The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) was officially opened to the public on Madaraka Day thus aptly named #MadarakaExpress. Travelers both business and leisure alike were quick to embrace the service. After all the beach was literally four hours away and that was a huge incentive for travelers looking for an affordable alternative that would both cut transit time (buses) and cost (flights).


Ticketing was however a lengthy process especially the logistics of having to go to the station to buy the tickets. The long queues were a sight behold with Kenyans lining up to get their chance to ride and soon thanks to the Kenyan enterprise spirit, ‘SGR agents’ emerged to fix a problem. They’d buy tickets in bulk and deliver to client’s offices and preferred location thus saving thousands of travelers the hassle. However as soon as Kenya Railways Corporation noticed this the police outlawed retail of tickets by agents since they were marking up the price to cover delivery costs.

As tour operators and travel agents, we had to use Identification Document while buying the tickets to discourage brokers from bulk buying and resale of tickets however that still did not solve the payment problem. Enter Mpesa – as Kenyans we love to pay for everything using the widely accepted mobile money service. Kenyans renowned for our technological and innovative spirit, couldn’t understand, why we still had to use cash and physically go to the station days in advance to get the tickets. Tour operators had to make several trips or spend the entire day at Syokimau to buy tickets. A process that was costly and inefficient to both travel agents and travelers alike.

Panda SGR na Mpesa: Dial *639#

Travelers using the Madaraka Express are now be able to book and pay for tickets through their mobile phones following the introduction of the mobile based payment platform. You simply dial to book, pay and even cancel tickets for the Madaraka Express.

Dial USSD Code *639# on your mobile device

  1. Select booking option
  2. Select departing station
  3. Select destination station
  4. Select travel date
  5. Select the class of preference – either First class (3500) and Economy class (Ksh 700)
  6. Enter the number of passengers to book up to a maximum of 5 passengers in one transaction
  7. Indicate the number of children if any. Children under three years do not pay any fee; those between three (3) and eleven (11) years pay half the ticket fee; and those above eleven (11) years pay the full amount
  8. Enter full names; National Identity card or Passport numbers. For children indicate ‘Child’.
  9. Select payment option. At this point, you will receive the prompts
  • Pay now
  • Pay Later
  • Exit

When making payment, enter the amount specified to you and enter M-pesa PIN. You will receive a payment confirmation message. This will be followed by a booking confirmation message which will confirm the status of the transaction by indicating the destination station, departure time, date of travel, selected class of travel, the coach number and seat number

On the date of travel, you will print the ticket at the self-service machines at the station or obtain the ticket from the dedicated counter for M-pesa transactions. The ticket may also be collected any other time before the date of travel if you wish or booked through a travel agent.

Early last month we set off on the Madaraka Express for the #MombasaIGTour. Here are a few photos from the journey

First thing was to take that mandatory selfie at the station to let our friends know we are about to board


The on-board squad selfie. Selfies are allowed but if you’re planning to film at the stations or aboard, you need to obtain clearance from Kenya Railways Corporation.


Lining up the squad and clicking away during the entire trip


At Fort Jesus


Taking a dhow cruise to go chasing the sunset with the squad on Mtwapa Creek


Having a swahili breakfast

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  1. Manesha
    October 18, 2017 at 10:32 am — Reply

    I’m going to try out SGR in my annual holiday, and this happens next month. How early can one purchase the ticket?

  2. February 22, 2018 at 2:52 pm — Reply

    having travelled to Mombasa via SGR, i can say that was a great success story and pride for kenya

  3. Malindi
    July 3, 2018 at 10:18 pm — Reply

    what a great story for Kenya, congratulations. But as a non-Kenyan wanting to take a ride on your train it would seem I still have to go through the hassle of going to the station to purchase my ticket, which is quite a waste of the valuable time I have to spend in the country.

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