Home to approximately 54 million people, Kenya offers 50 national parks and nature reserves, all protected by the Kenya Wildlife Service. Kenya is also the world’s leading Safari destination, as recognised by the World Travel Awards for the last eight years in a row, making it a dream destination for British expats. From the urban capital of Nairobi, to the coastal city of Mombasa, and the rural heartlands between, Kenya offers expats the chance to experience some of the world’s most diverse and beautiful natural landscapes, along with a glorious climate and low cost of living.
Better yet, Kenya is rapidly emerging as a hub of international industry. Coming 56th in the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business report, Kenya is noted for its strong infrastructure and stable political economy, which is helping to make the country a magnet for start-ups. In 2018, half of all start-up investment in Africa went into Kenyan companies. Here, we’ll take you through the cost of living in Kenya and how to make the most of your new life in one of Africa’s best up-and-coming regions.
The cost of living in Kenya
According to 2022 data, the cost of living in Kenya is around 46.6% lower than in the United Kingdom and 54.4% lower than in the United States. This takes into account everything from the average cost of rent in Kenya, to food bills and travel expenses, making the move to Kenya an enviable option for expats in the Western world.
Though still considered a ‘developing’ country, Kenya has enjoyed significant political and economic growth over the last decade, aided by the introduction of a presidential representative democratic republic and multi-party legislative system. The first vote under this new system was held in 2013, with the most recent in August 2022.
Under its new constitution, Kenya’s economy achieved broad-based growth averaging 4.8% per year between 2015 and 2019, significantly reducing poverty across the country. After a downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenya’s GDP grew at 5.5% in 2022.
The Kenyan capital Nairobi is the country’s political centre and one of Africa’s top destinations for business opportunities related to technology and innovation. Along with a promising job market, the cost of living in Nairobi is low. This year, the capital ranked 160th out of 227 in Mercer’s Cost of Living City Rankings, meaning living costs in Nairobi are far cheaper than other major cities on the continent, including Cairo, Egypt, (154), Yaoundé, Cameroon (100), and Lagos, Nigeria (55).
For comparison, here are the average costs of some common household amenities in Kenya:
Average cost in Nairobi, Kenya (US$)*
The cost of eating out is also very inexpensive in Kenya, making it easy for expats to enjoy a high quality of life.
Average cost in Nairobi, Kenya (US$)*
Effects of the cost of living crisis in Kenya
The cost of living in Kenya has been directly impacted by the war in Ukraine, as the trade of Kenya’s primary commodities has been disrupted. As a commodity-based market, Kenya’s major exports include tea, coffee, flowers and vegetables. Kenyan flower and tea farms have been forced to reduce production as demand from Russian markets has decreased.
Meanwhile, imports to Kenya have also been affected. Kenya imports wheat, oil, iron, steel, and fertilisers from Russia and Ukraine. Wheat imports have been particularly impacted, with Russia and Ukraine the dominant suppliers of wheat to the East African region. Indeed, 67% of wheat in Kenya originated from Russia, while 22% is imported from Ukraine and 11% from other countries around the world.
The procurement of fertiliser, which is critical for Kenya’s agricultural sector, has also seen huge disruptions, resulting in price increases.
When it comes to the rising price of fuel and energy, Kenya established a fuel stabilisation fund in April 2021, designed to help subsidise costs and protect everyday consumers. This policy has been widely criticised however, in light of Kenya’s high public debt – 68% of GDP as of June 2022.
Government plans to stabilise the economy are ongoing, and will likely include strategies to increase diversification when it comes to international trade. Diversification should be a good strategy for the cost of living in Kenya. This is because despite the upheaval, Kenya-Ukraine and Kenya-Russia trade is modest compared to trade with other countries.
In 2020, Kenya’s exports to Ukraine totalled only USD$9 million, representing just 0.15% of total Kenyan exports. Exports to Russia were inevitably higher at USD$75 million, though still only amounting to 0.46% of Kenya’s total exports. Total imports from both countries came to a combined USD$420 million, representing 2.78% of imports to Kenya.
Cost of accommodation in Kenya
Like anywhere, the cost of accommodation in Kenya varies greatly depending on your location and desired lifestyle. However, the costs are likely to be well below what you’re used to paying at home.
What is the cost of renting in Kenya?
If renting, you can expect the cost of accommodation in Kenya to make up around a fifth (18.3%) of your monthly outgoings. In Nairobi, this sits at around 23%. The average rent in Kenya is 74.07% lower than in the United Kingdom.
Rent in Nairobi has been steadily increasing in recent years, resulting in Nairobi having the highest rental charges in Africa. A big part of the reason for this is that due to huge wealth inequality, many residents should consider personal security when choosing accommodation in the capital.
Rates of burglary, muggings and theft are extremely high in Nairobi, affecting more than 50% of the population in any given year.
This means apartment complexes and housing communities typically require 24/7 security. Many expatriates live in gated communities with private security patrols, sharing the cost of this expense between them.
Expats in high-profile roles such as C-suite positions often hire private armed bodyguards to protect themselves and their families. This can add a significant expense to your ordinary living costs in Kenya.
However, if you choose to look at the overall picture of renting in Nairobi, the outlook is much more optimistic, and shows that renting in Kenya is much cheaper than in most other parts of the world. The rent for a one bedroom city centre apartment costs just USD$248 per month. A flat outside the city centre will come in at around USD$139 per month.
If you’re planning to live in the capital, the price of rent comes in a little higher, with a one bedroom apartment costing around USD$414 per month in Nairobi City Centre. However, if you don’t mind a small commute, you can find apartments outside the centre for around USD$182 per month.
What is the cost of buying property in Kenya?
Buying property in Kenya is possible for expats, but it comes with limitations. As per Article 65 of the Kenyan Land Control Act, any person who is not a citizen can only buy land on the basis of leasehold tenure up to 99 years. That said, if your leasehold expires, you can always pay to renew.
There are also rules restricting foreigners from buying property for business purposes, and from buying agricultural land.
There are a few additional costs to think about when buying property in Kenya, including:
- Stamp duty in Kenya is around 4% for properties within municipalities, and 2% for property outside municipalities
- Legal fees usually come to around 1-2% of the price of the property. However, expats should note that if buying an apartment, you may have to pay legal fees for both yourself and the seller
- Agent fees are capped at a maximum of 3% of the property value
- Registration and disbursement fees refer to the cost of registering property in your name
What are the cost of household bills in Kenya?
The cost of living in Nairobi is 53.41% less expensive than London, without rent. This includes household bills and utilities, which average only 4.3% of monthly outgoings living in the Kenyan capital.
See below for the average cost of bills in Nairobi (not including rent). The cost of living in Kenya’s rural areas will likely fall well below average.
Average cost in Nairobi, Kenya (US$)*
Cost of education in Kenya
Education in Kenya is split into four levels: kindergarten (ages 4 to 5), primary school (taking children from ages 6 to 14), secondary school, either academic or technical and trade (ages 14 to 18), and university education (ages 18 upwards).
The quality and cost of primary and secondary education in Kenya varies greatly depending on your area and the type of school.
What are the costs of primary and secondary education in Kenya?
Public primary and secondary schools in Kenya are government funded and free to attend. However, they are often set back by limited resources and a lack of qualified teachers, especially in rural areas.
While public schools in the cities, particularly in the capital Nairobi, offer a good quality education, the majority of expats choose to send their children to private or international schools where the quality of education is consistently high.
Private and international schools in Kenya offer a good alternative to public schooling for expats. Many of them use a British-style school system with GCSEs and A Levels. The cost of private education in Kenya comes to around US$32,360 for a 12-year-old to enrol for one year. Be aware that the first year of school can cost an additional US$10,000 per child, due to an additional one-time enrolment fee.
What is the cost of higher education in Kenya?
The cost of education at a Kenyan university is between US$1,380 and US$5,000 per year, depending on your university and subject of study. Meanwhile, the average cost of living in Kenya for a student ranges between US$400 and US$600 per month.
Kenya attracts a high number of international students from all over the world, with notable universities in Kenya including the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Strathmore University, Egerton University and Moi University. Kenyan universities run many of their courses in English.
Cost of transport in Kenya
The availability and cost of public transport in Kenya will vary greatly depending on where you choose to settle. However, expats can expect the cost of transport in Kenya to be very affordable compared to other countries – even in the capital.
Here are the average costs of transport in Nairobi, including the cost of buying and running a car:
Average cost in Nairobi, Kenya (US$)*
Cost of healthcare in Kenya
The cost of healthcare in Kenya will depend on whether you choose to rely on public healthcare or go private.
While Kenya does have a publicly-funded healthcare system, equipped to manage simple illness and procedures including uncomplicated malaria, most expats choose to use private clinics and hospitals. The cost of private healthcare in Kenya is well worth the money, providing higher standards of hygiene, better facilities and easier access to progressive treatments and medicines.
Government healthcare spending in Kenya was reported at US$83 per capita in 2019, representing 4.59% of the country’s GDP. This was an increase of 13.42% on the previous year.
Expats moving to Kenya are advised to take out comprehensive private international health insurance, to ensure they get the best possible medical care while living in the country.
How to budget as an expat in Kenya
The true cost of living in Kenya comes with many personal factors, including your income, where you live and your day-to-day lifestyle.
Here’s how to estimate your cost of living in Kenya, and budget for your daily expenses and savings in four simple steps:
1/ Estimate your take-home pay
Whether you’re working remotely for a company overseas, or plan on finding work in Kenya, the first step to setting your monthly budget is to figure out how much money you have coming in.
If you’re working freelance or remotely for an overseas company, and receiving payments into an overseas bank, your income tax will be based on that country’s rate. However, if you’re receiving money into Kenyan bank account, you’ll need to take into account local tax rates.
As of 2022, the Personal Income Tax Rate in Kenya is 30%. The Corporate Tax Rate is also 30%, while the Sales Tax Rate sits at 16%.
2/ Work out the cost of rent/mortgage payments
Your rent or mortgage payments are likely to be your biggest monthly outgoings. If you’re not sure what your accommodation costs in Kenya are likely to be, work out an estimate by searching online through a Kenyan property search engine or estate agency for properties of a similar size and in a similar area to where you want to be.
Remember, if you’ve yet to relocate, you’ll also need to budget for one-off moving costs in your first month, such as moving costs and visa fees.
3/ Calculate your monthly bills
The cost of basic utility bills in Kenya come to around US$28 per month for electricity, heating, cooling, water and garbage. If you want internet, this could cost an additional US$52 per month, based on average costs in Kenya.
This is also the place to consider the costs of travel, mobile bills and insurance – including health insurance, which is highly recommended for anyone moving to Kenya.
4/ Set your monthly budget
Once you’ve worked through steps 1 to 3, you’ll be ready to subtract your monthly cost of living in Kenya (rent and bills) from your salary, giving you a rough estimate of how much you’ll have left for everyday expenses like food, and for saving.
Before you go…
Moving to another country can be challenging, but you can ensure peace of mind by making sure you have the right international health insurance.
For 30 years, we have helped expats like you move and settle into their new lives overseas, with the peace of mind of knowing their families are covered by a comprehensive and flexible health insurance policy.
Speak to us today to find out more about how international health insurance could keep you and your family safe on your new Kenyan adventure.