The Art of the Staycation - 48 Hours in Kisumu // Frame Ambition

Hey friends ;)

If you’ve been hanging out with me on Instagram you’ll know I’ve been living my best Western Kenya life around Lake Victoria for a few weeks. Well, the heart of the Nyanza region is of course, Kisumu City and I stopped over in the city both before and after my time at Mfangano Island.

On my return trip I was set up at The Grand Royal Swiss Hotel on assignment for (one of my several remote travel writing jobs) to make a neighbourhood guide for the hotel. Scroll down to the bottom to see it ;)

top hotels in kisumu

Pin these for later if you like ;)

I came to the conclusion that The Grand Royal Swiss is the perfect staycation choice whether you live in Nairobi, Kisumu or further afield because:

  1. Given the distance between Nairobi and Kisumu (the lakeside city is a 6-hour drive away from the capital and less than an hour by plane) a half day of traveling gets you to a totally different vibe - more sun and heat, a slightly slower pace, fresh air ;)

  2. The hotel actually sits at the outskirts of the city on the Kisumu-Kakamega highway and is on an elevation, so along with views of the Nandi Hills on one side, you can see most of Kisumu city below too. If you live in the city, you get to leave without leaving-leaving ;)

Getting there

Luckily it’s really straighforward getting to Kisumu from almost anywhere in the country. Well-priced flights on most domestic carriers, scheduled buses from Nairobi and Kampala as well as the other major cities and of course you can self-drive.

I got a 600-bob matatu from Eldoret to Kisumu the first time around and then a 400-bob one from the Luanda K’otieno ferry on my trip back from Mfangano Island.

I decided to give public transport a go getting to the hotel too and after asking at the main bus terminus, my driver pointed me across the road to Kisumu Girls School which is where the RIAT college matatus leave from - 20 minutes and 70 bob later, I hopped out at a bus stop directly across the road from The Grand Royal Swiss.


The good stuff. I’ve talked about the Nandi Hills view from my room at The Grand Royal Swiss Hotel already but whew. Yes.

After the village-island life for 2 weeks bathing in the lake and such, a hot shower, a bath robe and slippers, the welcome fruit basket and CHOCOLATE (it was a tough 2 weeks, man) were a welcome change.

top hotels in kisumu
top hotels in kisumu
top hotels in kisumu

You can’t take me anywhere, tbh

My room was nice and comfortable with all the usual city hotel amenities, but I especially enjoyed the touchpad-like “do not disturb” and “please clean my room” buttons at the entrance. Alas, I didn’t get photos of them so I guess you’ll have to go see for yourself ;)

Like I mentioned in my travel healthy blog post, I always take advantage of a gym where I’m staying and found the one at the hotel great to get in a quick, basic workout on the treadmill and with some weights. It was a little dark as the space is a basement and I prefer a gym full of light and maybe with some views, so that was a bit of a con. There are also lush-looking steam and sauna facilities which I didn’t get to enjoy (very out of character for me) but next time!

top hotels in kisumu

Good spots to chill/read/work: I loved hanging out at the Bond bar at the lobby level with a glass of wine - nice and hidden around the corner from the reception but still some people-watching opportunity. Head to the first floor for those hill-views I keep talking about and maybe some shisha from the Medoc bar terrace and the Aquarius poolside bar is always a vibe, too.

Food + drink

I’ll be honest and say this was not my typical explore-the-city 48 hours. I was here to rest and catch up on work so really I stuck to the hotel’s food and drink, having most meals at the main restaurant and a cheeky night cap at the cozy lobby bar.

All meals at the main restaurant are set up in a nicely varied buffet with plenty for vegetarians, vegans, carnivores and the health conscious, so no worries there. My last day the governor of Kisumu County was at lunch with a conference group so that’s fun, if you’re into that. Also great people-watching when folks are faffing around a politician ;)

What to do

This always happens - I’ve left Kisumu with a longer list of things I want to come back and do/see than things I actually go to do/see. It’s a problem I don’t mind having though ;)

Here it is - my guide for Kisumu and The Grand Royal Swiss Hotel including best hikes close to the hotel, day trips from Kisumu, pharmacies to get your malaria prevention on (major key) and more. There are even some sites filled with mystical energy of Luo legends ;)

Enjoy and share the link with someone headed to Kisumu soon!

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