The Trains We’ve Taken

We’ve mentioned before that we generally prefer trains to all other forms of transportation. So after ten months of traveling around the world, we figured we’d tell you a little more about this whole train travel thing. Note that this does not include metro systems, so, for instance, the train from Rome to Ostia Antica does not count because it is an extension of the metro and requires only a metro ticket.


Padua train station at sunset


Number of trains we took:  33

Total time spent on trains: 227.5 hours, or 9.48 days!

Total distance traveled by train: 8,778.9 miles

Average speed on trains: 38.58 miles per hour

Total cost of all train travel: $1,847.76 for both of us

Countries in which we rode on a train: 10 (Mongolia, China, Thailand, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Italy)

Longest train: 31 hours, Ulaanbaatar to Beijing.


Beijing – Ulaanbaatar train


Shortest train: Only counting intercity trains (not metros), this would be the train from Naples to Pompeii and back (with a stop at Herculaneum) which in total took 1 hour.

Cheapest train: Bangkok to Aranyaprathet and back. 48 Baht per person each way. Third class only.

Most expensive train: UB to Beijing, $269.81 for both of us.

Most comfortable train: Nanning to Hanoi. It was a 4-person soft sleeper compartment that we had all to ourselves. Very nice. Too bad it arrived at 5 in the morning…

Least comfortable train: Cambodian border to Bangkok. Third class only seats may be cheap but they are just hard benches, with no air conditioning.

Fastest train: Bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai – up to 300 km/hr.

Slowest train: The train from Bangkok to the border with Cambodia took 6 hours to go 159 miles, so on average it went 26.5 miles per hour. The train from Bucharest to Braşov in Romania took 4 hours to go 166 kilometers because it stopped at every town. Though at least that train was comfortable… Also, the train from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing went on average 27.2 miles per hour (31 hours to go 843.2 miles) but that is mostly due to the time that border crossing takes. The railroads in the two countries are different gauges so the train actually has to be moved by crane from one to the other (it doesn’t go up high, feels jerky but that’s it).

Easiest border crossing: Not counting countries without border control (hello, Schengen Zone), either Mongolia to China or Bulgaria to Romania. In both cases, we had to hand in our passports twice (for exit and then entry stamps) but we didn’t have to leave the train and there wasn’t wasn’t an interrogation or anything.


Train in Bratislava


Hardest border crossing: Turkey to Bulgaria. We guess this is because Bulgaria is in the EU and Turkey isn’t. You had to get out on the Turkish side to get an exit stamp at an actual window (this was true from China to Vietnam too). Then there was a lot of questioning, plus the hand search of our luggage got pretty intense. They also repeatedly woke us up to search the compartment with a flashlight and to check our tickets.

Least on time: The Istanbul to Sofia train got us to our destination 4 hours late. Happily, we had been confused about the time it got in so it only seemed two hours late to us – and to the person waiting to pick us up at the train station.

Closest call: We made the train from the Cambodian border to Bangkok with just three minutes to spare! Then, we made the train from Rome to Naples one minute before the posted departure time – but the train was 5 minutes late so it wasn’t even at the station yet.

Have you had any memorable train rides?

One thought on “The Trains We’ve Taken

  1. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    I would say our most memorable train journey that Tony & I have taken on this trip is probably the one we DIDN’T take from Beijing to Datong. Because we couldn’t figure out where it was departing from once we reached the station and when we did find the platform, it was too close to departure and they wouldn’t let us down to board. So we had to stand there and watch it leave. Just another reason to not like China. Blurg.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..A Delicious Day of Little Things Done WellMy Profile

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