Already day dreaming about the gorgeous Kenyan beaches, the Great Rift Valley and the Maasai Mara? When planning a trip to Kenya don’t forget to buy a local sim card on arrival. It is the best way to stay connected and save on high roaming costs.
In this guide you will find everything you need to know for buying a sim card in Kenya: where to go, the mobile internet operators, prices, best network, etc. If you are interested in watching a vlog about buying a Kenya sim card you can also find it below.
Because of my big Africa overland trip I also touched down and wrote local sim card guides in the following countries: Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, South Africa, Namibia. Unfortunately sim cards in Africa do NOT include free international roaming.
Are you traveling to Kenya and Tanzania then the Orange Holiday World data-only sim card would be an option. It gives you 10 GB data and you can use it in Kenya AND Tanzania. Order it directly online for $49.90.
VLOG - COMING SOON
My Kenya sim card recommendation
I recommend a Safaricom sim card when visiting Kenya. It is slightly more expensive than the other operators, but it has by far the best network coverage in Kenya.
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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!
Local sim cards are much better than global sim cards. I wrote an article about the best international sim cards, but came to the simple conclusion that they are overpriced and NOT worth it for most travels around the world. Have a look and decide yourself!
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 in Kenya overland, just like me the first time, 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.
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 then 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 Faiba 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 2021
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 network
There is no doubt that Safaricom has the best Kenya mobile network by far! Period.
Based on the info from the Nperf Kenya coverage maps above I would already say based on the network alone I would recommend travelers to buy a Safaricom sim card for their trip to Kenya.
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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 in 2021.
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 2021
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 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:
Safaricom is the best Kenya sim card in 2021!
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.
Enjoy your trip to Kenya!