Travelling without flying

One of my coworkers, I’ll call her N, is from Thailand. She’ll be going “home” for vacation this spring. Another co-worker, let’s call her M, jokes that she can’t come this time, but next time N goes to Thailand, she’s tagging along… except she hates flying, so she’s taking the train.

So periodically we start shooting the bull and trying to figure out how to get from Norway to Thailand without flying. We conveniently ignore the fact that by the time you’d get there, your vacation would be over. We just try to figure out if it’s possible.

But my more general question is, assuming you don’t want to fly and you can’t drive (M doesn’t have a driver’s license either), where are the gaps you can’t cross by regularly scheduled transportation? To keep it simple, we’ll say trains, busses, ferries, and any other form of transportation where 1) you can buy a ticket and 2) there’s at least one regularly scheduled departure a month. Hitching a ride on a friend’s sailboat doesn’t count, nor would buying a ticket on a cruise ship that happens to be in transit from one port to another, nor finding out that there happens to be a cabin available on a cargo ship that happens to be going your way, or hitching a ride on a long-haul truck to get through an area with no bus service. If the QE2’s transatlantic cruises are on a regular, frequent schedule, though, that would count. And that would seem to be the only way to get across the Atlantic by these rules, though you can get from mainland Europe to Iceland by ferry!

I’m guessing no amount of island hopping is going to get you across the Pacific. Can you get from Asia to Australia without flying? Say you’re in Egypt or Morocco and you want to get to a destination in sub-Saharan Africa, any bus routes across the desert?

Why wouldn’t a freighter count if it has a cabin available? It’s regularly scheduled (they don’t make money by showing up randomly, they have to plan ahead) and the fact that it has a cabin available suggests that you can purchase transportation on it.

As for cruise ships, I’d assume they’re on a schedule too, since that’s the only way they’d get people to buy tickets for them, rather than “Well, go ahead and buy your ticket, once we have enough people, we’ll let you know when we’re leaving!”.

Well, you can get from Oslo, Norway to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by scheduled train service, then take a combination of short bus-and-train hops and you’re in Bangkok, Thailand.

What would really help would be to have copies of the Thomas Cook European and Overseas Rail Timetables. However, a quick search gets us the following trains:
[li]Oslo, Norway to Malmo, Sweden (7 hrs).[/li][li]Malmo to Berlin, Germany via the Oresund Bridge (8.5hrs).[/li][li]Berlin to Moscow, Russia (30 hrs).[/li][li]Moscow to Beijing, China (161.5 hrs) on the Trans-Siberian Railway. (Trains every other day, not daily).[/li][li]Beijing to Hanoi, Vietnam (40hrs) – China rail map here, Vietnam rail map here.[/li][li]Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (fka Saigon), Vietnam (35-40hrs).[/li][li]Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) by bus (7.5hrs). [“Saigon to Phnom Penh by bus” section half-way down page.][/li][li]Phnom Penh to Battambang, Cambodia by train (13.5hrs, only one per week!) or bus.[/li]Battambang to Bangkok, Thailand by bus+bus+bus+train .[/ul]Looks like about 2 weeks in all. No ferries needed.

Since this is Cafe Society, it seems only right to bring up Jules Verne and Michael Palin.

Addenda to post #3 above:
[li]The OP didn’t specify the starting city in Norway; I’d assumed Oslo, but co-worker M could be off-site and living as far north as Narvik (inside the Arctic Circle) or Bodø and still get to Vietnam by scheduled rail service![/li][li]Here is a good map showing London-Beijing by train; M would join the route in Berlin. Here is the Trans-Siberian (Moscow-Beijing) timetable. Note that there are two Moscow-Beijing trains per week (one via Ulan Bator in Mongolia, the other via Harbin in Manchuria). Since the Beijing-Hanoi express train also runs twice per week, M would be wise to plan her trip around the Beijing transfer if she wants to do the Norway-Thailand run in as few days as possible.[/li][li]As an alternative to the route via Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), M could take a [bus from Hanoi to Vientiane (Laos)]( to Vientiane), another bus across the border into Thailand, and a train from Nong Khai to Bangkok.[/li][li]The destination city in Thailand wasn’t specified; here is a map of train service in SE Asia. M could go all the way down to Singapore![/li][/ul]
As regards trans-Sahara travel, AFAIK you can’t do it on scheduled services, but here’s as close as you can get:
[li]One can take trains from Oslo to Algeciras in Andalucia (southern Spain), then the 2.5hr ferry to Tangier, (Morocco). [Alternatively, there’s a ferry from Sète in France to Tangier]. From Tangier, take the train south to Marrakech via Casablanca. [I’ve done Paris-Marrakech by train+ferry myself; needless to say, my traveling companions and I sang [Crosby, Stills and Nash]( for the last part of the trip]. Once one gets to Marrakech, however, there’s no scheduled trans-Sahara service. One can take [buses]( connections) to Agadir and Essaouira on the coast, but to cross the Sahara will involve taking a taxi brousse (shared Bush Taxi) which will leave when the driver wants to (usually when it’s full or overflowing), rather than on a set schedule. The bush taxi will take one as far as Bamako (Mali), whence one can take a train to Dakar (Senegal) or – apparently – scheduled buses south to Ghana and Togo.[/li][li]Southwards from Egypt: despite the grand plans of Cecil Rhodes, the Cape-Cairo railway was never brought to fruition. In Egypt, one can take trains from Alexandria through Cairo to Aswan, and from there there’s a Nile ferry to Sudan, with a train connection to Khartoum:[/li][QUOTE]
A weekly Nile steamer, run by Nile Valley River Transport, sails every Saturday from Aswan High Dam (El Sadd el Ali) to Wadi Halfa in Sudan, arriving on Monday…

A twice-monthly train connects with the Nile steamer, leaving Wadi Halfa at 02:00 every second Thursday (Wednesday night) arriving Atbara at 23:45 on Friday night and Khartoum at 17:00 on Saturday… The train is slow, old and basic, but should get you there give or take the odd breakdown… It’s not air-con, so bring plenty of water as it can get very hot as the train crosses the desert.

Feedback would be welcome, as information on both the ferry and Sudanese train is not consistent - they are indeed supposed to connect…!
South of Khartoum, AFAIK one is limited to Bush Taxi. However, Sudan’s not exactly a great place to travel through these days…