Before we moved to Nairobi I started to do some research on housing and on where to live. I am a planner and, while I knew I could only do so much ahead of time, I wanted to know as much as I could before starting the search. I found some good information online. I got some really great tips from people we knew already in Nairobi. The rest I learned once on the ground, and much of that learning came in bits and spurts over the course of the past year. Here is a combination of that information that I hope will be helpful for anyone moving here.
- Pick location carefully. Traffic is a nightmare in Nairobi and you’ll want to be close enough to work and/or schools. A good starting point is knowing whether you want to be north or south of Waiyaki Way.
- Try to see the property or at least the general area at night as well as during the day. Make sure things are well lit. Make sure you feel safe once the sun sets.
- Make sure there is back up power. Ask if that power is from a generator or from an inverter. They are different things.
- Generators are noisy and make a lot of smoke. If you’re renting a house, make sure it’s tucked away far enough from the main house. If you’re in an apartment complex then you don’t need to worry about that. Generators also run on petrol (hence the smoke) but that makes it easy to always have fuel on hand for your generator.
- Inverters are quiet and much cleaner. But, they run on batteries. Make sure those batteries are good. Ask how much can be powered by the inverter and what outlets are connected (they don’t provide electricity for the whole house). Ask how long the inverters will last on the batteries.
- Make sure there is back up water. Is the borehole up and running and accessible?
- Ask if there are any pending lawsuits that might affect daily life. (That one was a new thing we just learned.)
- Ask if there is pending or planned construction on the compound or nearby. There is a ton of construction all over Nairobi. You really can’t avoid it. But, you can get a sense of how much will be near you and if that will affect your living conditions. At time of writing, there are some people on Ngecha Road who are not so happy right now.
- Make note of the flooring. Some places have wood floors. Some places have stone tile. Stone tile is very cold. If you have or want to have a lot of rugs, then the tile won’t be too bad on bare feet. But keep in mind that the stone tile makes the whole home cold—and it gets cold in Nairobi.
- Tied to the above. It gets cold here. Think not just about the flooring, but also about how much sun you’ll get to warm things up. The fireplace is not just for show. Make sure yours works.
- Be wary of new housing. There is a lot of new housing going up everyday. Much of it is crap: built badly, poor materials, and built too quickly. I would avoid anything brand new. You don’t want to be the guinea pig for finding out all the problems. (Our place is somewhat new. It’s new, but others had lived in the compound for a while before we moved in, so they were the guinea pigs. By the time we moved in, many of the issues were already addressed.)
- Consider laundry. You can get dryers here, but most people (us included) line dry. On sunny days it’s fine. But during the rains, it’s tricky if you don’t have a covered outdoor area. We made sure to have laundry lines in the area behind our kitchen as well as outside. Rain or shine, we can put clothes out to dry.
That’s my list. I hope it’s helpful for people. I am sure there are other tips that should be included. If you’re in Nairobi and have some tips to add, please add them through the comments section. Also, my list is mostly about living in a house. Tips for apartment living are most welcome.