Exploring Nairobi: A Detailed Travel Guide for the Ultimate Kenyan Adventure
Nairobi, Kenya’s dynamic capital, brims with a vibrant cultural scene, modern developments amid natural beauty, and a pulsating energy that’s truly African. I recently took a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, and had a memorable experience. This travel guide highlights some of the best experiences in and around Nairobi to explore and enjoy.
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How to Obtain a Kenyan eVisa
Before visiting Kenya as a US citizen, you need to apply for a visa. The process is relatively straightforward and can help you breeze through the immigration process when you arrive in Kenya.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on the eVisa process for American travelers:
- Visit the official Kenyan eVisa portal: Start by heading to Kenya’s eVisa website, where you can create an account and access the application form.
- Create an account and fill out the application form: After successfully registering for an account, log in and fill out the eVisa application form with the required details.
- Upload necessary documents: During this process, you will be required to upload important documents, such as your passport data page. Ensure that your passport will remain valid for at least six months from your intended date of entry into Kenya.
- Submit payment: Once you have uploaded all required documents and filled in the necessary information, proceed to make the visa payment through the portal.
- Receive eVisa approval: After completing your payment, the application will be subject to a review process. Once approved, your eVisa will be sent to the email address provided during the application process.
- Print and present eVisa: Print your eVisa upon receiving it, and present it with your passport at the port of entry in Kenya.
It’s crucial to use the official government eVisa portal to avoid scams. Keep yourself updated on any travel advisories or additional entry requirements in place due to any issues going on in the world. It took about two days to receive my visa in my email.
Transportation in Nairobi
There are many transportation options in Nairobi. From the airport, we pre-booked a car service since we were coming in very early. Aside from hiring a car service with a driver daily, Uber is readily available and an inexpensive option. Uber is often a safer and more convenient option to navigate the city, as you won’t have to haggle over fares, and cashless payments also make transactions seamless.
Where to Stay in Nairobi
Centrally located with easy access to major attractions, Nairobi caters to accommodation for all budgets. From top-end luxury hotels like Villa Rosa Kempinski and Nairobi Serena Hotel to budget-friendly options and backpacker hostels like Wildebeest Eco Camp and Nyati Hill Cottages, you’ll find a place that radiates comfort and warmth in Nairobi City.
We chose to stay at The Bomba Hotel, which was close to the airport, and the proceeds go to the Kenyan Red Cross. It was a busy hotel with ample security, a huge gym, and a few restaurants. I enjoyed their spa as well.
If you want a trendier experience, you can stay at the instagrammable giraffe manor. Unfortunately, you cannot experience the giraffe breakfast without staying there, and there are no day passes.
Cost of Staying at Giraffe Manor
Giraffe Manor is undoubtedly a luxury experience, reflected in its pricing. The average cost of staying at Giraffe Manor ranges from approximately $620 to $2,150 per night, depending on the room and occupancy. This price includes:
- All meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
- House wines, spirits, beers, and soft drinks
- Entrance to the AFEW Giraffe Center
- Wireless internet access
- Airport transfers (if needed)
Keep in mind that these prices may fluctuate based on the current exchange rate, time of year, and demand. Book your stay at Giraffe Manor well in advance, as this unique experience is popular and can fill up quickly!
Nairobi National Park
Located just a short drive from Nairobi’s city center, Nairobi National Park is a unique ecosystem home to lions, giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, and numerous species of birds. This is your opportunity to experience an “urban safari” that’s genuinely enlightening and thrilling. They have the “Big 5” at this park, so be on the lookout. When I went, we saw three out of the Big 5, including three female lions! If you are going on a tour, don’t forget to pay beforehand from the website. They do not take cash at the door.
Maasai Village Tour
Immerse yourself in local Kenyan culture by taking a Maasai Village Tour. The Maasai tribe represents one of the most well-known African ethnic groups, keeping their traditions and lifestyle largely unchanged for centuries. Despite modern changes and advancements sweeping across Kenya, the Maasai have managed to preserve and proudly display their vibrant culture, traditional ceremonies, and intricate beadwork and crafts.
This was my favorite part of the trip because we got to experience their way of life firsthand, observe their traditional dances, learn the roles of daily life, and learn about how they make fire, hunt, and use nature in every way to improve their lives.
Take the time to get to know the Maasai people, appreciate their traditions, and learn their story. Understanding the Maasai way of life can give you unique insights into Kenyan culture, making your Nairobi adventure more enriching and meaningful.
Fairview Coffee Estate Tour
Kenya’s world-famous coffee is born in the lush plantations dotted around Nairobi. A visit to the Fairview Coffee Estate is a nice break from the busy city, and you will love the vast scenery on the farm. The estate is about 40 minutes from Nairobi, and you can book a tour that gives you round-trip transportation. Find out how coffee is grown, harvested, and processed before ending the tour with a freshly brewed cup.
Hell’s Gate National Park Biking Safari Tour
Hell’s Gate National Park packs a thrill of adventure and sightseeing. The biking safari offers an active, out-of-the-car safari experience amidst zebras, giraffes, and gazelles. Hell’s Gate National Park was the inspiration behind the scenes of The Lion King, and it is easy to see why. As you ride through the park, you will see the rock formations that are recognizable from the film but don’t worry, there are no lions in this park.
Free Walking City Tour
I always love to take a free walking tour when they are available in the countries I visit. I try to do them at the beginning of a trip because you get to learn firsthand information from the local guides. It also helps you feel comfortable walking around the main city and learning where to go with the help of someone familiar with the area. We learned a lot of rules we should follow, like not wearing camouflage and not taking pictures of banks or government buildings.
Maasai Market Days
These are open-air markets held at shopping malls around Nairobi. Visiting the Maasai Market is a must-do. You can find Maasai beaded jewelry, traditional artifacts, carvings, fabrics, and much more, all made by local artisans. Make sure you always negotiate the price.
Savoury Nairobi: Restaurants to Dine In
There are many restaurant options to choose from, but here are my four favorite places we tried while we stayed in Nairobi.
- CJs: A popular establishment with multiple locations across Nairobi famous for its great ambiance and delicious food. Highlights include their eclectic burgers, wood-fired pizzas, and an extensive breakfast menu.
- About Thyme: A charming restaurant set on a lovely lawn, About Thyme has a reputation for its international gourmet cuisine. Enjoy dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, a relaxing outdoor setting, and friendly service.
- Harvest Restaurant: Located within the Trademark Hotel in Nairobi, Harvest offers a mix of local and European cuisine. The menu brims with farm-to-table, sustainable dishes that pair perfectly with their wide range of wines.
- Mint and Salt: A modern restaurant that offers a fusion of local and international cuisine, presented with a unique flair. Specializing in contemporary African food made with fresh local ingredients, Mint and Salt will give you a taste of the unique flavors of Kenyan cuisine while also offering a selection of international dishes that cater to all preferences.
- Carnivore Restaurant: Carnivore celebrates the primal aspect of eating by serving a variety of meats roasted over a traditional Maasai-style charcoal pit. They have traditional Western meats and others native to Kenya, like ostrich and crocodile. It is similar to a Brazilian steakhouse, but you do not have to get up from your seat. They bring all the side dishes to your table.
Other Activities to Consider
Maasai Mara: This world-famous nature reserve is known for its Great Wildebeest Migration. Offering an abundance of wildlife, there are opportunities to spot the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo) and soak in the stunning landscapes, especially during a sunrise hot air balloon ride.
Giraffe Centre: An opportunity to feed and learn about endangered Rothschild giraffes. You can enjoy an intimate wildlife encounter here.
Elephant Orphanage: Visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to learn about their ground-breaking work with orphaned elephants and rhinos.
Amboseli National Park: A paradise for elephant-spotting, Amboseli National Park also offers magnificent views of Mount Kilimanjaro.
From the hustle and bustle of city life to the stillness and majesty of its wildlife parks, Nairobi offers a truly memorable African experience. You won’t regret taking a trip to this part of East Africa. Embrace this unforgettable journey and discover the magic that awaits you in Nairobi.