Moving to Kenya

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Moving to Nairobi, Kenya for a month

Jan 2015

We have the opportunity to travel and live in Nairobi for a month in June and I am wondering how safe it really is. Our friends (who live there) insist it's no more dangerous than Oakland or San Francisco, but then advise that we hire a driver so we don't get lost in any bad parts of town. Any feedback/ideas/recent experiences would be very helpful! Thank you! Adventurous but cautious mama

I've been working in Nairobi over two-week stretches this year, and I'd generally agree with your friends. The main commercial center is a big, busy city, but generally pretty safe during the daytime if you're exercising good big-city safety precautions. There are certainly parts of the city that you wouldn't want to go, so the precaution of not driving yourself is probably a good one, and I generally wouldn't want to be out at night most anywhere. Taxis are abundant, relatively cheap, and seem safe, particularly if you're sticking with a company that is recommended. (One caveat - my general precaution is that driving in Africa is probably the most dangerous thing you can do, due to accidents. Fly within the country - to safari, trekking, etc., where possible) There is an expat community around the US Embassy that would be a fine place to live, and would be safe for your family. Paul

I used to live in Kenya for over 2 years. Granted, it was 8 years ago now and I lived in a small village 5-6 hours away from the city, but I think most of my experiences are similar to what goes on now (except it seems less safe now; all of my expat friends who had settled there 'permanently' have left mostly due to safety concerns).

You can be safe in Nairobi, but you need to be vigilant about your safety at all times and definitely don't go out at night (which is about 6:00pm-7:00am every day; living so close to the equator means the length of the day never changes). As an expat in Nairobi, you'd likely live in a walled/gated compound with a security guard. I know it's a common thing to say it's as safe as any big city, but I disagree. In the two years I lived in Kenya, I would say over 10 of my friends were victims of violent crimes, often carjackings or muggings involving machine guns and sometimes machetes, including one friend whose sister was shot in front of her because the sister couldn't get out of the car fast enough when they were carjacked. Even living here with friends in the bad parts of Oakland, I don't here similar things about Oakland as often as Nairobi (AKA Nai-robbery). And, being an expat in Kenya, you're part of a targeted group with 'Rich' written all over you. The primary concern in Nairobi is personal crimes (like muggings, carjackings), but there is an elevated chance of terrorism there, too.

Personally, I did live in Kenya and went to Nairobi often, and if I were a single person in their 20s or 30s, I may do it again. However, now that I have a family, I certainly wouldn't risk it with a child. I'd go back to Kenya in a heartbeat, but would only visit Nairobi when necessary.