Old Nov 12th, 2005, 12:12 PM
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Hi All,
Thinking about starting safari in Nairobi and then going south. We thought Nairobi might be an interesting place to fly into and look around for a couple of days to recover from jet lag. BUT here is what our travel agent says - "One thing about Nairobi. It's a war zone. No way would I want you to wander around there on your own. Besides, there is nothing there to see. Nairobi is a relatively new town (about 100 years old) and was built as a railroad construction camp. There is little history or culture to be found there."
Comments very much appreciated.
regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Old Nov 12th, 2005, 01:13 PM
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Your travel agent is an ASS. I advise switching to a more well informed agent.
thit_cho is offline  
Old Nov 12th, 2005, 02:26 PM
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Wow, I must have been in a completely different city named Nairobi.

Here are a few places you can visit in Nairobi if you have a couple of days -

Karen Blixen Museum
Sheldrick Orphanage for rhino/elephants
Giraffe Centre
Kenya National Museum (check their renovation schedule though)
Railway Museum
Nairobi National Park

We had one full day and didn't have time to see it all.

No doubt there's crime in Nairobi, not unlike many major cities, and you'll need to take reasonable precautions, but I certainly wouldn't characterize it as a 'war zone'.

We made arrangements with our tour operator to visit most of the sights, but at other times we also walked around the downtown area on our own during the day. At no time did we feel uncomfortable. We left any valuables in the hotel safe when walking around as to not be obvious targets. We found most people to be busy going about their daily lives and paid little attention to us. We did run into a few safari touts, but even they were friendly (tell them you've just returned from safari).

If you're unsure about which areas are safe, check with your hotel or just hire a vehicle and driver/guide from your safari operator. I wouldn't walk around after dark. Take a taxi instead. If you're going out to dinner, the same taxi driver can wait for you and bring you back to the hotel.

I'm sure there are those who went to Nairobi and thought it was extremely dangerous and probably there are areas of the city that are, but I think like most places, knowing where to go and where not to go, exercising common sense, and being aware of your surroundings is key.
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Old Nov 12th, 2005, 02:28 PM
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To true: Change your agent ASAP.

Yes, it is or can be dangerous for those "unsavvy" travellers that go where angels fear to tread, but in the main it is a vibrant city, with plenty of intirguing places for the adventurous to amuse themselves.

I agree with you in spending some time there before embarking on your safari. Seek out the hotel that suites your budget. The Stanley is centrally located, with its thorntree cafe street side you can suck down adult beverages and watch as humanity passes you by. If you prefer the sanitised environment where you feel cacooned from the world then the Norfolk is a better bet, possibly the downtown"ish" Serena.

There are plenty out of town hotels where you can base yourself too for forrays into the sights of Nairobi.

mkhonzo is offline  
Old Nov 13th, 2005, 04:14 AM
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You need another travel agent, one who has left their own office, wherever that may be.

Nairobi, as any big city, anywhere in the world has crime, but not so much that you have to lock yourself indoors. Staying at any of the central city hotels are fine choices, or for a few dollars more, those in the suburb of Karen/Langata.

As Patty lists above, there are plenty of sights to visit on a day or two before heading out on safari. You can also consider a day on arrival and another when you return from safari if you want to get everything done and do some last minute shopping.

We also walked around central Nairobi and weren't given a glace by locals who were going about what they were doing, as we were. In the evening, we took a taxi when we went to a different hotel for dinner; and taxi for the return... just as one would do in anywhere.

Touring - most places of interest are in the suburb of Karen, which is best done with your own guide/driver that can be arranged through your hotel or your tour operator.

Go and enjoy.
Old Nov 13th, 2005, 05:47 AM
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Possibly your agent assumes Nairobi is in Somalia or Iraq.. but the Nairobi we visited in Kenya was no such place. And we were there a week before their elections in 2002.
We had a mix up on our tickets and got a really fun day in Nairobi. Very pleasant hotel.. Safari Club Something (can't remember the name..) took a tour of the suburb of Karen and saw the giraffe sanctuary (be sure to feed's a kick) the karen blixen museum...
We even.. *gasp** spent a bit of time walking around our hotel.. found an Internet cafe, did some shoppping went to a bank.. all without being gunned down... safer then parts of Los Angeles...Now, this isn't to give the impression that Nairobi is some kind of paradise; when we told our driver that we were interested in their government and how the people really felt, he showed us one of the slums in Nairobi.. not a pretty sight.. many people crammed together with no basic amenities (power/ sewer etc). There was great optimism in 2002 that a change of leadership from Daniel Arap Moi would have an impact on this, and sure enough the opposition was elected. I don't know if changes have been made since. But from a western point of view. Seeing these people's neighborhood was as enlightening and powerful as anything I have seen.
I would go to Nairobi if I were you... if you avoid the slums you will see many Kenyan's running around in business suits... to and from their offices... just like any place on earth... and of course the Kenyan people are some of the nicest I have met.
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Old Nov 13th, 2005, 09:37 AM
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Yep, your travel agent is very uninformed...probably just wanting you to think they know what they are talking out. We will be in Nairobi in January. Here is what we have learned from many, many previous travelers:

Nairobi is a huge city with many varied neighborhoods. The areas around the larger hotels are safer. Don't go wandering around on your own. Gosh, I wouldn't go wandering around on my own these days in London or Paris for that matter...or even San Fransicso where I live.

Add to the list of places to see above the City Market. Ask at the desk of your hotel for a local and knowledgeable tour guide. There are hundreds and they are as reasonable as $30 a day and that includes the use of their car. Ask them to take you where you want to go and you'll be as safe and can be.
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Old Nov 13th, 2005, 11:45 AM
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Iím almost starting to feel sorry for your travel agent, but I too have to say that they obviously donít know what thereíre talking about.

I wander around the downtown area on my own with no problems Ė depending on what you consider a problem. I donít wander around after dark, but sometimes I do move from one place to another on foot and on my own, and thereíre even fewer problems than at daytime. Besides the places listed by Patty Iíve been told thereís a very interesting nightlife.

As to ďlittle history or cultureĒ, itís true if you by that mean ballet, opera and medieval cathedrals. But, Iíve got the impression that there are a lot more interesting things that Iíve not yet fully explored. I prefer Nairobi to any European capital.
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Old Nov 14th, 2005, 09:15 AM
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Okay, this topic has been covered, but let me chime in. I really liked Nairobi. A war zone? Oh, please. I'm sure there are dicey neighborhoods, unsavory characters, etc., but we certainly didn't encounter any. Just met a number of kind, interesting people and saw a number of worthwhile tourist sights.

I'm actually disappointed that my next trip doesn't allow for an extra day in Nairobi.
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Old Nov 14th, 2005, 11:10 AM
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And there is some great shopping too!


Blue Rhino in the Village market
Banana Box
The Spinning Web

You won't be sorry!

Just get a good driver to take you around and wait for you while you shop.
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Old Nov 14th, 2005, 11:55 AM
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Wow, a war zone. I'm surprised I survived. And even more shocking, i enjoyed Nairobi. I'll pile on: time to get a new travel agent, at least for your trips outside the US.
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Old Nov 14th, 2005, 12:09 PM
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Agree with all of the above. AND...

I actually went into one of the areas of Nairobi that everyone says to avoid. (I had a meeting with an NGO there.) As everyone had warned me, my driver said "But that is a very bad area!". We went anyway, during the day of course. It was a very poor area. But nothing dangerous--lots of people working, going about their business. No problems at all. Sure, you don't want to wander around there alone...or at night. But I don't do that in lots of areas of New York, Miami or San Francisco either.

Next story: At the Nairobi airport, I was a bit too disorganized at one of the x-ray security points. I FORGOT my Canon digital SLR on the belt!!! Boarded the Kenya Airways plane without it!! Didn't even realize I'd left it behind. I was sitting on the plane, chatting happily with another passenger, when a flight attendant carried the camera down the aisle to me. Disaster averted!!! Endless gratitude to Kenya Airways!!! I was overwhelmed by the honesty and service provided by the airport and airline employees who saved me from the disaster of my own stupidity. Can you imagine that happening anywhere in the U.S.? Yes, that is Nairobi too.
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