Nairobi Downtown Tour with Nai Nami Street Kids
Are you one of those travelers who seek authentic local experiences that make for unforgettable stories to tell people back home? No one else has better street skills, insights, and personal stories to tell than former street kids.
NAI NAMI, which means “Nai (slang word for Nairobi) With Me” is a one-on-one, 3-hour walking tour in downtown Nairobi, founded in 2016 by Gianmarco Marinello and Sriram Damodaran who both gave up their careers and dedicated their lives to creating social change in Nairobi.
They trained youths from slums to become tour guides, thus allowing them to have a job, a stable income, and the opportunity to connect with people from all around the world. Since January 2019, Nai Nami Walking Tour is run and owned by the youths themselves.
Booking can be made on Airbnb app/website. It is necessary to book the tour at least 24 hours in advance. During the peak season (June – September), you should try to book 4 weeks in advance.
If you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, you can register through this link here to get a special discount on your first booking. Booking can also be made on their official website and a few other booking platforms.
What to Expect on the Nairobi City Tour
The Meeting Point
The tour starts and ends in front of Bata Shop at Hilton Hotel, which is in the City Hall-Way, just opposite Kencom Bus Stage.
Do note that there is another Bata Shop in a nearby building, so make sure you go to the correct one. If you would like to go somewhere specific after the tour, your guides can help you get there.
On the day that I joined the tour, the team consisted of 6 guides. Besides me, there were only two other guests — an elderly American couple.
Each of us was assigned our own guide to allow us to have a personal interaction and an opportunity to ask all our questions. The other three guides walked along, sometimes separating from the group and later joining us again.
The guides all went by nicknames. Mine was called Typhoon.
It was Nai Nami that turned their lives around — granting them a full-time job and a stable income by building on their street skills and life stories.
The tour is not designed to be a sightseeing tour, therefore it doesn’t have a specific route.
Instead, it is more of a storytelling experience, where the guides will show you their former home — the bustling streets of Downtown Nairobi, the railway station, the Kariakor market, the river side, and other places that you are unlikely to venture on your own.
Additional Info about NAI NAMI Walking Tour
- Please bring your original passport or a copy of it (main page and the page showing the visa stamp). Everywhere in Kenya, you have to be prepared for random identity checks by the police. Therefore, you should have your documents with you at all times, not only on this tour.
- Do not bring big cameras or DSLRs. According to Kenyan law, taking pictures in the streets of downtown is a punishable offense. Phones are fine, but please ask your guide first before taking photos. They will tell you when it is okay to take pictures, and when it is not.
- The weather in Nairobi is unpredictable. Bring an umbrella/raincoat, and a light sweater.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes. No sandals or high heels.
- Local lunch is included at the end of the tour.
I was a little apprehensive when booking this tour because I feared that it would be the kind of setting that would drain my social battery very fast. With kids or young people (and sometimes people my age too), I always feel like I have to be ‘cool’ enough lest I bore them with my unfashionable, nerdy ways.
From the descriptions, I assumed that the guides were a very energetic, high-spirited lot, and I was right. I never quite adjusted to their energy level as a group, but fortunately, when we went on the one-on-one tour, it felt more chill. My guide was very accommodating and patient in answering all my questions.
At the end of the tour, we had a typical Kenyan meal at a local restaurant (please bring along some cash, and allocate some extra as you may be expected to pay for the guides as well).
After the meal, they walked me to the bus station, where I was to take an overnight bus to Kampala. And they even humored me when I wanted to try the street food, and khat (an addictive leaf that you chew to get high).
I would highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Nairobi. Not only will you get an invaluable experience touring the city like a local, you will also get the opportunity to become a role model to the disadvantaged youths, and to give them the things they never had before: purpose, employment, and a brighter future free from crime.
What do you think of this tour? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
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i suka this kind of tour, being a local. maybe i can give add kenya in my list now. never think of visiting Kenya. thanks for sharing
You’re welcome, Bae. Tour macam ni rasa lebih authentic sebab diorang local yang memang besar dan tinggal kat situ, bukan tour guide. Menarik cerita2 yang diorang share. Di antara negara2 Afrika Timur yang saya pernah pergi, saya paling suka Kenya.
I baru tahu psl nai nami ni. Menarik juga lokasi ini utk jadikan percutiaan. Esp bila dpt tgk budaya dan Street food mereka
Kalau Ayu ke Nairobi nanti, boleh la join Nai Nami tour ni ya. Sebab kalau nak pergi sendiri ke tempat2 yang dibawa ni mungkin tak berani, terutama yang baru kali pertama di Afrika.
interesting..first time hear about this kind of tour. you are so generous ummi..paying the food bill..may Allah always murahkan rezeki you…
Thanks, Huda. Alah, tak banyak mana pun bilnya tapi nak kena mention juga la kat sini takut orang tak prepare cukup cash, nanti jadi awkward pula.
Ooo tak boleh bergambar yee Ummi..
Khat leaves tu sejenis daun apa yee Ummi?
Ya, sis, tak boleh ambil gambar sesuka hati kat Nairobi ni, takut diorang ingat terrorist. Daun khat tu tak tau la apa namanya dalam bahasa Melayu, tapi dia lebih kurang sirih la, buat kunyah2, dan boleh jadi ketagih.
aa.. suka nya akak tengok expression ummi.. hee~ slumber je dorang jual daun khat macam tu ya.. kalau kat sini, tak cukup tanah nak lari dari polis..
Hehe, terima kasih, Kak Siti. Saya pun tak tau sama ada legal ke tak daun khat tu kat sana, sebab tengok semua orang selamba je kunyah benda tu. Di downtown Nairobi ni macam takde undang-undang sangat. Agaknya polis pun tak berani masuk.
Wow ! Young kids become a tour guides to earn money. Mad respect to em. Exploring Africa continent is in my wish list. I hope i am able to travel there someday.
I wish the same for you, Zharif. Africa is a vast and beautiful continent. And be sure to keep this on your list of things to do when you visit Nairobi. They’re not exactly young kids anymore, but they grew up on the streets.
Thank you for sharing amazing tour! Next time go Norway/Japan/Korea, would love to read more about it!
Thank you, Jen! I personally prefer staying away from the well-trodden paths. Right now, Africa really attracts me. But I do have some articles on Japan and South Korea. Do check them out. 🙂
wow! such detailed tips that are perfect for first timers to the area. thanks for sharing these lovely pointers!
You’re welcome, Grace.