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Nairobi

Africa > Kenya > Nairobi

See: Why rent a car in Nairobi ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Nairobi?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Nairobi?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Nairobi car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Nairobi with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Nairobi? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Nairobi, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

We have to start any advice about using the roads in Kenya with the caveat that of all the major global tourist destinations which publish such figures, Kenya has the worst safety record. Statistically, you’ll always be safer in a larger bus. If you are going to hire a car in Kenya, it’s generally more common to hire a car with a driver.

Please note that Carornocar.com is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Nairobi is in car rental price band: 9/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Nairobi? 

Absolutely not. Car rental is extremely expensive and best avoided.

Volatility:

Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Nairobi between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 6/10

Non car score:4/10

Balance: 1

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -

 

Nairobi might not have any sort of government managed public service bus system, but the city is sufficiently switched on to have apps available which combine all the routes together, and for the independently minded traveller, Nairobi is very navigable by bus, although most visitors will probably still stick to taxis.

Railways in Kenya are few and far between, but again, a few options are available for the rail buff. These include taking the train all the way to Mombasa, a journey which has been rated by many commentators as one of the best in Africa.

One of the most iconic images of Nairobi is that of wildlife, including giraffes wandering around freely with the concrete towers of the city behind. This is in the Nairobi National Park, which is naturally an easy enough excursion from anywhere in the city.

See also our car hire advice for Kilimanjaro, which includes some overlap into southern Kenya.

Yet no visit to Kenya is really complete without heading deep into one or more of the country’s other national parks. This is where you are certainly going to need a vehicle of some kind. Whether you take an organised tour, or whether you charter a driver to take you around, this is still going to work out as the equivalent of hiring a car in any other city. So with all the caveats above, our recommendation becomes a yes.

Why? Visiting Nairobi using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Nairobi ?


  • For anything safari related, you will need a set of wheels of some kind.
  • Public transport is not reliable outside Nairobi.
  • Limited rail services – although the train to Mombasa is very highly rated.

Why not? Visiting Nairobi without a car

Why don't you need a car in Nairobi ?


  • Excellent bus network within Nairobi.
  • Nairobi National Park is very accessible – within view of the city.
  • Train journey to Mombasa is an unforgettable experience – rated as amongst the best in Africa.
  • Safari trips can generally be done using an organised tour – no hire car needed.

So, should I hire a car in Nairobi? You may not wish to go for a self-drive option, but getting out of the city in some kind of rental car is still going to be the best way to see the country.

Ratings: How does Nairobi compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Nairobi? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Nairobi, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?

 

 

Do you need to hire a car in Nairobi? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Nairobi (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Nairobi? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel

 

Car hire basics:

 

Public transportation basics:

 

Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):

 

As you start ....

Does Nairobi airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No

 

 

 

 


Changelog

Has our advice for Nairobi car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 2

2019 - 1

2021 - 1

Average score - 1

Notes:

 

Summary

Do you or don't you need a car in Nairobi ?

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