The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) was officially opened to the public on Madaraka Day and thus named #MadarakaExpress. Kenyans were thrilled and travellers for business and leisure alike wanted to be among the first to experience the ride to Mombasa or Nairobi. After all the beach was literally four hours away and that was a major attraction to holiday makers seeking for affordable alternative to both cut transit time and cost compared to buses and flights.
Ticketing was however a lengthy process and required cash plus 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 travellers 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 as well as travellers alike, 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. Kenya is a M-Pesa country – we love to pay for everything using the widely accepted mobile money service and Kenyans couldn’t understand with our technological talent and innovative solutions in Silicon Savannah, why we still had to use cash and go to the station to get the tickets. Tour operators had to make several trips or spend the entire day at Syokimau to buy tickets – the process costly to businesses and inefficient to travellers.
Panda SGR na Mpesa: Dial x639#
Travelers using the Madaraka Express are now be able to book and pay for tickets on the Madaraka Express through their mobile phones following the introduction of an SMS based payment platform utilizing USSD code *639#. Simply dial to book, pay and even cancel tickets for the Madaraka Express.
Dial USSD Code on your mobile device
- Select booking option
- Select departing station
- Select destination station
- Select travel date
- Select the class of preference – either First class (3500) and Economy class ( Ksh 700)
- Enter the number of passengers to book up to a maximum of 5 passengers in one transaction
- 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
- Enter full names; National Identity card or Passport numbers. For children indicate ‘Child’.
- Select payment option. At this point, you will receive the prompts
- Pay now
- Pay Later
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 showcasing 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.
You can also use Mpesa to buy snacks on board the train as you enjoy the ride through Tsavos looking out for elephants.
Things to do during your trip
Selfies are allowed but if you’re planning to film at the stations or aboard, you need to obtain clearance from Kenya Railways Corporation.
Line up the squad and click away during the entire trip
Have swahili breakfast
Do a foodie tour for the ultimate coastal culinary experience and visit food market to buy for local ingredients like spices and Mabuyu for your friends, then street food tour in the evening for an authentic and local food experience.