A Guide to: your recce (Karen)


Recces are usually a period of anything from a few days to a week of scurrying around, hopefully sans kids, trying to work out if you really want to live in this place. If you are lucky your itinerary only consists of wafting around a bit to see if your potential new home suits you, but things grow ever more complicated when you need to scout out a place to live/schools etc all within a few days, as we did!  Here are a few tips that we’ve picked up along the way.

Flight; you need a yellow card vaccination and it should be done at least 10 days before you fly. Some people state that you don’t from certain countries but mostly that’s a load of rot, I’ve been checked loads at the airport and I say better safe than sorry.

Visa: You’ll need a visa: we usually get ours online at ecitizen.co.ke, do it at least a week or two before as it can sometimes take a while to process. If you forget then you can get one at the gate, it is 50 dollars per adult (kids don’t need one) and you need the cash. If you don’t have cash you can go through to the other side and get money out the ATM but this will put you right at the back of a sometimes lengthy queue.

Transport: Prebook a taxi driver. Easier than trying to negotiate with the bazillions of touts that shout at your as you come out the airport.

Hire a driver for the week; they’ll know where to go, they’ll know how to navigate the road without having a heart attack and they are surprisingly inexpensive.

Where to stay: Accommodation is wide and varied from 5* hotels to Safari lodges and Airbnb. The following are a few ideas; centered around Karen where we live.

$$$ Hemmingway’s: Karen: gorgeous 5* hotel, you wont be disappointed but costs

$$$ House of Waine: Luxury boutique hotel in Karen

$$ Karen Gables – Cape Dutch reproduction built in a peaceful spot just up from the river, spacious rooms, elegant furnishings, pool and outside bar. Meals available around a big table in the dining room with other guests, although can also be taken outside.

$$Giraffe Manor – small hotel in Langata which is made special by its proximity to the Giraffe House…  that infamous picture of a giraffe poking its head into a hotel was taken here.

$$Karen Country Club – The residences range from single rooms to two bed cottages, very neatly appointed you are also able to make use of the Country Club facilities including golf, pool, spa and several restaurants.

$ Purdy Arms: huge rooms, comfortable accommodation above an awesome pub

$The Brandy Bus – book through Airbnb for the unforgettable and very affordable chance to stay in a bus that has been converted into a comfortable and unique place to sleep.

Airbnb: not a huge selection of places, but we found a winner when we stayed here earlier in the year so keep looking.

Schools: Your childs eduction is no doubt top of your list if you have kids, below are some of the schools the expat kids go to, they are all located along Magadi Road.  I’ve done an earlier blog on schools if you are interested.

  • Brookhouse
  • The Banda School
  • GEMS
  • Hillcrest

Places to eat and drink around Karen:

Purdy Arms – basically a local institution, if you have kids you’ll end up living here so don’t miss it off the list.

Boho Eatery: chic little veggie place in Langata.

Urban Burger: within the Galleria Mall but do Burgers to rival any abroad.

Haru: Sushi anyone?

Matbronze: art gallery specialising in Bronzes but also does breakfast and lunch. Great place to let the kids run around whilst you have a cappuccino and a cake.

Hemmingway’s: if you are feeling flush then eat here, if you aren’t then sup cocktails on the balcony; they are the same price as elsewhere around town and the view is unbeatable.

Artcaffe – located within The Hub shopping malls, great for coffee, cake and yummy breakfast with salads and bigger meals for lunch.

Talisman: another place you should definitely visit;  you’ll spend lots of time here. Gorgeous sitting out garden with delicious food. If you come in the evening you’ll find most the male population of Karen propping up the bar inside.

Tamambo/Tamarind: bar and restaurant residing on the old Karen Blixen Estate;  as it’s part of the Carnivore group, the Dawa cocktails are a must have.  The bar is atmospheric and often has live music, the restaurant is towards the upper end of cost and food.

Shops: I always like to check out the local shops and malls to find out availability of goods.

The Hub: is the newest and biggest and best in my opinion, with a huge Carrefour, lots of places to eat and drink and various other shops towards the higher end of what you will see in Nairobi.

Galleria: with the demise of Nakumatt not an awful lot of reason to visit (unless you are taking a trip to Urban Burger).

The Waterfront – a huge mall, shortly about to open *watch this space*.

Hardy Shops (HPS): small mall in Hardy area that houses a hairdressers, pharmacy, optician, Newscafe, a couple of lovely curio shops filled with desirable ‘stuff’ from England and South Africa.  Most importantly a supermarket that despite being small is perfectly formed with everything you’ll need in stock.

Karen Provision Store (KPS): although there are lots of other shops within the complex, in this case I’m referring to the small supermarket. A veritable Aladdin’s cave of food and err other stuff, you’ll get all your want for a top up shop and also find lots of things you never new you needed. Every trip is an adventure.

 Touristy things: If you still have the energy then check out these, all within Karen:

Giraffes at the Giraffe House

Kazuri beads on Mbagathi Road

Orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Safari Walk in Langata

Nairobi National Park easily accessible from Karen

Ololua Forest – easy 5k walk through indigenous forest

Finding a place to live: 

The best places are usually found through word of mouth, assuming you are new and don’t know anyone there are some great Facebook groups inhabited by locals that may help.  In terms of rental agents try www.Peponirealestate.com for unbeatable service and a great range of desirable houses in the Karen area. f

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