Its been a little over 2 months since the SGR train dubbed the Madaraka Express was launched, and while the hype on social media has somewhat died down, the number of people using the SGR as an alternative to flying/bus rides certainly has not decreased.
Two weeks ago I went down to Diani for a week, and while this journey would normally involve a bus or plane ride, it was a no brainer for me to use the SGR. A couple of friends of mine had used it before, so coupled with the information they gave me and my experience as well, I decided to do a post on everything you would need to know before booking the SGR- if you don’t already.
1st Class- Ksh. 3000 (Citizens) & Ksh. 4000 (Non- Citizens)
2nd Class/Economy- Ksh. 700 (Citizens) & Ksh. 1200 (Non- Citizens)
Booking is still done manually, which really is a big hassle. This means you have to physically present yourself at the SGR terminus in Syokimau in order to book a ticket.
A couple of weeks ago they launched a phone booking service, but good luck to you if it works. When I was trying to buy my ticket, the number went through after the second attempt. After giving the attendant my travel details, I was informed to wait on an sms with the Mpesa details after which I was expected to pay for the ticket. 4 hours later and I was yet to receive the sms. I tried calling the number but it was engaged the ENTIRE day, which I found absolutely ridiculous. In the end, I was forced to go directly to the station to buy my ticket. Whatever happened to the online booking system?
BOOKING VIA MPESA
- Call 0709 388 888.
- Speak to an attendant who will ask you for you travel itinerary, i.e date of travel and class of ticket.
- Receive an sms with the SGR Mpesa Paybill Number.
- Once you make the payment, you will receive an sms with your ticket details.
- Use details in the sms to print the boarding pass.
- Buy the SGR ticket physically at the station or send someone to do it for you.
- Buy ticket 3 days prior to travel date.
- If you are travelling back within 3 days, buy your return ticket once you arrive at the station to save you from coming back to the station.
- As of yet, you still can’t choose where you want to sit. If you are travelling as group, ask the attendant to give you seats that are next to each other. The numbers may follow each other, like say 79 and 80, but that doesn’t guarantee you will seat together. This is because of the numbering of the seats which is done horizontally.
GETTING TO SYOKIMAU
- Take Kitengela Matatus from Railways (outside Easy coach). Ask them to drop you off at the SGR. Once you alight, take a motorcycle to the terminus from across the road at Ksh 50.
Ideally you should arrive at the station an hour before the train is scheduled to leave. This will allow you to comfortably go through the security checks (which are numerous and thorough) and board the train comfortably. I saw quite a number of people being left behind because they were late.
- The departure time is STRICTLY 9.00am.
- Check in closes 5 minutes to departure.
- If you are late, you can call the station and ask to reschedule the ticket to another day. This can ONLY be done before 8:50 am. You will pay a penalty of about Ksh.165 per ticket to reschedule.
There is a catering service in the cabins, which offers a range of soft drinks, snacks and even alcoholic drinks. The downside? It is expensive. Everything on the menu starts at Ksh.100.
- Mandazis – Ksh 100 Water- 100.
- Crisps- 100 The canned beers- 350.
- Tea/coffee- 100 Croissants- 150.
It doesn’t make sense to spend ksh 700 on a ticket and then spend another 300 just on snacks. Another thing is that they don’t offer actual food, so don’t expect to enjoy a plate of pilau or ugali on the ride.
Tip- Buy snacks beforehand, they are obviously cheaper in supermarkets than on the SGR. Security will allow you to bring them in, as long as they are not opened, especially the drinks.
It also helps to have your own snacks because there are only two trolleys serving about 13 couches. On my first ride I was in one of the middle couches. By the time they were getting to serving us, it was about 12:30 pm. Most of us hadn’t eaten any breakfast because of the mad morning rush to get to the SGR station. We were hungry and grumpy. And they had run out of most of the snacks, including tea and coffee.
TRANSPORT FROM THE STATIONS
If you are arriving at the Nairobi terminus, there are plenty of transport options into the city which are right outside the Terminus.
- Smart bus- Ksh.50 to CBD
- Matatus- Ksh.80
- Railways train service- Ksh. 50 to the Railways CBD station.
- Taxis- depends on where you are going, really.
Like Syokimau, Miritini is quite a distance from the CBD. To get into MSA town, there are however a number of transport options.
Buses- Ksh 50
Tuktuks- Ksh. 300-400
Motorcyles for the shorter distances.
*If you’ve used the SGR before, feel free to point out anything I may have left out in the post down in the comments below!