5 Epic Train Journeys Starting from Singapore: To Bangkok, Korea & Even Europe

5 Epic Train Journeys Starting from Singapore: To Bangkok, Korea & Even Europe

You don’t have to take a flight to reach Vietnam, Korea or even EUROPE. These viable overland journeys will give you a whole new dimension to what being adventurous really is.

This is probably the epitome of all first-world problems, but travelling by plane is getting too passé. If you have an appetite for offbeat adventures, try out overland travel for your next great (and slightly ambitious) one. From Singapore, you can get to many destinations, such as Penang, Bangkok and even Europe. Viable train routes are available for most of the journey, but sometimes you’ll have to take the occasional buses. 

1. Singapore to Penang

Let’s kick off this list with the easiest route. You’ve probably heard, or even tried taking a train from Singapore to Johor Bahru with the fuss-free KTM shuttle train which ferries its passengers across the border in just five minutes. Most people stop at Johor Bahru to shop and dine, but your journey is just beginning. 

Image credit: Goh PS

Image credit: Indonesian styled cuisine

Make your way to Penang, a beautiful province nested in the north-western coast of Malaysia. Penang is truly a feast for your senses, with the most authentic local food like assam laksa and teochew chendol, and alleys after alleys of street art. 

Singapore: Woodlands Train Checkpoint → Johor Bahru: JB Sentral – 5 minutes
Cost: $5
Train operator: KTM Shuttle
Departure timings: 08.00, 10.00, 13.30, 16.30, 18.00, 18.45, 20.00, 20.45, 22.00, 23.15

Johor Bahru: JB Sentral → Gemas: Gemas Railway Station – 4 hours
Cost: fr S$6.80
Train operator: KTM Shuttle
Departure timings: 08.45, 10.00, 19.00, 23.40

Gemas: Gemas Railway Station → Penang: Butterworth – 6 hours
Cost: S$26.90
Train operator: ETS
Departure timing: 15.00

Image credit: Clay Gilliland

2. Singapore to Bangkok

Ah, lovely, lovely Bangkok. One of our favourite getaway destinations. Because what’s not to love – quaint cafes, great party scene, night market buzz, cheap food, drinks, massages, friendly locals and don’t even get me started on the shopping.

Image credit: [email protected]

Image credit: kiek fabels

Flights to Bangkok are cheap, yes. It lands you in this vibrant city in just three hours, yes. But what’s the fun in being in a claustrophobic craft when you can opt for a more scenic and extraordinary journey which gets you to your destination just the same? We’re talking about Singapore to Bangkok by train.

Take the two days or so to travel overland from Singapore to Bangkok, through Malaysia. Your adventure starts off the same as the one above, but from Gemas Railway Station, head straight to the Malaysian side of the Malaysia-Thailand border at Padang Besar. Following that, hop on an overnight train which brings you across the border from Padang Besar to Bangkok.

Singapore: Woodlands Train Checkpoint → Johor Bahru: JB Sentral – 5 minutes
Cost: $5
Train operator: KTM Shuttle
Departure timings: 08.00, 10.00, 13.30, 16.30, 18.00, 18.45, 20.00, 20.45, 22.00, 23.15

Johor Bahru: JB Sentral → Gemas: Gemas Railway Station – 4 hours
Cost: fr S$6.80
Train operator: KTM Shuttle
Departure timings: 08.45, 10.00, 19.00, 23.40

Gemas: Gemas Railway Station → Padang Besar – 8 hours
Cost: S$33
Train operator: ETS
Departure timing: 0400, 16.00

Padang Besar → Bangkok – 16 hours
Cost: S$16
Train operator: SRT
Departure timing: 18.40

*Note: This Padang Besar to Bangkok train service is being terminated and will be replaced by Train 46 from the 2nd December 2016. Train 46 will depart Padang Besar at 17:00 and arrive in Bangkok at 10.10.

It is also possible to make stops at various destinations along the way, such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang or Hat Yai. This route will take you much longer than a flight, but the gratification you get out of it? Probably infinitely more. For greater elaboration about the journey from Singapore to Bangkok by train, check out this article.

3. Singapore to Hanoi (via Cambodia)

The third overland adventure you can to embark on is to a personal favourite Southeast Asian country of mine, Vietnam! Sit tight, because this list is only getting more exciting. A traveller from Singapore has actually made this trip in 19 days and shared his story with TripZilla here: Singapore to Hanoi by Train: An Extraordinary Journey in 19 Days

Mui Ne (Image credit: Eric Borda)

Nha Trang (Image credit: Nguyen Hung Vu)

To get to Vietnam from Singapore, start with the same route from Singapore to Bangkok, and subsequently to Ho Chi Minh City via Siem Reap (Cambodia). From Ho Chi Minh, you can take an overnight train all the way up north to Hanoi.

Or better yet, traverse through the whole length of this amazing country slowly, making stops at the cities in between. Go canyoning at Dalat’s waterfalls, slide down sand dunes in Mui Ne, dive into the clearest Nha Trang waters, and the list goes on…

Sa Pa (Image credit: Eustaquio Santimano)

Halong Bay (Image credit: guido da rozze)

Here’s a map for a clearer illustration:

Singapore: Woodlands Train Checkpoint → Johor Bahru: JB Sentral – 5 minutes
Cost: $5
Train operator: KTM Shuttle
Departure timings: 08.00, 10.00, 13.30, 16.30, 18.00, 18.45, 20.00, 20.45, 22.00, 23.15Johor Bahru: JB Sentral → Gemas: Gemas Railway Station – 4 hours
Cost: fr S$6.80
Train operator: KTM Shuttle
Departure timings: 08.45, 10.00, 19.00, 23.40Gemas: Gemas Railway Station → Padang Besar – 8 hours
Cost: S$33
Train operator: ETS
Departure timing: 0400, 16.00Padang Besar → Bangkok – 16 hours
Cost: S$16
Train operator: SRT
Departure timing: 18.40*Note: This Padang Besar to Bangkok train service is being terminated and will be replaced by Train 46 from the 2nd December 2016. Train 46 will depart Padang Besar at 17:00 and arrive in Bangkok at 10.10.Bangkok: Hualamphong → Aranyaprathet –  6 hours
Cost: S$1.90
Departure timings: 5.55, 13.05

Aranyaprathet Poipet – 40 minutes
This part gets a little tricky but hey, it’s all part your great big overland adventure! Aranyaprathet is a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride from the Cambodian border at Poipet, and there are plenty of tuk-tuk drivers waiting to drive you over for just S$4. After your tuk-tuk ride, walk under the ‘Welcome to Cambodia’ archway to the Poipet border. You’ll get your inter-country border clearance done here as well.

Poipet Siem Reap –  3 hours
From the border at Poipet, you can easily get to Siem Reap in three hours via a minivan, shared taxi or bus, all for less than S$20 each.

Siem Reap → Ho Chi Minh City –  6 hours
There currently isn’t any rail services connecting Cambodia and Vietnam, but there are many bus operators shuttling between them daily. The bus ride is 13 hours long and cost about S$34.

(If you’ve noticed, for this leg of the journey through Cambodia, there are no train connections. But don’t worry – your train adventures begin again in Vietnam)

Ho Chi Minh → Hanoi: Nuoc Ngam Station – 34 hours
Cost: fr S$71
Train numbers: SE2, SE4, SE6, SE8, TN2

4. Singapore to South (or North) Korea

This time, let’s take it out of Southeast Asia. If you’re still reading this and haven’t been scared away by the absurdity of these overland journeys yet, read on because the best is yet to be revealed.

Korea’s all the hype these days, and it’s actually possible to get from Singapore to Korea by (mostly) trains. The first half of this epic overland journey follows the same route as that of Singapore to Vietnam. From Hanoi, take a 35-hour train ride all the way to Beijing, or break up the journey at Nanning. North Korea can be reached overland from Beijing, but South Korea requires an additional ferry ride.

Image credit: Anton

Hanoi: Hanoi Gia Lam Station → Beijing – 35 hours
Cost: S$482
Departure timings: twice a week

*Note: The direct train ticket from Hanoi to Beijing is an expensive one. A cheaper alternative is to take a train from Hanoi to Nanning, followed by another from Nanning to Beijing.

End point: Incheon, South Korea

Beijing: Beijing South Railway Station → Qingdao – 5 hours
Cost: S$65

Qingdao: Qingdao Ferry Station → Incheon: Incheon Ferry Terminal – 15 hours
Cost: S$154
Departure timings: 16.00 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays

OR

End point: Pyongyang, North Korea

Beijing: Beijing South Railway Station → Pyongyang – 26 hours
Cost: S$178
Departure timings: 17.25 on Mondays and Thursdays

Image credit: Lubo Jurik

Read more about this journey here.

5. Singapore to Europe

And last (but definitely not the least) of all, reaaaaally push your limits this time for an overland trip from Singapore to EUROPE!!!! No, we are not being overly-ambitious – one of our editors here in TripZilla actually took a (long) break from work to complete this very journey. She came back and wrote about it here: Singapore to Europe by Land: It Took Me 7 Weeks and S$3000.

And she’s saying that if she can do it, you definitely can too.

In the middle of nowhere, Mongolia

Image credit: Jim Linwood

Lake Baikal, Russia

There are multiple routes you can take to Europe from Singapore, and the simplest (ha) would be through China and Russia via the Trans-Siberian Railway, also known as the longest rail journey in the world. This trip spans from Singapore Malaysia Thailand Laos Vietnam China Mongolia Russia. 

So no more excuses, making your way from Singapore to Europe via overland transportation is totally feasible! Google Maps is also telling us that it’s even possible to walk to Europe. It’ll take you over 100 days, but hey, that’s not entirely unreasonable… right?

After all these research, I must say I’m really psyched to try out one of these overland journeys soon. Outside of this list, there are also many other destinations you can and should conquer with overland travel. Africa, perhaps?

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