The SGR, is without a doubt, one of Kenya’s most monumental achievements since independence. The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) was patriotically named the Madaraka Express. It revolutionized the way guys travel between Nairobi and Mombasa. For travelers, having a cheap and efficient mode of transport is something to be celebrated. What would have meant 12 hours on the road has been reduced to around four and a half hours. Convenience.
I’ve ridden on both the economy and first class coaches on the SGR, and here goes an unbiased comparison:
First, one pays 700 for an economy ticket. A first class ticket costs 3,000 (around $30). The seats on the first class coaches are more comfortable. As opposed to seating alongside 3 or 5 other people as is the case with the economy coaches, getting a first class ticket means seating with only one more person. Moreover, no “face-me” kind of setting on first class coaches. Where you have a huge crew, there is an option to adjust your seats and face each other… for conversations’ sake and all. On economy class coaches, that is not a choice you get to make. You will face each other with strangers. Still, strangers are friends you still haven’t met so…
Having had both experiences, I’d say either coaches will make sense depending on the situation. If you’re looking to have a private trip, go with the first class tickets. There are times where you need to keep working on that report, finish reading a book, or just be alone. It is also ideal for couples. I love the economy class coaches. I have traveled with both friends and strangers, and had fun. Go make friends at only 700 shillings
Btw guys on the economy class coaches have crazy vibes – reason it’s my favorite.
Booking an SGR ticket
You are advised to book your tickets in advance, not showing up like you would do a matatu. One of my friends showed up and got a ticket. Most of the times the trains have been reportedly full so that’s not a gamble you should take.
They are constantly making improvements to the system and that is very commendable. There are numerous shortcomings, but that should not be our focus especially given it’s a new project.
Call them. The SGR management team has provided a number through which one may book their tickets. Calling 0709 388 888 will connect you with an operator at the train station. It requires patience to get through to them since that’s the only number. Be sure to have your ID number ready as you make the call. After receiving all your details, a message will be sent to your phone requiring you to pay for the tickets using MPESA, within 10 minutes. MPESA is the only acceptable mode of payment, at least for now.
They recently made it possible for us to make our bookings via USSD. Here’s how to do it:
Have enough money on your MPESA, enough to pay for the number of tickets being purchased.
Make sure you have enough airtime on your Safaricom line. 10 shillings airtime should work.
They’ll require you to follow some prompts: desired date of travel, your destination, preferred cabin, number of travelers, their names, and their ID numbers.
- Go to the station nearest to you. This is most probably the surest way to get a ticket. A lot of time wasted though.
Revised SGR Madaraka Express Train Timings and Schedule
A lot has changed since we did this post. It is now possible to get off at the different stations there are. Below are images from Kenya Railways showing both the schedules and subsequent prices.
Where are the Nairobi and Mombasa train stations located?
How does one get to and from the stations?
The rumors are true. Most SGR stations are quite a distance from the CBDs. However, it is quite to crack it. To the Miritini sub station, find your way to the old train station in Mombasa town. It is found in town, and a tuktuk can easily get you there. From there, you’ll find minibuses that will get you to the train station at 100 shillings only. This is very convenient since there are no stops whatsoever, and you are dropped right where you should be. The buses are also there when the train arrives. There are those going to as far as Ukunda and Malindi.
To the Nairobi one, go to the old train station by 7 a.m for the morning train and noon for the afternoon one. A train will ferry you to Syokimau at 50 shillings only. You move from one platform to the other. It honestly can’t get better than that.
Can you book the SGR in advance?
You should book in advance. They allow one to make a booking as early as 21 days before their preferred date of travel.
Any luggage requirements?
You probably want to carry veggies from Nairobi to Mombasa since it’s most likely cheaper that way. Well, don’t exceed 30 kilograms. The maximum dimensions are 1.6 meters in height, width, and breadth. The Kenya Railways website has a list of all the items that are forbidden and allowed into the train. Firearms and drugs are disallowed. Who would have thought?
SGR refund policy
- In case you miss the train for one reason or the other, you will get refunded. Here’s what to note though:
- An 80 percent refund is given if one notifies the train staff before the train’s departure. The 20 percent is held as a refund fee.
- No refund is given if the train has already departed from any of the stations.
- There won’t be any refund for lost or mutilated tickets.
PS: Keep your ticket safe since you’ll need it to exit from the destination station.
Do you have any more questions? Let us know below. Share the post with your travel buds and make your next trip aboard the train memorable.