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Shopping in Nairobi

Shopping in Nairobi is an art form. Supermarkets and upmarket mall stores charge fixed prices but you'll have to haggle everywhere else. As the world over, sellers start high and buyers low, but with a bit of give and take you'll eventually reach a price that both sides find acceptable. The upper end of Moi Avenue is Nairobi's prime shopping strip, with plenty of mainstream stores, but handicrafts are better purchased in the city's bustling markets.

Key areas

Markets and street vendors are found all over Nairobi, but more upmarket shopping opportunities are clustered around Moi and Koinange Avenues in the centre. The big city malls are also worth a visit, although don't expect too much from the fashion boutiques – some are great, others sell cheap knock-off versions of Western high street brands.

Gallery Watatu on Standard Street sells artworks by big African names, and the local clothiers that offer bespoke tailoring are often reliable, cheap and able to complete a safari suit commission in 24 hours.

If you're looking for a more serene shopping experience then The Hub Karen is a way out from central Nairobi, providing what you need without the bustle.

Markets

The City Market on Muindi Mbingu Road is jam-packed with vegetable stalls and souvenir vendors, but you'll find a more exciting selection of items on sale at the Westland Curio Market on Parkland Road or the roaming Masai Market. Good-value crafts can also be located at Embakasi Village Crafts Market, on the Mombasa Road.

Shopping centres

The best shopping centres are out in the suburbs, catering to wealthy locals and expats. All have cafés, restaurants and upscale stores selling African and imported goods. Westlands has the posh Sarit Centre on Parklands Road and the Mall Shopping Centre on Waiyaki Way, while Karen Shopping Centre on Ngong Road is also worth a visit.

Opening hours

Opening hours are from 0800 to 1700 / 1800.

Souvenirs

Elaborate beaded jewellery, paintings and hand-carved wooden crafts are all worth taking home and can be picked up for next to nothing in street markets. Gorgeous handmade leather sandals are also worth buying, although quality varies from place to place. Other highlights include colourful woven baskets, Masai beads and soapstone bowls and pots.

Tax information

Goods bought outside of markets are subject to a 16 percent VAT.

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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.

Upper Hill Campsite

Part campsite for overland groups, part backpacker hostel, this expansive place is a hike from the centre of Nairobi, but it makes up for this with excellent facilities. Staff can organise all sorts of safaris and excursions, and the spacious, secure compound has its own bar, restaurant and games room.

Terminal Hotel

A good-value alternative to the backpacker crash pads, the Terminal Hotel in Nairobi is simple but well located. You get what you pay for in terms of luxuries, but the rooms have bathrooms and you can walk to everything in the centre. Ask for a room at the back, away from the street noise.