Expat Cost Of Living In Kenya As Of 2021 part 2- Part one is here.
What to Know about Living in Kenya
Kenya is a beautiful country in Eastern Africa, bordered by Tanzania, Uganda and Somalia. It is famed for its large game reserves (Maasai Mara National Reserve, Amboseli National Park) and the sun-drenched coast (Malindi). In this section, let’s quickly walk you through the things you need to know as an expat.
Kenyans are friendly people, but they aren’t always comfortable with physical contact. Everyone has their own space, and it is best to keep yours inviolate unless you’ve been invited into someone else’s. Shaking hands, when introduced to someone, is fine; handshakes can also be used when ending a conversation.
In the towns and cities, you’ll have no problem being seen with a local female companion. You shouldn’t be offended if she doesn’t appear to acknowledge your presence when in a group of friends. However, straying from this position will almost certainly result in an argument or aggressive behaviour.
Ethnic groups vary somewhat in their attitudes towards men and women in public places. Unexplained physical contact may be seen as an insult by Kikuyu, Luo or Luhyia people.
Food and Drinks
Kenyan cuisine is unique and delicious with a blend of African, Indian, and European influences. Delicious spicy flavours make local dishes stand out. Kenyan culinary dishes include ugali, sukuma wiki, nyama choma, chapati and pilau.
Kenya is a very modern country with standard European products available in the supermarket as well as many local brands. In general supermarkets are safe places to shop although petty crime is not uncommon. Street shopping has the advantages of providing a truly Kenyan experience, but can be risky in high-risk areas.
Kenya has many local beers, spirits, and wines available. The popular spirit is called Konyagi which means ‘little elephant’ in Swahili. For the best drinking experience avoid homemade drinks that are often spiked with unknown substances or drugs. It is also very important to drink in moderation.
There are many different accommodation options available for expats depending on their preferences and price range. Many foreign companies will arrange host family accommodation. These families often live in suburban areas of Nairobi, while others can be found closer to the city centre.
Host families typically consist of two or three children and the parents. Their main role is to provide their guests with a home away from home and to act as tour guides in their city. Hostels are another common form of accommodation for expats who either don’t have much money or wish to experience living like a local when traveling.
These tend to be situated around major areas such as university campuses or markets. They are not very common in Kenya, but the ones that do exist offer relatively inexpensive accommodation with shared bathrooms and facilities.
Other options include renting a house or apartment. Properties vary in price depending on their location, size, quality of workmanship and general upkeep. Most expats prefer to rent houses or apartments close to office locations, shops and restaurants.
Crime and Safety
Although the crime rate in Kenya is high, it’s important to remember this is a developing country with high unemployment rates. This means there are many people who have little in the way of income or prospects. In general you should not trust strangers, especially if approached by someone claiming to be a police officer or someone who needs money for an emergency. If you witness a crime in progress, do not get involved and report it to the police immediately.
Mathare informal settlement provides some of the most challenging work on the planet; few people here have access to basic amenities such as running water, sewerage and sanitation. However charities like Concern Worldwide are attempting to improve the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS in Kenya including work in Nairobi’s slums.
Working in Kenya
Employment opportunities for foreigners are generally available through foreign embassies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), large local companies and expat specific recruitment agencies. There are many entry level jobs to be found but it is important to remember that low salaries go along with these positions, especially if they are initially offered on a voluntary basis.
There are skilled employment opportunities in Kenya ranging from technical experts to professionals such as lawyers. If you are looking to work for an international organization then your chances of finding work will be much higher if invited by them or connected through someone currently working there.
It is also important to remember that Kenyan culture makes communication difficult at times, especially in business dealings. Therefore it is important to be patient when looking for employment or starting your own company in Kenya.
There are several internet cafes in Nairobi available to expats who do not have access to a computer at home. However many of these cafes only offer dial up and some charge hourly rates (approximately 2 US dollars), which can add up to quite a lot if you are not careful. There are also cyber cafes that offer wireless internet connections, but these tend to be slightly more expensive.
The best connections in Kenya are offered by the country’s main ISP, Safaricom (www.safaricom.co.ke). Safaricom offers dial-up as well as broadband internet access, which is considerably faster than the dial up service.
Safaricom also provides excellent mobile phone services and operates one of the most reliable networks in Kenya. You can also buy a prepaid SIM card to use with your own GSM phone if you plan on staying for a long time.
There are several newspapers and magazines circulated in Nairobi as well as the main national television channels on cable TV. Most media is available in English or Kiswahili, but there are some local publications that have a smaller circulation that may be printed in a wider range of languages such as Dagbani, Hehe or Meru.
Local radio is very popular in Kenya and the country has stations that broadcast all over the country as well as on the internet. The most popular station uses English, Kiswahili and Swahili but there are also many private stations with broadcasts in languages specific to certain localities.
Cable TV offers international news channels like CNN and BBC although these may not be in English. There are also a few American and Indian movies that play daily on local TV stations.
Transportation in Kenya
There are several ways to get around Nairobi including taxis, matatus (public buses) and minibuses although none of these is recommended for ease or safety. Many people prefer to use their own vehicles but this can make living in the city very expensive unless you share with colleagues, friends or family. Nairobi is not a walkable city and there are no pavements for pedestrians to use.
Even a short trip by foot can take a long time as it is necessary to be extremely aware of traffic at all times, especially around the central business district where vehicles drive very fast. It is necessary to go everywhere with someone reputable or ask them to wait for you in the car when going shopping, dining out etc.
Frequently Asked Questions about Kenya
Who are the Samburu?
The Samburu are a sub-tribe of the Maasai, which means they are herdsmen. They live around Mount Kenya in Northern Kenya, particularly near Lake Turkana and the Lorian Swamp. They number about 160,000 people. The Samburu follow traditional customs; female genital mutilation is practised by some communities. They believe in the one-ness of God and that He created everything, including man.
What language do they speak?
The Samburu speak the Samburu language, which belongs to the Niger-Congo family of languages. It is similar to Maasai (which is spoken in southern Kenya and Tanzania) and Luluyia (spoken by the Kalenjin in western Kenya), which is why speakers of these languages can usually manage to communicate with each other.
How do they dress in Kenya?
Samburu women wear beaded necklaces called ‘eunoto’. These are worn by unmarried women until they give birth to their first child. When this happens, the eunoto is replaced with by a beaded headband called an ‘olosho’. Married women wear a bundle of grass on their heads, decorated with beads and cowrie shells. They also wear a black cloak called a ‘tagati’ – the men wear red robes.
How long does it take to get there?
The answer depends on your route. From Uganda, you can fly direct to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport or drive. There are at least two roads that connect the two countries – one passes through Moyale and another between Isiolo and Marsabit. Travellers can either take the latter route or the former plus a ferry.
It takes about 1 hour to fly direct from Uganda to Nairobi. Buses are frequent along this road, departing Kampala’s Bus Park every morning at 5AM and 1PM. You can then get a matatu or dala-dalas for the rest of the way to Kenya.
What currency do you use?
Kenya shilling. US dollars are widely accepted anywhere that accepts currency from other countries, but it is best to carry Kenyan currency with you as well. Do not accept old or torn bills – they may be refused. The exchange rate varies depending on the source of the currency. It’s generally better to buy at banks and hotels; the rate is lower at money changers. There are usually street vendors around currency exchange offices, offering to change money for you for a small fee (usually 1-3% of the total), but you will not get any Kenyan currency this way.
Living in Kenya as an expat is one of the best thing you’ll ever wish for. The food, culture, people, and more contribute to why the country remains one of the best in Africa. So, if you’d love to live in the country, understanding the cost of living before you travel is quite essential.