Country info Asia

Last update September 2013

CHINA & KYRGYZSTAN Borders, Just a few notes on the road conditions & a few pics

BORDER CROSSING KYRGYZSTAN TO CHINA, IRKESTAN PASS

Be careful with the opening hours of the border. They Kyrgyz normally open around 8.30 and close when the Chinese close! The problem is that the Chinese tend to close some time between 11 & 14-30 Peking time their border for lunch and I don´t know what else! So that you might end up waking up early to get early to the border but then have to wait for the Chinese officials to way up from their loooong siesta. If you have to spend the night in Kyrgyzstan before crossing the border there are a few places to stay the night in the little town of Sari Tash on the way to Osh, Murghab and Kashgar. There is about 1 hour of drive from there to the Kyrgyz border. There are also a few cafes next to the border, where Kyrgyz people leave and they might be able to put you up somewhere. On the Chinse side the things get more complicated as the customs and immigration is not right at the border but about 30 min. drive and the second real border officials are after 3 hours drive after the first building. It seems that the Chinese have decided to mover their custom buildings closer to the cities. The road from the Chinese border to Kashgar was under construction and would have given you a good overview of how the Chinese work! Right now it much much better and it should take you only 7 hours to get to Kashgar (including the customs) There will be a few detours, sand roads, passing by big trucks,…. before arriving in noisy Kashgar. But it seems that the new highway will be ready in a few months. The last gas station on the Kyrgyz side is also in Sari Tash. Bear in mind that Irkestan pass is a high mountain pass over 3000 meters and it can get very cold and even there can be snow in September.

Border crossing China Kyrgyzstan  Border Crossing Kyrgyzstan China

BORDER CROSSING CHINA TO KYRGYZSTAN, TOURGAT PASS

The road from Narin to the border is much better on the Kyrgyz side, all smooth and makes your ride an enjoyable one. The first bit of the Chinese side is quite potholed but then it´s ok too and all tarmac . Here again the custom and immigration building is a few hours before the actual border which consists of a pretentious gate and nothing else! The Kyrgyz immigration building is a few km after the border set next to a beautiful lake. The Kyrgyz officials are quite friendly and fast. Again bear in mind that the Tourgat pass is a high mountain pass over 3000 meters. It can get very cold and even in September there can be a lot of snow.

FUEL IN KYRGYZSTAN

A liter of gas costs around 40 Som

A liter of Diesel is almost the same

MONEY IN KYRGYZSTAN

You can change money at exchange offices or even at the ATM which are scattered around big towns. Smaller towns might not have an ATM or offer less value for your Euros or Dollars. 1€=64Som

FUEL IN CHINA

A liter of gas or diesel costs approximateley 6.50 Juan

MONEY IN CHINA

1€= 8 or 7.9 Juan you will have better exchange rate if you change at the black market. In all big hotels there are some guys that will change your money

FUEL IN UZBEKSITAN

1 liter of gas or diesel costs 1645 SUM

MONEY IN UZBEKSITAN

1€= 3500 SUM Uzbekistan is one of those corrupt countries where you´ll better off if you change your money at the black market. Generally in big cities such as Samarkand, Bukhara or Tashkent you´ll have better exchange rates. Just ask any shop owner or go to the local market and ask people. Just be careful as it is apparently illegal!

Border crossing between China and KyrgyzstanBorder crossing Kyrgyzstan China

PAKISTAN

PAKISTANI VISA

We had to ask for an invitation letter in order to ask for a visa and in the end as the invitation letter we received was from a company we were given a business visa instead of a tourist visa. Although we first wanted to ask for a double entry visa we were only given a single entry one.

MONEY

1€ = approximately 125 Rupees. There are ATMs only in big cities and most of them DON”T accept foreign credit cards!  We could change money right at the border on the Pakistani side, which had better rates than the Iranian side. Don’t forget to bargain.

Motorcycling and border crossing in Iran and Pakistan

Mirjaveh, Taftan Iranian Pakistani border crossing

FUEL

1 liter of gas approximately 105 Rupees. In Baluchistan it’s a bit more expensive than in other provinces.

Generally it’s quite easy to find gas stations every where except for Baluchistan part, close to Iranian border. Even there you can always come across shops selling petrol in gallons.

ROAD CONDITIONS IN PAKISTAN

The road from Taftan border to Quetta is ok with some parts badly pitholed, some others covered  with sand. But, as there is not much traffic it’s not dangerous. apart from the last, part it’s mostly flat and with moon-like landscape. From Quetta to Shikarpur the road is ok too and with not much traffic. Although it can get at some parts quite dusty so that you get a good taste of sand. You can continue to Lahore from Shikarpur but it’s much wiser to continue to Sukhar and from there take the high way with 2 lanes and a lot of gas stations along the road to Lahore. There is no toll for motorbikes. We didn’t see much if any road accidents maybe because most of the cars are just so unbelievably slow. In fact we were the only speedy ones!

BORDER CROSSING FROM IRAN TO PAKISTAN

There is only one border crossing between Iran and Pakistan, which is from Iranian border in Mirjaveh, some 70 km  far from the city Zahedan. This border is open 7 days a week but you rather arrive early on festive days as well as Fridays as they might close the border at 2 pm! If you do get stuck there don’t worry much since there is a quite nice hotel in Mirjaveh itself for 20 USD. There is also a guesthouse inside the border but you might prefer to stay in the town itself.

Mirjaveh, Taftan border

You do need carnet du passage for both Iran and Pakistan. The Pakistani border is also quite hassle free but you will be escorted all way long to Quetta and further. This will make your travel much slower as you’ll depend on the speed on your escort, their availability, their lunch or dinner time. Forget about driving after dark as they will now let you. Initially we were told that we will be only escorted till Quetta but in reality we were escorted up to 50 km before Lahore. The funny thing was that sometimes we were escorted strictly and some other times the escort would accompany us only a few km out of the city and then will wave goodbye!

SECURITY IN PAKISTAN

We were so warned about the security in Baluchistan part of Iran and Pakistan that we were almost about to drop the idea and travel somewhere else. Traveling in Sistan Baluchestan of Iran turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences in terms of hospitality and friendliness as well as landscape. In Pakistani part we were most of the time escorted by police (sometimes without any uniform) and warned about the security but we never felt any problems or risk.

Traveling on motorbike in Pakistan

Baluchistan in Pakistan

In some small cities they do force you into staying at the police station due to lack of guesthouses, etc. But no complaints at all about their service and the way they treated us. At one point and taking advantage of the lack of security we decided to camp in countryside and met some villagers who invited us to their village. After some time the police arrived and they insisted to take us to the police station for the sake of our own security. We stood our ground and refused the idea of packing again and suggested instead that they send 2 policemen to look after us and that is what they did after some thinking and a huge number of phone calls! That was the perfect night with full moon and I’m glad we didn’t spend it in the police station.

In the city of Bahawolpur and as we were not escorted by anybody we looked for a hotel and found out that they don’t accept any foreigners  The only hotel that accepted us had to ask for permission  This turned out to be a mistake as the police came and made us move to another hotel that they considered safe and was 3 times as expensive. After 5 hours of discussing we agreed that we only pay the part that we were supposed to pay in the first hotel!

Once in Quetta or Lahore, we could stay wherever we wanted to and move freely. We never really understood this arbitrary way of providing us with security but the way the countless police escort treated us was most of the time just perfect.

We were also denied the permission to travel from Quetto to Pishawer or Islamabad so that we had to change plans and first for to Lahore (it takes 2 days from Quetta to Lahore).

IRAN

IRANIAN VISA

You generally have to ask for an invitation letter in order to ask for a visa. But you can arrange it via many agencies. You can also contact us at info@notjustatourist.com to arrange your visa application.  Just be prepared that it can take a month or some times more. If you come by air then there is an option to apply for the visa right at the Imam airport in Tehran. In this case the maximum duration will be of 2 weeks.

MONEY

1€ = approximately 50.000 Riyal or 5000 Toman! Yes, the value of € and $ is rising a lot in Iran these days so that Iran can be a very cheap country for your valuable € & $. Go to Iran now as later it can be again more expensive. There are no ATMs at all for your foreign debit or credit cards. So bring enough cash and hide it well too. You can change money easily in most places specially in black market in Tehran or other cities. Just ask.

FUEL IN IRAN

Good news: 1 liter of gas approximately 7000 Riyal or 700 Toman! So ride as much as you want and as long as you can since Iran has got one of the cheapest gas prices on earth.

Generally there are not many gas stations inside or outside the cities. So make sure to put enough gas whenever you find one.

ROAD CONDITIONS IN IRAN

Iran is one of the major producer of petrol so the roads are pretty good in comparison to the neighbouring counties. Most cities are connected via high way. Just watch out the traffic and try to enjoy it at the same time. Driving in big cities such as Tehran can be one of the greatest challenges in your life, very risky but also quite entertaining if you have the guts!

BORDER CROSSING FROM IRAN TO PAKISTAN

There is only one border crossing between Iran and Pakistan, which is from Iranian border in Mirjaveh, some 70 km  far from the city Zahedan. This border is open 7 days a week but you rather arrive early on festive days as well as Fridays as they might close the border at 2 pm! If you do get stuck there don’t worry much since there is a quite nice hotel in Mirjaveh itself for 20 USD. There is also a guesthouse inside the border but you might prefer to stay in the town itself.

Mirjaveh, Taftan border

You do need carnet du passage for both Iran and Pakistan. The Pakistani border is also quite hassle free but you will be escorted all way long to Quetta and further. This will make your travel much slower as you’ll depend on the speed on your escort, their availability, their lunch or dinner time. Forget about driving after dark as they will now let you. Initially we were told that we will be only escorted till Quetta but in reality we were escorted up to 50 km before Lahore. The funny thing was that sometimes we were escorted strictly and some other times the escort would accompany us only a few km out of the city and then will wave goodbye!

SECURITY IN IRAN

Iran is one of the most hospitable countries in the world as Iranians still have the idea of accepting you as a guest in stead of a tourist. This way you will have the chance to be introduced to their homes, try home made food, taken out to their favorite places, you will be pampered  fed, spoiled… You might be warned about the security in some regions such as Baluchistan part of Iran, but great part of it is just a myth. Traveling in Sistan Baluchestan of Iran turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences in terms of hospitality and friendliness as well as landscape for us. The highest risk you can sense in Iran can be the traffic in big cities. Otherwise quite safe. Language can be a bit of problem too as not many Iranians speak English. But of course it´s not a risk! and Pakistan that we were almost about to drop the idea and travel somewhere else.

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