Kenya is the biggest and most advanced economy in East and Central Africa, and while it has an affluent urban minority, it is still a poor developing country. Despite the effects of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, along with concerning and disruptive terrorist activity, the Kenyan economy remains strong.

45 million
Time zone: GMT+3
Plugs: UK-type square three-pin
Dialling code: +254
Currency: Kenyan shilling – $1=90KES
Language: English and Kiswahili 


Kenya is one of Africa’s more powerful economies, and even though business travel is thriving and many global brand s are represented here, traveller s originating from more developed regions may not be prepared for  he social imbalances and infrastructure limitations.

The economy has seen much expansion, with strong performance in the services sector, which contributes about 63% of GDP, whilst tourism is a key element. Industrial activity concentrated around the three largest urban centres, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, is dominated by food-processing industries such as grain milling, beer production and sugarcane crushing, and the fabrication of consumer goods. The oil and gas sectors are also growing significantly.


Nairobi remains a hotbed of hotel development, with many of the world’s top brands either strengthening their presence in the city or initiating one.

One of those is South Africa-based City Lodge Hotels, which in 2014 took full owner ship of its two joint ventures in Kenya – the Fairview Hotel and adjacent Country Lodge in Upper Hill. The latter has been rebranded as the Town Lodge Upper Hill. City Lodge is also developing a 170-room City Lodge Hotel within the upmarket Two Rivers mixed-use development that is currently under construction.

Another new entrant in the Nairobi hotel market is the 5-star dusitD2 nairobi, which opened in 2014 and offers 101 rooms, three restaurants, and four meeting rooms. Dusit International is a Thai hotel brand.

Mid-2014 saw the announcement that budget hotel group Tune Hotels will open its first property in Kenya in 2015. The group will open a 280-room hotel in the Westlands area of Nairobi. The hotel will reportedly not have a swimming pool, meeting facilities, gym, or spa, and will concentrate purely on the room and food business, at prices said to be in the $100 bracket.

2014 also featured reports that Simba Hospitality has established the ‘Acacia’ brand. Within the next two to three years, Acacia will develop and build at least three mid-priced hotels in Nairobi, Naivasha and Kisumu.

Also in the planning stages, the Accor hotel group has its eye on a Pullmans-branded hotel in Nairobi, and Wyndham is keen on establishing a Wyndham Hotels & Resorts property and a Ramada property.

On the aviation front, Jomo Kenyat ta International Airport in Nairobi enjoyed a better year, following the devastating fire in 2013. In July the airport opened Terminal 4 – now Terminal 1A – which was under construction at the time of the fire. But further work is under way to upgrade and improve JKIA. That includes construction of a new $64 million terminal, which is expected to be completed by 2017.

November saw JKIA open two new lounges – Pride and Simba – in Terminal 1, for Kenya Airways (KQ) and Sky Team passengers. Both lounges offer free Wi-Fi, a sound-proof transit passengers sleeping area, dining lounge, washrooms and showers. Kenya Air ways received the first of nine 787 Dreamliners from Boeing, and shortly thereafter deployed the aircraft on its first flight to Paris. The second Dreamliner arrived in June, and was deployed on the Nairobi-Johannesburg route. It also launched flights to Abuja (Nigeria), and reinstated flights to Zanzibar (Tanzania).

KQ also signed a codeshare agreement with South African low-cost airline Kulula.c om, and reached an agreement with Delta to offer connecting flights between Monrovia (Liberia) and Accra (Ghana), before suspending operations to Liberia and Sierra Leone in August, in an effort to stem the spread of the Ebola virus out of West Africa.

In related Ebola news, Korean Air suspended flights to Nairobi, with those flights only expected to resume around the middle of 2015.

Kenya Airways also revised its baggage policy. Premier World passengers are now allowed up to 64 kilograms of free checked-in baggage and 46 kilograms in Economy. All passengers are permitted up to 12 kilograms of hand luggage.

Jambojet, KQ’s low-cost subsidiary airline, began operating in April 2014, and now flies between Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret, with special offers for transport from the airport to the city centres of Kisumu and Eldoret.


The main business travel destination in Kenya is the capital city Nairobi, which is surrounded by kilometres of plains, cliffs and forest that make up the city’s Nairobi National Park. It also feature s modern skyscrapers, quality restaurants, fully-equipped hospitals, modern shopping malls, and a number of schools.

Mombasa, the second largest city, is Kenya’s main tourist destination. It is located on the eastern coastline of Kenya bordering the Indian Ocean, which has made it a popular destination for it s beaches. Mombasa offers a diverse marine life, good qua lit y hotels, and a friendly atmosphere. The tropical climate experienced all year is what makes it so popular with tourists.


Nairobi offers a select ion of high-quality hotels including many international brands, such as InterContinental, Hilton, Best Western, Fairmont, Kempinski and Crowne Plaza, as well as a number of very highly regarded local chains, such as Serena and Sarova Hotels.

Fairmont’s The Norfolk Hotel has played a leading role in Kenya’s colourful history, and continues to be one of Nairobi’s finest and best-known hotels, boasting 170 guest rooms and suites, eight conference rooms, a heated outdoor swimming pool, health club with gym, sauna and steam room, gift shops, and its own private tropical gardens. The InterContinental Nairobi is ideally located for business, close to the parliament buildings and CBD, and adjacent to Kenyatta International Convenion Centre, as is the Laico Regency in the same area.

The Nairobi Serena is very popular and one of the old, established hotels in  he city. It has a colonial feel, but has also kept pace with the times, and still offers a quality 5-star experience, along with a great location, should you need to be in close proximity to the city centre.

Also in the 5-sta r category are the Villa Rosa Kempinski and the dusitD2 na irobi, both of which opened in the past two years. There are a couple of ‘modern’ hotel option s, in t he form of t he Tribe Hotel , which has received great reviews and looks to have some stunning facilities and rooms. Then there’s the Sankara Nairobi, which opened a couple of years ago and h a s become the standout hotel in the suburb of Westlands, where a lot of international businesses are relocating. The Sankara offering is nothing short of 5-star, with an eye-catching pool area and modern rooms. In a similar category is Heming ways in Karen, offering an exclusive, boutique 5-star experience.

Just a few hundred met res away from the Sankara is the Southern Sun Nairobi, a member of the South African Tsogo Sun Hotels group.

In the Upper Hill area, there are two hotels that catch the eye – the Crowne Plaza and the Fairview, which is a homely 4-star family-run hotel that recently sold out to City Lodge. The Fairview also has what was previously known as the Country Lodge attached to it, and this hotel has been rebranded as a Town Lodge, which is City Lodge’s 2-star brand. These Upper Hill properties will soon be joined by a Radisson Blu around mid-2015.

The Best Western Premier opened in 2013 – the international group’s first property in Nairobi – and offers 96 4-st r rooms in Upper Hill Estate, with free Wi-Fi, a health club and three restaurants.

Another hotel worth noting is the Sarova Stanley, whilst the Ole Sereni is arguably the best hotel on the airport road, and just 10 minutes from Jomo Kenyatta International. It overlooks the national park, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see game roaming on the other side of the fence. It also has a bar and pool area overlooking the park, very comfortable rooms and stunning food.

 Also on the airport road are the Panari Hotel and the newish pair of the Eka Hotel and The Boma.


The revamped Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is the main entry point, and offers domestic, regional and international flights and connections. The Mombasa Highway runs adjacent to the airport, and is the main route of access to the city.

T he airport has numerous taxis and car rental services that operate 24 hours a day. A taxi ride to the city centre will cost you between $25 and $40. You can use your Visa, MasterCard and Maestro cards to draw money from the numerous ATMs available at the airport. There are also 24-hour banking services and forex bureaux.


Credit cards are widely accepted in all major hotels and establishments, with the most recognised cards being MasterCard, Visa and American Express. Don’t forget to keep some cash in hand, because smaller shops will only accept cash.


Visa exemptions are applied to nationals of the following African countries: Botswana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. South Africans are limited to 30-day visa-free stays, and longer visits require a visa.

For citizens of other countries, visas may be obtained through a Kenyan embassy or consulate prior to departure, or are available for purchase on entry at international airports, at a cost of $50.


In Kenya, internet and mobile technology is the order of eve yday life.

Safaricom is the leading mobile net work operator, followed by Airtel and smaller players such as Orange Wireless.

It is much cheaper to get a local sim card if your phone is unlocked and takes an ordinary sim card. Sim cards cost approximately KES50 and airtime about KES250. Scratch cards are available everywhere. It won’t cost you to receive calls from abroad, and local calls are extremely cheap. For instance, Safaricom charges approximately 15p a minute for calls and approximately 5p to send a text message to the UK.

Wireless internet is widespread and most hotels will offer it to guests. There are also lots of internet cafes, and you’re looking at around KES20 for the first 15 minutes and KES1 per minute thereafter.


It’s advisable to take precautions against contracting malaria. So, protect yourself from mosquito bites, and if you travel to the coast, it’s recommended that you take anti-malaria pills.

It is equally essential that you carry some form of medical insurance.

There are good, well-equipped hospitals, including the Nairobi, Karen, and Aga Khan hospitals in the main cities, whilst there’s also an excellent Flying Doctor service, in the event of a medical emergency while on safari. It is advisable to drink only bottled mineral water.


Nairobi has a reputation for being dangerous, so exercise caution. Don’t flaunt expensive jeweller y or cell phones, and avoid walking the streets alone, especially at night.

Smoking in public, except in designated areas, is prohibited. Taking photographs of official buildings, including embassies, is also not recommended.

Tipping is not compulsory, but it’s certainly not forbidden. Some hotels will include a ser v ice charge to your bill, but other wise use your discretion.

Christianity is the dominant religion, but there are areas with major Muslim influence, which are more conservative. In these areas, it is considered indecent to wear short dresses. Major displays of public affection are frowned upon in most areas, and overt displays of homosexuality, which is illegal in Kenya, may result in open hostility.


 his prof ile was supplied by FCm Travel
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ly Summers
General Manager: African Partner Network
American Express Travel Services South Africa

Of the many African cities I have visited, Nairobi is definitely in my top two. It is an exciting and vibrant city with extremely friendly and patriotic people.

Nairobi offers visitors a range of luxury accommodation and fabulous restaurants, as well as cultural and safari experiences. Nairobi National Park is only seven kilometres from the city centre, with only a fence separating the city from the park.

On arrival, travellers get to experience a very new, world class airport terminal 1A, which has only recently been partially opened after almost four years of construction. Amongst other modern touches, the airport has an abundance of check-in counters, boarding bridges and automated baggage handling, which allows for a speedier and more efficient experience.

The airport is about 18 kilometres from the CBD, and you generally find yourself in heavy traffic about eight kilometres from the city. As in most African cities, traffic can be a challenge, and it is advisable to make allowances for traffic delays at all times.

Accommodation is world class and hotel prices are not as exorbitant as in certain other African cities. If you are looking for an exclusive, boutique hotel experience, I would recommend Hemingways. It is slightly out of the city centre in a very fast-growing suburb called Karen, and the hotel offers sophistication, tranquillity, superb service and a fine dining experience.

When driving on the roads on the outskirts of Nairobi, the streets become a market place and you can purchase anything from plants to furniture to fruit and vegetables. The markets are worth stopping at, even if it is just to experience the friendly atmosphere and vibrant street life. There are also a few modern shopping malls in Nairobi, and these centres offer a variety of restaurants and shops. Nairobi has some of the best dining experiences, so I suggest taking time to explore.

Nairobi is a global city with friendly people of various cultures. It truly is a pleasant experience travelling there, and besides the traffic, whether you are on business or a leisure trip, it is a lovely destination.

Best Western Premier
Crowne Plaza –
Dusit D2 Nairobi –
Eka –
Fairmont The Norfolk –
Fairview –
Hemingways –
Heron Portico –
Hilton –
House of Waine –
InterContinental –
Jupiter –
Kempinski Villa Rosa –
La Mada –
Laico Regency –
Meltonia –
Ole-Sereni –
Palacina –
Panari –
PrideInn Rhapta –
Progressive Park –
Reata Serviced Apartments –
Red Court –
Safari Park –
Sankara –
Sarova Panafric –
Sarova Stanley –
Serena –
Silver Springs –
Southern Sun –
The Boma –
The Monarch Hotel –
The Ndemi Place –
Town Lodge Upper Hill –
Tribe –
Windsor Golf Hotel –

African Express –
Air Berlin –
Air Madagascar –
Air Mauritius –
Brussels –
Condor –
Daallo –
EgyptAir –
Emirates –
Ethiopian –
Fly540 –
Fastjet –
Jambo Jet –
Jubba –
Kenya Airways –
Qatar –

RwandAir –
Saudi Arabian –
Swiss –
Turkish –
Tanganyika Flying –

Avis –
Budget –
Europcar –
Sixt –

Access-to-Africa –
American Express –
FCm –
Uniglobe –
Wings –