Driving to Singapore from Bath, UK
Replies: 26 - Last Post: Mar 15, 2013 12:51 PM Last Post By: Tiffinian
Apr 25, 2012 9:41 AM
Driving to Singapore from Bath, UKGreetings Lonely Planet!
I am coming up to my gap year after a very long stint in school - and I have had enough. I have always dreamed of travelling the world and I intend to do so in the following year with 3 of my friends.
We had the intention of joining the Mongol Rally 2013 (if the event was on, assuming it would be) but due to issues with our timetables we do not feel it will work out as we are going to University soon after it ends etc etc.
However, from March 2013 to August 2013 (in fact, all year but we need to make some money) we are available and would love to drive from Bath, England to Singapore, Malaysia...
We understand the risks and the like and are fully prepared to take car maintenance courses and such - just bare in mine we are 4 young adults with a dream and this is only an idea in our pipeline.
Things I know are a must for this trip:
-Can't think of anything else...
The following is the route we would take:
The Netherlands (Due to the fact I have relatives there and I'd like to go)
First of all, and be blunt, is this possible? I mean, I know geographically it is but is it even possible to drive in China?
From what I have seen there is a single border crossing from Mongolia to China through Elenhot but I do not know as of yet how to get from the East of China to Laos.
Any thing else I should know before even considering this?
Thanks for your time,
PS: Assume money is no object - it isn't - but I'd like to know what I'd be up against so I can plan the beginning of my gap year so I can make the most amount of money I can.
Edited by: Refreshed360
Apr 25, 2012 11:56 PM
1Look for a thread entitled something like the definintive thread about self driving in Chian. It's on the NEAsia branch. It is possible but it is a headache that requires money and lots of it and months to plan.
Also there is NO border between mongolia and kazakhstan.
Grtting from Laos to China is not a problem and there are now two crossings from China to Mongolia. The more common is north of Beijing.
Edited by: everbrite
Apr 26, 2012 12:29 AM
2First of all just to clarify - Singapore is not in Malaysia, it's a separate country located just south of Malaysia.
Your route is theoretically your route is possible though as everbrite says you can't cross from Kazakhstan to Mongolia so will have to go via Russia. The main issue is China, you're going to have to get a guide and it's going to cost a hell of a lot of money.
Another thing to look into is the Carnet de Passage (passport for the car) requirements for the various countries you plan on visiting. Also what do you plan to do with the car in Singapore? If you want to sell it then you'll have to look into the legality of that.
If you get over the China herdle though, great trip.
Apr 26, 2012 8:32 AM
Apr 26, 2012 11:09 AM
4You might want to check what's needed to drive a foreign plated car in Singapore too. I don't think that it'll as simple as just driving over the border seeing as your number plate determines what day you're allowed to drive your car in Singapore.
Apr 26, 2012 1:33 PM
Apr 27, 2012 10:11 AM
Check to see if that is the case for driving a foreign vehicle into Singapore. I know that the locals have fun and games with their number plates which is why I said that it might be a hassle but that's not for certain.
You should also check whether you can legally sell the car abroad. A mate of mine did the Mongol Rally last year or the year before, and the car had to be of a certain spec in order for it to be sold afterwards. Selling it might not be as easy as you think, so definitely also check this beforehand too.
Apr 28, 2012 8:01 AM
7@Meats - thanks for the information. I will definitely be looking into selling the car abroad. But I think at the moment my biggest hurdle is China.
I now know I can drive there, I have to apply for a Chinese Temporary Driving License which is valid for the duration of my visa (up to 3 months). I will also have to hire a Chinese government appointed guide - also fine (pay him a daily fee, buy their food and accommodation).
Can anyone point me in the right direction to START the process? I have alot of information and I know my route, but I honestly don't know where to begin...
-Carnet de Passage
-Visas for each country
-Time and Dates
Again, my revised route is:
We will sell the car in Malaysia (if I get permission).
Edited by: Refreshed360
Apr 28, 2012 11:00 AM
8Contact your car insurance company. Contact NAVO or some other company that handles driving in China. Ask on the appropriate branch about selling your car in Malaysia.
Why bother going to Kazakhstan? Especially since it will require a double entry Russian visa.
China and selling your car are your biggest obstacles along with adequate funds.
Apr 28, 2012 12:02 PM
Apr 28, 2012 3:01 PM
Obviously it could be a different kettle of fish crossing the Vietnamese border with a car, however I was never asked to show my driving licence in Vietnam when I hired motorbikes there (Hue, Hanoi and Sapa). They were only concerned with my passport. The only thing I would add about driving in Vietnam is that you give way to the bigger vehicle regardless of whether they're in the right or not. That's generally the rule in SE Asia, Singapore being the exception (not sure about Malaysia).
Apr 28, 2012 5:05 PM
11@Toadoftoadhall - Thanks for the site. I'll take a look.
That's pretty insightful - rather graphic images of the road conditions in Vietnam... :) But to be honest, I'm not worried about the driving. I know there is a risk when driving, at any time and anywhere, which is only heightened on poorly maintained roads and lack of 'informed' drivers.
But my heart is still set on this. There is a large amount of free reign when driving compared to the train.
-What sort of complications are you referring to with the Russian visas? I mean, on top of the double visa issue.
I'd rather be covered just in case. But if it is anything like my China issue, I was going to meet someone at the border of Mongolia / China and get them to drive us down to Beijing to sort out our 'Temporary Driving License' - if I can't acquire that in the UK - and then we would take over the driving.
Thanks again for your replies. Getting lots of information to see if this is still feasible - it seems to me the majority of this trip is down to paperwork and bureaucracy - and finance (which is, or will be, covered on our end).
Apr 28, 2012 11:29 PM
12I can't see a good reason to enter Kazakhstan unless you are simply trying to tick off another country.
Getting a double entry visa is a bit more complicated for Russia. There are 30 day double entry tourist visas but they only permit 30 days from date of first entry to last exit. If you plan to spend more time you will need a 90 day double entry business visa. All this means lots of planning in advance.
All visas - Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China and Vietnam should be obtained in advance. Mongolia is easy. China requires some planning because they ask for tickets showing entry and exit and accommodation reservations. Vietnam is also relatively easy but date specific.
Ask more on the NEAsia branch about your plans to have someone drive you from the Mongolian border to Beijing and the. Get a temporary license. I have never heard of this option and would be surprised if a temporary license was available to drive your own vehicle through the country.
Apr 29, 2012 5:34 AM
The route chosen avoids countries such as Turkey (Bordering Syria) as well as Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan...
In the words of Gandalf - " I would not take the road through Moria unless I had no other choice"
By using the route above we will travel through less countries than other suggested routes so there will be less paperwork needed (mainly Visas). Kazakhstan is plain sailing once we enter - that may be an understatement, but you see where I am coming from.
We could however remain in Russia, but in many ways we want to, as you say, tick off another country - I'll consider the option to avoid it however if it saves money.
I believe the 30 day double visa would be more than acceptable with a tight schedule - only issue being that there isn't much leg room if we have a major accident or break down but I am confident that won't happen... until Mongolia :)
I think my next step is to plan an itinerary and acquire dates of travel - exiting / entering countries etc. From this position I can start to file for VISAs.
Apr 29, 2012 4:23 PM
14What you are proposing is a very complicated trip, even for a highly experienced traveler. It appears you are going to be dealing with 14 different languages and 13 different currencies. I think attempting to drive it just makes it more difficult. You will run into numerous bureaucrats who don't speak English, and presumably you don't speak Ukrainian or Mongolian. Your goal should be to have a great trip, not to spend another day in another office trying to get another permit. My main concern is you are going to spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with a myriad of vehicle problems and not nearly enough time actually enjoying the places you visit.
If you decide not to drive, you could do most of the trip by train, with a few buses or rental cars. Seat 61 is a wonderful website that has a massive amount of information on train travel around the world. Fortunately for you, they have already mapped out most of your trip here in the London to Australia section:
It will answer many of your questions, and has a sample spreadsheet to help estimate how much time and money you will need:
One advantage for taking the train instead of driving is that you can sleep on night trains to travel through the boring stretches like Siberia and the Mongolian desert, then spend the days visiting places. Lonely Planet has an excellent book for the Trans-Siberian Railroad, which I used in 2006 to go from Moscow to Beijing, with several stops over 13 days. LP also has a FAQ thread:
There is extensive information on the complicated Russian visa process here:
I used WayToRussia several years ago and was satisfied.
There is another alternative to driving or the train – buy a round the world airline ticket. They are generally valid for a year, and you may be able to change later flights as you go. Rather than spend days traveling long distances, you can spend more time in areas you really want to see. Personally, I think you should plan to go fewer places, but really get to know them. Soak it up and make it yours. How many places you visit and how much you spend depends on how you do it. The first time I went to London, in college, I spent a week and felt like I only scratched the surface. The first (and only) time my sister in law went to London, she took a four hour Gray Line tour. She won't go back because she has seen everything!!
The cheapest RTW tickets usually go through Delhi and Bangkok, but if you don't want India, just change planes. RTW tickets will usually let you zig zag north and south, but not backtrack east and west. (So you can go London to Rome to Moscow, but not London to Moscow to Rome.) Of course, you can buy a lot of one way tickets for whatever order you want, but why spend the extra time and money backtracking? For the rest of your life, you can casually drop into conversations, “Oh, I've flown around the world.” Of course, “I drove from London to Singapore” is just as impressive.
You could also fly “open jaw” (for example, fly into Beijing, by ground, then fly out of Shanghai). Instead of RTW, you could fly a giant circle trip, such as London, Moscow, Beijing, Singapore, London. That is essentially your original proposed route to drive. It gives you more time in specific places, but cuts way down on travel time. Air Treks in San Francisco specializes in this type of trip and RTW. They priced it today starting at only $1501 including taxes. For $179 more, they added Shanghai and Hong Kong. Their website is
There is also a London based company, but I have not used it:
The downside of flying is you miss all the local culture you would absorb by driving or taking the train. I have been around the world four times by air. I have spent at least a week in about 35 countries, but they are shorter trips of two to three weeks, not a six month trip like you propose. It's extremely rare that I rent a car. Local public transportation is really easy in some countries, but very difficult in others. A rental car for a couple days would give you the flexibility you desire without all the hassle of getting it through customs fifteen times.
Decisions, decisions... good thing you started planning early!
Ho Chi Minh CityBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$42.42 per night
(5 star Hotel)
From US$479.98 per night
Singapore (city)Book now
(1 star Hotel)
From US$30.88 per night