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Living in Kenya


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Living in Kenya has always carried with it a tremendous sense of excitement, adventure and wonder. The landscapes in the country are so incredibly diverse that it is hard to imagine any other country in Africa that has so much to offer by way of locations to visit and things to do. Just hours outside of Nairobi you can be in complete thorny bush country where nature is still intact and time has stood still. Drive into the great Rift Valley and you will come across idyllic lakes teeming with bird life. Carry on a bit further and you will find yourself in arguably the most amazing wildlife spectacle in the world, the famous Masai Mara. Fly or drive towards northern Kenya to Lake Turkana and its surrounding areas and you will come across mind-boggling rocky desert landscape where the cradle of mankind lies. Or head to the Kenyan coast, home of the most beautiful sandy white beaches in the world. One thing is for certain, if you choose not to, you will never get bored in Kenya, there's always something out there waiting to be discovered.

Living in Kenya is also a cultural journey. The country consists of 42 different tribes and this alone provides an amazing melting pot of diversity. Although the bloody clashes that followed the last general elections left a deep scar in the country and it at times appears that the country is divided along tribal lines, the ability to work together and live peacefully alongside one another is a Kenyan characteristic. Kenya's history of social stability since independence in 1963 speaks for itself. In the future Kenya will only draw strength from its diversity.

Whether you are planning a move to Kenya or are already a resident, there may be things you would find helpful regarding day to day life in the country. Information about housing, security, hiring local staff, sports facilities, utility and water options, traffic in Nairobi and what to avoid, malls and supermarkets and a guideline of prices in them.

Our aim to continually improve our website and therefore we always welcome additional tips and information from our users, so feel free to email us anything that you think may be helpful or useful to our website users.

Housing

In most rental lease agreements in Kenya the landlord is responsible for the repairs and general maintenance of the house or apartment. Additionally all taxes and rate pertaining to the property are supposed to be carried by the landlord. The tenant is expected to uphold and maintain the Minor tear and wear of the property and is often expected to pay the utilities bills such as electricity and water. This can of course vary depending upon the individual agreement between the landlord and tenant.

Most rental agreements will run for a lease period of 1-2 years with renewal clauses of a 10% increase in the rent. Many landlords require a one to three month rent deposit to secure themselves against damage and repairs of the property upon termination of the lease. A one to three month termination period is normal for both the landlord and the tenant.

The rents for house and apartments vary greatly throughout the country and within the different suburbs of the larger cities themselves. A two bedroom flat in a upper-middle class suburb of Nairobi will cost around 40,000 ksh per month. It is normal for small cottage in the capital set in surrounding gardens to cost around 60,000 ksh per month. An average larger 3 to 5 bedroom house in green surroundings will cost around 140,000 ksh per month. Obviously this can vary greatly and outside of Nairobi the rents are considerably less.

In Nairobi and Mombasa there are quite a number of excellent serviced apartments that offer complete furnishings and various extra services such as catering and laundry. These are particularly useful to people whose residency in the country is limited to a shorter time period and to people who want rent something temporarily while they are looking for something more permanent. In Nairobi there are numerous apartments of this category in the Kilimani and Westlands areas.

Security

Like in any big city, security in Nairobi is just something that one needs to be aware of. Most of the properties in Kenya have guards (askaris) manning the gate or patrolling the premises. Additionally many properties have alarm buttons inside the rooms of the houses that are connected to a security firm.  Today most houses and apartments also have barred windows and security outside doors and sometimes even security doors leading to the bedrooms. In addition, many apartment blocks and villas in the cities will have electric fences surrounding the premises of the properties.


Hiring Local Staff

It can sometimes be strange and unusual for foreigners who first arrive in Kenya to hire local staff to undertake the tasks that they themselves will do in their home countries both inside of the house and outside in the garden. This may appear to be a luxury, and to a certain degree it is since the salaries are much lower and by no means comparable with western salaries, it should still be encouraged to hire local staff nonetheless. Jobs in Kenya are scarce and hard to come by and there are many more people seeking jobs then vacancies and if you are able to afford a local staff for whatever work you find necessary then do so. It is instructive to know that by hiring one local staff to do work for you, you are undoubtedly feeding a handful of family members attached to that individual.

Average salaries for house help staff today range anywhere from 10,000 ksh to 20,000 ksh per month depending upon individual qualifications and experience. It is important to also register your local staff with the government insurance security funds like the NSSF. If there are any unclear questions or issues regarding your local staff you can always get in touch with the government labour office and get the information that you require.

Utility and Water Options

Unless they have their own alternative means of electricity powering their property like solar or wind, everyone in Kenya, who is attached to the facility, is connected to the national electricity grid, Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited. The electricity bills are not cheap, on the higher end compared to the rest of the world, and for a five bedroom home be prepared to pay monthly bills of around 15,000 ksh. The bills need to be paid punctually at the beginning of every new month or else your electricity will quickly be switched off requiring a mandatory reconnection fee.

Water, depending on where you reside in Kenya, is always of prime importance due to the water scarcity that often reigns in the country. When renting a house or apartment always inquire into where the water comes from. City Council water, the national water supplier, is often very irregular and unpredictable. At times weeks can go by without a drop coming out of the city council pipes. At other times the water gushes through once or twice a week. The water that comes from the city council is often very chlorinated. Many properties do have their own borehole water and depending on the depth of the well, this too can be a matter of irregularity. During drought, or dry spells of the year, even borehole water can be scarce. During that time of the year it is not uncommon for residents to order water from the various water delivery companies and have their water tanks replenished. Especially at the coast, where rainfall is fairly regular in comparison, it is not uncommon to find homes that have their own rain water catchment system.

City Council water always comes with a water-meter and, depending of course on consumption, it is fairly reasonable. For a 4 bedroom house plus staff house one would usually not be paying more than 3000 ksh per month.

Traffic

Traffic in Kenya, especially in the big cities, can be extremely tedious and time-consuming. Obviously the best thing is to try and avoid it as much as possible since it means hours of driving at a very slow pace on jammed roads amongst the fumes and the heat. Alone because of the busy traffic in the cities, it is highly advisable, if you are moving to Kenya, to choose the location of your potential residency as close as only possible to your workplace and to the school your children attend.

Shopping

Shopping in Kenya is extremely good and most everything can be found from groceries to electronic gadgets. The days where major shopping was done abroad and taken into Kenya are all but passe. There are plenty of shops throughout the country that stock computers, mobile phones, clothes, hardware, pharmaceuticals, artifacts, etc etc. There are some very large shopping malls, especially in Nairobi like Westgate, Sarit Centre, Yaya centre and The Village Market, that have a tremendous assortment of goods with many restaurants and cafes to choose from.

There are also a few major supermarket chains that cater to Kenya's residents with very well stocked groceries. The prices of imported goods are usually about the same as in Europe or America. Locally manufactured goods and fruits & vegetables are still less expensive than in the west. Especially if they are purchased in the local vegetable markets and stalls scattered around the towns.

Below is a list of some common goods to be found in the shops or stalls and their average prices:

Currency Converter
Milk (half litre)

37 ksh
Butter (250 g)
189 ksh
Yogurt (500 ml)
214 ksh
White bread (1 loaf)
40 ksh
Rye bread (1 loaf)
170 ksh
Tusker beer (1 bottle)
80 ksh
Orange juice (1 litre carton)
140 ksh
Dried raisins (500 g)
225 ksh
Feta cheese (200 g)
289 ksh
1 kg tomatoes
75 ksh
1 whole pineapple
100 ksh
1 banana
5 ksh
1 kg carrots
75 ksh
Mushrooms (250 g)
259 ksh
1 kg broccoli
159 ksh
1 kg onions
80 ksh
1 kg peas
350 ksh
1 kg okra
119 ksh
1 mango (seasonally variable)
20 ksh
1 papaya (seasonally variable)
40 ksh








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