Here are some things to think about as you embark on this adventure:
1 – REGISTER! Fill out the UTC entry form & pay the entry fee HERE; then sign up for the Your World No Rules newsletter to receive updates and exclusive opportunities, meet your fellow participants, learn more about all our challenges… and more!
2 – START PLANNING your route. We provide a great jump-start with various resources to get you on your way. First question: Will you start in Saigon or Lisbon? Then map your 30-day-via-train adventure possibilities on your route to the opposite city.
3 – THE KEYS THAT HAVE TO BE DONE:
Passports: Make sure yours is current and the expiration date is not before September 15, 2013. Some countries may deny you entry if you do not have 3 months’ prior to expiration from the last day of your departure ticket or plans. Also make sure you have enough blank pages for visa stamps you will need for all countries you are traversing. Failing to do so may implement lengthy waits, fees and red tape – who needs that in a race to the finish?
Visas: Start applying immediately for the appropriate tourist visas for each of the countries involved in your travels. Make sure you hit them all – even if you won’t be stopping over or staying in them. Just travelling through requires the proper advance-work.
While we have provided the major visa requirements for most of the countries that could be involved in your route on this website (link to our visa page), there are also paid visa services that can aggregate the paperwork on your behalf. Do your research.
No matter how you choose to complete – make sure to give yourself 4 -8 weeks ADVANCE time as some countries (ahem, Russia) can take a long time to process paperwork.
Vaccinations: Sometimes vaccinations require an incubation window to take hold in the body prior to arrival; or require a series of shots that must be completed in multiple scheduled appointments prior to initial travel. Don’t let that be the only thing between you and your Adventure.
The US Center for Disease Control is specifically geared towards US citizens’ mandates, but provides a helpful link to all countries’ vaccination requirements. During the UTC, special attention may be needed if you plan extended itineraries in Vietnam or China.
4 – LODGING & ACCOMMODATION. So you’ve registered, paid, planned your route, verified your passport & vaccinations, applied for your visas – now what? Naturally, all the places you will stay during your journey? Read below for tips to help you search for accommodation with sites such as Expedia
For those who are a bit planning-challenged, here are some basic guidelines.
*Veteran travelers can skip this part. Look for the “Pick Up Here” cue below.*
Our suggestion is to be methodical: make a list. Put your UTC starting point at the top (Saigon or Lisbon), and your final destination city at the bottom (the other). Fill in all of the countries on your route in the order you will be traveling through them.
Next to each country, list the major cities along the route you’ve selected where you definitely plan to make a stop: a site, restaurant, natural wonder or something you always wanted to see or do.
✚ Put a symbol next to the cities of interest.
✘ Add an X next to those IN cities with train stations,
and a [BOX] around those cities that require separate transportation or day trips to get to/from.
If you have more than 8, prioritize them/ rank in order of preferred importance. . “HAVE A PLAN B” …You may need to cut the lower-priority options later depending on logistics or unplanned events.
✔ Now go back – fill in transportation times between stops with train stations & day trips – (the length of each ‘leg’ of your journey.) Toggle train sites and route schedules to fill in actual arrival & departure options for legs between cities of interest. Knowing all options you have available from key stations will help you streamline transfers, layovers, unscheduled delays, or spur-of-the-moment plans.
S – For particularly looonng stretches of rail, save a night’s lodging costs and book a sleeper car instead! Put an ‘S’ next to all legs that offer sleeper cars between desired stops. (These require supplemental fees and advance reservations, so plan accordingly.)
*If you only have the Month or set dates to travel*: Put the desired lengths of time you hope to spend in each Lisbon and Saigon, first. (Don’t forget to allow a day each for your flights to and from home!) Subtract that number from the total. The remainder is what you are left to organize train travel time and stops along the way.
*If your travel window is longer than the UTC event*: Lucky you! Save exploration of Lisbon and Saigon for outside the competition timeline (pre-Day One and post-Day Thirty.) Use UTC days to rack up valuable train miles en route instead! Plan to leave the train station of your departure city on Day One. Make the other city Day 30 – and plan to arrive that day or shortly before.
Now you just have to organize all of your stops and legs, racking up as much unduplicated rail mileage in-between! Just don’t forget to get out and experience the world on your way… The goal is not for UTC participants to become experts on train interiors and stations of the world, (though if that is YOUR goal – no judgment here!)
Once you determined a realistic route timeline of cities to visit, book your lodging/ accommodations in each. Makes no difference whether you prefer rooms, hostels, B&Bs, hotels, Zimmer Frei & Privatzimmer [Germany], CH [France], rural settings (Italy’s agriturismo, for example) or the unconventional (AirBnB, Couchsurfing, GoWithOh Rentals or Wimdu). Always ask if they guarantee late arrivals with reservations. And remember that our sponsor HostelWorld, has affordable properties all along the route.
Want to wing it? OK, but save the last-minute plans for bigger cities with more options…
…and check tourism sections on websites and in guidebooks to make sure you don’t land smack in the middle of an annual festival or industry convention when rooms are at a premium.
Once in town, if you have a companion, one of you can watch bags and sip a coffee while the other visits a few nearby spots to compare prices and rooms. Rarely does the first stop net the best value.
*VETERAN TRAVELERS: Pick Back Up Here…*
5 – TRAVEL INSURANCE. Yup – it’s worth it. At least minimum coverage for loss of cash/ belongings/ cancellations. For some trains, it will insure that you can get on the next train of a missed or cancelled reservation. You can choose coverage by trip, or by annual policy, depending on the carrier. If you travel more than 2X a year, an annual policy is worth the extra cost.
YWNR does not endorse/ receive commission or special consideration from these vendors, but they are popular (for US travelers):
We have provided a number of train resources by country in the next section, and of course, links to our good friends at Eurail. It is wise to plan and purchase most of your train passes in advance from your home country.
While en route, you will most likely encounter situations where you need to “activate” your passes. Most rail lines will also require minimal surcharges & advance reservations for certain trains (especially sleeper cars) and other unexpected nuances – just go with the flow. That’s part of the ‘adventure’.
Some tasks can be saved for ‘along-the-way’, such as making same-day seat reservations on popular trains at the actual stations themselves. Just use the electronic kiosks prior to departure (France and Italy in particular will require the earliest booking you can manage. Certain types of seats may be limited even for Eurail global pass holders.) You really don’t want to risk big-picture plans and get stranded for days in a city or country that wasn’t on your intended itinerary.
7 – Finally, for VALUE-ADDED INFORMATION, we just can’t get enough MARK SMITH – – we know you will agree!
Who is Mark Smith? Why he’s the Man in Seat 61!
His website is jam-packed with train information, train resources, train know-how,and tips to plan/ schedule/navigate any train-centric travel across the continents. YWNR has not been paid to endorse him, nor do we receive any kickbacks or incentives on any bookings or sales of merchandise tied to his content… We just think he has an amazing breadth of experience and information that would enlighten even the most novice of train travelers.
NO proper adventurer would skip his valuable insight before embarking on their own rail quest!
Get ready to hit the rails…