One of Kenya's many drawcards is its low cost of living. Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2023 ranked Nairobi 173rd out of 227 cities evaluated, making it more affordable than Maputo, Mozambique (159th) and Hanoi, Vietnam (156th).

Nevertheless, new arrivals need to remember that amenities such as private healthcare, international schools, and comfortable homes can tremendously inflate the cost of living in Kenya. Expats will also find themselves having to account for additional living expenses they wouldn't incur back home, such as the cost of clean drinking water and a security guard or driver.

Fortunately, many expats find that their employment contracts cover some of the heftiest expenses. For instance, the company may provide an allowance for accommodation, transport and international school fees. Expats should try their best to negotiate these benefits into their expat packages where possible.


Cost of accommodation in Kenya

Accommodation will likely be the most significant expense for expats living in Kenya. Most expats opt to rent as they have a fixed-term contract and don't intend to settle in the country long term. Rent in cities like Nairobi and Mombasa will be higher than in rural locations.

Security is a key concern when choosing where to live, and this must be factored into the cost of accommodation. Most expats opt to live in a secure, gated community, which can cost as much as property in Europe. Note that rental costs in safe expat areas are much higher.


Cost of groceries in Kenya

It often comes as a surprise to new arrivals in Kenya that the cost of food and essential housing products is relatively high. This is because many of these goods are imported and highly taxed.

There are several supermarket chains where shoppers can buy anything from dairy products to mattresses, furniture, alcohol and electronics. Many imported food products such as cheeses, jams, chocolates, oils and pasta can also be found.

Buying local produce is the best way to save money on groceries in Kenya. Because of the country's favourable climate, expats will find that fruit and vegetables sold at local markets are always good quality and are far cheaper than in a supermarket.


Cost of transport in Kenya

Although public transport in Kenya is incredibly cheap, many expats don't use it as it's usually uncomfortable and inefficient. 

When it comes to getting around Kenya, most expats will hire or buy a car and find a local driver. That said, buying a car can be expensive. A four-wheel drive is also the best option for those wanting to travel domestically in Kenya, but it will be pricier than a regular vehicle.  


Cost of entertainment and eating out in Kenya

There's no shortage of options when it comes to eating out in Kenyan cities. Most Western restaurants are located in expat areas and serve dishes made with imported ingredients, so prices are higher. For expats who are keen to try local Kenyan foods, plenty of establishments can be found selling generous portions for next to nothing.

The nightlife and entertainment scene in Kenya's big cities is growing, with modern clubs and bars constantly popping up. Entrance fees and drinks can make a night out an expensive endeavour. Expats looking to enjoy a local beer will find there are plenty of small bars throughout Kenya where they can have a drink while watching the sunset.


Cost of healthcare in Kenya

While public health facilities are available, many expats choose private hospitals and clinics. The quality and standard of care are often better in private facilities, but this does come at a cost.

It is highly recommended for expats to arrange health insurance for themselves and their families, as private healthcare costs can add up quickly without it.


Cost of education in Kenya

Of course, families moving to Kenya from abroad will have much to think about regarding their children's education. Although public schooling is free, they will likely prefer the standard of education offered at private or international schools.

International school fees can be exorbitant but the facilities and teaching standards offered are fantastic, so parents will have to decide if it is worth the cost. Fortunately, private schools offer some financial relief as they have better resources and great teaching standards, although at a lower rate than international schools. Fees vary between schools, so parents are encouraged to visit a few schools before making a final decision. 


Cost of living in Kenya chart

Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Nairobi in May 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

KES 131,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

KES 57,000

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

KES 50,000

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

KES 24,000

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

KES 230

Milk (1 litre)

KES 119

Rice (1kg)

KES 193

Loaf of white bread

KES 64

Chicken breasts (1kg)

KES 760

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

KES 310

Eating out

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

KES 4,300

Big Mac meal

KES 750

Coca-Cola (330ml)

KES 68

Cappuccino

KES 290

Bottle of beer (local)

KES 240

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

KES 4.09

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

KES 5,900

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

KES 9,200

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

KES 150

City-centre public transport fare

KES 100

Gasoline (per litre)

KES 161

Expat Health Insurance

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