Getting around in NairobiThe Nairobi city centre is mostly reserved for commercial and government activities. There is an industrial area located near the Nairobi Railway Station in the southeast. Residential areas spread around these two hubs.

The existing public transport in Nairobi serves all of these destinations, enabling commuters, mostly locals, to get to their workplaces in the city centre and industrial area.

Public transport in Nairobi

Nairobi is a very busy city, and getting around can be a challenge due to limited information available on the existing public transport system. There is some public transport in operation in the city, but due to insufficient infrastructure and traffic rules, the situation can get very chaotic. In general, expats don’t use public transportation in Nairobi because of poor safety records.

Modes of public transport include matatus or shared minibus taxis, buses, trains and regular taxis. Except for train services provided by the government-owned Kenya Railways Corporation, all public transport in Kenya is operated by the private sector.

As with public transportation in any major metropolitan city, expats who do choose to use public transport in Nairobi should be aware of their surroundings and keep an eye on their belongings at all times. Women and children need to be especially careful when travelling at night.

Taxis in Nairobi

Expats or travellers who are only in the city for a short time and do not have a company car will find that taxis are the most convenient and safest way to travel around Nairobi. Taxis can be easily found near international hotels, at most tourist sites, in the city centre and near shopping malls. They are usually marked with a yellow line on the side of the car. Expats should be aware that if there is no meter visible, they should agree upon a fare in advance or expect to be overcharged.
Hiring a car in Nairobi

Cars are expensive in Nairobi, and for some expats it makes more sense to hire a car rather than buy one. Expats will find that international car hire chains have many branches in Nairobi. These companies offer a range of options to suit different budgets. Expats must read the rental contract carefully to check for rules on insurance liabilities in case of an accident or the theft of the vehicle.

Local car hire firms in Nairobi often operate on a cash-in-advance basis, but expats should at least have a recommendation before using one of these companies. They are cheaper and more flexible than international car hire companies, but there is a greater risk and hassle in the event of an accident, breakdown or theft, which can happen at any time or anywhere in Nairobi.

“Matatus”

Matatus in Kenya are 14-seater shared taxis. These minibus vehicles are predominantly used by locals and a few expats in and around Nairobi. While the network of matatus is somewhat informal, they do cover a wide geographical area, operating in much of greater Nairobi and its suburbs. It’s easy to spot a matatu by the yellow stripe on the side of the vehicle.

Expats who choose to travel by matatu in Nairobi should be aware of the unruly and chaotic conduct of the drivers. It is wise to be aware of the areas one drives through as this is something that can change while en route. Matatu fares constantly fluctuate, so it’s best to check the fare before starting the journey.

Buses

A number of bus companies offer services in Nairobi, providing a good alternative to the matatus. Bus routes in Nairobi converge at the city centre. There are a few terminals in the city, which serve as drop off and pick up points for passengers.

Expats should be aware that some bus companies in Nairobi are very unreliable. Drivers may openly disregard traffic laws, making the journey dangerous for passengers, and fares are always changing. An exception to this is the purple Double M buses. They are clean, well driven and display their rates.

Trains

A commuter train service was introduced to address the high cost of travelling by matatu and bus for the urban poor in Nairobi. These services are the most cost-effective mode of public transport in Nairobi, with trains operating on four lines. However, during rush hours, trains in Nairobi can become very busy and travelling becomes uncomfortable.