Around the World in Eighty Days
- This article is an itinerary.
Around the world in eighty days, "Le tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours", is a novel by Jules Verne, described contemporaneously as taking place in December 1872, as the historical British Empire "on which the sun never sets" was nearing its peak. The story describes Phileas Fogg of London and his French valet Jean Passepartout circumnavigating the world in 80 days in an effort to win a £20,000 wager — a small fortune in that era. The itinerary can, with some difficulty and deviations, be re-created today.
Unlike much of Verne's work, "le tour du monde en 80 jours" is not a work of science fiction. Widespread deployment of steam power on land and sea was slashing travel times on an unprecedented scale in the mid to late 1800s; a formerly week-long intercity journey by stagecoach was often completed same-day by rail. Advances such as the ceremonial last spike in a first transcontinental railroad in the United States of America (May 10, 1869), construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt (1869) and linking of Indian railways across the sub-continent (1870) were ushering in an era where — at least for a wealthy few — passengers on common carriers would be able to readily purchase around-the-world journeys which formerly were multi-year adventures attempted on sailing ships by a hardy, pioneering minority. The journey, as described in the story, was technically possible with the new technology of its era.
In a certain sense, the story was also a showcase of the vastness of the British Empire at that time, as the majority of places visited by Fogg were British colonies. Such places include Egypt, Yemen, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Ireland, with Shanghai also being partly under British rule at that time.
Since the novel, people have been trying to recreate the main characters' adventurous journey. Elizabeth Jane Cochrane ("Nellie Bly" of the Joseph Pulitzer tabloid "New York World") completed an 1889 round the world overland trip in seventy-two days; Elizabeth Bisland (of "Cosmopolitan" magazine) completed a simultaneous, rival trip in the opposite direction in 76 1⁄2 days. Michael Palin completed the journey in 1988, which was filmed by the BBC, and an accompanying book produced. Countless others have followed in their footsteps; the starting point and exact list of cities visited varies between travellers.
While trans-oceanic and trans-continental overland journeys have diminished with the growth of air travel, travel round the world overland remains possible. One may see much which would be missed if flying over countries instead of visiting them.
Travellers retracing the original 1870s voyage proposal in the modern era will find that much has changed; overland travel times have been slashed by more than half as diesel and electrified rail has replaced twenty mile-per-hour steam trains, while the number of ocean-going passenger vessels has greatly diminished as air travel has taken much of the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific passenger volume. While one Cunard passenger liner still plies the seas, most passenger ship travel is by cruise ships designed as entertainment rather than as the backbone of an efficient transport system. Departures are less frequent and the entire round-the-world overland journey may need to be structured to accommodate which sea crossings are available on which days; many only run seasonally or infrequently. On some crossings, freighter travel might be an option if there is no passenger ship, but the number of spaces on these vessels is limited; a private ocean-going vessel (such as a yacht) may also be an option.
The "world cruise" offered (usually as a once-a-year tour) by cruise ship lines cannot be completed in eighty days as it's designed for sightseeing; it takes a hopelessly indirect route, calls in every port, stops for a day or two to allow the traveller to tour each city. Certainly no replacement for the historic ocean liner, which was built for speed. By the time the passenger returns home, 120 days or so have passed and any bets or wagers on the rapidity of this seemingly-mighty vessel have been lost more than a month ago. Phileas Fogg would not be impressed.
Passport and visa restrictions are not to be neglected, especially as overland travel requires entering a long list of multiple nations instead of merely flying over them. The days of passports claiming "An Australian (or Canadian, or whichever realm) citizen is a British subject" and that claim being largely respected throughout a vast Britannic Empire are long gone; every country applies its own arbitrary restrictions to the global traveller. A few points under British control in the depicted era are no longer part of the Empire or Commonwealth; the Suez Canal is now controlled by Egypt, the political situation in much of the Middle East and Central Asia leaves much to be desired, and Hong Kong is now under the control of China.
While fitting a global circumnavigation into an eighty-day schedule is trivial with round the world flights, fitting an entirely-overland journey into this time frame is a challenge; while aviation has greatly reduced travel times, it has also all but ended the tradition of the great liners which once competed for the fastest ocean crossing times by sea. There is still regular transatlantic service (which will cost you), but transpacific services are virtually nonexistent and require probably the biggest amount of advance planning.
Select your sea crossings first; scheduling of overland portions needed to reach the docks should then fall into place. Once you have an itinerary and budget, start looking for individual-country visas.
The original itinerary
Phileas Fogg and Passepartout started out in London.
While various proposals for a Channel Tunnel had been made as early as 1802, no one had attempted to build one; an 1881-82 attempt was abandoned after the first mile. Fogg would therefore almost certainly have crossed the English Channel by boat. A more authentic way to replicate this route would thus be to take a train from London to Dover, cross the English channel to Calais by ferry, then catch a train onwards to Paris from Calais. From Paris, take the Milan-bound TGV and get off at Turin. You can board a Frecciarossa high-speed train in Turin that takes you to Brindisi.
Fogg takes the Mongolia, which arrives at Suez in 4 days, and at Bombay 13 days later, stopping in Aden to take on coal along the way.
This may be difficult to replicate as written, as Somali piracy has been disrupting sea traffic entering the Gulf of Aden in the 2008-2011 era. Sailing on a freight ship or on a cruise may be possible. Otherwise it's going to be hard, time-consuming, expensive, bureaucratic and dangerous if you want to duplicate this leg as close as possible. Additionally, Yemen is currently in a state of anarchy, meaning that stopping off in Aden is currently very dangerous and highly discouraged for tourists. As of late, cruise lines from Europe to Alexandria have been terminated, so you will need to go either via Malta to Tunisia or via Greece or Cyprus to Israel (though regarding the rest of this leg it's a bad idea to get an Israeli stamp in your passport, unless you have more than one) and then travel overland to Egypt. Continue overland down the Red Sea coast at least to Eritrea from where you can get a ferry across the Red Sea to Jeddah — though for this route you would need to convince the Saudi authorities to give you a visa. Another alternative, then, would be traveling down to Djibouti and cross over to Yemen, one of the world's most dangerous countries for a tourist. Either way, you'll then continue overland to the United Arab Emirates from where it might be possible to travel by dhow (traditional boat) to India.
A modified version of this would be doing the trip mostly overland. Brindisi has good ferry connections to different ports in Greece, from where you can get by train or bus to Istanbul. Actually, you can skip the Brindisi part altogether and go from Paris via Munich, Budapest and Bucharest directly to Istanbul, approximately following one of the routes of the former Orient Express. Once in Istanbul, you have some options for getting overland to Delhi. Apparently you can pull this off in 15 days. From Delhi, then, take the train to Mumbai.
- See also: Rail travel in India
In the novel, Phileas Fogg finds out that the Trans-Indian railroad is 50 miles short of completion between Kholby and Allahabad, and therefore has to ride an elephant through the jungle.
The 2000 km from Mumbai to Kolkata is now 27-38 hours by train, or 33 hours by road. Today's travellers don't need to purchase and ride elephants.
Fogg reaches Culcutta in time to catch the Rangoon bound for Hong Kong. En route to Hong Kong, the Rangoon stops in Singapore to take on coal, during which Fogg disembarks with Aouda for a horse carriage ride through Singapore.
Not the shortest path as China nominally borders India; unfortunately the direct land border is disputed and the border area is highly mountainous with road infrastructure on India's side non-existent in-region. The route therefore must go via a third country or by sea, a lengthy detour. Freight ships do ply such routes, but there's likely no passenger ship as direct flights to Hong Kong take about four hours.
Land travel is problematic eastwards from India; some areas of easternmost India require special permits on the top of your visa and Myanmar regulates their land borders fairly strictly in all directions. Going north, you will hardly have any problems getting into Nepal, though crossing into Tibet will require some bureaucracy.
One alternative would be flying to Singapore and traveling from there by land to Hong Kong through Southeast Asia. You can get by train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and further to Butterworth and Bangkok. From there, consider the options in the itineraries Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City overland and Ho Chi Minh City to Shanghai overland. Budget a week or so for this alternative. Alternatively, Star Cruises occasionally operates long-haul cruises from Singapore to Hong Kong, typically taking about 10 days.
In the novel, Fogg was supposed to catch the Carnatic to Yokohama, but the ship left early, and Passepartout was prevented by Fix from informing Fogg about the change. While Fogg was unable to find another steamer headed for Yokohama, he manages to hire the Tankadere to take him to Shanghai, where he was then able to board the General Grant, the steamer that he was originally supposed to have boarded in Yokohama.
Modern cruise ships connect Hong Kong's busy seaport to many destinations, including Tokyo and Okinawa. A trip to Tokyo takes 12 days with multiple stops in China and South Korea; Okinawa can be reached in five days with fewer intermediate stops.
Again, if you're a bit flexible with the itinerary, it's possible to travel with regular ferries. Continue north from Hong Kong to e.g. Shanghai, Suzhou or Qingdao. From there, there are ferries to Japan running every few days.
Yokohama to San Francisco by steamer
The General Grant makes its scheduled a stop in Yokohama, where Fogg was originally supposed to have boarded. Fogg was reunited with Passepartout in Yokohama, and they board the General Grant together for the trans-Pacific crossing to San Francisco.
Crossing the Pacific is probably the hardest problem to solve for anyone who'd like to travel around the world without flying. Modern cruises run from Tokyo; one Princess cruise takes a huge circle from Japan north to Alaska then down through Vancouver, San Francisco and Hawaii, arriving in Australia 45 days later. Freighter travel is probably your best bet here.
San Francisco - Salt Lake City - Medicine Bow - Omaha - Chicago - New York City by rail
- See also: Rail travel in the United States
The Jules Verne itinerary (written in 1872) makes its North American transcontinental journey entirely through the United States by rail; a railway across Canada would not exist until 1885 and a system of United States Numbered Highways (which included the once-famous Route 66) would not exist until 1926.
Covering this route by rail exactly as Phileas Fogg did is difficult if not impossible today. Due to the growing popularity of private car ownership and air travel in the 20th century, rail travel declined; many US rail lines have been dismantled or now only carry heavy freight. In particular, the main transcontinental line no longer passes through Wyoming (which has been left without passenger railroads altogether), instead having been routed further south through Denver, Colorado. This means that you will have to hitchhike on a freight train for the leg between Salt Lake City and Omaha if you want to replicate the route taken by Fogg. As the Oakland Bay Bridge had yet to be built, Fogg's carriage would most probably have headed down south to San Jose, and later headed back up north towards Oakland, where he would have caught the train. However, Oakland railway station is no longer served by transcontinental trains with those now serving Emeryville instead.
Although the experience would be far less authentic, an attempt to retrace the journey by car could allow a closer approximation to the exact route taken by Phileas Fogg in the novel. Nonetheless, the speed of rail travel has increased substantially since the 1870s, despite the priority of freight and the comparatively low general speed limit of 79 mph in the US.
New York City - Queenstown - Dublin - Liverpool - London by steamer and rail
Phileas Fogg arrives in New York City late, and just misses the sailing of the China, which would have taken him across the Atlantic to Liverpool. However he manages to convince the captain of the Henrietta to take his party on board. While the Henrietta was originally headed for Bordeaux, Fogg manages to bribe the crew to change its course for Liverpool against the captain's wishes. However, the ship runs into bad weather and runs out of coal, so Fogg purchases the ship from the captain and burns the wooden parts of the ship as fuel, though it was only enough to get him as far as Queenstown. Fogg catches one of the express mail trains from Queenstown to Dublin, followed by a fast boat from Dublin to Liverpool, where he is arrested by Fix on reaching English soil. Fogg is, however, later found innocent and released, and is able to charter a train to London. His only hope of winning the bet is to report back to the Reform Club within eighty days of departure and, at this point, he no longer has any time to spare.
Today, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 ocean liner runs NYC-Southampton in seven days, with trains onward running hourly to London. This operation is seasonal and the number of departures are limited. There are also occasional sailings to Liverpool for special anniversaries. For those who want to replicate Fogg's journey more faithfully, Cunard's Queen Victoria occassionally makes a stop in Cobh (the current name of what was then Queenstown) on the way to Southampton, where you can get off and catch a train to Dublin (with a train change in Cork). You can then catch one of the ferries from Dublin to Liverpool, from which you have multiple options for catching a train onward to London.