Information on Moving to Nairobi

I arrived in Nairobi last week to start my summer internship with the AI team at IBM Research! I’m enjoying my project, and the team has a welcoming culture.

Here are some quick notes from my first week here that I wish I had known (for anyone in a similar boat)!

For an extended stay in Nairobi

  • If you choose Safaricom as your provider, get a sim card and explicitly set up MPESA simultaneously. If you have a more modern phone, I suggest converting your existing card to an ESim and setting up WiFi calling before you arrive so you can toggle between that and the Safaricom ESim. This is especially important for 2FA authentication – even though I contacted all of my financial accounts before moving, many still flagged my activity, and I needed to sort it out. Note that although many stores have the Safaricom/MPESA sign, only a few are official retail shops.
  • I have been using Ubers. Some areas that have higher Uber density than others (e.g. UN area midday is low). Be mindful of these patterns.
  • Nairobi is cold in the mornings, and many buildings do not have heating/cooling systems. Pack wisely—the clothing size ranges available here are different from those in the US.
  • If visiting after the rainy season, check your residence for mold. Consider packing an air purifier.
  • Jumia is like Amazon, Glove is like Uber Eats. Apps come and go, so this information may be outdated soon.
  • Learn basic greetings.

Special pass/Immigration Considerations

  • The pass is only valid for three months.
  • Immigration may ask you for a Visa even if your special pass is approved. Make sure getting your Visa stamped is the first part of the paperwork you complete.
  • Budget at least a week to get necessary work documents. I was initially skeptical, but this ended up being the case for me as well.
  • You will pay non-resident fees.
  • It may be possible to apply for some documents online.
  • In general, if there is some laborious process, ask for the contact (phone number, email) of anyone you interact with if there are delays.
Written on July 2, 2024