Nairobi Travel Guide

Health & Safety

Nairobi has a reputation for thievery. Beware of snatch and grab, con artists, or groups of people following you. Scams are elaborate and can involve up to 10 or more people working together. The best advice for a tourist is to stay in the city centre, know where you are at all times, and pretend you know where you're going (even if you don't). If you find yourself in an unfamiliar area your best bet is to find a taxi (although you will probably pay dearly if the driver suspects a panicked westerner!). Don't carry large quantities of money or passports on the street, and assume that anyone trying to engage you is up to no good or trying to sell you something. In recent years, crime has significantly reduced, though one should still be wary. If one stays smart and plays safe, without going around much after dark, Nairobi is a safe place to stay. Most locals are honest people who will happily help you if you approach them.

Kenyans are proud people and there is not a lot of begging like you find in some other countries. Some opportunistic people will hang around shopping centres and beg, but they will generally accept a simple 'sorry' and leave you alone if you do not give. Many of these 'beggars' are middle class kids or adults who have realised they can profit from exploiting white guilt, and should not be encouraged. If you are ever lucky enough to visit a slum as a local (not on some perverse tourist safari) you will discover the poorest of the poor do not even beg.

Outside of tourist and expat communities, young children will become excited at the sight of a white person and may come running towards you to try to shake your hand while yelling out 'mzungu' (white person) or 'how are you?'. Older kids are more reserved, and you should be weary of kids who are older than 9 or 10 who are trying to distract or get close to you.

Slums should be avoided by tourists as you will attract a lot of attention which can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.

Apart from the inner city centre, Nairobi dies out at night. Streets are mostly empty. Do not walk alone after nightfall. Always use taxis. The areas north and east of River Road should be avoided, especially if you're not a local!

Biashara Street is a safe shopping street due to the presence of 10-15 Maasai guards. A place to avoid as a tourist is the City Market; you could end up paying a much higher price than on Biashara Street.

If you are in a matatu and moving slowly through traffic, particularly after dark, you should keep your window closed if your valuables are in reach to prevent people snatching them from the outside (there are thieves who walk through traffic looking for such opportunities). Mobile phones and wallets should be securely kept and not displayed prominently during calls or cash transactions in the River Road area, particularly after dark.

Eastleigh (known as 'little Mogadishu') is an area near the city centre that is decaying due to years of neglect by the government (including the police). It is predominantly populated by Somalian migrants and refugees, and most Kenyans will not go there for fear of their safety. Tourists would be wise to avoid it day and night.

There have been several grenade attacks in the city for which Al-Shabaab have claimed responsibility. These are likely to be ongoing while the Kenyan army has a presence in Somalia. They are random and often fatal, and one should be wary and report any suspicious behaviour.


source: Wikivoyage

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