Nairobi. Something said to me in 2013 “Let’s go to Kenya all by yourself!”. I read about Couchsurfing so I registered and looked for a host in Nairobi. I found a guy with a lot of positive reviews. “Let’s try Couchsurfing too!” I said to myself. It all seemed like a great idea. This feeling changed completely at the airport. I boarded the Brussels Airlines flight and suddenly, I became anxious. What am I going to do? What if I get robbed? What if I get stabbed? What if some kid threatens me with a HIV infected needle? What if I get kidnapped? I have to hide my phone and bag and always drive with closed windows or they’ll rob me! Those were all horror stories I read on the internet.
I arrived at Nairobi airport. It was dark and I had to find a Kenyan guy that I know from a photo on Couchsurfing. Guess what, arriving at the exit, everyone started to shake my hand. Is this him? Or him? Apparently not. Luckily I had his phone number somewhere. After calling he said “I am coming, almost there!”. I was standing there, at the exit, waiting for somebody I didn’t know. Can I trust him? Is Couchsurfing safe? As a nervous white boy [muzungu] I stand there. My host sees me and walks to me. “Welcome George! Come let’s go!”. I follow him to his car. I was still nervous. During the drive I saw people walking in the dark with a machete and wooden buildings. Arriving at his house, the living room was packed with people watching football. I was confused but relieved at the same time. I quickly decided to go to sleep. All the anxiety and the long flight made me tired anyway.
Here’s a photo of the place I stayed.
If you think I overreacted, you’re completely right. But to defend myself, it was my first real solo-trip, my first time in Africa and the first time I tried Couchsurfing. Looking back to this, I have to laugh. Turns out, I have never felt unsafe during the trip. I have never encountered any dangers or seen any. It is normal to see people with machetes on the street generally in Africa and small self-made buildings are actually shops but they looked more scary in the dark if you see them the first time. On top of that, my host is the coolest guy I’ve ever met on Couchsurfing and he is an awesome dude. I would love to go back to Kenya just to meet him and his friends again. He opened my eyes, Africa is awesome, the people are awesome and when we were on the road, I had my windows open just like any local passenger would do.
Is Nairobi crime-free? Of course not. Things happen, but things happen everywhere. With normal safety precaution, you can enjoy Nairobi and the rest of Kenya. Do not flash money or wealthy items and don’t go into empty streets at night.
On the way of downtown it is common to see street sellers. They will make use of the traffic to sell their stuff. In fact, you can buy nearly anything from the streets. Whether it is a quick snack or drink for the journey, something you still need to buy in the shop, toys for your kids or even gifts for your lady, you will all find it.
First stop: The conference tower. A great place to have a view of the skyline of Nairobi.
The markets of Nairobi.
The owner didn’t seem excited about the picture of his fruit stall, although he didn’t say anything.
After some strolling around we drove outside the city to one of the typical tourist attractions of Kenya.
At this place you can adopt an elephant. They use the money to feed and help the elephants that have been victim of poachers. Such an amazing experience and my best elephant picture ever was taken back then! 1000% worth the money (I did not adopt).
Last but not least, if you would like to have a close encounter with a giraffe, this is the place to be. Some people like to put the giraffe food in their mouth and get a nice lick from the giraffe. I preferred not to do so.
I bet there is much more to do in Nairobi. Most tourists come to Nairobi to depart for safari trips. I also booked three safaris when I was in Kenya. Read more about them!