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

What is the best route to travel overland from Europe to Asia? Here’s 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.

Post originally published in December 2016, updated in January 2021

Planning a big overland trip requires preparation. And flexibility.

We often had to change our initial plans and routes when we were traveling and hitchhiking from Europe to (Central) Asia. 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
Or the occasional car problems while we were hitchhiking 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 and you want to take the time to explore the countries you’re passing through instead of rushing towards your destination.

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

It took us 3 years to hitchhike from Europe to Central Asia. We like to take our 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 costs for you. This way you’re helping me running this website and writing more informative and awesome guides like this. I only recommend products and services that I like and trust. Thank you! 

In this post you will read:

1. Traveling across 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.

Make sure to apply for a multi-entry Schengen visa when traveling around Europe!

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.

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

Meteora - Journal of Nomads

Meteora, Greece

1.2 Driving and cycling in Europe – travel routes

Resources for driving in Europe:

Resources for cycling in Europe:

  • EuroVelo: 15 long-distance cycling routes across the whole European continent
  • Tom’s Bike Trip: How to prepare yourself for a long bike trip

1.3 Travel in Europe by train

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

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

We took a ferry from Ireland to France and from the mainland of Greece to several Greek islands.

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

Traveling by ferry in Greece

2. Crossing the border between Europe and Asia 

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

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:

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

Here’s more detailed information on how to apply for a transit visa for 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:

2.2 Traveling from Europe to Turkey

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

1) How and where to apply for the tourist 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…)

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:

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

Read: 9 places worth visiting in Turkey

5) Taking the ferry from Ukraine or Bulgaria to Turkey or Georgia

There’s also the possibility of taking the ferry from Chornomorsk in Ukraine to Haydarpasa in Turkey or Batumi or Poti in Georgia.

Another ferry goes between the port of Varna in Bulgaria and the port of Batumi in Georgia.

You can find all the schedules and prices on this website.

Beach of Batumi in Georgia - Journal of Nomads

Batumi in Georgia

Here’s a great article on driving in Georgia.

3. Traveling from Europe to Central and Southeast Asia by land – travel routes

There are many different routes to travel overland from Europe to Southeast Asia, some easier and more accessible than others.

I’ll focus on 3 main routes. You can always mix and match the information to make your own journey towards Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

3.1 Route A: 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/Russia (- Georgia – Armenia) – Iran – Pakistan – India – Myanmar – Thailand

1) From Turkey to Iran

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’s visa policy) and are definitely worth a visit!

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

Tusheti, Georgia

Read: 15 Amazing Places to Visit in Georgia

If you travel across Georgia and Armenia, apply for the Iranian tourist visa in 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.

You could enter Iran via the Armenian border where the border controls are known to be less strict. Alex from Lost with Purpose wrote how she entered Iran independently as a UK citizen.

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

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

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 towards 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 

If you’ve finally managed to travel from Europe all the way to India (congrats, let me know if you’ve done it in the comments!!), you might want to continue your journey towards 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 whether or not it is possible to enter Myanmar from India. You’ll also need a special permit to travel overland in Myanmar.

On the forums of Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet you’ll find more information about this.

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Myanmar

Myanmar. Source:

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

Alright, next route:

3.2 Route B: From Europa to China across Central Asia by land

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

(Turkey/ Russia -) Georgia – Azerbaijan – Kazakhstan – (Uzbekistan – Tajikistan – Kyrgyzstan) – China – Vietnam

The route from Turkey/ Georgia to Kazakhstan is considerably easy.

1) From Georgia to 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!

If you want to travel by train, there’s a daily train leaving from Tbilisi (Georgia) to Baku (Azerbaijan)

* 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.

Read: Everything you need to know about traveling in Azerbaijan

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

Baku, Azerbaijan

Read also:

2) From Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan by boat

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

If you don’t want to take the ferry from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan, you can always enter Kazakhstan through Russia (either on a tourist visa or transit visa from Eastern Europe or Georgia).

There shouldn’t be any issues crossing the Russian – Kazakhstan borders. Read more about it here.

3) From Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan by boat

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. We 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.

We’re 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

As from the 1st of January 2017, Kazakhstan issues 30 days visa-free on arrival for citizens of these countries, including the EU and Canada (hooray!).

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

If you want to cross Kazakhstan by train, read our guide on How to travel by train in Kazakhstan.

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

Charyn Canyon in Kazakhstan. Check our Travel Guide to find out how to get to this stunning place!

Reading Tip: The 26 most beautiful places in Kazakhstan

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

5) Traveling overland in Uzbekistan

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 our Travel Guide to Uzbekistan

It’s very easy to travel across Uzbekistan by train

Definitely read my Uzbekistan Travel Itinerary on how to visit the best places in Uzbekistan in 7 or 10 days. 

Registan Square in Samarkand - Journal of Nomads

Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

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

6) Traveling overland in Kyrgyzstan

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

We have many guides and useful travel information about Kyrgyzstan on this blog.

Read 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

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

You’ll need a visa to enter Tajikistan. Unless you’re from one of these countries, you can easily apply for an e-visa for Tajikistan.

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.

If you have the time, don’t skip the Fann Mountains and the Pamir Highway!

Panoramic view over Iskanderkul Lake Tajikistan - Journal of Nomads

Iskanderkul lake in Tajikistan

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

8) How to travel overland from Central Asia to China

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.

We had a sparkle of hope that we could apply for the 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.

3.3 Route C: from Europe to Asia across Russia

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

Turkey – Georgia – Azerbaijan – Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan – Kazakhstan – Russia – Mongolia – Russia – South-Korea – Japan – China – Vietnam

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.

Read the itinerary I described above in Route B until Kazakhstan. 

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) in the embassy of Mongolia in Almaty or Nur Sultan. 

How to travel overland from Europe to Asia – everything you need to know about routes, borders and visas - Mongolia - Global Village

Mongolia. Source: The Global Village

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. 

For more travel info about South Korea, check out the website of our friends Hedgers Abroad as they’ve lived and traveled in this country for many years.

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 towards Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

If you’re going on a long journey like this, you should get good travel insurance! I recommend the Insurance for Nomads by SafetyWing!

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 it with us in the comments! 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

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46 thoughts on “How to Travel Overland from Europe to Asia by car, bike and train – The Best Travel Routes”

  1. Wow!! I never post comments but this article is hands down one of the best and most in depth things I have ever had the joy to read!!! Thank you so so much for putting in the time and effort to create this article!

  2. I want to ask that, what I need to aware to ensure my safety, since I heard that traveling through Central Asia is dangerous, which several people lost their lives there, and what equipment and clothings I should bring and wear when I want to cycle through Central Asia to Europe, starting in China? Also, I need to stop to eat when I get hungry and stay at a hotel when I got really dirty and want to find a place to rest for a while. These all need a large amount of money, so how can I bring them ? Can I use credit cards? Can I use the atm there? I am confused 😕 as a starter. Overall, thanks for your inspiring article.

    1. Hi Adrian, I’m curious to know where you’ve heard that Central Asia is dangerous? If you go trekking unprepared in the mountains by yourself, then I’d say, yes, that would be dangerous in any country in the world 🙂

      My tips: don’t cycle through Central Asia in winter. Ideally, you’re there between the end of May and end of September.
      Hostels and homestays in Central Asia are cheap, you can get a bed in a hostel for $5 -$6 a night, you can eat at local restaurants which are also very cheap.
      You can take out money at the ATM’s in the big cities in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. If you’d cycle through Uzbekistan, get cash out at Tashkent (the capital city). You can also exchange money at the banks in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan).

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you’d have more questions! Wishing you a great and safe journey ahead!

  3. Anne Bouwmeester


    Awesome blog, thankyou for this, really helpful and inspiring 🙂
    I am wanting to make the route 3.2, but then enter India or Nepal from China. do you know if this is possible?
    I am also wondering how much such a journey would cost, how much would route 3.2 cost approx.?
    Thankyou in advance,


    1. Hi Anne, thanks for reading our blog and I’m happy to hear it’s inspiring!
      I don’t think it’s possible to enter Nepal from China. It’s possible to go from China to India or from China to Pakistan as I know some people who’ve done it.
      The costs depend on the way you travel. Are you going to travel by public transport, with your own vehicle (car, bike, motorbike), are you camping or spending most nights at a hostel,…?
      Let’s say that you were to travel from Central Asia to China overland, and you travel by public transport and spend every night at a hostel, I’d count on an average of US$30 per day (food not included). I hope this helps!

  4. Muppet Dubliner

    Good post! I travelled from Dublin to Varanasi almost 10 years ago, all overland. Amazing trip, but not an easy one, especially because of Pakistan (I was there when Mr. Bin Laden got caught).
    Anyway, great article. I’m in SEA now and planning my return to Europe next year. I will try to drive all the way through the route I once did by train/bus.
    Take care!

    1. Oh wow, that journey must have been even more challenging than it is now. Nowadays it’s rather easy to get most of the visas but it must have been quite something 10 years ago 🙂 How was it to travel through Pakistan when Bin Laden got caught? How was the atmosphere?
      Good luck with your overland return to Europe! It will be interesting for you to make a similar journey all these years later!

  5. Just a quick heads-up on the paragraph “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.” -> there are a number of agencies handling visa applications for German citizens. I live in China (as a German) and get frequent visits from friends and family, and none of them live in Frankfurt (consulate location) or Berlin (embassy location), and none ever had an issue getting a visa. We are using a service called 1A Visum, but there are a number of others around.

    1. Hi, you can hitchhike all the way from Europe to Central Asia. You still can’t apply for a Chinese visa in Central Asia (you’ll have to do this in your home country). If you have a visa for China, you can hitchhike all the way to South-East Asia. If not, you’ll have to go through Russia and take a ferry to Korea or Japan or you’ll have to fly from Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan to Cambodia or so.

  6. Excelent article! very useful. Now I know that Im not th unique that want to travel and explore by hiking and cycle method through long distances. Thanks!

  7. Dear authers, wanderers,

    Great page to start planning for my trip over land to India for next year. I like the size you are thinking in, i mean, in this post you are planning half/whole continents instead of which place to visit whitin a coutry. Anyway… I am planning on the most direct route, which is also known as route A. Would like to do that one up untill India. So I like to start my trip in 8 to 10 months, and take about 7 to 8 months to reach the pakistani-Indian border, hitchhiking from the Netherlands. These numbers are still rather flexible though, is there any country or particilar part I should plan around, concerning the climate? For example.. hitchhiking around Iran in those and those months are way to hot, or visiting the mountains in Pakistan is unduable in those and those months. Any other advise on things I should plan or organize now and not in half a year.

    A Dutchie

    1. Hi Thijs, I’m happy to hear that this post is useful to you. You’re up for an amazing overland adventure!!
      You should definitely keep the seasons in mind, summer and winter are at the same time like in the Netherlands but it’s way hotter or colder in Iran or Pakistan 🙂
      It can get very hot in Iran so I think late summer, early autumn would be the perfect time to go there but keep in mind that, if you want to travel through the mountains in Pakistan, you should go there before or after winter otherwise certain roads won’t be accessible and it will too cold anyway to go there in winter.
      Remember that you need to apply for your Pakistani visa in the Netherlands and I don’t know how much time you have to enter Pakistan from the moment you have your visa. Crossing the Iran – Pakistan border and the Pakistan – India border is also another challenge so make sure you’re well-prepared for those (safety, visa,…)
      Enjoy the preparations of this trip and feel free to contact me if I can help you with something!

      1. Hi Cynthia,
        I am gratefull for your reply, it feels like a warm welcome. 🙂
        So… For now, I decided to aim for crossing Iran-Pakistan border in April. So I can check out the mountains in Pakistan in April/May.
        I know these borders are a challange on their own, that’s why I am already preparing now. I do have considerable amount of travel experience, so hopefully everything will be fine.
        Yeah… So considering the pakistani visa, i’m chatting with Alex from Lost with purpose to figure out my best strategy.

        All the best from Uni library in Bonn.

        1. Hi Thijs,

          I think that you’re choosing the right season for going to the mountains in Pakistan.
          Alex is the expert on traveling in Pakistan so I’m sure she’ll be able to give you loads of information about the visa and border crossings!
          Enjoy your preparations (they’re also part of the journey 🙂 ). And who knows, we might cross paths! That would be really cool!
          All the best from Morocco! 🙂

  8. Loved your article, it is helpfull! We will head in a year from now on an owerland trip with 2 small kids (1.5yo and 3.5yo than) so will follow a safer route that keeps the budget. Your route seams food but not all the part is possible with a vehicul. We will figure it out of we go part of the way on wheels and part of it witjout and what would we do with a vehicul.. Still lots to plan 🙂 Thanks for all the info!

    1. Hi Morana, what a great idea to make such an overland adventure with your children! The route from Europe over Georgia/Armenia/Iran or Azerbaijan to Central Asia is very safe and beautiful! If you have any questions or need help with planning your journey, don’t hesitate to contact us! Wishing you all the best!!

    2. David redondo garcia

      Hi Morana, I am planning to go from Spain to Thailand in a couple of years when our kids are bit more grown up. We would like to go with an Autocaravan. Please send me some info if you first try it. My email is

  9. Nice pictures. I like your blog. You share the information is very helpful. It is very supportive and useful post. I would like to visit the post once more its valuable content. Thanks!

  10. Nice read but there is some information which is not correct, I hitchhiked all over Uzbekistan and it is allowed. The police/army/guards at roadblocks will even stop cars for you to help you getting a ride 😉 I really loved Uzbekistan and the people there.
    Also Croatia and Cyprus are EU countries, but indeed not in the schengen zone.
    Maybe also good to know for people is that if you want to hitchhike in Tajikistan on the Pamir highway (Which I highly suggest) you will need an extra permit which costs extra money. You can either apply in Dushanbe or online with the E-visa.

    1. Hi Paul!
      Thanks for pointing this out!
      There was indeed a misunderstanding and some confusion about Uzbekistan and I adjusted it in the article. I came across the info that one has to show tickets from the bus/train when exiting the country. But that is only for night transportation. With this new information about hitchhiking there, we are now considering of going there too 🙂 Thanks for the extra info about the Pamir Highway! Did you hitchhike all around Central Asia? What was your best experience?

  11. This is a super useful guide, well done! I’m so excited to see your stories and photos of the route you laid out. It goes through some fascinating regions!

    1. Thanks Alex! After puzzling our route together I thought I could help a lot of people who want to do a similar journey with this guide (including your super useful articles!!). We’re very curious and excited about the upcoming route!

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