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Where to Stay in Nairobi
A large share of Nairobi’s hotels are located in the city center, which is the main business district but still within easy walking distance of a wide variety of shops, restaurants and nightlife destinations. Just to the south of this neighborhood are the Kenya Parliament Buildings, which are worth at least a short visit, and a few blocks north are the National Museums of Kenya and the Nairobi Botanic Garden. If you’re seeking cheap hotel deals in Nairobi, the city center is a good place to start, but it’s important to check out every hotel carefully when investigating the budget options. Many of the cheapest hotels are not up to Western standards.
Numerous hotels can also be found in the suburbs immediately surrounding Nairobi, particularly to the northwest and southwest. These areas are quieter and far less urban, though still quite affluent. Budget lodging is harder to come by in these areas, but the average quality of accommodations is much higher.
Even farther south of the city, more sparsely scattered hotels surround the perimeter of Nairobi National Park. Because of their proximity to the wildlife preserves, many of these hotels cater to tourists seeking safari experiences.
Nairobi Hotel Tips
The range of accommodations in Greater Nairobi is quite diverse, though you may find options more limited in its individual neighborhoods. Traditional luxury hotels are common in the city center and in the northern and southern suburbs, but those closest to the urban core tend to serve a business-oriented clientele rather than vacationers.
Nice boutiques and fancy guesthouses take the place of budget motels in the safest and most frequently traveled suburbs, so if you’re looking for the rare discount accommodation that doesn’t skimp on cleanliness or quality, you may need to restrict your search to the city center.
The pricey hotels located on and near wildlife preserves are worth the expense for adventure-seekers, but book up early.
Nairobi Hotel Recommendations
When staying in the city center, one of the most memorable properties is The Norfolk, a rare holdover from Kenya’s British colonial days. This historic property has stayed true to its classic, elegant design even through multiple upgrades and remodels, making guests feel like they’re stepping back in time without sacrificing modern comforts. The highlight of The Norfolk, for many guests, is its Lord Delamere Bar, where its famous gin and tonics have been flowing for more than a century.
For an even more unforgettable night’s stay, consider the Ngong House, located a few miles southwest of the city. It’s small, intimate and exclusive, and possibly unlike any hotel you’ve been to before; each unit is individually appointed and custom built, with the most creative rooms perched atop ancient trees. Few hotels on the continent are as apt at combining luxury with the wild, outdoorsy appeal of the safari experience.
A similarly astonishing experience awaits at Giraffe Manor, located amidst a sanctuary for the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. The huge, elegant suites are reason enough to stay here, but you’ll know you’ve found a special hotel when a resident giraffe sticks its head through your bedroom window, waiting to be hand-fed. Though the giraffes are the namesake highlight, several other animal species are cared for on-site.
Traffic is notoriously heavy in the city center, but less so in the suburbs. Therefore, you might want to consider where you plan on spending your time when choosing to rent a car after your flight to Nairobi. If you expect to be in the compact city center for much of your stay, you may be better off exploring the city on foot during the day and sticking with taxis at night. If you want to spend more time exploring the suburbs and parts of Kenya beyond Nairobi, having your own rental car can come in handy.
Most hotels are accustomed to assisting tourists with transportation, particularly safari guides and hourly drivers. For longer sightseeing excursions, these are almost always the best values.
For shorter trips, taxis and buses make more sense. Taxis are not metered, so you will have to negotiate a rate with your driver prior to departure. It’s often easy to flag down taxis on the street in neighborhoods with lots of hotels, but you’ll need to call for rides in other areas. Public buses, called Matatus, follow a complex schedule of routes and fares and are best for traveling between the city center and Nairobi’s suburbs. If you want to take a Matatu, check with your hotel’s staff for specific directions based on your itinerary.
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