Race Across the World



John Hannah (voiceover)


Studio Lambert for BBC Two, 28 February 2019 to 3 May 2020 (15 episodes in 2 series)

Studio Lambert for BBC One, 22 March 2023 to present


Couples are challenged to get from one side of the world to another (first series, London to Singapore; second, Mexico to Argentina; third, Canada coast-to-coast). They're given the air fare in cash.

Easy, just go to the airport and buy a ticket, right? Wrong - they're not allowed to fly. Overland transport only.

Er, ring up someone and ask for a lift? Nope - there are no mobile phones.

OK, whack it all on the credit card, right? Nope again - they're not allowed to use any money other than cash. The teams are allowed to work, and the producers arrange some possible jobs along the route.

First to the other side wins a cash prize of £20,000.

The finish line is on top of the hotel.

Race Across the World settled into a distinctive style. There was a lot about the mechanics of travel, about navigating connections and crossing town, about the trade-off between fast and comfortable. Establishing shots and big captions make it clear where we are, and John Hannah's voiceover tells us about the place.

The show was a mixture of travelogue, relationship diary, and economic management. It was all of these things and none - not a pure travelogue, not a pure people show, and not really an egonomics study. It proved to be a winning formula, viewing figures increased by 50% during the first series.


2019: Tony and Elaine
2020: Emon & Jamiul

Title music

Michael Burns, credited for "Original Music".


The series had a 5-minute preview at 10.25 on Thursday evening. Episodes went out at 9pm on Sunday evenings from 3 March, shifting to 8pm from 31 March as the series threatened to dent BBC1's high-profile drama Line of Duty.

The "no-fly" rule had to be slightly bent during the second series: although the teams still couldn't travel by air of their own volition, a plane was laid on to transport them from the end of one leg in Colombia to the start of the next in Peru, bypassing the civil unrest which had broken out in Ecuador. Further civil unrest in Chile forced the producers to step in again and evacuate one team across the border to Argentina - though by car this time. By the time the series aired, international travel had bigger problems, causing both the third series and a planned celebrity version to be put on hold for a couple of years.

Web links

BBC programme page

Wikipedia entry

See also

Weaver's Week review


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