Why bother visiting Nairobi in Kenya
Take a closer look. It’s only 4 hours 27 minutes on a direct flight from Dubai at reasonable times. Nairobi is only one hour behind Dubai so no jet lag and the weather is delicious. It’s one of the greenest cities on the planet in terms of sheer numbers of plants and trees and now seems to have a fabulous dining scene as well.
Read about the best places to eat and shop at in Nairobi as well as how you could easily do a safari without leaving the city!
Where to eat when visiting Nairobi
Nairobi loves it’s food. There are a number of good restaurants and cafes in Nairobi, just ensure you know how long it will take you to get to your chosen venue, don’t underestimate the traffic! Indian and oriental food is very popular. For an upmarket, authentic Thai meal, I recommend Soi at the Dusit D2 Design hotel on Riverside Drive. Tasty Thai food cooked well and presented very professionally. Good choice of cocktails too. Soi is a very safe venue in a secure, modern hotel complex. Open for lunch and dinner. You can have drinks on their terrace before or after your meal. The restaurant had adults and grown up family groups when we visited for dinner. A meal at Soi makes for a sophisticated and relaxed evening out. I particularly liked their Red Prawn Curry and Spicy Squid. Papaya salad was good too and portions generous. But prices reflect the quality and your surroundings, so expect to pay KSH 1800 for the prawn curry – International prices.
For an eclectic, modern eating experience try the newish Urban Eatery in the Westlands side of town. From Masala Dosas to Mediterranean salads, this contemporary but accessible restaurant is located on the ground floor of the PWC towers Delta Corner Estate in Westlands. The breakfast choice looked comprehensive and very good too. I thought the cakes and desserts were of an excellent standard for Nairobi. This restaurant is light and spacious and has a number of open kitchen areas where you can see the chefs at work. We visited at lunch.
If lush, verdant surroundings are your main criteria for choosing where you eat, then I highly recommend Zen Garden. Again a fairly eclectic choice of Oriental and Mediterranean cuisine in very mature garden type setting. There are 3 restaurants in one here, all of which have very green settings. Vases full of roses are very abundant here. I liked the very generous pizza with ham and rocket, this was perfect for sharing. We went on a Saturday afternoon and the place was very busy with family groups of all ages. It seems also to be a popular destination for wedding pictures as well!
If it’s just a coffee and snack you’re after or a substantial breakfast, then I recommend the Art caffé in the Village Market mall complex. Get a table on the terrace outside on a Sunday or any other day for breakfast. But go early else the croissants will run out! This café has a real European feel about it, it’s very popular with expats and local residents alike and is very near the UN complex. I liked the sourdough bread toast and jam. The smoked salmon and eggs benedict breakfasts looked huge and were served on large compartmentalised glass platters. More of a brunch than a breakfast.
Accommodation when visiting Nairobi
This would depend on where you’d like to be located, but I recommend either The Tribe hotel, which sits adjacent to the buzzy and busy Village Market area or the very modern Dusit D2 Design hotel in the Riverside Drive area of Nairobi. The Dusit 2 has very generous room sizes with balconies as well as great bar area and unusual swimming pool with a sunken majlis type arrangement. That’s not unusual, it’s the piercing scarlet coloured water in the pool of the Rouge Deck that I found bizarre. Apparently it’s quite a hit with visitors. See for yourself! Other hotels worth considering are The Sankara in Westlands (very near the swanky Capital Club) or the Serena in Nairobi townside.
Safari in the City when visiting Nairobi
You don’t have to get a flying package to the Masai Mara if you want to experience a bit of Safari life when in Nairobi. A great and very convenient option is to book with Gamewatchers Safaris and stay at the Nairobi Tented Camp in the Nairobi National Park. In fact Gamewatchers can pick you up from Nairobi airport and you can be in the park within 45 minutes.
We did this overnight Nairobi Tented Camp safari and loved it. A fabulous deal. Gamewatchers has a number of very smart camps in it’s own conservancies just outside the Masaai Mara including the very exclusive Porini Lion camp and Porini Rhino Camp. I didn’t realize that 70 % of the game is actually located outside the Mara! We are currently negotiating some favourable rates discounted from list prices for all our DoinDubai subscribers, so do subscribe and keep an eye out for this amazing offer. We’ll write the details in a fresh post and email all our subscribers directly. Packages to include airport drop offs, game drives, visits to the Sheldrik elephant orphanage and gin and tonics in the evening! OFFER NOW HERE
Shopping when visiting Nairobi
Try the Village Market mall complex that has a variety of shops and stalls, it even has a MAC make up shop in case you need something to match your safari suit! But I always have a wander in the Masaai Craft Market, which is on every Friday morning usually in the grounds of the Village Market mall. However at the moment this market has been relocated to an area of waste ground near the mall. You need to go in a car. Bargaining hard is de rigeur. I recommend you buy cotton kikois in a variety of colours and designs, great for the beach or pool here in Dubai. I paid KSH 500 or so per kikoi. And then whatever takes your fancy, I liked the sets of 3 flat baskets in one in neutral colours, perfect for all those en suite Dubai bathrooms! Beaded key chains make great stocking fillers for Christmas. You will see stalls along the roadside that also sell pet baskets (too big if you’re travelling economy!) lined with tell tale red and black Masaai check fabric and larger very colourful laundry baskets, easy to collapse into your suitcase and bring home. A good rule of thumb is that KSH 100 is roughly USD 1 so very easy to convert.
You need to check what the rules are about bringing in produce to your country of residence but I always bring back some fine Kenya green beans and fresh cut roses and lilies in a large checked in card board box. At USD 2 for 10 roses, how could you not? Especially if you live in Dubai. They last about a week if you put them in mineral water. Don’t assume your box will exit with your cases on the same conveyor belt at Dubai airport! Keep a sharp look out for your boxes being plonked down elsewhere in the vicinity! I bought my flowers from the main florist shop on the ground floor in Sarit Centre mall. Ask for Peter, they can also supply the boxes you need.
Best beach from Nairobi
No doubt about this one in my mind, it has to be Diani beach on the South Coast. Fly to Ukunda airport on one of the airlines mentioned below and marvel at the wide, velvet white sands. Hotels include Kole Kole one of 3 hotels in the Robinsons Baobab complex. Do try and get rooms on the ground floor in Kole Kole, but don’t expect too much of the food, breakfasts are fine. This is a great hotel for evening walks and entertainment. Diani Reef and Swahili Beach are much larger hotels on the same stretch of beach. There are some boutique options, the best of which is Al Manara. You must try Ali Barbours’s cave restaurant for dinner one evening (and have a drink at the sister establishment 40 Thieves! at the same time) and Lymingtons for lunch, also a great place for Kite Surfing. It’s worth having a drink or a coffee at Nomads hotel as well. Sails restaurant at Al Manara is probably the most upmarket dining choice around. Ukunda airport is just 15 minutes drive from the hotels on the beach and most hotels will come and pick you up, but do reconfirm this. Lantana is a complex of apartments and cottages on the beach. It also has it’s own restaurant serving good Italian food on site.
Internal Travelling when visiting Nairobi
We have flown with Precision Air, Safari Link and more recently Jambo Jet. Jambo Jet is Kenya Airways little sister and it flies from Jomo Kenyatta airport (the international airport) the others fly from Wilson and are smaller planes, but all of them have been fine. Delays though do occur, take a pack of cards with you and some extra cash to buy snacks at the airport. I would avoid taking the last flight in the day in case it’s cancelled altogether ! If you want to visit Diani beach in the South Coast then you must fly to Ukunda, it’s much more convenient than flying to Mombasa and taking the ferry.
Do let me know if this post has tempted you into trying Nairobi. Tell me what puts you off and I’ll try and answer any other questions you may have. I have travelled there for the last 25 years or so!
The Kenyan tourist board in Dubai is represented by Magical Kenya GCC and you can contact them on Tel: +9714 316 6333 and if you want to find out what’s going on in Kenya then I recommend this really informative site KenyaBuzz, packed with current information about Nairobi city.
Thank You Monica