Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is known as the safari gateway. You can find the Nairobi National Park, plenty of museums, shops for shopping, and a thrilling nightlife.
Mombasa is also known for its safaris, but they also have cool beaches and resorts.
There are plenty of parks and reserves to visit, like the Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara, and Tsavo East National Park.
Want more water? Lamu has cool beaches,so does Watamu. Lake Naivasha is spectacular, but you should not swim there unless you can befriend the hippos.
What will probably ruin your relationship with your operator is receiving an expensive roaming bill for roaming in Kenya. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a local SIM card, like a Kenyan one.
Mobile rates are low in Kenya, compared to the world's average, which is why you should take advantage of it.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Kenya. Let's do this.
Table of Contents
Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in Kenya
Kenya has three mobile network operators:
- Airtel Kenya
The following frequencies are used in Kenya:
Also, in 2019, Airtel Kenya and Telkom have announced that they plan on merging to compete with Safaricom. For the coming years, the two brands will stay as they are, including the plans they offer.
A Note About Fabia
Fabia is a 4G/LTE-only operator that has limited coverage throughout Kenya – only in the big cities. They mainly target those who want an alternative to broadband internet, making them a bad choice for travelers. However, if your device supports 700 MHz on Band 28 and you are staying in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumuor, or Thika, then Faiba can be a cheap data option. Because not many travelers can use Fabia, they will not be covered in this article.
Best SIM Card in Kenya
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Kenya? If you want to buy a SIM card in Kenya, I would recommend going with Safaricom because they are simply the best operator in Kenya. Airtel is a good second option if you want to save a bit of money while wanting to have good coverage. If you are staying in the cities and do not feel like spending a lot on data, consider Telkom.
SIM Card Registration in Kenya
Like most countries in East Africa, and Africa in general, you have to register yourself when buying a SIM card. It is, therefore, recommended to buy a SIM card at official stores and not on the streets, as the street-sellers may not ask for identification or may not process it (properly), which could lead to your SIM card getting blocked, or worse, you getting fined.
Kenya Prepaid SIM Cards
Below, I will guide you through the Kenyan operators and go through:
- Background information
- Mobile coverage
- SIM card types, prices, and availability
- Recharge/top-up information
- Combo plans, data plans, and special packs (such as social media packs)
With that said, let's see what Kenya has to offer to us.
Safaricom is the largest operator in Kenya with a market share of roughly 75%. One of the reasons they have so many customers is that they have the best coverage throughout Kenya, even in the most remote places. However, this also resulted in overcrowded networks that, in turn, results in slower speeds and network dropouts.
Safaricom SIM cards are sold for 100 KES ($0.95) in many stores, but they have to be registered at a Safaricom store. It is, therefore, recommended to go to a Safaricom store to buy your SIM card. Make sure to ask for their 4G/LTE SIM card if you plan on using their 4G/LTE network.
Recharge vouchers are called Bamba and are sold from 5 KES to 1000 KES in almost every commercial store in Kenya.
As of 2020, Safaricom has new bundles, which they call PostPay packages. I have not used these plans myself, but I have been told by a Safaricom representative that travelers can take advantage of the PostPay plan and packages.
With the new PostPay feature, one has to set a monthly expense limited on the mySafaricom app. After that, a PostPay plan can be purchased. Those who are already on Safaricom PrePay can dial *544# to switch to PostPay.
Unlike the old Safaricom PrePay plans, PostPay do not have an expiry, which means your allowance can be used whenever. The worry that I have is that these bundles do renew on a monthly basis, which makes it feel like they do expire. I assume that the allowance stacks up if you have not used up all of them.
In addition to all of this, these plans come with unlimited minutes for calling to Canada, China, India, and the United States.
The Safaricom representative told me that one can still decide to go with the PrePay if you want to, which are the plans I have used in the past.
First, I will mention the PrePay plans. After that, the PostPay plans.
Safaricom has 5 Daily Data Bundles that are valid for 24 hours. These data bundles also come with SMS, and some of them come with free WhatsApp, which has a cap of 500 MB, but WhatsApp voice- and video calls are not included. Any of these Daily Data Bundles can be purchased by dialing *544# and selecting option Daily Bundle:
- 5 KES: 7 MB and 7 SMS
- 10 KES: 15 MB and 15 SMS
- 20 KES: 50 MB, free WhatsApp, and 20 SMS
- 50 KES: 150 MB, Free WhatsApp, and 50 SMS
- 99 KES: 500 MB, free WhatsApp, and 500 SMS
These Daily Data Bundles can be purchased as one-off purchases or let them auto-renew. To disable auto-renewal, dial *544# and select Stop Auto Renewal.
Need a data plan that will last you for a week? Safaricom has 4 plans that have a validity of 7 days. Some of these bundles come with free WhatsApp, which is capped at 3.5 GB, and does not apply to WhatsApp voice- and video calls. Any of these Weekly Data Bundles can be purchased by dialing *544# and selecting option 7 Day Bundle:
- 50 KES: 100 MB
- 99 KES: 350 MB and free WhatsApp
- 250 KES: 1 GB and free WhatsApp
- 500 KES: 3 GB and free WhatsApp
You also have more than 20 different Safaricom monthly plans at different price points. Some of them come with minutes, some of them come with free WhatsApp (capped at 10 GB), while others come with solely data. Because Safaricom groups them by their price, I will be doing the same. Any of these Monthly Data Bundles can be purchased by dialing *544# and selecting option 30 Day Bundles.
Some of these bundles come with FLEX units. These units give you the FLEXibility to decide what to do with them. Just be aware of the following unit prices:
- 1 minute of calling costs 3 FLEX units
- 3 SMS costs 1 FLEX unit
- 3 MB costs 1 FLEX unit
Let’s say you have 100 units. You could call for 33.3 minutes, send 300 SMS, or use 300 MB. Of course, endless combinations can be made with these units.
For 250 KES, you will get 350 MB. For 500 KES, you get 2 GB and free WhatsApp.
These Safaricom monthly bundles will cost you 1000 KES and come with the following perks:
- 1200 FLEX units
- 1 GB, free WhatsApp, and 500 minutes
- 4 GB, free WhatsApp, and 200 minutes
- 5 GB
These Safaricom monthly bundles will cost you 2000 KES and come with the following perks:
- 2700 FLEX units
- 5 GB, free WhatsApp, and 1000 minutes
- 12 GB, free WhatsApp, and 400 minutes
- 15 GB
These Safaricom monthly bundles will cost you 3000 KES and come with the following perks:
- 4200 FLEX units
- 8 GB, free WhatsApp, and 2000 minutes
- 20 GB, free WhatsApp, and 600 minutes
- 25 GB
These Safaricom monthly bundles will cost you 5000 KES and come with the following perks:
- 7500 FLEX units
- 10 GB, free WhatsApp, and 3000 minutes
- 35 GB, free WhatsApp, and 1000 minutes
- 60 GB
These Safaricom monthly bundles will cost you 10 000 KES and come with the following perks:
- 16 000 FLEX units
- 20 GB, free WhatsApp, and 6000 minutes
- 40 GB, free WhatsApp, and 1500 minutes
- 150 GB
Need a data for 90 days? Safaricom has 3 bundles that last you 90 days:
- 3000 KES: 6 GB
- 6000 KES: 16 GB
- 9000 KES: 30 GB
Now to the PostPay packages – there are 5 of them:
- 1000 KES: 5 GB, 400 minutes, and unlimited SMS
- 2000 KES: 15 GB, 1000 minutes, and unlimited SMS
- 3000 KES: 25 GB, 1500 minutes, and unlimited SMS
- 5000 KES: Unlimited data*, 2500 minutes, and unlimited SMS
- 10 000 KES: Unlimited data**, unlimited calls, and unlimited SMS
* High-speed data for the first 50 GB, then throttled to 1 Mbps
** High-speed data for the first 100 GB, then throttled to 1 Mbps
These plans renew every month. Dial *544# and select stop auto renew to disable auto-renewal.
Airtel Kenya, just Airtel, is the second-largest operator in Kenya. They have a market share of around 15 million, which means that Airtel and Safaricom together have a market share of 90% of the Kenyan telecom market. Although Airtel’s coverage is not as great as the one of Safaricom, their coverage is still good
Airtel has several data packs, called Airtel Amazing Data Bundles, to choose from, ranging from plans lasting you 24 hours all the way up to plans that are valid for 90 days. Some of these plans come with free WhatsApp, which is capped at 50 MB per day. You can purchase these plans by dialing *544#. You get the option of whether you want it to be a one-off purchase or it to auto-renew.
Airtel has 4 daily data bundles to choose from:
- 10 KES: 70 MB
- 20 KES: 200 MB and free WhatsApp
- 50 KES: 500 MB and free WhatsApp
- 99 KES: 2 GB and free WhatsApp
Staying in Kenya for a week? Consider one of these 4 Airtel weekly plans:
- 50 KES: 350 MB and free WhatsApp
- 100 KES: 750 MB and free WhatsApp
- 250 KES: 2.5 GB and free WhatsApp
- 500 KES: 6 GB and free WhatsApp
Exploring Kenya for a month or just need a lot of data? Get one of these 6 Airtel monthly plans:
- 300 KES: 3 GB and free WhatsApp
- 500 KES: 5 GB and free WhatsApp
- 1000 KES: 12 GB and free WhatsApp
- 1500 KES: 20 GB and free WhatsApp
- 2000 KES: 30 GB and free WhatsApp
- 3000 KES: 50 GB and free WhatsApp
If you are staying in Kenya for a few months, then one of these 3 Airtel 90-day may be for you:
- 3000 KES: 25 GB
- 6000 KES: 55 GB
- 9000 KES: 90 GB
Telkom is the smallest full operator in Kenya, with a market share of around 8%. Because they are so small, their network is not overcrowded, which can result in high speeds. Unfortunately, their overage is limited. That should change when the merger between the Airtel and Telkom networks start happening.
Telkom SIM cards are sold in Telkom stores for not more than 200 KES.
Telkom has different types of bundles, which all come in different validities.
First, we have the Telkom Freedom Bundles that come with free WhatsApp (50 MB/day) and free Telkom calls (60 on-net min/day). Any Freedom Bundle can be activated by dialing *544#. Check your Freedom Bundle balance by dialing *131#.
The following 4 Telkom Freedom Daily Bundles are available:
- 10 KES: 70 MB
- 20 KES: 200 MB and free WhatsApp
- 50 KES: 700 MB, free WhatsApp, and free Telkom calls
- 100 KES: 2 GB and free WhatsApp
Want a Freedom Bundle that lasts you a week? You have 3 options, which all come with free WhatsApp:
- 49 KES: 350 MB
- 99 KES: 750 MB
- 249 LES: 2.5 GB
Telkom also has 5 Freedom Monthly Bundles. They come with free WhatsApp but no free Telkom calls:
- 249 KES: 2 GB
- 499 KES: 5 GB
- 1499 KES: 10 GB
- 1999 KES: 30 GB
- 2999 KES: 50 GB
Besides the Freedom Bundles, Telkom also has 3 Mzito Bundles that come with data, minutes, and SMS. All plans also come with free data to be used at night (12 AM – 6 AM). Dial *544# to activate a Mzito Bundle, and dial *144# to see your Mzito Bundle balance:
- 499 KES: 3 GB, 100 minutes, and 100 SMS for 30 days. 10 GB night data for 7 days
- 999 KES: 8 GB, 10 GB night data, 300 minutes, and 300 SMS for 30 days
- 1999 KES: 17 GB, 10 GB night data, 600 minutes, and 600 SMS for 30 days
You can also get one of the 2 Telkom Share Life bundles by dialing *544# (and dial *144# to check your Share Life bundle balance):
- 49 KES: 500 MB, 500 MB night data (12 AM – 6 AM), 50 MB WhatsApp data, and 60 minutes for 24 hours
- 99 KES: 2 GB, 2 GB night data (12 AM – 6 AM), 50 MB WhatsApp data, and 60 minutes for 24 hours
Besides these Telkom plans, there are few bundles that do not really fit in a category.
- Looking for a simple combo plan? For 999 KES, you can get 7 GB and 300 minutes for 30 days.
- Do you use WhatsApp a lot? Telkom has a WhatsApp bundle that comes with 50 MB for WhatsApp for 5 KES a day. The data can be used for WhatsApp voice- and video calls. This plan does auto-renew
- Are you active during 12 AM and 6 AM? The #StayWoke bundle is a bundle for night owls that comes with 5 GB to be used in the designated time slot.
- Is 2 GB a day enough for you? Then the Daily 2GB Bundle may be enough for you. For 99 KES, you get 2 GB a day and free WhatsApp (50 MB)
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Kenya
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Kenya
Getting a SIM card from Safaricom, Airtel, or Telkom would do you well when considering a Kenyan SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other African Countries
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