- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Kenya Guide (PDF)
One of Kenya's many drawcards is its low cost of living. Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2021 ranked Nairobi 145th out of 209 countries, making it more affordable than both Cairo (137th) and Doha (130th).
Nevertheless, new arrivals need to remember that amenities such as private healthcare, international schools and comfortable homes can inflate the cost of living in Kenya tremendously. 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. The company may provide an allowance for accommodation, transport and international school fees, for instance. 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 biggest expense for expats living in Kenya. Most expats opt to rent as they have a fixed-term contract and don’t plan on settling in the country long term. Rent in cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa will of course 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 food and groceries in Kenya
It often comes as a surprise to new arrivals in Kenya that the cost of food and basic housing products is fairly 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.
The best way to save money on groceries in Kenya is to buy local produce. 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. Buying a car can be expensive, though. Also, for those wanting to travel domestically in Kenya, a four-wheel drive is the best option, but will be more expensive than a regular vehicle.
Cost of eating out and entertainment 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 popping up all the time. 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.
Expats are highly recommended to arrange health insurance for themselves and their families as, without it, private healthcare costs can add up quickly.
Cost of education in Kenya
Of course, families moving to Kenya from abroad will have much to think about regarding education. Although public schooling is free, they will likely prefer the standard of education through private or international schools. International school fees can be exorbitant and so parents must decide if it is worth the cost.
Fortunately, private schools offer some financial relief as they allow for better quality of resources and teaching at a lower rate than international schools, although fees do vary between schools.
Cost of living in Kenya chart
Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Nairobi in March 2022.
►For more on expat money matters, read the Banking, Money and Taxes in Kenya page
"Imported goods such as toiletries and toys are very expensive. Houses and cars cost a fortune. Crafts, flowers and some veggies are cheaper, but that’s it." Read Nadine's interview for more insights into the price of goods in Kenya.
"Food and utilities are more expensive than back home, but the weather is mild year round so you obviously save on heating your home as it is unnecessary." Get some tips on saving from our interview with Frances, a British expat living in Kenya.
Are you an expat living in Kenya?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kenya. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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