Mombasa is a wonderful vacation destination. However, some people are fortunate enough to live and work there. There are mostly Swahili and Mijikenda people but due to the consistent commercial growth, it has become diverse with more and more tribes moving there in search of economic opportunities. It is divided into four parts. There are Mombasa Island and mainland then there are areas that are to the North and South of Mombasa.
Living in Mombasa can feel like a dream for a little while after you have moved. There is something about the pace of the area that is vastly different from Nairobi. Maybe it is the tropical climate and the salty humidity. Maybe it is the proximity to the ocean and beautiful sandy beaches. Maybe it is all the tourists always lurking around enjoying themselves in light clothing. Or maybe it is the fact that most people relate Mombasa with vacations and enjoyment. While this may wear off, your weekends could still be pretend-vacations. It is generally a good place to live and work.
The greatest thing about rental houses in Mombasa is space. They are wonderfully spacious with glorious balconies. Open-plan houses are quite popular. The rent is also generally lower than in Nairobi. It is not as crowded or densely populated as Nairobi. Some neighborhoods can have water shortages. But, the situation has been improving for a while. Below are a few elements to look at.
Mombasa town is located on the island. It is then separated from the rest of the mainland by Likoni ferry, Nyali Bridge, Makupa, and Kilindini. This area consists of neighborhoods like Tudor, Majengo, Tononoka, Ganjoni, Makadara, and Kizingo. It is a mix of middle and lower-class neighborhoods and residences. The area also has good schools and great amenities thus making it basically self-sufficient. This means that the transport cost from any of these neighborhoods is fairly affordable.
The rent in Mombasa is generally quite affordable for the middle and lower classes. Many rental buildings were aimed at housing expatriates and tourists and maybe a little over the neighborhood rent baseline. However, within the island, a two-bedroom house should go for about 17,000 shillings up to 20,000 shillings. A one-bedroom house should go for about 12,000 shillings and as much as 15,000 shillings. The amount you get will really depend on which part of the island you are looking in.
The neighborhoods on the mainland are mostly low income. A majority of the people living in these neighborhoods are working-class operating in the industrial area in Changamwe. Many dwellings, therefore, will be built from iron sheets. There are a few higher-income hoods with suburban living like Port Reitz. Mikindani and Miritini are also becoming more upper lower and middle classes than the area standard.
Bedsitters and one-bedroom houses are quite common in this area. A bedsitter will go for about 5,000 shillings while a one-bedroom will set you back 8,000 shillings. These may vary depending on how far into the hood or how close to the low-income hoods you get. You might also find a two-bedroom house for 15,000 shillings. You might have more trouble finding a building with round the clock water supply than perhaps anywhere else in Mombasa.
This area is more high and middle-class neighborhoods. Many buildings will be high end. In fact, most of the highest rent rates will be in this area. The area consists of Nyali, Kongowea, Bamburi, Bombolulu, Mtwapa, and Kisauni. Many people who move to Mombasa will be looking to live in Bamburi or Mtwapa. They seem to be the neighborhoods most well-known by out of towners. The commute to town will not take too long from these neighborhoods. However, they are adjacent to some very insecure neighborhoods.
There is a diverse size of houses in these neighborhoods. You can find a one-bedroom house for between 15,000 and 20,000 shillings. A bedsitter will go for about 8,000 shillings or more depending on which side of the North you look. A three-bedroom house will range between 35,000 and 40,000 shillings. Water availability varies from one area to another. Most of the neighborhoods in the North are safe for the most part.
This area has perhaps the cleanest and whitest beaches in the entire Coast. It is crawling with resident foreigners. Most people who live and work here are employed by the hospitality industry. The area begins at Likoni and extends all the way to Diani. The rental choices in Diani are obviously very different from those in Likoni. Some parts of Likoni are also quite dangerous not to mention the infamous Likoni ferry. This is not a stereotype to be applied to the entire area though.
You can live in a single room for as much as 2,000 shillings a month. A single room is simply a plain room so you have to share the bathroom with the rest of the building. You can also live in a one-bedroom house paying 10,000 shillings every month. A two-bedroom will go for 15,000 or less in Likoni but move more towards 25,000 a month as you get closer to Diani.
How to Find Rentals
The internet is very useful in helping potential Mombasa renters find homes. The Mombasa listings are not as detailed and vast as Nairobi listings. Most of the options are luxury and executive houses. However, you will find some great leads on the internet. You can also find out how much you should expect to pay in different neighborhoods. Listings in South Coast are especially scanty. It might take a few tries and perhaps making inquiries on social media or you to finally find numerous options to consider. You could also think about finding an agent. They are not easy to find and you might have to rely on word of mouth. However, some of these neighborhoods are not easy to navigate. Mombasa residents are warm and welcoming but a newbie always stands out like a sore thumb. If you stand out there is a large chance that a malicious party will target you. An agent gives you some cushion from possible con schemes.
What to Look For
Once you have found some possibilities. You should find a place with a fan, at the very least. A fan is necessary because Mombasa can get quite hot. You will be unable to keep the windows open because of neighborhood cats and mosquitos. The house should be well ventilated. Find out about the water situation as a priority. Some assume that there could not possibly be a water shortage in Mombasa. You should also plan to have quite a bit of storage. While picking a neighborhood, keep in mind that Mombasa tends to flood in the rain season. Therefore, at the very least do not pick a ground floor unit if the landlord has not taken measures to prevent floodwater from breaching the building.
Transportation in Mombasa is a bit more complicated than in Nairobi. In Nairobi, there are defined areas from which you can board matatus and you are sure of where every particular matatu is going. If you are not familiar with the accent, you might miss the conductors’ communications on destination and amounts. Generally, though, public transport in Mombasa is quite reliable. You can opt for a tuk-tuk. You might be thrown off by the roofless contraptions with huge TVs inside. Get used to it, it is the Mombasa way. You could also get a taxi. If the taxi people note that you are not local, they might charge you tourist rates. You should, therefore, ask around for estimates so you do not get overcharged on things.
The traffic situation in Mombasa is not as bad as Nairobi. However, it does get very tight during peak times. The county government has tried hard to keep the situation in check but you should do your research about how much traffic you will have to encounter every morning.
Cost of Living
Most of the basic things cost the same as they do in Nairobi and other major Kenyan towns. The problem lies in groceries. These can get quite expensive as the traders have to get them shipped in from other counties. Generally, the cost of living in Mombasa is just average. It is definitely lower than in Nairobi. You should expect to spend about 5,000 shillings a month on food.
Renting in Mombasa will be fun for anyone. The weather might be a little annoying but that only means that you will not have to wear layers ever. Your house will be spacious and your weekends can be spent at the beach. Enjoy the Coast!