Nairobi is the largest of the East African cities, and is a rapidly developing urban area at the center of Kenya‘s commercial, industrial and political interests. Nairobi started life as a frontiers town, and there is still an energetic, pioneering feel to the place, and quite a few rough edges that still have yet to be smoothed out. This does unfortunately mean the levels of serious crime in the city are significant enough to cause some concern for travelers, and it is a good idea to be on your guard when moving around the city, and avoid going out late at night. Tourists are advised to stick to the safer, suburban districts, which have plenty of good hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants, and also provide excellent access to the nearby national parks and reserves.
Nairobi city center is quite small, with the main concentration of upmarket shops, banks and hotels around the City Square area. This is generally safer than other parts of the city center, as there are many government and public building here, but hotels and restaurants are more pricey, so if you are on a budget, (and are street wise and aware of the risks) then you may want to try the slightly poorer areas just east of Moi Avenue, which are known for their cheap hotels, restaurants shops and markets, but also have a reputation for more crime. To find out what’s happening in terms of entertainment in the city you will need to purchase a local newspaper, or visit the larger hotel lobbies such as Stanley Hotel and the Fairview Hotel, which often have notice boards up containing local events. There is no tourist information office in Nairobi, so it is important that you sort out city maps and routes before you arrive.
Getting around Nairobi city centre is easy, as most things are within walking distance, which is safe during the day if you keep to the main streets and public areas. At night it is strongly advised that you take an authorised taxi (Kenya Taxi Cabs Association tel: 020 222 953) anywhere you need to go, which are affordable and reliable. The city buses are cheap and regular, but tend to be overcrowded and have a terrible reputation for safety, with hundreds of accidents involving buses happening on the city roads every year. If you are visiting main areas outside the city, such as Mombassa then you can use one of the main public coach services, which are comfortable, fast and usually on time. However if you are travelling to smaller, more remote areas then it is best to book on a proper guided tour, as out of town buses can be quite basic, and break down for a past time leaving you stranded on the side of the road until another bus comes along. Nairobi also has a large train station, but rail systems in Kenya are sadly neglected, and many of the smaller services have now been suspended due to poor tracks, trains and station conditions. There are regular scheduled services from Nairobi to Mombassa and Kisumu, but these are often overcrowded and delayed by various problems. You can also hire cars in Nairobi (Avis website: www.avis.com), and this is an excellent way to visit the nearby game parks and reserves, but the road systems throughout Kenya are in a terrible state, so you will need to keep your wits about you, and most hire companies require you to be over the age of 25 years old, with a valid drivers license (international or domestic).
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