The Ultimate Train Challenge: Lisbon to Saigon

If you’re looking for something pretty badass to do this coming May, it doesn’t get any better than the Ultimate Train Challenge. I’m talking about a journey of epic proportions that covers 25,000 kilometers overland across two continents.


What’s the deal?

Get yourself from Lisbon to Saigon (or vice versa) in 31 days or less. You can choose any route you want, explore as many cities as you wish, but you must do it ALL BY RAIL.

Who came up with this?

The idea was conceived back in 2010 by Michael Hodson from Go, See, Write while he was travelling through South America. Having recently finished a sixteen-month travel challenge to circle the globe without flying, he began to wonder, “What is the world record for the longest continuous train journey?”

In the fall of 2011, he set out to answer that question by travelling from the edge of Europe to the edge of Asia – the furthest you can go entirely by rail – along with two of his friends.

Now he is giving you a chance to do the same while raising money for charity.

How much does it cost?

The sign-up fee to take part in the race is $295 US (approx. £183 / €223) if you register by February 15th, and $395 US (approx. £245 / €298) if you register from February 16th to April 30th.

What do you get for your entry fee?

The benefits are detailed more in full here. In short, you can blog your trip on their website to keep family and friends up to date with your journey; they have a live-mapping feature on the site, so you can keep up with everyone in real time; Intrepid Travel is offering two fabulous 15-day tours to the first ones to cross the finish line in each direction; they are going to throw an awesome pre-launch party where you can meet everyone in both locations; Eurail is offering up at least four of their Global Passes that they will be raffling off and giving away as prizes; HostelWorld is offering two free nights’ stay in each city beforehand and…more.

In order to keep up with the latest developments on new sponsors, prizes and other news, you can sign up for their free newsletter via this link also. As an extra bonus, they will be doing a drawing from all the newsletter subscribers in February and will be giving away a new Samsung Galaxy SIII to one lucky subscriber.

But the primary benefit is just you taking a chance to have the adventure of a lifetime, along with a couple dozen other fellow adventurists!

Doing this for Charity

In addition to doing the challenge for yourself and possibly for some of the great prizes that are being offered by the sponsors, the Ultimate Train Challenge has partnered up with Blue Dragon’s Children Foundation in Vietnam.

They are asking each person to try to raise $500 for that charity. Intrepid Travel has agreed to match each contribution dollar for dollar, up to a $10,000 total. So, in addition to having an adventure of a lifetime, the entire group of participants is going to help make a small, but positive change in the world.

Any help on the planning?

First things first that everyone needs to understand – this is not a tour. You have to make your own plans, get your own visas, and make sure that you know what you are doing on the ground. The challenge of it all is that it is you versus the rails – all on your own.

That being said, the team at UTC have put together some resource pages here for you to start making your plans. You can also feel free to email them with any questions that you have about anything at:

If you decide to take the challenge, you can use the following code to get $30 off your entry fee. You just need to enter it on “Referral” line:

Discount code: AB13UTC

enter UTC12

This is doable, with friends or on your own. And if I didn’t already have plans of skipping around Asia, I’d be all over this!

Live your life with no regrets.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge