Cost of Living in Nairobi

cost of living in Kenya - kenyan shillingsThe 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's worth mentioning that most expats working in Nairobi often earn very good salaries, with employment perks that may include allowances for various 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 and permit charges and taxes may be taken care of by 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 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 (if applicable), transport and shopping for food, clothes and other items.
Take note that in Kenya people are accustomed to bargaining for everything, which means things can cost less if expats know where to go and how to negotiate a good deal. But even vendors whodo 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. On top of that, many places frequented by expats, like supermarkets, large shops and shopping malls, don't allow room for haggling, and items here tend be highly priced. 

Cost of housing in Kenya

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

In many cases, employers offer to shoulder this expense, as well as 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, but aren't thatexpensive - probably totalling about 10,000 KSH per month. Satellite television costs around 5,000KSH.
One accommodation-related expense that expats may not anticipate is provision for security measures. Expats living in gated communities find this cost is often included in the rental costs, but this is unlike to be the case in  a stand-alone townhouse.

Cost of getting around in Kenya

Many expats prefer to own a car in Kenya, as it allows for more freedom. A cheap used car would go for about 500,000 KSH, with prices 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 much as 100 KSH or 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 between KSH 1,000 and 2,000.

Food costs in Nairobi

Food is generally affordable, but it's cheaper to dine in than eat out. Western-style groceries are available in local cost of food in Kenyasupermarkets; they're affordable, but still more expensive than local brands.

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 of two adults and two children).

Healthcare costs in Nairobi

There are plenty of health insurance providers in Nairobi. Rates start from 30,000 to 40,000 KSH per year for moderate coverage. Fortunately, most expats 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 have fees of 300,000 KSH to 500,000 KSH per term, of which there are three a year. 
There may also be additional fees required that cover transport, food and nutrition, registration, PTA (Parent Teacher Association) membership, amongst others. These extras 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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