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Nairobi, Kenya (Intro to Eastern Africa)

Having experienced a freezing European winter we were excited to go somewhere warmer and that somewhere was our 6th continent on our journey – AFRICA!

We flew directly (8hours) from London to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi in Eastern Africa in mid January in between the short rainy season in November & the long rains in March through to May. We welcomed the 30 degree heat…

Eastern Africa

Eastern Africa

Eastern Africa is made up of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. We believe Eastern Africa is really a term that is used in the tourism industry more so than locally or in commerce. All these countries are similar in climate but they don’t share currency, government or even phone networks for that matter..

With the exception of Kenya and Tanzania (who speak Swahili), all their languages are different as is their culture and religions. Additionally different tribes exist in each country.

English is definitely a prominent language, certainly the 2nd most spoken language in each of these countries.

Anyway there will be more of that later…. for now we are in Nairobi:

Nairobi  is not an overly exciting city. It’s incredibly busy, (the most populated in East Africa – 3 million) but there is not a lot to do in the city itself. The National Museum of Nairobi is apparently worthwhile. It provides a good introduction to Africa if its your first time on the continent.

Elissa in a park outside the Nairobi CBD.

Elissa in a park outside the Nairobi CBD.

It’s also known as Nai’ROBBERY’ so we had our wits about us throughout our stay. We didn’t encounter anything suspect. There are very few “Mzungus” (white peoples) in the city itself but we are not a novelty to the locals.

No matter what your name is, every white person is called ‘Mzungu’. Kids, street sellers and people wanting our attention would constantly yell out ‘Mzungu Mzungu’ followed up by their request for us to buy something, give them something or just ‘look in their store’ (“looking is free, my friend”)…. You just need to get used to it, as no one is intending to be rude!

Streets of Nairobi.

Streets of Nairobi. You need to be careful of where you point the camera sometimes.

The Kenyans are all extremely friendly and smile a lot. The national language here is Swahili and very quickly we learnt how to say hello as everyone yells out to us ‘Jambo‘. ‘Hakuna Matata‘ is also a very popular phrase, it means ‘no worries‘. We’re not sure if it was popular before The Lion King….

Nairobi CBD. It is not a huge city for 3 million people.

Nairobi CBD. It is not a huge city for 3 million people.

Not far outside Nairobi is Nairobi National Park (tours to this park can easily be arranged by the many number of tour operators in the city) but mostly Nairobi is a really good starting point for any Eastern African Overland Safari. Our first Overland tour was starting toward the end of January so most of our time here was spent getting organised.

If looking for meals or just a really nice tea and coffee then we suggest visiting Nairobi Java House. This is a modern restaurant and is always packed no doubt because it serves excellent food for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. The Coffee is fabulous and the prices are relative to many other restaurants in Nairobi. We highly recommend this place.

One of Two Nairobi Coffee and Tea Houses in Nairobi.

One of Two Nairobi Jave Houses, for delicious coffee and tea in Nairobi.

<p>French toast from Nairobi Coffee and Tea House</p>

Pete also thinks their French Toast rivals that which he tried in France.

Getting around Nairobi is fairly easy. We walked most of the time, as it’s not overly huge, although at night time, it is much safer to take a taxi. Incidentally the taxi from Airport to Nairobi should cost between 1300 & 1500 Kenyan Shillings (approx $17USD).

For a very local experience (outside the inner city), you can try the Matatu’s which are basically MiniVans that transport people to and from set locations. The difficulty is working out where each of these Matatus actually goes but if you can figure this out, then transport is extremely cheap – 20 Kenyan Shillings per ride which is about 30 cents. The City Hoppa is also an option.

Matatu is the Black Van with yellow trim and the City Hopper bus.

The Matatu is the Black Van (on the right of this pic)

In terms of places to stay, there are plenty of decent and inexpensive hotels in the heart of Nairobi but see our Accommodation page – details will be updated soon…..

It’s only a matter of time before you relax into the African way of life where things don’t always run on time, advertised facilities don’t always work and you just can’t be in a rush when you sit down to order some food as even if you are the only two people there, it may take up to 40 minutes to receive your order. Additionally what you order from the menu, isn’t always what is served to you….

So why are we telling you all this? Because if you mention it to anyone (but mainly other travellers) the response is always T.I.A. (This is Africa). This mindset is what justifies just about anything.


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