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Getting Around

Worth a Trip Lunatic Line The Mombasa–Nairobi Railway

Few subjects divide our readers’ letters more fiercely than the train from Nairobi to Mombasa. Once one of the most famous rail lines in Africa, the train is today, depending on who you speak to, either a sociable way of avoiding the rutted highway and a way of spotting wildlife from the clackety comfort of a sleeping car, or a ratty, tatty, overrated waste of time. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The train’s condition could be described as ‘faded glory’, occasionally bumping up to ‘romantically dishevelled’, or slipping into ‘frustrating mediocrity’. The latter isn’t helped by spotty scheduling and lax timetable enforcement. At the time of research, it wasn't uncommon for the Mombasa–Nairobi leg to take up to three days longer than planned. Still, if you're up for an adventure...

Currently then, the ‘iron snake’ departs Mombasa train station at 7pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, arriving (in theory) in Nairobi the next day somewhere between 9.30am and 1pm. Fares are US$75 for 1st class (two-bed compartments) and US$65 for 2nd class (four-bed), including breakfast (you get dinner with a 1st-class fare) – reserve as far in advance as possible.

Matatu, Taxi & Tuk-tuk

Matatus charge between KSh30 and KSh50 for short trips. Mombasa taxis are as expensive as those in Nairobi, and harder to find; a good place to look is in front of Express Travel on Nkrumah Rd. Assume it’ll cost KSh250 to KSh400 from the train station to the city centre. There are also plenty of three-wheeled tuk-tuks about, which run from about KSh50 to KSh200 for a bit of open-air transit.