Planing to travel to Nairobi, Mombasa, Voi or Mtito Andei via the SGR Madaraka Express train? You can now book via USSD code *639# and pay via MPESA. Below are some top tips and tricks / what you need to know as you prepare for your trip.
SGR Madaraka Express Booking tips
First class :
Adults Ksh. 3000, Children below 3years FREE, Children between 3-11 years pay half price (Ksh. 1500); Children above 11years pay full price (Ksh. 3000)
Adults Ksh700, Children below 3years FREE, Children between 3-11 years pay half price (Ksh. 350); Children above 11years pay full price (Ksh. 700).
*Keep your ticket till you alight, since you need it to scan through the exit points (else, you buy another ticket to get you out). There are also ticket and ID checks inside the train.
- Book early!
To be on the safe side, book your ticket at least 4 days earlier than you need to travel. Currently, the options to book are:
- Using USSD code *639# from your Safaricom line. This service is available from 23rd September 2017
Dial *639# and follow the series of prompts to buy tickets to the Mombasa, Nairobi, Voi or Mtito Andei terminals. You then pay via MPESA to secure your ticket, after which you receive a confirmation SMS with a special reference number indicating the travel details.
When you get to the station on the day of travel, print your tickets from the service booths using the reference number. (Get there early in case there are queues). Remember to carry your National ID cards for check in.
- Booking at the Syokimau (Nairobi), Miritini (Mombasa), Voi or Mtito Andei stations
You can still buy tickets at any of the terminals. Remember to go days before your expected travel date, and carry Names and ID numbers of the people you’re buying tickets for.
- Calling the terminal and paying via Mpesa
I’ve seen complaints about calls not going through and I couldn’t reach them either when I tried calling some time back. However, you can always try.
Please book as early as you can! Say, if you’re traveling over a weekend, try and book the Monday or Tuesday before, but not later than Wednesday. You can get lucky in case someone cancels close to the travel date, but you can’t always count on this. Tickets are only available for trains within a 7day period, so you need to book within the week you’re traveling.
When booking tickets for yourself / someone else, you will need Names and ID/Passport numbers, so have them ready with you.
Fortunately, if your travel is within a 7 day window, you can book return tickets. Take this option if it suits your travel.
SGR Train station tips
- Carry your identification documents
On the morning of your travel, please remember to carry your ticket and the identification document used to book (ID or Passport). It sounds obvious, but you can very easily forget to carry your ID (say, when you change bags) and you will be stranded.
- Be punctual!
The trains leave the Syokimau (Nairobi) and Miritini (Mombasa) stations at exactly 9am.
Plan to be at the station at latest 8.15am, to allow time for security checks, and so that you make your way around the huge terminus to the trains in good time. Remember the stations are a distance from Nairobi and Mombasa towns, and it might take you about 45 minutes to get from CBD to the rail stations in Syokimau or Miritini.
You can catch City Shuttle buses to the SGR from the Nairobi Railway station between 7 am and 7.30am (cost: Ksh. 50). (Walk to the very end of railways bus station, where the buildings are)
You can also use the commuter train from Nairobi Railways to Syokimau (leaves at 8am) in Nairobi. In Mombasa, there are buses at the old Mombasa railway station that you can use to get to Miritini station (Cost Ksh. 100)
Uber, Taxify, Little cabs are options too, but whatever you use, get to the station before 8.30am.
Madaraka Express train ride tips
- Bring Your Own Fun!
The SGR express train ride between Nairobi and Mombasa will take you 5hours (9am – 2pm). This is inclusive of 2 brief stops at Voi and Mtito Andei.
Bring your own fun, and the 5 hours won’t feel like work! Carry board games or cards or movies to watch on your devices (if the charge will last you 5 hours). Don’t rely on the Internet for your fun, because there’s intermittent reception in some areas and no WiFi on board.
My friend carried a deck of cards and in those 5 hours, we had played a number of games, had conversations, snacked, spotted elephants and tried to take photos, made new friends + so much more. That last hour is harder to get through though, because the train slows down and you keep feeling like you’re almost there, but not there yet. 😂
The train ride is smooth and you don’t feel like you’re moving at 100+ km/hour. It is WAY BETTER than travelling by road and having to deal with traffic snarl ups, potholes and overspeeding and overlapping buses and trucks.
- Watch out for the elephants!
You will most likely see animals on the trip, especially at Nairobi National Park and at Tsavo National Park. There are plenty of elephants especially at Tsavo so take out your camera and be on the lookout! Sometimes you’ll see so many in short intervals that it will feel like a game drive. If the kids love animals, then you can have ‘spot the elephants’ as one of the fun things to do!
- Food and Drinks
Food and drinks (both alcoholic and non alcoholic) are sold on board at slightly higher prices (eg. 500ml Soda, water at Ksh. 100 each ; Croissants, huge Mandazis at Ksh. 100 each ; Sandwiches at Ksh. 250; Beers at Ksh. 350*)
Tip: Have a good breakfast/ snack well before the trip to reduce how much you need to buy on board, especially if you’re traveling with kids. It was unclear what the policy of carrying food on board was, but I could see packet snacks (crisps, nuts, cakes, chocolates etc) so I think you can carry those. However, you cannot carry alcohol on board, and drugs are completely prohibited (there are some mean dogs at the check points to flash out any).
- Leaving the SGR terminus
Since the termini are away from the city centres, plan for pick up in advance (say, schedule a taxi) or leave the train faster than everyone else and hop on the available commuter buses before they fill up (cost Ksh. 50 Nairobi, Ksh. 100 Mombasa if I remember correctly)
If you’re traveling in a big group, it would be best to arrange for a pick up in advance. You can get random taxi drivers waiting but it might be a bit more expensive especially if you’re desperately looking for means to leave the station.
If you have any questions that I’ve not answered already, do check out the Kenya Railways Website.
There you go! Using the SGR Madaraka Express train will make your Mombasa holiday so much cheaper (from Ksh. 1400 on a return ticket). When you take the trip, do share your experience!
If you’ve been getting questions about the SGR Train rides, you now know what to do! As always, Sharing is Caring! ☺