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...

If you are willing to brave Kenya's cities (see www.fco.gov.uk for advice), the overnight train from Nairobi to Mombasa is the classic and enjoyable way to travel between these cities.  Indeed, spotting big game from the Nairobi-Mombasa night train has always been one of Kenya's great travel experiences, so make sure you include the train in your itinerary.  There's also an overnight train to Kisumu on Lake Victoria.  This page explains all you need to know to take the train around Kenya.

Train times, fares & information...

  Nairobi-Mombasa train service

  Nairobi-Kisumu train service

  Nairobi-Kampala (Uganda) by bus.

  Nairobi-Dar es Salaam & Mombasa-Dar es Salaam

  Useful country information - visas, currency, etc.

  Hotels in Nairobi or Mombasa  Hotel search.

On other pages...

  Train service Dar es Salaam - Kigoma & Mwanza

  Train service Dar es Salaam - Kapiri Mposhi

  Train service Kapiri Mposhi - Livingstone (-Vic Falls)

  Train service Victoria Falls - Bulawayo

  Train travel in South Africa

Sponsored links...

 


Useful 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.fco.gov.uk 

 

Hotels in Kenya   Guidebooks    Health & vaccinations

Page last updated:

3 November 2017


Nairobi to Mombasa by train

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

The days of the colonial-era metre-gauge train taking 15 hours have come to a close as a new 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 until 31 Oct 2017

     

          

 Mombasa ► Nairobi until 31 Oct 2017

 Train number:

E2

 Train number:

E1

 Madaraka Express

Daily

 Madaraka Express

Daily

 Nairobi Terminus

depart

 09:00

 Mombasa Terminus

depart

 09:00

 Mombasa Terminus

arrive

 13:30

 Nairobi Terminus

arrive

 13:30

 Nairobi ► Mombasa from 1 Nov 2017

     

          

 Mombasa ► Nairobi from 1 Nov 2017

Train type:

County

Express

Train type:

County

Express

 Madaraka Express

Daily

Daily

 Madaraka Express

Daily

Daily

 Nairobi Terminus

depart

08:00

 15:30

 Mombasa Terminus

depart

 08:00

 15:30

 Athi River

depart

08:25

|

 Mariakani

depart

08:28

|

 Emali

depart

09:31

|

 Miaseny

depart

09:13

|

 Kibwezi

depart

10:15

|

 Voi

depart

09:49

|

 Mtito Andrei

depart

10:47

|

 Mtito Andrei

depart

11:15

|

 Voi

depart

11:56

|

 Kibwezi

depart

11:47

|

 Miaseny

depart

12:30

|

 Emali

depart

12:42

|

 Mariakani

depart

13:16

|

 Athi River

depart

13:40

|

 Mombasa Terminus

arrive

13:40

 20:20

 Nairobi Terminus

arrive

 14:07

 20:12

Initially there's just one train per day, making one intermediate stop at Mtito Andei.  An increase to two trains per day is planned from 1 November 2017.

County = calls at intermediate stations. 

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

Arrival times are estimated as KR SGR are very vague with timetables.  Post-November train numbers are also subject to confirmation.

Location of Nairobi SGR Terminus Location of Mombasa SGR Terminus.  The new stations are some way out of town compared to the old stations - a metre-gauge train links the old Nairobi Central Station with the new Nairobi SGR Terminus, leaving Nairobi Central station at 08:10 giving you time to buy an SGR ticket at Nairobi SGR Terminus.  It's not confirmed what will happen after 1 November 2017 when the SGR times change.

If you get any more photos of the new trains or stations inside or out which could be used on this page, please get in touch!

 Fares

 

Standard class

First class

 Nairobi - Mombasa: 

900 shillings ($9)

3,000 shillings ($29)

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

A promotional 700 shilling fare is currently offered, it will revert to the normal 900 shillings in due course.

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.

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

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 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."


The old Lunatic Express:  Now no more...

THE LAST EVER TRAIN HAS RUN OVER THE CLASSIC LINE...  With the new Standard Gauge Line complete, the old colonial train shown below made its last ever run on 28 April 2017.  There will be no more 'Lunatic Express'.

 Nairobi ► Mombasa

     

          

 Mombasa ► Nairobi

 Days of running:

Last run 28 April

Now cancelled

 Days of running:

Last run 28 April

Now cancelled

 Nairobi

depart

 17:00

 Mombasa

depart

 17:00

 Makindu

arr/dep

 ??:??

 Voi

arr/dep

 ??:??

 Mtito Andei

arr/dep

 ??:??

 Mtito Andei

arr/dep

 ??:??

 Voi

arr/dep

 ??:??

 Makindu

arr/dep

 ??:??

 Mombasa

arrive

 11:00

 Nairobi

arrive

 11:00

The train originally and historically always ran daily, but a few years ago it was reduced to 3 times a week following an accident as they had only one full set of operational coaches.  It was reduced to running only once or twice a week for various periods in 2011 and 2012, and briefly suspended completely for a period in 2012, but in early 2016 it was running again 3 times a week.  It ran for the last time ever on 28 April 2017.

Nairobi to Mombasa is 530km (329 miles) via the old line.  Kenya Railways is concessioned to a company called Rift Valley Railways.

At Nairobi central station...

Nairobi railway station   Nairobi booking office   Reservations counter

Above:  If you want to buy tickets at the station, look for the Upper Class Booking and Ticketing Office, and go to the Mombasa counter.  Photos courtesy of Andy Brabin.

What was the old Nairobi-Mombasa train like?

Both the Nairobi-Mombasa "Jambo Kenya Deluxe" and the Nairobi-Kisumu "Port Florence Express" had 1st class 2-berth sleepers, 2nd class 4-berth sleepers, 3rd class seats & a restaurant car serving meals, snacks, drinks & beer.  As well as the photos below, these short videos give an idea of what the journey is like:   Watch video 1   Watch video 2.

1st class consisted of lockable 2-berth compartments which convert from a sitting room with sofa by day to sleeping berths at night.  All necessary bedding is provided and there is a washbasin in the compartment.  Toilets are located just along the corridor, there are both western & African type, kept reasonably clean although the loo seat may be missing!  The 1st class fare includes dinner and breakfast in the restaurant car.  If there are more than 2 of you, you can book two adjacent 1st class sleepers with a communicating door, to make a suite for 3 or 4 passengers, so ask when booking.  Take your own insect repellent, a bottle of mineral water, and toilet paper.  Most westerners travel in first class, and you'll find quite a few western travellers on each Nairobi-Mombasa departure.  The first class sleeping-cars & restaurant car were built in Britain, their external appearance may remind UK travellers of British Rail!  Personal security isn't a huge problem, but do make sure you securely lock your compartment door and close the window at night (using the louvered shutter if you want ventilation).  Wandering hands have been known to come through an open window when the train stops at night!

2nd class consisted of lockable 4-berth compartments which also convert between two sofas by day to bunks at night, with washbasin.  As in first class, take your own insect repellent, a bottle of mineral water, and toilet paper.  In 2nd class you'll find one or two western travellers, plus Kenyan middle class travellers.

3rd class consisted of basic seats in open-plan carriages.  The bulk of the Kenyan population travels this way, as it's so cheap.

First class sleeping-car exterior, Nairobi to Mombasa train   2-berth 1st class sleeper   Washbasin in 1st class sleeper

First class sleepers:  The train to Mombasa, about to leave Nairobi.  Photo courtesy of Andy Brabin.

 

A 2-berth first class sleeper.  Photo courtesy of Andy Brabin.

 

Each sleeper compartment has a sink.  Courtesy Andy Brabin.

Table set for dinner on the Nairobi to Mombasa train   Restaurant car interior   Restaurant car exterior, Nairobi to Mombasa train

Restaurant car:  The first class fare included dinner & breakfast in the restaurant car.  White tablecloths on the tables, but note the holes worn in the flooring!  Catering has now been outsourced to a hotel group.  Photos courtesy of Andy Brabin.

Typical dinner menu:  Soup of the day;  Choice of marinated roast chicken or beef cubes in mushroom sauce, served with roast potatoes or rice; tropical fruit salad; tea or coffee.  Naturally, you can also obtain Kenyan 'Tusker' beer.

What was the journey like?

Nairobi is 5,453 feet above sea level, and the train descends to the coast, Mombasa being just 59 feet above sea level. In the Mombasa to Nairobi direction, look out for impala, giraffe, ostrich and other game whilst eating breakfast in the restaurant car.

1st class 2-berth sleeper on the Mombasa-Nairobi train   Train travel in Kenya:  The Nairobi-Mombasa train  

Above left:  Relaxing with a bottle of 'Tusker' in a 1st class 2-berth sleeper on the Nairobi-Mombasa train.  The compartment is shown with berths folded away and sofa folded out.

Above right:  The Nairobi-Mombasa express...  Photographs courtesy of David Pinney

 

Above:  Ready to go!  Photo courtesy of www.crutches4africa.org

Nairobi to Mombasa train   Scenery from the train in Kenya

Above:  Scenery seen from the Nairobi to Mombasa train.  A new green Rift Valley Railways colour scheme has now replaced the traditional Kenya Railways dark red & cream. Photo courtesy of www.crutches4africa.org

On the Nairobi - Mombassa train   In the restaurant car, on the Nairobi - Mombasa train   1st class sleeper on the Nairobi - Mombassa train, Kenya

All aboard for Mombasa!

 

Dinner in the restaurant is included in the fare...

 

...then retire to your sleeper.

These three photos courtesy of Audrey & Jeroen

Train from Nairobi arrived at Mombasa   Mombasa station sign   Mombasa train station

Above:  Arrival at Mombasa.  Photos courtesy of Andy Brabin.


Nairobi to Kisumu train service

 Nairobi Kisumu

          

 Kisumu Nairobi

 Days of running:

Monday & Friday *  

 Days of running:

Tuesday & Sunday *

 Nairobi

depart

 18:30

 Kisumu

depart

 18:30

 Naivasha

arr/dep

 22:30

 Nakuru

arr/dep

 02:55

 Nakuru

arr/dep

 01:05

 Naivasha

arr/dep

 04:55

 Kisumu

arrive

    09:00**

 Nairobi

arrive

    09:00**

This train is the PORT FLORENCE EXPRESS, Nairobi-Kisumu.  Currently CANCELLED.

* Train currently cancelled due to track repairs, no indication when service will resume.  You can check the current operational status of this train at the Rift Valley Railways website www.riftvalleyrail.com (select 'Passenger travel' then 'Inter-City').  This train was cancelled from 4 May 2012 until such time as it is reinstated, and it's still not running in 2015.  Over the last few years this train has been running, then not running, then running again.  It originally ran 3 times a week, was reduced to once a week in summer 2010, restored to running 3 times a week in each direction in 2011.  It was temporarily cancelled from February until April 2012, but it resumed running on 2 April 2012, and is now running twice a week as shown above.  Or rather, now it isn't again, as it's reported cancelled (yet again) as from 4 May 2012 due to goodness-knows-what.  Check at www.riftvalleyrail.com, double-check locally, and if you have any more feedback, please email me

** Expect an arrival 10:00-11:00.  Don't plan any tight connections!

It has 1st class 2-berth sleepers, 2nd class 4-berth sleepers, restaurant car, 3rd class seats, similar to the Nairobi-Mombasa train, see the photos & information above.

 Fares

1st class sleeper

3,010 Kenya Shillings (£17 / $32) per person sharing a 2-berth compartment including dinner & breakfast.

Children (aged 3-11) 1,925 Kenya Shillings, children under 3 free.

2nd class sleeper

2,210 Kenya Shillings (£12 / $24) per person sharing a 4-berth compartment including dinner & breakfast, or 1,685 shillings without dinner.

Children (aged 3-11) 1,525 Kenya Shillings, children under 3 free.

3rd class seat

500 Kenya Shillings (£3 / $5).

Children (aged 3-11) 250 Kenya Shillings, children under 3 free.

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

How to buy tickets...

You can book the train when you get to Kenya at the station reservation office at Nairobi.  Or you can book it in advance before you get to Kenya, through one of several travel agencies:

A train ride from Kisumu to Nairobi...

Kisumu railway station, Kenya   The Kisumu to Nairobi train

Kisumu railway station...  Photo courtesy of Tim Siegenbeekvan Heukelom

 

The Kisumu to Nairobi train...  Photo courtesy of Tim Siegenbeekvan Heukelom

Sleeper corridor, Nairobi to Kisumu train   2-berth sleeper on the Nairobi to Kisumu train   Sleeping-car exterior, Nairobi to Kisumu train

First class 2-bed sleeper on the Kisumu to Nairobi train...  From left to right, the sleeper corridor, a 2-berth sleeper compartment, and the exterior of the British-built 1st class sleeping-car.  Photos courtesy of Tim Siegenbeekvan Heukelom.


Bus 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.


Bus 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.


Guidebooks

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

Hotels in Nairobi & Kenya

    

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It has been named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site in the World Travel Awards and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling the same hotel at a cheaper rate.

►► My recommended booking site:  www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site, and unless HotelsCombined throws up major price differences I prefer doing my bookings 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 great feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...


Flights 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


Travel insurance

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

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.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

 


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