Hello there Peaches! I’d like to share my great experience on the Madaraka Express SGR (Standard Gauge Railway) Kenya, 1st class.
Again, it was my birthday weekend and Mombasa sounded just about right for a good birthday weekend getaway. I must say it still is a hustle to book for the tickets on Madaraka express even though there’s a new advanced platform that allows you to book utmost 7 days prior to your travel date via our mobile phones thanks to Safaricom services by dialing the USSD code *639#. This put me in proper chill mode knowing that it is a legit first-come-first-served service and no one would purchase the tickets before the 7-days mark due to the limit of days displayed on the booking platform, for there are many agents acting as middle-men for the SGR tickets. However, that was not the case as to my disbelief, a friend called me from the Syokimau Railway Station telling me that there were no tickets available for Friday the 20th of October which was Mashujaa day. What she actually meant was that the economy tickets were all fully booked and the only tickets available were first class. Actually, that was 10 days prior to the 20th so how does this booking thing actually work? Although I was disappointed, it was the only choice I had at that time to pay Kshs. 3,000 for first class because flight tickets were ridiculously extortionate since it will be a public holiday. Nonetheless, I am glad that they’ve recently introduced an afternoon express train as part of the resolution. Fast forward to the 20th: my departure date. I ubered myself to the train station an hour early because I do not live far away from Syokimau Railway Station; approximately 15 minutes drive.
On arriving, I found a long queue just long enough to get us fried alive in that hot solar. We were instructed by the Security Guard Officers to put all our belongings to the ground in one straight line and move 3 steps away to the left so the security dogs can sniff them for security purposes. It was so funny when I heard some girls behind me saying, ‘How come this dog is taking long to sniff my bag? Did my side-niggah trap me?’ And they all laughed including I, the eavesdropper. That was hilarious though – Millenials! Anyways, we were all good to go given the authority to proceed. At the first checkpoint, bags go through the baggage CT scanner of course as you show your National ID card and SGR ticket to the security officer.
These adorable kids in blue uniform led by their teachers in front of me caught my attention as I waited in the queue for my turn. It looked like a whole school because you could see little blue uniforms all over the place. They were going on a school adventure for sure. At least it consoled me that they were the reason for economy class tickets being full – the love I have for kids.
After the identification security check and collecting my bags, there was a lady officer who then proceeded to inspect me from head to toe.
Entrance to the building, I was welcomed by another two officers who directed me to the 2nd checkpoint through a CT baggage scanner again. After that was done, I took the stairs leading to the train where you join ANOTHER queue to insert the tickets into the ticket machine for a green pass. Once you go through it, there’s a lady to direct you to your train terminals.
Mine was first class so I was directed to the first class terminal 1 & 2, making sure I double-checked my ticket terminal number 2 right because I’m one clumsy being. I was ushered by a stunning hostess to my seat. I finally sat with a big sigh! Now I know why we have to be there an hour or two early.
The first class compartment was astoundingly almost full. My bags were safe in the bag storage above my seat. It’s a two-seater passenger coach with a charging socket provided of which was the first thing I spotted – essentials!
Interestingly, the two-seater is not only super comfortable, but also flexibly adjustable. You can turn to the other side and have a little chit chat with your friends if you’re a group of you, conversely, make new friends. I found that pretty cool actually that I even did a little spin just to try it out.
For the record, I have to applaud the SGR for being so punctual. It geared for departure at exactly 9:00 a.m. I was late by one minute to snap it but they’re not playing. If you are an African timer my friend, please just stay home. Here to help. 😅
From where my compartment was, I walked through 3 compartments to the restaurant for a snack. Not bad at all.
Since I had my iphone charger, I was sorted with entertainment as I goofed around with Snapchat filters and watching people’s snaps and Instagram stories while jamming for the fun of it.
Unfortunately, I missed the elephants and Zebras snap shots but I was lucky enough to see them from my window when I saw people looking outside in amazement. The view was totally breathtaking!
With my phone fully charged, stomach filled and adventurous ride, the SGR first class left me with no complaints whatsoever. However, I find the price a little too high paying an extra Kshs. 2,300 for a more comfortable seat and leg room since it’s not inclusive of wifi (which is unavailable) or food. Either way, it was worth the ride!
Five hours later, we arrived at the Mombasa Terminus in Miritini at 2:00 p.m.