Essential Tips on How to Survive in Nairobi City | A Comprehensive Guide

Nairobi, the bustling capital of Kenya, is a city full of life, energy, and endless opportunities. However, for newcomers, navigating this vibrant metropolis can be a bit overwhelming. Whether you’re visiting for business, leisure, or planning to make it your new home, having a few survival tips up your sleeve can make your experience smoother and more enjoyable. Here are some practical tips to help you survive and thrive in Nairobi City.

Navigating the City

Avoiding Downtown

Nairobi's downtown area can be chaotic and sometimes unsafe, especially for those unfamiliar with the city. Unless you have a specific reason to go there, it's best to avoid this area. Stick to the more secure and organized parts of the city to ensure your safety.

Responding to “Oya Oya” Calls

When walking through Nairobi, you might hear someone shout "oya oya." This is a common way for locals to get someone's attention. However, it's often used by street hustlers or potential pickpockets. If you hear this, don't turn around. Instead, move to the side and keep walking.

Handling Lost Situations

Getting lost in Nairobi can be disorienting, but there's a simple solution. If you ever feel lost, head to the Archives. This central location is a great point of reference, and you can easily regain your bearings from there.

Safety Precautions

Securing Your Home

One of the first things to do when you move into a new house in Nairobi is to enhance your security. Even if your padlocks are of good quality, use two of them. This extra layer of security can help deter potential burglars

Phone Safety in Matatus

Matatus, the local minibuses, are a popular mode of transport in Nairobi. However, they can also be hotspots for petty theft. When boarding a matatu, always check the condition of your window. It's a common trick for thieves to snatch phones through open or broken windows.

Avoiding Street Prayers

No matter your situation, avoid street prayers. While they might seem genuine, these are often scams. Politely decline and continue on your way.

Street Smarts

Understanding Street Prices

Knowing the standard street prices can save you from being overcharged. For instance, chapati is always 20 bob, smokie is 30 bob, and mayai (eggs) are 25 bob. These prices are fairly standard, so don't let anyone charge you more.

Moving Through Afya Center

Afya Center is a busy hub in Nairobi, and navigating it requires some street smarts. Walk briskly, and if you have hips, use them to your advantage to make your way through the crowd. Elbows can also be useful for creating space. Walk with purpose and don't stop for anyone.

Dealing with Dropped Items

If someone drops something in front of you, resist the urge to pick it up. This is often a setup for a scam. Instead, move away quickly. Even if someone calls out to you, ignore it and keep going.

Utilizing Public Spaces

Alternative Washrooms

Finding a clean and safe public restroom in Nairobi can be challenging. Instead of using the public washrooms run by the city council, go to Ushirika House and tell the guards you are going to office 24, which is actually a mislabeled washroom. Alternatively, you can use the restrooms in hotels like Hilton, Stanley, or Norwich Union. Confidence is key when accessing these facilities.

Staying Dry During Rain

When it rains in Nairobi, don't let yourself get soaked. Instead, head into a supermarket. You can pass the time watching news on the big screens or doing some window shopping. Even if you don't buy anything, you'll stay dry and comfortable

Shopping Tips

Bargaining Wisely

While it's common to bargain in Nairobi, don't overdo it. If you push the price too low, the quality of the goods will often decrease as well. Find a balance to ensure you get good value without compromising quality.

Avoiding Eye Contact with Hawkers

When stuck in traffic, avoid making eye contact with street hawkers. If you do, they will likely assume you're interested in buying something and persistently try to sell you their goods. Keep your windows up and focus elsewhere to avoid unwanted purchases

Resting Spots

Taking a Break at KCB KENCOM

When you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, KCB KENCOM is a great place to rest. Simply take a bank ticket and sit in the waiting area. You'll get a comfortable seat and a chance to relax without anyone bothering you.

General Advice

Confidence is Key

Navigating Nairobi successfully requires confidence. Whether you’re accessing a hotel restroom, bargaining for goods, or finding a place to rest, act with confidence. This attitude will help you blend in and avoid unwanted attention.

Quality vs. Price

In Nairobi, the saying “you get what you pay for” holds true. While bargaining can save you money, always consider the quality of the product. Sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more to ensure you’re getting something that will last.


Surviving in Nairobi City is all about being street-smart, confident, and aware of your surroundings. By following these tips, you can navigate the city safely and make the most of your time here. Whether you’re a visitor or a new resident, these strategies will help you adapt and thrive in this dynamic metropolis.

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