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Old March 26th, 2009, 06:59 AM   #1
tvdxer
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Driving a car from Europe to China / SE Asia

Is it possible to drive, completely overland, from France / Germany / Netherlands / etc. all the way to China, or even better, to Vietnam or Thailand or even Singapore?

It seems like it should be possible, by driving through Germany, Poland, Belarus and/or the Baltics into Russia, and taking Russian highways M-7 and M-5 to Samara, M-32 et al. through Kazakhstan, crossing over at Chorgos, and then the Chinese highway system into Vietnam.

I have the National Geographic archives on CD, and I found an article back from the 1920's about some guy who drove from England to Afghanistan - and I've read people's England to India travelogues on the internet. But what about going beyond South Asia to East or Southeast Asia?
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Old March 26th, 2009, 07:32 AM   #2
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Hey tvdxer, once upon a time i had been fantasizing bout such a trip. I've done some research, and basically these are the results:

It is possible. But the constraints are enormous.

U need to get all the right visas, that sometimes require u to have the exact arrival/departure dates. This impairs ur flexibility, and can cause some mess if ur car breaks down.

You have HUGE distance to go. Add fatigue, growing every day. Some parts of Russia, Kazakhstan and China (if you decide to go more southern way), with plenty dust and sand aren't too friendly to your car either.

A breakdown in the middle of nowhere is very hazardous. Imagine being stuck on some large forest or plain area, without mobile coverage, without water and food, without any guarantee anyone will be driving past anytime soon.

Road quality is another mare of such a trip. SOME good roads continue through Poland (where I come from, so consider my advice realistic), tho out of few expressways they will herald what's coming up next - muddy, steep shoulders, potholes size of a crater, frequently filled with lorries driving totally recklessly.

This should continue through rest of East Europe and at least very most of Russia. China has plenty of new, modern roads spanning the entire country, Vietnam and especially Cambodia leave lots room to wish. Thailand has few expressways but remaining roads are plentiful and in very good condition and leaves no troubles getting to Malaysia. You can scale Malaysia in one day, with North South Expressway. Singapore is 41kms long and 20kms wide, so its 30 mins drive out of peak hours.

Another problem is safety. Your car may get stolen in few countries. You might get robbed and even injured or killed. Remember, you're driving through places where you seem outstandingly rich - and your car, camera, etc can be a seductive target. However, I believe that if u put extra caution and alertness you will be fine.

Driving habits are nowhere like in Western Europe. In Eastern Europe and Russia drivers (especially lorries) care no life. Even in China, with all the expressways, heard they don't signal while changing lanes and are generally unaware of you coming from behind. Surprisingly, you will find Thai drivers very careful and gentle (spend there 1 year). Malaysia and Singapore are quite ok, but also look for drivers who can't see you. Consider that driving a car with steering wheel on left with a left traffic, you can't see much when overtaking.

Don't expect anyone to speak English all the way to major Thai cities (unless you want to go via HK), so easiest problems can grow into terrifying troubles.

But, if you cope with all of the above, you will make it. I remember some time back, if Im not mistaken, there was this Dutch father and son, who drove all the way to Singapore from Netherlands. They were all over the radio for entire day.

And adventure would be totally worth to risk..
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Old March 26th, 2009, 09:05 AM   #3
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I know someone who sometimes travels by car from the Netherlands to Mongolia (she is from Mongolia). And yes, it takes a lot of days (and patience at the borders) to drive to Mongolia.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 02:58 PM   #4
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I agree with Simon. It's possible, BUT.... there are a million things to consider and it's probably not going to be cheap.

You might find this website interesting:
http://www.overlandtooz.com
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Old March 26th, 2009, 05:45 PM   #5
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There are many people (in absolute numbers, not %) who have done it. I think it would be safer through the Middle East than ex-USSR. And you don't have to go through Vietnam and Cambodia, just go through Laos.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 06:48 PM   #6
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Easiest would be via Russia, Kazahstan and China I guess. I've read SE Iran (Baluchistan) is extremely unsafe because of bandits and you have to drive in convoy.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 07:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Verso View Post
I think it would be safer through the Middle East than ex-USSR.
Really, how come? I know someone who traveled to Russia, Kazakhstan, and some other ex-ussr "-stans" a couple of years ago. He told me personal safety was not that big an issue and they never felt uneasy.
However, if you take the Russian route, it's a very good idea to learn the language or have someone in the group who can speak it.

On the southern route, what I'd be most worried about safety-wise is eastern Iran and western Pakistan. Does anyone have up-to-date information from that region?

Since this is a very international forum, I'd be very interested to hear what the natives of those countries think. Perception in the West can often be skewed.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 07:09 PM   #8
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I would recommend going with a group with several cars, that’s probably a lot safer. And Simon has some good points that you should think about before doing a trip of this scale, it’s not like driving for the East to the West coast in the U.S. or Canada.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 07:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowman159 View Post
Really, how come?
Yeah, maybe the Middle Eastern route is more dangerous due to eastern Iran and western Pakistan. Too bad.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 07:35 PM   #10
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How safe would eastern Turkey be? Or doesn't extend the Kurdistan area as far north as Erzurum?
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Old March 26th, 2009, 08:30 PM   #11
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I'm not afraid of (eastern) Turkey.
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Old March 26th, 2009, 09:17 PM   #12
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I suppose it can vary from person to person.

For example I'm reluctang to going east of EU by car(but for Croatia), others will go there just as you go for the newspaper over the corner.
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Old March 27th, 2009, 06:36 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Verso View Post
Yeah, maybe the Middle Eastern route is more dangerous due to eastern Iran and western Pakistan. Too bad.
The southern route, via Turkey and India, has an enormous limitation. Its called Myanmar...

As far as I kno, its impossible to drive through it, and India is not providing a ferry between Andaman Iles (if they even have ferries connecting mainland to them) and Thailand. So theoretically, Bangladesh is the furthest point to reach that way.

Daniel541 has a good idea with an expedition. having 5 4x4 cars and 10-20 people is good in case of emergency, even when all u need is pulling out of a bog. You can pick your team members so that you have Russian/Chinese/etc speakers present. And how OZs say, no road is long with the good company.
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Old March 27th, 2009, 06:41 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon91 View Post
The southern route, via Turkey and India, has an enormous limitation. Its called Myanmar...
That's why it's usually done via Nepal, China, and Laos - from what I've read on the web.
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Old March 27th, 2009, 06:45 AM   #15
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That's what I meant.
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Old March 27th, 2009, 04:08 PM   #16
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Nepal is an amplification of all the troubles possible. Especially road to China is in bad condition and very dangerous.

Don't understand me wrong - I'm not trying to scare anyone off. Well, i wanna make this route myself one day. Just saying what you need to consider to succeed.

So there IS possibility to drive through Laos?? Didnt know, can you tell more?
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Old March 27th, 2009, 05:10 PM   #17
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Of course, why not through Laos? As for Nepal, I didn't know the road to China (Tibet ) was so bad, but there's another option: directly from India to China (Tibet), through Sikkim. And actually you don't have to go through Laos, you can go through Myanmar (Burma); enter it from China and leave it for Thailand, I didn't think of this option. 'Only' the borders with India, Bangladesh and Laos are closed.

I wonder what "Timon91" thinks.
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Old March 27th, 2009, 10:28 PM   #18
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Old March 27th, 2009, 10:34 PM   #19
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this is the kind of car you need, this drove from china to moscow, russia
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Old March 27th, 2009, 10:42 PM   #20
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Guys, do you remember Paris-Beijing Race organized in 2006 by Mercedes Benz? 36 E-Class cars took part in it. The expedition lasted 28 days including 3 days break in Yekaterinburg (RUS), Almaty (KZK) and Lanzhou (China) and the travelers drove about 14 000 km. They passed 9 countries (France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan, China), 1 intercontinental border and 7 time zones. If somebody wants to go south after reaching Beijing it shouldn’t be a problem as the Chinese are extending their road network as we all know.

Here are some pictures from Paris-Beijing 2006 (few unfortunately):
http://www.auto-swiat.pl/wydania,E-m...,14504,16.html
http://www.autocentrum.pl/go/338__Po...189736283.html


I think travelling via Russia and Kazakhstan is much safer than via Turkey->Iran->Pakistan. The only serious risk in RUS and KZK might be police (militia) extorting bribes.

There is also another web page created by Polish group of friends who went to Lake Baikal in 2005:
http://www.lidan.com.pl/bajkal/pamietnik.htm (click on picture to enlarge)

Last edited by Polonus; March 27th, 2009 at 10:56 PM.
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