The ultimate guide to solo travel in Nairobi, Kenya
Africa is a continent often overlooked as a possible tourist destination. West African countries, in particular, have hugely impacted the continent. From cuisines, music to clothing, and much more and Kenya is no exception.
Overall, Kenya is safe for travellers. Kenyan people are incredibly friendly and will go out of their way to help you! Their warm, kind and hospitable nature is part of the country’s many attractions. Knowing Swahili will be helpful! Though if you’re not able to, it shouldn’t matter too much in big cities such as Nairobi as there will be someone around who will speak English.
Though no country is 100% safe, Kenya is one of the safer African countries as they have a developed tourism structure. If you’re in the capital Nairobi, it’s best practice to always walk with a purpose (don’t look like a tourist or lost), If you are lost always go into a shop to ask directions rather than strangers on the street. As a solo female traveller you should also be mindful of your things, whether that’s your bag at a restaurant or drinks at a bar, never leave your things unattended. In more touristy areas the locals here are accustom to foreigners and are very welcoming. Feel free to stop and ask for directions if you need it as most locals in this area do have a better level of English.
With the rise of tourism to the country’s has a lot of cheaper accommodations are now available. An average night in a hostel will cost around £5 per person per night with 5-star hotels costing around £150 a night. There are lots of listed accommodations on booking.com, hotel.com.
Stay ECO in Kenya
Kenya is a great hub for Eco tourists as the country really does care about their environment. I’ve been to amazing open top bars and restaurants where monkeys and birds casually join in on your conversation.
Eco lodges are definitely a popular attraction here with many hosting themselves on big platforms such as booking.com and Airbnb. A great example of this is Giraffe Manor.
If you are looking to book onto a safari; more than likely you’ll be offered an to stay in an Eco lodge such as the Serengeti Wilderness Camp. DO it! I 100% know that the experiences at Eco lodges are lifechanging.
If you’re in the capital, Nairobi, why not visit the national museum to get a historical insight on Kenya, or how about the Maasai market, this lively market sells traditional Kenyan craft and materials. Karura Teracess, is a great place for hikers and adventurers with scenic trails surrounded by forestry.
Visit the National parks; Now we can’t talk about Kenya without mentioning its wildlife. There are 50 national parks all over the country. Here are a few of my favourites.
The Giraffe Centre is located in Lang’ata, approximately 20 kilometres (40 minutes) away from the centre of Nairobi. It was established by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife
in order to protect the endangered giraffe. At this centre you can feed and play with the local giraffes, it’s a great way to reconnect with nature and support a great cause.
Giraffe manor is a hotel like no other. Not only is this luxurious hotel that boast luscious grounds and gardens. But it is often referred to as the most instagrammed hotel. Why you many ask? Giraffes. You’ve probably seen the pictures of people in this hotel having breakfast with giraffes peaking through the window. Located in Nairobi, Giraffe Manor though pricey, is said by many to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The Kenyatta International Convention Centre
This centre is located in the heart of Nairobi’s central business district and is home to the 6th tallest building in Kenya. Up at the viewing deck of the building is what many acclaim to be the best viewpoint of the city. It is a perfect spot to watch the sunset too!
If you’re looking for a little getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city then Uhuru park is just the place for you. Uhuru in Swahili meands freedom and that’s exactly what this place is. Home to everal plant and bird species this nice and peaceful atmosphere will have you feeling free.
Another haven of peace in this big city is Karura forest. Located near the central business district, visitors not only walk around, but they can get involved in some unique activities such as tree planting and there’s also a pretty waterfall you can go and see. Animals live freely and in harmony here so don’t be surprised if you see monkeys swinging in the trees or even coming to join your picnic.
Karen Blixen Museum
The Karen Blixen Museum is located 10 km outside of Nairobi, neat Ngong Hills. This museum was the former African home of Danish author Karen Blixen, famous for her 1937 book Out of Africa which chronicles life at the estate. The museum is home to several furnitures and historical artifacts. I recommend going with a guide.
Nairobi National Museum
The National Museum of Kenya opened in 1930 and today, it houses more than mere evidence of Kenya’s unique flora and fauna. The museum displays diverse cultural and natural history exhibits including more than 900 stuffed birds and mammals, fossils from Lake Turkana, ethnic displays from various Kenyan tribal groups, and exhibits of local art.
In the Geology Gallery, you can explore an impressive collection of rocks and minerals and learn about tectonic plates and the life cycle of a volcano. In addition to biological wonders, the National Museum now houses galleries that examine the rich culture and traditions of its numerous tribes, outline the nation’s history, and even galleries that display the talents of Kenya’s contemporary modern artists. The museum displays diverse cultural and natural history exhibits including more than 900 stuffed birds and mammals, fossils from Lake Turkana, ethnic displays from various Kenyan tribal groups, and exhibits of local art.
In the Geology Gallery, you can explore an impressive collection of rocks and minerals and learn about tectonic plates and the life cycle of a volcano.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
This orphan is for rescuded elephants and provides a rehabilitation program.
The center cares for young abandoned elephants and rhinos and works to release the animals back into the wild. You can watch these lovable creatures up close as they frolic in the mud and drink from giant baby bottles. Best of all, your entrance fee helps support the project’s conservation efforts.
If you want to help even more, consider adopting an orphaned elephant, rhino, or giraffe – you’ll receive regular updates on their progress long after you leave.
Ngong hills forest is located in the northern tip of Kajiado County and it’s about 25Km from Nairobi city. The forest covers an area of 3077.6 hectares. This is a great spot for hikers filled with greenery.
African Heritage House
This striking building, known as the African Heritage House, sits on a hill overlooking the Nairobi National Park. It was built between the years 1989 and 1994. This house boasts a unique collection of artifacts from all around Africa, so diverse and valuable that it has turned the house into a national monument.
This tourist village in Nairobi celebrates the traditional lifestyles of over 40 ethnic groups and customs of Kenyan tribes. Bomas of Kenya is a tourist village and cultural center six miles outside of Nairobi.
The Village Market
Nairobi national park and safari walk are an experience of a lifetime. Masai Mara: the most popular national park is home to the big 5 and other fantastic wildlife. Why not book a safari trip with them and get up close and personal.
Lake System: this protected area is a UNESECO World heritage site and home to 13 endangered bird species.
Try the food!
Kenyan cuisine is not one that is often hyped about. So here I am ready to be it’s hype man. Kenyan staple foods are corn, bread and vegetables. Some local specialties are Mdazi (fried dough balls), Ugali (maize eaten with meat stew or vegetables), chapati (flatbread), Nyama Choma (Grilled meat). These foods are redily available in local resturants and a most try if you are in the country.
Walk the walk
The Nairobi Safari Walk is a conservation like no other. Only 7KM from the bustling capital of Nairobi, here you will find a sampling of what wildlife in Kenya has to offer. Not only is the setting exceptionally serene, but you will get a chance to see some of the rarest animals on the planet. These include: the white Rhino, the Bongo and even the Albino Zebra. What this walk offers, is a chance to see most of Kenya’s wildlife within a single setting.
Grab a bargain
The Maasai culture is perhaps the most renowned of Kenya’s ethnicity. As a tourist travelling within Kenya, buying a Maasai culture-based souvenir should, and will be one of the things you want to do. There is nowhere better than the regular open air Maasai markets held in Nairobi. These markets are nomadic and within them, you will find everything from local paintings, curios, drawings, wood carvings, jewelry and East African based Fabrics. However, you have to know where and when they will be held.
The Chalbi Desert is a small desert in northern Kenya near the border with Ethiopia. It is east of Lake Turkana and contains North Horr. Chalbi Desert is the hottest and most arid region in Kenya and definitely unique experience but make sure you go with a guide!
Explore an ancient civilisation
The ruins of Gedi are a historical and archaeological site near the Indian Ocean coast of eastern Kenya. The ruins give a glimpse into the 12th century Kenyan civilisation. It is definitely worth a visit as you really feel like you are stepping back into time wxploring ancient Kenyan history.
Go back in time
Lamu is a port, city, and island just off the shore of Kenya in the Indian Ocean approximately 150 miles from Mombasa. It is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, retaining its traditional functions. This UNESECO World heritage site feels like a step back into time. To really understand the island’s history I highly recomment visiting the Lamu museum, Lamu fort, Riyadha Mosque and Islamic Centre and Takwa Ruins.
Mt. Kenya, is located in the centre of the country and is the largest Mountain in Kenya and the second largest in Africa. Reaching at nearly 5,200 m high this mountain is definitely a must for all adventure lovers! This mountain though not as challenging as others should not be underestimated! Do ensure you adequately prepare for such a climb.This UNESECO World heritage site is also an active volcano which makes it a unique experience.
Near Lake Magadi, you will find a town called Ologesailie. This place is an important archaeological site as several fossils, tools, and artifacts have been found here dating back more than 600,000 years to the time of our earliest ancestors who inhabited the area between 490,000 and 1.2 million years ago. It’s definitely worth exploring this area and learning abit about Kenyan history.
Be one with nature
If you’re ready to become one with nature then visiting the Samburu national reserve is a must! The National Reserve is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Kenya. On the other side of the river is the Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The park is 165 km² in size and is situated 350 kilometers from Nairobi. This reserve is home to all three big cats, the lion, cheetah and African leopard can also be found here, as well as the elephant, Cape buffalo and hippopotamus. Other mammals frequently seen in the park include olive baboon, warthogs, Grant’s gazelle, Kirk’s dik-dik, endangered impalas, waterbucks and many more!
Explore Nairobi Arboretum
Nairobi Arboretum is a of natural heaven. It is located along state house road in the area of Kilimani, Nairobi Kenya. It was founded in 1907 and is home to hundred of plant species.
Kenya has relatively good year climate all year-round but the best time to go if between June – October during the dry season. The country hosts some beautiful weather during time and is also when the Great Serengeti Migration happens. During drier seasons (June and October) are the best times to try and climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Only drink bottled water
Protect your skin! Especially if you will be travelling on open Safaris, you can imagine how hot it can get. Remember to stay hydrated and pack lots of sunscreen on.
Know your location! It is illegal to take pictures and videos of government buildings in Kenya.
Keep your wits about you; especially if you are a solo female traveller. Petty crimes are common in the big city and solo females are an easier target.
Get the currency; Though dollars are commonly used on tourist excersions and in upscale resturants, do make sure you get the local currency too for your everydsy purchases.
- Get a sim; If you plan to stay in the country for a long time, it may be useful for you to get a sim card, these can easily be bought in phone shops. Public Wi-Fi is not really common. Though some upscale restaurants do have Wi-Fi, it may be safer as a solo female traveller to stay connected on your go throughout the city too.
If you want to make some friends here I’d advice you to;
- Stay in a hostel. I’ve found that staying in hostels really helped me to meet new people and go on adventures together and Nairobi was no different. With so many cheap hostels around, it’s more than worth a try.
- Take a tour. There are so many experiences and tours in Kenya, especially in Nairobi and Mombasa which are a great way to also meet fellow wanderlusters and who knows. They may even be able to share with you some hidden gems in the country.
- Join some clubs. Now I didn’t personally use this method, but I did hear from other travellers that this is a good way to meet people. Using sites like Facebook and joining groups is a great way to get the ball rolling.
There are 3 international airports in Kenya. omo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Moi International Airport in Mombasa and Moi International Airport in Eldoret.
Kenya has so much to see and do so its not uncommon for tourists who come here to want to stay forever. I have personally visited the country and still don’t feel like I have fully seen all Nairobi has to offer!
Depending on your itinerary, I’d say 2-3 weeks is a good amount for excursions only. 4-5 days per excursion i.e. Safaris. An extra 5 days to explore the city you are in. A few more to travel to other cities or have day tours.
- Can I drink the water? No
- Is tipping expected? Yes! Especially on excursions. You are expected to tip porters on Safari guides. Other tour guides expect a tip too, some restaurants may expect tips too.
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed Price except at markets.
- Any ATMs? Yes, there are plenty in the main cities.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Left
- Good for vegetarians? Yes! A lot of Kenyan diet is actually vegetarian and plant based too!
- Any seven wonders of the world? No.
Plan a trip to Kenya
If you are ready to solo travel Kenya here are some useful links to help you plan your travel.
Budget – £30 – £50 a day (based on traveling on a budget and staying in hostels and budget accommodation Kenya. If you are looking to book on excursions such as Safaris these can be a bit more pricey and your daily budget may be more like £200)
Capital – Nairobi
Population – 53 million
Language spoken – Swahili and English
Local Currency – Kenyan shillings (KES)
Do I need a visa? – Yes
Flying time to Kenya – 9 hours
Did you know? Lake Victoria is the world’s largest tropical lake and second-largest freshwater lake!
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