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The 9 Disadvantages of Living in Nairobi

There is no perfect city. Thinking about starting a new chapter in Nairobi as an expat or digital nomad? It’s an exciting prospect, but every place comes with its ups and downs. Nairobi’s a vibrant city, no doubt, but it’s essential to know about the challenges you might face.

In this blog, we’re taking a closer look at the nine tough parts of living in Nairobi for expats and digital nomads. Knowing these downsides can help you prepare better for the adventure ahead and make your move smoother.

Blatant Corruption

This is probably the worst thing about Nairobi and Kenya in general. Corruption is deeply rooted in every institution, especially from government officials and offices, and it systematically trickles down to the police.

Getting basic government services will require some form of bribing, getting a passport for instance. Pay something to get it quicker.

It is just horrible and makes me low-key ashamed to be a Kenyan.

It is even annoying from the police, who will shamelessly harass you to get bribed, even with no traffic offense, they will pull you over just to ask for “tea” which is a less ugly name for a bribe.

The Foreigner Price Tag

Kenyans are not racist nor dislike strangers by any means, it is the opposite. Everyone is welcoming to outsiders and treats them better than fellow countrymen.

However, there is this mentality that foreigners have money, especially whites ( for some reason), and for that; you will be charged exorbitantly because everyone believes you have infinite money. In the malls and supermarkets, shopping won’t be an issue since all prices are standardized.

But in the open market, you will have to up your bargaining power or accompany a local. Same thing with getting a taxi, you will be charged more than the standard price, which is kind of annoying.

It just doesn’t end with buying goods, everyone will be expecting you to give them money for free, even strangers. The mentality has really gotten into most locals.

Electronics are Expensive

Electronics Illustrations

If you love electronics and gadgets, then this is not your haven. The most latest and impressive gadgets are not commonly available locally, except for the common ones like iPhones.

And when available, they are sold at insane markups making the products not worth it anymore. Say you are a gamer, the graphics card (if available), the prices will be just insane to justify making a purchase. The reason is probably the high taxes and tariffs retailers have to pay to get the goods into the country, and they will transfer those costs to you, the consumer.

Luckily there is a fix to this; you have to buy your gadgets and electronics abroad and ship them into the country. The only downside of this approach is that there is a wait time involved of a week or two before you get your goods.

Infact shipping into the country is now a booming business and there are several companies that ship personal items into the country from US, UK, and China. You will get your electronics that way for cheaper, infact up to half cheaper.

Sketchy Neighborhoods in Nairobi

The divide between the rich and the poor is so big and apparent, even by just saying the neighborhood one is from, you can see their social status. So there are neighborhoods that are affluent for the rich, but the majority and vast of them are for the ordinary class people, and the biggest ones are for the poor

Neighborhoods for the poor are what I term sketchy neighborhoods, where people struggle to put a roof over their heads or even get 3 meals a day, due to this desperation it makes those neighborhoods dangerous as some resort to crime and petty theft. Honestly, you can’t blame them.

It is dangerous visiting those places or just walking through them as you may be mugged off your belongings, or have to only pass there with locals, or at specific times

There is also occasional political instability here like demonstrations which can add to the chaos

Nairobi Traffic Jams

Nairobi Traffic Congestion

While this situation has improved, it still is bad, especially in narrow neighborhood roads where you will see traffic spanning 2km of parked cars, so getting places can be tough. It is even worse in the rush hours where you will spend almost an equivalent amount of time in traffic as you would at your workplace or school.

Limited Infrastructure

Infrastructure in Kenya is among the best in Africa, but it is nowhere near world-class. Roads are okay for the most part with occasional potholes and puddles in residential neighborhood roads, again this all depends on the neighborhood you are moving into. If you live in affluent places, then this will be unheard of.

There are no sidewalks or pavement in most parts of the city, so you really have to walk along the edge of the road which is not very safe. In town centers too, you have to walk on store’s verandahs as well. And when sidewalks are present, there are obstacles in front like power poles, and the sidewalks are not consistent and continuous, so be prepared for dusty shoes. Or walking on muddy puddles when it rains.

Healthcare in public hospitals is limited and almost non-existent, you will be prescribed drugs that you have to go and buy to bring them so that they can be used to treat you. Public hospitals are so undeveloped and under-equipped.

While private hospitals are better in every aspect, they charge insane prices that most locals prefer to just seek treatment outside the country for cheaper, and get even better healthcare in places like India.

Power availability is so unreliable, you can hardly go through a week without interruptions. There are infrequent water outages sometimes but all this under the infrastructure topic depends on your neighborhood.


Polluted Nairobi River

Yeah, Nairobi is not the greenest city. There is littering about everywhere, noise just like any city( if not worse), smog, dust, and sewage rivers in the downtown neighborhood. Yeah, that is not pleasant at all but it is the reality here.

Pick Pocketing

The Nairobi CBD is undoubtedly one the most congested places you will ever see, it is so bad that you have to walk and move like you are in a queue, with constant getting pushed around by maniacs walking faster and just pushing people out of their way.

As stated earlier there are no consistent sidewalks, so this is why congestion is so bad in CBD and downtown Nairobi. To add insult to injury, hawkers just lay their items on the already congested pathways to make a living, so in the end, you have to walk like you are solving a maze while being careful not to step on someone’s merchandise which could lead to confrontations and escalations.

Being a confused and congested town center like it is, it is here where pickpocketers thrive. Your phone and laptop will just be gone in seconds. It is common to see locals wearing their backpacks against their chests because they know better!

Undeveloped Public Transportation

While using public transport is quicker and less stressful than driving, the public transport system is unreliable, there are no scheduled arrival and departure times, and it is more like just getting the next bus or waiting for the next one. Sometimes there can be significant wait time to get a seat on a bus, especially in peak hours when everyone is going to town or out of town.

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