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Travel between Pakistan and China via Karakoram Highway
CBP Journey 2007. Back to:Itineraries, Trek, Destionations, Tibet





On Karakoram Highway (KKH), one of the most fascinated roads to China, the border crossing from Pakistan is via the Khunjerab Pass at 4,693m. Neither China nor Pakistan issues any visa on arrival; so travelers must have their visas ready for this journey..


Khunjerab Pass

To cross into China from Pakistan, one has to catch a bus from Sost which is the last town on the Karakorum Highway in Pakistan.

Getting to Sost

There are regular buses from Hunza- bus stop is at Aliabad which is on the KKH below Karimabad - to Sost every morning. These buses depart at about 6am and travel north along the KKH passing through towns such as Gurmit and Passu. If the bus is not full, one can still board at any of these towns; however the chances are normally not good. If one is at any towns north of Karimabad, then chartering a 4WD is the most reliable option to get to Sost.

Another option is to hitch a ride from the numerous trucks that head to Sost along the KKH (as Sost is the transit for goods coming in and out of Pakistan and China). Unless one is prepared to stay a night at Sost, one should attempt to hitch a ride earlier in the morning to allow sufficient time to get to Sost to catch the NATCO (Northern Area Transport Company) bus which leaves at 8am. Getting a ride on a truck heading north is really relatively easy.


Tashkurgan Stone Fortress

Sost (Pakistan) to Tashkurgan (China)

The bus from Sost to Tashkurgan is run by NATCO. The price is US$23 or 1,500 Rs. One can pay in either currency. The price in US$ may be reviewed in view of the declining US$. Tickets can be reserved the day before, best done by the owner of the guesthouse one stays in.

Sost is the immigration and customs checkpoint for the Pakistan side of the border. Every passenger is submitted to very thorough customs inspection at Sost. Every item in any bags are emptied and checked by the Pakistani custom officials- it is advisable not to carry powders of any kind in one’s backpack. Depending on the number of passengers, this process can take anything from one to three hours. It is rather inexplicable for the Pakistani customs to be so thorough at this departing post when one would expect them to be thorough at incoming passengers instead. The actual immigration checkpoint is another building down the road. After the custom inspection, one cannot leave the bus until entering the immigration building. The immigration processing is less time consuming than the custom inspection.

About 35 km after leaving Sost, one will enter the Khunjerab National Park. The bus will stop for passengers to pay a park fee of US$4 or 240 Rs- yes, passengers have to pay a park fee even though none is allowed to wonder or enjoy the park except to ride on its not-so-fantastic roads on a reasonable condition bus. There is not much to look at along this road as the road is inside a deep gorge to Khunjerab Pass. At the actual border at the Pass, one can ask the bus to stop for a quick picture.

The road condition changed immediately as one crosses the Pass. The road on the Chinese side is immaculate and probably one of the best paved tarmac road that one will see anywhere in the world. The difference is stark especially after one has spent some time in Pakistan. A few hundred meters from the border crossing is the Chinese security and customs checkpoint. All passengers will have to disembark with their belongings and subjected to another round of very thorough inspection. Unlike at the Pakistani checkpoint, the inspection here is very professional but still takes anything from one hour depending in the number of passengers.

The scenery after the checkpoint is quite different from the Karakorams on the Pakistan side of the border. The Pamir Mountains here are slightly lower and are interspersed with rolling green steppes with various settlements of mud houses. Camels and other livestock are also more apparent.

The Chinese immigration checkpoint is at Tashkurgan. The NATCO bus will finish its journey here. The checkpoint is about a kilometer from the centre of Tashkurgan town. Tashkurgan is a small town of rectangular grid, typical of most Chinese towns. The town centre is very much dominated by Hans now. There is not much to see here except maybe the Stone Fortress. There are many accommodation options here, ranging from the expensive Pamir Guesthouse to the very affordable but good quality New Traffic Hotel beside the bus terminal. There are buses from here to most places in the vicinity, including Kashgar (7.30am).

Link: KKH Map

Link: Road to Tibet: From the remote west - Ngari or Ali

Written by CBP in Jan 2008



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