Nairobi has a healthy assortment of friendly neighbourhoods for expats to make a new home in. New arrivals should familiarise themselves with the diverse areas and suburbs of the city in terms of housing, hospitals, transport and proximity to one's workplace and schools.
Some of Nairobi's neighbourhoods are more suited to families, while others lend themselves well to the lifestyle of a single expat – and some have a mix of both.
For those who can afford it, upmarket housing is available in attractive suburbs with all the facilities one could wish for. Expats with more modest incomes can equally find a great home in more affordable areas in Nairobi. Here is a list of just some key areas to consider.
Exclusive areas in Nairobi
Nairobi's most expensive areas tend to be those with top-class amenities and proximity to embassies and popular bars, restaurants and country clubs. The variety of accommodation options and accessibility to some of the highest-rated private and international schools mean these areas are in high demand among expats.
Southwest of Nairobi’s city centre lies the residential suburb of Lang’ata (or Langata). Lang’ata’s secure gated compounds known as estates, as well as maisonettes and apartment blocks, are popular among middle-class expats as well as wealthier residents. Life in Lang’ata suits multiple needs. New arrivals, young and old, can appreciate the touristy vibe, with some recommended attractions close by, including Nairobi National Park, the Giraffe Centre, Bomas of Kenya and Uhuru Gardens, as well as live concerts at The Carnivore Grounds. Expat parents are also pleased with the proximity to private schools.
One of Nairobi’s most luxurious and exclusive areas is Karen. Well-off expats can find a multitude of upmarket properties to buy in Karen, including spacious townhouses with large gardens. Numerous private schools and kindergartens can be found here, and Karen’s golf course also makes the neighbourhood popular. Karen further offers modern shopping complexes and a range of fine dining options.
Runda is a self-contained neighbourhood north of the city centre which has a bit of a rural or natural touch thanks to the surrounding forests. The US Embassy and the UN complex are nearby, making this a convenient place to live for employees of these organisations. Accommodation in these areas usually comes in the form of large, modern houses on huge plots. Runda is popular with expats who have kids as there are several kindergartens, primary and secondary international schools nearby. The area is also accessible by both public and private transport.
Muthaiga is often referred to as the 'Beverly Hills of Nairobi' as it is home to some of the richest Kenyans and most highly-paid expats. Most homes in Muthaiga are gated, so it is safe and secure with its 24-hour security patrol. Those with children appreciate living close to a selection of good international schools. Expats in Muthaiga also have access to great sport and recreation facilities at the area's country clubs.
Areas for young working professionals in Nairobi
Suburbs closer to Nairobi's CBD offer housing preferred by single expats and young working professionals as well as students. City living comes with many of its own pros and cons, but expats can still have the best of both worlds of an urban lifestyle as well as a green living environment.
Just north of Nairobi’s central business district is the mixed residential and commercial area of Parklands. Well connected to Nairobi’s amenities, many young expats and students find an apartment to call home. Some of the best hospitals in Nairobi are centrally located in Parklands, while the bordering Karura Forest provides hiking trails and refreshing picnic opportunities.
Close to Nairobi’s city centre and a part of Parklands, Westlands is a convenient location for young working professionals looking to live close to their place of work. The area has plenty of shops, restaurants, nightclubs and bars to keep expats entertained. Spring Valley is the quieter part of Westlands where bungalows and large, detached houses are the norm, in contrast to the rest of Westlands which favours apartment blocks, fully-furnished, semi-furnished or unfurnished. Some of the housing in the area is gated and has security staff to monitor those who enter.
Kilimani and Hurlingham
A lot of the apartment complexes in Kilimani and Hurlingham are high-rise, and several come with swimming pools and 24-hour security. The better complexes have additional facilities such as gyms, saunas and health clubs. The area also has several international schools and plenty of entertainment options in the form of shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants and even a casino. Gated estates and both furnished and unfurnished apartments are available for rent and sale in Kilimani, while in Hurlingham, freestanding townhouses are popular.
Lavington and Kileleshwa
Many families with children find a home in Lavington or Kileleshwa, usually in bungalows with lush gardens or contemporary apartments. Several embassies can be found here along with private schools such as Nairobi International School. These areas are close to the city centre and offer a more cosmopolitan lifestyle that's also within reach of some of Nairobi’s best museums and galleries.
►Find out more about the city's rental market on the Accommodation in Nairobi page
"There are so many great suburbs and nowadays, most have satellite local shopping centres providing services, restaurants, cinemas etc." Frances' interview gives a fantastic list of neighbourhoods in Nairobi, including Kileleshwa, Kilimani, Runda, Gigiri and Muthaiga.
"We live in Karen and I'm a huge fan of it. There are lots of family-friendly places to live in and a few very good schools. Other expat areas are Muthiaga, Lavington and Westlands." Read more in our interview with Nadine.
Photo credits: Parklands, Nairobi by Paulstern Madegwa and Ruaka, Nairobi by Cytonn Photography. Both sourced from Unsplash.
Are you an expat living in Nairobi?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Nairobi. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
I have relocated to Kenya in 2012 with my husband and two kids. Enjoying the beautiful weather and laid back lifestyle here in Kenya. After working for big corporations, decided to become a life coach and started my practice recently. I am also a blogger, who loves to write and read.
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