When I first started RailTravel Station, the original purpose was to document such an overland trip. However, due to circumstances, I was not able to proceed with the trip as I had originally planned, as there were other issues I considered more important to complete first.
Finally, I was on my way backpacking across Europe and Asia, departing at the end of April 2016 and arriving back in June 2016. The London to Singapore overland trip has been completed successfully by many, and is considered one of the most adventurous and interesting rail routes in the world. It was also the best time for me to travel as I was still eligible for youth discounts for travel in the UK (so now you can roughly guess my age).
Now that the posts of my trip from London to Singapore in 40 Days has been completed, I can now summarize the total costing in a single page. Do, of course, note that these are my personal costs and what you may book today may be of a different price due to the different times, duration of booking, circumstances, ticket type, flexibility, routing, exchange rate and many other individual factors you may face.
Dollars (S$) listed here represent Singapore Dollars (SGD).
I flew Garuda Indonesia* for my flight, and since I was sort of flexible with my exact travel date, my one-way fare costs only SGD450.10, non-stop to London Heathrow.
*NOTE: As of 31 October 2017, GA86 no longer makes a stopover in Singapore en route to London Heathrow. It now flies non-stop between Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta and London Heathrow.
Lodging in London: S$0.00 (friend’s accommodation)
16-25 Railcard: S$53.24 (£26.40)
London Victoria to Sheffield Meadowhall with Megabus: S$11.52 (£5.50 plus £0.50 booking fee)
My first actual overland journey was done by bus. Of course, rail travel would be a lot more better but there were track closures on that day, resulting in a bus transfer anyway. Furthermore, the bus ticket on that day was a lot more cheaper than a train ticket with bus transfer.
Megabus is a major bus operator in the United Kingdom and parts of the European Union, offering cheap travel with fares for many destinations starting from £1. Its operating model is similar with budget airlines.
Lodging in Sheffield: S$0.00 (friend’s accommodation)
Sheffield to York (return) with CrossCountry: S$25.83 (£13.35)
My first rail journey in this trip was done from Sheffield to York and back, just to visit the National Railway Museum. Booking, though, was done with First TransPennine Express as they had free ticket delivery to my friend’s house.
Sheffield Interchange to London Marble Arch with National Express: S$26.33 (£12 + £1 booking fee)
I booked my National Express tickets in London, after submitting my Belarus visa application, so the fares are not as cheap as they could be. Nevertheless, it was still the cheapest way back to London.
Luckily for me, I found a cheap fare back to Sheffield on the train, though with a weird transfer, so I did actually manage to make a London to Sheffield journey by rail on this trip.
The train departs from King’s Cross, one of 18 stations under the “London Terminals” cluster. Make sure you take note which station to go to when you book your ticket as your printed ticket will only state “London Terminals”.
In a blink of an eye, it was time to leave the UK. Though it has technically been 7 days, I spent most of my time travelling around instead, so it feels pretty quick. I guess this is a preview of how this journey will unfold quickly since most of the travelling is similar to project management, and you have to do your best to make your connections or else you’ll be left stranded. I’ll be back one day for a proper visit.
London St. Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord with Eurostar: S$108.92 (£54)
I got a ride on the new Eurostar e320 (Class 374) on my first try, which was a big bonus.
At the time of my booking, there was no way to identify the type of train departing until you complete your booking and then you are allowed to choose your seat. But even so, Eurostar may swap trains last-minute, with you getting a yellow ticket at the boarding gates with your new seat number.
Paris Gare de Lyon to Marseille Saint-Charles with TGV: S$183.24 (€116)
The train arrived at Marseille Saint-Charles on time, completing this approximately 1500km journey in just 11 hours.
This also marks the end of my high-speed train rides. Originally, I had planned to make every single journey without high-speed, save for the Eurostar, however, I felt that a visit to France would not be complete without riding on the TGV, so here it is.
Lodging in Marseille: S$0.00 (friend’s accommodation)
The journey to Rome is actually an overnight one, as I am not travelling by high-speed rail. There are also no direct trains from Marseille to Rome, so I took the option with the least transfers, and yet is the cheapest way to get there, at the time of my booking.
Thello is a private railway company operating with leased locomotives and coaches, so you may not find it on regular booking sites such as SNCF’s. However, they offer one of the most time-effective and cheapest connections between France and Italy by conventional rail.
Genova Piazza Principe to Roma Ostiense with Trenitalia: S$30.11 (€19)
As this was a short 6-hour hop to Rome, I decided not to book a sleeper and to just get the cheapest fare in 2nd Class, just to try the coach out. I’d have time to get the sleeper on my next leg anyway.
Hostel in Rome for 3 nights: S$94.55
Vatican Gardens Open Bus Tour: S$36.33 (€23)
The Vatican Gardens has remained relatively closed to the public, until 2011 when Pope Benedict XVI decided to allow regular visits to it. Since then, many tours has been developed with it, including the “Vatican by Train” programme to Castel Gandolfo, opened to the public in 2014 by Pope Francis, which I did not have time to go for.
Roma Termini to Verona Porta Nuova with Trenitalia: S$61.89 (€39.90)
My original plan was to travel from Rome to Paris direct, but after searching for the fares, I realised that Trenitalia and Thello charges for sleeper tickets on offer by reservation and not by distance. Since I’d need to change trains in Milan if I had done the direct travel, I chose to change in Venice, for the same price, hence a “free” stopover in Venice, sort of.
Verona Porta Nuova to Venezia Santa Lucia with Trenitalia: S$10.61 (€8.70)
From Verona Porta Nuova, I took a regular 2nd Class Regionale Veloce to Venezia Santa Lucia, for slightly more than an hour. Make sure you choose Venezia Santa Lucia as your arrival station if you’re going to the actual Venice cluster of islands – Venezia Mestre and any other stations around there are located on the mainland before crossing the causeway.
Be careful with regional trains as there are 2 types, Regionale making all stops and Regionale Veloce making selected stops. Check the timetable for which type of train and timing would get you to your station the quickest. Both services charge the same fares.
There was a Regionale departing 40 minutes behind the Regionale Veloce I chose to board, which arrived in Venice 7 minutes after my train.
Venezia Santa Lucia to Paris Gare de Lyon with Thello: S$88.09 (€55)
The cheapest and most direct way to travel between Venice and Paris is by the Thello sleeper train. The other train plying this similar route is the ever-famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, however it costs way more than I’m willing to pay for this journey.
Hostel in Paris for 1 night: S$46.00
Paris Gare de l’Est to Moscow Belorusskaya with RZD: S$264.31 (£130.75)
The train from Paris to Moscow departs from Paris Gare de l’Est, a short walk away from the Gare du Nord from where the Eurostar departs from. As the name suggests, it’s situated east of Gare du Nord, and also serves mostly eastbound trains.
The informally known Paris-Moscow Express is operated by the Russian Railways (RZD) 3 times a week on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from Paris, and is the most convenient way to get from Paris to Moscow with no transfers.On the reverse journey, the train departs Moscow on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.
The journey takes 3 days, departing in the evening and arriving in the morning.
Belarus transit visa from the Belarus embassy in London: S$70 (£35)
Russia tourist visa from VFS Global in Singapore: S$112
Hostel in Moscow for 1 night: ₽600 (S$13.22)
Moscow Yaroslavsky to Beijing with China Railway (Trans-Siberian): S$1045.95 (£517.41)
The Trans-Siberian is often mistaken as a single railway line and the sole railway backbone in Russia, whereas in actual fact, there are parallel mainlines to it, and the Trans-Siberian itself is made up of many mainlines. It does, however, serve some of the the world’s longest continuous train journeys.
When I was contemplating and budgeting for whether to take the journey from London to Singapore or the Eastern and Oriental Express from Singapore to Bangkok, the 40-day journey from London with my twists and turns in Europe was around S$1000 cheaper than the luxurious 3-day journey.
I got on train number 4 (K4次) operated by China Railways from Moscow Yaroslavsky to Beijing for the full journey, spanning 7 days and 6 nights. Though the first day wasn’t really a full day, just 15 minutes since the train departs at 11.45pm. This is actually the shortest and cheapest journey from Moscow to Beijing, taking the Trans-Siberian and then branching off on the Trans-Mongolian. It also allows you to travel through Mongolia, putting more stamps in your passport.
Hotel in Beijing for 2 nights: S$91.39 (¥420)
Beijing West to Nanning with China Railway: S$127.34 (¥455.50 + US$5 = US$90.67)
Although it is the fastest classification of locomotive-hauled trains, in mainline operation this is a slow train with speeds of 160km/h, that has to give way to faster high-speed trains along the way.
Nanning to Hanoi Gia Lam with China Railway: S$51.73 (¥265)
After getting my tickets from the travel agent across the road, I headed back to the railway station to just sit down and wait for my train to Hanoi. By now, it was getting as hot as Singapore, and the humidity after the rain before I arrived was getting onto me.
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) with Vietnam Railways: S$106.15 (1,693,000₫)
Frequent trains run along the North-South railway line between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Sometimes incorrectly known as the Reunification Express by foreigners, no one will understand this when booking your tickets, and none of the five daily trains, nor any Vietnamese trains at all, bear such a name, or even any name at all.
Hostel room in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for 1 night: S$20.31
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Phnom Penh with Sapaco Tourist: S$14.04 (230,000₫)
Just a short walk away from my hostel, I got to the Sapaco Tourist office to wait for my 9am bus. The bus ride is expected to take around 6 hours.
Hotel in Phnom Penh for 1 night: S$23.62
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap with Giant Ibis: S$20.43 (340,000₫/US$15)
Since I already purchased my Phnom Penh to Siem Reap ticket in Ho Chi Minh City, all I had to do on the departure day was to show up around 15 minutes before the bus departs.
Hotel in Siem Reap for 1 night: S$25.26
Tuk-Tuk disposal for Angkor Archaeological Park: S$20.43 (US$15)
I booked a tuk tuk from my hotel, which charged me US$15 for the full day at my disposal within the Angkor Archaeological Park, until I decided to return to the hotel or the city, where the disposal will end, regardless of time. And thankfully I did – I actually asked my hotel if it was possible to walk to Angkor Wat and back and they gave me a really strange look. It looks small on Google Maps due to the perfect north-south orientation and straightness of the roads, but in actual fact it was around 3 kilometers from Siem Reap city to Angkor Wat. And most of the other sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park are covered by trees, making it almost hidden on Google Maps.
1 day Angkor Pass: S$27.24 (US$20)
When people mention the word “Angkor”, straightaway, you will think of Angkor Wat. But the Angkor Archaeological Park contains much more than Angkor Wat itself. The good thing is that in the Angkor Archaeological Park, most attractions are covered by the Angkor Pass, so even if you wanted to just visit Angkor Wat or you would like to explore the vast area that is Angkor, you pay the same price anyway. So it’s a no-brainer, really, to continue exploring.
Siem Reap to Poipet with Hang Tep Travel: S$14 (US$10)
I booked my ticket from Siem Reap to Poipet through my hotel, which I thought was more convenient than heading down to the bus station on the day itself to get a ticket. I didn’t want to miss the connection to the train from Aranyaphrathet to Bangkok, neither do I want to get on a transfer van to Bangkok, as that would defeat the purpose of rail travel.
It really feels good to be back in an honest tuk-tuk with the scams behind me. And this definitely feels safer than the Cambodian tuk-tuks thanks to the windscreen in front.
Aranyaprathet is the closest station to the border of Cambodia at Poipet. It is linked to Bangkok via the Eastern Line. Sometimes informally known as the Cambodia Express, this train is far from being an actual express as it stops at almost every station along the way and fully consists of third class non-air-conditioned coaches. Also, it doesn’t actually enter Cambodia.
Hostel room in Bangkok for 3 nights: S$84.90
Special Express 35 to Butterworth (?) is the next departure from Hua Lamphong. I certainly knew that the train wasn’t going to make it that far, but it was still listed as terminating in Butterworth in SRT’s system.
Since 1 September 2016, SRT officially sells tickets only up to Padang Besar, removing such confusion when KTM is no longer hauling the SRT coaches into Malaysia.
Butterworth to KL Sentral with KTM Berhad: S$20.93 (RM59 + RM2 surcharge)
My waiting ETS train. Because of the late opening of the gate, some passengers were still trying to board at the departure time of 2.55pm. We departed 3 minutes late.
Welcome back to KTM.
KL Sentral to Gemas with KTM Berhad: S$11.32 (RM31 + RM2 surcharge)
The final leg of my journey is finally here. Well, not that I’m looking forward to it. At this point of time, I did feel that the 40 day trip was too short, and I needed more train rides. Oh well.
Gemas to JB Sentral with KTM Berhad: S$6.93 (RM21)
With the discontinuation of KTM Intercity trains on electrified lines, you now have to transfer at Gemas to the Ekspres Selatan for connections down south. I chose the earlier 43dn as it uses the newer ASC INKA coaches, which means it comes with power sockets.
JB Sentral to Woodlands CIQ with KTM Berhad: S$4.02 (RM5 + RM2 surcharge + RM5) (two tickets due to delayed train)
The boarding process commenced when I got to the concourse of JB Sentral from the delayed Ekspres Selatan. Holding my last train ticket ever from London, I went to get it checked and then headed for Malaysian immigration.
No photo-taking is allowed within Woodlands Train Checkpoint, so it’s unfortunate and extremely disappointing that I could not get a photo of the last train hauling me to my last destination railway station. Also, Woodlands Train Checkpoint is a sad, disappointing terminal as compared to the other end of my journey at London St. Pancras.
Total cost of transport and lodging: S$3575.92
My total expenditure: less than S$1500
Total price from London to Singapore: S$5000
The full overland journey from London to Singapore costed me just S$5000, and can in fact potentially be cheaper, as I paid for the full fare for some tickets due to the peak season. If you noticed, I took a few detours in Europe, so if you cut them out, you won’t even need to factor in the costs of those destinations.
This does not mean you have to suffer during the trip eating just bread and butter though. I watched a play at West End and had Sunday brunch at Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay in London, had the best Bouillabaisse of my life in Marseille, stayed at hotels or single rooms in hostels when the prices got cheaper in Asia and visited the magnificent Angkor temples in Siem Reap.
Plan your trip smartly too, finding the best value in everything, for example, my hostel in Rome had free dinner and my hotel in Siem Reap had one-way free tuk-tuk rides to the city. Go for free or almost-free attractions too, such as the National Railway Museum in York, the street buskers at West End, London, the subway stations in Moscow, the St. Basil’s Cathedral (₽100 or around S$2 for students), the Tiananmen and The Imperial City in Beijing, or get a feel of local Thai life for just 8 cents.
There are more than a hundred and one ways to travel from London to Singapore. I am not the first person to do it, and certainly will not be the last. While my route may not be the fastest nor easiest, it was certainly including the places I wanted to visit. If you decide to go for such a trip, you should consider where you would actually like to visit, rather than following a set suggestion of trains and destinations. What I can suggest is only through my own experience, and you will definitely have your own stories to share or routes to recommend once you embark on your own trip.
It was a trip of my lifetime, and given another opportunity, I would totally go for it again.