Nairobi - Abbey Travel, Ireland



Begin Your Search

    • 16+ yrs

    • 12-15 yrs

    • 2-11 yrs

    • 0-23 mnth

Found Item

Welcome to Nairobi


Nairobi is best characterised by its variety of locally-given descriptive names, representative of the city's contrasting images - of wealthy spacious suburbs, charming flower-lined streets and a refreshing climate, alongside crime, corruption, filth and poverty. Names like 'Green City in the Sun', 'City of Flowers' and the Masai name 'Place of Cool Waters' attempt to overshadow the all too real version of 'Nairobbery' that stands as a well-found warning to newly arrived tourists.

Nairobi is one of Africa's largest and most interesting cities. It is a place of enormous energy, a tireless and thriving bustle of people, and a city of differences. Assorted races, tribes and origins are all a part of its make-up. Rural immigrants and refugees are drawn by the hope of wealth and opportunity, international businessmen are attracted by profitable business prospects, and tourists are promised the makings of the perfect safari. The city centre buzzes with the energy, aspirations and opportunism of moneychangers, safari touts, would-be thieves, food vendors and trinket sellers, prostitutes, shoppers, security guards, and sharp-eyed shoe shiners assessing the footwear of the hurried throngs. Among them are the disillusioned faces of the unemployed, the beggars and the destitute.

Kenyatta Avenue is the city's favourite tourist image, a broad avenue fringed by trees and flowers that was originally designed to allow a twelve-oxen team to make a full turn. There are several museums and places of interest in the centre, including the National Museum and Snake Park. There are numerous markets selling traditional crafts, especially the appealing Masai market. Just outside of the centre is the Nairobi National Park, and the nearby Bomas of Kenya host performances of traditional dancing and singing. The Langata Giraffe Centre offers visitors the chance to hand-feed the Rothschild giraffes that inhabit the area.

Nairobi is also the safari capital of Africa and a good base for travel in Kenya. From here excursions and safaris can be arranged to any of the national parks or reserves in the country.

Information & Facts


Situated at a high altitude, Nairobi has a moderate climate. The summer months are sunny and warm without blistering temperatures, while winters are mild to cool, with very chilly evenings. Rainfall is also moderate, the wettest part of the year being late summer to autumn, when cloudy, drizzly days are common.

Getting Around

The most popular form of public transport in Nairobi is the matatu, usually a Nissan minibus, which operate on set routes collecting as many passengers as possible en route, with people boarding and disembarking wherever and whenever they choose. Loud music goes along with the ride in these cheap but unregulated and usually overcrowded vehicles that have become part of Kenyan culture. No less risky, but not as colourful, are the local bus services which operate on set routes and schedules through the city streets, renowned for overcrowding and speeding. Taxis are widely available and convenient, usually congregated in the street around hotels and areas frequented by tourists. Taxis are not metered and the fare should be agreed upon before departure. Nairobi taxis are marked with a yellow line along the side of the vehicle, or they are, surprisingly, large black London taxis. The better taxi companies have more modern vehicles, which can be booked by telephone. Three-wheel auto-rickshaws, or 'tuk-tuks' are also used as taxis in Nairobi.

English is the official language but Swahili is the national language, with 42 ethnic languages spoken.

The unit of currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES), divided into 100 cents. It is not advisable to take Kenyan Shillings out of the country, as they are difficult to exchange elsewhere. Travellers cheques in Sterling or US Dollars are recommended for your trip to Kenya. US Dollars in particular have become commonly used in many of the country's main hotels and safari lodges. Foreign currency can be changed at banks, bureaux de change and hotels; easiest to exchange are US dollars, pounds sterling or Euros. Street exchange merchants should be avoided as they are operating illegally. Banks open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm and on the first and last Saturday of the month. Banks and bureaux de change at the international airport stay open 24 hours. Credit Cards (American Express, Visa and MasterCard) are accepted in the larger hotels and stores, and some camps and lodges. ATMs are widely available in Nairobi and the major towns.


Nairobi is a probably the best place in Africa to stock up on crafts and curios. The quality and prices of good are not matched elsewhere so make the most of a stay here to stock up. The local vendors will test your bargaining skills so be prepared to haggle. Typical souvenirs include Kamba woodcarvings, African masks, Kisii soapstone carvings, Masai beadwork colourful fabrics, handmade rugs and the distinctive square cloth known as kangas or kikhois. Do not attempt to buy precious stones or jewellery from freelance vendors.

The best place to go on a shopping excursion is the fascinating and always lively City Market on Muindi Mbingu Street. For a more local experience visit Kariokor Market where everything from vegetables to clothes is on sale. More local crafts can be found at the Maasai Markets (every Tuesday, Friday on the intersection of Moi Avenue and Monrovia Street; on Thursdays near the National Theatre; and Fridays near Limuru Road). Biashara (Business) Street in central Nairobi is lined with interesting stores and boutiques, with plenty of cafes in which to recuperate from the rigors of shopping.

Note that taxi drivers and local touts will pressure you to go to certain stores; they earn large commissions for doing so and therefore the prices you pay will be much higher.


Many visitors to Kenya spend as little time as possible in Nairobi, partially because of the city's reputation for danger and congestion. This is a shame because Nairobi is a welcoming and fascinating place with a range of worthwhile things to see and do. Before departing for the parks, reserves and islands in the rest of the country it is well worth spending a day or two exploring Nairobi. It is a good idea to hire a taxi driver, based on a recommendation at your hotel, and to allow him to navigate you between the sights.

Amboseli is a park of giants, renowned for its herds of mighty tusked elephants presided over by the magnificent backdrop of Africa's highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro. One of Africa's most unforgettable images is the picture of these large creatures standing in silent tribute before the gigantic snow-covered mountain just over the border in neighbouring Tanzania. It is a relatively small park with wide plains merging with the distant skyline, affording good visibility in all directions.

Observation Hill rises from the centre for breathtaking views over the park and towards Mt Kilimanjaro, especially in the pink light of dawn. Meaning 'Place of Water' in the Masai language, it has a continuous supply from Kilimanjaro's snowmelt, forming underground springs that feed the marshy patches and swamps home to hippos and a great variety of bird life. Predators are relatively scarce apart from jackal and hyena, but there are large numbers of grazers such as wildebeest, zebra and gazelles on the grassy plains and giraffe among the thorn trees. A popular way to take in the scenery is by way of a noiseless microlight flight, either from Nairobi or the Amboseli airstrip. There is a wide range of accommodation in and around the outskirts of the park for those wanting to extend the experience.

Karen Blixen was a notable Kenyan personality who lived and farmed on the outskirts of Nairobi from 1917 to 1931 when she returned to Denmark bankrupt and heartbroken at being forced to leave Africa. Writing under the name Isak Dinesen she authored acclaimed books including Out of Africa which inspired an Oscar winning film of the same name. The main building of the original house, M'Bogani House, now houses the Karen Blixen Museum and retains much of its original furniture and other photographs and items of interest. The museum is situated in the suburb of Karen, a short drive from the city centre.

Kenya's most visited park, commonly known as the Mara, is a wildly beautiful place with rolling savannah grasslands and is an extension of the Serengeti Plains in neighbouring Tanzania. Much of the film 'Out of Africa' was filmed here and it offers wonderful views and an extraordinary concentration of wildlife, including the 'Big Five'. It has the largest population of lion, and large herds of grazers also attract many other predators such as cheetah and hyena. The annual highlight is the Great Wildebeest Migration, creating one of the world's supreme natural spectacles, when an estimated two million animals form one large herd and leave the dry plains of Tanzania to seek greener pastures in the north, arriving in the Mara from late June onwards and returning again in September. Their entrance into the Mara makes a breathtaking spectacle, as they cross the crocodile infested waters of the Mara River. A once in a lifetime way to experience the magic of an African dawn over such a wilderness is by hot air balloon, drifting silently over the herds below. These can be booked through any safari company and operate daily from several of the lodges in the reserve. Also within the reserve is a Masai village that holds demonstrations of traditional dances and music as a source of tourist income for the local communities of the Masai Mara National Reserve. Traditionally the lands were used by the Masai for their herds of cattle and the settlement programs set up to compensate for their displacement have only recently been accepted, albeit reluctantly. The proud warriors have become a symbol of tribal Kenya with their beadwork, feathers, spears, decorated gourds and red blankets. Today the Masai communities are allowed to hunt and graze their animals in the reserve, and the occasional flash of red glimpsed between the thorn trees and bush on the fringes of the Mara has become a natural part of the Mara's character.

This national park encompasses Africa's second highest mountain, Mt Kenya, an extinct volcano with a series of jagged snow-covered peaks. The local Kikuyu people revere the mountain they call Kirinvaga or 'Place of Light' as the home of their Supreme Being, Ngai, and traditionally Kikuyu homes are built to face the sacred summit. Part of the mountain's attraction is the incredible variation in flora and fauna due to the changes in altitude and its position on the equator. The slopes are covered in thick forest, home to a variety of animals including the black leopard. Bamboo, moorland and alpine vegetation give way to rock, ice and one of the world's rarest sights - equatorial snow. The summit is a technical climb, but Point Lenana is a popular trekkers' objective, the third highest peak that can be reached by a number of different scenic routes, lasting from three to five days. For those not wishing to climb the mountain the park offers a pristine wilderness, lakes and glaciers and is good for game viewing and hiking.

This hugely diverse museum contains some world-class attractions among its dusty relics and stuffed animals. The facility is home to the great pre-historic finds from the Leakey family including relics from mankind's earliest ancestors. There are also fascinating sections on art, geology, wildlife and local history. Look out for fossils from Lake Turkana and an attached snake park where some of the world largest and also most venomous snakes are displayed.

Nairobi National Park was established in 1945 and is Kenya's first national park. Uniquely situated on the capital's doorstep it is a well-kept, compact and beautiful area of plains and wild bush containing a large number of Africa's best-known animals. Large herds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and giraffe roam the plains and black rhino, ostrich, baboons, cheetah and lions are some of the other photogenic inhabitants. In the park is the Animal Orphanage where sick, wounded and abandoned animals are cared for and rehabilitated into the park, as well as an Educational Centre featuring a Safari Walk. Close by is the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where infant elephant and rhino (orphaned because of poaching activities) are cared for and eventually returned to the wild in Tsavo National Park. The centre is open every morning and visitors can watch the calves bathing in the mud hole and being bottle fed by their human surrogate mothers.

Experience giraffes up close and personal at this wonderful centre dedicated to the preservation of the endangered Rothschild giraffe. Visitors can experience the rare pleasure of hand-feeding these graceful and gentle creatures, and also enjoy the nature walk with 160 species of bird. This is the single best attraction for children in Nairobi. Betty and Jock Leslie Melville founded the Giraffe Centre in 1979 to preserve the Rothschild giraffe of which only 120 remained in existence.

} ());
ACCEPT COOKIESTo give you the best possible experience, this site uses cookies. Using this site means you agree to our use of cookies. We have published a cookies policy, which you should read to find out more about the cookies we use. View cookies policy.