Cost of Living in Nairobi

Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey for 2019 ranked Nairobi 97th out of 209 countries. Nairobi is much more affordable than Western cities like New York City and Paris. However, it is more expensive than cities like Hamburg and Hanoi.

Most expats working in Nairobi earn good salaries, with employment perks that may include allowances for various major costs. These could include a housing allowance, a company car, medical and education benefits, and visa and permit charges covered by their employer.

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 certain services and standards and these are often significantly pricier than the local equivalents.

As is the case with most destinations, an expat’s chief expenses in Nairobi will be accommodation, school fees, transport and shopping for food, clothes and other items.

Cost of accommodation in Nairobi

The cost of accommodation in Nairobi depends on location, but good quality accommodation can be expensive. In many cases, employers offer to shoulder this expense. This offer can also include the required security deposit, usually the equivalent of two to three months' rent. Utilities, such as electricity, water and internet, will probably be the expat’s responsibility. 

One accommodation-related expense which expats may not anticipate is provision for security measures. Expats living in gated communities find this is often included in the rental costs, but it's unlikely to be the case in a standalone townhouse.

Cost of getting around in Nairobi

Many expats prefer to own a car in Kenya, as it allows for more freedom. It can be expensive to buy a car. Hiring a driver is affordable, and is worth investigating. Renting a car is a cheaper alternative to buying and can be more convenient for expats only in the country for a limited time. Some expats, especially those in top executive positions, will have a company car and driver provided to them.

The main means of public transport in Kenya is the matatu (a van or mini-bus with a fixed or semi-fixed route). This option is cheap, but the vehicles are often overcrowded and probably don't meet the safety standards of many expats.

Taxis are also used often, but because there's no clear-cut billing method and vehicles don't have meters, make sure to negotiate a price 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 are very expensive. Apart from fees, there may also be additional expenses for transport, food and registration. 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, it's well worth attempting to negotiate for its inclusion as this is a major expense.

Cost of living in Nairobi chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Nairobi in October 2019.

Accommodation (monthly)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

KSH 96,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KSH 45,000 

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

KSH 43,000 

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

KSH 19,000


Eggs (dozen)

KSH 172

Milk (1 litre)

KSH 106

Rice (1kg)

KSH 203

Loaf of white bread

KSH 59

Chicken breasts (1kg)

KSH 676

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

KSH 250

Eating out

Big Mac meal

KSH 700

Coca-Cola (330ml)

KSH 60


KSH 250

Bottle of local beer 

KSH 214

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

KSH 3,000


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

KSH 3.50

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

KSH 6,500

Domestic cleaner (per hour)

KSH 490

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

KSH 6,100


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

KSH 200

Bus/train fare in the city centre

KSH 80

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

KSH 112

Owen Wandago Our Expat Expert

A writer for City Scape Limited, a relocation and concierge service for expat and local business executives and employees.

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