Cost of Living in Nairobi

cost of living in Kenya - kenyan shillingsGenerally speaking, the cost of living in Nairobi is moderate: the 2014 Mercer Cost of Living report ranked it as a mid-range expense location (117 out of 211 cities).

It is also worth mentioning that most expats working in Nairobi have very attractive salaries, with employment perks that vary from employer to employer, but which may include allowances that cover multiple major costs.

Employment package perks for expats in Nairobi

  • Housing allowance
  • Transportation – A company car may be provided for official use and limited personal use
  • Medical benefits
  • Education allowance
  • Visa/Permit charges and taxes may be taken care of by employer
All that said, don’t be misled into thinking that expat life in Nairobi is cheap. While it certainly is possible to live sparingly and levy minimal expenses, most Westerners demand certain services and certain standards, and these kinds of amenities will be significantly pricier than their local equivalents.
As is the case with most destinations, an expat’s chief expenses in Nairobi will be accommodation, school fees for the children (if applicable), transport and shopping for food, clothes and other items.
Do note that in Kenya people are accustomed to bargaining for everything, thus the little things can cost less if expats knows where to go and how to negotiate a good deal. That said, many places frequented by expats, like supermarkets, large shops and shopping malls, do not allow room for haggling, and so items in these places tend be highly priced.
Furthermore, even the vendors that do bargain will be reluctant to give foreigners a low price: many locals have adopted the mentality that these individuals are wealthy, and can afford to pay more.

Cost of housing in Kenya

The cost of accommodation in Nairobi depends on location, but for quality accommodation usually costs between KSH 90,000 to 200,000. 

In many cases, employers may offer to shoulder this expense, as well as the required security deposit (usually equivalent to 2 to 3 month’s rent).
Utilities, such as electricity, water and Internet, will probably be the expat’s responsibility, but are not so expensive - probably totalling about  10,000 KSH per month. Satellite television will be around  5,000KSH.
One accommodation-related expense that expats may not anticipate is provision for security measures. Expats living in gated communities often find that this cost is included in the price of the rent, but if renting a stand-alone townhouse, it most likely will not be.

Cost of getting around in Kenya

Many expats prefer to own a car in Kenya, as it allows for more freedom and encourages more movement in the city. A cheap used car would go for about  500,000 KSH, with prices increasing according to the make, model and mileage on the vehicle. Hiring a driver is also very affordable, and is worth investigating.
Otherwise, in Kenya, the main public means of transport is the matatu (a 14-seater van/ mini-bus with a fixed or semi-fixed route). Matatu fares are based on the distance to THE destination and the time of day, although people can get nearly anywhere in Nairobi via matatu for as much as  100 KSH and as little as KSH 20 per trip.
Using a matatu is cheap, but these vehicles are often overcrowded and probably below the safety standards of many expats.

Alternatively, taxis are used often, but it is hard to put a price on this service as there is no clear-cut billing method (no metres). Make sure to negotiate a price with the driver before entering the taxi. Taxi prices between Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Nairobi's city centre are between KSH 1,000 and 2,000.

Food costs in Nairobi

Food is generally affordable, but it is cheaper to dine in rather than to eat out. Western-style groceries are available in local cost of food in Kenyasupermarkets, and are affordable, but still more expensive than local brand names.

Expats can expect to budget around KSH 6,000 per week for groceries only, which is about KSH 25,000 per month (for a family consisting of two adults and two children).

Healthcare costs in Nairobi

There are plenty of health insurance providers in Nairobi, and usually prices are about 30,000 to 40,000 KSH per year for moderate coverage schemes. Furthermore, most expats will have health insurance included in their salary package.

Education costs in Nairobi

Most expats opt to send their children to international schools, which are very expensive. Many of these institutions have a tuition fee of 300,000 KSH to 500,000 KSH per term. There are three terms in a year.
In addition to this, there may be fees required that cover transport, food and nutrition, registration, PTA (Parent Teacher Association) membership among other supplementary expenses. These extra charges can add up to about 300,000 KSH per term.
Again, it’s common for employers to include some form of education allowance in an expat package.

Cost of living in Nairobi price chart

*All prices are based on the cost of living in Nairobi and listed in Kenyan Shillings (KSH)


Furnished two bedroom house

180,000-200,000 KSH 

Unfurnished two bedroom house

150,000-180,000 KSH 

Furnished two bedroom apartment

120,000 – 180,000 KSH 

Unfurnished two bedroom apartment

90,000-150,000 KSH 


Dozen eggs

100 KSH 

Milk (1 litre)

80 KSH 

Rice (1kg)

200 KSH 

Loaf of white bread

65 KSH 

Whole chicken

250 KSH 

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

150 KSH 

Eating out

Big Mac meal

850 KSH 

Coca Cola (500ml)

300 KSH 


 550 KSH

Bottle of beer (local)

 350 KSH

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

3000 KSH 

Utilities/Household (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

30 KSH

Internet (Uncapped ADSL or Cable – average per month)

10,000 KSH 

Monthly rate for a live-in domestic cleaner

20,000 KSH 

Electricity (average per month for standard household)

10,000 KSH 


Taxi rate per km

 285 KSH

City centre bus fare/train fare

60 KSH

Petrol/Gasolene (per litre)

105.5 KSH


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