Thrift shopping in Nairobi can be a fun, exciting adventure – or total pain. It all depends on whether or not you know where to get great quality items.
Whether you’re a collector of vintage items, a fashionista looking to ramp up your wardrobe without breaking the bank, or just furnishing your home, there’s a little bit of everything in Nairobi.
Depending on your preference, you can turn it into a whole adventure by going to an open market. Or you can go with the hassle-free option: shopping online and having your items delivered to your doorstep!
So let’s look at where you can find those affordable, artistic, or rare finds in Nairobi!
6 Top Tips for Thrift Shopping in Nairobi
- Negotiate for a better deal when buying in person, and you will most certainly get one. The prices stated first – especially if you are a foreigner or don’t speak Swahili – are most likely highly inflated, so put your negotiation skills to use.
- Check for quality before buying an item. Give the item a go-over just to ensure it’s as good as the seller says it is. Does the zipper work? Are there stains that just won’t come off? Does the item have a crack you had not seen in the picture or when you first spotted it?
- Avoid buying thrifted clothes and shoes at night. You may get surprised the next morning when the shoe looked black in low light but is rather a not-so-interesting brownish color the next day under the sunlight.
- Keep your valuables safe when thrifting in open markets. Pickpockets are often hard at work in open-air markets, so be aware of your smartphone, wallet, and jewelry every single time. In fact, if you can, leave the jewelry at home when you go thrift shopping to give yourself some peace of mind.
- Dress comfortably. Wear light clothes that you can easily walk around in. Ditch any jewelry both for safety, and so you don’t get the added tax for looking ‘rich.’
- Shop around before settling on an item. Especially when buying physically. You may find something that’s just so much better two stalls away, so take your time picking things you like.
Thrift Shopping Online
3-FTY – A clean website with a large selection of stylish men’s clothing items – from your basic tees to jackets, shirts, and joggers. 3FTY’s prices are much more affordable than what you’d find in malls across Nairobi, but the quality is just as good.
You also have Facebook groups where people sell off items they no longer use. You can get clothes, shoes, household items, toys, and much more.
Join two or more groups, and you can check periodically for items you need, or use the search function to look for items on offer.
And, be sure to check the rules of the group. Most groups give you some safety tips to keep from getting scammed. One of the most basic rules to follow is to avoid paying upfront. Arrange to see the item physically before paying for it.
Here are some groups where you can find your next thrifted item.
U.N Expat & Nairobi Expat Moving Sale – for those that just moved into Nairobi and are looking to furnish their homes.
Nairobi expats marketplace – Often has sales that include whole catalogs of items from people leaving the country. You can get pretty good deals on furniture, appliances, and kids’ toys.
Nairobi Expats Marketplace – This one requires sellers to pay for posts when the total of the items reaches a certain threshold (10,000 Kes). But, like the rest, you can find second-hand furniture, electronics, and other items to buy.
Second Hand House holds Kenya – For Kenyans looking to buy affordable items, especially if you just moved into your first house and you’re looking for the most affordable items to get you by.
Instagram hosts multiple small business owners who sell thrifted products. These will often be products that the business owners get from open-air markets or wholesalers.
They’ve done the hard work of walking around or sifting through tonnes of clothes and decor items for you, leaving you to pick through the best items available from the comfort of your home.
You can search for specific items by using keywords like ‘official wear’ or ‘hiking boots’ together with words that indicate they are thrifted, like ‘thrifted’ itself or the Kiswahili version, ‘mtumba.’
Here are some of my favorite Instagram stores for fashion and sports pieces:
Slay on a Budget Ke – Modern, trendy outfits for women from brands like Forever 21 and Zara. Like their name, you can get to slay without breaking the bank.
Thrifting with Jojo – A mix of weekend-ready dresses, tops, and official women’s shirts. You can shop for a Monday at the office and Saturday lunch from thrifting with Jojo’s Instagram page.
Affordable thrift wear – have a beautiful selection of women’s boots from thigh highs and army boots to more grunge boots.
Vintage Bags.ke – For cute tote bags, purses, and small handbags, including the occasional designer bags sold for about 600 to 1000 Kes.
Affordable hiking gear Nairobi – stocks great quality hiking gear.
When thrift shopping on Instagram, remember there are scammers there as well. It can be hard to tell scammers from genuine sellers as they could even have items posted and a large following (often bought). But here are a few ways to keep safe:
- Go for those that offer payment on delivery. That way, you’ll only pay for the item after you’ve received it.
- Check through the page posts to see whether there are any comments. Scam accounts are notorious for disabling comments to avoid complaints and warnings from victims. If comments are disabled, just move on to the next seller.
- If you have to pay for the item before delivery, check to confirm that they have sold actual items to people before. Look for reviews on their page to confirm they sell items.
Thrift and Secondhand Stores in Nairobi
The next level of thrift shopping in Nairobi is visiting second-hand stores. You will have to leave your couch for this, but you also get to see the different options physically.
Thrift shopping in Nairobi’s second-hand stores will have you discovering gems you may not have known existed!
Let’s look at some of the stores you can check out:
Half-Priced Books – A haven for bookworms, Half-Priced Books offers pre-owned books at affordable prices. Ranging from fiction to biographies, history, business, and multiple other genres, they have quite an impressive selection to choose from. You can find them at any of their stores: Bihi Towers in the CBD, The Village Market, and Lavington Mall.
The Real Vinyl Guru, Kenyatta Market – Your plug for records, old-school vinyl players, cassettes, or old cameras. Take a trip down memory lane with the help of the pretty knowledgeable staff at the real Vinyl guru and take home a few records to add to your collection.
Think Twice Stores across Nairobi – For pre-loved clothes and shoes sorted by type, in a setting similar to a Mr. Price store, think twice makes a great place to shop for clothing items. They are in multiple locations, including Kasarani, Ngara, and Kawangware. You may have to look for a while, but you will eventually get a piece of clothing you can take home for dirt cheap prices.
Budget Wear KE – Another option for second-hand clothes, Budget weak KE also features racks and racks of clothes to choose from. They are located in Westlands, Roysambu, and Nairobi CBD.
Nairobi Mountain and Hiking Gear – For both seasoned hikers looking for replacement gear and newbies trying to start their hiking journey, you will most likely find what you need here. Run by a formally trained tourism management professional and hiking enthusiast, you can get expert recommendations on what to get from him and the staff at the store.
Thrift Shopping in Markets
Nairobi’s open-air markets are the ultimate thrift shopping experience – a whole adventure on their own, and an experience not to be missed.
Here, you’ll get items at dirt-cheap prices, lower than most shops or online stores.
I hope you’ve been exercising recently. You’ll be sifting through piles of clothing and other products, maneuvering from one store to the next, and bargaining with the hawkers. It’s an extreme sport.
Let’s start with the largest market of them all.
Whether you’re looking for bedding, cutlery, bags, clothes, or home decor items, you’ll find them all at Gikomba market.
Now to get there, you would take a matatu from Luthuli Avenue in downtown Nairobi, which drops you right at the market’s entrance. If you’re driving, find a place in the CBD to park, as it would be a headache to drive or find parking in the market.
Do wear a pair of comfortable shoes. If it’s been raining, mud boots will come in handy as it gets quite muddy.
For first-timers, the experience may be intimidating.
The market is often busy with a flurry of activities happening all at once. Vehicles trying to find their way through the narrow paths; people transporting large sacks of items from one corner to the other; the loud shouts of merchants trying to get clients’ attention. It might take you some time to adjust to it.
But once you’re deep into picking out clothes and other items, the excitement of finding beautiful pieces at a throw-away price makes it all worthwhile.
Consider going with a friend or a local that knows the place so they can take you to the different sections that sell different items. It can be quite a maze when you don’t know the area, so take a friend with you to avoid getting lost.
Toi, located along Ngong Road right behind Adams Arcade, is the most beginner-friendly open-air market. I recommend it for clothes, shoes, and home items like carpets and house mats.
You’ll start to see clothing stalls and items for sale right from Ngong road. Follow these to see some small paths that will take you further into the market. The further inside you go, the lower priced the products are.
While you can get fresh fruit and vegetables here, you will also get a selection of thrifted clothing items, house decor items, and toys.
Kawangware market is just as loud and often muddy as Gikomba Market but great for people living in the Dagoretti area.
It gets quite crowded, especially over the weekends and evenings. But, you can walk around, looking for things you need, from belts to shirts, denim pants, and so much more!
The streets in downtown Nairobi often turn into markets, where sellers lay their products on the ground on pavements.
The areas around Imenti House, Odeon Terminal, and the Globe roundabout that leads to Ngara are especially popular spots for hawkers. Take a walk around these areas, armed with loose cash, and you might just find a nice pair of boots or a jacket to take home with you.
But keep in mind that the hawkers are likely to get into a cat and mouse chase at any time with Nairobi’s city council officers, locally referred to as ‘Kanjo.’
So do hold on to your money until you have the item safely in your hands. I may or may not have once been left holding one shoe while the hawker took off with the other in a rush to get away from the ‘Kanjo.’
Thrifting Furniture and Art
Looking to spruce up your space on a budget? These shops have you covered.
- NiqNaq Interiors For the retro, boho-chic interior, NiqNaq stocks great quality decor pieces, offering a variety for you to choose from. They feature large pieces like seats, console tables, storage benches, and light fixtures, and smaller items like planters, figurines, and jewelry storage boxes.
- Mountain Top Expatriates Shop – Located across from the Total Petrol Station, Mountain View in Westlands, this furniture store doesn’t look like much from the outside. You will be surprised by the quality pieces of furniture they stock, ranging from couches to coffee tables, office furniture, and select decor pieces. Give the store manager, Loise, a call on +254705779845 to get directions and check out the pieces they have in store.
- Zanji Art, Pallet Cafe – Located along James Gichuru Road, Zanji Art features beautiful art pieces collected from across Africa.
- Malaika Thrifts – Sells both modern and vintage decor pieces for your home that you can mix and match to suit your house’s aesthetics.
- Thrifts Vintage Kenya – Looking to add to your vintage home decor? Check out some of the items they stock, including tea sets, picture frames, and vases.
Office Furniture and Supplies
Thrifting your office desk and chair? Yes, really.
Nairobi is awash with cheap, secondhand office furniture and electronics, but they can be incredibly hard to find. Meanwhile, buying new is often exorbitantly expensive.
We’re always looking for a bargain at the Living in Nairobi office (i.e., our apartments). So, here are the best places we’ve found to buy secondhand office furniture in Nairobi.
Superview Centre, Ngong Rd. – a two-storey secondhand furniture store. The selection isn’t very good – lots of old, battered couches and chairs. But their desks and office chairs are quite good and reasonably priced.
Ngara Road – You’ll find multiple second-hand furniture shops along Ngara Road, especially around the area right across from the postal office in Ngara.
Park Road – The street is lined with second-hand office furniture shops. You’ll be spoilt for choice.
The Bottom Line
That’s it. I hope that this guide helps you get a place or two to find thrifted items. And, if you’ve been looking for a way to start thrift shopping in Nairobi, now you have a place to start.
Do share with us in the comments other places where you’ve gotten amazing second-hand items.