Living in Nairobi is hard. Not only is the cost of living so high but there are also so many cons on the street. More and more people who feel like they can get away with it are opting to live in other towns. The towns surrounding Nairobi have experienced tremendous growth over the past several years making it easier for businesses to thrive there. An example is Machakos. The town has come quite a long way from its former days of existing on the lower end of the economic and social spectrum. Due to the infrastructure, it is also close enough to Nairobi that one can commute everyday. This comparison is however a general one. The point is to compare life as a renting tenant in Nairobi versus other counties.
The median rent in Nairobi seems to be higher than most counties. A bedsitter in Nairobi goes for at least 5,000 shillings a month. In Machakos it goes for at least 3,000. The same is true or Mombasa and Nakuru. This means that you should expect to pay more for any house you live in than you would anywhere else. In Nairobi it seems that any low rent is complimented by high cost of commuting thus making the low rent moot. This is not true of most of the other counties like the aforementioned Machakos and Nakuru where transport to the CBD would be nothing more than 50 shillings.
Nairobi has a vast pool of choices for renting. There is a lot to choose from for different tastes and budgets. It is quite possible that there are more options to choose from in Nairobi than any other county. In Nairobi, you can choose between a studio apartment, bedsitter, one bedroom apartment or house, DSQ among others. Other counties seem to have stuck to the traditional options which compared to those in Nairobi are very few. The vast pool of options means that residents get to vary their rental experiences. It also eases the housing burden a tad while also offering creative ways for people to gain roofs over their heads. The DSQ and studio apartments allow people to live in relatively high end neighborhoods on a low budget.
3. Cost of living
There is a metric for the level of cost of living in different counties. Mombasa and Nairobi were at the top of that list. Cost of living is determined by how much residents in a particular county spend daily or monthly on average. This includes expenditure on food, utilities among others. The cost of commuting mentioned in point 1 above also features into this. This is a big factor to consider when one wants to move to a particular county. It determines the budget you draft as well as several other choices you will make.
Nairobi seems to be quite ahead of most counties in terms of how much will be required to spend to simply exist. Food in particular can be more expensive in some parts of Nairobi than others. Food in most counties may be cheaper because each one has its own signature crop that the topography supports. Generally it just seems like you need to pay for many things when you live in Nairobi. However, this may be balanced by the fact that most jobs in Nairobi pay more than other counties. For example, a shop attendant in Nakuru will be aid about 8,000 shillings a month. The same position could attract 20,000 shillings or more in Nairobi depending on the shop.
There are definitely better amenities in Nairobi than other counties or at least most of them. Other counties seem to be catching up with any investors looking into opportunities outside of Nairobi. A good example is the case of schools. You could find a good kindergarten for 6,500 per term with very well trained teachers among other offerings. The same level of teacher training and offerings could attract at least 15,000 per term in a town outside of Nairobi like Machakos for example. There are also more affordable private hospitals and clinics in Nairobi. Other counties are making up for this but are still quite far off.
You are more likely to have closer proximity to things in Nairobi than you would in the other towns. Nairobi also gets first dibs on most innovations. For example, Uber and other taxi services have taken root in Nairobi while they are barely visible in the other counties.
The square footage of houses in Nairobi varies greatly from other counties. You can fit a one bedroom house into a bedsitter in Mombasa quite comfortably. Other counties have the benefit of land. The economy of space is not quite as rampant in those other places as it is in Nairobi. For a better chance at a larger space in Nairobi, you would have to move further from the CBD. This may also apply in other counties but it is definitely not on the same scale.
Nairobi is a metropolitan city. Sadly, most people take this to mean that it should be an individualist society. No one has your back in this city but your own self. People live next door to each other for months and even years without ever exchanging more than a simple greeting. Even that is a stretch in some cases. Take a county like Kiambu, for example. As soon as you move in especially if you seem new to the county, someone will always try to welcome you. This does not replicate in Nairobi. There are very few cases of more than cordial neighborly relations.
This is not a pros and cons list of living in Nairobi. Every county has its own merits and demerits. It is simply a means of knowing what to expect when moving form one county to another. It is a means of helping you manage the culture shock.