Report: Pakistan – China border crossing at Khunjerab Pass

The Pakistan – China border crossing at Khunjerab Pass is relatively straightforward, provided you’re carrying a visa and a healthy dose of patience. It’s also absolutely gorgeous, and definitely worth the trek if you’re heading to China.

Before you go

Perhaps a bit obvious, but make sure you have your Chinese (or Pakistan) visa in hand before trying to cross the border! We have posts on how to get a Chinese visa in Tehran and a Pakistan visa in The Hague. Otherwise, Caravanistan is an excellent resource for information on applying for China and Pakistan visas elsewhere.

For more information on traveling up the Karakoram Highway towards the China border, check out this great Karakoram Highway guide from Against the Compass.

 

The Karakoram Highway of Pakistan heading to Sost

Getting to Sost

The journey starts from Sost. To call Sost a town is a bit of an overstatement. It’s basically a street with some shops and hotels. If you’re using public transport to cross the border, you should arrive the day before departure. If you have your own transport, you don’t have to stay here unless you really want to (whatever floats your boat). Buses from Aliabad to Sost leave when full, and cost 240 Rs per person.

Baggage check and immigration

There are several bus companies that go to Tashkargan in China. NATCO and PTDC are the most reliable. Their offices are towards the end of the main road in Sost. Just walk in the direction of the immigration office.

According to locals, NATCO is more comfortable, but looking at the buses we didn’t see much difference. A ticket is 2,800 Rs per person, about $28, for NATCO. PTDC is a bit cheaper at 2,600 Rs per person, or $26. Buy your tickets the day before departure!

Due to recent changes in immigration policy, fewer people are traveling from Pakistan to China nowadays. This means it’s not a given buses will go on your desired day. If you are under time constraints, it’s best to head to Sost a day early to make sure a bus will go when you need it to.

The interior of the NATCO bus from Pakistan to China

The super swanky (not) NATCO bus.

On the day of, head to either the bus ticket office or the immigration post, at the end of the main street. The bus is timetabled to leave at 8:30, but probably won’t leave until 11:00 or so. At the immigration post every. single. bag. will be searched. As a foreigner, your stuff will only get a cursory check, but many bags are turned inside out. There will also be a sniffer dog.

Next, an immigration officer will check your passport and give you an exit stamp. If you’ve been in Pakistan for more than four weeks, they will also force you to take polio drops… even if you’re vaccinated. We’ve heard several reports of border officials in China requiring proof of polio vaccination, but we were neither asked for these nor for the yellow polio card they gave us after literally forcing the polio drops down our throats.

After all this the bus will leave, and a very scenic journey begins. Make sure to keep 800 Rs ($8 or 50 RMB)  per person since you’ll be forced to pay the national park fee. We tried to argue against this, to no avail. Your passport info will be noted down one more time just beyond the park’s entrance.

 

Pakistan - China border crossing at Khunjerab Pass

The border crossing is filled with Pakistanis on one side, and absolutely no one on the other side…

The Pakistan – China border crossing at Khunjerab Pass

The ride to the Chinese border takes about three hours. You’ll drive right through the gigantic totalitarian gate, so don’t expect to take any photos for the scrapbook there.

The border crossing building is a kilometer or so away from the big gate. Once there, it can take several hours before you leave. All bags will be checked again, this time more thoroughly. You’ll also be placed in an X-ray machine… so don’t try to smuggle anything up your butt.

If you have any sensitive photos or materials on your phone or computer, make sure to hide them ahead of time. Though the guards only checked our mobile phone files, others in our party had to show all of the photos on their laptop, and we’ve heard horror stories of guards going through every. single. file. on others’ devices. Save yourself some time and hide files.

Make sure to bring food and plenty of water, since the border checkpoint is around 4,600 meters high and there are no snack stops along the way. According to Pakistanis, dried apricots are a great way to counter altitude sickness, and are widely available all throughout the towns leading up to Sost.

Dried apricots to help with altitude sickness during the Pakistan - China border crossing at Khunjerab Pass

Arriving in Tashkargan

Tashkargan is another two to three hours drive after the checkpoint. Here, your bus/mode of transport will be disinfected (no joke) before you can go through customs. Western foreigners usually get preferential treatment, but expect to be there for a while if you’re with your own transport.

Chinese man in Tashkargan disinfecting some motorbikes that have traveled through the Pakistan - China border crossing at the Khunjerab pass.

Cleansing the Pakistan from the motorbikes of the lads from The Royal Silk Road.

Most backpackers stay in K2 hostel, a chill hangout about half an hour walking from the immigration office. Dorms and private rooms are available. We paid 160 RMB ($24) for a pimping private double with bathroom. A bit expensive compared to Pakistan, but hey, you gotta have a little bit of luxury every once in a while!

Important: if you’re driving yourself, don’t forget to get a guide. Overlanders are required to have a guide waiting at the immigration office in Tashkargan, which should be with them anywhere in Xinjiang. Check out the Caravanistan travel sharing forum to find buddies, since it’s pretty damn expensive.

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Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

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30 thoughts on “Report: Pakistan – China border crossing at Khunjerab Pass

    Joan Torres says:

    I am applying for my Chinese visa, so need to have a hotel booking confirmation. I tried to make a booking through your link but couldn’t. Any date I select tells me that there are no rooms available. Strange, cause I was looking for rooms in May and selected many different days. Instead, I’ve booked this one: https://tsecure.hostelworld.com/en/bookproperty/success?SID=MLWYlv20170227125805&

    That’s strange. Maybe there a problem in their system. Anyway, have fun!

    Bas says:

    I wanted to make the opposite trip – from China to Pakistan, on a bicycle. Do you have any idea if that is possible? I’m trying to find an overland route from Iran/central asia to India. I heard that foreigners are not allowed to cross from the Chinese side and that they need a special permit that they won’t give out. But this might be old information. Did you see foreigners going to Pakistan there, or did you hear anything about if it is possible? I am from Holland. Information would be very much appreciated, I can’t find much on it anywhere, except some sporadic, vague and maybe outdated mentions.

    Sebastiaan says:

    As far as we know, you can travel from China to Pakistan overland, as long as you have a valid visa. Cyclists are not required to have a guide in Xinjiang. You might not be able to cycle from Tashkurgan, so you’ll have to tie your bike to a bus or something. The border between China and Pakistan is closed for most of the year, though, because snowfall makes it inaccessible. You can’t cross from China to India

    Sebastiaan says:

    As far as we know, you can travel from China to Pakistan overland, as long as you have a valid visa. Cyclists are not required to have a guide in Xinjiang. You might not be able to cycle from Tashkurgan, so you’ll have to tie your bike to a bus or something. The border between China and Pakistan is closed for most of the year, though, because snowfall makes it inaccessible. You can’t cross from China to India.

    Waar Kahn says:

    hey I’m a USA Citizen, as well I’ve a Pakistani identity card. I was born in Pakistan but moved to the USA at a very young age. So, if I obtain a Visa to China from the USA, and try to cross borders via road to Pakistan. I know I don’t required a VISA from the USA to Pakistan, and when I travel back to the USA from Pakistan I don’t required a Visa also…since I’m both countries national. Using the same logic, would it be possible to just get Visa to China from the USA, and travel via road to Pakistan, and once at the China/Pakistan I just show my Pakistani Identity card? or do I also have to have a VISA to Pakistan on my US Passport?

    Sebastiaan says:

    Hi, thanks for reaching out. I’m not entirely sure about this one. Does an ID card alone let you travel across international borders? You might need a Pakistani passport to cross into/out of Pakistan.

    Your best bet is to contact the Chinese and Pakistani embassy in the US and ask them directly. We’re just not sure enough to give you a definitive answer. Sorry.

    “don’t try to smuggle anything up your butt” – good advice :p

    I made this trip a few years ago, and from my research it sounds like things have gotten a bit better (more organised) since I was last there…

    It’s a shame you can’t take pictures of the gate – we were allowed to take pictures from the Pakistani side!

    Sebastiaan says:

    It wasn’t that we weren’t allowed to take photos, it’s just that the bus didn’t stop at the gate. The driver was in a hurry, apparently. To be honest, though, we’ve seen so many photos (read: selfies) of that gate, it’s kind of boring by now 😉

    Ejaz, AHMED says:

    Please advise how to get carnet visa as far as I heard that RAC is no longer issuing pass de carnet. An how difficult is to enter in Pakistan , it is very risky, at the same time I would liketo do this life time venture. Please guide.Thank you very much regards
    Ejaz

    Sebastiaan says:

    Honestly, we’re not sure about Carnets ourselves. You should ask on the Karakoram Club or Backpacking Pakistan Facebook groups, there are definitely people with experience in those groups.

    umar says:

    I have a valid Chinese visa. i want to enter china through road boarder at khunjrab? how i can go there? is there any transportation available from tashkant to guanghzou? how much time it takes and fare?

    Sebastiaan says:

    Well you have to follow the instructions we laid out in this post. If you want to go to Guanghzou, you probably have to travel to Urumuqi first, but I’m not sure. I bet you can find the information on Google, though.

    niaz says:

    Dear Sir /Mad

    Hope You Will Fine and good health as well, how get china visa for
    Pakistan citizen i want go through border khangarab ?

    so i am wait Your response

    Sebastiaan says:

    Hi there, thanks for reaching out. Your bet bet is to check out the website of the Chinese embassy in The Hague at http://pk.chineseembassy.org/eng/. There you should be able to find the necessary information. If anything in unclear, you should contact them. Good luck!

    Junaid says:

    I love Pakistan China border

    Shabana says:

    Can I get China visa on reaching Pak China Border. My family want to see rainbow mountains

    Alex says:

    No, you’ll need to go to the Chinese Embassy to get a visa ahead of time.

    Sohaib Aziz says:

    So i am planning to go on a round road trip from Pakistan to all the way to Beijing, and get back to Pakistan via road/train through Khunjerab Pass.

    Here’s a basic short itinerary
    —————————-
    -Khunjerab -> Kashgar
    -Kashgar -> Urumqi
    -Urumqi -> Xian
    -Xian -> Beijing
    -Beijing -> Shanghai
    —————————-
    WAY BACK TO PAKISTAN
    -Shanghai -> Hangzhou
    -Hangzhou -> Zhangjiajie
    -Zhangjiajie -> Guilin
    -Guilin -> Urumqi
    -Urumqi -> Kashgar
    -Kashgar -> Khunjerab Pass Pakistan

    Here are the following questions i have in mind right now.
    1-Should i get a L (Tourist Visa) or F (Visit)?
    2-Chances of getting a VISA?
    3-And since i’ll be travelling SOLO, is it a requirement to hire a guide?
    4-Do you think i’ll be able to commute through buses and trains?
    And anymore suggestions you have in mind for this particular case?

    Thank you!

    Muazam says:

    Hey ! I am Pakistani but living in china I have work visa of china. I want travel by road from china to Pakistan. I have my own 4W Jeep and Chinese driving license. I want to know what documents need for crossing border china to Pakistan. Please help to Guide me. Thanks

    Alex says:

    Can’t help you there — I’ve never driven a car into China, nor do I have experience with having work permits for China.

    Jaseem says:

    I am planning to cross China border and enter Pakistan with a motorbike. What documents or things should i have in my hand while crossing b0rder.

    Psycho says:

    Hello,

    If someone have valid visa for China and for sake of adventure he wants to travel by bus like from lahore to khunjerab its very easy then what will be the procedure from khunjerab to beijing? is it easy? estimated cost and time? is the transport easily available from khunjerab to beijing?

    Thanks

    Alex says:

    Khunjerab to Beijing is a loooooong ways! I believe you’ll need to get to Tashkurgan or Kashgar first, then you can probably get a train to Beijing. Speaking off the top of my head—I haven’t actually made the journey myself.

    Michal Chris says:

    Dear

    I have been living in China since last many years but my visa was expired. I want to go back to Pakistan but I cannot travel by airplane. How do you suggest to reach to Pakistan from China without facing to immigrant Check because I am afraid they will punish due to overstay.
    I would highly appreciate response.

    Alex says:

    Dude, I think you should not be figuring out travel to Pakistan, you should be trying to deal with your overstay issue. China is not a good place to upset the authorities.

    hassaan says:

    My friend is from Panama, and he has permanent residence of China i.e. Student Visa, he will probably get Visit Visa for Pakistan, can he travel with me to Pakistan through Sust by Road? or Third Country Foreigners are not allowed to pass through Khunjerab?
    Waiting anxiously for reply

    NISAR UL QAMAR says:

    My name Nisar ul Qamar
    From Pakistan
    I am student and my father businessman
    I am visit china you send information me my what’s app number +923158101588

    Aqsa Khan says:

    Is valid visa is necessary for crossing china border??
    because i just have a passport not applied for visa.

    Arslan mughal says:

    Asslam o alaikum… My self Arslan and I am from Pakistan… I want to go China on by road but I don’t no how I go there.? My question is that where I could apply for my visiting visa… I love China and I am a chines student… Please reply me most Xie Xie da Jia… ❤️💕💕💕💕💕

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