Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Train Ride to Mombasa

This review is by Bankelele.

Train travel to Mombasa is something i used to do a lot as a kid, but decided to do this month for nostalgia reasons. It's a colonial era service and an experience that is world famous – the railway is the reason that Kenya attracted such British interest (actually it was Uganda, but thank them anytime you meet them at a fabulous wedding)

I decided to post about the trip for those have taken or never tried the train ride. I'll only post about 1st class, since that's what I expect a young blogger to take. First class here is not first class of a plane, but you'll understand why When i was a kid it used to be a 13 hour journey, what's changes (i) goes to coast 3X week and returns same (ii) train stops everywhere, first stop is Nairobi east and makes about 15 more (though these only affects 3 rd class passengers commuters (iii) slower, scenic.

Duration: Nairobi to Mombasa train (7PM to 10 AM), the returning journey train arrived at 11 am in Nairobi

Full 3,375 shillings (full service; beddings, dinner and breakfast) 2,160 (beddings, no meals), 1,900 just you (no beddings or meals)

If you've never been on a train, it's an experience to try. First class is a double Decker cabin. You get as much privacy as you want, though it's good to interact. If you're a group of say 4, you can ask for facing cabins and slide open a door between the two cabins to create a large sitting room

The moment of the train, might take a few minutes to get used to the rocking movement, and crossing between coaches e.g. to get to the dining car.

Toilets: are found on each end of a coach, on one side, they are normal sit toilets, but on the other side, is a long drop (straight to the rails – which is why they tell you not to use it while the train has stopped)

Scenery: nice except near Nairobi and Mombasa; the smell of dumpsite trash at makupa causeway at the Coast and and in Nairobi where passing the Mukuru kwa Reuben slum gives tourists a view of a side of Nairobi, only seen in the Constant Gardener. in masaini area saw some ostriches and giraffes, but no legendary man eating lions

service: dinner is a really heavy meal, but leave that to tourists. Skip it and carry your own (some Japanese tourist brought their own nandos pizza on board). Opt to buy the breakfast: - it's a full meal fried egg, sausage, bacon tomato, coffee/tea, juice toast plenty (they can even buy more if it runs out), all for 475 bob extra. Another good thing about the dining car is that it has the best view i.e. you're able to look out of both sides of the train simultaneously

Cabins; quite good, varies from cabin to cabin, and improving. A Few moths ago they used to handout lamps, but now all cabins are fully lit. Trains are old and you may find some small things like mosquito screen missing, or fan broken, but. If it's a major problem ask the steward and they may move you to another cabin

Customer service; very good, a manager comes round to greet passengers and answer any dumb questions. As soon as the train starts dinner is served (steward comes round with a xylophone to announce meals)

Beer costs 100 bob and soda 30

Safety: always after, recent horror stories. Police are on board the train and it travels quite close to the Nairobi Mombasa road in most places also for most parts of the line [in case any sh* happens] . Safaricom service is ok on most parts of the jounrney (about 80%) including gprs

Verdict: Support the revival of the railways. and take the train for the experience; it's a long journey but can be fun. Carry dinner of your own, but buy their breakfast as the journey is long.

14 comments:

modo mugithi said...

that's the hottest ride. kwanza if you travel a huge crowd. will definitely try it again...

Aegeus said...

this is definitely on my to do list....now to find who shall accord me hospitality once i arrive at the sea side...

Farmgal said...

I have my questions answered! Thanks Banks..will most deff take the train to coast. I have never been there though..yeah I know!

Movie Buff said...

I def have to do this very soon.
I really did need to read this. Thanks Sana!

Girl next door said...

I'm yet to take a train ride to coast. After reading your description, I've got to do it. I saw "The Darjeeling Limited" and there was some fun drama on that train.

Kirima said...

Only took the train once long ago when in School wouldn't mind doing it again sometime soon.

Wambui said...

This was all the convincing I required! I'm taking this train in Jan...looking forward to blogging about it.

Stone said...

Kwani you are a chameleon? How can you look out of both sides simultaneously?

Digzer said...

@ Stone, that thought had crossed my mind lol!

@ Banks, you have done excellent work. I've always wanted to do the train thing but didn't know where to get the details. And a dude you should have started with the beer@ 100 part! That's a cool rave! :)

Mcheku said...

Oh Nostalgia! Love this article! I have never taken the first class but second class is not bad either. Second class takes four people in the cabin. My shags is in coasto so that is my only means of travel, sleeping on those bunk beds crowded in there with your family is great! It is definitely an experience that everyone should try.

SupremeGREAM said...

I would only take the train for the fun not when on a business trip. Unless there are check to be signed during the ride

miano said...

Great post. Beers at 100 bob! That's reason enough! :)

I've heard stories of people getting stranded for hours at a time due to mechanical failures, I hope that is no longer the case.....

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