Kenya Travel Story - "A Trip To Nairobi", page 3

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... Nairobi isn’t cheap. If you frequent the upmarket hotels, restaurants etcetera, geared towards foreigners, expect to pay between 70 and 100 percent of the prices in Europe. Only if you buy in places for Kenyans, it’s cheap. You can have an acceptable hotel in Nairobi starting from 600 shillings (9 dollars) a night and you can eat out starting at 50 shillings. You are taking a risk then with food security etc.

Taxis in Nairobi typically cost 200-300 shillings for a few miles and between 500 and 1000 shillings for longer distances (i.e. to the airport). There are some tuk-tuks (3-wheeled auto rickshaws) in Nairobi and they are about half the price of an ordinary taxi. Real African-style transportation is the matatu, however: private minibuses that start driving as soon as they’re full for 25 shillings each. We took matatus most of the time.

National Kenyan parliament, Nairobi, with statue of Jomo Kenyatta

Statue of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, in front of the National Parliament in Nairobi - (c) Kenya Travel Story

Nobody seems to know exact figures, but Nairobi has about 3-4 million inhabitants and about half of them live in the slums around the city, such as Kibera. It’s not safe for foreigners to enter the slums, but several local NGO’s offered to take us there.

We had to pay for it (a lot - $18 per person while the average wage for the majority of Kenyans is below $1 per day) and the money was invested in the slums again. So the NGO could make a deal with the bosses in the slums to grant us safe access. We would also visit a shop where we could buy stuff. One of the NGO’s even promised a copious meal for us in the middle of the slum. It felt rather bizarre to be eating a big meal there, and we didn’t do it.

The Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya

The Kibera slum of Nairobi - (c) Kenya Travel Story

It was quite an experience. Most houses were either small grey concrete buildings, rented by landlords at high prices to the people in the slums. Others lived in shacks of wood or cardboard. We were told there was a lot of prostitution in the slums, with all the sexually transmitted diseases resulting from it, and a lot of fights between the inhabitants. If one of them made some money or acquired some goods, there was a big chance that others would steal it. There was no running water in the slums (and the water that’s available in the rest of the city is unsuited for drinking, to Western standards). So the slum people either used water from the dirty river, or illegally tapped water by secretly drilling holes in water pipes running to the city. Needless to say that it was all pretty depressing.

Still most people were dressed not bad – even rather well – and quite some people had mobile phones (the majority of all Kenyans own a mobile phone). Apparently, if they do have some money, it’s spent on items that bring status. The children all were very happy and cheerful – their parents less so. The children came running to us as soon as we arrived, laughing and cheering, wanting to have a look at our cameras, etc.

A big black guy with big sunglasses and lots of gold rings was in charge of security. At a certain moment he told us not go further into the slum and return, as he didn’t have a deal with the people running the slums there. It wasn’t safe there. When we returned, I decided I would complain a bit less in the future about my own situation.”

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