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London to Istanbul race launches – with only walking and public transport allowed

Dozens of competitors are expected for the inaugural Trans-European Race, a journey from London to Istanbul using only public transport and walking.

These international travellers will depart at 10am on 5 August for a trip that the organisers believe will take around five days. Some could take considerably longer: besides a prize for the fastest, there will be extra prizes for the lowest-cost contestant and the most countries visited.

The race is being organised by a Wigan-based firm, Lupine Travel, whose main business is sending hardy explorers to normally off-limits destinations such as Yemen and North Korea.

The first to reach Istanbul will will a “grand prize” of £2,000-worth of travel from the company.

Contestants will be required to check in at a series of secret checkpoints along the way – which will strictly limit the amount of advance planning they can do. The first checkpoint will be in Paris, but the remainder will be revealed only one at a time.

Dylan Harris, the founder of Lupine Travel, said: “We don’t want to make it too easy, so people can’t just pre-organise everything in advance. It’s not just a case of getting to Istanbul as quickly as you can. The first checkpoint is going to be Paris, but you’ll only find out where the next checkpoint is once you arrive in Paris.”

Anyone who plots a route from the French capital via Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Sofia, and books overnight trains in advance, could find instead that they are routed via Italy and Greece.

The distance as the crow flies is 1,550 miles, but the overall distance is likely to be much further – especially for contestants who divert to smaller countries to increase the tally of nations, such as Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and San Marino. The former Yugoslavia could also provide a useful haul in the shape of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and North Macedonia.

Mr Harris said: “We wanted to do something different. We’ve been running trips to really unusual offbeat destinations all around the world. But we felt we wanted to make something more accessible, and get away from group travel and more about like real challenges.

“Getting people to have real experiences– not just fly somewhere and not not experience the journey, just get, get out there and have real experiences trying to try to go by, by rail by, by bus or meeting real people along the way.”

The entry fee is £99 in addition to the cost of all the trains, buses and accommodation, as well as the flight home (unless you choose to go overland again).

Hitchhiking, flying and taking taxis are banned – except when a taxi is used for the purposes of going from a station to a hotel and back again.

Listen to race organiser Dylan Harris on the daily travel podcast from The Independent

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