RTW Big-Ticket Transportation

So Kristin and I spent some more time talking about the trip and decided that I needed to basically accomplish three things with regards to planning before I could really start delving into the details. First, I needed to work out the major transportation routes and costs. Second, I need to explore any packaged/guided trips we'll end up booking. Lastly, we need to figure out where we'll want to do some volunteer work and for how long. So, armed with my new homework assignment, I spent the latter part of last week mapping out the "big ticket transportation" costs for our RTW trip and believe I not only succeeded in gaining a lot of knowledge on various transportation networks throughout the world -- did you know you could take a 2-night ferry from Shanghai to Osaka? -- but managed to further fine-tune our working itinerary and come up with a present-day total cost for transportation, which I then increased by 15% to account for inflation and to give us a buffer.

There were a few sites that were of incredible assistance in accomplishing this task, but none more than www.seat61.com. The creator of this website started out by detailing how to get from London to all-points in the world accessible by train. The site then branched out to include very helpful, detailed information for train, bus, and ferry travel the world over. The site includes photos of the trains, maps of train lines for each country, simple schedules, and even some estimates on fares and how to go about booking your tickets. If you have any interest in overland travel, then bookmark that site right now. It's a treasure trove of user-friendly information.

Having spent two full days poring over maps, triple-checking numerous airfare rates, and comparing all sorts of connections and routes, I did finally nail down (at least for now) all of the major transportation expenses that we'll have. This process did ultimately cause me to rule out one or two places I had planned for us to go, but also allowed us to add some others. It will also be a bit more focused and allow for longer stays in particular regions.

So, if you're curious in the specifics, please do keep reading. This will very likely be the last post I make on the topic for several months as, quite honestly, I was exhausted from all the research I did on Thursday and Friday and, well, the trip isn't for 4 to 5 years.

*Prices are current-day per-person rates. Airfare rates were best available via www.kayak.com. I imagine lower-cost fares via consolidators are possible when the time comes, but I'd rather over-budget than short-change ourselves.

1) Alaska Ferry: 15-day pass ($929)
2) Trans-Canada Train: 12 days of travel in 30 pass ($879)
3) Flight: Newark, NJ to Dublin, Ireland airfare ($350)
4) Eurail Pass: 4 country 8 days in 2 months ($559)
5) Flight: Casablanca, Morocco to Nairobi, Kenya airfare ($626)
6) Flight: Nairobi, Kenya to Cairo, Egypt ($408)
7) Flight: Tel-Aviv, Israel to Istanbul, Turkey ($230)
8) Eurail Pass: 5 country 10 days in 2 months ($688)
9) Flight: Vienna, Austria to Delhia, India ($520)
10) Flight: Round-trip Delhi, India to Kathmandu, Nepal ($140)
11) Flight: Delhi, India to Bangkok, Thailand ($175)
12) Flight: Jakarta, Indonesia to Sydney, Australia ($501)
13) Flight: Sydney, Australia to Christchurch, New Zealand ($107)
14) Flight: Auckland, New Zealand to Santiago, Chile ($1194)
15) Flight: Lima, Peru to Miami, FL ($268)

There are indeed a few changes to the plan from the post I made recently about the 12 legs of the journey.

For starters, we'll not be taking a trans-atlantic cruise or freighter. The lone trans-atlantic cruiseship is currently the Queen Mary 2 and it is, how shall I put this, not exactly designed with backpack-travelers in mind. There simply won't be enough room in my backpack for a tuxedo. It also seems that the freighter travel ships stick to slightly warmer waters by the end of October and the few direct routes between NYC and England were no longer being followed. As for adding Ireland to the list, it's much cheaper to fly into Dublin than London or Edinburgh.

In Africa, I learned that overland travel between Kenya and Ethiopia is not at all very fun. The lone road that leads through northern Kenya to the border town of Moyale is considered the "worst road in Africa" and, quite frankly, the sites in Ethiopia don't interest me enough to make flight there. But with each unfortunate discovery, a hidden gem is discovered. For example, there is a train that runs from Nairobi to Mombassa, that goes straight through the heart of Tsavo National Park. Yes, that Tsavo. Not only is that one of my all-time favorite movies, but I'm also a big fan of this book that, among other things, chronicles doing that journey on foot (no thanks).

Thanks in no small part to Seat61.com, I discovered that my wish to travel from Egypt to Jordan and onward to Israel is indeed possible. There is a ferry that takes travelers across the Red Sea to Aqaba, Jordan and, at least based on message board posts at www.bootsnall.com and at Lonely Planet's site, Jordan is a fantastic place to travel through. So while I'm not a religious person, I have to say that I am definitely excited about seeing the ancient sites of the Holy Land in Jordan and Israel.

A couple other points of note. We didn't have any plans to head towards west-central modern Europe, but flying to Delhi is vastly cheaper out of Vienna, Austria than it is out of Budapest, Hungary so the plan will be to train travel from Istanbul through Greece and Bulgaria and Croatia up to Hungary and then over to Austria. Also, along those lines, it's far cheaper to do a round-trip flight between India and Nepal and to then fly one-way to Thailand, than it is to fly directly from Kathmandu to Bangkok. Like, nearly a thousand dollars cheaper.

Our trip took a major turn off the expected plan from a few weeks ago after studying the maps of southeast Asia train service and comparing flights from different cities to New Zealand. In short, although I was very excited to find direct train service between Hanoi, Vietnam and Beijing, China (not to mention the ferry between Shanghai and Osaka), flying from Tokyo down to either Sydney, Australia or Auckland, New Zealand was just way too expensive. So, instead, we decided to leave China and Japan for our eventual Trans-Siberian railway trip and follow the trains south to Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia, and work our way down through Java to Bali. We had no plans to visit Australia, but it's much more affordable to fly to Sydney and then jump over to NZ than it is to fly direct, so we'll be spending at least a few days in Australia.

Lastly, flights leaving Lima, Peru to just about anywhere are very expensive, even just to Mexico City or even nearby Panama City so we believe we're going to conclude the main portion of the trip in Peru after spending an extended amount of time in Chile and Argentina. We expect we'll need to decompress and ease back into mainstream American life, not to mention figure out what our next move will be. It just so happens flights from Lima to Miami are very cheap. What better way to soak it all in and cap off the trip than by sipping fancy drinks on a beach in Florida. And at that point, we'll just be a long train ride from what I'm sure will be a long-anticipated reunion with family in New Jersey.

Sidenote: One of the places I really wanted to visit at the end of the trip was Cuba. Canada's number one travel destination can't be all that bad, and I've heard nothing but great stuff about Havana. Unfortunately, "big brother" doesn't even allow an American to search for the price of flights to Havana online. I tried to check the fares from Lima to Havana on kayak.com and instead I got a message about the State Department forbidding travel there for Americans. Ridiculous.

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