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I recently read something about the longest train travel possible. The rules are simple. You can change but you should always travel by train. (Getting a train to somewhere, making a couple of km by bus to a connecting station is not an option). Doing diversions to increase the route is not a possibility either. Else you could just travel in circles around Europe (or anywhere else) and travel forever.

Unfortunately this was only a tweet, that mention that the longest train travel was from Portugal to Vietnam.

Does anyone know about this route? is it really possible? is it actually the longest?

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    Scotland -> UK -> France -> Moscow -> Russian far East -> China -> somewhere like Vietnam or Thailand looks about as far as you can go, until the Pan-Asian rail network makes it to Singapore, but it depends exactly how you define/measure it – Gagravarr Mar 10 '16 at 22:38
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    @Gagravarr Why Scotland? The road distance from southern Portugal to Moscow is about 20% longer than from northern Scotland to Moscow. Why should the train trip be shorter? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Mar 10 '16 at 22:49
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    I didn't check! It just "felt" further away for me, though possibly influenced by quite how slow the trains to the far north of Scotland seem to run... – Gagravarr Mar 10 '16 at 23:38
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    Lol. If you go by 'perceived speed', the longest train route is Sanford - DC. It takes the train over three days to get from Florida to Washington... – Aganju Mar 11 '16 at 1:10
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    Shame the Cpare-Cairo route never got done; pretty sure Cape Town - Vietnam/China would beat any route starting in Europe. – CMaster Mar 11 '16 at 9:56
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After a lot of googling I think I found the article:

http://basementgeographer.com/the-longest-train-ride-in-the-world/

From Portugal to Vietnam by train

According to the author the largest travel train possible stretches from Portugal to Vietnam. 17.000Km by train.

He even calculates the costs and time to spend on the journey, including exchanges:

  • Porto-Coimbra 1:05, US$17.33-$28.66
  • Coimbra layover 0:56
  • Coimbra-Hendaye 12:33, US$94.50-$308.97
  • Hendaye layover 0:51
  • Hendaye-Paris Montparnasse 5:54, US$117-$285
  • Paris Montparnasse-Paris Nord 0:55, US$2.27
  • Paris Nord layover 1:11
  • Paris Nord-Koln 3:14, US$46-$254
  • Koln layover 3:13
  • Koln-Warsaw 11:57, US$388-$568
  • Warsaw layover 2:40
  • Warsaw-Moscow 26:25 $216-$328
  • Moscow layover 18:25
  • Moscow-Beijing 136:29, $804-$1 131
  • Beijing subway transfer window 1:41, US$0.31
  • Beijing-Hanoi 55:25, US$320-$406
  • Hanoi layover 10:50
  • Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City Saigon 33:10, US$50-$78

Unfortunatly the post is from 2011 so the prices might not be updated The total journey would take around 14 days and cost around 2000 USD.

Update: It's actually possible to make the trip 551 Km longer if instead of departing from Porto you depart from Lagos, south of Portugal. Source: http://fugas.publico.pt/Viagens/359032_sim-a-mais-longa-viagem-em-comboio-do-mundo-comeca-em-portugal?pagina=-1

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    treinreiswinkel.nl used to sell this tickets as a single entity, although they don't seem to advertise it anymore. But as they're a travel agent specialising in train journeys, I'm sure they'd be happy to help for someone who doesn't want to organise it all by themselves. – gerrit Mar 11 '16 at 15:26
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    Should take much longer layovers, For example, I would not recommend taking a 1:41 transfer window after a 136½ hour journey from Moscow to Beijing! – gerrit Mar 11 '16 at 15:34
  • Possibly Narvik - Stockholm - Copenhagen and then connecting to this route somewhere in Germany is longer? – Jørgen Mar 12 '16 at 18:12
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    You could add almost 1000 km to this route by taking the Trans-Manchurian line to Beijing (via Harbin) rather than the Trans-Mongolian line (via Ulan Bator.) – Michael Seifert Dec 13 '16 at 14:56
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    @MichaelSeifert "doing diversions to increase the route" is not allowed. It seems the question seeks to calculate the shortest rail route between pairs of cities and then select the pair with the longest result. – phoog Dec 13 '16 at 16:16
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One person has documented his train trip from West Hampstead (in London) to Central (in Hong Kong), which took him 22 days. He also discussed some of the practical difficulties he faced as he a seasoned traveller in the posts. (The first day can be found here.)

In terms of the Great Circle distance, it is about 1000 miles shorter than the journey related in the previous answer from Oporto to Saigon, so I concede it falls someway short of being the longest, but his story is entertaining enough to deserve a plug.

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While the pair Lagos, Portugal and Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam might be the right one, it looks like above suggested route is a diversion. Originally I hoped to find a shorter route in the far south but this didn't work out, but following the silk route one should be able to find a shorter route.

Unfortunately it is hard to give an optimal answer. It might be doable to find the fastest connection between these two cities (if you know which cities you will pass definitely), but it is harder to find the shortest such route in terms of distance.

I'll here give an outline of the fastest journey along the silk road. This however is far from the shortest such route. Just note that it would be much shorter to go from France to Switzerland, Austria, Hungary and via Ukraine to Russia without going up to Moscow (but going via Voronezh to Samara).

  • Lagos
  • Tunes
  • Lisbon
  • Hendaye
  • Paris
  • Stuttgart
  • Berlin
  • Moscow
  • Astana
  • Urumqi
  • Chongqing
  • Nanning
  • Hanoi
  • Saigon

It should be clear that in Europe this is not short but fast. The main difference to above answer is going from Moscow to Astana and onwards to Urumqi and Nanning (via, for example Chongqing).

The trip lengths are (I just state them for the most important changes to the other answer):

  • Moscow-Astana: ~57 hours
  • Astana-Urumqi: ~42 hours
  • Urumqi-Chongqing: ~44 hours
  • Chongqing-Nanning: ~22 hours
  • Nanning-Hanoi: ~11 hours

Comparing just the time spent on trains (without times needed to change; I think a few of the trains involved in my answer don't run daily, so figuring out this would add some more difficulty), with nsn's answer it takes around 190 hours (not counting the subway ride in Beijing) to get from Moscow to Hanoi. Using my answer, one spends around 177 hours on trains from Moscow to Hanoi. I'm pretty sure though it will take more time to take this route since there are more changes involved.

Unfortunately I don't know of any way to calculate the distance of this route, but I'm quite certain it is shorter.

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