How to get a Sim Card for first time visitors to Kenya

So you are visiting Kenya for a while. You know for a fact you cannot roam with your native SIM because well, let us be real. roaming is pricy a.f. You’re in Kenya, Karibu Sana. We are a nice people…for the most part.

Recently, the Ugandan Government halted the sales of sim cards so as to allow for the implementation of better registration regulations.  The Kenyan government did this a while back.  As such, getting yourself a local Sim Card is no longer as simple as walking into a store and purchasing one. In a bit to reduce SIM related crimes such as hate speech, fraud such, all carriers are required to register all numbers. This includes those being used by minors, those in devices such as modems, tablets and everything else in between.

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As such, you will have to register your new line before it is activated. To do so, the government requires details such as one’s national ID number or other official identification documents in the case of minors. Physical address, postal address, and alternative number are also necessary in the case of some carriers. For aliens, however, most operators can get you up and running with just the Passport. The passport has to be valid though.

The accepted documentation for SIM Registration are;

  • Kenyan National ID
  • Passport, Military ID
  • Alien ID

That said, let us get you up to speed. In Kenya, we have three major carriers; Safaricom, Airtel Kenya, and Telkom Kenya. Depending on where in Kenya you’re visiting and what your connectivity needs are, either of the aforementioned will work just fine.

In general, Safaricom has the best coverage countrywide. They have the strongest network and solid data speeds, even in the wild. Their rates are however really steep compared to the competition. MPESA, their mobile money platform is also very widely used in the country. Merchants accept payments on the platform, you can use it to pay bills and for services among other things so that might be something to consider.

Airtel Kenya offers generous data packages on a budget. Their coverage has been thought to be playing catchup to Safaricom and for the most part, that might not entirely be inaccurate. AirtelMoney is not as widely used so if you really want to try your toes in mobile money, this might not be what you’re looking for. Telkom Kenya is equally big on data although their coverage is still spotty.


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