The recent opening of a new 260 mile railway line between Laos and China, allowing people to ride from Mohan station in Yunnan, China to Singapore, has allowed for a gargantuan train-hopping experience that spans 21 days and stretches over 11650 miles. Starting in Lagos, Portugal and ending in Singapore, this record-breaking railway route has taken the title of the world’s longest train journey.
Coming out ahead of the previous title holder, a London to Singapore run via the trans-siberian railway and ran for 10500 miles, this new connection between the Laotian city Vientiane and the Laos/China border town Boten now allows ambitious train-goers to trek across the globe for the better part of a month!
The specifics of this trip have been mapped out by reddit user u/htGoSEVe and further calculated out by Mark Smith of Seat61.com, former Charing Cross station manager and other various railway institutes. The 21 day figure comes after factoring in the bare minimum of overnight stops, visa checks, and short excursions through cities to reach train stops on the other side of town, such as the one aspiring travellers may have to undergo in Vientiane. Estimates of the cost of this odyssey vary, mainly due to both the time in advance they are booked as well various covid restrictions in place in some of the countries on the list, but mostly seem to land between the £1000-£1500 mark.
Although as alluded to, covid restrictions may make this Journey technically impossible for the time being due to various closures en route, including the Paris-Moscow express, but as we move away from the pandemic and begin to recover, the route should be feasible with adequate planning!
While the planned out 21 days accounts for overnight stops and visa checks, it is important to note that research will be required on getting certain visas ahead of time and ensuring all tickets are booked when needed. The Porto, Portugal to Warsaw, Poland journey, for example, is a 40 hour marathon with only brief layovers. Make sure you know ahead of time when you can book on the go with data, as well as the roaming charges your mobile provider has in a given country, and when you need to be ready in advance.
It’s also important to note that 21 days of almost exclusive train travel obviously runs the risk of being somewhat taxing on a person. Make sure you are both physically and mentally prepared for this excursion in order to enjoy it to its fullest.
Starting at Campanha Station in Porto, Portugal with a modest 90 minute journey to Coimbra before truly beginning your country-hopping adventure with the first stop being Hendaye, France after a hefty 12 hours on the train filled with a litany of luscious Spanish cities to feast your eyes on along the way.
From there you’ll be headed to the Capital, Paris! After taking in the sights of the beautiful French countryside, you’ll have to shuttle yourself on a metro across the city to the Paris-Nord station in order to grab a high speed 3 ½ hour train to Cologne, Germany featuring a ride through Belgium accompanied by stops at Brussels and Liege to let you drink in the German architecture.
After a few hours of layover, prepare for your 10 hour Journey to Warsaw, Poland which will be immediately dwarfed by a potential 20 hour train to Moscow, Russia that goes through Belarus which will require a specific travel visa.
Once in Moscow it’ll be time to board the legendary trans-siberian railway, an epic seven day long train ride from Moscow to Beijing, China. The train only operates bi-weekly so it pays to prepare in advance, both for bookings and for entertainment as while this ride features a few noteworthy stops, the majority of the scenery will become somewhat repetitive even for the most dedicated of tree-spotters.
The lengthy train rides don’t stop there as you will find yourself immediately due for a 39 hour overnight journey from Beijing to Hanoi, Vietnam where you’ll trade out the silver birch scenery of the trans-siberian railway for more green as the climate becomes more tropical. You won’t be out of the woods after this one as Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam immediately follows as the next stop. This 32 to 35 Hour is filled with verdant Vietnamese to keep you company as you prepare for the last leg of the journey.
There is currently no train connecting HCMH and Phnom Penh, but a 6 ½ bus ride will cover this portion of the journey while we wait for more railways to become open to public transport and make the journey possible. For there, you’ll want to grab the 12-15 hour bus to Bangkok before choosing one of the 2 trains before your final destination, either the slower train that heads to Malaysia first, or the Eastern & Oriental express, which is direct but pricey. Either way will take you to Singapore and allow you to revel in the fact that you (almost) travelled entirely by train across the better part of the globe!
As may be apparent, a full train-exclusive journey between Portugal and Singapore lasting 21 days may theoretically be possible, it’s actual practicality is somewhat questionable. Both due to the condition of the world with the pandemic and some confusing misinformation surrounding a few of the railway lines, the journey itself isn’t actually possible at the moment and it might not be for a while.
This mostly depends on how liberal you may want to take the definition of ‘The world’s longest train journey’. It may well be possible in the near future! If you are excited at the prospect as I am, here a few resources to help you keep up to date on information surrounding the topic and when the journey might be actually doable: u/htGoSEVe’s original post where he has updated it with new information on the route as well as some articles providing misinformation, Jon Worth’s incredibly extensive blog post covering much of the updated information, particularly pertaining to covid closures, and Tim Pile’s great article on things to do in the surrounding countries and layovers on the mapped out journey!