Alternative Lifestyles * Vagabonding Travel * Searching for Hippie Happiness

Vagabonding Preparations pt 4: मार्ग Maarg: Passage

The next stages of my preparations for my vagabonding travels have been working out how I will travel as well as the route I will be taking. What visas I will need and where I will cross borders. Although some air travel will be unavoidable: (for example from Thailand to Nepal due to issues at the border in Myanmar) I intend to travel most of the way by land.

My plan is to take a road trip through Europe down to Greece before travelling across Europe, Russia and China by train, all the way to Vietnam. Then I will take local transport (mainly buses) and sometimes walking, across Asia, down through Vietnam, through Cambodia and up through Thailand. Then flying from Thailand to Kathmandu in Nepal before taking buses down to Rajasthan in India and eventually down to Goa before flying home. I intend to travel for up to eight months.

The train I will take will be the Trans-Siberian Express and the below article shows how this trip is possible. The article is from the Seat 61 blog: www.seat61.com. The writer explains that it is possible to travel by land as far as Singapore by train and bus and if you wanted to continue onto Australia, he explains the options to do that.

My brother Martin lives in Australia and I haven’t seen him for 24 years and would like to meet up with him on this journey but the costs of continuing onto Australia are high so I might need to arrange to meet him somewhere in Asia.

Here’s the article:

Source: www.seat61.com

Europe to Australia without flying…

“It’s a long way to Oz.  

 Europe to Australia via the Trans-Siberian Railway.  You can travel by train from London to Moscow, then by Trans-Siberian Railway to China & the Far East, then catch a passenger-carrying freighter (if you can find one!) or cruise ship to Australia.  This is a real adventure, and a popular choice with lots to see on the way.

This page outlines the journey and how to go about putting such a trip together, with links to other pages for more detailed information about each part of the journey.  Please remember this is not a tour or a package, just some guidance in putting your own independent trip together using scheduled train services across Europe and Asia.

Europe to Australia by Trans-Siberian Railway…

Overland to the Far East by train…

It’s possible to travel most of the way from London to Australia by train via the Trans-Siberian Railway.  In fact, quite a number people travel this way.  Time-wise, we’re talking 4-5 weeks one-way, minimum.  But it’s a journey of a lifetime…

Route, timetable & costs…

Travel tickets alone costs only £750 or so from London as far as Singapore, but you must add food, hotels, and tours along the way.  The links below cover travel in either direction, from London to Australia or Australia to London, follow the links to see details of prices and timetables for each section.

  • Step 1:  London to Moscow by train.  Daily departures taking 2 nights.  Spend at least 1 night in Moscow.
  • Step 2:  Moscow to Beijing by Trans-Siberian Railway Two direct trains every week each taking 6 nights.  Spend at least 1 night in Beijing.
  • Step 3:  Beijing to Hanoi by trainA train runs twice a week taking 2 nights, or you can travel any day with a change of train at Nanning.  Spend at least 1 night in Hanoi.
  • Step 4:  Hanoi to Saigon by train Several trains daily, 2 nights.  Why not stop off to see Hue or Hoi An?  Spend at least 1 night in Saigon.
  • Step 5:  Saigon-Phnom Penh by busDaily, 1 day.  Spend at least 1 night in PP.
  • Step 6:  Phnom Penh-Bangkok by bus to the border at Poiphet, then local train from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok.
  • Step 7:  Bangkok to Singapore by train.  Daily, 2 nights.
  • Step 8:  The final leg from Asia to Australia is the problem.  Although there are ferries from Singapore to Indonesia, and you can get as far as Bali by scheduled buses, trains and ferry (see the Indonesia page), there are no regular passenger ships to Australia from either Singapore or Indonesia.  Or anywhere in the Far East to Australia, in fact.  You therefore need either a cruise or passenger-carrying freighter for the last leg from Southeast Asia to Australia.
  • There are very few freighters on the Asia-Australia route that will carry passengers, but try Swiss company globoship.ch.  They have twice-monthly freighter sailings from Singapore to Fremantle (Perth) in Australia, costing 1,334 Swiss Francs (about £833) one-way and taking 7 days.  Their website is in German, so use Google language tools to translate it.  They also have a monthly Singapore-Melbourne freighter taking 15 days, 6,990 Swiss Francs (£4,368).  The ships only have one or two 2-berth cabins for passengers, so book this bit first, and book early!
  • It’s reported that freighterexpeditions.com.aucan offer a (monthly?) freighter from Port Klang in Malaysia to Fremantle, Melbourne or Sydney in Australia, a 14-day voyage for Aus$1,560.  This ship has just one double-bed cabin for passengers, so needs to be booked months ahead.
  • Other freighter & cruise booking agencies to try include cruisepeople.co.ukwww.freighterexpeditions.com.au,www.freightercruises.com.  You may need to try several agencies.
  • Incidentally, don’t bother trying to island hop down to Dili in East Timor.  It may look the closest land to Darwin on the map, but there are absolutely no ferries or passenger carrying ships of any kind from there to Australia.
  • Feedbackon freighter booking & travel would be appreciated.

How to plan & arrange this trip…

There aren’t any travel agencies who can arrange the whole trip from Europe to Australia, so you will need to plan and arrange each stage of the journey yourself.  It’s an exercise in project management, and I use a simple spreadsheet technique like this to plan an itinerary and budget.  Unless time is absolutely no object, you should book the key sections in advance through various travel agencies, for example, book London-Moscow through a UK European train ticketing agency such as DB’s UK office, then book Moscow-Beijing & Beijing-Hanoi through a local Russian agency such as www.realrussia.co.uk or Svezhy Veter.  You also need to pre-book the freighter from Asia to Australia, as places are limited.  Tickets for other parts of the trip, for example, Hanoi-Saigon-Phnom Penh-Bangkok can all be bought locally, as you go along.  The place to start is the sea section from Asia to Australia, as that will determine the dates for the rest of the trip.


You’ll need to pre-arrange visas for Belarus, Russia, possibly Mongolia, China & Vietnam.  Cambodian visas can be obtained at the frontier.  In many ways, complying with the various visa requirements (and in some cases, requirements for confirmed onward tickets to be held) is actually the biggest hassle, not buying the tickets for the trains, so check this out carefully using the relevant embassy websites.

So where do you start?

  • First, read through the seat61 pages linked above, as these explain the options for each stage of the journey.
  • Then sketch out your itinerary using a simple spreadsheet like this, deciding where and for how long you want to stop off.
  • Next, check out the visa situation for each country.
  • Finally, follow the advice on each seat61 page to buy tickets for each train journey that you want to pre-book.”

To get an idea of what travelling on the train is like there is more information in this Telegraph article about the Trans-Siberian Express:

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

The Telegraph

Everything you need to know about booking a trip on the Trans-Siberian railway


“Express a penchant for train travel and the next question is almost invariably, “Have you done the Trans-Siberian?” It’s the journey nearly everyone wants to do, perhaps because it’s commonly said to be the longest you can make on a single train: the longest of the three trans-Siberian routes, between Moscow and Vladivostok, covers 9,258km (6,152 miles) and takes seven days. There is a longer one, from the Ukraine to Vladivostok, but as an introduction to the immensity of the world’s largest country and its landscapes, the Trans-Siberian experience is unrivalled.

Seat 22 — Trans-Siberian Odyssey from Stanislas Giroux on Vimeo.

To enjoy the longest hours of daylight and the chance of fine weather, it’s best to go between May and September, though it’s cheaper during winter. The journey can be broken into sections with overnight stays in hotels, the preferred option of many travelling on the Vladivostok route, with Irkutsk for a single stop (to see the city’s churches and museums, streets of log cabins and the preserved English-built steamship Angara) and Kazan and Yekaterinburg if time allows. The upmarket option is pampered comfort in the hotel-train style of Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, which operates a variety of itineraries each year.


The principal attraction of the journey is, of course, the Russian landscape – the vast panoramas and sense of immensity so vividly captured by such artists as Isaac Levitan and Ivan Shishkin. The taiga is mesmerising. Looking out at the panorama of larch, silver fir, pine and birch induces the kind of reverie that is one of the pleasures of train travel, a random stream of thoughts and images that drifts on like the forest. In clearings, villages that could have come from a Levitan or Shishkin painting break the spell and make one wonder what life must be like in such remote fastnesses.

There are three routes:

Moscow to Vladivostok (9,258km/6,152 miles). The longest and least popular with western travellers, taking seven nights. It runs every other day, with first-class (spalny vagon), second-class (kupé) and very basic third-class (platskartny) coaches and a restaurant car.

Moscow to Beijing via Harbin, Manchuria (8,986km/5,623 miles). The older of the two routes that reach Beijing, this was completed in the 1900s and is served by one train a week taking six nights, using Russian first- and second-class coaches. Both routes to the Chinese capital require the bogies under the coaches to be changed at the Russian/Chinese and Mongolian/Chinese borders, where the track gauge changes from 1,520mm (4ft 11 5⁄6in) to 1,435 mm (4ft 8 1⁄2in).

Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia (7,621km/4,735 miles). This is considered by many to be the most interesting of the routes, yet there is only one train a week, taking six nights. Leaving Siberia, the train of Chinese coaches, with first and second class only, crosses Mongolia via the Gobi Desert to enter China.

For something really unusual, a more northerly route across Siberia from Tayshet to Sovetskaya Gavan on the Pacific coast known as the BAM (Baikal-Amur-Maestral railway) was completed in 1991, but few western travellers take this option.

All three train routes share the same track between Moscow and Ulan Ude. The favoured places to break this section of the journey are: Kazan, to see the only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia – the huge Kremlin, which has been designated a World Heritage Site on account of the many historic buildings erected between the 16th and the 19th century within its 2km-long white walls; Yekaterinburg, to see the rather soulless church built on the site of the murder of the last Russian royal family (the city’s many pre-Soviet buildings are of greater interest); and Irkutsk, known as the “Paris of Siberia”, which has many neo-classical and wooden buildings, some of them decorated with fantastically ornate fretwork.

En route are the modestly high Ural Mountains, described by Colin Thubron as “a faint upheaval of pine-darkened slopes”. While traversing them, the train passes at kilometre post 1777 (from Moscow) a white obelisk marking the boundary between Europe and Asia. Some good pictures can be taken of the train snaking through the foothills of the Sayan Mountains to the east of Tayshet, an area of heavy logging industry, though the scenic highlight of the whole trip is probably the 180km section beside Lake Baikal. This 640km-long lake is the oldest in the world and one of the largest, its clear water populated by hundreds of species found nowhere else, and the railway winds along its cliff-lined shore.

On the Mongolian route, the empty undulating grassy steppes of the Gobi desert are the main attraction, occasionally enlivened by herds of Mongolian horses or camels and clusters of yurts.

Rolling steppes are a feature of the trans-Manchurian route, but the highlight along the way is passing through the Great Wall of China at Shanhaiguan, where the restoration work carried out on the wall is considered more sympathetic than on other stretches, where it has been too much rebuilt.


Obtaining a Russian tourist visa (valid for 30 days and available for single or double entry) is not a straightforward process, but travel agents can help or recommend a visa-support agency. Visas cannot be obtained at the border, so application must be made in advance. The necessary steps are set out at ru.vfsglobal.co.uk.

Getting a visa for Russia isn’t a simple process

Reservations are required for all trains, so you cannot decide to hop off one and catch another without the necessary ticket. The cheapest way is to organise it yourself using a reputable specialist agent with offices in Russia, such as Real Russia (020 7100 7370; realrussia.co.uk), to make the reservations, but this can be time-consuming.”


“Remember that trains run to Moscow time while in Russia, whatever the local time, so knowledge of the time zone you are in and a calculation are necessary when consulting the timetable.”


“For a one-way journey by service train to Vladivostok, allow £500 in second class and £800 for first class, including food. Both routes to China cost £600–£830 respectively, including food. Tickets are sold with or without service (meals). Fares for the Golden Eagle range from £9,895 to £21,195.

On board

On the regular public trains, bedding is supplied in first- and second-class coaches, the berths being folded into seats by day. Each sleeping-car has at least two western-style toilets and a washroom with sinks. The only public trains with showers are the Trans-Mongolian Moscow–Beijing train (train 3/4), which offers a shower hose in the small washroom shared between adjacent pairs of deluxe first-class two-berth compartments. Some Chinese coaches offer a shared shower between two first-class berths.

Food quality is generally adequate, though menus are limited, in Russia typically ham and fried eggs for breakfast, schnitzel and potatoes for lunch or dinner, with soups and salads for starters. Beer, Russian champagne, vodka, chocolate and snacks are sold at the bar. The Mongolian Railways restaurant car normally serves rice and mutton, while the Chinese dining car has a good variety of Chinese dishes.

Stops at stations allow food to be bought from platform vendors or shops; fare depends on location and season, but usually includes fruit, bread, boiled eggs, pot noodles, beer and soft drinks. Be wary of cold meats and salads and always make sure you know how long each stop is (some are no more than than five minutes) before venturing far from the coach – people have been left behind.

Each carriage has a (male) provodnik or more usually a (female) provodnitsa who cleans, maintains the samovar and puts out steps at stations, so it’s as well to keep on the right side of them, but they are renowned for their taciturnity. As a rule of thumb, employ the usual convention of tipping for good service.

The experience on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian train is very different. Cabins have a double bed, wardrobe, TV and DVD, clever storage space and underfloor heating in the en-suite shower room. There are sumptuously appointed dining- and lounge-cars with harpist and pianist, and food and wine (included in the price) are to a very high standard. Off-train excursions are arranged at cities and places of interest along the way such as Kazan for the World Heritage Site Kremlin, Yekaterinburg and Lake Baikal, you can sample a barbeque of freshly caught fish, visit a museum of wooden buildings or join a cookery class.

What to pack

Thin clothes in summer; thick and warm in winter (when temperatures can fall as low as -40°C) with scarves, gloves, warm hat and even thermal underwear if you are planning to spend any length of time outside. But the trains are warm all year round, so you’ll want lighter clothing as well. If travelling by service train, be ready to make the most of the unlimited supply of boiling water from the samovar at the end of each coach – with your mug and spoon and chocolate, coffee, tea or packet soups. J-cloths are always useful, if only to clean the window. Also useful are a money belt (worn inside), gaffer tape, ear plugs, clothes pegs, sunglasses (even in winter), sterilised wipes, a small torch, a universal bath plug and a folding umbrella. Spare camera batteries/recharger are vital in winter as cold weather quickly depletes the charge.”

After spending a night in Moscow and another in Beijing I would then travel Southward. From Beijing I would travel down through Mongolia to Vietnam where I would leave the train and start my journey through Southern Asia. At this point I want my journey to be more flexible with no rigid plans so I can have a true vagabonding adventure.

Red Tape, visas and border crossings:

Brexit, or Brex-shit as I see it.

Its probably no surprise that I am a remainer and pro-EU. I believe in togetherness and union, being part of something bigger than nationalism and right wing intolerance.

That said, the nation voted and that is where we are.  The problem is the squabbling politicians have managed to make a complete mess of it and with only two weeks to go we still don’t know how its all going to work. This unfortunately has implications for my travels as we do not know what the situation will be regarding travelling through Europe yet.

I am not setting off until September 2020, so, at time of writing I do not even know if I will need a new UK passport instead of my European one before I go. Secondly, at the moment I can travel through Poland on the train without a visa as Poland is now part of the EU but after Britain leaves I may need one; so its all a bit up in the air around Brexit at the moment (if it even happens at all).

Visa Issues

Before you leave on your trip you should make sure that you are aware of the visa and entry requirements to all of the countries you will be visiting. You should also plan to get at least some of your visas before you depart. Many countries will only let you stay as a tourist for a certain period of time, whether you need a visa or not. You should also be aware of these limitations, as many travellers have found themselves paying large fines or worse when they attempt to leave a country.

Sometimes it is not possible to get a visa while you are still at home due to scheduling. Sometimes you can only obtain a visa within a certain window of arriving in the country, and this window might fall during your trip. It is possible visit the embassy for those countries while you are abroad. You might have to wait longer, or pay a different amount than you would at home, but it can be done.

Sometimes you can only get a visa for a certain country from your own country. Russia, for example, has a rather challenging visa process which requires a sponsorship from a Russian travel agent. This can sometimes take weeks to arrange, and should not be left to the last minute.

Getting a visa outside of your home country can often be cheaper, especially if you’re American. On our trip, we obtained a visa for Mali for about $40 while we were in Morocco. The same visa at home would have cost $131 per person. (Many countries will match your home country’s visa costs, and a visa to the U.S. usually costs about $140 for foreign visitors.)

Issues with specific countries

The following information is advice, but only that. Don’t take our word for it, as political situations often change. Always check with official government sources for the latest visa and border information.

  • If you’re traveling to Israel, pay attention to the now infamous “Israeli Passport Stamp” issue. A number of countries around the Middle East will not let you in if they see that you’ve been to Israel. If you’re in the region, go to Israel last. (In some situations, your country may be able to give you two passports.) Specifically, Iran, Lebanon, and Syria have been known to deny entry for having previously visited Israel, although these countries are not always consitent with their enforcement of this non-official rule. Jordan and Egypt are now on friendly terms with Israel and will let you in. Keep up with the news, as political situations in the Middle East can change quickly.
  • As mentioned before, Russiarequires a travel agent sponsorship. The same is true for Iran and Libya. Saudi Arabia requires a lot of planning ahead as well.
  • China, Vietnam, India, the U.S.A., and many other commonly visited countries require visas to be obtained in advance. Many of these countries make it fairly easy to get a visa while on the road, away from your home country.
  • Be aware of the Schengenzone, which makes up most of Europe, and how long you’re allowed to stay within it. Hefty fees and even jail time await you if overstay your visit.

The United States Department of State has travel and visa information on their website for most countries in the world. The entry requirements for many countries depend on your home country, so if you are not a U.S. citizen, check with your own government.

The website iVisa.com has a great tool where you can figure out if you need a visa for a country based on your home country. Just enter your home country and destination, and the website will tell you what type of visa, if any, you need. Sometimes you must visit the consulate or embassay of a nation to obtain a visa, but sometimes you can order one by mail or online. (And you can get passport photos here, too.)

I am putting Russia and China first as they are the most complecated as far as visas go.

Source GOV.UK

Foreign travel advice


Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory that you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.


You’ll need to get a visa before you travel. The Russian Embassy advised in March 2018 that it takes around 20 business days (4 weeks) to process most visa applications.

As part of the visa application process, all applicants based in the UK aged 12 or over will need to visit a visa application centre to submit biometric data (scanned fingerprints). These are located in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. The Russian government has also announced plans to introduce biometric fingerprinting for all foreign nationals, including British nationals, when entering Russia. No dates have been confirmed for this.

On receiving your visa you should check the details carefully including the validity dates and passport number to make sure they are correct. Make sure you’re aware of the terms and conditions attached to your visa before you travel. You should adhere to the validity and conditions of your visa while you’re in Russia, as the authorities strictly enforce all visa and immigration laws.

If you intend to stay longer, you should arrange an extension of your visa before it expires. Overstaying your visa without authorisation can result in a delay to your departure, as well as the possibility of fines, court hearings, deportation and a ban from re-entry.

If your passport is lost/stolen while ashore and you get a replacement Emergency Travel Document, or if you plan to continue your journey by air or land, you must get an exit visa to leave Russia.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months after the expiry date of your visa.

It’s not possible to enter Russia using a visa in an expired passport, even if carried with a new, valid passport. You will need to either apply for a visa transfer or for a new visa. Further details are available from the Russian Embassy.

If you’re travelling on a British passport issued since January 2017, you should make sure you’ve signed your passport before you travel. Some British nationals who haven’t signed their new passports have been denied entry into Russia.

Immigration cards

You must sign an immigration card every time you arrive in Russia. This will be given to you at passport control. The card is in 2 identical parts. One part will be retained by the Immigration Officer. You should keep the other part safe as you’ll need to submit this at passport control when you leave Russia. Should you lose it, your departure from Russia could be delayed. There are also many hotels and hostels that will not accept guests without an immigration card.

Foreign travel advice


The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.


British nationals normally need a visa to enter mainland China, including Hainan Island, but not Hong Kong or Macao.

With effect from 1 November 2018, all visa applicants aged between 14 and 70 inclusive will need to make their visa application in person at a Visa Application Centre. As part of the application process, biometric data (scanned fingerprints) will now have to be provided.

Biometric data may be checked/collected by the Immigration Authorities when entering China to register your entry to the country.

If you’re transiting China, visa waivers are available in certain places. Visitors transiting through Shanghai can apply online for a 144 hour visa exemption via the Shanghai General Station of Immigration Inspection. In other visa waiver transit locations, applications must be made in person on arrival. Contact the Chinese Embassy or the China Visa Application Service Centrebefore your proposed trip for further information. You can also consult your airline/tour operator about visa requirements.

If you visit Hong Kong from the mainland of China and wish to return to the mainland, you’ll need a visa that allows you to make a second entry into China.

It is your responsibility to check your visa details carefully. Don’t overstay your visa or work illegally. The authorities conduct regular checks and you may be fined, detained or deported (or all three).

If you remain in China longer than 6 months, you may need to get a Residence Permit.

Passport validity

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months when you enter China.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from China. You may be required to show a police report indicating how you lost your full passport.

If your ETD has been issued in China, you will need an exit visa from the Public Security Bureau before you can leave. This process can take up to 7 working days.

Registering with the Chinese authorities

You must register your place of residence with the local Public Security Bureau within 24 hours of arrival. Chinese authorities enforce this requirement with regular spot-checks of foreigners’ documentation. If you’re staying in a hotel, they will do this for you as part of the check-in process.

As far as the rest of Asia goes; Currently Thailand and Vietnam, unexpectedly, do not require a visa for the first 15 days (30 in Thailand’s case), where as India and Nepal require you to get a visa prior to travelling. Cambodia allows you to purchase a visa at the border.

So, you see a lot of forward planning is required. 

As much as you may want to travel as freely as possible, To be that free vagabonding traveller with the world at your feet, you are tied to some restrictions as far as the legalities around entering each country go.

Another important thing to keep in mind are where to cross the border once you get into Asia. Here’s a video that might help:

Well, that’s my research so far. I hope it will also help you in your Vagabonding travel preparations. Till next time.

Next post: Saving up, financing your travels and what to pack.

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