Already day dreaming about the gorgeous Kenyan beaches, the Great Rift Valley or the Maasai Mara? However, don't let high roaming charges ruin your trip. This is a complete guide for buying a prepaid sim card for Kenya: the best 4G/5G network in Kenya, where to buy a sim card, up to date prices as per August 2022, a vlog about my experiences buying a Kenya sim card and even information about international and e-sim cards for Kenya.
Because of many big overland trips in Africa you can find many prepaid sim card guides on Traveltomtom: Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cairo, Zambia, Uganda, South Africa, Namibia, Cameroon, Gabon, Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, etc.
Does you Kenya trip start at Nairobi International Airport Jomo Kenyatta then this is the easiest place to get connected, check out my complete guide for buying a sim card at Nairobi Airport.
Traveltomtom recommends a Safaricom sim card for traveling in Kenya. It is slightly more expensive than the other operators, but it has by far the best network coverage in Kenya. You can get 15 GB data for around $18.
Local sim cards are much cheaper than global sim cards. I wrote an article with a comparison of the best international sim cards in 2022 to show the difference. However, an international sim card comes in handy when traveling often and crossing borders a lot. It also give you the convenience of arriving prepared.
But the easiest way to stay connected when traveling abroad in 2022 is an e-sim card.
E-sim card for Kenya
Not everyone prefers to swap sim cards and besides looking into a portable WiFi device you can now also choose to get an e-sim card for traveling abroad. With an e-sim card you don't need to visit a store anymore, you arrange everything online within just a couple minutes. Unfortunately there is only 1 e-sim card deal for Kenya available at the moment:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $9.5 USD
Click here to order this Kenya e-sim card directly online or find more info on how it exactly works.
You can also still order a physical sim card for Kenya online for $49.90 USD you get 10 GB data for 14 days. Order this Kenya sim card here or find more info in the link.
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Why buying a local sim card for Kenya
Most hotels, restaurants, bars and lodges offer free WiFi so why buying a sim card for your trip to Kenya. Well it is very simple, you can’t rely on the WiFi, it is often not working or way too slow. Uploading a video to your Instagram story could take ages.
Buying a local sim card makes traveling so much easier, but also safer. Having an internet connection at hand give you the opportunity to order an Uber, get direction from Google Maps when you get lost, solve language problems by translation apps, book a last minute hotel, find a good restaurant nearby, etc.
Many reasons why I advice travelers to get a local sim card on arrival!
Where to buy a sim card in Kenya
Are you flying to Kenya then you most probably landing in either Mombasa or Nairobi. At both Airports you can find kiosk with Kenya sim cards for tourists.
I also wrote guides for buying a sim card at Nairobi Airport and Mombasa Airport.
If for some reason you couldn’t buy a sim card at the airport or you arrived just like me in Kenya overland, there are many places where you can buy local sim cards.
In the bigger cities there are several kiosks around town and little pop up stores, but I recommend you to go to an official retail store of one of the mobile internet providers. Simply locate the nearest one around you by using Google Maps when you have WiFi.
Mobile internet operators in Kenya
There are 4 main mobile internet providers in Kenya:
All of the above providers operate on their own network, some have better network coverage than the others. Faiba is only 3 years old and a fairly new player on the Kenya telecom market.
When you travel to Kenya you will see the green color of Safaricom everywhere! They are the biggest operator, Airtel and Telkom stores can be found pretty easy as well, but a Faiba store is definitely harder to find.
Sim card registration in Kenya
Every prepaid sim card needs to be registered on your name so you need to bring your passport when buying a sim card in Kenya. The process is easy and fast and shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.
In most other Eastern Africa countries buying a local sim card is a pain as they need your fingerprint an passport photo and so on. Check out my Uganda sim card guide for example.
Best 4G/5G network in Kenya in 2022
It is fair to say that the 4G network of Telkom and Faiba are very small and not recommended for tourists. Especially if you are on the road exploring the country and going to off the beaten path the Telkom and Faiba networks are simply too weak.
Is there 5G in Kenya?
Yes, there is 5G in Kenya. Only recently Safaricom launched their 5G network in the cities of Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega and expects to expand that to over 150 cities across Kenya in the next 12 months. Find here more info about the Safaricom 5G network service.
Telkom 4G network
On the Telkom website they are talking about which towns are covered by a Telkom 4G network. All major towns are listed, but they only list 32 towns and cities. Do you know how big Kenya is? What does that mean if you go even a little off the beaten path?
Faiba 4G network
They may to claim fast mobile internet, but ONLY in major cities in Kenya. It is therefore NOT recommend to buy a Faiba sim card if you are traveling to Kenya.
Airtel 4G network
Although Airtel is the second best when it comes to 4G network in Kenya, it does not even come close to the 4G network of Safaricom. They are investing heavily to update the Airtel 4G network, check the latest details in the link.
Safaricom 4G/5G network
There is no doubt that Safaricom has the best Kenya mobile network by far! Period.
Based on the info from the Kenya coverage maps above updated in January 2022 I would already say based on the 4G/5G network in Kenya alone I would recommend travelers to buy a Safaricom sim card for their trip to Kenya.
Prices Kenya prepaid sim cards
As you have seen on my Kenya sim card vlog, during my recent trip to Kenya I figured out all the prices for prepaid sim cards in Kenya. This blog is updated with the latest prepaid sim card deals for Kenya as of January 2022.
Let’s start with the smallest operator. A Faiba sim card is free and can be registered in one of their shops and they actually have amazing data package deals. Here are some great deals:
- 300 KES = 8 GB data for 1 week ($2.8)
- 500 KES = 15 GB data for 1 week ($4.6)
- 1,000 KES = 25 GB data for 1 month ($9.3)
When it comes to the best data package deals in Kenya, Faiba is by far the best! Faiba already offers an e-sim for Kenya. For more info check the Faiba website.
Calling credit can be added separately, the rate is 2 KES/min.
Topping up a Faiba sim card can easily be done online through their app, however you need to register an Mpesa account, etc. Not preferably for tourists. Topping up with other providers can be done literally everywhere on the side of the road at one of the million kiosks. I am NOT exaggerating! LOL
After I showed you the weak network, this is another reason why I would NOT recommend tourists to buy a Faiba sim card in Kenya.
A Telkom sim card costs 50 KES, but comes with 50 KES credit, you will then need to buy a data package for internet. Here are some of their best plans:
- 250 KES = 2.5 GB data for 1 week ($2.3)
- 500 KES = 5 GB data for 1 month ($4.6)
- 1,000 KES = 12 GB data for 1 month ($2.3)
As you can see prices for data bundles in Kenya are cheap for most Western tourists. For more info about the latest Telkom Kenya prepaid tariffs check the link.
An Airtel sim card cost 100 KES and comes with 50 KES airtime. This airtime can be used as credit to put towards any data bundles. Here are some of their most common bundles:
- 250 KES = 3 GB data for 1 week ($2.3)
- 500 KES = 6.5 GB data for 1 week ($4.6)
- 500 KES = 5 GB data for 1 month ($4.6)
- 1,000 KES = 12 GB data for 1 month ($9.3)
- 1,500 KES = 20 GB data for 1 month ($13.9)
Airtel is offering Free WhatsApp with its data bundles, but that is a joke. Because the ‘free WhatsApp’ is capped at 50 MB. That is sending 5 photos and a video! LOL
Airtel and Telkom prices are more or like the same. Click on the link to check the Airtel website for the latest data bundle deals.
A Safaricom prepaid sim card costs 50 KES, but also comes with 50 KES airtime to use for voice or data. They offer daily, weekly and monthly data bundles:
- 250 KES = 1 GB data for 1 week ($2.3)
- 500 KES = 3 GB data for 1 week ($4.6)
- 1,000 KES = 5 GB data for 1 month ($9.3)
- 2,000 KES = 15 GB data for 1 month ($18.6)
As you can see Safaricom is significantly more expensive compared to Telekom, Faiba and Airtel. However their network is also much better. For the latest Safaricom data bundles info check their website.
To request you remaining balance with Safaricom you can dial: *144#
To activate voice and data bundles dial: *544#
Best Kenya sim card in 2022
When comparing the prices and the data packages one would normally not choose a Safaricom sim card. However prices for data bundles in Kenya are cheap compared to most Western countries.
And very important is the 4G/5G network coverage. Especially if you are traveling in Kenya and staying in some off the beaten path lodges in National Parks. Therefore I come to the simple conclusion that Safaricom is the best Kenya sim card in 2022!
Interested to see a vlog about my experiences buying a prepaid sim card for tourists in Kenya then have a look at the video below.
Buying a sim card for Kenya online
Does this all sound like too much hassle and you want to arrive prepared for your trip to Kenya then consider buying a sim card for Kenya online. This pre-activated sim card will be shipped to your home address before your trip. Check out the following Kenya sim card deal:
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.9 USD
Click here to order this Kenya sim card here or find more info in the link. Also a last reminder that you can order a Kenya e-sim card directly and arrange everything online within just a couple minutes.
My experiences buying a sim card in Kenya
I visited Kenya the first time on my big overland trip in Africa and crossed the border from Uganda. Right at the border there were no shops to buy a sim card. A couple hundreds meter away there were but since I was traveling in a bus I had to wait till I got to Kisumu.
Once in Kisumu I went straight to an official Safaricom shop and got myself a Kenya sim card. It was done in less than 5 minutes. All I needed to do is to give my passport and look into the camera for a photo.
I got connected to Safaricom and wanted to buy the 500 KES data bundle with 3 GB for 1 week. But when I dialled *544# it straight away gave me a promotion offer: 250 KES for 5 GB for 1 week! Damn Safaricom you just made another costumer very happy.
During my trip in Kenya I used more than 20 GB data and every time I could use the 5 GB top up option for 250 KES. I couldn’t be any happier with my choice for buying a Safaricom sim card in Kenya.
I hope all the tips and tricks for buying a Kenya sim card were helpful. If you have any additional questions or info please leave me a comment below.
In case you are looking for some serious wanderlust then check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom with all my adventures trying to visit every country in the world. As of August 2022 I have visited more than 135 countries around the world.
Enjoy your trip to Kenya!