July 1, 2014

Relocating to Kenya: Tips and Best Practices

Blog Image



Relocating to Kenya: Tips and Best Practices

Kenya has attracted many multinational organizations in recent years, particularly to its capital city Nairobi. As Kenya is a frequent destination for international assignees, our latest Cartus Emerging Market Watch on Kenya discusses the country’s key relocation challenges, including security, housing, household goods shipping, and cultural differences.

Stay Safe
In recent years, Kenya has faced increased security risks, with a number of terrorism-related incidents. Understandably, security is one of the top challenges that assignees may face, so it’s important to be extra vigilant.

Safety Tips
•  Heed the travel advice issued by your home government organization/specialist security firm and check regularly for additional updates/advisories. Current advice includes not travelling within 60km of the Somali border and to other designated coastal areas.

•  Avoid crowded places including certain township areas in Nairobi.

•  Do not use public transportation.

•  Refrain from walking in public areas at night.

•  Review and tighten property security as necessary, ensuring adequate safety provisions have been taken.


Housing in Nairobi
Kenya’s largest expatriate population is in Nairobi. From city center living to secure compounds, standalone homes to downtown apartments, assignees are often surprised at the range and quality of accommodation. That being said, high demand in the rental market means that availability is currently very limited, so once a property is found, assignees should act quickly to secure it.

Housing Tips
•  Organizations should align their security guidelines to the assignee’s choice of housing. For example, a city apartment requires security measures that are different than what is required for a compound property.

•  As traffic can get quite congested in Nairobi, commuting delays should be considered when choosing a home and a school.

•  Be aware that the supply of short term serviced accommodation is currently very limited which may affect short term assignments and temporary living.

Household Goods Shipping
Moving household goods to Kenya can be a long and expensive process. Goods are often delayed by several weeks at the Port of Mombasa. By sea, household goods shipments may take up to three months.

Shipping Tips
•  Shipments may be delayed, so relocation schedules should remain flexible to allow them to be adjusted accordingly.

•  When organizing immigration, school search, and home finding timelines, work from a realistic, ‘worst case scenario’ timeframe. This will help reduce the potential cost of cancellations and re-scheduling.

Cultural Issues
The Kenyan phrase Hakuna Matata, meaning ‘no problem,’ epitomizes the national attitude.

Cultural Tips
•  When making decisions, Kenyans try to avoid risk and will examine the options in great detail, making the process quite lengthy. No matter how long it takes, be patient.

•  Meetings can be delayed regularly but once they begin, they won’t finish until the agenda is complete. To avoid being the one who gets pushed back by a day, schedule meetings in the morning.

•  Whether it’s a market stall purchase or major business deal, Kenyans are skilled negotiators. Bargaining is part of everyday life and will occur at all levels.

•  The concept of personal space is not widely shared by locals, which may be disconcerting to those used to Western practices.

•  Accept hospitality when it’s offered. A small, inexpensive gift for hosts is appreciated, but do not bring alcohol.

For a detailed review on relocating to Kenya, read our Kenya Market Watch, watch our On the Ground video on Kenya, and view our Resource Page and On the Ground video series for additional information on moving to other Emerging Market locations.

You can also contact a Cartus representative by emailing trustedguidance@cartus.com for any questions related to relocation and Kenya.

Picture of Cartus Communications

Posted By

Cartus Communications

About Cartus

Cartus is the trusted industry leader, offering guidance on a wide range of topics related to global relocation using expertise gained through more than four million moves and a diverse client base.

Share email LinkedIn Twitter Facebook Google Plus Xing


Jane Russell-Smith
I'd say the best tip on keeping safe is watch how you dress. As a woman or a man avoid wearing shorts in the city or anything that makes you look like a tourist.

Also learn the phrase 'Hakuna pesa' it means you have no money - and have been in Kenya long enough to know a little kiswahili! It's useful if beggars or hawkers are bothering you.

Public transport is fine if you want adventures and get to know local people but be prepared to get cosy.

I lived in Kenya for five years and only once had a problem with safety which is when I got lost and ended up in the slums and stupidly had my car window down. That's another tip - keep car windows shut in traffic as thieves will often try and lean in and grab wallet and bags.

If you have a houseworker it is usual to help with family costs like secondary schooling for their children although not obligatory. Don't think they are trying to pull a fast one if they ask... if they don't ask they don't get and life is very hard for many people. It will probably be about £250/year.
Post a Comment

Thank you for your submission. Submissions are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *