cell phone usage in Kenya

Dec 31st, 2006, 11:56 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 78
cell phone usage in Kenya

i will be in kenya in Feb-March. It is important that i keep in touch with home during this time.....what advice can you give regarding type of cell phone to rent or buy before i go? thanks
spsand is offline  
Dec 31st, 2006, 04:14 PM
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I assume you are from the U.S. I bought a GSM phone into which you insert a "simcard", a couple of years ago for a Europe trip. Must be an "unlocked" phone, one not tied to a particular provider. Can buy one via Ebay.

In August took to it Kenya. Southern Cross, our tour operator, bought me a Celtel simcard. However, Celtel had a kiosk right there in the airport.

Had researched coverage and did not go with safaricom but instead with celtel. Our first place, Larsen's in Samburu, Celtel did not work at the camp. Only worked when upcountry a bit on game drives. Noticed many employees in camp using cellphones. Told me they used safaricom.

However, down in the Mara, our next stop, and Lamu after that, the reception was great (and was told safaricom did not work as well in the Mara). Really was fun to call friends and family back in the U.S. in the evening time in Kenya. Sounds of the insects in a background I heard was amazing.

I bought a Siemens A60, Following is a link to a place that sells the a70 for only $65:


My humble opinion,

Kevin from California
stakerk is offline  
Dec 31st, 2006, 05:07 PM
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Posts: 26
I stayed at Mara Intrepids last year and had a full strength signal with a Safaricom sim card purchased at their airport kiosk. I also purchased my unlocked gsm phone on ebay .
RAG1011 is offline  
Dec 31st, 2006, 05:27 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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If you don't want to buy a phone then you can rent an "International" phone from Verizon for $4/day plus charges for minutes ...

http://www.vzwrentinternational.com/...one_rental.asp for details.

Bill_H is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 12:49 AM
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Hi spsand

Kevin & the others has given you some very good info; i'd like to add a few details:

Kenya is GSM-900 (some US & Canada are GSM-1900 in other countries GSM-1800)
most modern phones will include all frequencies, but pay attention to it!especially if you bring your own old phone... (& i'd like to stress again what Kevin wrote it has to be open to all SIM cards...

since i can't find my way without maps, i thought maybe u2:
coverage maps of both Celtel & Safaricom:

Celtel website has (map +) a list of coverage (indeed, Samburu is not on the list "other places" that does list Maasai Mara,
Amboseli etc')


remember the chances r some roads don't have reception, but remote lodges may have
aby is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 09:02 AM
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how much does it cost to call the U.S. from Africa? just curious
matnikstym is offline  
Jan 1st, 2007, 09:31 AM
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Which cellular provider and what model phone do you use at home? You may already have a phone that you can use while in Kenya and just need to get it unlocked (if you want to use a local SIM) or enable international roaming (if you want to use your home provider's roaming service).

You need a GSM phone that operates on 900 Mhz frequency as one of its bands. US cellular providers generally lock their phones so that you can't use another provider. However, T-Mobile will send you the unlock code after 90 days of service. I've found Cingular to be less cooperative and it's hit or miss whether they'll send you the unlock code. If not, just google your phone model + the word "unlock".

I brought 2 phones with me on this last trip. One was unlocked and I used a Safaricom SIM. Safaricom and Celtel are the 2 providers in Kenya. Both have booths past customs at Jomo Kenyatta airport so you can easily pick up your SIM and airtime credit (top up cards) there. They're both open at night for the late arriving international flights. Additional top up cards can be purchased all over the country so you can buy as you go if you're on a driving itinerary. I don't know about the ease of buying them at lodges and camps if you're flying.

Safaricom just lowered their outgoing rate to the US to 25 KES per minute. It used to be 78 to 110 KES per minute. I kept wondering why I didn't need to top up until I saw a Safaricom ad. I don't know what Celtel's current rates are so you might want to compare if you think you'll be making a lot of calls home.

When you pick up a local SIM, you'll have a Kenyan phone number so you'll need to give this number to those at home. They'll pay long distance charges on their end to call you.

For the second phone, I just used Cingular's international roaming. They have agreements with both Safaricom and Celtel, so the service will automatically switch back and forth between the two providers depending on what it can pick up. Calls are much more expensive (I think currently $5 per minute incoming or outgoing) but you keep the same number you use at home.

I primarily used the phone with the Safaricom SIM. We had good reception at Larsens in Samburu and Elsa's Kopje in Meru. Reception was weak in our tent at Joy's Camp in Shaba, better near the camp entrance. The only place we couldn't get any reception with either phone was at El Karama in Laikipia. I don't know if it's just this particular ranch or the Laikipia area in general that has no/limited reception. So on this particular trip, I would've been fine with Safaricom alone as the only place where it didn't work, Celtel didn't work either.
Patty is online now  
Jan 1st, 2007, 09:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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It varies greatly depending on what you use. Safaricom 25 KES = approx $0.37 per minute, with Cingular it's actually $3.99 not $5 per minute (I just looked it up). This is from Kenya. For rates from other countries you can generally find this info on the providers' websites.
Patty is online now  
Jan 1st, 2007, 09:41 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 7,391
thanks Patty!
matnikstym is offline  
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