Riding Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)

Thinking of taking a trip to the coast?

Thinking of taking a trip to the coast? Consider Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Thinking of taking a trip to the coast?
Photo Credit: Kenya Railways

The Madaraka Express ( named after the day that celebrates Kenya’s independence from Britain) is the first section of Kenya’s SGR. Completed in 2017, the train runs from Nairobi to Mombasa and operates as both a freight service , and a 1,260 person passenger train.

Passengers can take either the Express (afternoon) non-stop train or the Inter-county train. But be warned, Inter-country train rides take more time than Express train rides.

The are nine passenger stations between Nairobi and Mombasa including: Athi River, Emali, Kibwezi, Mtito Andei, Voi, Miasenyi, and Mariakani. If you decide to take the inter-county train, you will stop at each of these stations. The express train goes directly between Nairobi and Mombasa. 

The SGR’s route also convienetly runs through a number of Kenya’s famous tourist attractions. Check out our article on SGR scenic spots here. We suggest booking a window seat if you can in order to catch a glimpse of elephants, zebras and other wildlife as you ride. 

First Class or Standard Class ? 

Train costs are the same for both inter-county and express routes. For First Class trains, each ticket costs 3000ksh, for Standard Class trains each ticket costs 1,000ksh. Children under 3 travel for free and children 11 and under pay half fare

The difference between First and Standard class is marginal, but may be important for some. The first class cabins have less seats allowing for more leg room, plusher chairs and full access to the dining car. 

Standard class cars are more crowded and feature a set of four chairs on either side that face one another, with a small table in the middle. Though there is no dining car, train staff do come around periodically with carts of food and drinks.

Train Times & Costs

Train times vary according to the train you decide to take. The inter-county train (making stops at all stations listed above) departs in the morning, while the Express train departs in the afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Xinhua

* train times may differ due to COVID19 restrictions

Nairobi to Mombasa

Inter-County Train Express Train

Departure: 8:20am   Departure: 2:35pm 
Arrival: 2:18pm    Arrival: 7:18pm   
Elapsed Time: 5hrs 53min    Elapsed Time: 4hrs 43min 


Inter-County Train Express Train

Departure: 8:00am   Departure: 3:15pm  
Arrival: 1:42pm    Arrival: 8:15pm   
Elapsed Time: 5hrs 42min  Elapsed Time: 5hrs

Getting a Ticket

SGR tickets tend to sell out quickly, so it’s best to book as far in advance as possible. The ticket booking window opens 60 days prior to your date of departure for individual bookings and 62 days prior to departure for group bookings. There are a few ways to book an SGR ticket. Please note that an MPESA account is necessary for most of the options listed below. Here’s how: 

1.Book Online

You can book and check for ticket availability through Kenya Railways at The process is pretty straightforward, but you do need to have an MPESA account to pay. Upon payment, you will receive an E-ticket. 

2. Buy at the station 

If you decide to book at the station 4 days before your trip, or the day of. Please note that ticket sales end ten minutes prior to the train’s departure. Cash and credit card are accepted. 

3. Book via USSD Code

  • Make sure that you have an MPESA account
  • Dial USSD code *639#
  • Follow the instructions, you can book at up to 5 tickets

Things to Know 

 You cannot bring Alcohol into the SGR terminal

  • Leave your bottles at home. Alcohol cannot be brought onto the SGR, but you can purchase spirits and beer. Prices for alcoholic beverages are reasonable, but they are more expensive if you purchase on the SGR itself. 

Food is allowed on the SGR 

  • Meals and snacks are sold at the SGR station and on the SGR for a reasonable fee. But, if you have specific dietary needs, you can feel free to bring them along

Arrive Early 

  • There are two levels of security at the SGR station. One on the outside, and one on the inside. Arrive at least 45 min before your trains departure to ensure that you don’t miss it. The train doors close 15min before the train departs. 

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