15+ Best Apps for Living in Kenya

apps in Kenya

There are probably millions of desktop and mobile apps in Kenya that claim to serve every possible need. But which ones are the best for people living in the country for the first time? 

I’ve taken a look at my phone and laptop, and picked the 16 most essential apps I use every day for banking, travel, organising my social life, and just getting around. 

Download these onto your phone and laptop, and they’ll make life in Kenya smoother, safer, and more enjoyable. 

Taxi Apps

Public transport in Nairobi is a total mess. The closest thing to mass transit are the old, crowded buses and matatus speed recklessly through the city. As a result, you’ll probably depend on taxi apps and boda drivers to get around Nairobi – at least when you first arrive. 

Uber and Bolt have muscled almost every local competitor out of business, making them the only reliable options left. 

Handily, you can connect both apps to your debit card, so you don’t have to handle cash or constantly use your MPesa. They also allow you to schedule pickups (i.e., if you have an early flight) and order boda drivers if you want to avoid Nairobi’s endless traffic jams.

Google Maps

  • Available on: iOS, Android, desktop.

You probably already use Google Maps all the time. But if not, download it now. It’s essential for navigating Nairobi and not getting lost on random back streets. Just try to memorize routes or listen to audio directions, so your phone doesn’t get snatched out of your hand. 

For more information, check out our guide to Transport in Nairobi.

Dating Apps

Unless you’re a massive extrovert and love partying, meeting people when you first arrive in Nairobi can be very tricky. The city is quite cliquey, and people are tired of making friends with someone leaving in six months. 

And now we’re living in a pandemic. So you can’t even party like we used to.

So, regardless of your intentions, dating apps are a great way to meet people and learn about social life in Nairobi. 

Tinder app

Tinder

  • Available on: iOS, Android, desktop.

You won’t struggle to get matches on Tinder in Kenya. Sometimes, it feels like the entire country is on the app. 

Honestly, it can be overwhelming. 

Tinder is also full of fake and catfishing accounts, so you’re gonna be swiping through a lot of duds before you find a genuine person that you have a real chance of meeting. 

Bumble

  • Available on: iOS, Android, desktop.

If you believe in ‘quality over quantity’ – Bumble might be a better fit. While much less popular than Tinder, it’s quickly becoming the preferred dating app in Kenya for many reasons. 

And for guys, it’s nice to take a break from coming up with opening lines for once. 

Once you’ve matched with the person of your dreams, make sure you check out our guide to date ideas in Nairobi to seal the deal!

VPNs

Cybercrime in Kenya is a growing issue, with successful hacks regularly targeting government agencies, banks, and private individuals. 

While a VPN isn’t going to keep you completely safe, it does provide an additional layer of security against data leaks, spying, and hacking. Most reputable VPNs also feature a suite of tools for a better browsing experience, like built-in ad blockers. 

But aside from security, VPNs are great for streaming. They allow you to access your local streaming platforms from Kenya, so you never miss out on the best movies, TV shows, or sports events from home. 

I write about data privacy for a living. I usually have up to 6 VPNs installed on my laptop (a little excessive, I know). The 3 listed below are the best VPNs for Kenya based on my experience. 

NordVPN – The best allround VPN in the world. While NordVPN is the most reliable and best value option, it doesn’t have many servers in Africa, so it can be quite slow in Kenya.

ExpressVPN – If budget isn’t a concern, ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN in Kenya – and the world. It’s also quite expensive. But if you’re streaming loads or downloaded massive files, it’s the best option.

Surfshark – Finally, the best budget VPN in the world. I really like Surfshark. It’s more limited than NordVPN and ExpressVPN, but it’s a solid choice with great privacy tools and plenty of servers in Africa. 

Shopping and Food

When you’re too lazy to leave the apartment, but you still need food, there are plenty of apps in Kenya for getting groceries and meals delivered to your door. Rather than list every single one, I’ve picked the two I use most often and find the handiest.

Ubereats

  • Available on: iOS; Android.

You’re probably already using Uber to get around. So, it makes sense to also order your food and groceries on the app. I mostly use Ubereats for large water deliveries and those rare occasions where I don’t eat out. 

However, there’s plenty of other food and household items available, including alcohol.

Glovo

  • Available on: iOS; Android.

Glovo is more focused on groceries than restaurants. I’ve used it a couple of times, but my account is stuck on my Irish phone number, so I had to switch back to Ubereats. 

Money Apps

Money

It’s funny to think how little I use cash living in Kenya. Between MPresa mobile money, the vast (and safe) acceptance of card payments, and the advent of online shopping – Kenya is almost a cashless economy at this point. 

With that in mind, here are the money and banking apps I use every day in Kenya. 

MySafaricom

The MySafaricom app is the absolute best way to use MPesa mobile money in Kenya. You can easily send money and pay for purchases and bills, order statements, top up your airtime, and much more. 

You’ll need a Safaricom number to use the app, but you’ve probably already signed up with the network when you arrived in Kenya. 

For more information, check out our guide to MPesa mobile money.

Xe app

Xe

  • Available on: iOS, Android, desktop.

Xe has many features and tools for transferring money, but I skip all those and only use it for one purpose: on-the-spot currency conversions. 

I live in Kenya, get paid in US Dollars, my company is registered in Bulgaria, my bank accounts are in Euro, and I regularly travel to Rwanda for our sister site Living in Kigali. 

So, knowing exactly how much something costs in various currencies quickly allows me to budget and adjust my plans accordingly. For example, when looking for a cheap apartment in Nairobi, I used Xe to figure out the rent for each one in EUR and USD, so I could quickly compare it to Europe and see if it fit my budget. 

For more information, check out my cost of living in Nairobi guide.

Wise (formerly Transferwise)

  • Available on: iOS, Android, desktop.

I use Wise every day to buy stuff online, send money to different accounts, pay for goods with my debit card, and much more. It’s honestly one of the best apps in the world, period. 

But, even better for people moving to Kenya, Wise allows you to send money directly to MPesa accounts. So you can top up your MPesa account, pay rent, send your friends money, pay your writers (maybe that’s just me), and so on. 

While the fees are quite high (roughly 5%), the exchange rate is unbeatable, and it’s still waaaaaay cheaper than any other option especially PayPal.

For more information, check out our guide to banking in Kenya.

Travel and Misc. 

Booking

  • Available on: iOS, Android, desktop.

Whenever I plan a trip in Kenya, I take a quick look on the Booking app to see what deals are available. I’ve used Booking so much over the years that I’m now a Genius member. So I get awesome discounts, free room upgrades, flexible bookings, and exclusive offers. 

Traveling in Kenya can be expensive – good budget travel doesn’t really exist here – so the deals on the Booking app help me save $100s a year on hotels. 

Airbnb

Airbnb

  • Available on: iOS, Android, desktop.

For more unique, off-the-beaten-track stays, Airbnb has some incredible listings throughout Kenya. 

Airbnb listings range from container homes perched on cliffs to glamping under the stars deep into the bush. You can even stay in a double-decker bus just 20 minutes from Nairobi. Alternatively, Airbnb is also great for finding short-term cheap apartments in Nairobi if you’re only visiting the city for a few weeks. 

Duolingo

  • Available on: iOS, Android, desktop.

Every morning before work, I open Duolingo and spend 5-10 minutes learning and practising Swahili. It’s been invaluable in helping me pick up more of the language and start putting sentences together. 

Duolingo is free and available on both desktop and mobile – so you can keep up with your progress wherever you are. 

However, if you’re serious about learning Swahili, Duolingo will only get you so far. Eventually, you’ll need to upgrade to a human teacher. 

For more information, check out our guide to learning Swahili online.

Instagram

  • Available on: iOS, Android; desktop.

At the time of writing, I don’t currently have an Instagram account. This is a massive pain in the butt, because Instagram is an essential app in Kenya for a healthy social life. 

Everything happens on Instagram (and Twitter) – from events to new restaurant openings, and much more. If you want to know what’s happening in the city, and you don’t have a big group of clued-in friends, you’ll probably end up depending on Instagram quite a lot. It’s the fastest way to find out. 

Maybe one day, I’ll set up an account again. We’ll see. 

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the apps in Kenya that you’ll wind up using. There are plenty more out there to serve every possible need. 

But download these today, and they’ll make your life in the country a lot easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable.

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