We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Using a mobile phone in Kenya

Which Nairobi hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Level Contributor
225 posts
7 reviews
Using a mobile phone in Kenya

We are going on a honeymoon safari/ beach holiday in September and I'd like to know if I'll get signal on my mobile phone during our stay?

We're going to Nairobi - Meru - Mara - Mombassa. My parents are quite worried about us going so I'd like to be able to stay in touch with them but I'm not sure if and where we'll pick up phone signal.

I just need to to give them warning if I'm not going to be able to contact them for part of our stay - all advice welcome. Thanks in advance

Nairobi, Kenya
Level Contributor
3,755 posts
3 reviews
1. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

There's no reason your cell phone shouldn't pick up a signal here in Kenya as long as it's set to "roam" and international calling is not blocked by your provider. We have three main networks - Safaricom, Zain and Orange (Telkom). The two former providers are the main ones and the latter is a new provider with only a few masts here and there, and quite a number of teething problems. You would be most likely to use Safaricom or Zain for roaming.

Of course you may encounter areas of little or no coverage, but as long as you make your folks aware of this and that you will contact them as soon as you are back in coverage, I'm sure you'll be fine.

If in doubt, get yourself a cheapie handset and Safaricom/Zain SIM at the airport when you arrive, as call and SMS costs are far cheaper from local providers.

Safari njema,


Dartford, United...
Level Contributor
965 posts
28 reviews
2. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

You should have no problems in Nairobi and Mombasa but signals can be a bit hit-and-miss when you are in the parks. I find that reception around the lodges can be pretty bad but once you are out on the game drives it improves dramatically! The main networks, Zain and Safaricom, tend to have better/worse signals in certain areas so try and change your network if one or the other isn't picking up.

If you intend to keep in touch often then you might want to consider buying a local SIM card, it's a lot cheaper than using your UK service (make sure your phone is unlocked). Trouble is, you are then stuck with the one network.

By the way, I get regular texts from Kenya, the majority come through but some don't (especially in the evening, for some reason). I've also noticed this when I've sent from out there. But that is with using a Safaricom card in all instances.

Level Contributor
1,323 posts
1 review
3. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

buy a local card and maybe use 2 networks as safaricom is no good out on the reserves signal is rubbish but no problems everywhere else and its cheaper to use the local cards

Nairobi, Kenya
Level Contributor
3,755 posts
3 reviews
4. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

"...safaricom is no good out on the reserves signal is rubbish"

Sorry but this is not true at all; huge generalisation! I live on one of "the reserves" - and the only service I have is Safaricom!

Coverage varies greatly wherever you go. If you are going to buy a local SIM, make sure (as I think another poster pointed out) you buy both a Safaricom *and* a Zain line. They are 100/- each and then you just need to buy some credit (scratchcards) and activate each line.

Safari njema,


Long Islander
Level Contributor
162 posts
32 reviews
5. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

In addition to telephone, the internet is available in Mombassa, Nairobi and most of the larger safari lodges. The cost is very reasonable. If you just want to tell them that everything is alright, emails might be enough.

London, United...
Level Contributor
1,446 posts
6. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

Buy a Safaricom Sim on arrival at Nairobi (or Mombasa) which are only 100Ksh (90p), often if you buy a 1000Ksh (£9) top up scratch card they will give you the sim card free.

Make sure your mobile is un-blocked before you leave for Kenya.

DO NOT use your own home Sim card in Kenya you will be totally ripped off.

Text messages can be sent and received and international MMS can be sent and received but only if sent to an email address (not a mobile number) and with a maximum size of 100kg.

Cape Town Central...
Level Contributor
611 posts
19 reviews
7. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

Hi I agree with many of the previous posters.

I took my Vodafone (UK) mobile, swopped for a Safaricom SIM and everything worked a treat. We had reception 95% of the time and we went everywhere - almost up to the Somalian border and right through Masai Mara etc. In fact, when our car broke down on the 'transmara' highway (its a rocky rocky path!) we called our mechanic in South Africa and he talked us through fixing it.

Oh how we laughed at the muppets who hired Sat phones! :)

Destination Expert
for Mombasa, Diani Beach, Kenya
Level Contributor
6,927 posts
22 reviews
8. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

You can get almost any mobile phone unlocked in Mombasa for a few hundred shillings, even those on 3 network.

Bungoma, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Kenya
Level Contributor
2,693 posts
2 reviews
9. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

There are lots of posts on this topic. Definitely get a local SIM card - you'll save a lot of money! The cheapest for calling overseas is Telkom/Orange. Texts are 10/- a time from both Safaricom and Zain. If you do want to talk using them, have a look at their websites and prices. There is a lot of competition, but last time I checked Safaricom 888 was cheaper than Zain... Telkom/Orange is 10/- to USA and 17/- to UK per minute, but limited coverage at the moment. By September, it may be the best for you!

10. Re: Using a mobile phone in Kenya

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This post was determined to be inappropriate by the TripAdvisor community and has been removed.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

Our staff may also remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason. Thanks for being a part of the TripAdvisor travel community!

Removed on: 5:36 am, March 22, 2009