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 staying 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 August 2023, a vlog about my experiences, my recommendation, information about international sim cards and more.
The first thing I do when getting to a new country is finding the best way to stay connected. 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. But also outside of Africa: Europe, United Kingdom, London, France, Paris, Italy, Asia, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Indonesia, Sydney, USA, New York, Miami, Brazil, Argentina and many more.
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 2023.
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.
The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Kenya in 2023 is an e-sim card. Arrange everything online in just a couple clicks and e-sim plans for Kenya already start from just $9 USD. If you use a lot of data a Kenya prepaid sim card is much cheaper.
Local prepaid sim cards for Kenya are much cheaper than global travel sim cards. I wrote an article with a comparison of the best international sim cards in 2023 to show the difference. However, an international prepaid 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 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
Make it yourself easy and arrive prepared in Kenya by ordering an e-sim card. It is super easy and you are instantly connected. Buy an e-sim card online, process the payment, receive a QR code, scan it, follow the steps and you are all set in just 2 minutes.
Check out the following e-sim card plans for Kenya:
- 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 to order a Kenya e-sim card directly online.
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.
Much more expensive is an international e-sim card. The above e-sim card is valid in more than 130 countries around the world, including Kenya:
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
Click here to order this international e-sim card for Kenya.
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 prepaid sim card here and get it delivered to your home address. Find more info in the link.
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!
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 just like me in Kenya overland then 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.
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.
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.
When you buy a prepaid sim card in Kenya you will get a sim card with a phone number that starts with: +254. Unfortunately the mobile internet operators in Kenya do NOT provide e-sim cards for tourists.
Best 4G/5G network in Kenya in 2023
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 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. 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 coverage maps that Safaricom stands out when it comes to the best network coverage in Kenya.
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. 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
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
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 by far the best mobile network in Kenya in 2023. Period.
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
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 sim card plans for Kenya as of August 2023.
Prices below are in Kenyan Shilling: $1 USD = 141 KES and 100 KES = $0.71 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:
- 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 data plans:
- 2.5 GB data for 1 week = 250 KES ($2.3)
- 5 GB data for 1 month = 500 KES ($4.6)
- 12 GB data for 1 month = 1,000 KES ($2.3)
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:
- 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. 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:
- 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 4G/5G network is also much better. For more info check the Safaricom website.
As of August 2023 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!
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 2023
After my comparison of the prepaid sim card plans and prices for the data packages it is easy to conclude that Safaricom is much more expensive than other mobile internet providers. However, prices for data bundles in Kenya are cheap compared to most Western countries and therefore it is not the price that is the most important when choosing the best sim card for Kenya.
The most 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. Traveltomtom comes to the easy conclusion that Safaricom is the best sim card for Kenya in 2023.
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 buying a sim card on arrival in Kenya sounds like too much hassle and you want to arrive prepared for your trip to Kenya then consider buying a sim card for Kenya online. Get online as soon as the plane touches the ground with an international sim card for Kenya. This pre-activated prepaid sim card will be delivered to your home address before your trip.
Check out the following international prepaid sim card for Kenya:
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Click here to directly order this prepaid sim card for Kenya or find more info in the link.
Also a last reminder that 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 in August 2023 I found out that Safaricom offers e-sim cards for tourists in their official retail store. I bought an e-sim card and as I stayed for more than 2 weeks I needed a couple top ups. I found amazing prepaid data plans for 2,000 KES 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 August 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries around the world.
Enjoy your trip to Kenya!