Getting about Nairobi can be daunting. To most visitors it seems like complete chaos with no system or method to the madness. The good news is that it all sort of works and you can use the transport network to get around the city really affordably.
It's not for the faint-hearted though, so if you're not up to being packed like a sardine into a hot and uncomfortable Matatu then rather take a few private tours in a lovely air-conditioned vehicle, or travel in a private Nairobi taxi.
It's basically a minibus that holds between fourteen passengers, in the older ones, to twenty-four passengers in the newer type.
They are not supposed to overload and all must be fitted with seat belts. That's not always the case but law enforcement is ensuring that more comply. Some of them are beautifully decorated with elaborate artwork and bright African colours.
Some matatus are really annoying, they play loud music, carry excess passengers and even hike fares at will and you may end up paying double the normal price - which is supposed to be around fifty Kenyan Shillings.
The city has a well distributed public transport system and it is fairly affordable to most Nairobians. You can get a bus ride within the city center at 50 Kenyan shillings (half a dollar). The problem with the buses is that they drive just as badly as the matatu drivers, they are often over-crowded and you are often hassled, more as a tourist but locals get it too, by people trying to sell you things. You also need to keep a close eye on your possessions as pickpockets operate.
Tuk Tuks are little three wheelers that offer short trips around the city centre. They are supposed to carry not more than three passengers but you'll sometimes see more than three crammed in. I wouldn't risk your safety in one of these as the Nairobi traffic is pretty hectic with matatus and buses careening left and right and both matatus and buses are a LOT bigger than Tuk Tuks.
The other option is taxis if you’re not willing to go through all this “matatu madness” as the locals call it.
There are company owned and individually owned taxis. They charge relatively the same price and a ride within the city center should cost you somewhere between 300 - 500 Kenya shillings ($3 -$5). A place like the airport is about 1,500 Kenya shillings.
Lastly, you can decide what you'd like to see in Nairobi and then book a few tours before you leave home. This option often works out cheaper than taking taxis all over the place and you have peace of mind thanks to not having to carry lots of cash about. These days there are tours of every type so you can easily see everything from the Karen Blixen Museum to even the city's nightlife.
Nairobi City Guide
Nairobi Taxi & Bus Guide