London to India overland:  Destination board on the side of the Istanbul-Tehran train

Above:  A key stage in the journey is the excellent weekly Ankara-Tehran train, the Trans-Asia Express (formerly running from Istanbul)...  Photo courtesy of Bob Johnson.

Europe to India overland

Over the last few years, newspaper articles have raised the possibility of train travel from London to India or even Dhaka in Bangladesh, prompted by Calcutta-Dhaka trains resuming after 40 years and the completion of the final missing gap in the rails between Bam & Zahedan in southeast Iran.  The Bam-Zahedan section was completed in 2008 after being 'under construction' for decades, and a passenger service allegedly started in 2012, so what with the new Marmaray train service under the Bosphorus the rails do indeed now stretch all the way from St Pancras to Karachi, Lahore, Delhi & Dhaka - give or take a ferry ride across Lake Van in eastern Turkey, that is.

However, you can't just buy a London-Delhi train ticket and hop on a train to India.  Far from it.  Such a 2 or 3-week trip should not be undertaken lightly, it takes a lot of D.I.Y. organisation including all the bureaucracy involved in getting an Iranian visa, and there are serious security concerns with bandit attacks in southeast Iran near the Pakistan border.  It's not a route I'd advise for most people.  But for adventurous travellers willing to brave this, it can be an epic trip.

You'll also need to check the Pakistan visa situation, as reports suggest that westerners aren't being granted visas for Pakistan if they want to use trains or other forms of surface travel.  This came in way back in 2009, it may or may not still be in force.

On this page

This page outlines the best routes, timetables, costs and how to go about putting such a journey together.  Please remember it's not a tour or a package, just some guidance in putting your own independent trip together using scheduled train services across Europe and Asia.

Route map   Route, timetable, costs    Planning   How to arrange tickets   Travellers' reports

Route map

Map showing train routes from the UK across Europe to Pakistan & India

Timetable & costs

The itinerary shown here assumes you're travelling eastbound, but it would work exactly the same way westbound...



Request for more information

If anyone has any more information, an account of this journey, photos or travel reports that would be useful for this page, please e-mail me!

Traveller's reports

Traveller Frank Sprenger rang Zahedan station to get confirmation of the train situation in August 2009: 

The Zahedan-Quetta train usually runs twice a month, it departed yesterday [August 3rd 2009] and will do so again on the (28th Iranian Calendar) this should be in 15 days from now.  We where told that departure days vary a little depending on demand. But as I said, usually every two weeks. dep time is (again "usually") late morning or early afternoon. The journey time is "usually" around 30 hours. Best to phone, or have someone calling the station, a few days in advance to confirm the departure day and time. Be careful as Hotels often get a commission from bus companies!  Space should be no real problem as there are not many passengers using this train for cross border traffic, mostly Pakistani.  Accommodation for the international portion is bench seating only. Open window coaches with roof fans for Rial 30.000.  But may be sleepers will be attached after Taftan. So no confirmation on this. The departure from Quetta is usually 3 days before the departure from Zahedan. I was told that the train always ran and was never suspended, albeit not as frequent as it did before 2005. There where never any bombings on this train as is written in some books."

Traveller Danny Allen comments on the train/bus from Zahedan to Quetta (March 2009): 

"I can't add anything useful about the train, as when I was there it was officially running, but pretty erratic and I couldn't be bothered to wait 6 days on the off chance. I took a local share taxi (there is also a local bus) from Zahedan bus station to the Pakistani border at Taftan. Once inside Pakistan there is a bus that leaves Taftan for Quetta each evening, although it's awful. I believe there are also 'coaches' which are better. But there is another alternative, which is a taxi. Although this sounds an extravagant way to travel 600km, the cost is relatively low at around 30 Euros per person. There are a couple of these vehicles, running daily depending on demand. They are actually pick-up trucks, but they're modern and have 4 free seats and plenty of space for luggage. The journey takes 10-12 hours and is a great way to get a feel for the extraordinary landscape between the two cities. I found this through the manager of the PTDC (Pakistani Tourism Development Council) motel in Taftan, where I stayed for a night before moving on to Quetta."

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