Want to see Nairobi - Kenya like a local? Read this before you pack your bags.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust

Nairobi, the green city in the sun, an icon, a legend, a city that walks the fine line of thriving modernism and rich culture and tradition.

The former uninhabited swamp (from which the Name Nairobi comes from after Maasai warriors named it “The place of cool waters.”) is the largest city in Kenya and perhaps the best way to summarize the diversity of the country and its inhabitants.

Because of being a tourist destination, a lot is lost in translation to foreigners when they visit the city.

It’s easy to get lost in all the life and wonder, especially with preconceived notions of what your experience should be.

The general rule of thumb is that when in Nairobi, do as the locals do, but until you figure out what the locals do and in lieu of that here’s a list of don’ts that go a long way in ensuring a holistic and satisfactory stay in one of Africa’s greatest cities;

1. Do not carry much luggage.

Bear with me here, with the busy streets teeming with life and the hustle and bustle of the Nairobian; you really don’t want to be lugging around anything bigger than a backpack.

You save on baggage fees and ideally protect yourself from loss as you are carrying less.

You will always have your bag by your side, thus ensuring a feeling of security and access to essentials you might not find in common amenities.

Let’s not forget that you’ll get around faster than you would with a suitcase.

Avoid fancy restaurants and eateries.

The fancier the place, the more likely they’re trying to cater to the rising middle class and upper-class citizen of the country, giving them a taste of the western world. Surprise Luigi, you went across continents just to have someone serve you pizza you could have had at home!

If you really want a taste of the local cuisine, never eat at restaurants and hotels near tourist attractions.

They lure you in with classy interiors and a promise of the finest dining experience only to have a field day with your taste buds and pockets.

If you want to experience something life changing ask a Boda-boda (Local motorcycle transportation) guy where they have their lunch from, there’s something about the Smokey flavor of food cooked over a wood or charcoal fire in the middle of a rapidly westernizing country that just makes my taste buds weep.

Staying in high-end tourist resorts.

One word, hostel. When traveling some of the best places with the most interesting people are backpacker hostels like Kilifi Backpackers or Distant relatives.

Naturally, such an establishment is devoid of luxurious pretentiousness and filled with raw and fun experiences that make your traveling experience unrivaled.

There’s something magical about sharing your bunk with a wandering misfit who’s after nothing but nothing; it changes your perspective on life and what it’s about.

Scripts, don’t stick to the script.

It’s not enough to be a tourist; all you are doing is being shown what to see and where to be. Walk down Tom Mboya street amidst all the local hustle and bustle, meet some Gor Mahia football fans and understand how passionate people can be about sports.

Get to see the ailing side of Africa that’s being fueled by social-economic limitations imposed by an overdependency on the west.

Don’t just go back home with the yang of it, take the ying too!

Cabs suck!

Part of the Nairobi experience is the matatu culture.

The industry players are overzealous about the trade; public transport is classically redefined in the country.

Some popular routes are the Rongai/Karen routes that take you to various destinations in the Karen suburbs and the popular route 23.

Taxis and Cab drivers will surely overcharge you due to your evident nature as a foreigner.

Leave your plans at the airport and carry some caution!

Going into a maze with a map is no fun, forget all the plans you had and just immerse yourself in random possibilities, Kenyans are perhaps the most interesting people, once you stop trying so hard!

Don’t forget travel insurance!

Dealing with a foreign hospital is hard enough as it is, don’t add to that by failing to get travel insurance and dealing with a massive bill on top of a trip to the emergency ward incase you hurt yourself while having too good a time being a master traveler in a world of tourists.

Don’t forget to experience nature; you have National Geographic at home!

It’s a crime to claim that nature isn’t a crucial part of the traveling experience, but you don’t get to experience all of it.

Soak into nature; there is something magical about it.

Did I mention there is a National Park within Nairobi City? Why not start from here before you go exploring the distant National Parks.

Phones and pockets both start with P, keep them together!

The biggest mistake you can make is missing out on a fully immersive experience because you are busy sharing photos on Instagram or trying to show off your vacation time, more often than not, real moments are not captured in still frames but in emotion, so keep your energy in motion!

Littering is punishable by death!

Yes, death, not immediate, but gradual. We have enough vices contributing to global warming and other negative effects on the environment! It helps if you are environmentally conscious!

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust


What is the essence of travel? What makes all those miles (or kilometers if you’re not rebellious and you understand the essence of the metric system) worth it? What do we gain other than photos for our social media accounts and stories to charm our next mark at a party? Does travel have a more spiritual and more holistic tune to it?

After all many a mentionable heroes have been known to take a sojourn and to emerge from the muck of foreign culture more experienced and more enlightened.

Featured Photo by kevin Tosh

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