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Bustling Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is the biggest city in East Africa and a chaotic mix of old and new. Not only does Nairobi boast the concrete skyscrapers, shopping malls and nightclubs you would expect in any modern capital, the region’s Maasai culture exists alongside the urban sprawl and the African wildlife is also in evidence. Within the city limits you will find a giraffe centre, crocodile farm and a national park, where rhinoceros, lions and cheetahs prowl.
The city sits a mile above sea level and has a mild climate all year round.
High season in Nairobi runs from December to March when the weather is warm and dry. Thousands pass through the city on their way to safari holidays and the city’s national park comes alive.
April and May and October and November are the rainy seasons, when there are fewer visitors.
The June to September is dry, but can be cool, with temperatures sometimes dropping below 10°C at night.
Nairobi is the gateway to Kenya and much of East Africa so if you are looking for a cheap flight it pays to book ahead.
There are no real alternatives to Jomo Kenyatta Airport when booking flights to Nairobi, and the only direct flights are from London, but many carriers operate connecting flights.
Using the ‘Nearby airports’ option will allow you to check fares from different UK departure points.
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Optimal flight times from UK cities to Nairobi include:
Named after Kenya’s first leader, Jomo Kenyatta Airport is the seventh busiest in Africa. There are flights to more than 50 countries and it handles more than 7 million passengers a year.
The airport, nine miles south east of the city centre has duty free shopping, several bars and cafes and there are ATMs. There are also car rental facilities on site, and limited WiFi.
The airlines that fly direct from the UK to Nairobi are:
Carriers that have connecting flights from the UK include:
From Jomo Kenyatta Airport there is a regular bus service into the city centre, but taxis are a more realistic option and are available 24 hours a day. Pre-paid vouchers are available at the airport but a price should be negotiated with the driver. Many hotels and tourist operators offer a free shuttle.
Nairobi’s bus system can be crowded and stressful, but an alternative is the ‘matatu’. These are mini-buses that follow the same routes. They are more comfortable and convenient, but tourists should keep an eye on valuables.
Taxis are a popular way of getting around and are often a safer alternative to public transport or walking.
Driving in Nairobi is not for the faint hearted but those with nerves of steel can hire a car, although parking can be a problem in the centre.
Nairobi National Park on the outskirts of the city offers the chance to see some of Africa’s iconic species. Remarkably the park entrance is just five miles from city centre and the Nairobi skyline is clearly visible as you watch rhinos, giraffes, lions, elephants, hippos and cheetahs. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust within the park is worth a visit.
Nairobi has several excellent museums including the Karen Blixen Museum, dedicated to the author of Out of Africa. The Nairobi National Museum has some wonderful exhibits focusing on Kenya’s natural history and culture – and the earliest humans who were discovered here.
The 28-storey Kenyatta International Convention Centre in the city centre has a platform that commands great views of Nairobi.
The animals in the national park avoid the midday heat by sleeping, so plan a tour early in the morning or in the afternoon to see them moving around.
Nairobi is a vibrant and exciting city, but when you are out and about in the hurly burly take care of your possessions and do not carry large sums of cash.
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