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Nairobi to Mombasa: Flight vs SGR vs Bus-Comparison 2024

When planning a trip between Nairobi and Mombasa, travelers typically consider three main modes of transportation: the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), bus, and flight. Each option has its own set of advantages and drawbacks, influencing comfort, cost, and overall experience. Here’s a closer look at these three choices to help you decide which suits your needs best.

1. Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)

SGR Kenya


The SGR offers a mixed bag when it comes to comfort. It is okay in first class but really terrible in economy.

Many passengers have complained about the seats, which are notorious for their discomfort. The seats have no recline, forcing passengers to sit upright at a 90-degree angle for the entire six-hour journey.

The lack of inclination can be torturous, especially for longer trips, leading to backaches, neck pains, and general discomfort. Even the first-class seats, though better than the economy, leave much to be desired by international standards.

Booking and Seating

The booking system requires the ID used during booking to match the ID presented at the station, adding a layer of inconvenience. Additionally, the seating arrangement can be awkward, as you might find yourself staring at a stranger for hours, straining your neck if you want to talk to friends or family seated nearby.

Amenities and Atmosphere

Onboard snacks are overpriced, and the noise level can be high, with carriages sometimes turning into informal gatherings for some groups. Despite these downsides, the SGR is considered a safer alternative compared to buses.


The terminus is situated far from the city center, which reduces its convenience. Nevertheless, the SGR remains a cost-effective option, generally priced lower than flights and slightly less than some buses, though it was initially the cheapest mode of travel.

Currently, an economy ticket on the SGR costs KSh 1,000, while a first-class ticket is KSh 3,000. First-class cabins offer more space, better seats, and additional amenities. I would only recommend the SGR if you are traveling in first class. However, if you are on a very tight budget, the SGR is still the most affordable option in the economy, even though it is less comfortable.

2. Bus

Tahmeed Coach

Comfort: Buses like Tahmeed, Modern Coast, and Mash Cool offer varying levels of comfort, with some providing reclining seats and more legroom. However, long journeys can still be uncomfortable, and the overall experience depends heavily on the bus operator.

Safety: Safety is a concern with bus travel, as it is generally less secure than taking the SGR or a flight. Road conditions and driving practices can add to the risk factors.

Cost and Availability: Buses are usually cheaper than both SGR and flights, making them a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers. They also offer more flexible schedules, with numerous departures throughout the day.

3. Flight


Comfort: Flights are undoubtedly the fastest and most comfortable way to travel between Nairobi and Mombasa. Airlines like Skyward, Jambojet, and Safari Link provide quick, one-hour flights, allowing travelers to avoid the long hours associated with bus and SGR travel.

Cost: Flights are the most expensive option, with prices typically ranging from 9,000 to 11,000 Ksh. However, the cost can be justified by the time saved and the comfort provided.

Convenience: Flights offer unparalleled convenience, with multiple airlines providing several flights per day. This makes it easy to find a flight that fits your schedule. Additionally, airports are generally well-connected to city centers, reducing travel time to and from the airport.

Safety: Flying is considered the safest mode of travel, with stringent security measures and lower accident rates compared to road and rail travel.

Also Read: The Top 9 Domestic Airlines in Kenya


Choosing the best mode of transportation between Nairobi and Mombasa depends on your priorities:

  • Cost and Safety: If you’re looking for a cost-effective and relatively safe option, the SGR is a solid choice despite its comfort issues.
  • Comfort and Flexibility: If comfort and flexibility are your top priorities and you’re willing to spend a bit more, a flight is the best option.
  • Budget and Availability: For those on a tight budget who prioritize availability and are willing to compromise on safety and comfort, a bus might be the way to go.

Eventually, each mode has its unique pros and cons. Consider your personal preferences, budget, and travel needs to make the best choice for your journey.