Are you wondering how to get around in Nairobi? You have come to the right place. Here, I will show you various transport means.
I live there, I know.
How to get around Nairobi on a small budget
There will be times when you will be on a slim budget, but you still need to get around. It can be hoping from one place to another to try the different street foods in Nairobi, or it can be to hop from one nature place to another.
1. Matatus and Buses
Matatu is a Swahili name that means three, probably because the very first minibuses and buses covering different Nairobi routes used to charge three cents.
Some are so well spruced out and new. Some are loud, noisy and quite an eyesore.
Good thing about using this means of public transport in Kenya is that even if you are a tourist in Nairobi, you will pay the same fare as the locals.
During peak times (morning and evening), travel to most parts of Nairobi will cost anywhere from $0.8 to $2.
In the off-peak hours (11.00AM to 3.00PM-ish), most charge $0.5 to $1.0.
Please note here that matatu means buses, minibuses, as well as the smaller 14-seater taxis. This is the most popular form of public transport in the country.
If you need to travel from Nairobi to anywhere else in the country, you can still use the same means.
2. TukTuk – 3-wheeled rickshaw
No kidding, but I “discovered” just how efficient this means of transport is when I took a holiday in Malindi and I wanted to see several places.
It is so convenient! Just stop one on the street, talk to the driver and explain to them you want to see certain places close to each other in the CBD. They will take you around affordably.
Unfortunately, there are many fun things to do in Nairobi out of the CBD, and so a TukTuk might not suffice for out of town drives.
If you don’t want to hire one, just hop in one when traveling from one place to another for a smaller fee than what you would pay in a matatu.
3. Is there Uber in Kenya?
There is Uber in Kenya and a couple other online taxi hailing cab companies. Uber offers privacy and charges less than regular taxis. It is also a good way to get somewhere you have never been before.
Other cab hailing apps you might want to download include Bolt, Taxify and Little Cab. The fare amounts are more or less the same across the board. Besides, safety is more assured in such cabs because you get the details of the car and the driver in the app.
Uber in Nairobi offers many vehicle options. The Chap Chap line is for small, 1000CC and below cars. There’s a line for minivans too, if you’re traveling as a group.
4. Hiring a car and driving yourself
If you would rather drive yourself around, you can hire a car in Nairobi. There are many private car hire companies. Most are genuine and some are scammers.
Get online, find out where the car rental company is and take a taxi there. See the car and then hire it, and sign an agreement for the days you’ll have it.
Check the car for any defects so that you are not charged for them when you bring it back. Make sure the insurance is valid. You must also have a driving license allowed in Kenya.
Driving yourself in Nairobi is not for the fain of heart. There are traffic jams, crazy drivers who don’t obey the urban driving codes and congested roads.
If you read our article on 18 bad things about Kenya, you will see that road crashes claim thousands of life yearly.
This is the most unreliable form of transport in Kenya. It is slow, unpredictable and not available for all places in the metropolis.
The surest routes to catch a train in the morning or evening include Nairobi to Embakasi- Mlolongo, Nairobi to Ruiru. Just those two!
The only reliable train service is the Nairobi-Mombasa and back route using the recently constructed SGR railway line.
Sure, there are railway stations in Kenya, along the old Meter-Gauge Railway lines, but most are run-down and not in use anymore.
6. Hop a motorbike/boda boda
All around you, you will see bikes waiting for fare, and you can hop one to various places around Nairobi.
It is not advisable though because most of these riders are not trained. They don’t know the highway code; they don’t follow any rules and some are criminals.
We would not recommend you doing a bike ride, unless the rider comes highly recommended by a friend. If you must ride a boda boda, you must insist that you and the rider wear a riding helmet.
Lately, electric bike leasing companies have started to spring up around Nairobi, offering a good way to get around Nairobi. However, this city was not designed with bike riding in mind because there are no dedicated lanes.
Riding a bicycle in Nairobi is one of the easiest ways to be knocked down. Besides, if you are a foreigner, you might not be safe enough riding on your own in some hours.
If you must ride a bicycle, go to the remote places such as Mount Longonot or Hell’s Gate National Parks.
8. Hire car and driver
This is one of the best, and most expensive ways to get around in Nairobi. It is also one of the safest. You can pay a daily rate for this service, or you can agree with the hire company to pay per trip, every time you call them to send a car.
If you are traveling in Kenya with kids, this is a good way to get around. It offers privacy, convenience and safety.
Final thoughts: How to get around in Nairobi
Getting around in Nairobi is not too complicated. There is a means of transport for every budget.
For foreigners, self-drive car rental, chauffeured car rental and Uber are the safest. The transport system in this country is fairly developed compared to the rest of her neighbors, but we are not out of the woods yet.
Do you have a local friend guiding you around, you can use other forms of transport and save money. They will guide you to see some incredible hidden gems in Nairobi.
Is it safe to travel in Kenya? Largely, yes. But you should always check with your government to see if they’ve issued any travel advisory.