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World Travel Guide > Guides > Africa > Kenya > Nairobi

Nairobi Weather

25°C

Local time Nairobi

Currency

KSh

Getting around Nairobi

Public transport

Central Nairobi is relatively easy to explore on foot, although many of the attractions are out in the suburbs. Fortunately, the city is well stocked with taxis while matatus (minibuses) run regularly to most parts of Nairobi. Each minibus can take 14 passengers while the larger bus can carry 50 people, although they are often overcrowded which leads to safety issues. Locals claim that the safest place to sit is in the middle section and also near the back as well. Drivers usually wear uniforms and badges, but although there are laws requiring seat belts and speed governors to be present in all matatus they are not always adhered to.

You can also flag down one of the many piki pikis (motorbike taxis), though be warned: not all of them are entirely roadworthy.

Local buses are operated by government bus company Kenya Bus Service (tel: +254 20 201 9685; www.kenyabus.net). Fares are paid directly to the conductor and buses follow numbered routes, with some unmarked bus stops along the way.

Taxis

Licensed taxis in Nairobi have a yellow stripe, and drivers loiter near matatu (minibus) stands, restaurants, bars and tourist spots waiting for passengers. Failing that you can find them parked on most street corners near the city centre. Haggle hard for a fare and always agree on a price before starting the journey. Some of the privately owned taxis are ancient and prone to breakdowns, but better vehicles are operated by taxi companies such as Kenatco (tel: +254 20 250 6790; www.kenatco.com).

Driving

Kenyans drive on the left and most of the city centre roads are in acceptable condition. However queues at rush hour are lengthy, and you can be stuck in traffic for two hours or more. An inadequate number of roads also mean jams are possible at any time of day. Although queues are less frequent in the suburbs, roads are more likely to have potholes. The highways linking nearby major cities (especially the Nairobi-Mombasa highway) are notorious for constant roadworks, so it's worth planning if you intend to use them.

Car hire

To rent a car in Kenya, you must be at least 23 years old (some car hire companies ask whether you're 25), and have held a driver's licence for a minimum of two years. You will need your home or international driving licence and a credit card (or a large amount of cash as a deposit).

Agencies in Nairobi include Avis (tel: +254 20 253 2610; www.avis.com), Budget (tel: +254 20 238 6420; www.budget.com) and Central Rent-a-car (tel: +254 20 222 2888; www.carhirekenya.com).

Bicycle hire

You can hire bikes in Nairobi from Green Cycle Shop (tel: +254 71 778 6681), near to Meriada Gardens Restaurant, Muthangari Gardens. However, cycling among speeding matatus (minibuses) is not for the faint-hearted.

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Kenya Comfort Hotel

Well looked after, central and friendly, the Kenya Comfort Hotel offers decent facilities at a reasonable price. It's a secure hotel in Nairobi, and the rooftop lounge offers beautiful views over the city. The rooms are tiled, modern and clean, and there's a restaurant and bar if you don't feel like braving the city streets after dark.

Hotel Ambassadeur Nairobi

Standards have slipped slightly since the days when this tall tower hosted politicians and presidents, but it's still a cut above the competition. The comfortable rooms are well appointed, and there's a good bar and restaurant. It's a popular venue in Nairobi for weddings and conferences, so book ahead.

Sarova Stanley

One of the most historic hotels in Nairobi, the Sarova Stanley first opened its doors in 1902, and boasts a rich history of famous former guests, among them Ernest Hemingway. Rooms are well appointed and soundproof, and there's a gym, sauna, rooftop pool and bar. Don't miss out on the legendary Thorn Tree Cafe either, a travellers' haunt since British times.

Nairobi Serena Hotel

One of the more elegant options in Nairobi, this sophisticated place draws on influences from across Africa, and the interiors are full of tribal sculptures, textiles and wooden furniture. The spotless rooms have marble bathrooms and views over the grounds and lush gardens. There is also a swimming pool, health club and shops. Although the hotel itself is very secure, adjacent Central Park and Uhuru Park are not safe to walk around at night.

Central YMCA

This is a well-appointed, central hostel in Nairobi. Good-value rooms, reasonable food, swimming pool, tennis courts and an aerobics studio make this feel more like a small hotel, and you don't have to be male or Christian to stay here.

Sentrim 680 Hotel

This reasonably priced mid-range hotel in Nairobi is in a decent location. It is a bit shabby and not much to look at, but is safe, has clean rooms with en-suite bathrooms, useful facilities, a restaurant and its own bar. Rooms facing the main road can cop a bit of noise, so ask for one at the back.