Best luxury train rides in Asia: Eastern & Oriental Express

The Eastern & Oriental Express is heading back to the tracks.

Services for the train service are restarting in February 2024, according to an announcement today by the train’s owner, the luxury travel company Belmond.  

The passenger train, long considered one of the most luxurious rail rides in Asia, started operating in 1993, connecting Bangkok to Singapore. It stopped running in 2020 at the outset of the pandemic.

The Eastern & Oriental is returning with 15 carriages, including two restaurant cars, one piano bar car and an open-air observation car. It’s eight sleeping cars will have three cabin categories — Pullman, State and Presidential — all with air-conditioning and private bathrooms.

Bookings for 2024 opened today with rates from $3,410 per person for a three-day journey, which includes all meals, beverages and scheduled activities.

Two journeys

The new service is set to run two seasonal journeys, both departing from Singapore and traveling to Malaysia.

The “Essence of Malaysia,” will run from November to February. It will pass through Kuala Lumpur, with views of the Petronas Twin Towers — once the tallest buildings in the world — before departing for the popular islands of Langkawi and Penang along western Malaysia.

The Eastern & Oriental Express is outfitted with ornate silks, cherry wood paneling and carpets made with Malay batik.

Source: Belmond

Guests can snorkel in Palau Payar Marine Park, take a Peranakan cooking class and experience the “UNESCO World Heritage sites, lively street art, and a thrilling food scene” in the city of George Town, according to the announcement.

From March to October, passengers can embark on the train’s “Wild Malaysia” route. It stops along the eastern side of Malaysia to explore the rainforests of the Taman Negara National Park, before venturing to Penang.

Trains of similar names

The Eastern & Oriental Express has been colloquially referred to as Southeast Asia’s “Orient Express,” harkening to the historic train that linked Paris and Istanbul beginning in the late 19th century.

Costs start at $3,410 per person for a three-day journey on the Eastern & Oriental Express.

Source: Belmond

Accor is also preparing to launch six “Orient Express La Dolce Vita” trains in 2024 that will run across Italy, with trips to Paris, Istanbul and Split, Croatia, according to its website.

Pre-booking for that service opened in December 2022, with prices starting from 2,000 euros ($2,192) per person per night, according to Accor.

— Lucy Handley contributed to this report.  


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