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How to Travel Overland from Europe to Asia by car, bike and train – The 3 Best Travel Routes

How to travel from Europe to Asia without flying? What is the best direction to travel overland from Europe to Asia? This guide gives you a detailed overview of all the possible routes you can take if you want to hitchhike, cycle or drive from Europe to Asia by land or travel from Europe to Asia by train. You’ll find information on ferries, borders, visas, and how to deal with possible obstacles along the way.

Editor’s note: You’ll find many 2022 updates throughout this guide. I try to keep up as much as I can with these fast-changing global situations. In case you have new updates that haven’t been added to this post, let me know about them in the comments below so I can update accordingly.

Planning a big overland trip requires preparation. And flexibility.


I often had to change my initial plans and routes when I was hitchhiking and traveling from Europe to Asia without flying. The biggest challenge was dealing with closed borders and difficulties in getting visas.

Driving from Europe to Asia - Driving in Kazakhstan - Road trip through Kazakhstan - Journal of Nomads

Dealing with the occasional car problems while driving in Kazakhstan

Some countries like to change their visa regulations on a regular basis so you have to adjust your plans accordingly (yes China, I’m talking about you).

Others don’t allow you in their country unless you’re part of a tour group. Iran, for example, doesn’t like Canadians, Brits, and US citizens traveling independently and Turkmenistan is just suspicious of any other nation in the world.

A few countries (like Pakistan and Russia) only issue a visa when you apply for it in your home country and/or give you a very limited time to enter the country between the time the visa is issued and your arrival (e.g. you only have 3 months to enter China from the moment you’ve got your visa).

This isn’t really a problem if you’re taking airplanes but it becomes tricky when you’re hitchhiking, cycling or driving from Europe to Asia and you want to take the time to explore the countries you’re passing through instead of rushing towards your destination.

And let’s not forget about 2020… Land borders are now finally reopening but each country has its own set of extra entry requirements.

backpacking in winter - journal of nomads

It took me 3 years to hitchhike from Europe to Central Asia. I like to take my time…

So what’s the best way to travel from Europe to China and/or Southeast Asia without too much hustle, bustle and fuzzle?

I’ll give you an overview of all the possible routes on how to hitchhike/cycle/drive/take the train from Europe to Asia, including border and visa obstacles and possible solutions.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I’ll receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This way you’re helping me run this website and writing more informative and awesome guides like this. I only recommend products and services that I like and trust. Thank you!

How to Travel Overland from Europe to Asia by car, bike and train – The 3 Best Travel Routes


1. Traveling in Europe by land (and sea)

1.1 Visas and border crossings in Europe

As a European citizen, you can travel as much and as long as you want in all the countries of Europe. You have the privilege of not needing a visa, not even for the European countries that are not part of the European Union or the Schengen area.

Map of Europe with Schengen countries - Journal of Nomads

Source: International Living

This also means that, if you pass a border checkpoint, you just have to show your passport or national ID card and you’re free to go.

To travel to and in Europe as a non-European citizen, you’ll need a Schengen visa. This visa allows you to stay 90 days in countries that are part of the Schengen area.

The European countries that are not part of the Schengen area will allow travelers holding a Schengen visa to enter and stay in their country for 90 days. This means that you could actually stay for 6 months in Europe (or longer).

I’ll give you an example:

Let’s say you’re traveling from Spain to Turkey by land. You’ve already stayed for 60 days in the EU and are about to enter Croatia.

Croatia is part of the EU but a non-Schengen country, which means that you’ll receive a visa on arrival at the border (after showing you have a Schengen visa) that allows you to stay 90 days in Croatia.

Once you leave Croatia, you still have 30 days on your Schengen visa to travel in the Schengen countries.

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Journal of Nomads - Croatia - Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik – Croatia

Just be aware that the Schengen visa only allows you to stay 90 days in a period of 180 days.

If you decide for example to spend 90 days in Croatia and another 90 days in Albania (also a non-Schengen country) before entering Greece (which is a Schengen country), your Schengen visa will be expired by then and you’ll have to apply for a new one.

I tried to explain all of this as clearly as possible. Even as a European citizen I find this whole Schengen – non-Schengen stuff a bit confusing!

Here’s a website that gives you more detailed information about it and it also tells you how and where to apply.

So whatever travel route you take in Europe, as long as you have a multi-entry Schengen visa, you shouldn’t encounter any problems at the borders.

My whole hitchhiking journey from Ireland to Turkey went very smoothly, even for my hitchhiking partner who’s a Canadian citizen. We only had to hurry to enter Turkey once we were in Greece because his visa was running out.

Meteora - Journal of Nomads

Meteora, Greece

1.2 Driving and cycling in Europe – travel routes

Resources for driving in Europe:

  • Driving in Europe – Requirements and Tips
  • European Roadtrip Ideasby Wandering Bird by Skyscanner

Resources for cycling in Europe:

    : 15 long-distance cycling routes across the whole European continent : How to prepare yourself for a long bike trip

1.3 Travel in Europe by train

Europe has a great international railway network, including international high-speed trains like Eurostar connecting the UK with mainland Europe.

Here are 2 in-depth guides on how to travel across Europe by train:

    by the Savvy Backpacker
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Train Travel in Europeby The Man in Seat 61

1.4 Ferry routes and crossings in Europe

When you’re cycling or driving from Europe to Asia, you might want to save some time by skipping a part of the overland journey and take a ferry instead.

Here are some ferry companies that offer different European ferry routes:

  • OK-ferry: ferry routes to different destinations of the Mediterranean Sea
  • Direct Ferries:numerous option for ferries in and around Europe

Ferry routes in Europe - ferry in Greece - traveling Europe by ferry - Journal of Nomads

Traveling by ferry in Greece

2. Europe – Asia Border Crossings

There are 3 different ways to travel across the European-Asian border and make your way towards the East.

2.1 Traveling from Europe to Russia

  • Update 2022:
  • Due to the current war, you can’t travel from Europe to Russia by land. I’ll leave this section be for now but I recommend skipping it and scrolling to 2.2 Travel from Europe to Turkey.

This is the road less taken if you’re traveling towards Asia as it’s not always that easy to obtain a tourist visa for Russia. You could also opt for a transit visa, which is easier to get but it will only allow you 10 days in Russia (not ideal if you’re cycling).

1) How and where to apply for a tourist visa for Russia

If you’re from Latin America, South Africa, Georgia, Central Asia or any of these 45 countries, you’ll get a free visa on arrival that allows you to stay 30 to 90 days in Russia, depending on your citizenship.

Travelers from North America, Europe, Africa, South Asia, and Australia will have to apply for a Russian tourist visa in the Russian consulate or Russian embassy in their home country.

To apply for a tourist visa for Russia, you’ll need:

  • a Letter of Invitation (LOI),
  • a visa application form that you’ll very likely have to fill in online
  • passport with 2 empty pages valid for 6 months after arrival in Russia
  • photocopy of your passport
  • passport picture (only for citizens of the EU) is a reputable online passport & visa service that offers Tourist Invitation Letters (LOI) for Russia. They can also help you with the whole visa application process to receive the Russian tourist visa.

What if you’re already on the road but you still want to apply for a tourist visa for Russia?

There are only a few countries, such as Canada and the US, of which the citizens can apply for a Russian visa outside their home country.

If you’re a citizen of Europe, Australia, etc, you could always send your passport home and aks a friend or a family member to do the application for you. However, this is risky and not something I’d recommend as your passport might get lost in the mail. It’s also illegal in most countries to travel without having your passport with you.

2) How and where to apply for a transit visa for Russia

You can easily apply for a Russian transit visa in any country that has a Russian consulate or embassy.

A transit visa allows you to stay up to 10 days in Russia. To apply for this visa, you need:

  • proof of onward travel like transportation ticket from Russia to the next destination or, if you travel by car, car documents and a print-out of your planned route
  • proof of valid visas for the countries from which you enter and exit Russia

3) Cycling or driving from Europe to Russia

The best way to travel from Europe to Russia is via the border with Latvia, Estonia or Finland as they all belong to the EU, which means less hassle.

Avoid going from Ukraine into Russia as they were at war with each other and there are still some rebel-held zones in Southeastern Ukraine and Crimea, which you shouldn’t cross at all!

You can also enter Russia via Belarus, but you’ll have to apply for a visa to enter Belarus by land as you can only obtain a free visa on arrival if you arrive by plane. Check the visa policy for Belarus here.

The Way to Russia is a great resource for if you want to travel to Russia by car, motorcycle or hitchhiking.

Plan your trip to Russia well in advance. It’s the largest country in the world and even if you get a 90-day tourist visa, you’ll have to drive a lot if you want to cross the country within a decent time frame.

Also, keep in mind that winter isn’t the best time to travel through Russia (especially if you’re cycling or hitchhiking!!). Prepare yourself well!

4) Traveling from Europe to Russia by train

Here are 2 fantastic resources if you want to travel by train from Europe to Russia:

  • How to travel by train from London to Moscow & Russiaby The Man in Seat 61 by The Way to Russia

2.2 Traveling from Europe to Turkey

The most popular way to travel from Europe to China and Asia is by going through Turkey.

Update 2022: The following land borders with Turkey are currently open:

  • Greece to Turkey at Kastanies–Pazarkule and Kipi–İpsala
  • Bulgaria to Turkey at Kapitan Andreevo–Kapıkule, Lesovo–Hamzabeyli and Malko Tǎrnovo–Aziziye
  • Turkey to Georgia via Sarp, Türkgözü and Aktaş
  • Turkey to Iran at Bazargan-Gürbulak and Sero-Esendere

1) Turkey Entry Requirements

Visa for Turkey

Citizens from Latin America, Central Asia, New Zealand and certain European countries (for the complete list, look here) receive a free visa on arrival that allows them to stay up to 90 days in Turkey.

If you’re a traveler from North America, Australia, South Africa, South Asia, and following European countries (for the complete list, look here) need to apply for an e-visa.

It’s super easy and straightforward to apply for the e-visa online and once you receive it, you’ll be allowed to travel for 30 up to 90 days in Turkey. This is plenty of time to cross the country (although, we overstayed our Turkish tourist visa with 6 months, but that’s a different story…)

Turkey Test and Vaccination requirements:

Passengers over the age of 12 must have a document showing a negative COVID-19 test result to enter Turkey. This must be a PCR test taken in the last 72 hours before entering the country or a rapid antigen test taken in the last 48 hours.

If you have a vaccination certificate showing the last dose was given at least 14 days before arrival, then you don’t need a negative COVID-19 test result.

Visiting Cappadocia in Turkey - Journal of Nomads

Cappadocia in Turkey

2) Driving or cycling from Bulgaria or Greece to Istanbul

If you’re cycling or driving from Europe to Istanbul and beyond, the easiest and most straightforward way is crossing the land border with Greece in Ipsala or with Bulgaria in Edirne.

You might encounter a lot of security checks at both land borders as many refugees try to enter Europe from here.

3) Taking the train from Europe to Istanbul – the ‘Modern Orient Express’

Does ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, the famous detective novel by Agatha Christie, ring a bell?

Throughout history, there are many referrals to train travel in Europe on the Orient Express route. The route started in Paris, went across Vienna and ended in Istanbul.

Nowadays, you can still travel by train along the Orient Express Route:

  • Read how Naomi from Probe around the Globe followed this famous historical train route from the Netherlands to Istanbul.
  • The Man in Seat 61 wrote a comprehensive guide onhow to travel by train from London to Istanbul

4) Taking the ferry from Greece to Turkey

When we were hitchhiking from Europe to Turkey, we took a ferry from Rhodes, one of the Greek islands, to Marmaris, a port in Turkey. If you like traveling by boat, I’d definitely suggest you take this route.

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Journal of Nomads - Boat Turkey

Here’s a ferry connections route map between Athens, the Greek islands and the ports in Turkey. You can book tickets for the ferry online, in a travel agency in Athens or on one of the islands.

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Journal of Nomads - Turkey ferries - ferry Greek islands

5) From Turkey to Georgia

2022 Update: You need to present either a vaccination certificate or a certificate with a negative PCR test result, no later than 72 before entering Georgia.

The easiest way to travel from Turkey to Georgia is by crossing the border at Sarpi on the Black Sea Coast.

Batumi - Journal of Nomads

Batumi, Georgia

6) Taking the ferry from Bulgaria to Georgia

There’s also the possibility to skip Turkey and take the ferry from the port of Varna in Bulgaria to the port of Batumi in Georgia. Check the ferry schedule here.

3. Traveling from Europe to Central Asia

There are a few different routes to travel from Europe to Central Asia by land, some easier and more accessible than others.

I’ll focus on one main route as it’s currently the best possible direction from Europe to Asia as most land borders on this route have reopened.

1) From Georgia to Azerbaijan

2022 Update: You must have a vaccination certificate stating you are fully vaccinated or a recovery certificate with a QR code and a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours before arrival in Azerbaijan.

You can enter Azerbaijan with an e-visa (since 2017!) which allows you to stay for 30 days in the country. If you’re planning on staying longer than 10 days in Azerbaijan, you’ll have to get registered!

* Note : If you also want to visit Armenia, know that they aren’t the best buddies with Azerbaijan. Definitely avoid going through the disputed region of Nagorno – Karabakh because you can be sure that you won’t be allowed into Azerbaijan at all! If you decide to go through that region, make sure that you have your stamp on a separate piece of paper.

There are also no open borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan so you’ll have to return to Georgia first before entering Azerbaijan or you can go through Iran (see route A).

You can expect annoying questions from the Azerbaijani border controls concerning your visit to Armenia (they will ask if you visited Nagorno – Karabakh) but they will allow you in.

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Backpacking in Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

Baku, Azerbaijan

2) From Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan by boat

2022 Update: You need to present either a vaccination certificate or a certificate with a negative PCR test result, no later than 72 before entering Kazakhstan.

You can cross the Caspian Sea from Baku in Azerbaijan to Aktau in Kazakhstan by ferry, which costs around $80. It’s more expensive if you travel by car.

This ferry doesn’t have a fixed schedule but it leaves at least once every 3 to 7 days.

Read my Comprehensive Guide with everything you need to know about taking the boat from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan.

Crossing the Caspian Sea by boat – How to travel by cargo ship from Baku (Azerbaijan) to Aktau (Kazakhstan) - Journal of Nomads

3) From Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan by boat

2022 Update: Turkmenistan remains closed for foreign travelers.

Turkmenistan is a pain concerning visas and independent traveling. You can only enter the country on a tourist visa if you’re part of a tour group. If you just want to apply for a transit visa, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it. The rejection rate is 50% and they love to play games.

Applying for a transit visa is like playing the lottery. I also heard stories of couples that applied for the transit visa and while one of them got the visa, the other person got his application rejected.

I’m super curious about this country but it’s not worth the hustle. Oh, and you can’t get any visa during the month of September, due to an important festival in Turkmenistan.

4) Traveling overland in Kazakhstan

2022 Update: You need to present either a vaccination certificate or a certificate with a negative PCR test result, no later than 72 before entering Kazakhstan.

Citizens from the European Union, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Mongolia are eligible for a free tourist visa upon arrival.

Find more information about traveling and driving in Kazakhstan in my Travel guide to Kazakhstan .

If you want to travel around Kazakhstan by train, read the following guide on How to travel by train in Kazakhstan.

Charyn Canyon - Kazakhstan -Valley of Castles - Journal of Nomads

Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan

You have 30 days to cross Kazakhstan into the following countries:

5) Traveling overland in Uzbekistan

2022 Update: You must present either a negative PCR test result no later than 72 before entering Uzbekistan or proof of vaccination.

Uzbekistan is now issuing free visas on arrival to citizens of more than 30 countries, including citizens of the European Union. With this free visa, you can stay up to 30 days in the country.

Travelers of countries who still need a visa for Uzbekistan can now easily apply for an e-visa. You can read all the details in my Travel Guide to Uzbekistan.

The easiest way to get around Uzbekistan is by train. Here’s a guide on how to take the train in Uzbekistan.

Registan Square in Samarkand - Journal of Nomads

Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

6) Traveling overland in Kyrgyzstan

2022 Update: You need to present either a vaccination certificate or a certificate with a negative PCR test result, no later than 72 before entering Kazakhstan.

You can easily enter Kyrgyzstan from Uzbekistan and/or Kazakhstan by bus. Kyrgyzstan doesn’t have a proper railway so the best way to get to and around Kyrgyzstan is by (mini)bus or shared taxi.

Here are some guides that can help you:

Kyrgyzstan has the most liberal visa regime in Central Asia and offers a free visa on arrival to these nationalities.

I have many comprehensive guides and useful travel information about Kyrgyzstan:

Find everything you need to know about traveling in Kyrgyzstan (best places to visit, itineraries, practical info,…) in Traveling in Kyrgyzstan – The Ultimate Travel Guide

Traveling in Kyrgyzstan - Journal of Nomads

7) Traveling overland in Tajikistan

2022 Update: There’s still no clear news about whether or not the land borders of Tajikistan have reopened.

You can enter Tajikistan via Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan. More info about the border crossings here.

Tajikistan offers now a free visa on arrival for most nationalities, except when you’re from one of these countries.

Tajikistan is a mountainous country so there are no trains or big buses here. You’ll have to travel around by shared taxi, a public minivan, or your own vehicle.

Read all my guides about Tajikistan in Traveling in Tajikistan – The Ultimate Travel Guide

Panoramic view over Iskanderkul Lake Tajikistan - Journal of Nomads

Iskanderkul lake in Tajikistan

4. From Turkey or Central Asia to South-East Asia

1) How to travel overland from Central Asia to China

2022 Update: China closed its borders again to foreign travelers

Oh, dear China, how moody art thou!

While it used to be possible to apply for a visa for China in different countries in Central Asia, they’ve recently changed their visa regulations. It’s currently extremely difficult to obtain a Chinese tourist visa in Central Asia.

Remember that the rules change all the time so you better check the Caravanistan forum for recent updates.

I had a sparkle of hope that I could apply for a Chinese visa in Tbilisi (Georgia) but they are now only issuing visas for residents of Georgia.

The only solution is to send your passport home (there we go again) and ask someone to apply in the Chinese embassy in your home country (unless you’re from Germany, then you have to be physically present to apply for the visa).

Here’s what you need to apply for a Chinese visa.

If you managed to get a visa for China, you can enter China from Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan.

If you want to travel from Kyrgyzstan to China, you can cross the borders at the Irkeshtam Pass or the Torugart Pass.

You can travel from Tajikistan to China across the Qolma Pass.

If you want to drive in China, know that you can’t do this independently. You can only drive with your own car or motorbike in China if you’re part of a tour group or have a personal guide, which is very expensive.

The best solution is to find a group of travelers who also want to cross China by car or motorbike and split the costs. You’ll also need to apply for a Chinese driving license.

Click here for more information.

2) From Europe to India by land (Myanmar – Thailand)

A lot of people dream of traveling overland from Europe to India. This is also the route we first had in mind. We wanted to travel overland from Europe to Thailand across Iran, Pakistan, and India.

It looks like an easy road on the map but it doesn’t come without any obstacles. This route is also not possible to travel by train.

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Journal of Nomads - From Europe to India

Turkey (- Georgia – Armenia) – Iran – Pakistan – India – Myanmar – Thailand

1) From Turkey to Iran

2022 Update: Iran has reopened its land borders. Aside from a visa, all travelers over the age of 12 are required to provide proof of full vaccination. You also need a negative PCR test taken within the last 72 hours before arrival in Iran, unless it has been at least 14 days since the second dose of a two-shot vaccine (or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine).

The shortest way to travel from Turkey to Iran is by crossing the Gurbulak – Bazargan border or the Esendere – Siro border. Find all the information about the Turkey-Iran border crossing here.

Iran issues visas on arrival but only if you arrive by plane. If you travel overland, you still have to apply for a tourist visa at an Iranian embassy.

However, the whole visa situation changes constantly so for the most recent updates concerning the Iranian visa, check out the updates on Caravanistan.

The best place in Turkey to apply for a tourist visa for Iran is at the Iranian embassy in Ankara.

You could also travel from Turkey to Iran across Georgia and Armenia. Both countries offer free visas on arrival to many nationalities (check the visa policy for Georgia and Armenia visa policy) and are definitely worth a visit!

2022 Update: The borders between Georgia and Armenia are open. For both countries, you need to present either a vaccination certificate or a certificate with a negative PCR test result, no later than 72 before entering the country.

Tusheti – one of Georgia's most beautiful and fascinating regions - Journal of Nomads

Tusheti, Georgia

If you travel across Georgia and Armenia, apply for an Iranian tourist visa at the consulate of Iran in Batumi (Georgia).

Only citizens of the UK, US, and Canada can’t travel independently to Iran. They need to be accompanied by a tour guide at all times. But… there’s a way around it.

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Agha Bozorg mosque - Kashkan - credit Lost with Purpose

The Agha-Bozorg mosque in Kashkan, Iran. Photo by Lost with Purpose

2) From Iran to Pakistan

Update 2022: The land borders between Iran and Pakistan are currently closed. Updates concerning these borders are very welcome in the comments below!

Crossing the Pakistan – Iran border is possible but a bit tricky.

This border crossing is very long and known to be a dangerous area. That’s why you can only cross with an armed escort. Read the border crossing report by Lost with Purpose and check for updates on Caravanistan.

Pakistan was our second obstacle. You can only apply for a Pakistan visa in your home country or country of residence. Europeans and Canadians can get a visa on arrival if they arrive by plane and are part of a tour.

Just like with the Russian visa you can try to send your passport to someone in your home country and ask him/her to apply for the visa in the Pakistan embassy of your country.

Know that you’ll be without a passport for a while and you should check the regulations of the country you’re in whether or not it’s illegal to travel there without a passport.

If you are able to obtain a visa for both Iran and Pakistan, it means that you can enter India without too much hustle.

3) From Pakistan to India

Update 2022: There was only one Pakistan – India border where foreigners could cross but this one still seems to be closed now. Updates concerning this border are very welcome in the comments below!

There is one Pakistan – India border that is open only for foreigners.

You can obtain an e-visa for India but only if you arrive by plane. If you want to enter India by land, you’ll have to apply for a regular tourist visa in an Indian embassy.

You can apply for a 6-month tourist visa on your way to India. I’ve heard that the embassy in Pakistan is quite a hassle but you can try to apply for one in Tehran (Iran).

Other options are applying for an Indian visa in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan,…) but that means you’ll have to make a huge detour and you need to be aware that the visa starts from the date of issue, not from the date of entrance!

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Palitana - India - credit Lost with Purpose

Palitana in India. Photo by Lost with Purpose

4) From India to Myanmar and Thailand

2022 Update: Myanmar will reopen its borders to international tourists on 17 April. Find the current Myanmar entry requirements here.

If you’ve finally managed to travel from Europe to India (congrats, let me know if you’ve done it in the comments!!), you might want to continue your journey toward Southeast Asia.

The only way to reach Thailand or Laos is to cross Myanmar (aka Burma).

This is also tricky! You can enter Myanmar from Thailand on an e-visa but there are some mixed reports on whether or not it is possible to enter Myanmar from India. You’ll also need a special permit to travel overland in Myanmar.

How to Travel Overland from Europe to Asia by car, bike and train – The 3 Best Travel Routes

Photo by

Nobody said that traveling by land would be easy, eh?

Alright, one last route:

3) from Central Asia to South East Asia without traveling to China

2022 Update: This route is currently not possible as a) it’s not possible to travel to Russia at the moment due to the war and b) most countries on this route are closed to foreign travelers.

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Journal of Nomads - From Europe to China

This route is the longest way to travel overland from Europe to China and South East Asia but it’s the best chance to get a visa for China while you’re traveling and make it to Southeast Asia.

1) From Kazakhstan to Mongolia

There is no direct border between Kazakhstan and Mongolia so you’ll first have to travel across a small part of Russia.

You’ll need to apply for a 2-day Russian transit visa in Almaty or Nur Sultan.

If you’re not cycling or driving your own vehicle, you can take the train to cross the distance between Kazakhstan and Mongolia but you have to buy these tickets in advance as proof for your transit visa.

You’ll also need to apply for a Mongolian visa (30 days) at the embassy of Mongolia in Almaty or Nur Sultan.

How to Travel Overland from Europe to Asia by car, bike and train – The 3 Best Travel Routes

Photo by

2) From Mongolia to Russia

After visiting Mongolia, you’ll have to apply for a new Russian transit visa (try to get 10 days) in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) to enter Russia.

To travel from Russia to Asia without taking any flight, you’ll first have to go all the way to Vladivostok in Russia.

The best way to get there from Mongolia is by train. You can book the train tickets for the Trans-Siberian train from Ulan Ude to Vladivostok (Russia) online.

3) From Russia to South Korea by ferry

There’s weekly one ferry that goes from Russia to South Korea, operated by DBS Ferry company.

The ferry leaves in Vladivostok (Russia) and arrives about 22 hours later in Donghae (South Korea). You can book online tickets for this ferry here.

South Korea offers a free visa on arrival for many countries. Check here to see if you need to apply for a visa in advance or if you can get a free visa on arrival.

You should be able to apply for a Chinese visa at the Chinese embassy in Seoul. Find out here what you need to apply for a Chinese tourist visa.

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Naejangsan - South Korea - credit Hedgers Abroad

Naejangsan in South Korea. Photo by Hedgers Abroad

4) From South Korea to Japan by ferry

There are a few ferry lines connecting South Korea to Japan.

Here is a fantastic and very comprehensive guide about taking the ferry from South Korea to Japan, including the various ferry routes, costs and practical travel information.

Japan offers a free visa on arrival to many countries. You can also try to apply for a Chinese visa at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo.

5) From Japan to China by ferry

There is currently one ferry route running between Japan and China. The ferry leaves from Osaka and arrives 46 hours later in Shanghai. You can check the schedule here.

Once you’ve made it to China, you can easily continue your journey toward Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

If you’re going on a long journey like this, you should get good travel insurance! Here are the 3 best and most affordable travel insurance companies for long-term travelers!

Journal of Nomads Adventure Travel Blog

I hope this post has been very useful to you!

If you’re planning to embark on this long overland journey or you’ve traveled this route or parts of it and you have extra information, useful guides, or stories, please share them in the comments below! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

5 Common Travel Challenges

5 Common Travel Challenges

Travelling is not always easy and you will most definitely get into unexpected situations. However, some of these can be foreseen and prepared for. Here are 5 common travel challenges you will face while traveling abroad.

Being Unprepared

This is an over-generalization, but you get the point. Being unprepared is by far the worst thing you could do to yourself. It’s not even a challenge you will encounter because of the environment you find yourself in but rather something you inflict on yourself wilfully.

To avoid making this obvious mistake, make sure that you prepare everything way before your trip. Ask your friends and family to help you if you have no idea what to do. Make a list of things to get, book accommodation, read about the local climate and culture, plan your travel route, and so on.

Jet Lag and Other Sicknesses

Jet lag is real and will haunt you. Just kidding. But understanding that you may feel disoriented after the ten-hour flight is essential to preparing for jet lag. Get rest before and after the flight and try to adjust to the local timezone as soon as possible.

Staying healthy overseas is important and other sicknesses you may experience while abroad include:

  • Motion Sickness: From the rocking of the boat -or bus! Just get some pills that will keep you from vomiting and/or bring a strong paper bag.
  • Heat Exhaustion/ Heatstroke: May happen if you are exposed to direct sunlight too much and the temperature is high. Cool down someplace shady and drink plenty of water. Eating a small amount of something sweet and salty alongside the fluid will help recovery.
  • Altitude Sickness: Happens when you climb too high (and usually too fast) in the mountains. Y ou may not appreciate how high you actually are in a new country. Keep hydrated and eat light but high-calorie food. Avoid getting into zones of high altitude abruptly.
  • Homesickness: If you travel for longer periods of time. It will pass as soon as you get back home. You may then get away-from-home sickness usually remedied by another bout of travel.
Not Knowing the Language

We all know the struggle. Sometimes you will simply not know what someone just said to you and you will feel either stupid or frustrated. There are some things you can do to avoid this common travel challenge.

  • Before the Trip: While looking for information online, make use of a translation service like PickWriters for any website written in a language you don’t understand. Also, consider putting together a small dictionary/phrase list or buying one to use while abroad.
  • During the Trip: You can even go as far as hiring a translator/guide to show you around ,especially if you travelling with a few friends Learning the language is also an option, so use Duolingo or a similar app to perfect your skill.
Sunburn and Insect Bites

Not everyone is used to hot weather and if you are going to a country with such a climate, you may not be well prepared. Along with heat exhaustion mentioned earlier, you may get sunburned. Take sunscreen with you and apply it every day to prevent that from happening.

Biting Insects are another problem. For some regions, you will need to protect yourself against the risk of malaria. Research this aspect of your destination and decide whether or not you need the extra protection of some sort. In most other circumstances it’s just an annoyance because there are so many bitey things and your body isn’t used to that. Cover up bare skin as much as you can at peak biting hours and use a deet-free repellent.

Food Poisoning

Last and perhaps the most disastrous is the much-dreaded food poisoning. Once you get food poisoning, the only thing you can do is wait for it to pass. However, there are some things you can do to prevent it:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before every meal. Or at least disinfect them with your sanitizer. In fact, make washing you hands something you do more regularly than usual.
  • Avoid eating food that has been kept warm and rather eat the one that is piping hot.
  • Drink, and wash fruit and veg using water you know is clean.
  • Be careful with all meat and seafood, particularly if you can’t tell how fresh it is.

The cause of food poisoning usually stems from the food itself. If it was kept improperly or wasn’t cooked well, there is a high probability that it will have pesky bacteria in it. Food that is left out for too long or isn’t reheated correctly can also cause food poisoning, so be careful at all times.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, there is nothing you should be particularly afraid of. In fact, if you decided to go to a different country you are already pretty brave. Just remember the 5 common travel challenges, keep in mind this advice, do your own research and get ready for adventures early on.

Donald Fomby is a freelance writer for Best Writers Online. He has written custom content for various websites and has worked in various marketing efforts and campaigns.

Treacherous Trading: Dangers of the Silk Road

The Silk Road is arguably the most famous long-distance trade route in the ancient world. This trade route connected Europe in the West with China in the East, and allowed the exchange of goods, technology, and ideas between the two civilizations. Silk, however, was the most celebrated commodity that was transferred along this route, traveling from China westwards. Although merchants could make huge profits if they succeeded in bring their goods to their destination, it was not without risks, as certain stretches of this route were extremely dangerous.

What is the Silk Road?

In spite of its name, the Silk Road was not one single road, but rather, a network of roads that connected the East and the West. It may be remarked that this name was only given quite recently, as it was coined in 1877 by the German historian and geographer, Ferdinand von Richthofen. ‘Officially’, the Silk Road was established when the Han Dynasty of China began to trade with the West, commonly said to be in 130 BC. This overland route continued to be used up until AD 1453, when the Ottoman Empire, which had conquered Constantinople in that year, decided to stop trading with the West, and therefore closed the routes.

Extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route, which also had its dangers. (Public Domain)

Extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route, which also had its dangers. ( Public Domain )

In the East, the Silk Road started in Chang’an (known today as Xi’an), the Han capital until it was moved to Luoyang during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Travelers (merchants, pilgrims, envoys, etc.) starting off their journey from this city could take a northern route that would take them across China’s northwestern provinces. After this, they would face the Gobi Desert, arguably the biggest danger of the Silk Road.

Dangers of the Silk Road

The Gobi Desert is the largest desert in Asia, and stretches across modern day China and Mongolia. Whilst this desert can be divided into several different eco-regions, it may be said to consist, generally speaking, mainly of rocky, compact terrain. It is this feature of the Gobi Desert that made it easier for trade caravans to travel across the desert, as opposed, for example, to the sandy terrain of the neighboring Taklamakan Desert. Like other deserts, the Gobi Desert is arid, and therefore the biggest challenge facing those who choose to traverse it is to obtain enough water for themselves as well as for their camels.

Trade on the Silk Road.

One of the consequences of the need for water in the Gobi Desert is the foundation of rest stops / caravanserais along the route taken by the travelers. These stops allowed travelers to rest, to have food and drink, and to prepare themselves for the next portion of their journey. These places also facilitated the exchange of goods, and even ideas, amongst the travelers who stopped there. Ideally, these caravanserais were placed within a day’s journey of each other. In this way, travelers could avoid spending too much time in the desert, which would make them targets for bandits, another danger of the Silk Road.

Sogdian painting showing Sogdian merchants during the medieval period.

Sogdian painting showing Sogdian merchants during the medieval period. ( Public Domain )

Once the Gobi Desert is navigated, travelers would continue their journey into Iran, Turkey, and finally Europe. Whilst this part of the journey may be less dangerous than the Gobi Desert, it is not entirely without its perils. The political situation in each of these areas is vital in determining the success of the trade endeavors. As an example, when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in AD 1453, they decided to stop trading with the West, which resulted in a drastic decline in the use of the Silk Road. Conversely, when the Mongols established their empire, which included China and Central Asia, where the Silk Road passed through, political stability was brought to these regions, which allowed trade along the Silk Road to flourish.

Samarkand, by Richard-Karl Karlovitch Zommer. This was an ancient city on the Silk road positioned between China and the Mediterranean, in modern day Uzbekistan. (Public Domain)

Samarkand, by Richard-Karl Karlovitch Zommer. This was an ancient city on the Silk road positioned between China and the Mediterranean, in modern day Uzbekistan. ( Public Domain )

Silk by Sea

Finally, it may be remarked that there was also a maritime Silk Road, which connected China to the West via Southeast Asia, the India, and the Arabian Peninsula. Like the merchants of the overland Silk Road, those who traveled along this route were also at the mercy of the forces of nature, especially storms that were highly unpredictable. Moreover, pirates who plied the oceans were also a threat to travelers, just as the desert bandits were for their overland counterparts.

Top image: A 14 th century depiction of a camel caravan on the Silk Road. Source: Public Domain




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