New Nairobi to Mombasa SGR train
 

Mombasa here we come...  The new SGR train links Nairobi & Mombasa in just 4 hours 30 minutes.  Photo courtesy of Gatwiri Bundi

  Map of train routes in Kenya & southern Africa

Click for an interactive map of
train routes in Southern Africa

Taking the train across Kenya...

The old narrow-gauge Lunatic Express was the classic journey between Nairobi & Mombasa, overnight in a sleeper.  In 2017 it was replaced by a fast daytime standard-gauge railway built with Chinese help, the new fast way to get between these cities - spotting big game while you travel!  This page explains what you need to know to take the train around Kenya.

Train times, fares & information...

small bullet point  Nairobi-Mombasa train service

small bullet point  Nairobi-Kisumu train service

small bullet point  Nairobi-Nanyuki train service

small bullet point  Nairobi-Kampala (Uganda) by bus.

small bullet point  Nairobi-Dar es Salaam & Mombasa-Dar es Salaam

small bullet point  Useful country information - visas, currency, etc.

small bullet point  Hotels in Nairobi or Mombasa  Hotel search.

On other pages...

small bullet point  Train service Dar es Salaam - Kigoma & Mwanza

small bullet point  Train service Dar es Salaam - Kapiri Mposhi

small bullet point  Train service Kapiri Mposhi - Livingstone (-Vic Falls)

small bullet point  Train service Victoria Falls - Bulawayo

small bullet point  Train travel in South Africa


large bullet pointUseful country information

Train operator:

Kenya Railways, http://krc.co.ke

   

Time zone:

GMT+3 all year.

 

Dialling code:

 

+254

 

Currency:

£1 = approx 125 Shillings;   $1 = 100 Shillings    Currency converter

 

Flights & hotels:

 

Flights to Kenya   Hotel search

 

Tourist information:

Kenya has a serious crime problem in the cities.

Check security advice at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice 

 

 

Hotels in Kenya   Guidebooks    Health & vaccinations

 

Page last updated:

17 August 2022.

 

large bullet pointNairobi to Mombasa by train

The new Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) opened 31 May 2017...

The old colonial-era metre-gauge Lunatic Express sleeper train taking 15 hours is no more.  A new fast standard-gauge line opened between Nairobi & Mombasa on 31 May 2017.  Passenger trains called the Madaraka Express now take just 4 hours 30 minutes, operating at up to 120 km/h (75 mph) with 1,200 seats per train.

 Nairobi ► Mombasa

     

          

 Mombasa ► Nairobi

Train type:

County

Express

Night

Train type:

County

Express

Night

Train number:

N2

E2

E4

Train number:

N1

E1

E3

 Madaraka Express

Daily

Daily

Daily

 Madaraka Express

Daily

Daily

Daily

 Nairobi Terminus

depart

08:00

 15:00

 22:00

 Mombasa Terminus

depart

 08:00

 15:00

 22:00

 Athi River

depart

08:22

|

|

 Mariakani

depart

08:28

|

|

 Emali

depart

09:31

|

|

 Miaseny

depart

09:14

|

|

 Kibwezi

depart

10:18

|

|

 Voi

depart

09:55

|

|

 Mtito Andrei

depart

10:54

|

|

 Mtito Andrei

depart

11:21

|

|

 Voi

depart

12:08

|

|

 Kibwezi

depart

11:53

|

|

 Miaseny

depart

12:43

|

|

 Emali

depart

12:39

|

|

 Mariakani

depart

13:30

|

|

 Athi River

depart

13:47

|

|

 Mombasa Terminus

arrive

14:00

 20:08

 03:35

 Nairobi Terminus

arrive

 14:10

 20:08

 03:35

County = Inter-County, calls at intermediate stations.

Express = non-stop.  See the Kenya Railways facebook page.

Night = non-stop.  Seating only, does not have sleeping berths.

Location of Nairobi SGR Terminus Location of Mombasa SGR Terminus.  The new stations are some way out of town compared to the old stations.

See detailed map of the Nairobi-Mombassa Standard Gauge Railway, zoom in to see station locations.

 Fares

Fares in Ksh.

Standard class

First class

 Nairobi - Mombasa: 

1,000 ($10)

3,000 ($30)

Children under 3 travel free, no ticket needed.  Children under 11 pay half fare.

Connecting local train Nairobi Central <> Nairobi Terminus...

A metre-gauge connecting train links the old Nairobi central station with the new Nairobi SGR Terminus as follows: 

Nairobi central station depart 06:35, Nairobi Terminus arrive 07:03.  And Nairobi central station depart 12:00, Nairobi Terminus arrive 12:28.

Nairobi Terminus depart 14:35, Nairobi Central station arrive 15:13.  And Nairobi Terminus depart 20:15, Nairobi central station arrive 21:00.

You can check these times at krc.co.ke/the-nairobi-commuter-rail.

How to buy tickets...

What are the new SGR trains like?

The SGR uses modern air-conditioned cars made in China.  1st class has spacious  reclining seats arranged 2+2 across the car width, with fold-out tray tables and power sockets for laptops & mobiles.  Complimentary water is available.  Standard has seats arranged 2+3 across the car width.  There is a buffet car with table seating area serving drinks and snacks, reportedly now restricted to 1st class passengers only.  There are strict security controls before boarding, glass bottle and metal tools such as Swiss army knives are not allowed.

Nairobi SGR Terminus

Nairobi SGR Terminus showing a metre-gauge local train just arrived from Nairobi Central.  Photos in this section are courtesy of Gatwiri Bundi, Magnus Larsson, Aysegul Ozkan & Tim Fish

Nairobi SGR Terminus main entrance   Ticket gates in Nairobi at entrance to the platforms

Nairobi SGR entrance...

 

Ticket gates at the entrance to the platform in Nairobi.

Boarding the SGR train from Nairobi to Mombasa

Boarding the train in Nairobi...

SGR train

Cars are built in China, modern and air-conditioned...

First class seats on SGR Nairobi-Mombasa train   Buffet car on SGR Nairobi-Mombasa train

1st class seats, 2+2 across car width....

 

Buffet car for snacks & drinks, 1st class passengers only.

Elephants seen from the Nairobi-Mombasa train

The view from the train...  You may see elephants and zebra.

2nd class seats on the SGR train   Arrived in Mombasa

Economy seats, 2+3 across the car width...

 

Arrival in Mombasa...

SGR train destination board   Mombasa SGR Terminus

Train destination board...

 

Mombasa SGR Terminus...

Travellers' reports...

Traveller Josue Devarie reports from early 2020:  "My wife and I took the SGR "Inter-county" train from Mombasa to Voi one day, then from Voi to Nairobi next day.  Both trains ran like clockwork. We were in standard class and don't see the need to upgrade. Snack cart passed twice on the second day. Really nice ride with good views and lots of friendly locals. In Nairobi, staff showed the way to the connecting train to the old station (we had other plans, though).

I was going to try creating a M-pesa account to buy the tickets but our Airbnb host in Mombasa bought them for us. He said it was fairly simple, that the online booking was working properly, and that trains do sell out sometimes. Very important to have not only the order confirmation number, but also the telephone number used, to claim your tickets at the machines. We had to wait some time for the staff to help us. Another reason to arrive to the station with plenty of time, specially the big ones like Mombasa and Nairobi (keeping in mind the possibility of awful traffic to get there, and then the multiple security checkpoints)."

Traveller Gatwiri Bundi reports from a trip in the first weeks of operation:  "I took the train to & from Mombasa. There is a shuttle train service from the old Nairobi Railway Station to the Nairobi SGR Terminus. I to0k the one at 6am, there is another at 7am, cost is 100 KES. ($1).  At the SGR station you go through a police check and then to the ticket office to buy a ticket to Mombasa.  You then go through baggage screening and into the waiting lounge.  Boarding started at 8:30am, 30 minutes to departure.  You go through automatic ticket gates onto the platforms - keep your ticket as you'll need it to leave the station at the other end.  The train leaves at exactly 9 am.  I used economy class.  The seats are arranged in a “look at me, I look at you” set up, as we call it.  It opens up communication and you can talk with your friends and fellow travellers, or you can ignore them.  However, there is enough legroom for tall passengers.  I went to the first class coaches, the seats can be rotated so people travelling together can talk.  It is advisable for a traveller to carry provisions.  The restaurant is operational, but since it is a short trip (4.5 hrs) a proper breakfast at home or your own packed lunch will help.  The service caters to 1000+ customers, so it can be a long wait for food, especially in the last carriages.  There is a trolley service, serving coffee and tea, soda, alcohol, sandwiches and maandazi (a Kenyan pastry).  I still wouldn’t mind using first class if I could. It is very comfortable.  The economy class carriages hold 118 passengers, while first class holds 72.  The big windows allow a view of the countryside, especially for game viewing at Kapiti plains and Tsavo National Park.  The express train from Nairobi makes a 10 min stop at Mtito Andei station to allow the train from Mombasa to pass.  This is at the halfway point of the trip. We arrived in Mombasa at 13:40 pm.  On exit, there were shuttle buses, taxis and tuk tuks.  The access road to the Mombasa terminus is still under construction, so with the rain, we had a challenge getting to the station for the return trip.  Nothing drastic, just extra unplanned exercise in the morning.  The procedure is the same as in Nairobi, Police check, ticket purchase, luggage scan, waiting lounge, ticket gates and boarding at 8:30 am.  I had used a taxi.  However, I hear that there is a shuttle from the Mombasa railway station to the terminus for passengers.  Again, travellers enjoy great views of wildlife in the parks.  Once in Nairobi, there is a commuter train at 50 KES ($0.5) into Nairobi CBD on the old metre railway line that terminates at the Nairobi Railway Station.  Travellers can also take public transport (matatus), shuttles or taxis depending on their needs."


large bullet pointNairobi to Kisumu by train

The Nairobi to Kisumu sleeper train was cancelled in May 2012 and has not run since.  However, in late 2021 the metre-gauge track has been repaired and the so-called Kisumu Safari train now runs from Nairobi every Friday night, returning Sunday night.

 Nairobi Kisumu

          

 Kisumu Nairobi

 Days of running:

Fridays only

 Days of running:

Sundays only

 Nairobi Central

depart

18:30

 Kisumu

depart

18:30

 Naivasha

arr/dep

??:??

 Nakuru

arr/dep

??:??

 Nakuru

arr/dep

??:??

 Naivasha

arr/dep

??:??

 Kisumu

arrive

06:30

 Nairobi Central

arrive

06:35

First & economy class with smartly-refurbished carriages, first class converts to sleepers in 2 & 4 berth compartments, although it is no clear if bedding is provided, possibly not.

Check locally, and if you have any more feedback, please email me.

 Fares

Nairobi to Kisumu 

 1st class sleeper Ksh. 2,000

 Economy class seat Ksh. 600

There is no passenger train service into Uganda at the present time, so see the alternative bus service.

How to buy tickets...

Buy tickets at the station (cash & cards accepted), or call +254 (0)115 169 759.

You can also try contacting www.eastafricashuttles.com (feedback appreciated).


large bullet pointNairobi to Nanyuki by train

Kenya Railways are now running a weekly train on the 177 km metre-gauge route from Nairobi to Nanyuki, next to Mt Kenya and a good base for hiking.  The line dates from 1913, completed to Nanyuki in 1931.

 Nairobi Nanyuki

          

 Nanyuki Nairobi

 Days of running:

Fridays only

 Days of running:

Sundays only

 Nairobi Central

depart

09:00

 Nanyuki

depart

09:00

 Nanyuki

arrive

16:49

 Nairobi Central

arrive

16:46

First & economy class with smartly-refurbished carriages.  There's no catering, so bring your own food & drink.

Check times locally, and if you have any more feedback, please email me.

 Fares

 Nairobi to Nanyuki  

 1st class Ksh. 1,000

 Economy class Ksh. 200

There is no passenger train service into Uganda at the present time, so see the alternative bus service.

How to buy tickets...

Buy tickets at the station (cash & cards accepted), or call +254 (0)115 169 759.

You can also try contacting www.eastafricashuttles.com (feedback appreciated).

1st class compartment on the  Nairobi to Nanyuki train   The Nairobi to Nanyuki train

1st class compartment...

 

Nairobi to Nanyuki train.  Photos courtesy of Charlotte Benson-Goring.

Travellers' reports...

Traveller Charlotte Benson-Goring took this train in 2022:  "My husband and I took the 9am train from Nanyuki to Nairobi in July 2022.  We tried to book tickets a few days in advance but were told they could only be purchased at the station on the day of travel, which we did quickly and easily on the Sunday using m-pesa (we had set up an m-pesa account when we bought a Kenyan SIM card).  The station also accepts cash & cards. We booked first class seats which meant we had a very comfortable private cabin. The cabin had a raised bed, lower bed/seat (3 seats across), basin, drinking water tap, wardrobe and fan. We stored our luggage on the raised bed and spread out comfortably on the lower bed. The first class seats cost us Ksh.1000 (around £7) per person. The alternative is second class, Ksh.200 (around £1.40) per person. The loo paper ran out quickly, so it is worth bringing your own. The train takes a little over 7 hours between Nanyuki (there is only one station in Nanyuki, in the town centre) and Nairobi (the central station in the CBD), stopping at various stations along the way. We did not see a food cart but had packed our own lunch and snacks so didn’t have a need for one. The train passes through beautiful Kenyan countryside, with views of Mount Kenyan and the Aberdares, and we very much enjoyed the journey."


large bullet pointBus service Kenya - Uganda

The railway from Nairobi to Kampala is non-operational, at least as far as passenger trains are concerned.  But there are bus services as follows:

Nairobi - Kampala (Uganda) bus service...

Several reputable bus companies ply this route, each with several buses daily, journey time around 13 hours:  www.moderncoastexpress.com, Easy Coach and Kampala Coach.  Kalita bus is reportedly of lower quality.  With Modern Coast Express there are three bus type options, regular/economy costs 70,000 Ugandan shillings ($28, at the current 2500 UGX/USD), first class 85,000 ($34) and VIP at 105,000 ($42).

Feedback on any of these bus services would be welcome.

Traveller Alex Wyse reports on a Kampala to Nairobi bus ride with Modern Coast Express:  I sprung for the First Class seat, and though it was probably worth the extra $6 (noticeably bigger and reclined to a very comfortable position, slightly more leg room), next time I'll save and do economy since the seats appear very nice. In my opinion, the jump from First to VIP is not worth it, just observing those seats. All seats have outlets that work, and passengers are given a bottle of water and a small pack of nuts at the beginning. During the ride, the driver plays music, but most of the time it's calm enough.  The bus left right on time and the ride was smooth. Crossing the border at Busia is easy and you can obtain a Kenyan visa on arrival.  We probably stopped 4 or 5 times in total. At the border stop (it's only about 3 hours from Kampala) there is more than enough time to make a "short call" and get a snack. We stopped for lunch in Eldoret around 13:30 at a little Somali diner.  We pulled into Nairobi a hair before 19:30, making the trip a little over 13 hours in total.  You arrive in Nairobi a little out of town on Mombasa Road, and there are plenty of special hire taxis waiting to take you (about the only reasonable thing to do unless you have someone waiting for you). 

As far as I know, buses leave from the same place in Nairobi for Kampala at both 07:00 and 09:00 on all days.  Though I heard there were no more night buses in Kenya after the Al-Shabab attacks last year, Modern runs a bus from Kampala departing at 12:30 in the morning, which would put you in Nairobi a little after midday. Not sure about westbound night buses.  All in all a good experience, and a good cheap to mid-level option for
getting between these cities.


large bullet pointBus service Kenya - Tanzania

Mombasa - Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) bus service...

A daily bus leaves Mombasa at 08:00, arriving Dar at 18:00.  Northbound, it leaves Dar at 08:00, arriving Mombasa 17:30.  Fare 1,600 Kenyan shillings or 19,000 Tanzanian shillings (£13/$21).  See www.scandinaviagroup.com.  Note:  It was reported that this service was to cease from June 2009, there are other operators but as yet I have no information on alternatives.

Nairobi - Arusha - Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) bus service...

Akambabus used to run a daily bus departing Nairobi at 06:30 and arriving Dar es Salaam at 21:00. Fare in region of 3,200 Kenyan shillings or 38,000 Tanzanian shillings (£22/$38).  They have folded, it's not clear if anyone else has taken over.

http://riverside-shuttle.com and http://marangushuttles.com both operate small buses between Nairobi and Arusha twice a day with departures from both Nairobi and Arusha around 08:00 & 14:00, journey time 6h, fare US$20-$35.

Feedback on any of these bus services would be welcome.

For onward train travel to Zambia, Zimbabwe & South Africa see the Zambia & Tanzania page, Zimbabwe page & South Africa page.


large bullet pointGuidebooks

Lonely Planets & Rough Guides...

I strongly recommend investing in a good guidebook - which for serious independent travellers means either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  Both provide an excellent level of practical information and historical background. 

Click here to buy the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya or here to buy the Rough Guide to Kenya at Amazon.

Rough Guide Kenya   Lonely Planet Kenya

large bullet pointHotels in Nairobi & Kenya

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...


large bullet pointFlights to Kenya...

Overland travel by train & bus around Africa is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach Kenya in the first place.  For flights to Nairobi, start with Skyscanner. 

skyscanner generic 728x90


large bullet pointTravel insurance

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flagIf you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com.

UK flagYou can use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

  US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

A Curve card saves on foreign transaction fees...

 

Curve card

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of writing.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you £5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.

 


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