hands or even try the ‘giraffe kiss’ by putting a pellet between their lips. The huge animals are larger than life, but so is the experience. Guides are informative and friendly. Rates: 500 KSh.
Tourist Attraction: Karen Blixen Museum
This museum touting the Out of Africa author takes place on her old estate. Blixen’s story is somewhat of a sad one – she lost her husband, boyfriend and farm before moving back to Denmark. Rates increased fourfold the month I visited and made this attraction consisting of some furniture, a salty guide and enlarged pictures a huge rip off. Rates: 800 KSh.
Tourist Attraction: Globe Cinema Market
If you want to get cheap gifts, this Tuesday open air display is the place for it. Jewellery, serving bowls, batiks (paintings) and other curio abound on near the Globe roundabout. Many, many people are selling the same thing so check out what you like the best. If you find an item that you like and want to get multiple items, buy it all from one place – you’ll be able to get a better deal. Be prepared to bargain hard – half of their starting price is a good first offer. I paid around 150 KSh for wooden serving spoons, 250 KSh for scarves and 400 KSh for a beaded belt. WARNING! Make sure to smell the items closely before you buy – many are covered in shoe polish to improve their appearance and render the items unusable.
Tourist Attraction: City Market
This covered market offers a selection of crafts and food stalls but isn’t worth the trip – prices are higher than the open air markets and the vendors are just as aggressive in the confined space. The fish and meat areas give the place a nasty smell, too.
Tourist Attraction: Animal Orphanage at Nairobi National Park
You know that feeling you get when you go to a carnival petting zoo, or the humane society? That’s the same feeling you get when you visit this animal orphanage, only with lions instead of goats. Cages are ridiculously small. Feeding time, at 2 p.m. the day I went, was grotesquely fascinating, but not worth the cost of entry. Rates: 500 KSh