Already day dreaming about the gorgeous Kenyan beaches, the Great Rift Valley, encountering wildlife on safari or meeting the Maasai Mara tribe? I am sure you are excited planning your trip to Kenya. But don't let high roaming charges or slow overseas data plans ruin your trip.
This is a complete guide for for finding the best way to stay connected when traveling to Kenya. Find out everything about buying a prepaid sim card in Kenya, the best e-sim cards for Kenya, the best 4G/5G network in Kenya, where to buy a sim card, up to date prices as per February 2024, a vlog about my experiences, my recommendation, information about international sim cards and more.
One of the first things I do when planning my next trip is figuring out what is the best way to stay connected. In the past I always used to buy a prepaid sim card on arrival in every country but nowadays I mostly order an e-sim card on the internet.
As I am on a journey to visit every country in the world I get to a lot of places and everywhere I go I write down my tips for fellow travelers. That is how on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world: Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cairo, Egypt, Zambia, Uganda, South Africa, Namibia, Cameroon, Gabon, Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, etc.
Does you Kenya trip start at Nairobi International Airport Jomo Kenyatta and want to buy a Kenya sim card on arrival then check out my complete guide for buying a sim card at Nairobi Airport in 2024.
So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid and e-sim card advice for your next holiday destination. Bookmark me and let me help you save money!
Traveltomtom recommends a Safaricom sim card for traveling in Kenya. It is slightly more expensive than the other mobile internet operators, but it has by far the best 4G/5G network coverage in Kenya. You can get 15 GB data for around $18 USD.
The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Kenya in 2024 is an e-sim card. Arrange everything online in just a couple clicks and e-sim plans for Kenya already start from $9 USD.
Local prepaid sim cards for Kenya are cheaper than global travel sim cards. I wrote an article with a comparison of the best international sim cards in 2024 to show the difference.
However, an international sim card comes in handy when traveling often and crossing borders a lot. It also gives you the convenience of arriving prepared and being online when the plane lands.
Very important when buying a prepaid sim card in Kenya, getting an e-sim or an international sim card for Kenya is that you have to make sure your phone is unlocked. All these ways of staying connected only work if you have an unlocked phone. If you are not sure about this then ask your mobile internet provider in your home country before traveling to Kenya.
An old school way of stay connected is a portable WiFi device, read my honest review in the link. Personally I am not a fan but for those that have locked phones it could be handy.
Best e-sim cards for Kenya
The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Kenya in 2024 is an e-sim card. You arrange everything online in just a couple clicks. No more visiting a phone store and swapping physical prepaid sim cards.
You order an e-sim card for Kenya on the internet, you receive a QR code, scan it, follow the simple steps and within less than 2 minutes you have a Kenya e-sim card installed on your phone.
Upon arrival in Kenya it automatically connects you to an available network and you enjoy data on your phone pretty much when the plane lands.
Make sure your phone is e-sim compatible before ordering an e-sim card for Kenya.
Airalo is a very reliable e-sim provider that sells e-sim cards from pretty much every country in the world. Check out the Airalo e-sim card plans for Kenya in 2024:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $9 USD
- 2 GB data for 15 days = $16.5 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $23.5 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $36.5 USD
Click here for more info or to order a Kenya e-sim card via Airalo.
The above data-only Kenya e-sim cards from Nakuru Mobile are only valid in Kenya. Nakuru Mobile operates on the Airtel 4G/LTE network in Kenya.
SimOptions is a reliable e-sim provider and Traveltomtom has used SimOptions in more than 50 countries around the world and never faced an issue.
The SimOptions e-sim cards are more expensive than Airalo, but these are international e-sim cards, valid in up to 141 countries around the world. Here are the SimOptions international e-sim card plans for Kenya for 2024:
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $39.90 USD
Click here for more info or to order an international e-sim card for Kenya via SimOptions.
Another trusted and reviewed e-sim provider is Nomad and Traveltomtom has used Nomad now in more than 10 countries. Nomad sometimes has amazing competitive e-sim card plans with cheap prices.
Here are the Nomad e-sim card plans for Kenya in 2024:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $10 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $17 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $23 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $37 USD
Click here for more info or to order an e-sim card for Kenya via Nomad.
The Nomad e-sim cards for Kenya operate on the 4G/LTE network of Airtel.
If your phone is not e-sim compatible then you can order a physical prepaid sim card for Kenya on the internet. For $49.90 USD you get 10 GB data for 14 days and you can order this prepaid sim card via SimOptions and get it delivered to your home address.
Why buying a 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 or order an e-sim card for Kenya on the internet.
Where to buy a sim card for Kenya
Nairobi International Airport
Buying a local prepaid sim card in Kenya on arrival at the airport is the most convenient place to buy a sim card. Luckily this is pretty well arranged in Kenya and at both international airports, Nairobi and Mombasa, there are sim card shops that sell prepaid sim cards for tourists.
When flying to Nairobi check out my guide for buying a sim card at Nairobi Airport.
Official retail store mobile internet providers
If for some reason you couldn’t buy a sim card at the airport or may be you arrived in Kenya overland just like Traveltomtom once did, you will find out that there are uncountable places where you can buy local prepaid sim cards in Kenya.
In the bigger cities there are 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. At an official retail store you get the best service and advice and most important is that everything is done by the book and they make sure that when you walk out of the store everything is set up and working.
Interested to see what it is like buying a local prepaid sim card in Kenya then have a look at my complete vlog on my YouTube Channel.
As mentioned already there are also several ways to buy a sim card for Kenya on the internet. The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Kenya is an e-sim card. You arrange everything online within just a couple minutes.
But if your phone is not e-sim compatible then you want to look into buying a prepaid international sim card for Kenya.
Mobile internet operators in Kenya
There are 4 main mobile internet providers in Kenya:
All of the above mobile internet providers operate on their own mobile network, some have better network coverage than the others. Faiba is a fairly new mobile internet operator on the Kenya telecom market and Telkom is also a much smaller operator compared to Airtel and Safaricom.
When you travel to Kenya you will see the green color of Safaricom everywhere! They are the biggest mobile internet operator, Airtel and Telkom stores can be found pretty easy as well, but a Faiba store is definitely harder to find.
Prepaid sim card registration in Kenya
Every prepaid sim card needs to be registered on your name and passport number, so bring your passport when buying a prepaid 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, a passport photo and so on. Check out my Uganda sim card guide for example, the process is hilarious. Luckily not in Kenya.
When you buy a prepaid sim card in Kenya you will get a physical prepaid sim card with a phone number that starts with: +254. As per February 2024 it is still very difficult to get an e-sim card when buying a sim card in Kenya. Most phone stores still only offer physical prepaid sim cards only.
Best 4G/5G network in Kenya in 2024
It is fair to say that the 4G network of Telkom and Faiba are way too small and not recommended for tourists. Especially if you are on the road exploring Kenya. If you travel 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 they expect to expand that to over 150 cities across Kenya in the next 12 months. Find here more info about the Safaricom 5G network service.
All other mobile internet providers in Kenya are trying to keep up with Safaricom, but you will see from the below comparison of the Kenya network coverage maps that Safaricom stands out when it comes to the best network coverage in Kenya.
Telkom 4G network coverage map
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. Any clue how big Kenya is? What does that mean if you go even a little off the beaten path? Therefore a Telkom prepaid sim card is not recommended for tourists.
Faiba 4G network coverage map
They claim to have the fastest mobile data 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 coverage map
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 coverage map
There is no doubt that Safaricom has by far the best mobile network in Kenya in 2024. Period.
Although the above mobile data network coverage maps are updated for 2024 they are not 100% accurate. However, they are a great reference to compare the 4G/5G networks of the mobile internet providers in Kenya in 2024.
After comparing the network coverage maps of all the Kenya mobile internet providers we can already conclude that based on the 4G/5G network in Kenya alone Traveltomtom recommends a Safaricom sim card for traveling to Kenya.
Prices Kenya prepaid sim cards
All the info below is updated with the latest info and prices as per February 2024. Prices are in Kenyan Shilling: $1 USD = 162 KES and 1,000 KES = $6.15 USD.
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 packages. Here are some of the Faiba prepaid data plans:
- 8 GB data for 1 week = 300 KES ($1.9 USD)
- 15 GB data for 1 week = 500 KES ($3.1 USD)
- 25 GB data for 1 month = 1,000 KES ($6.2 USD)
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 data plans:
- 2.5 GB data for 1 week = 250 KES ($1.5 USD)
- 5 GB data for 1 month = 500 KES ($3.1 USD)
- 12 GB data for 1 month = 1,000 KES ($6.2 USD)
As you can see prices for data bundles in Kenya are cheap for Western tourists. For more info check the Telkom Kenya website.
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:
- 3 GB data for 1 week = 250 KES ($1.5 USD)
- 6.5 GB data for 1 week = 500 KES ($3.1 USD)
- 5 GB data for 1 month = 500 KES ($3.1 USD)
- 12 GB data for 1 month = 1,000 KES ($6.2 USD)
- 20 GB data for 1 month = 1,500 KES ($9.3 USD)
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. Check the Airtel website for more info.
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:
- 1 GB data for 1 week = 250 KES ($1.5 USD)
- 3 GB data for 1 week = 500 KES ($3.1 USD)
- 5 GB data for 1 month = 1,000 KES ($6.2 USD)
- 15 GB data for 1 month = 2,000 KES ($12.4 USD)
As you can see Safaricom is significantly more expensive compared to Telekom, Faiba and Airtel. However their 4G/5G network is also much better. For more info check the Safaricom website.
As of February 2024 Safaricom offers e-sim cards for tourists. When buying a Safaricom prepaid sim card in an official Safaricom store in you can opt for an e-sim card for 250 KES extra. Great! But still, not every Safaricom store offers e-sim cards.
For example at Nairobi International Airport they had no e-sim cards available in February 2024. It is a bit a hit or miss.
To request you remaining balance with Safaricom you can dial: *144# and to activate voice and data bundles dial: *544#.
Best sim card for Kenya in 2024
After Traveltomtom's comparison of the prepaid sim card plans and prices of all the mobile internet operators in Kenya it is easy to conclude that Safaricom is relatively more expensive than other mobile internet providers. However, prices for Kenya tourist sim cards with data are cheap compared to most Western countries and therefore it is not the price that is the most important when choosing the best prepaid sim card for Kenya.
The most important when choosing a sim card for Kenya 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. Traveltomtom comes to the easy conclusion that Safaricom is the best sim card for Kenya in 2024.
Traveltomtom is an advocate for using e-sim cards when traveling abroad. They are very convenient and simple to use. However, fact is that e-sim cards for Kenya are more expensive than local prepaid sim cards.
The best value e-sim card for Kenya is offered by Nomad and it gives you 10 GB data for $37 USD.
That said, e-sim cards are so easy to get that I often happily pay the higher price. Plus you are online as soon as the plane touches the ground and you don't need to buy a sim card on arrival in Kenya.
Buying a prepaid sim card for Kenya online
Does buying a sim card on arrival in Kenya sounds like too much hassle or you want to arrive prepared for your trip to Kenya but your phone is not e-sim compatible then have a look at the following.
Arrive prepared in Kenya with an international prepaid sim card. You order them online and a physical prepaid sim card will be delivered to your home address. You put this sim card in your phone and it automatically connects to an available network upon arrival in Kenya, basically when the plane lands you are instantly online.
SimOptions is the only sim card provider that sells physical prepaid sim cards for Kenya:
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Click here for more info or to order an international prepaid sim card for Kenya via SimOptions.
Also a last reminder that if your phone is e-sim compatible you can order a Kenya e-sim card and arrange everything online within just a couple minutes. No more visiting a sim card shop, just a couple clicks and you are done.
My experiences buying a sim card in Kenya
The first time I visited Kenya was on my big overland trip in Africa and crossed the land border from Uganda. Right at the border there were no sim card shops and I could not find a place to buy a sim card for Kenya. Just 1 minute down the road there were plenty of phone shops, but since I was traveling in a bus I couldn't get off. I had to wait until I got to Kisumu to buy my sim card for Kenya.
Once in Kisumu I went straight to an official Safaricom retail store and got myself a Kenya prepaid sim card. It was done in less than 5 minutes. All I needed to do is 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 prepaid costumer very happy.
During my trip to 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 prepaid sim card in Kenya.
When traveling to Kenya again at the end 2023 I found out that Safaricom offers e-sim cards for tourists in their official retail store. At first I tried at Nairobi International Airport, but with no success. So the next day I went to a Safaricom store in central Nairobi and I bought an e-sim card. As I stayed for more than 2 weeks I needed a couple top ups. I found amazing Safaricom prepaid data plans for 2,000 KES ($12.3 USD) that gave me 30 GB data.
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 February 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries around the world.
Enjoy your trip to Kenya!
Some links in this article about the best prepaid sim cards for traveling to Kenya are affiliate links. If you buy any of the products after using an affiliate link in this article I earn a small commission. This is at absolutely no extra cost to you!