The logistics of planning the longest train journey in the world

JUAN MARTINEZ

January 9, 2023

The logistics of planning the longest train journey in the world

With the inauguration of the train route between Kumming and Vientiane, travelling from Portugal to Singapore is now possible – making it the most epic train journey in the world.

Some travel news made headlines weeks ago when the world’s longest continuous train journey was made possible with the inauguration of a line in Laos. The connection between the Chinese city of Kumming and the Lao capital, Vientiane, completes now a journey that goes all the way from southern Portugal to Singapore.

This epic route would pass through 13 different nations across two continents, requiring 21 straight days to complete. Of course, all these were all hypothetical calculations made by travel enthusiasts. However, I wanted to get into detail with this route and explain if the longest train journey in the world was some empty words or if it’s really possible.

Lagos in Portugal
Lagos is one of the most beautiful Summer destinations in Europe. Those wanting to start the train journey from there can fly to Faro.

The most epic train journey in the world

Starting from the city of Lagos in Portugal and passing through Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, China, Laos, Thailand, and Malaysia, before reaching Singapore, this route requires more than just some planning in advance. For some sections, you can’t simply arrive at the station and book a ticket. You must schedule tickets in advance, set up specific travel dates and stops and calculate potential inconveniences.

Visas to Russia, China and Belarus make the route more complicated for travellers without experience. But also, the current political situation is making it impossible to travel today, as the train connection between Paris and Moscow is only working until further notice.

Sleeper train in Europe
Since only a few of these trains are sleeper trains, several stops should be planned ahead.

Travelling through Europe

Getting from Lagos to Moscow is simple. Trains in Europe run pretty regularly, and catching a connection from Madrid to Paris or Paris to Berlin can be done on the go with a little planning.

The quickest route from Lagos to Moscow would be from Lagos to Lisbon, Lisbon to Madrid, Madrid to Paris, and Paris to Moscow. This route would take 3-4 days to travel continuously, and the price varies drastically depending on when you book your tickets.

NOTE: When travelling in Europe, buying your train tickets at least 3 days in advance is recommended. Prices increase significantly if you buy a ticket on short notice, and you can pay 3 or 4 times the value you had the week before. 

An easy and fun route would be travelling to Moscow, making additional spots in Berlin, Warsaw or Minsk. They are great cities for one or two nights, and since you have to apply for a visa to Belarus anyway, stopping in Minsk could be an excellent opportunity to explore a new country and not just pass by.

There are also direct train connections from Minsk to Moscow, which are still running today.

Read more: How to plan an interrail journey in Europe

Berlin Hauptbahnhof in Germany
Berlin Hauptbahnhof is an obligatory stop no matter which route you take.

Travelling by train across Russia

Once you get to Moscow, planning becomes more complicated and scheduling a route should be done in advance. The Trans-Siberian Railway is the easiest and most convenient way to travel across Russia and experience one of the most extraordinary train rides in the world.

Trains connecting Moscow to Beijing run weekly, and you can plan several stops along the way. Additional guides are helping you plan a Trans-Siberian journey and travel experts agree that you should plan at least 2-3 weeks for the entire experience.

A more panoramic route is also the Trans-Manchurian Railway. This is a train connection that runs from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia. It is excellent for travellers wanting to explore one of the least visited countries in the world and experience a new culture.

NOTE: Travelling from Moscow to Beijing can cost anything between 500-1500 EUR, depending on which platform you book. The cheapest and most convenient way is to book it directly in Moscow and avoid reserving the tickets using a European middle company.

Station Siberia-  Transsiberian train
A straight journey with the trans-Siberian train should take 7 days from Moscow to Beijing. However, it is recommended to plan several stops along the way.

Travelling through China

China has one of the most modern train infrastructures in the world. There are connections everywhere across the country running at all times. Crossing China from north to south should be fine. This is a journey I’ve already done in the past, and has been one of the most memorable travel experiences ever.

Great stops along the way are Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Guilin, and Nanning. They all can make your travel experience more exciting, and they are along the way.

For those who still want to make it in one go, trains from Beijing to Kumming run daily. Speed trains take around 10 hours and cost about 200 EUR, while slower direct trains can take up to 35 hours and cost 30-35 EUR.

Read more: Packing for a train journey across Europe

China has some of the fastest trains in the world
China has some of the fastest trains in the world. You can cross from Beijing to Kumming (2700km) in just 10 hours.

Travelling across South East Asia

This can be the most exhausting part of the journey. Travelling in South East Asia by train requires more patience and time. There are no direct train connections between separate cities, and due to the different regulations in each country, there is a big chance you will spend hours in some of the borders.

China also has stringent regulations for non-citizens, and you will need to inform yourself how each of these regulations affects you. Press releases and travel experts say that the new route between Kumming and Vientiane can’t be done in one day, while others even mentioned that due to the current COVID restrictions, it can’t be done at all.

From Vientiane to Bangkok, direct connections happen several times a week, and once you are in Bangkok, travelling all the way down to Singapore should be easy. Malaysia has one of the best railway systems in South East Asia, and Singapore is one of the most modern cities in the world.

Read more: These are the most epic train journeys in the world

Singapore at night
Singapore will be your final stop before travelling further or flying back home.

After doing all calculations, this journey can’t be made in just 21 days. However, once the political tensions between Russia and the West calm down and the COVID restrictions in China get lifted, this will be the most epic train journey in the world.

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