Race Across the World

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Race Across the World
Race across the world title card.jpg
GenreReality competition
Directed byRob Fisher
Narrated byJohn Hannah
Theme music composerMichael Burns
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series2[1]
No. of episodes15
Executive producersMark Saben
Tim Harcourt
Stephen Lambert
ProducersBrent Gundesen
Zoe Hines
Georgina Kiedrowski
Eddie Lewis
Alex Reynolds
EditorStephen Day
Running time60 minutes
Production companyStudio Lambert
Original networkBBC Two
Picture format16:9
Audio formatStereo
Original release3 March 2019 (2019-03-03) –

Race Across the World is a British television competition programme, in which teams of two race across an area of the world to be the fastest to reach their destination using any method of transport other than a plane.[2] The programme is broadcast on BBC Two and narrated by John Hannah.[3]

The first series, consisting of six episodes, was aired from 3 March to 7 April 2019. On 9 July 2019, BBC confirmed that a second and third series has been commissioned for BBC Two.[4] It was also announced on 3 October 2019 that a celebrity spin-off series would be aired on BBC One,[5] but the production has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[6] The second series consists of nine episodes, with the opening episode broadcast on 8 March 2020.[1]


The programme follows pairs of competitors racing around the world to be the first to reach the final destination. In the first series, the race started from London and finished in Singapore. The competitors cannot fly but were each given a money belt containing an amount of money equivalent to a one-way plane ticket to their final destination, which they can use to travel by land or by sea. The money pays for all the cost of the travel including food and accommodation, but they may work to earn money along the way. The competitors may not have any mobile electronic devices or credit cards at the start of the race, but were given a world map, a GPS device to track their progress and for safety as well as finding the checkpoints, and a travel guide with local job adverts, in addition to the money. In every episode, the teams were given a checkpoint they had to reach. One team may be eliminated if they come last at a pre-determined checkpoint. At each checkpoint, the racers were given a 36-hour break. The first team to reach the final destination win a cash prize of £20,000.[3]


Before the race, two assistant producers conducted a recce research trip to assess the feasibility of such a journey within the budget constraints. All likely bus and train journeys were assessed beforehand. Visas were applied for the countries along all possible routes before the race as well as any necessary vaccinations for these countries.[3]

During the race, each team had two film crew members who travelled along with them. All decisions, however, were made by the racers and the crew cannot interfere with their choices. A director of photography travelled behind the teams for additional location filming. To ensure the safety of the racers, there may be local fixers and security advisers who observed the racers from a distance, and medical support vehicle also travelled an hour behind the team in some countries.[7][8]

The programme was commissioned by David Brindley and Michael Jochnowitz for BBC 2.[3]

Series overview[edit]

Series Episodes Premiere Finale Start End Winners Average UK
1 6 3 March 2019 7 April 2019 London, United Kingdom Singapore Elaine & Tony 2,590,000
2 9 8 March 2020 26 April 2020 Mexico City, Mexico Ushuaia, Argentina Emon & Jamiul 3,760,000

Series 1 (2019)[edit]

Series 1 start and end points

The first series of Race Across the World consisting of six episodes first aired on BBC Two from 3 March to 7 April 2019.[2] Five pairs of racers travelled from the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London and finishing at the hotel Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The itinerary of the race covered countries in Europe and Asia with checkpoints in Greece, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, China and Cambodia. In the first series, the contestants were each given £1,329 for the whole race, a journey of 12,000 miles which was completed in 50 days.[7]

The first series featured five pairs of competitors at the start of the race: Natalie and Shameema, Jinda and Bindu, Darron and Alex, Josh and Felix, and Sue and Clare.[9] Jinda and Bindu withdrew due to family illness in the first episode, and were replaced by Elaine and Tony, while Sue and Clare were eliminated in the second episode. The winners were Elaine and Tony.[10]

The series was the most successful debut for a factual entertainment show on BBC Two in over three years, and one of the most-watched shows of the year for the channel.[11]

Series 2 (2020)[edit]

Series 2 start and end points
Chapultepec Castle (Mexico City)
Ushuaia (Argentina)

A second series began airing on 8 March 2020 with five teams setting off from Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City in a race to the most southerly city in the world, Ushuaia in Argentina, covering a distance of 25,000 km in 2 months, passing through 7 checkpoints in Honduras, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and Chile.[1] Each racer was given £1,453 for the whole trip, roughly £26 per day.[12] Filming started in September 2019.

In this series, the no-fly rule was abandoned due to civil unrest in Ecuador which made land travel through the country unsafe - all the teams were flown from Colombia to Peru to continue the race. The 5 teams of racers were Dom & Lizzie, Jo & Sam, Jen & Rob, Shuntelle & Michael, and Emon and Jamiul. No one was eliminated this series but two teams decided to quit; Shuntelle & Michael left after losing half their money in leg 2 of the race,[13] while Jo & Sam withdrew after they had run out of money in leg 7.[14] The winners were Emon and Jamiul who beat Jen & Rob to the final checkpoint by seconds.[15]

The number of episodes increased from six to nine this series; eight episodes on the race followed by a reunion special.[16]


Race Across the World has received generally positive reviews mixed with some negative reviews. Michael Hogan of The Telegraph found the first series "fiendishly addictive", and thought that it "reaffirmed one's faith in human nature" where friendships are "formed across cultural divides", with the series ending on an act of kindness that was "apt" and "heartwarming".[17] Jeff Robson of the i newspaper regarded the series "flawed but engaging", and that although the show lacked the "challenges of some extreme travelogues, nor the sense of peril", it "succeeded in recreating the combination of unexpected highlights, soul-destroying lows and crucial budget decisions which characterised old-school seat of the pants travel".[18] Carol Midgley of The Times regarded the challenge of racing to be "quite tough" and "dramatic".[19]

In the second series, Joel Golby of The Guardian judged it "an astounding piece of TV" that "captures all the vibrant highs and exhausted lows of travel in all of their raw glory", and one that made him "genuinely caring how this one ends and the impact it will have on the lives of those who lived it".[20] Anita Singh of The Telegraph thought "the casting is one of the strengths of the series" and she "can't help but warm to these wacky racers".[21] However, Chris Moss of the same paper was more negative; he found that the obstacles the contestants faced were "largely fictive" and the tension "fabricated", and thought the show used the "old idiot abroad trope", and the viewers were "asked not to marvel at faraway places but to engage with the participants".[22] Equally negative was Barry Didcock of The Herald who considered the show's premise of travelling without flying "a frivolous exercise" and of questionable taste as the budget of racers would exceed that of a refugee at the Mexico-Guatemala border.[23] In contrast, Shaun Kitchener wrote in Metro that the show "is the heartfelt light we all need in these dark times" as it was aired during the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that, with the "masterful combination of escapism (the scenery!), warmth (the contestants!), drama (the conflict!) and adrenaline (the actual race!), Race Across The World is a merciful piece of TV to keep us briefly distracted over the next few weeks".[24]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The first series of Race Across the World won the 2020 BAFTA TV Award in the Best Reality and Constructed Factual category.[25] The second series was also nominated.

International broadcast[edit]

The programme aired in Australia, airing on the Nine Network from December 2019.[26] In America, the show airs on discovery+ since its launch on January 4, 2021.[27]

In Hong Kong, the first series aired on RTHK TV 31 as Race to Singapore (鬥快去星洲) from 6 April 2020,[28] while the second series, aired from 5 October 2020 within the Let’s Explore hour with the sub-title translated as Race to South America (一齊闖天下:鬥快去南美).[29]

Danish version[edit]

Danish TV 2 produced the first international adaptation named Først til verdens ende (translation: "First to the end of the world") in Autumn 2019 with a route between Odense and Singapore. The series began airing on 31 March 2020.[30]

In April 2021, TV2 and production company Strong began casting for a second season with an expected filming period from 10 October until the end of November 2021.[31] The season premiered on 11 April 2022[32] and saw contestants travelling in a circle around Europe to arrive back in Denmark. During the production, two participants tested positive for COVID-19, causing the competition to come to a freeze for 11 days and participants being transported to the next check-point, before continuing.[33]

Series Episodes Premiere Finale Start End Winners DK viewers
1 8 31 March 2020 19 May 2020 Odense, Denmark Singapore Nicolaj & Stephanie 678,000
2 8 11 April 2022 30 May 2022 Esbjerg, Denmark Copenhagen, Denmark Nikolaj & Jeppe

On the 23rd of May, 2022, it was announced that the Danish TV2 had renewed the series for a third season with casting starting the same day[34]. Applicants were informed that they should be able to take time off for 52 days: The season will be filmed from October 21st 2022 until December 11th 2022 with an expected release the following year.

German version[edit]

In August 2021, it was revealed that Germany's RTL Zwei was preparing an adaptation of the format for the German audience.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "BBC Two - Race across the World, Series 2". BBC.
  2. ^ a b Maxted, Anna (28 February 2019). "Race Across the World: Could you travel by land to Singapore — with just £25 a day?". The Times.
  3. ^ a b c d "Race Across The World, BBC2". Broadcast. 1 March 2019.
  4. ^ "BBC announces new factual entertainment commissions - Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  5. ^ "BBC - BBC One takes celebrities on a Race Across The World - Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  6. ^ Miller, Adam (12 March 2020). "Coronavirus: Celebrity Race Across The World shelved over outbreak of Covid-19". Metro.
  7. ^ a b Turner, Lauren (6 April 2019). "Race Across the World: How the BBC series was made". BBC News.
  8. ^ Bryan, Scott (8 March 2020). "Theft, riots and 28-hour buses: the secrets of Race Across the World". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Rosseinsky, Katie (3 March 2019). "Race Across The World: is the BBC's new show the ultimate hitch-hiking challenge?". Evening Standard.
  10. ^ "Race Across The World 2019 winners revealed". BBC. 7 April 2019.
  11. ^ Henry, Grace (15 March 2020). "When is Race Across The World series 2 on? Everything you need to know". Radio Times.
  12. ^ Henry, Grace (5 March 2020). "When is Race Across The World series 2 on? Everything you need to know". Radio Times.
  13. ^ Porter, Toby (16 March 2020). "Sydenham and Lewisham couple testing their relationship by racing the length of South America". London News Online.
  14. ^ Williams, Isla (26 April 2020). "Race Across The World fans devastated after Jo and Sam drop out of race in show's final". Metro.
  15. ^ "Race Across the World victors pledge winnings to help street children". BBC. 27 April 2020.
  16. ^ Morris, Lauren (29 April 2020). "When is Race Across the World: Revealed on TV?". Radio Times.
  17. ^ Hogan, Michael (7 April 2019). "Race Across the World, finale, review: tension, breakdowns, locusts for breakfast – and a heartwarming end". The Telegraph.
  18. ^ Robson, Jeff (3 March 2019). "Race Across The World, BBC2, review: a flawed but engaging travelogue with a difference". iNews.
  19. ^ Midgley, Carol (4 March 2019). "TV review: Race Across the World; Call the Midwife". The Times.
  20. ^ Golby, Joel (21 March 2020). "Race Across the World: a competitive gap year you end up caring about". The Guardian.
  21. ^ Singh, Anita (8 March 2020). "Race Across the World, review: I can't help but warm to these wacky racers". The Telegraph.
  22. ^ Moss, Chris (16 March 2020). "What Race Across the World gets wrong about Latin America and modern travel". The Telegraph.
  23. ^ Didcock, Barry. "Barry Didcock's TV review: Race Across The World, BBC Two, Sunday".
  24. ^ Kitchener, Shaun (18 March 2020). "Race Across The World is the heartfelt light we all need in these dark times". Metro.
  25. ^ "Reality and Constructed Factual -Race Across the World".
  26. ^ "Airdate: Race Across the World". TV Tonight. 27 November 2019.
  27. ^ "Discovery+: Here's Every Original Series Available on Discovery's New Streaming Service at Launch". TheWrap. 4 January 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  28. ^ "鬥快去星洲" [Race Across the World on RTHK TV 31]. RTHK. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  29. ^ "一齊闖天下" [Let’s Explore on RTHK TV 31]. RTHK. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  30. ^ "10 danskere rejste Jorden rundt uden mobil og kreditkort: Her er, hvad de lærte - TV 2". livsstil.tv2.dk. 31 March 2020. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  31. ^ "Kan I komme først til verdens ende? - TV 2". tv.tv2.dk (in Danish). 6 April 2021. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  32. ^ "Først til verdens ende 2 - TV 2". omtv2.tv2.dk. 4 April 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  33. ^ "Tv-program måtte afbrydes i 11 dage: - Hele programmets eksistens var på spil - TV 2". livsstil.tv2.dk (in Danish). 22 May 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  34. ^ https://strongproductions.teamtailor.com/jobs/1741987-kan-i-komme-forst-til-verdens-ende

External links[edit]