Finding an Apartment in Nairobi


Apparently, snot is a useful sensor. When I was little my mother (who worked in a hospital) taught me how to distinguish viral from bacterial infections by the color of your snot (clear if a virus and dark yellow when it contains bacteria). Yesterday Heather told me that her snot gets dark whenever she is in a polluted city. She is extremely sensitive to exhaust fumes and smog. Avoiding bad air was a major factor in determining where we live.

The air in Nairobi is very dry and dusty in January. I think that her nose smog detector is picking that up. Here are two global air pollution maps. Do you think Nairobi is any more polluted than New Orleans or Washington, DC?

Particulate (>2.5um) matter is a bigger problem in the tropics and deserts:

NASA maps global particulate air pollution

And carbon monoxide comes from combustion…

I found a research paper that highlights the pollution problems in Nairobi (air quality index of about 70-150). It is higher than it should be and not monitored well enough, but was far from terrible in 2002. It also shows that Western Nairobi is much cleaner than Eastern (industrial) Nairobi.

About the Neighborhoods

We first looked in Langata and later moved to Kilimani.

Langata has many new high rise apartments and a shortage of trees and houses. There are potentially great views, but oddly none of the apartments overlook Nairobi National Park. Some overlook Kibera, which is more pituresque than overlooking a dirty highway. This highway is seldom clogged and goes straight into the center of Nairobi. Rentals range from 25,000 to 45,000 Ksh ($300 to $550).

In Kilimani we eventually found what we were looking for – a place with lots of shade, a decent view, and less lung-clogging pollution (black star on map). Our friend Magda, who lives in Langata (green star) and showed us around, used to live in this same apartment complex. It is centrally located near many important landmarks, including Dagoretti Corner , Yaya Centre (red star), Prestige Plaza, City Center (yellow star), Kibera, and Westlands (blue star) (see map below). It is a quieter neighborhood and we will need to walk farther to find a matatu (bus), but there are more bus lines nearby.  Also, you can buy a “high speed” internet package here (see map at end of post) but not elsewhere. Rents range from 30,000 to 120,000 ksh ($370 to $1500!). Our place costs 37,000 ksh a month ($450).

Westlands (blue star) is where most of the foreigners live. Many large organizations have offices here, though only one out of 50+ GlobalGiving NGOs are based here. Westlands, Kilimani, and Langata are all equal-distant from the city center (where all the matatu routes end and one can quickly get to any other part of Nairobi) but attract very different crowds. Westlands = rich foreigners, Kilimani = mixed, and Langata = mostly Kenyan.

Kibera is also about the same distance, and houses hundreds of thousands of squatters, who pay about 1,500 ksh a month. You can now see why real estate developers are pressuring the government and the train company that runs track through the center of Kibera to evict the whole mob. The land is now too valuable.

In Uhuru Gardens you might see this in the morning. Or you can visit them whenever you like in Karen.

High Speed Internet

Finding an apartment with the possibility of high speed internet was also a priority. I covered all the ISP options, real speeds, and costs in a follow-up post.

Zuku (the most common ISP) offers 1, 5, and 8 mb/sec “broadband” packages in select areas of nairobi. Be warned that the slowest broadband in USA is 10 mb/sec so even their best offering fails to meet the minimum elsewhere and will cost you 3,500 ksh (about $45). My speed tests did not give me much confidence that their advertised speeds were accurate. Here is Zuku’s coverage map of Narobi:

Nairobi Matatu Map:

You can now download an interactive nairobi matatu map available as an android app:

This app has all matatu routes in Nairobi and environs with simple query features. Tap to find the matatu (bus) stops closest to you.. Preview all matatus numbers that pass through a bus stop. You can also set an alarm to alert you when you’re close to a bus stop of choice.

You can also download a hi-res image of the matatu routes here: Nairobi Matatu Map (image)



39 thoughts on “Finding an Apartment in Nairobi

  1. please Marc,can you visit Brothers self help group in Western kenya ,currentily we are training over 100+ youth in enterprenureship skills.Last time you promised to visit us,please call me on this numbers +254734928060 or +254722589789.
    Nice time to be in kenya.


  3. Aghakhan hospital is near Westlands and Parklands. These are the most expensive places to live in the city! I don’t know what 50,000 ksh will buy you out there, but I am guessing it may be a tiny apartment in a big building.

    If you look along Thica road the prices are cheaper, and you can travel there easily.

  4. my husband and I are also moving to Kenya from the US in July 2011 and were thinking about looking in Kilimani. Any recommendations for the same price as yours? Thanks!

  5. Yeah. I’m glad I live in Kilimani. Langata is a far worse choice in retrospect because there are only 2 Matatu routes that pass by there, and they are always full in the morning near where we were house-hunting.

    Kilimani between Ngong Road and Argwings Khodek road is accessible to all of these bus routes: 111, 46, 2, 8, 33, 48, 102, 24.

    That means you can get almost anywhere (except Westlands) via direct matatu or bus route. Westlands is always congested but lots of expats live there too. It’s not so far out, but you’re more likely to own a car if you live there.

    My rent was 37,000 per month. You probably won’t find a place for less than 30,000 in Kilimani.

  6. I have a fully furnished apartment in Nairobi, Nyayo Estate. I live alone and i would like to share it or rent out the rooms. Any one interested?

  7. Appreciate your info Marc as I just returned from Nairobi and am preparing to move there. A year later and this info is still pretty relevant, but seriously, the little Matatu’s…. wow, crazy!

  8. Pay special attention to traffic patterns. In the last year it has gotten harder to get across town. Karen is out of the question as a place to live for that reason. And Eastlands / Parklands / Eastleigh are two hours from the West side of town.

  9. I might be moving back to nairobi. Will be doing a project with an NGO in Kibera. Where would be the best place to stay other than langata? And how much?

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