You may have heard about how train travel in Kenya can be a delightful adventure. It is really something to look forward to as long as you know what you’re doing.
If you haven’t taken a train in Kenya before, read on for things you should know, like how to get to/through the railway station, how passengers are searched at security checkpoints, if drinks can be purchased on the train, and what the toilets are like.
How to Read Your Train Ticket — for Station Information
Go to the Right Departure Station!
Check the departure station carefully. It is recommended that you find out how to get to your station in sufficient time before your departure. If you accidently go to the wrong station, you will find that the waiting room doesn’t show your train’s schedule at all. When you realize your mistake, you may then miss your train as it will take more than half an hour to transfer to the right departure station.If you miss your train, you cannot make an alteration at the ticket window.
Don’t Get Off at the Wrong Station!
It is also important to correctly read the information for the arrival station. For example, the Nairobi-bound train from Mombasa will first reach Mtito Andei Railway Station and then Nairobi Railway Station. Getting off the train at the wrong destination can cause you to pay a penalty fare if you continue the journey too far. Pay attention to the announcements on the train as they will tell you which station you have arrived at.
Luggage Allowance — Pack Smartly
If being organized is not an issue, packing is part of the fun of train travel. Separate your belongings into large luggage and small carry-on items. Important things, such as travel documents, tickets, money, and valuable items should be kept on you at all times. Having a fanny pack or purse is handy. Remember to put your tickets and ID/passport away safely after the ticket checkpoints.
Packing light is the key point. You can find all kinds of tips about packing light. However, if you have not been able to, the train stewards will ask you to put any over-large luggage onto the luggage shelves at the ends of the coaches, instead of on the overhead shelf at your seat. Therefore, it is important to have your luggage zipped up or closed securely using a combination lock.
Leave 2 Hours to Catch Your Train
If you are not a fan of taking risks, it is always better to arrive early at the railway station. Nobody likes waiting around, but we suggest you leave 2 hours to get to your train for the following reasons.
- Leave Extra Time to Get to the Station —In Case of Traffic, Misdirection, and Crowds
Some railway stations can be as vast as an airport and situated a long way from the city center. It’s a good idea to leave your hotel or last activity in plenty of time in case of traffic, queues, crowds, or misdirection. Give yourself enough time to enjoy a relaxing journey. Usually 2 hours are enough, but the time can be reduced if going a nearby station.
- Many Things to Do Before Boarding— Long Distances and Lines
The distances between the ticket office, security check, waiting room, and station platform can be quite long, and it is sometimes necessary to walk from one side of the station to the other.
Remember that you are not doing this alone; there will be hundreds of people doing the same thing, meaning that you might be standing in waiting lines for a long time. You will probably need to be queuing in lines at every bottleneck from the minute that you step into the train station.
Firstly, you will have to line up to pick up your ticket (maybe half an hour or more, unless you’ve used our ticket delivery service or got it in advance), then pass through a ticket and ID check followed by a security check, locate and walk to your waiting area, then wait again in line at the waiting room ticket gate, and walk maybe 10 minutes in order to board the train.
- Things to Do If You Get There Too Early
No time needs to be wasted, even if you get there early. For first-timers, early arrival at the railway station gives you a good chance to explore the station and observe the locals. You can purchase some food or drinks at the shops so that you won’t go hungry during the journey. If you are traveling with kids, an early arrival gives you some time to calm them down and prepare for a good trip.
Bear in mind that the station will stop the check-in facility 5 minutes before the train departs. So don’t lose yourself in the stores at the train station. You are recommended to get to the waiting room at least 30 minutes before the train departs (especially if you want a seat to wait on).
- Security Check Needed — Prepare Your Passport and Ticket
All passengers and luggage are required to pass through a security check at the station entrance. Please prepare your train ticket and ID/Passport/Travel Permit. You need to line up for the security check, just like at an airport. After the security check keep your passport and train ticket on your person, and don’t lock them in your suitcase, because you are going to need them for another ticket check or two when you board the train.
There may already be a long line at the entrance, so you are recommended to arrive at the train station early.
- Board Smoothly —Get to the Right Waiting Room, Gate, Platform, Car, and Seat
Find the Right Waiting Room Using the LED Screens. After the security check, you need to find the right waiting room. A train station may have many waiting rooms for different trains. And usually the information on the sreen is in English.
Look up at the large LED screens for your train number, and see which waiting room is allocated to it. Your train number is a letter with numbers displayed on the top middle part of your train ticket, such as M1 or N1. A large LED screen shows different trains’ departure schedules in rotation, so you might have to wait for the screen to change once or twice to see your train information.
Usually the waiting room information shows the floor and room number. You could ask someone near you for help to get to the right waiting room, by pointing at your ticket then the LED screen.
- Get to the Right Gate
A waiting room may not only have one platform gate (like in an airport). There may be several gates going to different platforms to board different trains,so don’t line up at the wrong gate.There are generally rows of seats either side of a gate’s lining up aisle.
LED screens for each gate in each waiting room show different trains’ numbers, departure times, and platform information. You can listen to the broadcasts for boarding information.
- Get to the Right Platform
Once you get to the right gate, generally, you can check-in with your train ticket15 minutes before departure. Before you walk along the long corridors to the platform, look up at the LED screen for the last time and find your platform number. Look for your platform number showing which stairway to walk down to get to your platform.
- Getting to Your Seat/Bunk
Check your train ticket for your car number as you descend to the platform. There will be staff at each train car door. You could show your ticket to a member of staff. He/she will check that you are boarding the right train car.
Once on the right car, find your bunk number or seat number, usually displayed on the luggage racks around head height.
Know What’s on the Train — Food, Water, and Toilets
Different trains offer different services and facilities.
- Seating: All trains are fully air-conditioned.
- First Class Seating: The seats are adjustable, just like seats on a plane, for you to sit comfortably. What’s more, there is a 220V AC socket under each seat for your devices.
- Second Class Seating: The seats are fixed. No provision for charging your devices.
- Food: High-speed trains offer different types of set meals (All foods aboard our service are Halaal Certified.).First Class ticket travelers can go to the restaurant car to have a meal, where they offer made-to-order meals. Second class travelers buy a set meal or some snacks and drinks from the attendant’s trolley.
- Water: Free boiled/cold water is available between the coaches.
- Toilets: Chinese/Western-style toilets and handicapped restrooms are available between the coaches.
- LED screen: Every coach with an LED screen indicates the speed of the train, temprature and time.
- Luggage racks: There are luggage racks over the seats at either side of a coach. You can take a 24-inch suitcase on board and place it on a luggage rack. There are some shelves between the coaches for large baggage. Shelves for large suitcases, suitable for a 70cm (28-inch) suitcase.
Travel Safely— Safety First
Trains in Kenya are fairly safe, yet some good advice never hurts.
When you are traveling with young children, keep them close and an eye on them. Don’t allow them to run up and down the train coach/platform, or lose them in the station. Beware of pinching your fingers in the (automatic) doors. Hold onto the hand knobs and rails while walking inside the coach. The washroom floor can be slippery, so be careful in there.
Don’t leave your valuable belongings unattended.
There is a power socket under the seat (First Class Coaches) or on the small table (Second Class Coaches), which can be used to recharge your devices. Never leave them unattended. Your identification documents and ticket should always be kept with you.
Have A Safe Trip!!
(Article Courtesy of SGR Kenya)