Kenya is an East African country with a population of over 45million people. It lies on the equator and was a founding member of the East African Community (EAC). The largest tribe in the country is the Kikuyus who are of Bantu origin. The Kikuyus are known to be entrepreneurial, with their women particularly renowned for their business acumen. The country’s currency is called the Kenyan Shilling (KSH) and the official exchange rate to the US Dollar as at July 2016 was about $1 = KSH100 in most BDCs.
Nairobi is a 5-hours 20-minutes direct flight from Lagos and I travelled via Kenya Airways to avoid any stop over. As a Nigerian, you can either get an E-Visa prior to arrival or get a visa on arrival, both for $50. I however recommend getting the visa on arrival as my friend had an E-Visa but still went through almost all the same processes as I did to get a visa on arriving.
One particularly interesting thing we observed from the airport was the amount of aggro towards young Nigerian males by Kenyan immigration officials. My friend and I were told by a Senior Kenyan Immigration Officer that they do not like young Nigerian men as when we visit the country, a number of us never leave and all we do is in his words are ‘smoke in uncompleted buildings and bang our women’. Getting the visa was a little stressful but I suspect it was more a case of meeting a wrong official at a wrong time as against that being a usual occurrence.
The requirements for getting the visa on arrival are quite straightforward though; a valid international passport, travel itinerary (evidence of a return ticket), hotel booking or invitation letter from a host, and a valid yellow fever card.
The exchange rate at the airport was $1 = KSH95 so it is advisable to change only what you might need for your initial taxi ride since you can get better rates in town. In addition, while a good number of clubs and outlets in Nairobi accept payments in USDs, the exchange rates they offer are not as good as what you can get from BDCs.
The Nairobi I saw was a peaceful and serene city (especially when compared to the hustle and bustle of Lagos) with good roads, constant power supply and aesthetically average architecture.
For the first two days of our stay, my friends and I made the mistake of taking regular taxis…wrong move. Ubers are the best option for moving around in Nairobi and we eventually found out that we were being charged 300% of the real rates by the regular taxi drivers (non-Ubers). Google map isn’t particularly important except you decide to rent a car as most Taxi drivers can find their way to your destinations, particularly if they are regular tourist spots.
The national languages in the country are Swahili and English and all the Kenyans we met spoke English quite well.
There is a wide range of options available based on your budget, but it is advisable to also consider the location of your accommodation to avoid being in any of the wrong parts of town. We stayed in an apartment in a part of town called Aboretum which is close to the State House where the President lives, and about 10 minutes away from the City Centre.
While our apartment was quite pricey considering the exchange rate of the Naira to the US Dollar, it was worth every cent spent and we received a number of compliments for our choice, even from Nationals that visited (it is called Heri Heights apartment in case you are interested).
Things to do
Now this obviously depends on the kind of activities that you fancy and your plans for the visit (rest or explore and have fun). We fell squarely in the latter category.
During the day as a tourist, there are several things to do. We visited the National Museum where you also have the option of going on a snake tour if you so desire. Here you get to learn about Kenya’s history, culture, and norms. Visiting the Museum costs KSH1,200 for non-residents (non EAC members) and combining it with the snake tour costs KSH1,500.
Another place we visited was the Giraffe Centre which cost KSH1,000. Visitors to this centre get to feed the Giraffes with pellets from either your hand or mouth, depending on how daring/adventurous/crazy you are. While my friends fed the Giraffes and took selfies with them, I stayed well away from their long necks and slimy saliva, particularly after reading a notice that warned visitors to beware of headbutts from the Giraffes!
Another major day time activity we undertook was a visit to the famous Nairobi National Park. Here you have the option to either go on a safari walk and see the animals in confinement or drive into the park itself and see them in their natural habitat.
We were informed beforehand that in order to see the Lions, we would have to visit either very early in the morning or late in the evening (from 5pm). However, our partying the night before meant we got to the park at about 1.30pm and ended up seeing only Zebras, Gazels, Deers, Baboons, an Ostrich and a Giraffe. Going on a tour of the National Park costs $50 per person for non-residents and renting the appropriate vehicle costs another $80 with a Guide.
Our last day time activity was visiting the Carnivore Restaurant which costs $35 per person for lunch. The menu is standard for all visitors and our appetizer was a bowl of soup and a piece of bread; afterwards the main meal begins. Now this main course involves being served many types of meat until you raise the flag on your table to indicate that you ‘surrender’. The types of meat served to us included pork, lamb chops, beef, chicken, turkey, alligator, and Ox-balls (or Buffalo testicles according to the Waiter). A very decent desert then followed this.
Special mentions must be made about the Elephant orphanage and Masai Mara Safari which were recommended to us by several locals but we passed up on the opportunity to visit them both due to a lack of interest (Elephant orphanage) and distance (Masai Mara is a 3-hour drive from Nairobi).
Quickly touching on the Nairobi life night. Nairobi has a very active and energetic life night. We visited a few clubs like B-Club, Ignition, Brew Bistro and Kiza, and one common theme was that Nigerian music dominated the DJs’ playlists. The prices of drinks in these clubs vary significantly from as low as $90 for a bottle of Hennessey in one club, to $185 in B-Club and $200 for a bottle of Champagne. It is also advisable to go with a means of identification that shows your age as some clubs do not allow people younger than 23years in.
We were sad to leave after realizing that the City was a lot more fun than we had hoped or anticipated. It was a holiday to beat all holidays and I suspect Nairobi hasn’t seen the last of us!
Post by Emeka