The Ultimate Train Challenge – 30 Days from Lisbon to Saigon

In 2011, I embarked on The Ultimate Train Challenge: a 30 day, 25,000km journey – all by train – from Lisbon to Saigon. I did it in collaboration with two other bloggers, and to date it marks one of the most amazing things I’ve done in my many years of full-time travel.

Ultimate Train Challenge 2011

Would you like to come along from the comfort of your living room? Then join in the journey with these posts about the experience:

Planning and Tools

The Trans-Siberian, from Moscow to Beijing

Using Eurail in Europe

Sleeping on Trains, (and in Beds with HostelBookers)

Europe: Stops I Made Along The Way

Leaving Lisbon

Tapas, Mountains, Flamenco, and Siestas: This is Granada!

Staying off the Tourist Trail (or Not) in Barcelona

Zurich: Rural Urbanity

Naked in Prague at Night

The Very-Fast Train is 1 Hour Late (and Other Ukrainian Paradoxical Experiences)

Flat in Moscow

And here’s a video recap of the 17-day European portion of the trip:

(click here to watch on YouTube)

The Trans-Siberian (Trans-Manchurian) Railway Experience

A Week on the Trans-Manchurian Railway

Here’s a video diary of the week-long Trans-Manchurian experience:

(click here to watch on YouTube)

The Final Leg: China and Vietnam

Beijing: Then and Now

Guilin: River Culture and New Tourism

13 Random Experiences on Asian Trains

And the video recap of this 3rd leg of the Ultimate Train Challenge:

(click here to watch on YouTube)

8 thoughts on “The Ultimate Train Challenge – 30 Days from Lisbon to Saigon”

  1. This is the best collection of experiences I’ve seen so far (even tho I have only been prowling for them for about 3 weeks). I stumbled upon a guy who backpacked from Cape Town to Cairo and I was just hooked! I’m now slowly planning my trip from St Petersburg to Beijing, and this is a really great guide.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Hi Mareli – Thank you!
      St Petersburg to Beijing….well you must take the train! 🙂 What time of year will you go, and how long will you take to do it?

  2. I was thinking of doing it around April, just shortly after my friend finishes her Masters. Then we can take the train from my parents house in Germany to St Petersburg – seeing all the things along the way, the Trans-Manchurian after that, and then backpacking around China. Hopefully it’ll be a 3 week trip of crazy laughter as we try to learn how to say “I’m sorry, we’re vegan” in as many languages as possible. Hopefully we can pull if off, but if we accidentally buy a whole bag of raw eggs, (classic!) we won’t kick up too much of a fuss.

    • Sounds like a great trip! Your vegan adventures through Russia and on the train will be interesting….make sure you have a stash of things you can eat! 🙂
      (And as a general rule, you can avoid getting any eggs)! ha ha

  3. Hey hello! What a fantastic experience that must have been indeed. I am quite curious how much all the train tickets Lisbon-Saigon would cost together, approximately? Any indication? Thanks!

    • Hi Gijs,
      My memory is a little foggy on the costs, and I must also admit that many of our tickets were sponsored. The European train travel was on a 15 day Global Eurail pass (which costs $800), the Trans Siberian was about $650, and the rest of the train travel in China and Vietnam wasn’t more than $250 I believe.

  4. Thank you for letting us come along on our computers with you in these adventures. I’m going through all your posts and having such a good time reading about your journeys, and remembering the days when I was free to do that, and longing for them again. Now I’m running a biz and can’t do it, but it’s really nice to read about you and your adventures! I’m going to check out all these train posts, this is a blast!


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