It’s getting closer, friends! Exciting and terrifying, the Global Fantastic Adventure gets closer every day.
Warning: this post is long and a bit confusing as I consider different routes and expenses. I am mostly doing this to preserve links and thought processes as we try to figure things out.
We have been looking at logistics lately and, sadly, it looks like India may be out. Surprisingly, the infrastructure for getting from one peninsula- southeast Asia- to the one next door- India- is daunting. We were hoping for a ferry or interesting travel by land however it looks bleak. It looks like going to India would involve 2 extra flights – a serious consideration for our budget for the six of us. We have been planning after Asia to go West to eastern Europe by train. The trains appear to go through northern China, not from India. Getting on the Transiberian Railroad seems to require us getting back north to Beijing, possible by rail compared unlike going from Thailand to India since we are trying to avoid airfare x 6. Anyway, that is an overview, a little confusing and I apologize for that. Here is some more budget planning.
Budget prediction time! East Coast to Vancouver to China
We are planning about 20 days to Vancouver, with several days in San Francisco. Total planned budget: $2300 – a little over $100/day. This is a maximum, I hope to save on food and emergency numbers. Here’s the breakdown:
Driving to San Francisco is about 2800 mi/30 MPG x $4/gallon gas = $375 for gas
Food: $30-$40/day x 20 days = Max $800 (hopefully less!!)
Housing: maybe 15 of the 20 days will be camping. We prefer state parks, but may have to resort to private campgrounds in a pinch. Example of a state park in Iowa is Wildcat Den, near Davenport Iowa off rt. 80. It is $9/night for primitive camping with water but no showers. A private campground near rt 80 in Grand Island, Nebraska near is $32/night including showers and a pool and wifi. Let’s average that to $25/night for camping x 15 nights = $375. We should assume at least 1 hotel stay for $150, just in case. So, total = $525
Emergency: car repair, extra hotel stay, etc : I’d like to allot $500. Let’s face it, the car may break down entirely and then we are on the bus! But also: the car may make it and we can sell it, at least for scrap: $200?
After San Francisco, we have to get to Vancouver and I’d like to stay two nights there. San Fran to Seattle is 800 miles/30 MPG x $4/gal gas = $107 We will probably stay a night in Portland with friends or maybe camp along the beautiful way. Sell car in Seattle, get rid of all our camping gear :( greyhound to Vancouver is $75 for all 6 of us, but I believe we have to buy the tickets in advance or it is much more. The trip is 4 hours. I found this Vancouver airbnb place that sleeps six for $124/ night. Planning for 2 nights = $260
That ends the first 20 days.
Then we just have to get to the port sometime before 1pm so we don’t miss the boat! We are paying for this repositioning cruise in advance (it’s about $6500 incl. taxes + gratuities + insurance. It is a splurge at over $430 per day but we have mostly decided we want to do it. As a comparison, flying from NYC to Bangkok would be about $3000 + approx 14 days room+board, added since they are included in cruise price). 15 nights onboard including a day we lose due to crossing the international date line. We have to be careful not to spend money here for things not included in our cruise price such as: Wifi, alcohol, spa treatments, excursions, special restaurants. We get to explore Alaska (1 night) and Japan (3 nights) as the boat docks, one big reason for choosing the cruise. Then we are in Shanghai.
Shanghai and China
Big shock with China: the visas. Per the Chinese Embassy, it appears to cost $140 per person plus what sounds like an excruciating beaurocratic process in both NYC and Washington, DC. Minimum just for us to enter the country = $840. We will do this in the next few months.
In Shanghai, we would stay at an Airbnb or a regular hotel for a night or two to figure out our next move. This airbnb place would set us back about $450 for their 3-night minimum. Here is a youth hostel, it appears we would have a 3-night minimum for $260 total. This place, another airbnb, is $293 for 3 nights. Here is a budget hotel for Y359 (Chinese Yuan)/night, which is US $57.44. We may have to commit to a place to stay in the process to get a visa, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. From there we would spend time in Shanghai, we could go to see the terra cotta warriors as we have looked at, and eventually we would head down to SE Asia. If we could find a cheap, interesting place to stay in China, especially if we could learn some of the language, I’d stay a month or so, but I am more excited, at least for now, to get to SE Asia.
China to Bangkok
Yeah, ok we could fly, but where’s the fun in that? I want to see the area, travel with locals, and check out the train system. But just for comparison, I did a quick check and got:
Flight for 6 Shanghai to Bangkok: $1372
We may fly the opposite way after a few months in SE Asia as we head to Beijing for the 6-day Beijing-to-Moscow train. Then again, we may do the train/bus trip the opposite way to check out other things we may have missed. I love this flexibility and the option to avoid planes! We may try to do the whole trip without planes! It is partly the cost, but I feel we would miss out on local sights and opportunities if we always jetted from place to place.
So, for this Shanghai to Bangkok portion of the trip, here we go. I think there are child discounts that I am not seeing online, and even without those, it looks to be an affordable option. There are issues of connecting at different points, and it may not be the most comfortable option, but after the cruise we have to keep expenses down. If we are sleeping on a bus or train, that saves us lodging costs as well.
We plan to go to Bangkok to get vaccines as I have looked into. Train to Hong Kong:hard sleeper overnight is $62 pp, likely with discounts for kids. So less than $62x 6=$372 total. From there, we could fly to Bangkok or go overland. Flight looks to be about $180 per person ($1080 for us). Overland is 3 days, max $150 per person per Rome2rio ($900). The same site has a range, minimum for which, not including kid discounts, same trip, is $714
So: train to Hong Kong and fly to Bangkok for 6: $1452
train to Hong Kong and flight to Kuala Lumpur then train to Bangkok for 6: $1374
train to Hong Kong then trains/busses to Bangkok for 6: $1849 (incl visas)
Here is an option I have to look into. I am not sure of route… looks like train to Hanoi, bus to Vientiane, train to Bangkok. Train (as recommended by seat61) to Hanoi is 2 night sleeper trains with a day in Nanning in between. This is $68/person x 6 = $408, then Hanoi 24-hr trip by bus to Vientiane $30pp = $180, then train from there to Bangkok is $11 for 2nd class sleeper = $55 since the twins each pay 1/2 price.
Two considerations here: visas and itinerary. Right now, Vietnam requires a visa in advance which we would get in China if possible. It looks to cost $312 for 6 of us, I’m hoping for a child discount. Laos costs $35 per person payable at border x 6 = $210, again, hoping for a child discount! Thailand no charge for visas right now.
The price is looking steeper for this overland travel, but it includes some nights sleeping on train, also we would get to see these countries. I look at it as a tour of the countries and a slow travel way to see the area. We may even decide to stay awhile in Vietnam or Laos, though I have my eye on Cambodia for a place to live for a month/months. The visas seem to allow for 30 days, so we could stay a week or more in Laos and Vietnam if we want to. No visa fee in Thailand, BTW. But I plan to stay in Cambodia for access to Thailand, and I have assumed we will want to spend time there.
Thinking about flying part way: what about going by air from Shanghai to Singapore and using the highly recommended train from Singapore to Bangkok? It may actually be cheaper than overlanding, about $340pp x 6 for us = $2040, ugh. Kuala Lumpur, on the same train route, is also an option. $320 ($1920, still a lot) appears to get you from Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur. All of this is to say, we may boat to Shanghai, fly to Kuala Lumpur, then take a train to Bangkok before settling in Cambodia.
fly to Singapore, train to Bangkok: $2382
fly to KL, train to Bangkok: $2202
Train from KL to Bangkok: this appears fairly straightforward according to Mr. Seat 61. KL to Butterworth, apparently, is how the trip is done. This seems to be a 6-hour trip, however there is a time change so I believe it is longer. Anyway, $13 per person is the 2nd class (recommended) fare. Then Butterworth to Bangkok is the next leg, 20.5 hrs and only one fare option, $34 per person. That makes it $282 to get my family to Bangkok from KL. If we do not choose this option, we may make the trip anyway since it sounds great and I have a friend in Singapore.
In Bangkok, we would stay a few days and get vaccines. If we were to stay in Bangkok for a week, there are a few options. Here is an airbnb place for $209 a week.
It would be around late November if we were to spend a month in China and a month getting to Bangkok. Three months of the trip gone! But wonderful so far.
That ends this planning part for now, I’m working on a part 2 where we live in Cambodia for a month/months, then go to Beijing for the train to Moscow.