What your money can do for you this festive time

Merrymakers visit Santa's station at Two Rivers Mall in Nairobi on December 21, 2019. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • People living in Nairobi and are working with a budget of between Sh1,000 and Sh5,000 should look for public places where entry is free.
  • Wangechi reasons that homestays that have come up in many areas of Central Kenya can be of benefit to families spending less than Sh5,000 this season.

How much does your family plan to spend during this festive season?

Whatever the budget, you can eat, drink and keep up with the festive cheer if you know where to find what is within your wherewithal.

Lifestyle went out to explore the different ways that families can enjoy the season depending on the cash they have.

We gathered insights from practitioners in the tours and travel business, namely Roselyne Mwangi, who runs Ebony Global Travel and Tours in Nairobi; Ouma Oloko, who operates the Oluokos Signature Limited, a travel agency in Kisumu; Nyeri-based Edward Wangechi, the general manager of Naro Moru River Lodge, and Mombasa-based Victor Sitakha, the manager of Flamingo Beach Resort that is under the PrideInn group of hotels.

Working on a model family of four, they suggested various ways that family can make merry this festive season, even as most Kenyans face a broke Christmas as a result of upheavals of the economy.

“Kenyans are struggling financially this year. It is caused mainly by delayed payments to suppliers by the government. Also, the recent change in the currency notes and phasing out of the Sh1,000 note has reduced the circulation of money,” says Mwangi.


Wangechi adds: “Kenyans are struggling to make ends meet. Signs are bare in our eyes, with many employed and non-employed Kenyans being engaged in large numbers on ‘side hustles’. The existence of many hawkers, including the employed hawking in their offices, is an indicator that things are not good.”

Sitakha is of a similar opinion: “My interpretation of the current economic times is that Kenyans do not have as much disposable income as they did before.”

Regardless, he urges Kenyans to take a break to refresh themselves after a long year.

Below are their suggestions on how families in various parts of the country can have a cheer-filled season with the amount they have.

Between Sh1,000 and Sh5,000


According to Mwangi, people living in Nairobi and are working in such a budget should, in case they want to venture out, look for public places where entry is free.

And if the family wishes to eat out, they can prepare their own meals then head to places like Uhuru Park, Uhuru Gardens.

“You can just prepare snacks at home and carry to the picnic site,” says Mwangi.

Besides, she says, the family can go for fast foods which are cheaper. In case the family wishes to have an outing, she recommends animal orphanages and affordable venues like the Giraffe Centre and Bomas of Kenya.


For those in Kisumu, Oloko says families in this budget category need to lay emphasis on foods available in plenty locally.

“For a celebratory meal they can cook meals such as fried tilapia fish to be served with ugali, rice or chips,” he says.

Should they seek to eat out, Oloko recommends the eateries at Dunga Beach and other lakeside spots.

“With that budget, deliciously done Lake Victoria tilapia will give them the best value for their money,” he says.

For outdoors fun, he recommends some of the affordable beachside establishments.

“For children’s fun, they can visit the Kisumu Museum, Impala Park for some exciting wildlife experience, or also try the some boating activities at the beaches of Dunga and Hippo Point,” he notes.


Wangechi reasons that homestays that have come up in many areas of Central Kenya can be of benefit to families spending less than Sh5,000 this season.

“Budgets of the homestays are relatively affordable for both meals and accommodation, because with their budget of between Sh1,000 and Sh5,000, they relax for the day, have a decent meal and some soft drinks. Some homestays like Tranquil Homestay in Naro Moru also have a variety of birds to see,” he says.

“Other places include Kahiga Homestay, Mpate, Eland Hotel, Thingira in Sagana, Nyokabi Gardens in Nyeri, Omega Gardens Karatina, among others. All other towns within Mt Kenya region have variety of nice affordable restaurants that families can also enjoy,” he adds.


According to Sitakha, families on this budget category need not restrict themselves to staying at home.

“They can eat out at several exciting coastal eateries because their budget will cover for the food and beverage offers. This can be in the Old Town area,” he reasons.

“For Christmas Day entertainment, they can visit places like the Pirates public beach,” he adds.

In case the family wishes to stay at a hotel, Sitakha says they can explore facilities at Mtwapa because rooms are affordable.

“For a celebratory meal they can cook meals such as pilau,” he says. “And for children’s fun they can visit Wild Waters.”

* * * *

Between Sh5,000 and Sh15,000


For families in the capital with such a budget, Mwangi recommends dining in fast-food eateries, restaurants and city hotels offering buffet or à la carte menus.

“The high end options are affordable with this budget,” she reasons.

This group, she says, can afford to go to mid-range establishments in and around Nairobi, such as Elysian Resort and Maasai Lodge.

“For children’s fun, they can visit shopping malls with children’s activities, GP karting on Lang’ata road, or ice skating at Panari Hotel,” advises Mwangi, who is four years into the tours and travel business.


For families in Kisumu falling under this budget category, Oloko says there is a range of places to go and meals to enjoy.

“For an outdoors adventure they can visit the newly-promoted UNESCO heritage site, Kit Mikayi, because with their budget much fun awaits for them, and it’s more than just looking at the intriguing magical boulders piled on top of each other,” he says.

Venues of eating out are also quite many for families in this category, because such a family can fit many mid-level hotels in the lakeside city.

“For Christmas Day entertainment they can visit places like the Impala Park Sanctuary, Abindu caves, Dunga swamp, Kit Mikayi,” advises Oloko, a tours and travel entrepreneur.

“For a celebratory meal, they can cook meals such as fresh tilapia fillets with mashed potatoes and the locally popular local chicken served with ugali, rice, chapati or boiled potatoes because with their budget, meal possibilities are unlimited,” notes Oloko.


For families in Central Kenya falling under this category, Wangechi says there is a variety of places they can afford in terms of meals and other forms of entertainment, among them Outspan, Green Hills, Naro Moru River Lodge, Mt Kenya Leisure Lodge, Anka Resort, Jaqanaz, Nokras, Misty Lodge, and Falcon Heights.

* * * *

Between Sh15,000 and Sh30,000


A family within this budget bracket, says Mwangi, will be spoilt for choice.

For outdoors adventure, she thinks of places like the ice skating rink at Panari, GP karting and even bike rides at Karura Forest.

She reckons they can afford a nice meal at Safari Park Hotel’s nyama choma ranch, among other places and for entertainment; they can also visit the Carnivore restaurant.

For those that wish to board away from home, she lists Sarova Stanley and Nairobi Serena.


Being ready to splash up to Sh30,000 on the festive season gives families in Kisumu a lot of room for enjoyment, Oloko reasons.

Should they fancy a day out, the places he thinks of include the Equator line at Maseno, Ndere Island National Park, Nyabondo Escarpment, Abindu caves, the Luanda Magere rock, and Kit Mikayi.

“They can eat out at places Grand Royal Swiss, Ciala Resort, Acacia Premier, Impala Eco Lodge Sovereign Hotel, The Vic Hotel and other facilities because with their budget the power to spend will be rewarded with equal value,” says Oloko.


There are a number of facilities that can cater for needs of people in this bracket, according to Wangechi — who also chairs the Mr Kenya branch of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers.

Those that come to mind include the White Rhino, the Nelion, the Sagana Getaway Resort “and many, many other places”.

* * * *

Between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000


With such an amount in their hands, Mwangi reckons, a family in Nairobi can comfortably go on a day trip all the way to Nakuru and other Kenyan towns for game drives and such activities.

Alternatively, they can visit the Nairobi National Park if they wish to step out.

Should they wish to seek accommodation within Nairobi, the Intercontinental, Nairobi Serena, Sarova Stanley, and Windsor are among the places that can tickle their fancy.

“For children’s fun, they can visit Village Market, GP Karting, ice skating at Panari Hotel, rock climbing at Diamond Plaza, among others,” she says.

For eat-outs, she says places like Carnivore, Pampa Churascaria, Nyama Mama, among others, will be a perfect fit.


Oloko says families in this budget category have a lot to choose from.

They can go for roasted lamb and goat for a celebratory meal at home, or if they wish to eat out, there are a number of outlets in the lakeside town that can comfortably cater for their needs.

Impala Eco Lodge, Grand Royal Swiss, Ciala Resort, Acacia Premier, Sovereign Hotel and Best Western Hotel are some that come to his mind.


For families in the Mt Kenya with such a budget at their disposal, Wangechi says Maiyan Resort, Chaka Ranch are among the places they can visit.


With such a budget, says Sitakha, the Wasini Islands are among the ideal places at the coast that can give a memorable festive season.

“With their budget, they will be able to pay for swimming with the dolphins, dhow rides and fantastic sea food,” he recommends, adding that they can also get to enjoy Swahili dishes in the area and also have fun in such places as Wild Waters and Haller Park.

* * * *

Spending Sh50,000 and above


Mwangi says a family with such a budget can afford to leave the city for places like Nanyuki, Nyeri, Amboseli, Naivasha and Nakuru.

“They can go for game drives, sightseeing, nature walks, boat rides and the likes,” she says.

If they want to eat out, she says any five-star hotel is reachable for this category.

“They can visit any five-star hotel in Nairobi for one or two nights, or plan an out-of-town holiday,” she reasons.

She, however, encourages families in all groups to be mindful of those who do not have much to spend this season.

“Let’s not forget the less fortunate. We can visit and spend time with them. We should also not forget those in hospitals and children’s homes,” she says.


According to Oloko, this is the group that can comfortably engage tours and travel companies because they need to allow “some professional to take care of their needs”.

He adds that a family wishing to spend above Sh50,000 has limitless possibilities on where to dine, lodge and engage in fun activities around Kisumu.

“With their budget, they can explore more options that are available further afield,” he says.


With such an amount, says Wangechi, there is a lot that a person in Central Kenya can do.

Should the family want to venture out, he says, they can visit places across the region like Mr Kenya, the Solio Ranch, Mau Mau caves, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Zaina Falls, Thompson Falls, the Chimp Sanctuary, the Subukia shrine among others.


For this category of spenders, says Sitakha, such places as Tamarind Village and establishments of equal status are a good option for eating out.

In case they wish to invite their relatives over, he says, a goat roasting party will be ideal.


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