When you mention the words “London to Hong Kong by train” to people, you often get a response of disbelief, followed by multiple questions to confirm they heard correctly. Once they realise that this is not a joke, the conversation proceeds to “Is that even possible?”
In short, the answer is – yes, it is possible. When we initially set out to travel from Singapore to London by train, we knew that it would take a lot of planning, but that it would all be worth it.
How is it possible?
In summary our trip will consist of the following train journeys from London to Hong Kong:
- Arrive into London on the Qantas QF1 flight.
- Eurostar train London to Paris
- TGV 9561 & ICE 370 train Paris to Berlin
- IC/EC train Berlin to Warsaw
- train Warsaw to St Petersburg (through Moscow)
- train St Petersburg to Moscow
- train Moscow to Irkutks
- train Irkutks to Harbin
- train Harbin to Beijing
- train Beijing to Hong Kong
The fact is that a lot of research and reading of other people’s blogs, sites, reviews and books occured before mapping out our itinerary and booking anything.
An example itinerary we reviewed can be found here.
A 7 day journey (if travelling direct with no stops), crossing 7 time zones from Moscow to Vladivostok and covers a distance of around 10,000kms. It took 25 years to complete the railway, between 1891 and completed 1916, the last ruling year of the Tsar. While Britian colonised the world by sea, the Russians envisioned steel and sleeper empire from Europe to the Pacific. Thousands of workers came to Siberia, building up 4kms of track a day.
Other than the classic trans-siberian line which connects Moscow to Vladivostok there are other options that connect Moscow with Beijing:
- The Trans-Mongolian line
- The Trans-Manchurian line
On our journey we will be taking the Trans-Siberian to Irkutks and then changing at Chita to take the Trans-Manchurian from Chita to Beijing, still on the Trans-Siberian train Rossiya Manchurian Train 001/002. The Trans-Siberian route is one of the most complext train routes in the world and needs to be planned thoroughly. The Rossiya Manchurian only comes around once a week. As a result, planning this part of the journey took a lot of time and affected the planning for everything else.
Things to note:
If you are planning on taking the Trans-Mongolian, just be aware that the fees in Visa are quite steep – approx $250AUD per person. Also, it probably wouldn’t be as exciting travelling through in the winter, when you can go to Harbin, China instead. As a result, we decided to avoid this route and take the Moscow to Beijing route.
The only unavoidable visa would be the transit in Belarus. There is no other easy way from Warsaw into Russia. We looked at going through Lithuania, however, these were only done via bus or on very complex train routes (only on weekends).
Australians also take note, that there is no Belarusian consulate in Australia. We had to plan to get our visa in London and spend an extra day here to ensure we wouldn’t encounter any issues with visas. If you want to avoid visas, Australians have 30 days visa free if entering by plane. Unfortunately, the visa only applies if you enter Belarus by land – we were hit with $120EU visa per adult. Fortunately children under 12 are free.
And so the journey commences. Our family and friends have wished us well, but I can sense they secretely believe we are completely crazy for taking our two sons (6yrs & 5yrs) along the long journey with us.