1. If you need information about the train – departure days and times, call Rift Valley Railways. Not Kenya Railways. Kenya Railways provides the tracks on which Rift Valley Railways passenger coaches operate.
2. The train doesn’t depart everyday from Nairobi or from Mombasa. It departs from Nairobi on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and departs from Mombasa on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
3. It is most advisable NOT to travel alone on the train.
4. There are three classes of coach. First class which hosts two people per cabin – with two sleeping berths and a sink; Second class which hosts four people per cabin – with four sleeping berths; and Third class which is rows upon rows of benches/seats depending on the cabin you find. Breakfast and dinner is provided as part of the ticket to first class and second class passengers. Beddings are also provided for the same category of passengers.
5. The trains depart at 7pm sharp. This is the only mode of transportation I have taken in Kenya that actually departs on time. I have been on this train over 10 times. We have always departed on time. Actually, the last time I used it, we departed 5 minutes before time.
6. The arrival time is dependent on ….. ahem. I have no idea. I have arrived after 14 hours. 15 hours. 16 hours. Two weeks ago? 20 hours. The arrival time is not affected by the numerous stops that the train needs to take to drop off passengers in stations I can guarantee you have never heard of.
7. For that reason, it is highly adviseable to carry:
a) All the sense of humour you have acquired since the day you were born
b) Board games
c) A novel
d) A charger
f) Snacks and drinks
8. Don’t make plans for the day after you depart with the train, that is, the day it is scheduled to arrive. You have no idea what time you will arrive so worst case scenario is that you arrive at 5pm. A whole day gone. If you arrive earlier than 10am, I will kindly ask you to consider yourself as having gained hours – similar to crossing a timezone…..
9. If using 3rd class, be ready to share your space with goats, chicken and sacks of stuff. There is nothing like personal space and I have seen people climb up to the bag carrier section to catch a snooze. I have also seen people stand from 7pm to about 3am because there was no seating space. But at Kshs. 680 there is no cheaper transport between Nairobi and Mombasa.
10. Put all your valuables in one bag that you should have with you at all times. If you are sleeping, use it as a pillow in 1st and 2nd class or cover it with a shawl and wrap the shawl around you if you are using 3rd class
I actually enjoy using the train – especially since I hate taking the bus, I have never driven to Mombasa and if you don’t book early, flight prices are a nightmare. Over the last few years, I have managed to convince a number of people to take the train with me. All have sworn never to use it again for one reason or the other. Mrs. Adrian said she would never use it again because it was too noisy. Hipilicious said it was too tiring but that was because we used 3rd class with a bunch of like 100 other pals. Can’t really remember what Shish said but I doubt that she would refuse to take the train again.
I took the train with Tweetie two weeks ago.
– Our compartment couldn’t lock so we had to be on the lookout 🙂
– There were very few people in 1st and 2nd class and the food was not so nice – wonder what they would do if there were more people
– Some dude decided that he was going to try and steal from passengers so he boarded the OUTSIDE of the train as it slowed down at some place and kept on walking on top of it (just like in the movies) looking for open compartments he could steal from. Then we had to stop in Samburu for cops to try and arrest him. Of course, didn’t work.
– The dude in the compartment next to ours decided that the loo was to far away (the loo was one step away from our compartment) so he peed in his sink which was attached to ours….
– We had to dust our seat/berths as they hadn’t been cleaned
I am now running out of people to convince to take the train with me.
Thanks Tweetie for these photos!