Portugal to Singapore by train is an intercontinental itinerary that runs from Lagos in Portugal to Singapore, crossing 13 countries by train.

Caution Note: Due to closures of many important passenger services as a result of the Russo-Ukrainian War, it is not possible to complete this route as of 2023.
(Information last updated 22 Feb 2023)

Understand edit

Thanks to the completion in 2021 of a section of railway in Laos, it is now possible to go from the Algarve, an area in the south of Portugal, to Singapore almost entirely by rail: covering around 18,755 km, this is the longest train trip possible in the world. The railway section that was missing in Laos was built by the Chinese government, which was not as interested in long journeys to the Algarve as they were in moving faster in the opposite direction, from Beijing to Bangkok and Singapore. Before, one had to get off the train at some point, take a bus for a long journey, and get back on another train. The tracks inaugurated in December 2021 now finally connect Boten, which abuts the Chinese border, with Vientiane, the capital of Laos, from which one then reaches Thailand and Malaysia easily.

One tiny gap in the network remains, since the trains from China and Thailand to Laos use different rail gauges and terminate at separate stations in Vientiane, some 15 km apart. The gap will close once the Bangkok–Nong Khai–Vientiane high-speed line is operational, possibly as soon as 2028 (don't hold your breath).

Prepare edit

The complete itinerary crosses 13 countries. This means that visa requirements should be thoroughly checked well before starting the journey. A unique Schengen visa is needed for the first five countries. The Russian, Chinese and Belarussian visas are the most complicated to obtain for most nationalities, so check each country article and its links for up-to-date info. The other countries' visas should be relatively painless to get, if not unnecessary, for most travellers.

Get in edit

There are regional trains to Lagos in southwest Garve from Tunes, a few stops before Faro on the CoimbraLisbonFaro line. You can get to Lisbon by sleeper trains from Hendaye in south-western France (with TGV trains from Paris) or daytime with two transfers from Madrid. All the mentioned cities have flights. The easiest way is to fly into either Faro or Lisbon.

Go edit

Map of Portugal to Singapore by train

The days below are obviously to be intended as a suggestion of days of travel; it would be unfeasible - and somewhat pointless - not to stop during such a long journey. Also, because of timetables and disruptions, it might be impossible to complete the journey in less than 20 or 21 days of travel.

Day 1: Lagos to Lisbon edit

If you are going all the way, then you will start from 1 Lagos. From here go to Tunes and then change for the Alfa Pendular – a high-speed train, which runs at least twice a day to and from 2 Lisbon, taking about 3 hours. The Inter City trains run more frequently but take a little longer, with more stops — 3½–4 hours. Even leaving very early, it is not possible to reach Madrid from the Algarve in one day. A stop in Lisbon is thus required.

Day 2: Lisbon to Madrid edit

To reach 3 Madrid from Lisbon, travel from Lisbon to Entroncamento by Portuguese InterCity train, leaving Lisbon Santa Apolonia 08:15, arriving in Entroncamento 09:23 (€6-13 for 2nd class). Then travel from Entroncamento to Badajoz in Spain by Portuguese regional train leaving Entroncamento at 10:12 & arriving in Badajoz at 14:16 (€12.30). Ultimately, reach Madrid by Spanish Intercity train (daily, except Saturdays), leaving Badajoz at 17:36 & arriving at Madrid Atocha at 22:04 (€34.10). Spend the night in the Spanish capital.

Day 3: Madrid to Barcelona edit

Get from Madrid Atocha to 4 Barcelona by AVE high-speed train using any departure you like. They run every hour or two, with a journey time of around 2h40. Except for the period from 2nd July to 1st October 2022 (possibly 2023 as well), it won't be possible to reach Paris on the same day as there are no afternoon TGV departures.

Day 4, 5, 6: Barcelona to Paris and then Moscow edit

  Note: All trains to Russia from the European Union and Ukraine are suspended due to the Russo-Ukrainian War. As of 2023, there is no alternative route by train.

It is possible to avoid Russia with a more southerly route; see Istanbul to New Delhi overland. However that will not reach Singapore.

(Information last updated 08 Jul 2023)

Get from Barcelona to 5 Paris by TGV, leaving Barcelona Sants 09:10 and arriving at Paris Gare de Lyon 15:46. To then get to Moscow there are more ways, depending on budget, timetables and political situation (as of September 2022 none of the options is available). The classic route would be the Paris-Moscow Express, which departs every Thursday (so plan accordingly) from Gare de l'Est at 18:58, and reaching 6 Moscow at 11:44 (or earlier, depending on Daylight Saving Time) on Saturday, with no need to get off the train. During its 3,483 km (or 2,164 miles) ride, the train stops in Berlin Hbf, Warszawa Wschodnia, Brest and Minsk, prices start at around €313. A cheaper alternative to reach 7 Warsaw and then Moscow might be to take a more frequent train to 8 Berlin via Mannheim and then change for Poland (starting at €67). From Warszawa Centralna an overnight service leaves at 19:15 every day and arrives at Moscow Belorussky at 16:58 the day after. This means an additional night somewhere, since ParisWarsaw is only feasible if one leaves very early in the morning. The European railway network allows for several itinerary chances. Check also visa requirements, especially for what concerns Russia and Belarus. More info about timetables and prices on www.rzd.ru[dead link] and www.deutschebahn.de.

Day 7-13: Trans-Mongolian from Moscow to Beijing edit

Depending on the day of arrival in Moscow, spend some days in the beautiful Russian capital, and then hop on the Trans-Mongolian weekly train on Tuesday. It travels, as suggested by its name, through Mongolia, which means more bureaucratic hassle but also a unique journey. It leaves at 23:55 from Moscow Yaroslavsky, to reach 9 Beijing on Monday at 14:35, after 6 nights and 7622 km. It may be worth it to stop during the way to visit places otherwise incredibly remote, such as 10 Krasnoyarsk, 11 Irkutsk and Lake Baikal or 12 Ulaanbaatar.

Day 14: Beijing to Kunming edit

From Beijing reach 13 Kunming South Station (昆明南站 Kunmingnanzhan) in half a day with a high-speed connection in the morning (10 hours, ¥1250 or 13 hours, ¥1147), unless you prefer a cheaper and much slower alternative (35 hours, ¥317). Spend the night.

Day 15: Kunming to Vientiane edit

In December 2021, a high-speed standard gauge railway was completed, which runs from Kunming to 14 Vientiane. Cross-border passenger trains began operating on the line in April 2023. The train departs from Kunming South Station at 08:08 and arrives in Vientiane 10.5 hours later at 18:38. The fare is RMB ¥542 for a second-class ticket or RMB ¥864 for a first-class ticket.

Day 16: Vientiane to Bangkok edit

To get into Thailand from Vientiane, one must reach the Thanaleng terminus, 20 km east of the city and 4 km north of the border. There is a daytime train at 7:00 (10 hours, around 600 baht with connection from central Vientiane included) but the best option is probably to take the shuttle train from Thanaleng to Nong Khai and then the sleeper train to reach 15 Bangkok Hualamphong the following day at 6:00 sharp. A new high speed line allowing a direct connection is under construction, but will not open before 2028 at the earliest.

Day 17-18: Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur edit

Going further south, to reach 16 Kuala Lumpur it will be necessary to ride on two trains. The first journey will be from Bangkok (departure 15:10) to Padang Besar (arrival 9:50), right on the border with Malaysia, RM112. From there, after the border formalities, it is possible to hop on the first available ETS train towards KL (6 hours, starting at RM80).

Day 19: Kuala Lumpur to Singapore edit

The last section of the journey is not quite hassle-free as the previous ones. To reach the final destination 17 Singapore, one has to take an ETS train from Kuala Lumpur Sentral at 12:14 to reach Gemas at 14:52 and there switch for a shuttle train at 15:20 heading to Johor Bahru Sentral, arriving at 19:45; total RM52. To cross from Johor Bahru into Singapore, and at this point, it would be a pity not to do so through a railway, take the shuttle from JB to Woodlands Train Checkpoint, it runs more or less hourly, journey duration is just 5 minutes across the causeway over the Johor Strait. After the customs formalities, catch a bus or taxi to Marsiling MRT station, where you can see a downtown train Singapore, and enjoy a well-deserved Sling at the Raffles (or a hearty meal in a hawker centre, if it suits you more) or go to the furthest station you can go to make it even longer, Changi Airport. To go to Changi Airport Station, take the North-South Line to City Hall, (where you can do the above as it is at downtown Singapore), then transfer to the East-West Line to Tanah Merah before hopping to the namesake branch to Changi Airport.

Stay safe edit

Go next edit

If you're still not tired of travelling, since you're there, you might want to check out the rest of Southeast Asia, which is relatively easy to do from Singapore. Indonesia has an extensive ferry network if you want to head further east without flying. On the other hand, if you completed the itinerary going the other way, you could visit the beautiful Azores, easy to reach from the mainland Portugal or take a low-cost flight to anywhere in Europe. Alternatively travel to Tarifa, Algeciras or Gibraltar, from where Africa is just a short ferry trip away.

See also edit

Similarly long train itineraries:

  • Trans-Siberian Railway — across Russia, from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific.
    • Moscow–Pyongyang is a bimonthly carriage attached to the Trans-Siberian mainline express. This is the longest passenger service in the world without changing trains. However, foreigners aren't usually allowed to enter North Korea through the Khasan border post, which this train crosses.
  • Moscow to Urumqi — from Eastern Europe into the heart of Asia.
  • Orient Express — across Europe from Paris to Istanbul, roughly following the route taken by the Orient Express (1883–1977) with a certain literary and cinematic fame. In good times, when the borders are open and the trains aren't cancelled, you can extend this journey to Bangladesh but with a caveat: the rugged territory around Lake Van in eastern Turkey lacks a rail link, so you will have to take the irregular ferries bringing freight trains across if you want to stick to the railway theme, but otherwise frequent minibuses are the most common option.
  • Across Canada by train — North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
  • Across Australia by train — some of the longest train journeys in the Southern Hemisphere.
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