21 Things to Do During Layover in JKIA Nairobi

Are you looking for ways to make the most out of your layover at Jomo Kenyatta Airport? If so, then you’ve come to the right place. There is plenty to do and see during a layover at this airport, from shopping and dining options to entertainment activities.

In this blog post, we will discuss 21 fun things that you can do while spending time in and outside/near Jomo Kenyatta Airport during your next layover. We will cover everything from free Wi-Fi access and charging points to leisurely activities like reading or watching movies on Netflix. So whether you have a few hours or an entire day, there are plenty of ways to pass the time here. Let’s get started!

What is an airport layover?

A layover is a time between flights when passengers remain in an airport for a certain period of time before connecting to their next flight. Layovers can range from just a few hours to several days, depending on the number and length of your connecting flights.

Nairobi’s JKIA is the main hub for Kenya Airways and is the main connection point for many other international airlines. It is the busiest airport in East Africa and serves as the gateway to over 30 countries. Whether you’re planning a trip to Kenya or just passing through, here are 20 fun things to do during your layover at Jomo Kenyatta Airport!

21 Things to do during Layover in Nairobi’s JKIA:

Enjoy the fine lounges:

My top recommendation for those using Kenya Airways to connect to other destinations is to make use of their premium lounges.

KQ’s Simba Lounge, Kenya Airways’ flagship lounge, is located in the main international terminal. The lounge features complimentary drinks and snacks, comfortable seating areas, and a business center. It also offers showers for passengers to freshen up after a long flight.

You get charged $40 at the gate to access this lounge and if you want a room to nap in, you get charged $50 per hour.

Read about all lounges in Nairobi’s JKIA here.

Go shopping in Airport’s souvenir shops and Duty-free shops:

The airport features a number of duty-free shops and souvenir stores, offering a wide selection of local items and international brands for those looking to do some shopping during their layover. The Maasai shop with its selection of Kenyan souvenirs and handicrafts is worth a visit.

Take advantage of the free Wi-Fi:

The airport offers free Wi-Fi access for those who need to stay connected during their layover. Passengers can take advantage of this service by connecting to the “JKIA Free Wifi” network. The access to the internet at JKIA is not linked to airlines and neither does it cut off after every hour as it does in some airports such as Dubai and Doha.

Go for a stroll:

The airport has a large walkway and garden area that are perfect for stretching your legs after a long flight. If the weather is nice, you can take in some fresh air as you take a leisurely stroll around the grounds.

You can get some good exercise strolling from the parking lot located at Terminal 1A to the main international terminal. It’s a good way to get your blood flowing and refresh yourself after a long flight.

Head to the observation deck:

The airport features an open air observation deck that allows passengers to observe aircrafts as they take off and land. The view from here is stunning, especially during the day when you can catch a glimpse of the lush Kenyan countryside.

Visit the nearby Carnivore Restaurant:

The famous “Carnivore” restaurant is located just 10 minutes from JKIA and offers an African-themed buffet with a variety of meats and other dishes prepared over an open flame. It’ ‘s a great way to sample some of the local cuisines before continuing your journey.

Go for a safari at the Nairobi National Park:

If your layover is longer than 5 hours, you can fit a 3-hour+ game drive at the Nairobi National Park and still have time to spare. The Park is located 22km away from the Airport and using the new Southern Bypass and the Expressway constructed last year, you can quickly get to the Gate of the Nairobi National Park in less than 30 mins driving from the Airport – According to Google Maps estimate. See the map here.

You can rent a self-drive safari vehicle and use the navigator to get you to the Park. A few tour operators offer car rental services at the airport. If you opt for a guided safari, there are several willing guides and drivers willing to take you on your safari. Make sure you explain to the driver that you need to be back to the Airport at least 2 hours before your flight.

At this Park, you may be lucky to see 4 of the Big 5 as the Elephants are not at this Park. You can see Lions, Leopards, Rhinos and Buffaloes.

Grab a bite to eat at the airport:

JKIA features several eateries with a wide selection of local and international cuisine. There are also numerous cafes serving coffee and pastries for those in need of an energizing pick-me-up. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a full-blown meal, the airport has something to satisfy your cravings.

The airport features an exhibition space showcasing contemporary African art from some of Kenya’s leading artists. The gallery is located in the main international terminal and admission is free. It’s the perfect place to take in some culture during your layover.

Catch a movie:

If you need to pass some time, why not catch a movie? The airport features a cinema showing a selection of African and Hollywood blockbusters. You can even grab a snack from one of the nearby restaurants before taking your seat.

Take a nap at Simba Lounge:

If you need to catch some shut-eye, the Simba Lounge offers a comfortable and quiet environment perfect for napping. The lounge features reclining chairs and plenty of charging points for your devices so you can stay connected during your layover.

It cost $50 per hour to sleep here. You can get more details on Kenya Airways website here.

Visit the nearby elephant orphanage:

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust operates an elephant orphanage just 5 km from JKIA. The facility is dedicated to the conservation and rehabilitation of endangered species, with a focus on rescuing young elephants orphaned as a result of poaching or human-wildlife conflicts. Visitors are welcome to watch the “elephant’s show” at 11 am and 3 pm daily, where they can observe and interact with baby elephants in their natural environment.

Explore some history at the Karen Blixen Museum:

Karen Blixen Museum is located just 15 km from JKIA, and it’s a great place to visit if you have some extra time. The museum was once the home of the famous author Karen Blixen who wrote “Out of Africa”. Guests can explore the historic grounds and learn about the writer’s life in colonial Kenya.

Go on a shopping spree at Nairobi’s Malls:

I really like Sarit Center, one of the oldest malls that recently got a facelift. Being my favorite, I highly recommend this mall if you have time. It’s also super close to the airport, just 25 minutes away using the newly constructed Expressway with direct link to the airport. The Capital Centre is another great choice with lots of shops and restaurants. Both malls offer free Wi-Fi and parking.

Go on a city tour:

If you want to explore the city beyond the airport, there are several tour operators offering city tours. The tour usually lasts around three hours, so you can get a good taste of Nairobi before heading back to the airport.

Dine with locals at the Village Market:

The Village Market is one of Nairobi’s most popular shopping malls and it’s just 40 minutes away from the airport. The food court features a variety of local and international cuisine, so it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat and mingle with locals before heading back to the airport.

Get a glimpse of Nairobi’s Skyline at KICC’s Roof:

KICC, also known as the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, is located just 17 km from JKIA. For a fee of Kshs1000 ($10), visitors can get access to the rooftop terrace and enjoy panoramic views of Nairobi’s skyline. It’s definitely worth the trip if you have the time.

Here is the Wikipedia page for this iconic Nairobi building.

Go hiking at Ngong Hills:

Ngong Hills is a popular destination for hikers, located just 46 km from the airport. There are several trails to explore, so you can easily spend a few hours hiking and admiring the views before heading back to the airport.

It will take you about an hour and 20 mins to get here so this may only be a viable option if your layover is long – perhaps longer than 7 hours so you get time to hike for at least 2 hours and use some other 3 hours on the road to and from the hiking destination in Ngong HIlls.

Go on a fly-in safari in the Mara:

If you have the means, you can find a reliable tour operator in Kenya that can arrange a quick fly-in safari to the Mara. This involves being picked up at JKIA and transferred to Wilson Airport for the 50-mins domestic flight to the Mara.

New innovative tour operators also offer you packages that give you the flexibility to choose between affordable options and super luxurious packages. I highly recommend the newly established tour operator based in Nairobi called Kambu campers. While they mostly dwell in camping safaris including the use of campervans they converted, they also have several other safari packages that may suit those who may not like budget camping options.

Go have fun with the Giraffes:

At just 40 minutes from the airport, The Giraffe Center is a great place to visit if you have some extra time. This conservation center was founded back in the 1970s by Jock Leslie-Melville and his wife Betty Leslie-Melville. It aims to protect and conserve Rothschild giraffes, an endangered species that has been poached to near extinction. Visitors can feed the giraffes and learn more about their conservation efforts.

Here is a link to Google Maps with directions.

Things to do in Nairobi during a short layover:

If your layover is less than 3 hours, there are still plenty of things to do around the airport. You can grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants, browse shops for souvenirs or African crafts, or just relax in the lounge with a book. There’s also an observation deck where you can watch planes taking off and landing.

You can also opt to read a book or take a nap at the airport. There are many sleeping areas where you can find comfortable seating and relax.

Muslims can also enjoy access to dedicated prayer rooms.


Image of Nathan Kip Rotich

Nathan helps travelers find the most comfortable sleep setups during layovers, from cozy airport hotels to futuristic sleep pods. His insights aim to transform layovers into rejuvenating sleepcations, offering travelers an alternative to costly hotels and uncomfortable benches.