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Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

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Hamburg, Germany
posts: 8
Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

Hi,

I will be arriving at Kenyatta airport at 2.30 in the morning.

My hotel will charge me for an extra day, if I check in before 6am.

I need to buy a visa on arrival - how long will it take to collect luggage and pass customs and immigrations and get a visa?

Is it easy and safe to stay in the public area for an hour or two?

I want to buy a SIM card (phone and internet - any suggestions? - is paperwork like passport copy needed?) and I figure that putting in the card in my phone and getting familiar with it will take half an hour anyway.

My hotel is probably half an hour away too.

15 replies to this topic
Mtwapa, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Barcelona, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bamburi, Mtwapa
posts: 13,610
reviews: 51
1. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

Just posted this in response to your question on another thread

"The time taken depends on how many flights are landing at the same time, you will typically take somewhere around 30 to 40 minutes to clear Immigration, the bags also typically start to hit the carousel 30 to 40 minutes after landing, you usually have a short wait for your bag once you have cleared Immigration, As said before the majority of people walk through Customs unchecked, so you would typically be through and out between somewhere around 45 minutes after landing. However your driver will be well aware of this, though because of traffic he will probably be there well in advance. (edit - just realised you are landing at 2.30 am so traffic will not be an issue)"

The Arrivals Hall is a temporary arrangement (post fire) so there is little there other than Immigration, baggage reclaim and Customs. though there is definitely a Safaricom stall and there may also be an Airtel one, where you can buy a sim. You will have to show your passport, and it does make life a little simpler of you have a copy to give them.

Once you leave Arrivals you are still in the Airport Compound so should be as safe as anywhere in Kenya, , you can walk round the circular walkway to a cafe / bar with terrace called The Pub, that I believe is open 24 hours. It's a pleasant enough place to while away a couple of hours. Someone recently reported that one of the airport bars was being converted to a Java Coffee House, I don't know if it was this as it's a couple of months since I was last in it.

Hamburg, Germany
posts: 8
2. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

Thanks a lot for your help, Doffcocker. Should I get Airtel or Safari, if I have a choice - which one got a better deal on internet?

The purchase itself will probably take 10-20min I gather?

Oh, one more question: Which is the best way to change Euro to KES? Do all banks - including the airport exchangers (I assume there are some) - give the same rate? Are there big differences?

Ukunda, Coast, Kenya
posts: 520
reviews: 7
3. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

Guy, the airport has a forex that is (theoretically) open 24/7. However it gives poor rates so I advise you to change the smallest possible amount there. The forexes in the city give the best rates and service is quick. The banks also do forex but their rates aren't as good and you could be waiting quite a while.

Bear in mind that you can always access the ATMs for Kenya shillings with your Visa or debit card. The ATM exchange rates are quite fair.

Hamburg, Germany
posts: 8
4. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

Thanks a lot for your info, Christopher.

Do you know which SIM card would be better: Safaricom or Airtel (also for internet) or is it a wash? Any plan I need to buy to activate internet at reasonable prices on the SIM?

Ukunda, Coast, Kenya
posts: 520
reviews: 7
5. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

I assume you are looking for a data plan for your mobile.

"Unlimited" monthly plans (which may have limits) are 3,499 for Airtel and only 990 for Orange Telecom. Safaricom doesn't offer unlimited bundles right now and their data is fairly expensive on a per-MB basis.

You activate the bundle by following the directions on the scratch card you buy.

Ukunda, Coast, Kenya
posts: 520
reviews: 7
6. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

Those prices are Kenya shillings.

Mtwapa, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Barcelona, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bamburi, Mtwapa
posts: 13,610
reviews: 51
7. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

In terms of consistency of network coverage and quality of service Safaricom is best.

I use Safaricom in my smartphone but I use Orange in my laptop because because where I live has a strong Orange 3G network signal so I can use their high speed service and their unlimited bundle is reasonably priced. However their 3G network coverage is limited to certain areas and their general network coverage is not as wide as Safaricom's so if you are traveling around I'd recommend Safaricom.

Airtel is the second biggest network in terms of subscribers but a long way behind Safaricom and is not as consistent in terms of network coverage or reliability. It claims to have the fastest data network in its 3.75G service but I don't know anybody who uses it

Edited: 2:55 pm, May 27, 2014
Hamburg, Germany
posts: 8
8. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

Thanks a lot guys, that info is really helpful.

So maybe I'll buy a Safaricom and an Orange card, and add the 999 unlimited plan to Orange and have Safaricom as a backup in my double sim phone.

Mtwapa, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Barcelona, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bamburi, Mtwapa
posts: 13,610
reviews: 51
9. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

I'm afraid Christopher isn't comparing like with like there or has mistyped the Orange figure.

The 3499 Airtel bundle is for a month, the Orange 990 bundle is for a week. The Orange monthly bundle is 2990 (the Airtel weekly bundle is 1249)

UK
Destination Expert
for Malindi, Ukunda, Kenya
posts: 4,355
reviews: 6
10. Re: Spending time in Kenyatta airport / Buying SIM card

Just to add my 2c worth, I've been using Safaricom for years (sadly on a series of SIMs as they either get lost or expire) and have really no complaints. Safaricom service centres are usually excellent, too, and will always deal with issues. At the aiport they usually fix you up, and see you on your way with a working SIM and whatever credit you want, on whatever plan. It's not just a case of selling you the SIM and the airtime card, they'll make sure it;s all working.

Welcome to Kenya's (sometimes) amazing 21st century service culture!

Richard Trillo

Author: The Rough Guide to Kenya

Kenya Programme Manager: Expert Africa

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