Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2023 ranked Nairobi 173rd out of 227 cities, making it more affordable than Jakarta, Indonesia (150th) and Harare, Zimbabwe (114th).

Most expats working in Nairobi earn good salaries with employment perks for major expenses. These could include housing allowances, company cars, health insurance contributions, education benefits, and visa and permit charges.

That said, don't be misled into thinking that expat life in Nairobi is cheap. While it certainly is possible to live sparingly with minimal expenses, most Westerners prefer imported products and other services, which often come at a price.

As is the case with most destinations, an expat's chief expenses in Nairobi will be accommodation, school fees, transport, food, clothes and utilities.


Cost of accommodation in Nairobi

The cost of accommodation in Nairobi depends on location, but suitable quality accommodation can be expensive. Employers typically offer to take care of this expense. This offer can also include the required security deposit, usually the equivalent of two to three months' rent. Utilities like electricity, water and internet are likely to be the expat's responsibility.

One accommodation-related expense that expats may not anticipate is security measures. Expats living in gated communities find this is typically included in the rental costs, but it's unlikely to be the case in standalone homes.


Cost of groceries in Nairobi

In Nairobi, grocery costs vary based on preference for local or imported items. Supermarkets cater to diverse tastes and needs, offering a mix of local and international products. Local produce is relatively affordable, while imported goods like cheese, wine or packaged foods command surprisingly high prices due to import taxes and shipping costs.

Expats who decide to cook at home can save substantially, but dining out is also a popular option. Nairobi boasts a thriving food scene with a broad range of eateries offering local, continental and international cuisine at varying prices. Just like with groceries, dining at high-end restaurants serving imported ingredients will be more costly than enjoying local dishes at smaller, local establishments.


Cost of transport in Nairobi

Many expats prefer owning a car in Kenya, as it allows for more freedom. Depending on the model and condition, cars can be pretty expensive in Nairobi, but once expats have purchased a vehicle, they often opt to hire a driver too. Chauffeurs are said to be quite affordable and worth considering, as navigating Nairobi's traffic can be stressful.

Renting a car is a cheaper alternative to buying and can be more convenient for expats who will only be in the country for a limited time. Some expats, especially those in top executive positions, will have a company car and driver provided for them.

The primary means of public transport in Kenya is the matatu (a van or minibus with a fixed or semi-fixed route). This option is cheap, but the vehicles are regularly overcrowded and, in many instances, don't meet safety standards.

Taxis are also used frequently, but because there's no clear-cut billing method and vehicles don't have meters, expats are advised to research pricing and negotiate an agreeable fare with the driver beforehand.


Cost of healthcare in Nairobi

The cost of private healthcare in Nairobi is roughly equivalent to rates in Western countries. Day-to-day treatment is relatively affordable, but health insurance is recommended, especially in case of emergency treatment or medical evacuation.

There are plenty of health insurance providers in Nairobi. Most expats have health insurance included in their salary package.


Cost of education in Nairobi

Most expats send their children to international schools, which can be mightily expensive. Apart from fees, there may also be additional expenses for registration, transport, food and field trips. Again, it's common for employers to include some form of education allowance in an expat package. If this isn't initially part of the offer, we recommend expats negotiate for it.


Cost of entertainment and eating out in Nairobi

Kenya has something for everyone's type of lifestyle, whether it's nature, shopping or socialising in a bar. Nairobi National Park is located just south of the capital city and is a popular attraction among expats and locals alike. The national park isn't overly expensive, and shopping and dining in the city are relatively affordable too. Still, we advise that expats closely monitor their finances, as costs can add up quickly.


Cost of living in Nairobi 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

Cigna Health Insurance -

Cigna Global Health Insurance.

Medical insurance specifically designed for expats. With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider.

Get a quote from Cigna Global

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