Country-Hopping by Train: 6 Epic Rail Journeys to Add to Your Bucket List

Explore Several Countries by Train: 6 Epic Rail Journeys to Cross Off Your Bucket List! 

Hop aboard these scenic trains that will take you around the world!

Why do people love travelling by train? For some, it’s a matter of getting from one place to the next. For others, taking the train feels like the best way to go country-hopping on a tight budget. But more than arriving at a destination, it’s the experience of seeing different landscapes and cultures blend into each other that makes it worth our while. 

As many travellers continue to dream about land journeys for a post-pandemic era of travel, we take a look at some of the legendary train routes that cover multiple countries around the globe. Below, we’ve grouped together key destinations and scenic routes for your country-hopping adventures in the future. 

From a steam train in North America to the longest train ride in history, these trains will bring the best of different worlds to you. 

1. White Pass & Yukon Railway (United States ↔ Canada)

It’s not every day that you get to ride a train powered by a steam engine. Rarer still is the opportunity to travel on a railroad across North America. Yet the White Pass & Yukon Railroad lets you go country-hopping on a train journey that starts at Skagway, Alaska and ends at Whitehorse, Yukon

Originally built during the Klondike Gold Rush, this iconic railroad with 19th-century design cuts through valleys, trestles, waterfalls, gorges, and steep cliffs. The train ascends nearly 3,000 feet to the White Pass Summit, then snakes its way down the path towards Yukon. 

Besides the rugged terrain, you can also see Bennett Lake and Emerald Lake. For sure, the White Pass & Yukon Railroad is a great way to experience the wild wonders of the United States and Northwest Canada from the comfort of the train seats! 

2. Eastern & Oriental Express (Singapore ↔ Malaysia ↔ Thailand)

Country-Hopping by Train: Eastern & Oriental Express

Image credit: Simon Pielow

Planning to conquer Southeast Asia by train? Sets off on a spectacular train journey with the Eastern & Oriental Express, which glides past tropical jungles and ancient temples across Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Head to the observation lounge at the rear end of the train to witness the changing landscapes along the way. 

The Eastern & Oriental Express takes two days to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, while trips between Singapore and Bangkok can last three to four days. Some highlights include a cruise along the River Kwai; the historic sights of Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai, and Penang; a glamping experience at the rural village of Janda Baik; and even a guided tour of Kuala Kangsar, the royal town of Perak

Image credit: Simon Pielow

Passengers can stay in private sleeper cabins and enjoy world-class amenities inside this luxury train. For a total breakdown of costs, refer to our comprehensive guide below: 

Also read: The Ultimate Eastern & Oriental Express Guide

3. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (France ↔ Italy ↔ England)

Country-Hopping by Train: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Image credit: Jay Cross

If you plan on going soul-searching one day, you might as well do it with a train ticket through Europe. Better yet, catch the iconic train from Agatha Christie’s popular mystery novel — or rather, what remains of it today! 

Although it ushered a golden age for train journeys across Europe, the Orient Express took its last journey in 1977, until it was finally phased out in 2009. Taking its place is Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a worthy substitute for the legendary train service. In this latest incarnation of the Orient Express, you’ll find the same vintage designs of the original trains from the 1920s and 1930s. 

Image credit: Adrian Scottow

Additionally, there are now more routes to choose from. Two of the most popular train journeys begin in London, England or Paris, France and go all the way to Venice, Italy. Of course, you can always create your own country-hopping itinerary when the train stops at famous cities, such as Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Istanbul, and Verona

4. Riviera Railway (France ↔ Italy)

Country-Hopping by Train: Riviera Railway

Image credit: Phil Richards

From the French capital of cinema to the sun-drenched waters of Liguria, the Riviera Railway combines the best coastal experiences from France and Italy. 

Popular stops in this train journey include the gems of the Côte d’Azur. As the train pulls into Nice and Monaco, you can get down for lovely walks around the carefree Promenade des Anglais. Or, indulge in celebrity-spotting at one of the casinos in Monte Carlo, where Europe’s wealthiest gather with their sports cars parked outside.

Image credit: Albert Koch

No plans on slipping out of the train for the French Riviera? Sit back and relax as the train departs from the station in Cannes and delivers you to Ventimiglia, a town known for its open-air markets and picturesque beaches on the Italian Riviera.

5. Bernina Express (Italy ↔ Switzerland)

Starting the journey from Chur, the oldest city in Switzerland, the Bernina Express crosses through 196 bridges and 55 tunnels to reach the summery palm trees of Tirano in Northern Italy. Don’t worry too much about where to sit on the train; you can glimpse the full beauty of the Swiss Alps from either side of the panoramic glass windows. 

Thanks to the strengths of Swiss railway engineering, you won’t feel any abrupt movements on the Bernina Express — not even as the train climbs across impressive glaciers and valleys. The train winds its way to the Engadine region, where we recommend stopping for a night or two to explore St. Moritz, a mountain resort town known for calming spa waters and winter sports. 

Image credit: Andreas Stutz

Not so keen on skiing down the icy slopes? Take the train from Tirano to Varenna, one of the romantic Italian towns surrounding Lake Como. There, a warmer Mediterranean climate awaits!

6. Trans-Siberian Railway (Russia ↔ Mongolia ↔ China)

Country-Hopping by Train: Trans-Siberian Railway

Image credit: Boccaccio1

Solo travellers with a taste for adventure will find the perfect match with the Trans-Siberian Railway, which connects the stations of Moscow and Vladivostok, and chugs its way through the dramatic landscapes of Russia, Mongolia, and China. It holds the title of one of the longest train journeys in the world, as it covers over 6,000 miles and requires at least one week to complete. 

One of the most sought-after routes in this journey is the Trans-Mongolian Railway, which runs from Beijing and ends in Moscow. 

You can soak up the dunes of the Gobi Desert; or enjoy the countryside of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, where you can ride on horseback through the steppes of Mongolia! Alternatively, you can also stop for sightseeing at Russia’s Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. 

Image credit: Clay Gilliland

No matter which scenic route you choose in this epic railway, you’ll be signing up for the trip of a lifetime! For insider advice on how to master this country-hopping journey by train, check out these practical tips and maps of the routes

Also read: Portugal to Vietnam by Train: An Easy Guide to The World’s Longest Land Journey 

Oh, the places you’ll go with a rail pass and a little courage! For solo travellers who want to craft their own country-hopping itineraries, train travel offers freedom and flexibility. As the world attempts to get back on track, we’ll be rooting for these train journeys to spring back safely from the pandemic. 


Featured image credit: Kyle Taylor | Flickr

About Author

Tiffany Conde
Tiffany Conde

Tiffany is a writer based in Manila. When she was younger, she knew she wanted to write stories or go on adventures—now, she's learning to do both. She enjoys being swept up in books that spark her curiosity for new places, both real and imaginary.

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