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Travellers' questions that don't fit anywhere else This is an opportunity to ask any question, and post any notice you wish that doesn't fit into one of the other sections.
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  #1  
Old 26 Nov 2012
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Is This Doable?

Hi all,

First time posting on this community; from what I've seen of the website so far it seems to be the best place to ask. I'm 17 years old on the East Coast of the USA, and I'm planning a gap year trip across Eurasia next year before I head off to college. When I first cooked up the plan for the trip I was thinking I'd do it entirely via trains, buses, hitchhiking and solo trekking: my general route plan was to start from Western Europe (Portugal? Gibraltar?), through Central Europe into the Balkans, through Ukraine or Turkey into the Caucasus, to Kazakhstan and all of the Central Asian countries, into Northwest China to Mongolia, through Mongolia to Siberia, out east to the coast of Russia and then down south through China and Indochina to end up in Singapore.

My initial plan has been to allot myself 8-10 months for this trip, given my proposed travel methodology. But over lunch with a friend the other day, I began to consider the idea of doing this trip on a motorcycle! There are obviously a whole different host of stipulations doing the trip on a bike, but overall it seems to me that it would be cheaper and allow me a much greater degree of freedom on the trip; both of which greatly appeal to me.

So! My question to you all; is this a feasible way of doing the trip? I have no experience whatsoever with motorcycles. Never ridden, never maintained, anything like that. The earliest I would leave for this trip would probably be next September or October. Would I be able to generally stick to this route on a motorcycle? Is it worth the time that I have and the money it would require to learn how to ride one and take the trip that way? I'm not wedded to any specific ways of doing this trip yet, but cycling it seems like it would have a huge range of benefits. Let me know what you think; any advice is appreciated.

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 26 Nov 2012
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Is it doable - in broad terms; yes it is, albeit there are details about China (basically if on a bike needing to be part of a group) and Russia (how the visa system works) that need to be well understood.

Now the answer to the unasked question - should you do it? Yes, but by bike I'd probably say not.
(i) You want to cover a lot of country in a relatively short time. One thing is certain about using a bike it may be more flexible but it won't be cheaper than hitching using the train etc. Cost of buying / shipping/ mechanical wear and tear quickly adds up.
(ii) All forms of travel has risks - thats part of the attraction - but travelling by bike has its own and if you don't have on-road experience and the mechanical knowledge that might be adding too much too quickly. Also what happens if you find you are not enjoying it; the reality is some people find the travelling life intoxicating whilst others quickly get fed up - with a bike you are more committed and its harder to bail without loss for awhile. On my first trip at closer to your age I caught hepatitus in Nepal- because I was travelling by public transport I was able to bail out for 3 months get well and then return and finish.

So my advice for what its worth - is keep planning your trip but this time focus on just getting to the countries. Public transport has its ups and downs but it actually a really good way of meeting locals. People on this site wax lyrical about the freedom a bike gives you to explore, and thats true, but it can in its own way sometimes can be insulating.

Now if the budget permits learn to ride a bike anyway - and you are all set up for the next trip.

Final comment - good on you for even considering the trip. Get out there and see the world, you will never regret it (and remember - all this advice comes from someone who is old enough to be your father, would have a heart attack if my own 17 year old wanted to do it, but will very happily do it himself - and therefore should be treated with appropriate scepticism).

PS - What about a bicycle? Cheap to buy and transport, and easy to dump if you get fed up with it?
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  #3  
Old 26 Nov 2012
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As per above post. Sorry but quick Motorcycle travel will not be cheaper than public transport. And you'd want a lot of motorcycle experience to do the trip. Or at least a lot of life experience. Without either of those then I'd so no again.

Consider you will be flying in and out. And for cost reasons you want to fly in/out of 'hubs'; these being where airlines start/terminate their flights, so you won't be having a stop over where both you and the baggage may change planes = $. Paris might be cheaper than London, consider the transport costs London to Paris.

Then plan what you want to see. Or do.

Then fit in those places by transport. Eurorail can be cheap - particularly when purchased overseas and for some time period. Eurorail will do you eastern europe.

Where to stay? Youth Hostels. Cheap and they have cooking and may have washing ... And they have similar people to talk too, and pass on information. Like cheap things to do, places to see.

Plan on having at least every 7th day off. You'll need to do stuff, like washing, phone home, rest, and so on. So you want that 7th day to be in the same place.

Bicycles? Unless you want a very slow trip ... no. They are difficult in the airport... some buses and trains won't take them.. Unless you want to use the bike for substantial parts of the trip, NO.

Not certain? Get some experience in touring on a bike. In your local area, a weekend overnight not far from home camping out. Take a bicycle. The equipment is similar for a motorcycle. If you like that then consider getting a motorcycle licence. Take a learner course, even if it is not compulsory. Here the local post office found training their drivers saved as much money as spent training them (if not more). And that was for the motorcycle riders on 110cc bikes. They then turned around and trained all their drivers.

----------------------

Above all this.

GO! It will open your eyes.

-------------
Consider

Train.
Eurorail for western Euope through to Turkey. Then back.
TransSiberian for Russia. Cantake you through Mongolia to China.
The fly back to the 'stans.
Fly to say India, train there. Fly Thailand, bus around.

That would be about the easiest... flexible ... and probably cheapest.
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  #4  
Old 26 Nov 2012
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I'd also have to say it doesn't sound like a great idea. You need more moto and life experience to take this on safely in my view. But why not start small, and when you're in a place you like, rent a moped or small moto for a few days and cut loose from public transport. who knows, maybe by the end you'll take public transport from country to country, but once there, tour around by moto or moped?
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  #5  
Old 26 Nov 2012
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Thanks for all the quick responses, guys!

Yeah, I had a feeling that that could be too much to cram in with no prior experience in motorcycles. I'm almost certainly going to do the trip regardless; motorcycle or not, it's been a dream of mine for a long time and I'll be doing it one way or another. I'll probably default to my earlier plan of utilizing ground transport; while flying from some places would be enjoyable and convenient, air travel is a little much for my budget, and so I'll probably only have flights to and from my starting and ending points on the trip. Trains and buses and hitching seem to be good ways to get around, and that should carry me for most of the places I want to visit.

Regardless, I'm inspired now to learn how to ride and maintain a motorcycle at some point; that may be in college or afterwards, but I'm now pretty intrigued. Thanks again for all your help, folks.
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  #6  
Old 26 Nov 2012
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Here is a useful resource for planning long distance train journeys.

The Man in Seat Sixty-One - the train travel guide...
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  #7  
Old 26 Nov 2012
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It's all been said including about the guy sat in seat 61 (which is an amazing resource).
Just get out there and see/enjoy the world without the additional complexity and cost of mechanical devices (with the possible exception of a pedal cycle, but you can pick up one of those on your travels).
I started travelling by hitch-hiking; I am not sure that it is quite as easy nowadays because major highway rules don't permit it, in general; but they didn't back in the days when the French police "threw" me off their autobahn!!
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