Nairobi to Mombasa Train Guide: Booking, Classes, Stations & Travel Tips

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Overview of Nairobi to Mombasa Train Options

Kenya has invested heavily in railway infrastructure over the last decade, with the new Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line transforming travel between Nairobi and Mombasa. There are now several train options for this route:

  • Madaraka Express: The fastest and most popular option, with economy and first-class seating. Two daily express services plus a night train.
  • InterCounty Train: Makes multiple stops, good for sightseeing. More affordable than the express.
  • Commuter Train: Connects the main Nairobi Station to the SGR Terminus.

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In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about taking the train between Nairobi and Mombasa, including:

  • Booking SGR tickets online or at stations
  • Train schedules, fares, classes
  • What to expect on board
  • Station locations and transfers
  • Travel tips and items to bring

Also check out: Kruger National Park vs Serengeti National Park: The Ultimate Safari Destination Comparison Guide year 2024

How to Book Tickets for Nairobi-Mombasa Trains

There are several options for booking tickets on SGR trains between Nairobi and Mombasa:

1. Book Online (Recommended)

The easiest booking option is to use the Bookaway platform at www.bookaway.com. This agency partners with Kenya Railways to sell e-tickets.

  • Book up to 6 months in advance
  • Pay via credit card and other international payment methods
  • Receive booking codes to print tickets at station machines

Other reputable online agents include East Africa Shuttles at www.eastafricashuttles.com.

2. M-PESA Mobile Booking

Kenya Railways allows ticket purchases directly through the local M-PESA mobile money system. To use:

  1. Get a Kenyan SIM card and set up an M-PESA account
  2. Dial *639# and follow prompts to select trip details and pay
  3. Print tickets at self-service station machines

Drawback: Requires Kenyan mobile number and account.

3. Buy at Station Ticket Offices

You can buy tickets for travel within the next 4 days at ticket windows:

  • Nairobi Terminus
  • Mombasa Terminus
  • Pay via MPesa, card, or cash (card/MPesa only from Feb. 2023)
  • Sales stop 20 min before departure

Drawback: Stations may sell out, especially in economy class.

4. Other Booking Tips

  • First class tickets more easily available
  • Book return trip separately
  • Arrive early to allow time for printing ticket

Train Schedules and Fares from Nairobi to Mombasa

There are two main SGR train types on the Nairobi-Mombasa route – the express and the inter-county:

Madaraka Express (Express): Fastest, no stops, 5 hour duration

InterCounty Train: Stops at 7 stations, takes 6 hours

Night Train: New express overnight train with seating only

Here are the train schedules and fares for SGR services:

Daily Train Schedules

Train Depart NBO Depart MS Stops Arrive
InterCounty N2 8:00am 8:10am 7 Stations 2:10pm
Express E1 3:00pm 3:00pm None 8:18pm
Night Train E3 10:00pm 10:00pm None 3:45am

From Feb 2023: Express trains will stop at Voi, adding 20 minutes.

InterCounty Train Stations

The inter-county train makes stops at the following stations between Nairobi and Mombasa:

  • Athi River
  • Emali
  • Kibwezi
  • Mtito Andei
  • Voi
  • Miasenyi
  • Mariakani

SGR Train Fares

Fares are per person per trip in Kenyan Shillings:

Class Nairobi-Mombasa Children 3-11 years
Economy 1,500 KES 750 KES
First Class 4,500 KES 2,250 KES
  • Children under 3 travel free without ticket
  • Fares apply for both express and inter-county trains

What to Expect: Onboard Facilities & Experience

The SGR provides a modern, comfortable way to travel between Nairobi and Mombasa. Here are some details on what to expect during your train trip:

Seating & Classes

  • Air conditioned coaches
  • Economy: Forward-facing seats in 3-2 formation
  • First Class: Reclining seats in 2-2 formation across aisle

Onboard Amenities

  • Charging ports in every coach
  • First Class: Individual charging station by each seat
  • Buffet/restaurant car for snacks and drinks
  • Complimentary water
  • Toilets at both ends of coaches

Luggage Allowance

  • Maximum two large suitcases per passenger
  • 30 kg weight limit
  • 1.6m dimensions limit

Safety & Security

  • Baggage X-ray upon entry to platforms
  • Multiple ID checks before boarding
  • No glass bottles allowed

Experience

  • Chance for wildlife sightings in Tsavo
  • Meet locals and fellow travelers
  • Space to work on laptop/device

First Class offers more spacious, comfortable seats with better amenities, but the Economy cabins provide a perfectly fine budget way to travel.

Nairobi and Mombasa Train Station Locations and Transfers

The Nairobi and Mombasa SGR Termini are located outside the main city centers. Here are their locations and public transport options for transfers:

Nairobi SGR Terminus

  • Location: Syokimau, 20km south of central Nairobi
  • 30-60 min by car/bus depending on traffic

Transfer Options:

  • Taxi (1,000-1,500KES)
  • Uber (950KES+)
  • Matatu bus (250KES)
  • Commuter train (50KES):
    • To city center at 7:03am and 12:28pm
    • Return trains at 2:35pm and 9:15pm

Mombasa SGR Terminus

  • Location: Miritini, 10km north of central Mombasa
  • 20-40 min by car/tuktuk depending on traffic

Transfer Options:

  • Taxi (700-1,000KES)
  • Tuktuk (700KES)
  • Matatu bus (100KES)

Leave plenty of time for transfers and checkpoint security checks when traveling to/from train stations.

Handy Tips for Riding the SGR Nairobi-Mombasa

To make the most of your train trip between Nairobi and Mombasa, keep these tips in mind:

Booking

  • Reserve tickets 1-2 months in advance for best fares and availability
  • Book return leg as separate transaction
  • Have passport details handy to enter during purchase

Arrival

  • Arrive at station 60-90 minutes early
  • Leave ample time for traffic delays en route
  • Print tickets before boarding gates open 30 minutes prior

Onboard

  • Bring snacks, food, water
  • Have paper, book, devices for entertainment
  • Try to get window seats for best views

Luggage Storage

  • Keep valuables on you
  • Use locks on checked suitcases
  • Retrieve bags quickly upon arrival

Safety

  • Stay alert in city transfer areas
  • Keep important documents secure
  • Avoid leaving station compound at stops

Enjoy

  • Meet fellow passengers
  • Capture photos of wildlife sightings
  • Soak in the landscapes and views!

Bottom Line: Why Take the Train from Nairobi to Mombasa

Convenience: More comfortable and faster than road travel, avoiding traffic delays

Cost Savings: Significantly cheaper than flying

Safety: High security presence and protocols

Scenery: Chance to enjoy Kenyan landscapes and wildlife

Social: Meet locals and travelers during journey

So if you have a little extra time, skip the quick flight and immerse yourself in the train trip from Kenya’s inland capital down to its scenic coastline. The journey is part of the memorable experience!

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