Where do you want to go? Follow your heart or at least your interests. If you have no interest in wildlife there is not much point doing an African safari, a trip to Florence and Rome is wasted on someone looking for an outdoors experience who isn’t interested in medieval architecture or church history.
- concentrating on one region of interest e.g. South East Asia or South America
- following a theme e.g. medieval pilgrimage routes in Europe e.g. Camino de Santiago
- following an interest e.g. landscape gardening around the world
- concentrate on the journey rather than the end: around Australia in 30,000km, by train from Europe to Asia, from the tip of North America to the tip of Southern America.
Classic Overland Trips
Europe by train
The original format of the Eurail pass allowed unlimited train travel for 30 or more days, in Western Europe. Since those days of the 80’s the Iron Curtain has come down adding greatly to the amount of accessible Europe and the Eurail pass has morphed into a very complex number of options including limiting the number of countries and /or limiting the number of days in say a month you can use the pass e.g. 7 days out of 30. A lot more trains now require reservations too, which aren’t terribly expensive, but stop you just hopping on and off a train at will. The best resource for train travel, anywhere in the world is the amazing site: Man in Seat 61 where you find everything you didn’t even know you wanted to know about trains. Most railways now allow you to book online too, so carefully check the cost of point to point tickets before committing to a Eurail pass. Remember you have to buy the pass before leaving home , but you can buy the tickets as you go.
Overland to Asia (or Europe) via India
The first and only entirely overland trip to Singapore via Asia was undertaken in 1956 by Oxford and Cambridge students, using a WW2 road which briefly connected India to Burma. A decade later the hippies made the trail at least as far as India via Afghanistan. These days the only truly overland options are via China . Overland from Europe is straightforward from Europe via Greece to Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India. However to get all the way to South-East Asia you will have to cheat by flying from somewhere in the Indian subcontinent (Calcutta, Madras, Katmandu) to South-East Asia – usually Bangkok. From Bangkok it is straightforward to carry on down the Malaysian peninsular and, using ferries, go all the way to Bali or even Timor. From there its a short hop to Darwin, Australia.
Overland to Asia (or Europe) via China
Although most travelers talk of taking the Trans-Siberian train the more common option is to actually take the route through to China. Russia still makes it difficult, but not impossible, for independent travellers but the Trans-Manchurian or Trans-Mongolian railway gives options to China. From Beijing you can continue by train all the way to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in southern Vietnam. The boats and buses will take you through to Cambodia and onto Bangkok. Another regular train route will allow you to continue onto Singapore.
The classic hippies, overland route is really not possible given the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the political situation in Myanmar (Burma). Although Myanmar (Burma) now issues 30 day visas they are only valid if you fly into Rangoon (Rangoon).
The trip therefore becomes :
Europe via Greece, Turkey, Iran (not all western nationalities will be able to get visas), Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand.
Standard Round the World (RTW) ticket
Two major word airline alliances offer round the world tickets which allow stop over’s in a number of continents and include a certain number of miles so long as travel continues in one direction.
Ruta 1 (Route 1) goes all the way from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. There is one small gap – the Darien Gap which needs a short flight , the rest of the route is readily accessible using local buses. Its a very long way though, and you need to check current conditions in Colombia and Central America.
Other RTW Route Options
“Hub and spoke” travel using budget airlines.
Using a base of a city in Asia or Europe, well placed friends or family come in handy here, see the continent using cheap local flights. The classic locations are probably London for Europe and Bangkok or Kuala Lumpa or Singapore for South-East Asia.
In Europe budget airlines have revolutionized travel However what has changed out of site is the advent of cheap budget airlines e.g. Ryan Air or easyJet which now often offer flights for 1 Euro or a Stirling pound across Europe if you fly in the middle of the night and book well in advance. Suddenly Prague for the weekend from London is very affordable. You may find if your final destination is not Paris or London, that it might be cheaper to fly long-haul into one of these cities and then use the budget carriers to get to your final destination.
In South East Asia the same phenomena of cheap flights is becoming the norm. Here Air Asia was the first flying out of Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia but a number of others have followed including Tiger Airways, owned by Singapore Air, and Viva Macau. The Asian airlines tend to have fleets of very modern planes, and the airport infrastructure in Asia is not as dire as that in Europe so often you will fly to a convenient location. Remember booking in advance is the key here -there are an awful lot of locals looking for cheap flights too.
Note that these airlines are looking to expand as far as Australia so watch this space for more developments.
Eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Seas
This one can take you from the Baltic to the Mediterranean . Choose your direction of travel based on the season – in early spring/summer go north to follow the warmer weather the opposite applies if you are starting late summer. As in all of Europe traveling in peak season (July, August) is not ideal because of the crowds. You will find cheap flight from the UK to Riga, Tallinn or Vilnius, in the Baltic states, or Istanbul, Greece in the south .
Basically starting in Istanbul several options exist
Far Eastern Europe Greece- Bulgaria-Romania-Moldova-Ukarine-Poland-Lithuania-Lativia-Estonia
Dalmatian Coast: Greece-Albania-Montenegro- Bosnia-Croatia-Slovenia-Austria-Czech Republic-Poland-Lithuania-Latvia-Estonia
Start from Australia or NZ fly via Cook Islands, Tahiti and Easter Island to Chile. Travel up the west coast of the Americas. Fly to Japan, boat to Korea. Fly to China, Fly to Philippines or overland through Vietnam to fly or ferry to Indonesia and a short flight (or hitch a yacht), to Australia. Obviously the start/end point can be anywhere along the route. This won’t be a trip but it would certainly be a different one!