Work in Karen, live in Kilimani?

Hi everyone,

I am moving to Nairobi to work for a company based in Karen. I am looking for flats in Kilimani though as I’ve been told it would be better for me (mid-20s, single male) in terms of the age/mix of people and the property prices.

I had two questions. Would any other areas be better suited? And how long would the drive from Kilimani to Karen take during rush hours (I’ll be driving myself)?

Thanks in advance


The two places are about 16km apart.  Nairobi traffic can be an absolute nightmare - it's one of the worlds worst cities for traffic congestion.  Kilimani itself tends to get very congested.  I think that you should prepare yourself for long commutes.  It only takes an accident, or breakdown (both relatively common) to bring everything to a complete halt for hours.  It's worse when it rains!

Have you driven in Nairobi before?  Driving standards are generally poor, with little or no regard for the rules.  It's not like commuting in the UK! 

Buying and running a vehicle in Kenya is also expensive (unless the employer supplies one).

I would generally recommend that you live as close as possible to your work.  Karen is a pleasant area, also with a good mix of people, including lots of expats.

Thanks for the info, Longonot62 - it's good to know about the bad congestion in Kilimani. My situation has just become more complex as I will now be sharing with a friend who will work in Mara Rd (near Kenyatta Hospital). We've decided to look for somewhere in between our places of work, so Karen has to be ruled out.

Taking in your points about Kilimani, I was thinking of looking westward to Riara (around Junction Mall). Do you have any info on this area in terms of traffic, amenities, security, etc.?

I haven't driven in Nairobi before but have in other countries with pretty awful driving standards so I am confident about it, whereas my friend will be using uber / boda bodas to get around.

I believe that Riara Rd area, especially around Junction Mall is OK.

The traffic congestion is likely all along Ngong Road, as well as in Kilimani, so there may not be much advantage of living in Riara, over Kilimani.   

What about Upper Hill?  Then you could get to Karen on Langata Rd, which may be a somewhat less congested route, although rather longer.  Bear in mind that traffic congestion tends to be a city wide problem.

It would worry me that your friend intends to use Boda Boda.  This form of transport isnt safe.  Accidents are frequent and represents a leading cause of serious injury and death, on Kenyan roads.  Riders can simply get on a bike and start to ride and take passengers, with no training.  I have seen quite a few bikes going under other vehicles.  Comprehensive medical insurance needed!

Hi, I actually have some updated info on this since I recently moved from Westlands to near Junction Mall (Ngong Road) in order to more easily bring my daughter to a school in Karen. I was very happy to see the other day that Ngong road is presently being widened with one or two extra lanes from Junction to the Southern Bypass junction on the way to Karen. This will probably take a few months to finish but the work is going surprisingly fast. If you find an apartment here around Junction (Riara rd, Mbaazi Ave, etc) you actually drive against the traffic in the morning on your way to Karen, so it is not as bad as going in the opposite direction. In the afternoon it's naturally likewise. Then, where is Karen? Karen is a huge area, so it depends on exactly where in Karen you will work. Tell me and I can give you even better advice. I just rented a three bedroom apartment of high standard and am paying 85.000 in rent plus 5.000 in service charge. There are many vacant apartments around this area. I would try not to stay in Kilimani itself, but get as close to Junction Mall as possible because you then save time before you get on Ngong road. Carrefour Supermarket is opening at Junction within 2-3 weeks and that makes Junction even more attractive. It has many restaurants, etc and a great movie theatre. Be free to ask more.

Longonot62 - Thanks for the info - I'll relay your points to my friend.

Torewest - Thanks for the great, up-to-date feedback! Good to hear the transport system is being improved - I feel much more comfortable about rush hour drives to Karen now. Also, my office will be near Karen Country Club.

And wow, your apartment sounds like a great deal and Junction sounds very nice, esp. with the improved amenities. So I've been looking for 2-bed apartments (6 month lease) in Junction but am struggling to find high-standard apartments at a reasonable price (80-100k - furnished + incl. of service charge) on jumia, Property24, olx, etc.

If you don't mind me asking, how did you go about finding yours? Do you have any suggestions for me?

Finally, as my friend will move abroad after 6 months, I thought renting a furnished apartment would be better. However, is it much easier to find unfurnished apartments? And if so, do you have any info on how much fully furnishing it would cost?

Thanks again!!

Hi, happy to help. I agree, it's harder to get furnished apartments. And of course for such a short period it makes sense. I used olx, prop24 etc. But you need to know that the property market is struggling now because of a general downturn in the economy, (which is my profession). You can easily offer to pay at least 10' less than what they ask. Many expats have left Nairobi because of various reasons. So be a tough negotiater.

It is much easier to find unfurnished. I guess you would have to pay around 70-75 for a secure and nice 2 bedroom. Karen Country Club is not a big problem from Junction. I would guess about 30 min. Sometimes 40-45.

It's good to know there is ample room to negotiate on rental prices. I'll definitely push hard on the number listed on the websites.

Thanks for the advice again. Will continue with the apartment search, and hopefully something good pops up!

To pick up on some points from my comments above:
The traffic:  The road widening that you mention is a two year contract from August 2017.  Practically speaking, road works tend to create more traffic chaos than normal, when they are running, due to the inevitable restrictions, changes to traffic flow, diversions and so on.  My suggestion, therefore was that a better route may be via Langata Rd - is that being pessimistic to you?

It is a fact that traffic problems are severe and citywide.  Nairobi is rated certainly in the top five worst cities for congestion, and the traffic problems are often in the news.  Gridlock is frequent.  Kenyan driving standards are poor - all useful information for someone intending to commute in the city.  NOT pessimistic.......realistic.  You can easily spend literally hours commuting in Nairobi.  Fine if this is how you want to spend your time - am only saying!  Its certainly not at all like commuting in the UK, for example.  You seriously disagree with the above, Torewest. 

Boda Boda;  Am I being pessimistic when I recommend that a newcomer to the city doesn't use them.  Do YOU think that they are safe.  Have YOU seen those motorcycles being mangled beneath the wheels of a truck, or hit by cars.......I have.  It would be irresponsible to suggest that anyone uses Boda Boda for their commute.

John; if you want furnished/serviced apartments, these are fewer and further between than unfurnished apartments, which are many.  Furnished/serviced apartments tend to be aimed at the short term market, so are considerably more expensive than unfurnished and may well not be ideally located for you anyway.  I would be surprised if the prices for these came in at under Ksh100,000.

Torewest is right that there is always bargaining room when renting.  In fact this applies to many sales situations - always be ready to bargain in Kenya.  When we last rented, we used Villacare.  On the whole, by checking OLX, Property24, you are looking in the right places.  Always go and view the properties yourself.  Rental agreements are very similar to those in the UK - assured shorthand tenancies.

Furniture;  It depends on how long you will be in Kenya, but many expats will buy furniture, then sell it when their 'stint' comes to an end.   Therefore items are often advertised at the malls noticeboards, or on Facebook marketing groups (there is one for Karen, Hardy & Langata for example).  Alternatively, you should be able to buy most stuff you need from one of the large supermarkets' furniture dept.  I am not sure how much its likely to cost.  Perhaps other could give you more idea on this.

With regard to your commute, if it becomes too much, then it would appear that you may have to option of relocating to Karen after 6 months!

Hi John

Have you considered looking for a place along Mombasa road  South B or South C to be specific
If you'll be working in Karen well you can be using Southern bypass which will take you like 20 minutes to Karen ...with Southern bypass you'll never encounter mad traffic unless if there is an accident ..
It will be hustle free plus there very nice houses in South B or South C

Appreciate the further info, Longonot.

Lu Annie - thanks for the post. I hadn’t considered South B/South C but will take a look. Would that be ~20 minutes during rush hour? Maybe I should look in Upper Hill too then?

Yes because you'll be using Southern bypass from Karen

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