Rails and River: From London to Siem Reap by train

Posted by:

It’s not only the increased focus on ‘flygskam’ and the environmental benefits of travelling by train. We’ve always been fascinated with train travel and epic railway journeys. From Thomas Cook and the first excursions by train to the heydays of train travel, it conjures up images of early adventurers exploring new and exciting places suitcase in hand. Rather than getting on a plane we’ve often talked about doing the Trans-Siberian Railway from Cambodia back to Europe via Vietnam, China and Mongolia.

With the new trainline from Aranyaprathet and Klong Luek border station to Poipet connecting Thailand and Cambodia, it’s yet again possible to travel by train all the way from Bangkok to Battambang, Phnom Penh and the Cambodian coastal towns of Kampot and Sihanoukville. A scenic transfer by boat will also take you to Siem Reap and the majestic temples of Angkor.

We’ve looked into the options and found some great alternatives for an amazing rail adventure from London to Siem Reap and Cambodia.

London to Moscow – The ‘Transeuropean Express’

Starting at London St Pancras station, the first leg will cross the English channel with the Eurostar to Paris. The Paris-Moscow express departs from Paris Gare de l’Est every Thursday evening. Featuring comfortable sleeper cars and dining options, this two-night journey is perhaps the most convenient and comfortable option to reach Moscow by train.

A stop-over in Moscow is a great opportunity to explore Kremlin and the Red Square, as well as taking in some of the contemporary culture, a classical ballet or opera at the Bolshoi Theatre.

The Trans-Mongolian Railway from Moscow to Beijing

The 9289km Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok is often referred to as the classic rail journey between Moscow and the Pacific Ocean. It is also one of the longest continuous railways in the world. The Trans-Mongolian Railway, however, is a popular alternative for travellers heading for China and Beijing. Veering south into Mongolia and the capital Ulaanbaatar just beyond Lake Baikal, the journey takes in a range of distinctive cultures and landscapes as the 7858km rail journey traverses part of the Gobi desert and offers some stunning scenery of the vast Mongolian steppes before ending in China’s capital Beijing.

Visiting the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Tian’anmen Square aside, we think no trip to Beijing is complete without sampling some of the succulent Chinese cuisine.

From the bustling capital of China, this adventurous train journey continues to Hanoi via Nanning, Pingxiang and Don Dang.

  • One of the best ways of seeing the world. Never too fast, never too slow…–Michael Palin on train travel

Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City – The Reunification Express

Referring to the unification of Vietnam after the Vietnam war, the Reunification Express is not a single train, but rather a term used to describe the trains that goes from the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Covering a total distance of 1726km the railway was established under French colonial rule and finished in 1936. After a massive rehaul following the destruction during the Vietnam war, traversing Vietnam by train is yet again a popular option with locals and international travellers alike. Passing dense jungles and lush rice paddies, mountain passes and local villages, the rail journey through Vietnam offers some amazing views along the way.

The Mekong Delta – from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap

Whilst a new railway connecting the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh with Ho Chi Minh City still is in planning, it is currently no rail services connecting Vietnam and Cambodia. This, however, does not mean there are no viable travel options available. There are buses aplenty, but for the experience we would recommend a Mekong River Cruise from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap soaking in the atmosphere and serenity of village live along the shores of the Mekong delta and Tonle Sap lake.

For onwards connections from Cambodia to Bangkok, Royal Railways (Cambodia) operates services from Phnom Penh to Poipet and the Thai border via Pursat and Battambang. Onwards train to Bangkok run from Klong Luek border station and the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet. Cross border service from Thailand to Cambodia and vice versa are expected by the end of 2020.

Featured books and further reading:
Train Travel - Books and recommended reading
Captivating Cambodia
Essential China
Bustling Vietnam - - Books and recommended reading

Notes on train bookings in Southeast Asia: Both local buses and trains tend to fill up quickly. This is particularly the case during local festivals and public holidays, so we would recommend to book your tickets as far in advance as possible. Baolau and 12Go Asia are two reliable and easy-to-use websites for local train, bus and ferry tickets in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and beyond.

follow us
Latest posts by Mekong Experiences (see all)

You might also like these articles

  • On the road againOn the road again It’s January 2006, two backpackers who met working at one of London’s finest hotels, are on the road again after experiencing the poverty on the streets of Phnom Penh, the harrowing […]
  • How to be a Responsible Traveller in CambodiaHow to be a Responsible Traveller in Cambodia Over the last decade Cambodia has seen a rapid and steady rise in tourism which by many Cambodians is viewed as the golden ticket to improve life chances and, thus, flock to tourism hubs […]
  • Siem Reap markets – a myriad of colour and characterSiem Reap markets – a myriad of colour and character You know it's got to be done. Friends at home will be waiting in expectation to hear your tales, see your photos and receive some obscure gift you have anticipated they would like in a […]