Back in 2010, I took a trip with my good friend Nick, from London to Istanbul by rail, taking an unconventional route through the Balkans, taking in Paris, Nice, Genoa, Florence, Venice, Zagreb, Split, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Sofia and Istanbul. It was our original Epic Rail Trip, and it’s just one of the great rail trips I’ve taken over my years traveling.
When we reached Istanbul, weary after 15 days of whistle stop city visits and overnight trains, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull spewed its contents over Europe, cancelling our flights home and leaving us stranded in Turkey with thousands of other tourists.
Armed with iPhones and a wifi connection we sat in cafés scouring the web for routes home overland. We had to be creative to avoid the thousands of other people trying to do the same thing. Ultimately we failed to find a conventional route home, but did manage to hitch a ride on a German consulate bus to Munich, where we met a Kurdish family on their way home to London from Iraq., who managed to link us up with a taxi driver who would drive us home from a petrol station in Slovenia! It was an epic journey home – I just wish that at the time there had been a tool to search for routes home.
The problem has bugged me ever since, and after several years of wondering ‘what if’, I have decided to make it reality by starting EpicRailTrip.com!
There are some huge technical challenges in bringing this service to reality, not least that long distance routes can require multiple changes and stopovers, are sold via different vendors, and often accurate information on routes in developing countries is hard to come by. Thanks to some incredible freelancers, we’ve overcome those challenges and are now on the final straight.
Epic Rail Trip will be (I believe) the FIRST global overland (and sea) travel search engine – which will combine trains, tours, buses, ferries and the occasional flight where there’s no other option. I’m super excited to be bringing this service to travellers, as planning long distance overland travel is so difficult and fragmented compared to any other type of travel.
The site will be launching on May 1st, so until then stay tuned. I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions in the comments below.