Last Updated: August 21, 2023
Kenya, located in East Africa, has rapidly risen as a top destination for digital nomads. Its magnetic allure is a result of a unique blend of white sandy beaches, diverse national parks teeming with wildlife, and the bustling capital city of Nairobi. Moreover, Kenya boasts some of the best internet connectivity in the region, making it an ideal spot for remote work.
However, there are essential aspects to understand before embarking on your digital nomad journey in Kenya. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into all you need to know about working remotely and exploring this beautiful country.
Kenya is a bilingual nation with Swahili and English being the official languages. You'll find that English is widely spoken and understood, making communication easy for English-speaking travelers.
Nairobi, Kenya's capital, serves as the gateway to the country. It's a vibrant city with a burgeoning tech scene, offering numerous opportunities for networking and coworking.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi is the primary entry point for international travelers. It's well-connected to major cities worldwide.
The currency in Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES), with an exchange rate of approximately $1 = 130 KES. ATMs are widely available, and credit cards are accepted in urban areas.
Kenya operates on East African Time (GMT +3).
Kenya uses the UK 3-Pin plug socket (Type G). Be sure to bring the appropriate adapters if needed.
Digital nomads planning to stay in Kenya should apply for a 90-day single-entry visa online in advance through the evisa platform. There is no Visa-On-Arrival option, so plan accordingly.
Consider obtaining travel insurance, with SafetyWing being a recommended option for digital nomads.
The ideal time to visit Kenya is during the dry season, which runs from September to March. This period offers pleasant weather and is perfect for exploring the country's natural wonders.
Kenya boasts high-quality internet connectivity, especially in urban areas. You'll find reliable and fast Wi-Fi connections in most towns and hotels. In remote areas, 4G+ networks provide excellent backup options.
Kenya's attractions include its diverse natural landscapes, safaris, stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and emerging coworking spaces.
Less than three hours from Nairobi, Naivasha is a picturesque town located in the Great Rift Valley. It offers a peaceful escape from the city's hustle and bustle and is renowned for its diverse natural attractions, including Lake Naivasha.
Diani, situated on Kenya's south coast, is celebrated for its pristine beaches and is home to the only coliving space designed for digital nomads. It's a tropical paradise offering a perfect blend of work and leisure.
Midway between the bustling tourist hubs of Mombasa and Malindi, Kilifi is a tranquil coastal town. With beautiful landscapes and a laid-back atmosphere, it's an ideal destination for a peaceful escape.
Kenya's reputation as a tech and startup hub in East Africa ensures excellent internet connectivity for digital nomads. In general, you can expect reliable and fast Wi-Fi connections in most towns and hotels. Even in more remote areas, your phone's 4G+ network will keep you connected.
All three network providers offer 4G+ mobile Wi-Fi routers, which serve as convenient backups if you encounter connectivity issues.
While Nairobi boasts a plethora of coworking spaces, they are relatively scarce outside the capital. Additionally, many coworking spaces in Nairobi cater primarily to corporate clients and do not emphasize community building or events.
For now, these spaces are best utilized for reliable and fast internet access and as an occasional change of scenery from your home office.
Nairobi is teeming with laptop-friendly cafes, where you'll find plug sockets, comfortable seating, and dependable internet.
Cafes like Java, Artcaffe, and CJ's are popular choices for digital nomads. Along the coast, such as in Diani, Mombasa, and Nyali, you can also find suitable places to work. However, in more remote locations like Lamu, options may be limited, so plan accordingly.
Kenya's diverse climates and attractions make it a year-round destination. Each season offers a unique experience:
Kenya offers a wealth of opportunities for digital nomads, from its stunning natural beauty to its reliable internet connectivity. Whether you're exploring the wild on safari or enjoying the coastal vibes, Kenya provides a fulfilling experience for remote workers seeking adventure and inspiration.
When it comes to choosing a VPN in Kenya, it's essential to prioritize your online security and privacy. While you're probably already familiar with the core features of a VPN, such as encrypting your internet connection and accessing geo-blocked content, the following VPN options have been tested and recommended specifically for users in Kenya:
Kenya's national parks are a paradise for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. From the iconic Maasai Mara to lesser-known gems, you'll have the opportunity to witness the majestic Big 5 and experience breathtaking sunsets in the Kenyan wilderness. To learn more about the Great Wildebeest Migration in Kenya, consider checking out a comprehensive guide.
Kenya's extensive coastline boasts numerous pristine white sandy beaches, charming coastal towns, and serene islands. These locations offer stunning natural beauty, tranquility, a blend of diverse cultures, and reliable internet connectivity. Notable destinations include:
Mount Kenya, Africa's second-highest peak, offers breathtaking landscapes for experienced hikers. Additionally, numerous smaller mountains and hiking trails can be found in national parks, including accessible options like Ngong Hills and Karura Forest, which are close to Nairobi.
Kenya is a vast country, and driving yourself is not recommended due to reckless driving and road safety concerns. Instead, consider the following transportation options:
Flights between Nairobi and coastal destinations start at just $30 one-way and take under 90 minutes.
This is the most efficient way to cover long distances in Kenya while enjoying a generous luggage allowance. Most budget Kenyan airlines can be found on Skyscanner, but double-check their websites for accurate information.
Intercity coach travel in Kenya can be cost-effective but time-consuming, especially for coastal journeys. For instance, a bus trip from Nairobi to Mombasa can take over 12 hours.
The train is a faster alternative, completing the same journey in about 5 hours. Be cautious about traffic and accidents, particularly on the Nairobi-Mombasa route. Bus travel is better suited for shorter journeys within Central Kenya, while minibusses (matatus) are a common choice.
The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) train offers an affordable and comfortable overland route between Nairobi and Mombasa. While cheaper than flying, it takes around 5-8 hours due to station locations and security checks.
Traveling to Diani or Kilifi from the SGR station can take up to 10 hours. Fortunately, there's 4G+ coverage along most of the route, allowing for productive work during the journey.
For newcomers to Kenya, hiring a car and driver is a recommended option. Drivers are familiar with local traffic, can guide you, and often provide tour services.
Most car rental companies offer driver services, starting from $70 per day. If you travel overnight, you might need to cover the driver's accommodation costs.
Self-driving in Kenya is best reserved for experienced drivers accustomed to the chaotic traffic, aggressive driving, and occasional lawlessness on the roads.
Night driving between towns or in rural areas is strongly discouraged due to safety concerns. In case of an accident, be prepared for a crowd to gather, as police assistance may be limited.
The currency in Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES), with an approximate exchange rate of 10 KES = $0.80-1.00 USD.
I&M Bank and Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) ATMs generally do not charge fees for foreign bank card withdrawals. Other banks may charge up to $5 per transaction. Be cautious when withdrawing cash, especially outside shopping malls, and keep it secure to avoid pickpockets.
Card payments are widely accepted in Kenya and are generally secure. Monitoring your account for suspicious activity and freezing your card when not in use is advisable. High-end restaurants, hotels, and malls are reliable places for card payments.
Living expenses in Kenya, particularly in Nairobi, can be comparable to many European cities. Nairobi, as the capital, tends to be the most expensive. If you plan to live elsewhere in Kenya, expect costs to be roughly 30% lower. Key factors contributing to the cost of living in Kenya include:
Based on experience, budgeting $2,000-2,500 per month should cover living, working, and travel expenses in Nairobi. However, costs may be lower in other Kenyan cities.
M-PESA is a revolutionary mobile money technology invented in Kenya in 2007. It allows users to conduct transactions, pay for goods and services, and transfer money using their phone's SIM card.
M-PESA has made physical cash nearly obsolete in Kenya, and it's widely accepted for various transactions, including shopping, transportation, and bill payments. To use M-PESA, you'll need a Safaricom SIM card, the dominant mobile network in Kenya.
Card payments are generally safe and widely accepted in Kenya. Travel debit cards, such as Wise, N26, and Revolut, offer convenient options for managing your finances while traveling in Kenya.
Wise, in particular, allows you to top up your M-PESA wallet directly from your account, simplifying transactions and ensuring you always have sufficient funds.
ATMs in Nairobi's shopping malls are a reliable option for cash withdrawals. These ATMs are generally safe to use, with rare incidents of tampering. Security guards often monitor ATMs located outside shopping malls for added safety.
Keep your cash secure and avoid displaying it after withdrawing to prevent theft. I&M Bank and Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) are recommended options for fee-free foreign bank card withdrawals in Kenya.
Traveling in Kenya without medical insurance is risky due to the high cost of private healthcare. Recommended travel insurance options include SafetyWing, True Traveller (for UK and Europe residents), and World Nomads.
This comprehensive guide provides essential information for a safe and enjoyable trip to Kenya. Digital nomads and travelers can use this as a valuable reference when planning their stay in the country.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is a person who uses technology to work remotely and is not tied to a specific location. They often travel while working, relying on the internet to maintain their job or business.
How do I become a digital nomad?
To become a digital nomad, you'll need skills or a job that can be done remotely, a reliable internet connection, and the desire to travel. Start by finding remote job opportunities or freelancing gigs and plan your travels accordingly.
What are some popular destinations for digital nomads?
Popular destinations for digital nomads include Bali (Indonesia), Chiang Mai (Thailand), Lisbon (Portugal), Medellín (Colombia), and Tbilisi (Georgia). These places offer affordability, a good quality of life, and a strong community of remote workers.
How do I manage my finances as a digital nomad?
Managing finances as a digital nomad involves using online banking, travel-friendly debit or credit cards, budgeting apps, and keeping track of expenses. It's also wise to have travel insurance and an emergency fund.
What is coworking, and why do digital nomads use coworking spaces?
Coworking spaces are shared work environments where individuals can work alongside others. Digital nomads use these spaces for several reasons, including access to a productive work environment, networking opportunities, and a break from the isolation of working alone.
How do I find accommodation as a digital nomad?
Digital nomads often use accommodation booking platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, or Nomad List to find places to stay. Some also opt for long-term rentals or coliving spaces, depending on their preferences and budget.
What skills are in demand for remote work?
In-demand skills for remote work include programming, digital marketing, graphic design, content writing, customer support, and project management. Technical and digital skills are highly sought after in the remote job market.
How do I stay productive while traveling as a digital nomad?
Staying productive as a digital nomad involves creating a routine, setting clear work hours, minimizing distractions, and using productivity tools like task managers or project management software.
What are some challenges of the digital nomad lifestyle?
Challenges include loneliness and isolation, time zone differences, visa and legal issues, inconsistent income, and the need for self-discipline. Adaptability and problem-solving skills are essential for overcoming these challenges.
Is the digital nomad lifestyle sustainable in the long term?
The sustainability of the digital nomad lifestyle depends on various factors, including your income stability, ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and personal preferences. Some digital nomads continue this lifestyle for years, while others may choose to settle in one location eventually.