By train from Nairobi to Mombasa

Train from Nairobi to Mombasa an experience

The British, during their reign from 1887 to 1963 in Kenya, had a train track built. From Nairobi to Mombasa. More than 3,000 were killed during construction. Partly because the trail runs directly through Tsavo National Park with lots of hungry lions. In particular, Indians worked on the railroad. These were brought to Kenya to work. They also provided the many Indian curry influences in Kenya’s cuisine. In the film Out of Africa, there are scenes showing the construction of the railroad. By the way, Lake Nakuru has also seen a lot of filming for Out of Africa.


After Kenya gained independence in 1963 thanks to the Mau Mau and, among others, freedom fighter Jomo Kenyatta, the railroad went into decline. After independence, the British went away, and so did the knowledge about track maintenance. Fortunately, the Kenyan government is now maintaining the track for the train journey from Nairobi to Mombasa. But not by Western standards. So prepare for a fun, long journey back in time!

Train from Nairobi to Mombasa: the theory and the practice

A train ride from Nairobi to Mombasa theoretically takes 13-15 hours. So in theory….We were unlucky and took 32 hours. The train entered Nairobi 6 hours late. Once we were driving a cargo train had derailed in front of us. So another 5 hour delay. The advantage was that we could get off the train and walk around in the surrounding villages. I was also allowed to watch the train driver.

village-train-nairobi-mombasa machinist-train-nairobi-mombasa


The bus, on the other hand, takes 8-10 hours. Still, I would say to choose the train 1 time in your life. Why choose the train?

  • You imagine yourself back 60 years. With retro floral wallpaper and ditto chairs
  • You will travel right through Tsavo East and West National Park. Fat chance of seeing giraffes and zebras from your train compartment
  • Travel first class and you get a berth to go with it. Includes a fountain where you can wash your hands
  • You get dinner and breakfast Kenyan style. And the food is also fine for vegetarians. Nothing lofty by the way. Ask for an extra scoop of vegetables instead of meat
  • Ability to get off the train when it is stopped and waiting. Have you arrived in Mombasa? Then go to Kilifi. There you will find a spuerleuk eco hostel: Distant Relatives. Highly recommended! Or continue directly to the beautiful island archipelago: Lamu where the Lamu Yoga Festival also takes place in March.

train-nairobi-mombasa-eating nairobi-mombasa-boy

Cost of train from Nairobi to Mombasa

You pay about KES 4,100 for a single train ride from Nairobi to Mombasa. That’s about 38 euros. For this you get 1x dinner and 1x breakfast plus a place to sleep. So you also save a night in a hotel. In my experience, when you are delayed, you are fed even then. For example, I still got 1x lunch and 1x dinner. Just be sure to bring your own extra food. You never know. Pole pole. The bus costs (at the time of asking between KES 1,000 and 2,000). At the time of writing, the Chinese are building a new high-speed rail line. You may find that if you want to take this train a year from now, you do arrive in Mombasa within 13 hours. Lucky you! *Update: by now the train is running. And the BBC wrote an article about it.* But we cherish this experience, because say it…when do you still travel on a train with floral wallpaper? 🙂