Cost of Living in Nairobi

The cost of living in Nairobi is moderate. The 2017 Mercer Cost of Living report ranked it as a mid-range expense location (111 out of 209 cities). 

Most expats working in Nairobi earn very good salaries, with employment perks that may include allowances for various major costs. These could include a housing allowance, a company car, medical and education benefits, and visa and permit charges covered by their employer.

That said, don’t be misled into thinking that expat life in Nairobi is cheap. While it certainly is possible to live sparingly with minimal expenses, most Westerners demand certain services and certain standards, and these are often significantly pricier than the local equivalents.

As is the case with most destinations, an expat’s chief expenses in Nairobi will be accommodation, school fees, transport and shopping for food, clothes and other items.

It's accepted in Kenya to bargain for everything, which means expats can save money if they know where to go and how to negotiate a good deal. But even vendors who do bargain will be reluctant to give foreigners a low price as many locals have adopted the mentality that expats are wealthy and can afford to pay more. Supermarkets, large shops and shopping malls don't allow for haggling and items at these places can be very pricey. 

Cost of housing in Nairobi

The cost of accommodation in Nairobi depends on location, but good quality accommodation can cost up to KSH 200,000. In many cases, employers offer to shoulder this expense. This offer can also include the required security deposit, usually the equivalent of two to three month’s rent.

Utilities, such as electricity, water and Internet, will probably be the expat’s responsibility. However, these utilities aren't that expensive, probably totalling about KSH 11,000 per month. Satellite television costs around KSH 5,000.

One accommodation-related expense that expats may not anticipate is provision for security measures. Expats living in gated communities find this is often included in the rental costs, but it's unlikely to be the case in a stand-alone townhouse.

Cost of getting around in Nairobi

Many expats prefer to own a car in Kenya, as it allows for more freedom. The average price of a standard VW Trendline is KSH 1,500,000, increasing depending on the make, model and mileage. Hiring a driver is also very affordable, and is worth investigating.

The main means of public transport in Kenya is the matatu (a 14-seater van/ mini-bus with a fixed or semi-fixed route). Fares are based on the distance to the destination and the time of day, although people can get nearly anywhere in Nairobi by matatu for as little as KSH 20 per trip. This option is cheap, but the vehicles are often overcrowded and probably don't meet the safety standards of many expats.

Taxis are also used often, but because there's no clear-cut billing method and vehicles don't have meters, make sure to negotiate a price with the driver beforehand. Taxi prices between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Nairobi's city centre are around KSH 2,500.

Healthcare costs in Nairobi

There are plenty of health insurance providers in Nairobi. Rates start from KSH 40,000 a year for moderate coverage. Fortunately, most expats have health insurance included in their salary package.

Education costs in Nairobi

Most expats send their children to international schools, which are very expensive - fees can hit KSH 1,5 million a year. There may also be additional expenses to cover transport, food and registration. These extras can add up to about KSH 300,000 per term. Again, it’s common for employers to include some form of education allowance in an expat package.

Cost of living in Nairobi chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for November 2015.

Accommodation (monthly rent in good area)

Furnished two-bedroom house

KSH 180,000-200,000 

Unfurnished two-bedroom house

KSH 150,000-180,000 

Furnished two-bedroom apartment

KSH 120,000-180,000 

Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment

KSH 90,000-150,000 


Eggs (dozen)

KSH 160

Milk (1 litre)

KSH 100

Rice (1kg)

KSH 135

Loaf of white bread

KSH 55

Chicken breasts (1kg)

KSH 600

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

KSH 200 

Eating out

Big Mac meal

KSH 750

Coca-Cola (330ml)

KSH 60


KSH 250

Bottle of local beer 

KSH 180

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

KSH 3,000


Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)

KSH 3.80

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

KSH 6,000

Domestic cleaner (per hour)

KSH 190

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

KSH 6,000 


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

KSH 175

Bus/train fare in the city centre

KSH 65

Petrol/Gasoline (per litre)

KSH 96