Nairobi To Mombasa Train | SGR Booking, Schedule, & Tickets for 2020

Booking your SGR fares from Nairobi to Mombasa in advance is a great idea – for a number of reasons:

  1. SGR tickets often sell out, so you’ll have a guaranteed seat. 
  2. The natural scenery of central Kenya is stunning.
  3. SGR train fares are considerably cheaper than flights.
  4. It’s the more environmentally-friendly option. 

The old Nairobi to Mombasa train (affectionately known as the ‘Lunatic Express’), claimed to take 10 hours from Nairobi to the coast. Between breakdowns, missing conductors, and errant cows on the tracks, it was usually closer to 19. 

The SGR train, however, takes only 5 hours and departs as stated, arrives on time, and doesn’t seem to suffer from animals on the tracks.

Quick SGR Tips

  • You can only pay for the SGR via MPESA mobile money (there are currently no apps). 
  • The Nairobi Terminus is a 20-30 minutes drive outside the city centre.
  • It can take another 20-30 minutes to get through security and check-in at Nairobi Terminus.
  • Traveling to Kilifi? Skip Mombasa altogether by taking the inter-county train as far as Mariakani.

SGR Online Booking

You can only book one-way tickets on the SGR website. If you’re planning a return trip, you’ll need to book the second journey separately. 

You can book the SGR on its website Kenya Railways website.

You’ll have the choice to book two options:

The Madaraka Express Train: This goes directly between Nairobi and Mombasa, making no stops in between, and travels twice per day.

The Inter-County Train: Also leaves twice daily, but at different times, and stops at the following stations: Athi River, Emaili, Kibwezi, Mtito Andei, Voi, Miasenyi, and Mariakani. This route takes slightly no longer, but is just as pleasant.

The schedules and fares for trains are below. 

*Note: You can only book one-way tickets on the SGR website. If you’re planning a return trip, you’ll need to book the second journey separately. 

To book, you need to fill your details in online and pay with MPesa to guarantee your spot. The ‘Pay Later’ option doesn’t always work so its best to select ‘Pay Now’ just in case.

You’ll receive instructions on-screen to pay for your tickets via MPesa. Once you’ve paid, you’ll receive a confirmation number by SMS text. Carry this with you to the station so the tickets can be printed.

You’ll need to book ahead as weekend journeys fill up super quickly!

How Book The SGR via MPESA

You can also book the SGR via MPESA directly using USSD on your Kenyan phone. SGR MPESA booking is available 24/7.

  1. Dial *639# on your Safaricom phone

  2. Select Option #1: Booking a Ticket

  3. Follow the prompts onscreen

    You’ll be asked to to pick your station(s), date(s) of travel, seat class (e.g. first class, economy), and number of tickets (up to 5 per MPESA booking).

  4. Enter your details

    Provide your name and ID number. You’ll need both when collecting your tickets.

  5. Select Payment Option

Source: Kenya News

How To Book SGR Without a Kenyan Phone Number

If you’re coming to Kenya on holiday and you don’t have a local phone number, you have three options for booking your SGR tickets in advance.

  1. Ask a friend or contact living in Kenya to book it for you. 
  2. Ask your hotel or guesthouse to book it. They’re usually very accommodating. 
  3. Pay a travel agent to book it. However, they usually charge ridiculously high fees for this service.

Nairobi-Mombasa SGR Timetables 2020

Typically, the SGR schedule doesn’t change, with the Express and Inter-County trains running at the same times in both directions every day of the week. 

2020 Author Update: It appears that the Madaraka Express and Inter-County trains have been combined (most likely due to Covid-19 travel restrictions). There is currently only one afternoon that train leaves at 3pm in both directions. This may change in the future.

Madaraka Express

The Nairobi-to-Mombasa SGR train takes approximately 4.5 hours on the Madaraka Express.

Nairobi to Mombasa

Depart NairobiArrive Mombasa
8.00am1.15pm
2.15pm (currently 3.00pm)7.30pm (8.15pm)

Mombasa to Nairobi

Depart MombasaArrive Nairobi
8.00am1.05pm
2.15pm (currently 3.00pm)7.30pm (8.15pm)

Inter-County

The Inter-County train takes approximately 5 hours.

Nairobi to Mombasa

Depart NairobiArrive Mombasa
8.00am1.15pm

Mombasa to Nairobi

Depart MombasaArrive Nairobi
8.00am1.05pm

Nairobi-Mombasa SGR Prices 2020

The price of a ticket from Nairobi to Mombasa is the same on both the Express and Inter-County train:

  • Adult single-ticket: 3000kes (1st Class) and 1000kes (2nd Class)
  • Children between 3-11 yrs old: 1500kes (1st Class) and 500kes (2nd Class).
  • Children below 3: free in both classes.

Getting To Nairobi Terminus

Nairobi SGR Train Station

Although the SGR boasts services from Nairobi to Mombasa, the station is actually in the Syokimau suburb, south of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. It takes between 20-30 minutes to drive there, so factor this time into your travel plans. 

Though the line will be extended into Nairobi city itself, this is in progress (and will sadly cut into Nairobi National Park).

Nairobi CBD Commuter Train

The Nairobi commuter train leaves from Nairobi CBD to the SGR terminus in the morning and afternoon. It takes approximately 1 hour and leaves reliably on time.

Uber/Taxi Service

A trip from most neighbourhoods in Nairobi costs between 700-1,000 KES ($7-10 USD).

Station Security

There is a lot of security when you arrive at the Nairobi Terminus. Give yourself at least 20 minutes of leeway to get through the security, especially if you expect the train to be busy.

Your car or taxi will be checked (as similar to any hotel or mall). You’ll then line up at a large metallic shed and a sniffer dog will inspect your luggage. Your bags will also be placed in an x-ray machine and searched upon your arrival into the station.

Inside Nairobi Terminus

The Nairobi Terminus is massive. Luckily, there are lots of signs and helpful staff to assist you. You will also spot lots of people taking selfies. Once through security, go past the selfie-takers and up the stairs to the main ticket hall.

How to Print SGR Tickets

Nairobi SGR tickets

You can either have your tickets printed by the staff at the Ticket Issue Hall – or use the self-issue machines. Both work well, but the ticket machines are faster. Have your ticket confirmation number and ID ready. This will be checked numerous times by various staff members.

Once you have your tickets, go up the many floors of escalators and into the waiting hall upstairs. First-class passengers are seated in a separate area to second-class passengers. If you need a snack before departure, there are a couple of cafes and shops. 

Boarding The Train

About 30 minutes before departure, you’ll be invited to board the train. Your ticket will have a little barcode which is scanned through a machine or checked manually by a staff member. Keep your ID handy. 

Once through, cross the bridge and descend onto the large train platform. On your ticket, find the coach assigned to you and board that train. Once you locate your seat number, settle in for your cross-country journey. 

The view from the SGR Train (actually much nicer than this…. )

The Journey

The train leaves precisely at 08.00am. Don’t expect it to be late and turn up at 08.15.

SGR Seating

First class seats are in rows of 2, with a little tray table and curtain for shade. Some booths have 4 seats and a small table. If you’re traveling in a group, you can ask for a specific seat type at the ticket counter.

Kenya SGR First Class Seats
First Class seats in the SGR train

Second class carriages have slightly less space and a more narrow corridor for passengers to pass down. 

About the Train Itself 

The trains are typically clean and the staff is very helpful. The bathrooms are well-maintained though there’s no guarantee of soap (we would advise bringing hand sanitizer with you).

A small electronic information bar beams from the top of each door of the carriage displaying useful information like the time, upcoming stations, the outside temperature, and where to get help. 

Getting a blog post ready to upload before we arrived in Mombasa.

The SGR has 4G+ coverage for nearly all of the journey. The connection is powerful enough that you can work on your laptop as you travel. First class seats have power outlets to charge your devices.

The Route 

From Nairobi’s urban sprawl to Machakos industrial dust and further into Tsavo’s national park, the views are varied and fascinating to watch. You might even see some elephants and ostriches along the journey.

Food And Drink

A catering trolley passes through both first and second class carriages. There’s also a food carriage at the very back of the train with a selection of sandwiches, chocolate bars, crisps, nuts, pastries, boiled sweet potato, and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Though the selection is a bit spartan, it’s also very affordable (starting at about 100kes per item). The dining carriage has seats and larger tables available.

Arriving into Mombasa Terminus

Mombasa SGR Train Station

Mombasa Terminus

Mombasa terminus is massive, with the look of a giant air traffic control tower. However, by following the directions, it’s easy to navigate and you’ll be outside in no time.

The Mombasa Terminus is in the Meriting town area, about an hour outside of the Mombasa city centre. Taxi drivers, Uber drivers, and buses eagerly wait to take passengers to the city centre, Nyali, and beyond. 

If you take a taxi, prepare to haggle so you don’t get ripped off. Use Uber fare estimate to judge the price

You can also prebook a taxi to Diani and Kilifi (which will cost between $40-50).

Taking The SGR From Nairobi To Kilifi

If your final destination is Kilifi, skip Mombasa and take the Inter-County train as far as Mariakani. From there, take a matatu shuttle bus straight to Kilifi town, or have a private taxi organized to pick you up from the terminal.

Introducing the Nairobi-to-Nanyuki SGR

A new SGR line has opened between Nairobi and Nanyuki that will soon be taking passengers. Watch this space for updates.

Taking the SGR – What Are You Waiting for? 

Whether you’re a recent arrival or have lived in Kenya for years, the SGR is a wonderful way to see more of Kenya. If you have visitors or are simply trying to save on your trip to the coast, this is an excellent cost-saving option. Be sure to bring enough food, water, and a sense of adventure.

SGR Contacts

Any inquiries about the SGR are made through Kenya Railways.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a SGR app to book tickets?

There is no app for booking SGR tickets. You can book your tickets on the SGR website, or by dialling *639# on your phone.

It appears there may be fake SGR booking apps available to download, but these will only steal your money if you use them.

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