The thing that you need to do is to get immediately organized are your visas. Do NOT wait to do this. It needs immediate planning to make things work for you. It isn’t too difficult to get organized, but putting it off increases your risks of not completing the challenge.

The major visas that you will need (assuming you are from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand or an EU country) are Russia, China and Vietnam. It is possible to skip over Mongolia, by taking the Trans-Manchurian train, instead of the Trans-Mongolian, but if you take the latter route, you might need a visa there. Depending on your route, you might also need a Ukraine visa.


Here is a list of various visa information sites and also service companies (YWNR is not affiliated with any of these, nor do we vouch for any of their services. Please do your own research).

One resource you may want to start with is a world-wide, comprehensive country-by-country list of travel requirements to enter (and how long you can stay).

enter UTC12

VISAs by Country: Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Russia, Intermediate Russian Border Countries, UK, Europe


US: Apply up to 6 mos prior: 90 days, $30 — link to information for US applicants

Australia: Information for Australians

UK: Information for U.K. residents



US: Citizens should apply for a multiple-entry visa. A multiple-entry visa is essential if you plan to re-enter China, especially if you plan to visit either Hong Kong or Macau.

The single entry Chinese visas give you 90 days to enter China (from the date the consulate issue the visa); having entered, you can then stay up to 30 days. The double entry visas give a period of 180 days from the date the consulate issue the visa during which time you may enter the country twice; as long as your second entry is before the “enter before” date on the visa, you can then stay in China for up to 30 days on that visit.


  • Today the Chinese consulates are issuing single entry visas that are valid for entry before: 27 February 2013.
  • and double entry visas that are valid for entry before (2 options):
  1. Six month multiple entry visas issued today will be valid for entry until 28 May 2013 and
  2. Twelve month multiple entry visas until 24 November 2013.

NOTE: Many regions, such as Tibet and other remote areas, require special permits for tourist travel. Using local travel agents is typically the easiest way to secure the appropriate permit. This shouldn’t pose a problem on the Train Challenge, as you don’t need to go through those areas to traverse China.

AU: Information for Australians

UK: Information for U.K. residents




AU: Information for Australians

UK: Information for U.K. residents



For most North Americans and Europeans, the biggest problem visa is going to be Russia. It needs to be a priority in your planning. Do not delay on getting this visa – there is no other way to get between Saigon and Lisbon by train, other than going via Russia!

 US: Russian Tourist visas can be applied for as far in advance as required. 30 days, $140

The Russian Embassy link for informational purposes

*Make sure you follow all of the rules, because Russia can be very, very picky. (It took Mike 3 attempts to get his last one). Here is the official Russian online visa application.)*

Also: The following is cut/ pasted from the Russian Consulate website above]:

“Application can be downloaded here:

To obtain a tourist visa the following documents should be submitted to the CONSULAR SECTION (CONSULATE):

1. A completed visa application form (one per person) available at the Consulate or visa services.

Visa Application for citizens of US, UK and Georgia

Visa Application for non-US citizens

Application Form Requirements

2. A valid passport which should have at least two clear visa pages.

3. One passport size photo of the applicant which should be stapled to the marked space of the application form.

4. A standard tourist confirmation from a hosting authorized Russian travel agency or a hotel, registered with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a voucher from your hotel or travel agency in Russia.

5. A cover letter from yourself, containing the following information:

* applicant’s name or alphabetical list of a group;

* dates and points of arrival and departure in and from Russia and means of transportation;

* itinerary in Russia;

8. A money order or cashier’s check payable to the Russian Embassy for visa processing. Please, note that we do not accept cash or any other checks. The visa processing fees are:

  • Single entry visas:

$140 for 4-20 business days processing;

$250 for 3 business days processing;

  • Double entry visas:

$140 for 4-20 business days processing;

$250 for 3 business days processing;

  • Multiple entry visas:

$150 for 4-20 business days processing;

$450 for 3 business days processing;

Visa processing fee is not refundable. Please note, drop off day is not counted as business day!”

Or use a service when you book your train travel, such as:

  1.  Trans-Mongolian travellers: 5 to 6 weeks before you depart
  2. Trans-Manchurian travellers: 4 to 5 weeks before you depart
  3. Trans-Siberian travellers: not later than 3 weeks before to avoid higher consular fees

AU: The Sydney consulate office for Australians

UK: Information for U.K. residents


US: From St Petersburg or Moscow as your final Russian train destination, you may pass through the following which have individual visa requirements:


May require individual visas, depending on train routes:

  •  Estonia: No visa required/ 90 day limit
  • Latvia No visa required/ 90 day limit
  • Lithuania: No visa required/ 90 day limit
  • Ukraine: No visa required/ 90 day limit
  • Belarus: 90 days, $140 – Link to the Belarus Embassy

To obtain a visa the following should be submitted to the Consular Section of the Embassy:

1. Passport

2. A valid original passport

3. Application form

The form must be filled out completely, no blank spaces must be left. If a question does not apply, please type “N/A”. If the answer is none, write “NONE”. Incomplete forms will be returned to the applicants UNPROCESSED.

The form should bear the original signature of applicant and must be well readable. Please, fill out in block letters.

4. Photo

5. Envelope

6. Payment

more on these requirements

enter UTC12

How to arrange a Belarus visa…

You’ll need a Belarus transit visa if you are travelling between London & Moscow on the direct London-Cologne-Berlin-Warsaw-Moscow route, as all the direct trains from Cologne, Berlin or Warsaw to Moscow or St Petersburg pass through Belarus.  However, getting a Belarus transit visa is relatively straightforward.  You’ll need a tourist visa if you plan to stop off in Belarus.

You will need to get your Russian visa before applying for the Belarus one, although you can apply for both together if you go through

Getting a Belarus transit visa in Moscow

If you’re travelling westbound and want to arrange a Belarus visa in Moscow, here’s how:

The Belarus embassy is at Maroseika 17⁄6, 101990, Moscow, a couple of blocks from Kitai Gorod or Lubyanka metro stations.  To get to the visa office, go through wrought iron gates on the left-hand side of the main embassy building and the visa office is on the left.

You’ll need photocopies of your passport, your Russian visa & your train ticket through Belarus, one passport photo, US$45 for same day visa issue or US$36 for next day visa issue (for British & EU citizens), payable in clean post-1995 US dollar bills, no change given.  The visa office is open 10:00-12:00 Mon, Tue, Thur & Fri (allow plenty of time) and you pick up your passport and transit visa between 16:00-16:30 on those days.

If you need dollars, you can change money into dollars at a nearby exchange office.  US passport holders are currently charged $177 for a same-day visa, because of charges imposed by the USA on Belarussians.  One traveller reports:  “You should plan to get there before 10.00 am. I was there at about 10.20 am and I was processed at 11.55 am. I paid 1,630 rubles for same day service. I returned at 4.00 pm to collect my processed transit visa, so from start to finish it takes almost as much time as you spend travelling through Belarus. In spite of the frustration of the obstacle course just to get on the train, the trip itself was most enjoyable”.

Visa regs & costs change from time to time, the above is current at the time of writing.  There’s also a Belarus consulate in St Petersburg.

(Always confirm requirements for individual countries that may be affected by your travel itinerary outside of your train operator’s jurisdiction at least 8 weeks prior to departure.)


Schengen Zone: No Visas required* for US citizens travelling to/through individual countries who are party to the Schengen agreement and staying no more than 90 days within a 180-day timeframe. This includes the following countries:

Austria  |  Belgium  |  Czech Republic  |  Denmark  |  Estonia  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |

Greece  |  Hungary  |  Iceland  |  Italy  |  Latvia  |  Liechtenstein  |  Lithuania  |  Luxembourg  |

Malta  |  Netherlands  |  Norway  |  Poland  |  Portugal  |  Slovak Republic  |  Slovenia  |  Spain  |

Sweden  |  Switzerland

*U.S. citizens may enter Schengen countries for up to 90 days COMBINED TOTAL within a six-month period (180 days) for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. For further details about travel within Schengen countries, please see

The US’ Department of State has a Schengen fact sheet and dedicated resources here:

(UK and AUS citizens should always confirm requirements for individual non-EU countries at least 8 weeks prior to departure.)


US: For up to 90 days’ accommodations within each 180 day period, no visa required

See also:

*IF YOUR TRAVELS INCLUDE ANY COUNTRIES NOT INCLUDED IN THE ABOVE, YOU MUST COMPLETE THE APPROPRIATE RESEARCH AND SECURE THE NECESSARY VISAS ACCORDINGLY.* Feel free to share your results with us and we’ll post them here for other Participants to enjoy the fruits of your labor!