10 Tips for Solo Travelers in Nairobi, Kenya
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My trip in Kenya started and ended in Nairobi. The capital city is a place worth visiting, as it offers the initial taste of real Kenya. However, during my few short days there, I quickly came to realize that traveling solo there is not easy. Although not all parts of Nairobi are dangerous, I had to stay 100% on guard most of the time. It was mentally draining.
So, I hereby share my top tips for solo travelers in Nairobi to keep yourself safe and have a great time.
10 Tips for Solo Travelers in Nairobi
Do not use unofficial cabs outside the airport
I arrived in Nairobi at 8 pm. As soon as I exited the terminal, there were hagglers trying to catcall and ask me to get into their taxi. These cabs will charge you a significant amount without the guarantee of your safety, so I did not pay attention to them nor did I respond to them in any way.
If you would like to take a cab, there is an official taxi booth inside the airport where you can request a ride. From what I learned, the taxi starts from KES 3,000. Make sure you know this price and agree on it before booking. Once you get in the taxi, be sure to sit in the back row to be safe.
Buy a prepaid local SIM card
I do not usually purchase local SIM cards when I travel, but there are lots of times you need to get on the internet for Uber and checking directions, and using data roaming is expensive.
I bought a SIM card with Telkom for $10 at Nairobi airport. The plan came with 800 minutes for phone calls, free texts, and 10 GB of data. While safari.com is most visitors’ first option, I found it pricier and it only offered data.
Do not visit downtown Nairobi alone
If it was not for taking the overnight bus to Malindi, I would never have walked in downtown Nairobi by myself. I did not feel safe and comfortable there. I had to stay alert because petty crimes and catcalls were frequent.
I heard from another traveler how he went downtown for lunch, and was followed by a local for money and food. People tend to pay unwanted attention to foreigners, so I just avoided visiting downtown at all costs.
Book a tour with Nai-nami
If you want to get an insight into what downtown Nairobi looks like, the tour guide from Nai-nami will tell you everything about it. They are former street children that have been through petty crimes, begging, stealing, imprisonment, and they have found ways to get an education and live to share their experience.
I booked a half-day tour with them and walked through markets, neighborhoods, and ethnic communities that I would not have otherwise found on my own. They also took me to a Vibanda (a food kiosk) where I had the best beef stew. As the tour guides have made lots of connections in downtown, you do not have to worry about your safety.
I highly recommend anyone to Nairobi to book this tour. It will offer you a completely different experience than major tourist attractions.
Tap water is a no-go
Do not drink tap water unless it is purified. To be safe, I recomend you to purchase bottle water at the store.
Always watch out when you cross the streets
In Nairobi, traffic lights and road signs are only suggestions, so there are times you will see cars and pedestrians running through red lights. So, be patient and always on the lookout when you cross the streets.
If you are a vegetarian, chances are you will struggle in Nairobi. The food there is mostly meat and fish despite that Kenyans also love eating spinach, red beans, cassava, and ugali.
If you are a vegetarian, click here to read on the best vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Nairobi. I have never been to any of these restaurants before, so use your best judgment.
Rice with ugali and meat are popular dishes. For seafood lovers, you can also order a whole fried fish for as low as KES 1,000, and it tastes delicious. Other alternatives are Indian and Chinese dishes.
Do not take pictures in uptown with your camera
It is illegal.
Taking the Matatu
While lots of visitors are not a fan of Matatu, I felt happy seeing a bus complete with colorful graffiti work, entertainment facilities, flashy lights, and blasting music. It is a perfect way to get to know the vibrant culture of the youths.
Try delicious pastries at Le Grenier De Pain
I am not a fan of sweets and desserts, but the pastries at Le Grenier De Pain were an exception. They have friendly services and the taste of their pastries is out of this world. I went there in an afternoon and bought butter and chocolate croissants. They were too delicious and I ate them all in a few minutes. Apart from pastries, their menu features a variety of options from brunches, sandwiches, desserts, salads to hot beverages. It is located on Riverside Drive and has 144 seats.
Do you have any tips for solo travelers in Nairobi, Kenya? Feel free to share them below.