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How to Roam with your Safaricom Line Abroad

Roaming is a service that allows mobile phone users to make and receive calls, send and receive SMS, access the internet and other services while outside the coverage of their mobile network operator. This typically occurs when the customer travels to another country.

For this to work, the network operators have agreements with particular carriers in various countries abroad to allow their subscribers to connect to their networks. These are called Partner or Preferred networks.

For example:
When a Safaricom customer travels to the United States (US) and switches on their phone there, the phone will search and connect to a preferred network it finds (e.g. AT & T or T-Mobile).

On successful connection the customer will now be roaming and depending on the phone in use, this will be indicated with an R in the network bars or some other different notification.

The Safaricom customer will now be able to make and receive calls within US, back home to Kenya and to other countries using their Safaricom mobile number. This is in addition to other services such as SMS and Data.

If no preferred networks are found the phone will connect to other available networks and if none of these are found the phone switches to emergency calls only.

How to Activate Safaricom Roaming

For Prepaid customers, their phones will automatically connect to a preferred network and start roaming when switched on in the visited country.

Postpaid customers however have to first activate roaming while still in Kenya by either calling customer care on 200 or visiting a Safaricom shop for the service to be activated. This is partly because the roaming costs will be charged on their postpaid bills, unlike the prepaid customers.

If the phone doesn’t connect to a network automatically or if you wish to switch between preferred networks, you can manually search and connect to other networks in the mobile network settings of your phone.

If you have problems activating or using roaming on your Prepay or Postpaid line you can reach the Safaricom customer care while roaming abroad by calling +254 722 002 100 or online via their Twitter handle @Safaricom_Care.

When planning on roaming, ensure your Safaricom line is loaded with sufficient airtime or carry with you airtime scratch cards to top up when abroad.

How to Make and Receive Calls When Roaming with Safaricom

Before using roaming, ensure you’ve checked the Safaricom roaming tariff rates and bundles for the  country you’re travelling to as they tend to be quite expensive and are billed differently from the normal tariffs.

Additionally, the rates vary across countries and the available networks within a particular country.

1. Making Calls

To make calls back to Kenya when roaming, call using the international format i.e. enter the exit code (+) followed by the country code (254) then the mobile number, i.e. 254 7## ######.

The same format applies to landlines, e.g. +254 20 ###### for a landline in Nairobi.

To call another Kenyan number that is on international roaming, dial their number as if they’re back in Kenya in the international format i.e. +254 7XX XXXXXX

To make international calls use the international format as you would normally, e.g. +44 77## ###### for a UK mobile number, where 44 is the country code of UK.

To call a number within the country one is roaming, dial the number as it’s normally dialled within that country, i.e. without the country code e.g. 123-4567 if roaming the US in the same area as the receiver.

In some countries, you may however be required to add the area code before the number if the receiver is in another part of that country, e.g. to call a someone in a different state in the US, you’ll have to start with 1 followed by the area code followed by the number i.e. 1-929-123-4567 where 929 is an area code for New York City.

2. Receiving Calls

To receive calls from Kenya when roaming abroad, your callers will dial your Safaricom number as they would normally i.e. 07## ######

All other callers outside Kenya, including those in the country one is roaming in, will reach you by calling your number in the international format i.e. +254 7## ######.

3. Sending and Receiving SMS

To send an SMS when roaming to a person back in Kenya, within the visited country or another country, use the International Format of their numbers. To receive SMS when roaming, your senders will likewise enter your number in the International Format.

4. Using Data

Using data requires no additional steps; you only have to enable your mobile data as you normally would while in Kenya. Data can however can be charged from your airtime or from roaming bundles in select countries.

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Kelvin Kathia

Kelvin Kathia is the editor of Kenyan Fix, an informational blog that helps Kenyans with solutions to everyday questions on mobile networks, government services and banking.