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Cost of living in Kenya

To pay for your children’s education, family treats and accommodation you’ll want to know if it’s worthwhile making the move from your home country to live as an expat in Kenya. That’s what this article will explore.

According to a 2017 Business Insider article, Kenya comes 25th from a total of 30, as the best countries for expats to relocate to. Prices are 47% lower than in the USA. Average rent for a 900 square foot apartment in a sought-after area of Nairobi is Ksh150,489, and monthly utilities are Ksh6,383 (prices correct May 2018.) Prices analysed in March 2018 by Expatistan show that Nairobi is 56% cheaper than London. With housing, entertainment and transportation all coming in at around 50% lower than London prices. In terms of the cost of living, Nairobi ranks 422nd from a list of 551 cities surveyed across the world.

The prices all depend on the quality of life that you demand. 2018 figures from Numbeo show that a four-person family living in Nairobi can expect to spend Ksh193,854.79 a month simply on living costs — this figure doesn’t include rent or mortgage expenses. Kenya’s fast broadband service costs Khs5,507.69 a month.

Should you wish to invest in a car during your stay in the country, a Volkswagen Golf will set you back about Ksh 1,100,000 and filling the car with petrol will come to Ksh99.80 per litre. Petrol prices vary across the country, and they’re more expensive in remote areas.

What will I earn?

If you’re based in Nairobi, and you’re working for a large multinational, you can expect to receive lucrative remuneration. Quoted salaries for British American Tobacco are Kenyan Shillings (Ksh) 120,000 per year and can climb up to Ksh300,000, US$1 = Ksh101.11. An Accounts Assistant at Unilever can expect to earn Ksh218,000 and a Customer Service Executive at Safaricom, one of Africa’s largest telecommunications companies, can command Ksh450,000. These figures were all correct in 2017.

If you’re thinking of applying to a non-governmental organisation NGO based in Kenya, a senior role at Amnesty International perhaps, you’ll be looking at a salary of Ksh350,000 to Ksh500,000. Many NGOs pay a lot less and you can expect to earn only Ksh 100,000 as a starting salary.

An article in the May 2016 edition of The Business Daily suggested that those working for NGOs and expats working in Kenya commanded far higher salaries than the local population working in strictly Kenyan concerns. In Kenya, 3,000 people are employed by the United Nations (UN), and 2,000 of these are based in Nairobi.

Expats from South Asian communities can benefit from the contacts with Nairobi’s extensive Indian community, and its successful IT and telecommunications companies. China is also a major investor in Kenya.

Many expats will be offered a full range of perks as well as a good salary when relocating to Kenya. These can include schooling costs, accommodation and health care insurance.

Where can I bank?

Most of the large international banks have branches in Nairobi. If you want to open an account with a Kenyan bank, you’ll have to take along your passport and proof of residency; your work permit will suffice. You’ll also have to bring a passport size photograph with you and proof of your Kenyan address. Cheques, rather than debit cards are more popular in Kenya. You can get a credit card from your Kenyan bank, but most tend to use these for business purposes. Some Kenyan banks do have online banking, but not all, so you should check.

Many expats keep their home bank account, and Barclays, among others, have branches in Nairobi. Some Kenyan banks have reciprocal arrangements with overseas banks.

Going out

Life/work balance is always important and when living in Kenya it’s easy to take advantage of the low prices for eating out or leisure activities. A three course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant will cost around Ksh2,550.00, and half a litre of local beer is a mere Ksh200.00. If you want to go to the cinema then Ksh675 is all that you’ll need. An hour on a tennis court is Ksh642.86, should you need to work up an additional sweat. Anyone taking a taxi to get to their destination, and this is recommended as Nairobi at night can be a little hectic, the cost will be Ksh150 per kilometre. Despite the availability of ATMs and frequent use of debit and credit cards in the big cities, it’s always advisable to carry some cash with you. You’ll find that not all businesses will accept debit cards, so it’s a good idea to carry both cards and cash if you’re planning a night out, for example.

Nairobi has many clubs, the SkyLux lounge in suburban Westlands serves cocktails and you can dance the night away. Nairobi is also home to the Kenya National Theatre, and the Alliance Francais theatre is well worth a visit. Ticket prices are moderate starting at Ksh1500.

If you’re relocating with your children, you probably won’t have the chance to dine out or party every night. In this case, our stress-free family meals should come in handy. Read them here.

Costs correct at March 2018.

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