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Staying overnight at Nairobi Airport as solo female traveler?

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Oct 4th, 2013, 11:14 AM
  #1
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Staying overnight at Nairobi Airport as solo female traveler?

Hi all,

I am an American female and will be traveling alone to Nairobi in December, landing at 23:15.

My flight the next morning to Kilimanjaro leaves at 9 a.m. In light of last month's fire, I am wondering if it is possible and if it is SAFE to stay overnight in the Nairobi airport? Is there actually a place to sit and wait?

Also, if I do stay in the airport, will I always be in the secure area or do I need a transit visa? If my understanding is correct, I don't need any visa for my return from Zanzibar to the U.S. because I'll just be connecting through NBO, yes?

Any advice based on the current situation at the airport would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

Kim
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Oct 4th, 2013, 05:50 PM
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We just went through Nairobi at the end of Sept. I felt very safe. We ate at a restaurant outside the terminal building on airport grounds and should have stayed there longer. Once we were inside the terminal there was very little place to sit waiting for our check-in time. Once we checked in, we went to tents to wait for boarding. This is in the secure area. There was plenty of seating. However; things are changing there daily. They are converting parking deck to the terminal and there was another building under construction prior to the fire that is being expedited. They may even be open by now. Best to check back later.
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Oct 4th, 2013, 06:33 PM
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There used to be something like a first class lounge in the terminal that you could hang out in for $35 USD for 3 hours or more. No need to be a first class passenger.

It had comfy sofas, drinks and snacks and was quite safe.

Not sure what the status of it is after the fire tho so hopefully someone else here will know more.
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Oct 5th, 2013, 03:23 AM
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There were no lounges at the end of September. And also the snack bar that serviced the tents was sold out. They charged $1 for a 3 oz cup of water. We had an 11:40pm flight. It was very safe in the secure area. Lots of security personnel walking around and randomly checking boarding passes. I just read an article that the new terminal will be completed in December.

I just realized you want to stay overnight. I'm sure flights don't run all night so you may be there alone. If I were you I'd splurge for a hotel.
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Oct 5th, 2013, 06:29 AM
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I think the biggest issue you'll find is boredom. I was at the international wing in Nairobi twice in the last month, and there is nothing going on there. It is one long corridor, with one end (which seemed to serve the Kenya airways flights) being much narrower - but with the only "restaurant." The other end (which seemed to serve the non-Kenya airways flights) is a bit wider and less claustrophobic, but with nothing in terms of food or drink. Everyone huddles around the one restaurant, which serves sandwiches, chips, and has a bar. There is more seating once you go through (second) security at your given gate, but they don't open the waiting area for the individual gates until 1.5-2 hours before the flight is supposed to depart. So your best bet is to find a spot near the restaurant (where there should be more people) and try to get some shut-eye there.
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Oct 5th, 2013, 06:31 AM
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By the way, we landed at the same time, and took off at the same time (for Kilimanjaro) the following day. We left the airport for a hotel and came back, but given how tired we were when we arrived in NBO, I bet we could have slept in the terminal.
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Oct 5th, 2013, 09:13 AM
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I spent some long hours just recently in Nairobi airport (one evening just before the fire, one after. I'm a fairly entrepid single female traveler, but I found the Nairobi airport to be pretty scuzzy (this before the fire - after it was just the tents that have been mentioned). If I planned to stay awake all night I'd probably be ok with being there alone from midnight to 9am, but if I thought I was going to try to get a few hours sleep, I'd definitely get a nearby hotel room for a few hours. I would not feel comfortable falling asleep alone in the wee hours of the morning in that airport.
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Oct 5th, 2013, 11:29 AM
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It's probably safe, but whether here or any other airport I wouldn't feel comfortable falling asleep for hours on end. Personally, I'd spend for a nearby airport hotel, none of which are inexpensive, but only a 15/min drive away for checkin next morning.

Yes, you'll require a Kenyan Transit Visa USD$20 and a Yellow Fever inoculation with proof of same for entry to Tanzania, but would feel much better doing so.

Check the rather new EKA Hotel. There is also the Ole Sereni or Panari. All on the same road outside the airport.
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Oct 6th, 2013, 11:48 AM
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I believe it is a "safe" airport but I'd pop for a hotel because NBO is boring and not that comfortable. I don't think I'd be able to sleep there or even rest comfortably. Was only there before the fire, though. I've stayed at Ole Sereni and it's quite nice and really convenient to the airport.
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Oct 6th, 2013, 01:10 PM
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Second Ole Sereni - super nice!
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Nov 8th, 2013, 10:37 AM
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Panari's good too, have stayed there several times over the years. But I heard that the lounge had reopened, if so you pay the required $ and stay there. You may want to check about it, Kenya Airways should be able to tell you.
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Dec 26th, 2013, 07:30 AM
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Just wanted to update with the answer to my own question in case it's helpful to others. I flew through NBO and stayed overnight in the Departures terminal (from about midnight until my 9 a.m. flight). Though it was confusing to get to Departures (there was no one directing us and the bus from my arriving plane just dropped passengers off at Arrivals where most people were going through immigration, but after asking I was able to get back on a bus to get to Departures), once I got there, it was totally fine. It felt safe, there were several other travelers doing the same - many were sleeping on the floor all around - and tons of chairs and even charging stations. The Java Coffee House at Gate 14 was open. The higher numbered gates were in the cooler, more well lit area of the terminal, but the other end of the terminal had stronger (free) wifi. I just stayed up the whole night, but I'm glad I made the choice to stay there rather than trying to get to a hotel.
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Dec 26th, 2013, 09:10 AM
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Glad to hear that worked out well for you. Smart, I think, to have stayed awake all night. Hope you had fun on safari or whatever you were doing in Kenya!
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Dec 29th, 2013, 12:10 AM
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Good to know, thanks! Having never spent too much time at JKIA I'm happy to read this Might be coming in handy in the next month or two.
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Jan 15th, 2014, 11:18 PM
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Try some of the neearby hotels, there are some quite cheap one that could help you catch some sleep. The airport is not comfortable at all.
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Jan 16th, 2014, 06:32 PM
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Thank you for coming back to Fodors to report on your experience at the airport. Useful info--especially the location of the Coffee House!!
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Nov 16th, 2014, 12:43 PM
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Hi @allkindsoffood,

Thanks for the update after your trip. I'm a 20s female and will be solo traveling to Madagascar in Jan 2015. I'll have an 8pm - 8:40am layover in NBO, and am planning on camping out in the airport overnight. I unfortunately will have a great deal of luggage with me since I'm conducting longterm fieldwork in Madagascar. I also will have just had an overnight flight to Paris, followed by an all day flight to NBO. Long story short, I'll be hoping to actually get some sleep before my last leg to Antananarivo.

Did you find that it was feasible to set up a little corner in which to sleep in the departure terminal? I know you didn't end up actually sleeping, but do you think it would have been safe/possible? Also, do you know if you have to claim your bags and recheck them, or could they stay checked in overnight? I'd rather not fall asleep alone if I have all my belongings with me.

Was there any sign of the sleep/shower rooms that I've read about on other blogs/travel sites? It seems they might not exist after the fire/renovations, but I'm not sure. It seemed that they were only $25 USD, so that seemed worthwhile.

Any advice from you or anyone else would be hugely appreciated! Thanks!

pboone
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Nov 18th, 2014, 12:50 PM
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What airline are you flying into NBO on and what airline are you flying out to Madagascar? The new Terminal 1A at NBO is slowly being opened up to Kenya Airways and its partners. If you aren't able to check your baggage all the way through to Madagascar, you'll need to pick it up in Baggage Claim and recheck it in the morning. That might be the best thing to do, anyway. I don't know that I'd want my baggage sitting around NBO, waiting to be pilfered. As for finding a "quiet corner" to sleep in... you won't. You'll be outside the terminal because you can't check in until closer to your flight time. Security guards keep people moving along. You'll most likely need a $20 transit visa for less than 24 hours to get to your bags and a place to stay. I'd recommend you check your bags only as far as NBO, pick them up and head to a hotel. There aren't any low-cost hotels close by, but the nearest are Ole Sereni, Panari, and Eka Hotels. There aren't shuttles, so you'd need to set up transport in advance, or grab a taxi at the airport.
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May 5th, 2015, 06:19 PM
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@pboone

Curious what you ended up doing since it was planned for Jan 2015. I'm about to do the same in a couple months and would appreciate hearing your update. Thanks!
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May 26th, 2015, 01:46 AM
  #20
 
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@MG3429, @pboone

We are also planning an overnight stay at Nairobi airport in end June, How was your experiences and tips to carry anything special for overnight layover in hand luggage?

We are flying Kenya airways from South Africa to mumbai, with overnight layover at Nairobi , I hope we do not have to rebook our luggage to mumbai

Please also tell us if any showers facility open now at this airport
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