I was super excited when I learned that the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Kenya, would be launched this year. I have never used the Lunatic Express from Nairobi to Mombasa, and I always wanted to travel by train. I even almost contemplated buying a ticket for the Lunatic Express until I saw that it took 13 hours (!) from Nairobi to Mombasa – that was completely out of the question. Once the SGR was launched, I was asked by my friend (and popular vlogger) Farhana whether I and my partner (Steve) could travel down to Mombasa, and I was like – “hell yes!” Besides, the train only takes 4 hours from Nairobi to Mombasa or vice-versa.
What I knew about the Madaraka Express was that you could book train tickets at least 3 days in advance and that they had an M-pesa paybill number. Two days before we were supposed to leave for the train, the paybill number wasn’t working. So, we decided to travel to Railways in town to find out whether there was any way we could book tickets there; we could not. We had to go to Syokimau to buy the tickets, which took a few minutes, because there were no lines when we went.
Now, I understand that the M-pesa paybill numbers are working so you can call the Kenya Railways customer care line to place your booking (view the poster for more).
Tip 1: Book at least 3 days in advance. If you want to return your ticket for a refund, do it at least 10 minutes before the train leaves.
Second Class (Economy) = Ksh700
First Class = Ksh3,000
Tip 2: Your ticket has your seat numbers, but you’d rather request where your seat is. My partner and I were divided by the aisle in the seating we were given.
There’s a shuttle that leaves Nairobi CBD at 7.00am (for Ksh50), and will take you to the Syokimau terminus by 8.30am. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, matatu, or your personal car, as there is parking space at the station (I’m not sure about the fee though).
The government went all out with the architecture of the terminuses, I must say. Every terminus has a different design, thus don’t expect to find the bathrooms in the same area as when you were at another terminus.
Inside the train
The train departs at exactly the time it says, so arrive in good time for the security checks and to get on the train on time.
The train ride was smooth and easy, and there is air conditioning as well. The luggage racks are where you will squeeze your belongings, or under your seat.
You can purchase snacks on the train, but they also allow you to carry food (aside from alcohol).
The views are stunning, especially when you pass Tsavo National Park; I got to see herds of elephants, giraffes, zebras, and gazelles.
There are bathrooms, but it’s always advisable to use the bathroom before you travel anyway.
All in all, the train ride was great, we even met some very friendly people, and if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments.