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Are you one of those travelers who seek authentic local experiences that make 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.

How to Book

Booking can be done on Airbnb app/website or by using the form below. 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 done on their official website and a few other booking platforms.

What to Expect

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.

The Guides

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.

Nai Nami Nairobi Walkting Tour with Street Kids
With Typhoon

Because of poverty and a lack of role models, a lot of Nairobi kids (including the guides) have been forced to drop out of school and raise themselves in the slums and on the streets from a very young age. Their lives are characterized by crime, hustle, violence, drugs, and unemployment.

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

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 will never venture alone.

Nai Nami Nairobi Walking Tour with Street Kids

The downtown is a vibrant place where locals do business, shop at hidden markets, and eat at kibandas. Each of the streets has its own stories and secrets, which you will learn during the tour. If you’d like to buy something at the markets, your guide can also help you haggle for a local price.
The approach of the walking tour is not about teaching the slum youths things they don’t know, but about giving them the opportunity to create value from their existing street skills and teach others what they’ve learned while surviving on the streets.
To be honest, learning about the city through their eyes was rather disturbing. I was appalled to learn about their living conditions and the violence they had to go through. But to them, this was their daily life.

Additional Info

  • 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.

The Verdict

Image may contain: 2 people, including Raja Ummi Nadrah, people smiling, people standing and outdoorI 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. The American couple had left early, so it was just me and the 6 guides.

Although it says on the tour description that lunch is included, nobody took out their wallets when the bill came, so I paid for everyone. Not that I minded — it only felt right for me to pay and besides, the bill wasn’t much.

However, I feel the need to mention this here, so that you will come prepared with enough cash to avoid any awkward situation. That almost happened to me because it was my last day in Kenya and I didn’t have much Kenyan shilling left (was keeping some aside to give as a tip).

Apart from that, everything was superb. They even walked me to the bus station, where I was to take an overnight bus to Kampala. And they also humored me when I wanted to try the street food, and khat (an addictive leaf that you chew to get high).

Kenyan street snack in Downtown Nairobi
Kenyan street snacks
Khat in Nairobi Kenya
Khat leafs

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.

Have you joined this tour in Nairobi or are you planning to? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Posted in Kenya

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