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Non Tourist Things To Do in Kenya

Kenya is known as one of the best tourist destinations in Africa. Tourists are mostly attracted to Kenya by the great national parks and game reserves that are rich in wildlife. The good sandy beaches and warm weather also attract many.

However, for recurring visitors, it may seem monotonous coming to the country to do the same thing. At times one may want to visit the country to do non-touristic things that are not expensive but adventurous and offer great experiences of Kenya. Everyone who travels to a destination like Kenya would want to capitalize on learning new things, gaining new experiences and going back to their country with great memories.

Below are some non-touristic things one can do while in Kenya within a budget.

Learn at least one local language.

Kenyans speak English as their main language of communication especially when connecting with the rest of the world. Swahili is the national language spoken here and with it comes the slang version used by the youth known as Sheng. Learning Swahili is not difficult or have to be expensive, all you need is to find someone who is willing to teach you.

Apart from Swahili, Kenya has 44 tribes within its boundaries each having its own local dialect. You can take up the challenge of learning at least some useful words from the different tribes you will interact with while here, words like greetings, making requests etc.

Tribes of Kenya

Ride in the common public transport ‘Matatu’

Matatu is the main form of public transport around Kenya with the capital city, Nairobi having the highest number of these vehicles serving different routes. There are routes that invest so much on the actual appearance of their vehicles providing great comfort and entertainment. They are a favourite to the youth though they are known to flaunt most traffic rules and are driven recklessly.

Some of these matatus invest in great music systems, big screens for video content, comfortable seats and great DJ music mixes. This makes your journey no matter how short exciting and fun. Though there may be a big contrast between the city and rural matatus, each provides a unique experience.

Learn more: Matatu industry in Kenya

Matatu industry in Kenya

Learn how to make some local dishes

It is not enough to try out some local dishes in different restaurants, you can take the next step and learn how to make some of these dishes. Some dishes that don’t miss in a Kenyan home include Ugali, Chapati, Mandazi.

Ugali is a starch served in almost every home, it is a simple dish made of maize meal and cooked to a solid pulp in boiling water. Chapati, on the other hand, is a flatbread made from wheat flour also a starch either served as part of a meal or as a snack. Mandazi is the ultimate Kenyan version of doughnuts.

Learn more: Kenyan Main Dishes

Be hosted by a family upcountry

Life in the city is quite different from life upcountry in Kenya. It could be a great experience to be hosted by a family upcountry and learn about their everyday life which involves farming and livestock keeping.

Depending on which part of Kenya you choose, different areas have different activities e.g along the lake region their main activity is fishing, along the highlands they do a lot of farming while in the northern area they are pastoralist practising livestock keeping and herding.

Rather than visiting Wildlife sanctuaries while staying in hotels, why not request to be hosted by a family and join in their everyday household activities.

kenyan homestead

 

Volunteer in a local school.

The people of Kenya are a friendly lot and always eager to learn from foreigners, so are the children of Kenya. If you love teaching and children, you can always take up the challenge of volunteering in a local school. It could be a simple thing as teaching them new songs, some art or just sharing some stories of your place of origin.

This is not a difficult task, all it takes is to identify a school, talk to the local administration about what you would like to share, your target age and they can arrange a session for you.

Other than schools, there are various homes for the orphaned and abandoned children where one can volunteer, just make sure you follow the right channels and the authority or administration is aware of your activities.

African local school

 

Visit the market and learn how the local’s trade

When it comes to trade, Kenyans are known to be great bargainers. It is interesting to note that in a Kenyan market, the price that is quoted for a particular item is not always a fixed price and a trader always allows one to bargain and quote their own prices. This is mostly dependent on the number of items one is willing to buy, the more you are willing to purchase, the bigger your chance to bargain.

The traders can be tough at times but if you are good at negotiating, chances of making worthwhile purchases and building good trading grounds are high. Sometimes just engaging with the traders and seeing their passion is worth the experience.

Learn more: Maasai Market in Nairobi

Kenyan Market

Braid your hair

The African hair is better maintained when braided due to its texture. This has made braiding in Kenya an art that turns out to be a way of earning a living. There are a variety of places where you can have your hair braided as a form of fitting in with the Kenyan community.

The most popular place in Nairobi where people have their hair braided is Kenyatta Market, there are even tour companies that arrange for the tourist to go have their hair braided here. However, other salons have picked up on this and offer the services to different and new clients.

There is also the option of having temporal dreadlocks on your hair, beautiful cornrows or just flowing braids for your duration of stay.

African Braids

Well try some of these non-tourist activities in your next visit to Kenya and share your experience with the world. If you have any questions or comment on the highlighted activities above, you can add on the comment section below.

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Anita

27 Comments

  1. Hello Anita, Kenya must be a very beautiful place. To be honest, It is not on my list of places to visit before. Well, not up till I just read this post. There are a lot of fun activities that one can indulge in. These activities look like one that will make me become very mixed with the people and this is the beauty of travelling.

    • Am glad I added a new destination to your list Henderson, hope you will one day visit Kenya and experience all it has to offer.

  2. I love Kenya they have a nice area including  alot of agricultural factors,also one thing I love about then is that they very accommodating they dont just take a traveller as a stranger but as one of them they are just so natural  with there local dishes also,there ladies do a natural hairs more so there languages  are very easy to learn I would like to be in Kenya thanks for the post

  3. Wow, this is very cool. I didn’t know so much about the country before or the fact that there is so much to do. I only knew that there was a large expanse of wildlife and it was the inspiration that made them do the awesome movie Lion King. 

    I would love to get on that colourful bus and feel the entertainment that is thereof. Do you have a post on the tourist attractions in Kenya?

    • Hey, yes Kenya best attraction is the wildlife. You can read more of safari destinations in Kenya but if this is not your main attraction, then you can opt for doing other non-touristic things that are cheaper. The matatu ride can be fun but at the same time nerve recking as some do not follow all the traffic rules endangering the passengers.

  4. Kenya sounds so fun to visit, hope I get the chance some day. I really love the matutu buses, that’s just too cool! Is it just me or does the Chapati bread look like a flour tortilla? Makes me wonder if there is a recipe for Kenyan burrito floating around out there somewhere 😉 Thanks for taking the time to do this write up on the non tourist things to do in Kenya, it’s pretty interesting and sounds fun for sure. Thx

    • I hope you get to visit someday. Chapati and tortilla might have similar ingredients just the method of making them and maybe the taste may be different.

  5. Hello Anita! What a wonderful article. I just came back from a safari in South Africa, which was wonderful. Your article makes me want to discover Kenya. I have always been drowned to Nairobi, as I watched, a long time ago, a movie with Greta Scacchi and Charles Dance called ‘White Mischief’. 

    I love the pictures you have chosen to illustrate your article and I will definitely find a seat in a Matatu.  

    • Hey Purdey,

      Please visit Kenya, Nairobi is a great city. A matatu ride is waiting for you, it is an experience you will write home about.

  6. Absolutely love your article, it is incredibly interesting and certainly gives another perspective on visiting Kenya.  Other than going on Safari, you have certainly made me want to extend my holiday and experience the true Kenyan lifestyle. 

    I could think of nothing better than wandering around those wonderful markets, picking fresh fruits and vegetables and then eating one of your delicious looking Mandazi.

    What a great idea to live with a hosting family to feel truly submerged in the Kenyan way of life and to experience the unbelievable hospitality.

    I am sold!

    Thank you so much

    Renée

    • I am happy that you can relate to some of these ideas, I hope you get to fulfil them when you visit Kenya.

  7. Hello Anita, I have read a lot about sub-Sahara Africa and so far I am really impressed with what I have read about Kenya, Ethiopia and Guinea. They wild life is one thing I can’t forget at all in these countries and i hope ot visit some day. I am pleased to see some of the thing i can do when i eventually visit Kenya. You have given some really nice activities to do, and volunteering to teach in a school is just what i want to do.

  8. Thank You for the Great List of this beautiful Country. I was in Kenya 5 years ago. I have been to maybe 50%of the tourist destinations, but it never come across and I’ve only done few of this things you mentioned. Me and a friend will be going for a visit next year, I think i now know how I’m going to spend my one month there.

    Thanks again.

    • Yes Jordan, if you have been to most tourist destinations in your next visit you can try out some of my ideas. Most of them do not require a lot of money and planning just an adventurous heart.

  9. Hello Anita. Thanks for sharing these Non tourist things to do in Kenya.

    African countries are always fun and interesting to visit and that’s how it is in Kenya. Although, I haven’t been there before, I have watched some videos that displays their culture. These suggested non tourist things to do in Kenya are really fun and interesting. Especially learning a local language and cooking 😋😄

    • I hope you will one day get to visit Kenya and experience some of these things highlighted.

  10. This is exactly what I would’ve been doing if come to Kenya 🙂 Like to travel, visit new countries, meet new people and their culture and way of living. Where ever I go, I usually pick up some new languages phrases, people like when some foreigner is interested in their language and culture, they act with more hospitality and kindness. Especially, liked your suggestion about school volunteering (didn’t realize that is possible for ordinary people) and would certainly do that! Thank you for your insightful post!

    • Yes, learning a new language and culture is always exciting. Everyone has something to offer and young children are always eager to learn something new even if it is just a song.

  11. Hey Anita, Great article on Non-Tourist Things to do in Kenya. I’m from South Africa and live in Australia, my wife has been bugging me to head back to Africa and do some nontouristy stuff, Kenya is on the top of our list. I think some of the best things you can do in another country is to immerse yourself in the country’s culture.

    • Hey Marvin, you better listen to your wife and take that trip. It would be wonderful to exchange cultural ideas from South African with East Africa.

  12. I have been to Africa on a medical expenditure sometime in 2014 and I really enjoyed my stay helping the people there and the love shown to me was massive. I love the cultural heritage there but I still haven’t been to Kenya in particular. I would love to pass down knowledge to those kids out there, and that would make me really happy. Thank you for this opportunity Anita

    • Hi Bella,

      Glad to know you have shared some knowledge and experience in Africa before, I welcome you to Kenya, you surely have something to add to the children here.

  13. Kenya is a great place for tourism; nice seeing this non – tourist things I can do in Kenya. I love teaching, especially Mathematics; this non tourist thing is one on my list. Also, I know that there are some wonderful and interesting dance steps the Kenyans dance. So I am thinking, how about learning some of those dance steps? 🙂 Please, tell me what you think about this.

    • Yes, Harrison, Kenya is a great place. Dance moves can also be experienced with different tribes having their own unique dancing styles for different occasions. You will definitely learn some new moves.

  14. This is exactly what I would’ve been doing if come to Kenya 🙂 Like to travel, visit new countries, meet new people and their culture and way of living. Where ever I go, I usually pick up some new languages phrases, people like when some foreigner is interested in their language and culture, they act with more hospitality and kindness. Especially, liked your suggestion about school volunteering (didn’t realize that is possible for ordinary people) and would certainly do that! Thank you for your insightful post!

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