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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.