What to do if you get lost in Nairobi
Nairobi is a very small city that is so full that you cannot walk on some streets without someone stepping on your toes. Nairobi is estimated to hold approximately 6.5 million people, with new people thronging the city every day in search of new opportunities.
Before the County Governments were introduced, every young person was finding their way to Nairobi with the conviction that it could help them make something out of their lives. Today, most people who work or school in Nairobi are finding alternative housing in neighbouring counties such as Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado.
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With the sprawling buildings and the high foot traffic in the city, it is very easy to get lost. For many first-timers, it can be hard to make a connection from your ushago stage and the estate or office you are visiting.
Imagine alighting at Muthurwa and you have to catch a matatu to South B or Lang’ata, or arriving in Gikomba and have to board a bus to Community. Even commuters who enter the city through Thika road can find themselves alighting in Ngara because the environment looks like somewhere around Commercial or Kencom, or the tall buildings you see seem too near to wait in rush hour traffic.
It is always advisable to memorise three things when visiting Nairobi- the route number, matatu number, and name of stage. However, you can still get lost in the middle of nowhere. Should this happen, this is what you should do:
Ask a uniformed guard or matatu crew
If you are alighting from a matatu but do not know where to catch the next matatu, ask the conductor or driver immediately for directions. Most matatu conductors and drivers will give you genuine directions but if you are in doubt you can seek a second opinion from a guard. All these people are usually uniformed so ensure that the person directing you is donned appropriately.
Find the nearest landmarks
It is easy to make your way around town if you know some landmarks such as street names, building names, bank names, activities, or even matatu parking. Mark street names and other landmarks as these will help you find your way to stage.
Familiarise with famous places such as Koja, Odeon, Afya Centre, Kencom or Ambassador and find which direction your stage is from these or other landmarks.
Find the locations of all major bus stops and if possible, discover new matatu stops for your route. A matatu can drop you behind your normal stage, or at a very unfamiliar location especially during rush hour to avoid traffic so you need to be aware of what surrounds your familiar landmark.
Use online maps
Google maps app has a high accuracy level both for motorists and pedestrians. Open the app on your phone and type in your destination then click start.
Choose your mode of transport – driving, matatu, or walking. If you need a matatu, Google will tell you where to board the matatu, as well as the matatu number.
You will also be able to see the estimated time of arrival, which may not be 100 percent accurate but helpful. If you are walking, you can find alternative routes that are familiar to you.
Google maps will also give you the option of booking a rider by providing the estimated fare and time of arrival. Most of the time, you may need to use this option if it is late or you are in a hurry or new in town. It will save you a lot of trouble.
Just open Google maps they type your destination in the search box on top. Next tap on ‘Directions,’ ‘mode of transport’ then start.
Remember, it is very easy to get lost in Nairobi. However, losing your way in the city does not mean you will not get to your destination. Avoid asking strangers for directions, and if there is no one to direct you, always utilise technology. In case you cannot get help from anyone or are afraid to ask, let Google maps and Uber be your friends.