May 13, 2018
While we’re still trying to catch up on our notes from our African adventure during January and February, it’s time to also start talking about our future plans.
We’re about to embark on our biggest overland trip yet!
The plan is to drive from Budapest, Hungary all the way to Singapore through China.
The list of countries we would like to drive across are: Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
These are very exciting times for us and our preparations started months ago, even before our Africa trip. Still, we’ve started to stress a bit since our departure date of June 18th is approaching very quickly!
Some of the tasks we still have left could have (should have..!) been done earlier, such as our gears and more exact itinerary planning. However, there are also a few bits and pieces that couldn’t be done earlier, such as the important task of applying for our visas.
A timely application is vital. However, visa applications are tricky because if you obtain a visa too far in advance of your trip, it may expire by the time you arrive to the border crossing. What makes the visas especially difficult to organize in our case is that we need to apply for a number of them, and each may take up to a week to process. That makes it quite stressful as we only have 4-5 weeks to apply and obtain all of our visas. We can apply for some of them online, which makes it easier, but we may also apply for one or two while on the road.
For the most difficult ones, like the Chinese and Russian visas, we will apply in Budapest to make sure we have them before we leave.
Overlanding through China is a whole new ballgame altogether. Not only do we need to apply for an unusually long visa that should be valid for 40-50 days, but during the last few months, we also needed to find a tour operator that will guide us through this massive country. You’re simply not allowed to just show up at the border and enter the country, even if you have a valid visa. Overlanders need to have a tour guide with them 24/7 to make sure… I don’t know exactly what! But that’s the rule. This is quite a complicated process and very expensive, so for this part of the trip we teamed up with other overlanders (2 other vehicles as it stands now) to share the costs and the burden of finding a tour operator. In China we‘ll be driving in a convoy with Giampiero from Italy and Lotte & Niels from The Netherlands. I’m sure you’ll be reading more about them here in future posts.
After China, Southeast Asia might surprise us with some complications too. Our route travels through Thailand and at this point, I’m still not clear on whether or not it’s possible to enter the country with a vehicle. There are some new(ish) restrictions in place that apply to ‘vehicles with permanent beds’, e.g. campers, but it’s my hope that 4×4 rigs with a rooftop tent will be OK, so we will be allowed to enter. Rules tend to vary at different border crossings and times of day, too. The situation is very ambiguous, so I’m closely monitoring the relevant Facebook group about the subject: “Thailand – New regulation affecting overland travellers on foreign vehicle”
I’ve also just discovered a website that seems to be immensely useful, and will probably reach out to Dave who runs Plodd Stop: http://www.overlandersthailand.com/
One of the major but most fun tasks we still have left is to upgrade our DIY drawer system in the back of our Toyota. My father and I actually built one just before the Africa trip, but as it turns out, we need a larger one and potentially with a sleeping platform on it.
We have a rooftop tent as our main accommodation, but it would be great to have the option to quickly set up a bed inside for situations where we need to sleep in villages or towns, or in case the weather doesn’t really allow us to open our rooftop tent. This is definitely something we should have completed weeks ago.
Coming up with the design will be challenging as the Toyota is not very big inside. In addition, we need to keep one of the rear seats (for the days when the Chinese guide will sit with us in China), and we also have lots of gear to fit. I will document the process, so you’ll be able to read about it in Our Notes.
We’ll go into details in future posts about what gear we are bringing with us, what navigational and other devices and applications we’ll be using and how we’re progressing with our preparations in general.
You can follow us here, of course, but also on our other channels:
- … and perhaps in the future Youtube as well, although at this point, I don’t see how we’ll have time to edit quality videos during the trip. We’ll definitely be recording, but editing may have to come later.
The trip will likely be about 6 months long. At the destination, we’ll have to decide whether to ship the Toyota back to Europe or perhaps to another continent. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – gotta make it to Singapore first!