Report: crossing the border from Iran to Pakistan at Mirjaveh – Taftan

A report of our overland border crossing from Iran to Pakistan at the Mirjaveh – Taftan border crossing in May 2016. Includes crossing details, things to keep in mind, and transport times. If you’re looking for the full, epic tale of our crossing journey, head on over here. home

Before you go: important for planning

The trip to Quetta takes three days. One day to get to the border, and two days to get to Quetta. You will arrive in Quetta on the evening of the third day.

In Quetta, you need a NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the Home and Tribal Affairs Office before you can continue on. The office is closed on Saturday and Sunday, and closes at 12:00 on Friday. It is therefore recommended to plan your trip so that you either arrive in Quetta on a Sunday (crossing the border on a Friday), or on Wednesday (crossing the border on Monday). The border crossing is closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Getting to the border

If you are traveling by public transport, you will most likely leave from Bam or Zahedan.

For those driving: we recommend you leave from Bam, so you might be able to circumvent the Iranian police escort to the border.

There are two checkpoints between Bam and Zahedan, and two checkpoints between Zahedan and the border.

According to the Lonely Planet, you are not allowed to stay at ultra-budget accommodation in Zahedan (assuming this means mosaferkanehs?). We stayed at Gilan Hotel for 650,000 IRR per night. You can apparently also stay at Bahar Hotel, but it was closed for renovations when we were there. Gilan Hotel is on Azadi Street, and it should be about 40,000 IRR to get there from the bus station by private taxi.

Gilan hotel will adhere to the rules, which means they will call the police when you leave, and you will get an escort to the border. You will first be taken to the police station, where your passport is checked about 500 times, mostly out of curiosity. After this, the Border Patrol will pick you up. They will bring you to the border, changing cars several times. Each car has at least two armed men in it. We tried to leave the hotel at 8:30, and arrived at the border around 14:00. Be patient!

Protip: buy supplies before heading out. Make sure you have enough water, food, toilet paper, and anything else you might need for a three-day trip across the desert in the back of a pickup truck. Tap water is not safe in Pakistan, so make sure to bring enough water, though you may have a chance to stop and buy more one or two days in. Cookies or cigarettes are a great way to break the ice with the Levies.

As with all things official in Iran, don’t take any photos of the military, police, or border crossing.

The Iranian side of the Iran - Pakistan border crossing, near Mirjaveh

Breaking our own advice… the things we do for our readers!

Day 1: The Iran – Pakistan border crossing at Mirjaveh – Taftan

Crossing the border is easy. On the Iranian side your passport will be checked and stamped, nothing more. Our bags weren’t scanned. On the Pakistani side they check your passport, and you must fill in an entry form. The whole process takes about 45 minutes.

You can change money at the border at terrible rates. Bargain hard, but be friendly. The sharks prefer dollars over Iranian rials. Unless you are traveling by car and need to refuel, don’t change more than $50.

The Levies

Once you cross the border you’ll be welcomed by Levies. The Levies are a paramilitary outfit in charge of security in Baluchistan’s tribal areas. Most are quite friendly, and the ones who speak English will try and chat with you.

After you sign your life away to them–you are required to sign a paper saying they are responsible for your safety–they will bring you to their compound where you’ll stay the night. The amenities are very simple, and you’ll sleep on the floor. Bring toilet paper if you need it. The Levies will feed you a simple dinner, but there is not much else.

Day 2: From Taftan to Dalbadin

The distance between Taftan and Quetta is about 600km, but it will take two days to get there. The first day you will go to a city about halfway through called Dalbadin. This part of the journey is relatively comfortable, as long as you don’t mind sitting in the back of a pickup truck or on someone’s lap. We changed cars three times, and it took about six hours to get to Dalbadin. The Levies on the way are very friendly, and some even bought us food and water. Much appreciated.

Q: Can I drink the water? Along the way, the Levies will be insistent about offering you water drawn from clay jars.  We did drink it on occasion (like I said, they’re insistent), and didn’t die. We were also told later on that clay jars generally means it’s water from the town’s well, which should be clean. Drink at your own risk (taking in mind what it would be like to have diarrhea on this journey).

Staying in Dalbadin

You will be brought straight to a hotel at the edge of town. Two police offers will be at your side for the entire time, unless you’re in your room. You are not allowed to leave the premises.

Surveying Dalbadin, Pakistan with the Levies from the roof.

The manager quoted 1,500 Rs as the price, but in the end we got it down to 1,000 Rs. This even included food (rice with potato) and two beers. This is not standard though. The hotel is nice enough, but it can get really hot, especially when the power cuts out, which happens frequently. There’s a little shop next to the hotel where you can stock up on supplies if necessary. Make sure to do this the day you arrive, as it won’t be open when you leave.

Day 3: Dalbadin to Quetta

This part of the journey is particularly tedious. It takes about 12 hours and we had to change cars 13 times. The head of the Levies in Dalbadin might ask you for money (“give me a gift”), but don’t give him anything. Just laugh it off or pretend you don’t understand. He won’t push too much. All the other Levies and police along the way were very friendly.

Friendly Levies on the Iran - Pakistan border crossing.

The entire road runs parallel to the Afghan border. Needless to say, this is not Disneyland. There were times our escorts where definitely relaxed, lounging with their AK’s at the shoulder (one even let us hold his for a photo). There were also times where they were ready to roll, safety off and finger on the trigger. The drive into Quetta might be the most intense part, since you will have members of the Anti Terrorism Squad on board. These are not the type of boys you want to piss off.

Want to know more about traveling in Pakistan? Go to our Pakistan travel guide!

Posing with an AK on the way to Quetta, Pakistan

Arriving in Quetta

Your escort will ask you to which hotel you want to go. In practice, you only have one choice: Bloom Star Hotel. Other hotels will not accept foreigners. Bloom Star is near the train station and the Home Office, and is relatively comfortable. It costs 2,500 Rs a night. You are only allowed to leave the premise with police escort. The police will only come to bring you to the Home Office for your NOC, and to the train station afterwards. You’re basically under house arrest.

Day 4: Getting an NOC

Before you can leave Quetta, you need an NOC, a No Objection Certificate. You will get one at the Home and Tribal Affairs Office. Just bring your passport and follow the instructions. The NOC is free, and it can take half an hour to three hours to get one. The people at the home office are very friendly, and will assure you Pakistan is not as dangerous as the media portrays it to be.

The NOC will be valid from the day after you get it. In our case, this meant we had to stay another day in Quetta, as we already missed the only train to Karachi at 11:00. The office workers were willing to make ours valid for the same day, and we heard other reports about people who were allowed to leave on the same day, so make sure to ask.

Make sure to go the train station after you got you NOC, so you can buy a train ticket to wherever you’re going. The police won’t come back for you later.

Day 5: Leaving Quetta

The day has come, you can finally leave! We decided to go to Karachi. There is only one train leaving at 11:00. A ticket is 905 Rs per person and it takes about 23 hours. You can buy food and water at the train station and along the way.

As always, the police will bring you to the train station, and your passport will be checked. You might be forced into a rickshaw, for which you have to pay 60 Rs. You’ll have an escort to the Baluchistan state line. Ours didn’t talk too much, but was friendly enough and bought us tea and a Coke. At the first station in Sindh he will get up, shake your hand, and leave. You’re finally free!

Our armed escort on the train from Quetta to Karachi

There you have it. The (very) rough guide to crossing the border between Iran and Pakistan. Make sure to read the disclaimer below… or even better, just fly.

Disclaimer: As you might have guessed, this border crossing is not for the faint of heart. All sensible governments in the world highly recommend you stay away from this area, and the amount of AK’s around indicated this is for good reason. We don’t recommend you take this border crossing, unless you’re driving your own vehicle (or just want a free ride). Solo women should are recommended find a male travel partner. The Carivanistan and Thorntree forums are a great place to find travel companions.

 

Interested in reading the full story of our epic border adventure? You can find it here.

Sebastiaan

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

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26 thoughts on “Report: crossing the border from Iran to Pakistan at Mirjaveh – Taftan

    Probearoundthe Globe says:

    I wonder, was the escort for free? or did you have to pay more gifts along the way?

    Ah, the escort was free indeed! The saving grace!

    No gifts must be paid, but we would’ve been happy to treat the kind Levies to a cold drink… if they would let us 😛 The cookies we gave out were the only payment we gave to them.

    David Hielkema says:

    Dear Sebastiaan,

    Love the story and it makes me very optimistic! We will cross the border with our vehicle in a couple of months.. We are on our way now!
    And your website is really amazing, as are your pictures. Wow!

    We are doing our best with our website and pictures.. but aren’t there yet. http://www.homeiswherethecaris.com

    Any way, I’m going to do some more reading. Thanks again 🙂

    Hi David,

    Glad you found it useful, and thanks for the compliments. Have a great time and let us know if you have any questions.

    Zundapp Flyer says:

    Wow, that was a quite different experience to my crossing of that border and subsequent ride into Quetta in 2000 via motorcycle. I had none of that coralled offical policing survelliance / sanctioned hotels only stuff. Although it did take me three attempts to cross the border. First into Pakistan and then kicked back to Iran because despite it being Pakistans international year of tourism (and supposedly visa free for Kiwi me) things changed after Georgie and his stomping boots came to town next door in Afganistan. So back to Zahedan for a visa – two days later and issued after lunch and not the morning as promised. Border was closed by the time I got there, so a night spent in Mirjaveh. Over the border the next day. A truly wild west place this border region. Both Mirvajeh and Taftan being dirty dusty fly blown tiny §h1tholes. Although the hotel on the Taftan side was nice in the grand scheme of things (my self imposed max GBP3.00 hotel budget) and the welcoming ramadan breaking lamb curry offered by the Pakistani border police was welcoming and delicious.

    I did the Taftan – Quetta ride in one long 12 hour hit from a 7am start. A few police checks along the way and a brief 30 km police guard vehicle convoy around the middle of the trip but otherwise no drama. That said I ran right over the top of a low hanging check point chain (hard to see heading east into the sun) across the road a short while after leaving Taftan. I heard of others on motorcycles brought down by the thing. I hope that’s not there anymore. Great licks of sand all over the 1.5 lane wide road to Quetta keeps you on your toes. One of my more challenging days (but equally rewarding as these are) in the saddle on a Germany-NZ ride home.

    Quetta was a lovely town back then. Although at the time it was heaving with foreign journos due to Georgie’s dumb war. Once the locals discovered you were there of your own volition and not a hack they became much warmer.

    Thanks for the rekindled memories. I hope your adventure is continuing and providing lots of wonderful experiences. The world and its humanity is an incredible place.

    Oh how things have changed. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Maarten says:

    2002. I got to the border late in the afternoon. The Iranian guys phoned the Pakistan side to wait for me (it was after closingtime by now).
    After flying though the formalities (immigration and carnet in the same place) they told me of a hotel and told me to come back at 19:00 for dinner, which I did.
    A true feast that lasted untill late in the night with many stories from the customs guys.
    The next day on to Dalbandine. No escort, no danger other than the fuel-smugglers passing you with 150 km/h spraying sand and stones.
    In Dalbandine I stayed at the goverment resthouse for free, camping in the courtyard.
    Next day again without escort, on to Quetta, when I got sick and was helped by some locals and a local doctor who refused any kind of pahment. After reaching Quetta I hung arround town for 4 days. Never felt threatened. Everyone was friendly.
    So sad things have gone down the drain.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks for sharing that. Things have changed quite a lot unfortunately.

    mariana says:

    Thank you so much for this report. I was thinking about crossing this border this year. Looking back at it, do you think you would have preferred to fly knowing now how your experience was?
    The flights are so expensive and I can’t even find any direct ones.

    We would recommend flying. Using this crossing basically eats a week out of your time in Pakistan, which is kind of a shame. Have you looked at flights into Multan? We know some people who flew into there from Iran.

    David1202 says:

    Hello! I´m planning a big trip from india across central asia passing by Iran and would like to do it all by land. Do you have any idea if it is possible to cross the border from Pakistan to Iran? All the posts I have found about this is from people who did it from Iran to Pakistan… Thank you. You´re site is awesome and you guys really motivate me to go on adventuring.

    Hi. Pakistan to Iran should be possible too. It’s the same as above, but then in reverse order.

    Bas says:

    I wanted to cycle from Amsterdam to Singapore overland through Pakistan. So much for that plan! Judging from your story, that is pretty much impossible. I really want to avoid flying on my trip.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Should still be possible. Your armed escort will just load your bike in the back of the truck with you. They might give you some trouble, but at the end of the day they’ll oblige. You can store your bike in trains, too, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

    Bas says:

    Did you see the trains going from Zahedan to Quetta? Are you sure that it is possible to take a bicycle with me on them?

    Do you think they’d even understand if I tried to communicate it with them in English and tell them the story?

    Sebastiaan says:

    No, there aren’t any trains from Zahedan to Quetta. You have to follow the steps outlined in the article. The only difference is that the Levis will also transport your bike in the back of their car (or maybe they let you cycle, but I doubt it). And yes, English is an official language in Pakistan, and people aren’t stupid. So getting a train ticket for your bike once in Quetta shouldn’t be a problem.

    Ali Hamidian says:

    It was really helpful 🙂
    But when I search in Farsi, I can not find any thing about these steps.
    As I am an Iranian citizen and I have an official invitation letter from Pakistan, can I cross the border from Zahedan to Quetta and then take a train/flight to Lahore without these steps?

    Sebastiaan says:

    Glad it’s helpful. We would assume you so, but perhaps it’s a good idea to ask the embassy to be sure.

    kiwi_explorer says:

    Great blog post,

    Definitely not for the faint hearted.

    Dont forget about the Spanish guy who cycled across. His armed escort was ambushed resulting in 6 police being killed. The Spaniard was unharmed however. Probably just unlucky, I would feel terrible if I was the tourist.

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/six-pakistani-police-killed-in-ambush-protecting-spanish-cyclist/article/366952

    Alex says:

    Yes, I’ve heard the story of the Spanish tourist. I would also be guilt-ridden after that! But it’s important to remember that these Levies are patrolling the area regardless of whether or not foreigners are crossing. It’s their job.

    Sripal Jain says:

    Your travel experience from Bam to Quetta is wonderful and this would of great use to me for my future trip to this region.
    I appreciate that !

    daewoo says:

    hi,
    do you still need pakistan visa crossing iran-pakistan board? Or just NOC is enough in pakistan?

    Ammu says:

    I was looking for articles on Iran Pakistan border crossing. It’s really helpful. It’s just it might be a bit difficult for me holding pk passport and make that crossing. Or been a woman and make that crossing. No one around me suggest for the border crossing (duh). I guess I have to find some locals from Questa and balushistan who might help me make my trip easier. But above all mom has to approve it :p. What about border crossing to India and Afghanistan and China from pk?. Sorry I’m talking a lot 🙂

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