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The thought of moving to Kenya may conjure images of magical landscapes and rare wildlife, but it's also a place of cosmopolitan cities that are drawing more and more expats.
Living in Kenya as an expat
Kenya may not be considered a popular expat destination, especially by Westerners, but this is slowly changing as the country is starting to be viewed as a viable destination for working expats looking to raise a family in a safe though exciting and culturally-diverse environment.
Nairobi is widely considered as the hub for business and development in eastern Africa and offers an exciting lifestyle. Many expats working in Kenya find themselves employed as highly-paid managers in multinational companies, embassy staff or as development and NGO employees and volunteers.
Kenya is generally a politically stable country with developed healthcare facilities, an improving public transport network and a strong education system that serves a diverse population.
That said, expat life can be insulated from Kenyan society as the fear of crime, particularly in large cities, sometimes cloisters foreigners behind the gates of housing compounds. Those who emerge from behind this curtain of fear can really enjoy the different cultures of Kenya, all of which are famously welcoming and cheerful.
Cost of living in Kenya
Kenya has a fairly gentle cost of living, but 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 likely incur additional living expenses they wouldn’t 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.
Expat families and children
Some families may find themselves longing for everyday conveniences and the familiar efficiency of home. But many also find that the luxuries Kenya has to offer, such as large houses and high expat salaries, make for a higher quality of life. Add to that Kenya's fantastic natural landscapes with its savanna grasslands, lakelands and mountains, as well as its wealth of national parks and sanctuaries, and it's no wonder expats fall in love with the country. Expats need not venture out far to experience this, as the capital city of Nairobi is home to the popular Nairobi National Park, while Mombasa affords refreshing coastal views.
Parents relocating to Kenya can rest assured that their children will have an excellent selection of excellent schools to choose from. While there are some good government schools in Kenya, especially in major cities, most expats rather opt to enrol their children in private or international schools as these generally have higher standards and students can continue in their home curriculum.
Climate in Kenya
Kenya's heat may take some getting used to, especially for those from colder climes. The coast hosts a humid, tropical climate, while the inland areas are more temperate. The north and northeast parts of the country are hot with dry conditions and little rain.
Overall, whether life in Kenya turns out to be an unwelcome posting or a grand opportunity, all expats will certainly have a truly unique and memorable experience.
Official name: Republic of Kenya
Population: 56.2 million
Capital city: Nairobi
Neighbouring countries: Kenya is bordered by Somalia to the northeast, Ethiopia to the north, South Sudan to the northwest, Uganda to the west, and Tanzania to the south and southwest.
Geography: Situated on the east coast of Central Africa, Kenya has a varied geography. This ranges from low-lying plains in the east of the country to the fertile highlands of central Kenya, home to Africa's second-highest peak, Mount Kenya.
Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic
Major religions: Christianity and Islam
Main languages: English and Swahili
Money: The Kenyan Shilling (KES), divided into 100 cents. Expats can open a bank account in Kenya but many prefer to continue using their overseas accounts, especially if they're only in the country for a short period. ATMs are widely available in major cities.
Tipping: Tips are common for most small services, in addition to the standard 10 percent expected in restaurants.
Electricity: 240V 50Hz. UK-style plugs with three flat blades are used.
Internet domain: .ke
International dialling code: +254
Emergency contacts: 999
Transport and driving: While public transport is available in all of Kenya's big cities, it's not always efficient or safe. The best option is for expats to use a private vehicle and hire a driver who is familiar with the local driving conditions. Driving is on the left-hand side.
►Want to know how to get to this East African country? Read Visas for Kenya
►Find out about the cost of living in Kenya
"Nairobi is a big city that is always busy, vibrant, interesting. The great outdoors are not far away and most expats living here enjoy a good quality of life." Read more of Jerry Riley's thoughts in his expat interview about living in Kenya.
"It’s an exciting place to live and there are huge opportunities here. We have made sacrifices and taken risks by living out here, but we now have a very good quality of life..." Frances shares her thoughts about life in Kenya in her expat interview.
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.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
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