Taking the SGR from Nairobi to Mombasa is the best way to travel between the city and the coast on a budget.
The ride is clean, comfortable, secure, and very smooth. However, taking the train requires some planning. Tickets can sell out very fast. Getting to the Nairobi terminus means navigating Mombasa Road traffic. And the Mombasa terminus is very far from the city.
So to make sure you have the smoothest journey possible, we’ve put together the most comprehensive guide to the Nairobi-Mombasa SGR, based on our many trips aboard the train.
Quick SGR Tips
- The SGR timetable is the same every day of the week and the train runs 7 days a week.
- There is no SGR app to book tickets. You can only pay for the SGR via M-Pesa mobile money or in person at an SGR station.
- The Nairobi Terminus is a 20-30 minutes drive outside the city centre without traffic. Due to traffic jams on Mombasa road, the true travel time can be over 1 hour.
- It can take another 30-60 minutes to get through security and check-in at Nairobi Terminus.
- Travelling to Kilifi? Skip Mombasa altogether by taking the inter-county train as far as Mariakani.
- Staying in Mombasa? Check out our guide to the best things to do.
- The Mombasa SGR terminus is also 30 minutes outside Mombasa. You can take a taxi or bus to the city. For beach destinations north and south of Mombasa, book a taxi or shuttle bus.
Nairobi-Mombasa SGR Timetable 2021
The SGR schedule doesn’t change. The Express and Inter-County trains run in both directions every day of the week.
Nairobi To Mombasa
|Inter-County Train||8.00 am||2.00 pm|
|Express Train||3.00 pm||8.10 pm|
|Express Night Train||10.00 pm||3.35 am|
Mombasa To Nairobi
|Inter-County Train||8.00 am||2.00 pm|
|Express Train||3.00 pm||8.10 pm|
|Express Night Train||10.00 pm||3.35 am|
Nairobi-Mombasa SGR Prices 2021
The SGR fares from Nairobi to Mombasa are the same on both the Express and Inter-County trains.
|Ticket Type||1st Class||Economy|
|Adult single-ticket||3,000 Kshs||1,000 Kshs|
|Children between 3-11 years old:||1,500 Kshs||500 Kshs|
|Children below 3 years old||Free||Free|
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
- Mtito Andei
This route takes slightly longer but is just as pleasant.
*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 M-Pesa to guarantee your spot. The ‘Pay Later’ option doesn’t always work so it’s best to select ‘Pay Now’ just in case.
You’ll receive instructions on-screen to pay for your tickets via M-Pesa. 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 On Your Phone
You can also book the SGR via M-Pesa directly using USSD on your Kenyan phone. SGR M-Pesa booking is available 24/7.
- Dial *639# on your Safaricom phone
- Select Option #1: Booking a Ticket
- Follow the prompts onscreen
You’ll be asked to pick your station(s), date(s) of travel, seat class (e.g. first class, economy), and number of tickets (up to 5 per M-Pesa booking).
- Enter your details
Provide your name and ID number. You’ll need both when collecting your tickets.
- Select Payment Option
Source: Kenya News
How To Book The 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.
- Ask a friend or contact living in Kenya to book it for you.
- Ask your hotel or guesthouse to book it. They’re usually very accommodating.
- Pay a travel agent to book it. However, they usually charge ridiculously high fees for this service.
The Nairobi SGR Terminus
Nairobi SGR terminus
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).
How to Get to the Nairobi SGR Terminus
Nairobi CBD Commuter Train
The Nairobi commuter train leaves from Nairobi CBD to the SGR terminus at various times in the morning and afternoon. It takes approximately 40 minutes and leaves reliably on time.
The train can be taken from the Nairobi Railway Station and, though it will make a few stops on the way, it will drop you at the SGR Terminus in Syokiamu.
Driving Uber/Taxi Service
A trip from most neighbourhoods in Nairobi costs between 700 – 1,500 KES (6 – 15 USD).
There is a lot of security when you arrive at the Nairobi Terminus. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to get through the security. Your car or taxi will be checked (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 at the station.
Inside Nairobi Terminus
The Nairobi Terminus is massive. Luckily, there are lots of signs and helpful staff to assist you. Once through security, take the stairs to the main ticket hall.
How To Print Your 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 from economy passengers. If you need a snack before departure, there are some cafes and shops.
Shops at Nairobi SGR terminus
Boarding The Train
About 30 minutes before departure, you’ll be invited to board the train. Your ticket will have a little barcode that 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.
Boarding the SGR train
The train leaves on time. Don’t expect it to be late and turn up at the last minute.
The trains are spotlessly clean and the staff are 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.
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.
Getting a blog post ready to upload before we arrived in Mombasa.
Economy seats on the SGR
Economy seats have slightly less space and a more narrow corridor for passengers to pass down. The seats also face each other but there’s adequate space in between to just be comfortable.
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 travelling in a group, you can ask for a specific seat type at the ticket counter.
Food And Drink
A catering trolley passes through both first class and economy 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 limited, it’s also very affordable (starting at about 100kes per item). The dining carriage has seats and larger tables available with big windows to enjoy the views.
The Mombasa Terminus is in the Miritini suburb, 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 fares estimate to judge the price.
You can also prebook a taxi to Diani and Kilifi (which will cost between $25-40).
Mombasa SGR Shuttle Bus Services
Twin Star Ultimate Transfers
Twin Star Ultimate Transfers are a great team to plan your Coastal travel with. They cover most of the coastal area and can tailor transport wherever you want to go. Twin Star can also pick you from Mariakani and shuttle you to Diani though for this you will have to book the entire vehicle. Their prices are as follows:
|SGR to Malindi||Ksh 1,000|
|SGR to Watamu||Ksh 1,000|
|SGR to Kilifi||Ksh 800|
|SGR to Diani||Ksh 700|
Return trips cost the same. If your destination is outside the main towns above, an additional fee may be charged.
Twin Star has 7 seater, 11 seater and 16 seater vans available and they are able to cater up to 100 people in one go.
Mombasa Shuttles is another good option. The company provides both private and shuttle services, with options ranging from private cars to private buses. You can hire local drivers to take you to secret places you might never find on your own.
Mombasa Shuttles’ fees are a bit expensive though.
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 pick you up from the terminal.
The travel time from Nairobi to Mariakani on the Inter-county SGR is 5hrs 30mins.
Taking The SGR From Nairobi To Diani
To get from Nairobi to Diani using the SGR, you have to get all the way to Miritini and then take a shuttle, taxi or hire a private car to Diani. The drive takes about an hour with traffic and a ferry ride.
The Nairobi-Nakuru-Kisumu Train
To see more of Kenya by train, you can start by going in the opposite direction from Nairobi. The Kisumu Safari Train was relaunched in December 2021. The railway is a combination of the modern SGR and older Meter Gauge Railway (MGR). The train takes 12 hours to Kisumu and stops briefly in Nakuru.
|Nairobi – Kisumu||6.00 am||5.45 pm||Ksh 600||Ksh 2,000|
|Kisumu – Nairobi||6.00 am||5.45 pm||Ksh 600||Ksh 2,000|
|Nairobi – Nakuru||6.00 am||11.35 am||Ksh 300||–|
|Nakuru – Kisumu||11.45 am||5.45 pm||Ksh 400||–|
|Kisumu – Nakuru||6.00 am||1.00 pm||Ksh 400||–|
|Nakuru – Nairobi||1.10 pm||6.20 pm||Ksh 300||–|
This train has free WiFi onboard.
The Nairobi-Nanyuki Train
You can also take the Nanyuki Safari Train to head towards Mount Kenya. The train departs Nairobi only on Fridays at 9.00 am and departs Nanyuki only on Sunday at 9.00 am.
The train has stops 17 stops along the way, including major town centers such as Thika, Makuyu, Muranga, Sagana, Karatina, and Naru Moru. The schedule and prices are as follows:
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.
Any inquiries about the SGR are made through Kenya Railways.
- Phone numbers:
- 0709 388 887 – Madaraka Express Passenger Service inquiries, complaints, lost & found.
- 0709 388 888 – Madaraka Express Passenger Service bookings.
- 0709 907 000 – Kenya Railways Headquarters customer care.
- Email: [email protected]; [email protected]
- Facebook: Kenya Railways’ page
- Twitter: @KenyaRailways
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there an SGR app to book tickets?
There was no official SGR app for booking tickets. SGR booking apps are fake and will steal your money and/or personal information. You can only book your tickets on the SGR website or by dialing *639# on your phone.
What is the meaning of SGR?
SGR stands for Standard Gauge railway and it refers to the most common width between the rails of 4ft 8.5inches. The actual name of the Kenyan SGR Train is The Madaraka Express.
What is the distance from Nairobi to Mombasa
The distance from Nairobi to Mombasa is 485 km (301 miles).
SGR Stations From Nairobi to Mombasa
There are 9 SGR stations between Nairobi and Mombasa: Syokimau (Nairobi terminus), Athi River, Emali, Kibwezi, Mtito Andei, Voi, Miaseny, Mariakani, and Miritini (Mombasa terminus).
Who owns the SGR in Kenya?
The SGR in Kenya is owned by the Kenyan Government through the Kenya Railways Authority. Operation and maintenance of the railway have been contracted to Afristar Railway Operations Company, a subsidiary of the China Road and Bridge Corporation.
Does the SGR have WiFi?
The SGR doesn’t have WiFi but the 4G+ network coverage is strong through most of the journey.
Is food allowed on the SGR?
Food is allowed on the SGR. There is also a food cart and a dedicated dining car where you can buy food and drinks.
How many passengers does the SGR carry?
The SGR can carry 1,100 passengers on a normal day. Coaches can be added to increase the capacity.
How long does it take to travel from Nairobi to Mombasa by SGR?
It takes 6 hours to travel from Nairobi to Mombasa by SGR.
How many stops does the SGR make?
The Intercounty train makes 7 stops between Nairobi and Mombasa.
What is not allowed on the SGR?
The following items are not allowed on the SGR:
- Alcohol bought off the train
How many trips does the SGR make in a day?
The SGR takes 3 trips in the day in both directions: morning, afternoon, and night.
Does the SGR operate on Sundays?
Yes, the SGR operates on Sundays.
How can I change my SGR ticket?
To change your SGR Ticket, you have to visit a Madaraka Express Passenger Service station 48 hours before the indicated departure time of your current train. You are required to bring with you your original identification documents and a copy of the same. A 10% fee is charged and you cannot change the details on your current detail (you cannot change the person traveling or the class of seat booked).
Does the SGR have toilets?
The SGR has toilets on every carriage. However, they are unisex and there are no toilets for men and women separately.
How long does it take from Mariakani to Mombasa on the SGR?
It takes 30 minutes to travel from Mariakani to Mombasa on the SGR without heavy traffic.
How many hours is Nairobi to Voi on the SGR?
It takes 4 hours to travel from Nairobi to Voi on the SGR.
How do you get to Diani from Mombasa SGR terminus?
You can travel to Diani from the Mombasa SGR Terminus (Miritini) by flight, hired car, taxi, shuttle or minivan.