Kenya is often perceived or referred to as Eastern and Central Africa’s Financial, Communication and Transportation hub. The city of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is the largest metropolis in East Africa, and is home to the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE), one of Africa’s largest stock exchanges. With its growing communication industry, and the realization of the Silicon Savannah dream, Kenya’s economic future looks promising.
Fairmont the Norfolk Hotel is a first choice for many business travelers. Situated just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the heart of Nairobi, this hotel makes local commuting very easy. The hotel has a business center, which operates from 8:00AM to 9:00PM, Monday to Friday, and 8:00AM to 1:00PM on Saturdays. It also offers business services like telephone assistance, photocopying and general secretarial services. The hotel also boasts four executive boardrooms for meetings, the largest room with the capacity for 12 people, as well as a ballroom for bigger gatherings. Fairmont the Norfolk also has complimentary Wi-Fi, however, connection is sometimes inaccessible due to the size of the hotel. In addition, the hotel has six restaurants and a fitness center.
If trendy is your style, then the Tribe Hotel in Nairobi would be your choice. The hotel is a smaller, boutique hotel offering more personalized service than some of the bigger competitors. The hotel offers the full suite of services a business traveler is looking for, including a well-equipped business center, small gym, restaurant, and room service. Another distinguishing feature is that the hotel is located adjacent to a mall, which makes accessing other restaurant choices and a bit of shopping much easier at the Tribe than any of its competitors. On the downside, we have heard several complaints that its Wi-Fi operates at a painfully slow rate, frustrating business travelers.
Located less than 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the Fairview Hotel is an excellent and quiet business-class hotel. Wireless internet is complimentary and accessible throughout all public areas of the hotel and guest rooms. Recently remodeled, the business center offers a great space for business meetings. The Fairview also boasts a First Class Lounge for guests in First Class rooms, ideal for a less formal business meeting. It is also equipped with a fitness center and restaurant, café and 24-hour room service.
Despite flying the Sheraton flag, the Sheraton Nairobi does not live up to global standards for a Sheraton. Its location is very central, but the property is in need of a major, major renovation. We would not recommend the Sheraton Nairobi. At its price point, the other options listed here provide much better value for money.
It is advisable to book your airport transfers before arriving at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The cost from the airport to the city of Nairobi averages around $25. Alternatively, there are taxi and car rental services available at the airport.
Taxis are a good way to get around while doing business in Nairobi; they are both inexpensive and reliable. Renting a car and driving is also an option when traveling to Nairobi. International driving licenses are accepted by local authorities.
Mobile Money Transfer
Kenya is the first country in the world to use a mobile transaction system, MPesa, a universally recognized transaction system utilized throughout the country. Most people don’t expect foreigners to utilize this service, but don’t be surprised if someone asks you to pay using the MPesa system.
Credit cards are accepted in all major hotels and many establishments in Nairobi. The most recognized credit cards are Master Card and Visa; don’t be surprised if your American Express is not accepted.
Kenya’s currency is the Kenya Shilling (KES or KSHS); however, most major currencies are accepted at big establishments. We advise travelers to bring a decent amount of cash along with them in a variety of bills. Local currency comes in handy when purchasing from smaller shops and/or tipping taxi drivers.
ATM machines are available 24hrs at all major banks in Nairobi, as well as other major cities. It is a safe and affordable way to get local currency. We definitely recommend using ATM machines at major banks, and avoid using them at privately owned stores.
When traveling in most major cities in Africa, Nairobi included, you have a choice of a) using your cell phone and phone number from home and making roaming calls or b) buying a local SIM card, thus operating with a local number, charging it with airtime locally. The difference in price is huge.
For international calls to the US, Europe, etc., we highly recommend using Skype or Google voice. You should set up these accounts before you leave home. If, for example, you are in a hotel with free Wi-Fi, a Skype account that has been set up for unlimited calls to US phone numbers for a flat $4 month, will allow you to dial any number in the US with unlimited talk time. This is the best way to stay in touch with people in the US, Europe, South Africa, etc.
For local calls, we recommend purchasing an inexpensive cell phone that is “unlocked” before you leave home (or using an old cell phone that you no longer use). Unlocked means that the phone can take a SIM card from any carrier. If you have a US or European phone that is locked (i.e., tied to a carrier), you can ask the carrier to “unlock” it. Alternatively, there are a number of websites that for a small fee of under $10, will provide you with specific instructions on how to “unlock” your cell phone. Simply Google the words “unlock cell phone” and you will find a large number of choices.
The major mobile phone service providers in Kenya are Safaricom, Airtel and Orange. We recommend Safaricom and Airtel for your local calling needs.
Is it safe to travel there?
Safety and security is of concern in Kenya, especially in major cities like Nairobi. For updated safety and travel news on Kenya, we recommend visiting the British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office page HERE.
Another useful source for assessing safety and security is the Ibrahim Index, founded by Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim. The Ibrahim Index ranks African countries relative to one another, and ranks Kenya’s personal safety as 25 out of 52 countries, which is good. You’ll find more information on the Ibrahim Index score for Kenya HERE.
The primary business language in Kenya is English.
Suits are the expected business attire for business meetings. Business attire in Kenya, like most African countries, is conservative unless otherwise stated.
A formal handshake, using the right hand, is the standard greeting. Additionally, Kenyans prefer being addressed their title (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.), and their surname. It is also important to note that advance appointments are required for meetings, and that if you’re likely to be late, call ahead.
Kenya uses type G (British three-pin rectangular blade plug, also known as the 13-amp plug) electrical outlets.
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Additional reporting by Dexter Padayachee