Around the World in Eighty Days (French: 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.
|“||Monsieur is going to leave home?
Yes, returned Phileas Fogg. We are going round the world.
Unlike much of Verne’s work, Around the World in Eighty Days 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 intercity journey by stagecoach that used to take a week 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 home to a British concession at that time.
The complete text of the novel is on Wikisource in the original French and in an English translation. The book is available for free from Project Gutenberg with a free companion audio book. Some of the motion picture adaptations have set up Fogg and Passepartout travelling a leg of the journey in a hot air balloon. While those existed in 1872, and Jules Verne described balloon rides in other books, the original novel lets Fogg dismiss balloons as useless for travel.
Since the novel was first published, 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 76½ days. Michael Palin completed the journey in 1988 for a BBC TV series, and an accompanying book. 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, and 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 would have passed and any bets or wagers on the rapidity of this seemingly-mighty vessel would 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. In addition to that, visa procedures often differ by port of entry and those for overland or ship entry tend to be harder than those for entry via air.
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 trans-Pacific 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
Around the World in Eighty Days
Phileas Fogg and Passepartout started out in London.
London – Paris – Turin – Brindisi by rail and boat
- See also: Rail travel in Europe, Rail travel in the United Kingdom
Fogg travels from 1 London, to 2 Paris, 3 Turin and 4 Brindisi within three days. The novel describes this leg indirectly and without detail, through a laconic quote from Fogg’s journal. Verne might have implied that Europe was the easiest continent to traverse.
This remains possible; in the modern era one may take Eurostar from St. Pancras in London to Paris, then trains through Munich and Bologna to Brindisi in southeastern Italy, 29 hours total.
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.
Brindisi – Suez – Aden – Bombay by steamer
Fogg takes the Mongolia, which arrives at 5 Suez in 4 days, stopping in 6 Aden to take on coal, reaching 7 Bombay 13 days later. In Suez, a Scotland Yard detective named Fix—who has been sent out from London in pursuit of a bank robber—notes that Fogg fits the description, so he follows them on the rest of the journey.
This may be difficult to replicate as written, as Somali piracy disrupted sea traffic entering the Gulf of Aden from 2000 to 2017. 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 closely as possible. Additionally, because of Yemen’s on-going civil war, stopping off in Aden is very dangerous and strongly discouraged (as of Dec 2018). Cruise lines no long ply the route from Europe to Alexandria, so you will have to go either via Malta to Tunisia or via Greece or Cyprus to Israel (though 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 have 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. 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.
Bombay through Allahabad to Calcutta by rail
- 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 8 Allahabad, and therefore has to ride an elephant through the jungle. He and Passepartout also rescue a young Parsi woman named Aouda from suttee (suicide on her husband’s funeral pyre) and bring her along on their journey. Fogg was nevertheless able to make it to Allahabad in time to catch the train bound for 9 Calcutta.
The 2000 km from Mumbai to Kolkata is now 27–38 hours by train, or 33 hours by road. Today’s travellers don’t have to purchase and ride elephants.
Calcutta through Singapore to Hong Kong by steamer
Fogg reaches Calcutta in time to catch the Rangoon bound for Hong Kong. The Rangoon stops in 10 Singapore to take on coal, during which Fogg disembarks with Aouda for a horse carriage ride through Singapore, before going on to 11 Hong Kong.
Going via Singapore is not the shortest path since China borders India. This border is disputed, the border area is very mountainous, and road infrastructure is quite limited. The border crossing between China and India is only open to traders, and not to tourists. The route therefore must make a lengthy detour via a third country, or go by air or sea. Freight ships do frequently ply the route taken by Fogg, 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.
Another possibility would be to fly from India into China and continue by train to Hong Kong or Shanghai. Perhaps the most interesting route would be to fly from Delhi to Lhasa and continue on routes given in Overland to Tibet, but that risks altitude sickness since Lhasa is at 3,650 m (12,000 ft), and the Chinese government has complex and varying regulations for travel permits for Tibet. A shorter and easier route that avoids both problems would be to fly Kolkata-Kunming (called going “over the hump” during World War II; see Burma Road), then continue on routes described in Hong Kong to Kunming overland.
Hong Kong – Shanghai – Yokohama by steamer
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 12 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.
You can also take a train from Hong Kong to Shanghai. High speed trains depart daily from Hong Kong and takes 8 hours to reach Shanghai. A cheaper option is to take the slower, sleeper train that departs every 2 days from Hong Kong and arrives in Shanghai in 20 hours.
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 stop in 13 Yokohama, where Fogg had intended to board. Fogg was reunited with Passepartout in Yokohama, and they board the General Grant together for the trans-Pacific crossing to 14 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 both Tokyo and Yokohama; 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. Modern day cruises usually take about 20 days to complete the journey from Tokyo or Yokohama to San Francisco, almost always stopping in Alaska and Canada on the way. Freighter travel is probably your best bet here.
San Francisco – Salt Lake City – Medicine Bow – Fort Kearney – Omaha – Chicago – New York City by rail
- See also: Rail travel in the United States, Old West
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.
In the book, Fogg boarded an Omaha-bound Pacific Railroad train at Oakland Railway Station. From there, the train would make its way via Sacramento and Reno to Ogden, from which Fogg and would visit 15 Salt Lake City via a branch line. The train then proceeded though the Wasatch Range towards Wyoming. It was, however, forced to stop near 16 Medicine Bow, as the bridge crossing some rapids on the Medicine Bow River had been damaged by a storm and was not sturdy enough to support the weight of the train. Nevertheless, the engineer made the decision to attempt the crossing at full speed, which allowed the train to barely make it across, with the bridge collapsing immediately after. The train then proceeded on towards Fort Kearney and Omaha, though it was far from smooth-sailing as they would be attacked by a tribe of Sioux on the way, during which the conductor was incapacitated. Though the train was stopped at 17 Fort Kearney, where soldiers were able to board and chase the Sioux away, Passepartout was kidnapped, leading Fogg to mount a rescue attempt. Though the rescue was successful, Fogg would miss the train, and had to make his way to 18 Omaha by sled, where he is barely in time to board the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad train for 19 Chicago. At Chicago, Fogg then transferred onto a Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railway train, which traversed the states of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey before finally arriving in 20 New York.
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. Similarly, the train between Chicago and New York City has since been re-routed further north via South Bend, Toledo, Cleveland and Albany, and no longer follows the route taken by Fogg through Fort Wayne, Mansfield, Alliance, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Newark and Jersey City.
As the Oakland Bay Bridge had yet to be built, Fogg’s carriage may have headed down south to San Jose, and later headed back up north towards Oakland, where he would have caught the train. Alternatively, Fogg may be boarded a ferry across the bay from San Francisco to Oakland. 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 (127 km/h) in the US.
The modern Amtrak “California Zephyr” Emeryville–Chicago and “Lake Shore Limited” Chicago-NYC take about three and a half days.
New York City – Queenstown – Dublin – Liverpool – London by steamer and rail
- See also: Rail travel in Ireland
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 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 21 Queenstown. Fogg catches one of the express mail trains from Queenstown to 22 Dublin, followed by a fast boat from Dublin to 23 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 80 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 occasionally makes a stop in Cobh (the modern name of 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.