By Bridget, at Sand Island Beach …
Earlier this month, my husband and I decided to travel on Kenya Railways Maradaka Express from Nairobi to Mombasa.
Having many moons ago experienced the long overnight journey on the old train between the capital and the coast, we were excited to try out this new, faster service. Booking tickets can be done easily online if you have an Mpesa account.
On arrival at the Nairobi Terminus one has to go through the first security check where a sniffer dog checks all the luggage. You and your luggage then go through a security scanner. My husband had a Swiss army knife in his suitcase which had flown with us all the way from SA and this was confiscated much to his dismay. We then proceeded to the ticket office where the tickets are printed and issued.
To finally enter the Terminus building you go through a second lot of security scanners and checks. At this point, they discovered the plastic containers of Chenin Blanc (16 litres) that we'd brought all the way from Cape Town. No alcohol is allowed to be taken onto the train! You can purchase wine and beer on the train but you cannot carry any in your luggage. So that too was confiscated even though we were adamant that two of us couldn't possibly imbibe all that wine in 5 & half hours. We weren't the only unlucky ones. There was a family travelling to a wedding in Mombasa and taking bottles of spirits for the occasion. Another family from Nairobi, who turned out to be Sand Island Beach guests, also had their holiday wine supplies taken away. So read the small print and be aware of items you cannot take onto the train in your luggage! They have zero tolerance.
On the positive side, the train runs strictly to schedule, it is kept spotlessly clean. The staff are smartly dressed, friendly and efficient. We opted to travel first class which was very comfortable and gives you access to the dining coach. At Ksh 3,000 per person it's well worth it. Sitting in the dining car, we enjoyed looking through the big windows at the countryside going by. We saw lots of ellies going through Tsavo National Park which was a treat.
All in all a relaxing, inexpensive and increasingly popular way to get from Nairobi to Mombasa. I would highly recommend.