Nairobi's accommodation scene is diverse, and there is no shortage of places to stay; what the city does lack, though, is truly good-value digs for the budget traveler. In its favor, the city has some very charming smaller guesthouses, cushioned away in the leafy suburbs to the south of the city. Many people choose to stay in the suburbs in order to avoid the congestion of the city center while being close to some of Nairobi's loveliest attractions and great restaurants and within an easy commute to either airport (Langata is about 20 min. from Wilson and 30 min. from Jomo Kenyatta International). The city center can be reached in 30 minutes, traffic dependent. All the options in the city center are larger hotels -- a few come with real character (and hefty price tags), but most cater to an indistinguishable business clientele, and many of the cheapies are downright rotten.
In & Around the City Center
Moderate -- Although to my mind it's overpriced, the Hotel Boulevard, Harry Thuku Road (tel. 020/222-7567 through -7569, or 020/224-7536; www.hotelboulevardkenya.com), is widely considered the best "budget" hotel in central Nairobi. When I was last there, they were advertising $165 double, including breakfast and all taxes, and staff intimated that a discount was not out of the question. Day rooms are available at 50% the overnight rate, so this may be a reasonable choice if you want to catch a nap, shower, and stow your luggage while you wait for a flight. Still, you'll be infinitely more comfortable at the bland but thoroughly contemporary Upperhill Country Lodge, 2nd Ngong Ave., Upperhill (tel. 020/288-1600; www.countrylodge.co.ke), situated next door to the Fairview. With lovely gardens, the hotel offers straightforward, clean, severely minimalist accommodations aimed at business travelers on a budget. Expect few frills -- good, clean linens on comfy beds; spotless small washrooms; and little else besides a phone, tiny TV, desk, and soundproof window. Doubles cost Ksh11,000, including breakfast, tax, and free Wi-Fi; family rooms are just Ksh13,500.
Inexpensive -- From the brilliant value offered by the Fairview, it's a tremendous leap down the quality scale to find a cheap-but-clean place to stay. If you can see your way past the ghastly '80s decor and put your faith firmly in the low room price, then there are two money-saving options under the same banner that you might want to consider. In the city center, opposite the Jevanjee Gardens, is the 91-room Kenya Comfort Hotel, corner of Muindi Mbingu and Monrovia streets (tel. 020/31-7606 through -7609; www.kenyacomfort.com), with cheap but livable rooms from as little as $60 double, although you may want to cough up an extra $10 for an executive room with a TV, a wardrobe, and a touch more comfort. Breakfast pushes up the price a bit, but I'd definitely skip it in favor of one of the city's more salubrious coffee shops. A slightly more expensive sister venture, Kenya Comfort Hotel Suites (tel. 020/271-9060 or -9061, or 022/272-3414; same website; from $70 studio double), is situated just beyond the center, in Milimani; it has the added benefit of a solar-heated pool, and despite the hideous exterior, rooms aren't quite so awful.
In the Suburbs
Golfers interested in sinking a few holes rather than exploring the city might want to consider staying at the Windsor Golf and Country Club (www.windsorgolfresort.com), where all rooms look directly over the 18-hole golf course, so you won't even suspect that you're in Nairobi in the first place. It's a moderately sized property with 130 pastel-colored rooms, all with the standard amenities, and there are several restaurants (including one that's open 'round-the-clock), multiple bars, and a pool set amid the well-tended gardens; there's even a dinner dance-style "disco" with music from several decades ago. A double room will set you back $334, including breakfast and taxes, while a family-size cottage is $642. For Nairobi, that's pretty decent value but doesn't include the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to smooch an endangered giraffe -- that privilege is reserved for guests at Giraffe Manor (reviewed below), is one of my favorite guesthouses in any city. It's situated in the upmarket, countrified suburb of Langata, an extension of Karen, which is where Danish author Karen Blixen started her affair with Denys Finch-Hatton and tried unsuccessfully to run a coffee plantation. Just about every house -- or mansion, rather -- in Karen is surrounded by vast manicured gardens, green lawns with electric fencing, and 24-hour guards. Hotels here are usually converted country manors providing an intimate experience of life among Kenya's upper class. With the notable exception of great-value Macushla House, they tend to be pricey but often include all meals, as well as drinks and sightseeing -- they all feel like places you'd like to visit for more than just a brief stopover between flights.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.