Pakistan-China border crossing at Khunjerab Pass

Pakistan China border crossing - Khunjerab Pass (1)

 

Located at 4,600 meters above sea level, the China-Pakistan border crossing, which goes over the Khunjerab pass and the Karakoram Highway, is the highest and, consequently, one of the most beautiful borders in the world.

The journey is quite easy and it only requires a little preparation but, due to the strict measures imposed by the Chinese authorities, you will need an extra dose of patience.

Pakistan-China border crossing at Khunjerab Pass, the highest border in the world

Go to your desired content:

Things you need to know
Travel insurance for Pakistan and China
Border crossing – Step by step guide

For more practical information about the country, read: 70 Tips for traveling to Pakistan

 

What you need to know before crossing the Pakistan-China border

Chinese visa – Are you in possession of a valid Chinese visa? If not, you are wasting your time here. Some years ago, it was possible to get a Chinese visa in Islamabad but, during my journey, I met an Australian man who been denied a visa, so things might have changed now. I got mine in Barcelona, Spain.

The Pakistan border with China is closed at weekend – Plan your trip accordingly.

It is also closed in winter – From November to March, Khunjerab pass is covered by snow, hence the border remains closed. There are no official opening or closing dates, as it depends on the weather. I suggest you ask in the Karakoram FB Group for the latest update.

Upload any troubling pictures into the Cloud – By troubling, I mean any picture or file which might offend the Chinese authorities, including pornography and pictures of you with guns. Note: If you travel in Pakistan, you will definitely have pictures with guns. The Chinese will go through absolutely all your pictures and files. 

They took my laptop for half an hour and checked all my DSLR and iPhone photos, one by one. I heard the story of one person who was found to have a picture of some Chinese military stuff and they reset his camera, deleting all his photos. If you can’t upload them to the Cloud, just hide them well on your computer.

Smoke all your Pakistani hashish before getting on the bus – Chinese authorities have zero tolerance to drugs. If you get caught, you are screwed. At the Chinese border, sniffer dogs will smell your stuff and belongings thoroughly. Finish your hash in Sost.

Keep Pakistani rupees with you – The road from Sost to the Chinese border goes through Khunjerab National Park. At the entrance, foreigners are forced to pay a 1,300PKR fee and you can’t escape it. I know, it’s a complete scam because, during the journey, you can’t even get out of the car.

Bring Chinese Yuan – In Tashgurkan, which is the first city after the Chinese border, you can’t exchange money. I looked and asked everywhere but they told me that you can’t do it anymore. There are a few ATMs but, if you don’t have a credit card, you must exchange your Pakistani Rupees in Sost.

Please note that, in Sost, you can only exchange Pakistani Rupees to Chinese Yuan (and vice-versa). If you have any other currency, you will have to exchange it in Karimabad or Aliabad.

Bring plenty of snacks and water – Khunjerab Pass is located at 4,600 meters above sea level. This means that you might get altitude sickness while waiting for countless hours at Chinese immigration.

Furthermore, you can’t buy anything during your journey and, crossing from Pakistan to China can easily take up to 10 hours. Hunza is famous for its dried fruits, especially apricots, which you can buy across the valley.

Can I cross it independently / driving myself? – No, you can’t. On the Chinese side, you must be accompanied by a Chinese guide, which turns out to be pretty expensive. You might find some travel mates to share the cost with On the Caravanistan Travel Forum.

Read: Karakoram Highway – A journey from Pakistan to China

Khunjerab National Park
Khunjerab National Park

 

Travel Insurance for Pakistan and China

For China

For the Chinese side, I recommend World Nomads, as they offer plans which offer unlimited medical coverage, including rescue, which I think is a must for traveling the Karakoram Highway.

CLICK TO GET YOUR FREE QUOTE FROM WORLD NOMADS

For Pakistan

As you may know, Pakistan isn’t the average destination, which means that there are many things to take into account when choosing proper travel insurance. 

That is why I have written this mega tutorial: How to find the right travel insurance for Pakistan

 

Pakistan-China border crossing: A step by step guide

Step 1 – Arrival in Sost

Sost is a small village located 90km from the Chinese border. Here is where the Pakistani immigration process takes place and from where you will get on a bus to China. There are at least 3 or 4 bus companies that go to China. All of them have the same price and leave at the same time. Which one should you take?

Locals recommend NATCO because it belongs to the Government, hence they say it’s more reliable. I don’t know what to believe. I took NATCO and the bus had two breakdowns, wasting almost two hours of our journey. A bus ticket costs 3,300PKR.

It is advisable to arrive in Sost the day before your departure, as immigration starts early in the morning, around 9am. You can also buy the ticket one day before, no problem. But I met some locals that said they got it the same day of departure. It’s your choice.

If you have a few days to spare, I recommend you go to Chapursan Valley, a side valley 3 to 4 hours from Sost. If you are in Sost for only a day, the best thing you can do is take pictures of the largest concentration of psychedelic trucks in Pakistan.

How to get into Sost? – After Aliabad, you can get there from anywhere on the Karakoram Highway by public transport. Personally, I came hitchhiking from Passu.

Where to stay in Sost? – Pamir Serai Guest HouseA hotel run by a local Wakhi (Alam Jan) who also works as a guide for the whole Wakhan region, including in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. You can ask him for advice if you are heading to this part of the world afterwards. I recommend Pamir Serai 100%.

Pakistan trucks
The psychedelic trucks in Sost

Step 2 – Immigration at the Pakistani border

Immigration will start around 9am. The Pakistani authorities will check all your luggage and, if everything is all right, they will give you an exit stamp before getting on the bus. They will also force you to take polio drops, as the Chinese authorities require proof of vaccination.

However, if you have the international vaccination card which says that you are vaccinated against yellow fever, you don’t need to take these drops. I always travel with it, so I didn’t have to take any.

Pakistan immigration
Pakistan immigration Sost

Step 3 – Bus journey and arrival at the Pakistan-China border (Khunjerab Pass)

The road that connects Sost with the Chinese and Pakistani border is a twisting 90km road that goes through snowy peaks and plains, with yak herds grazing. The scenery is truly awesome and, by the way, this is also the highest paved road in the world

Read more: Khardung La, driving over the highest road in the world

The journey takes around 3 hours until you pass through the iconic and gorgeous border gate. You can take photos of the gate but, once you cross it, I wouldn’t take any photos for the remaining few kilometers, until you get to the Chinese immigration.

Khunjerab Pass Pakistan China
On our way to the border!

Step 4 – Chinese Immigration

No matter where you come from, get ready to be treated like a complete terrorist because, in their eyes, you are just one foreigner trying to enter Xinjiang province, one of the most troubled places in China. They will go through absolutely all your stuff, including laptop, photos and each and every tangible object. They will even scan your body and if you are a pregnant woman, they will not care about it. Do you want to cross the border? Then come through the X-ray machine.

We spent over 3 hours there. In the waiting room, in case you get altitude sickness, there are oxygen masks.

Pakistan-China border crossing
Border gate!

Step 5 – Arrival in Tashgurkan

Do you think you that was enough? Of course not! This is Xinjiang! After going through the immigration process at Khunjerab pass, all buses must go straight to Tashgurkan, a city located 130km after the border and where you will get the actual entry stamp.

The road is also stunning but, unfortunately, pictures are not allowed and the bus will be escorted by the Chinese police. A real shame. Once in Tashgurkan, we spent 1 hour and a half at immigration until I got the entry stamp.

When you are finished, go straight to K2 Hostel the most and only backpacking-friendly hostel in Tashgurkan. They have cheap dorms and affordable double rooms. And yes… they also sell beer, which you will probably need after traveling around the practically dry Pakistan.

Click here to see the latest prices 

 

If you are continuing to Kashgar, these are the hotels I recommend:

Budget Hostel – Kashgar Pamir Youth Hostel – The cheapest accommodation in town. A great place to meet other backpackers and local Chinese travelers.

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Mid-range – Xinjiang Nuerlan Hotel This is one of the best value for money hotels you will ever find in China. Everything is really nice and new and it is not that expensive compared to other places within the same range. The best option for mid-range travelers in Kashgar.

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Top-end – Radisson Hotel Kashgar If you want comfort, the Radisson in Kashgar is one of the most popular luxury hotels in the city.

Click here to see the latest prices

 

Bonus: Are you crossing from China to Pakistan instead?

No problem. You can come from Kashgar by bus. Forget what people say about having to go on a tour. Don’t believe them. I even hitchhiked that road, so you shouldn’t face any problem. There are buses leaving every morning from Tashgurkan. Ask K2 Hostel for directions and more details. I met two guys who bought their ticket on the day of departure.

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22 comments

  1. When you applied for your Chinese Visa, did you mentioned that you planned to cross the landborder between Pakistan and China and that you were travelling solo?
    Grtz Gerrit Heij

    1. Don’t say that you are planning to enter from Pakistan. I applied in the Consulate of Barcelona and the required a flight itinerary plus hotel booking, so I faked a flight to Shanghai and booked hotels for 1 week. Then you can enter from anywhere because they visa doesn’t mention your port of entry

  2. So, you fucking ‘western’ assholes are coming to China to break rules?

    We will see you locked up and fined and we give a shit for your ’embassies’! We are a sovereign country and we don’t take orders from them.

    1. Don’t make stupied and not corresponding to common sence rules my dear Chinese friend with more likely Pakistani name:).And nobody will break them then.Do not force people to lie and they more likely to say truth.If you don’t know the application for Chinese visa is built up in the way that you have to lie.Well,many Western applications are made up the same style.So,don’t blame the people,blame governments.

  3. Noor Azita Mohamed

    Hi there…. i finally did it, cross the border from China to Pakistan mid September thanks to you who piqued my interest.. it was an amazing experience, view was beautiful… and i really pleased and happy i did it… ans and i did it alone..
    I have you to thank… Thank you!!

  4. The end of October,2019.
    The only downside was the weather-misty snowy on Pakistani side and the top of the pass.The trip from Sost to Tashkurgan including Chinese checks at the top off the Khunjerab and in Tashkurgan(excluding Pakistani’s which took roughly 1-1.5 hours) took around 6 hours.The Chinese checks went surprisingly smoothly.As the only foreigner on minivan I was treated one of the first and luggage check was very light.They ask for the camera and it seems scanned for the pictures but that didn’t take much time.I wasn’t asked to show the smartphone.Officials were polite,calling “a brother”.Pakistanis were also treated quite quick,polite and efficient,someones phones has been checked.
    On the way from the border the were no one from Chinese officials they just attached the camera what was filming outside,in front of the minivan.Pakistanis were filming after the gate at the border and on the was on Chinese side till Tashkurgan sometimes in the eyes of Chinese officials,it looked the the latter cared that it wouldn’t be filmed inside.So,I was filming as well.
    At Tashkurgan immigration was also treated one of the first,asked for the camera-they went through some pictures-not the phone.Officials were friendly and didn’t check a lot,luggage as well,so everything went pretty quickly.
    Sost immigration and customs are a bit messy.You go through customs first and there are groups from different bus companies in the line,then you go for the immigration andin between I was pointed at my bus as there are many others(I bought the ticket for NATCO which supposed to leave at 9 a.m.( I came at the office 5-10 min. after 9 but they say it was ok and bus leaved at 9.30) but we left at 10.50 after all.It was a minivan full of Pakistanis.The cost was 2500 pak.rupies(I guess it was low season price as they were mentioned the price of 3300 in the beginning.)There are no toilet at Sost immigration-just old fashion way behind the trucks:).
    Changing money.
    At Sost possible to change rupies for yuans and back,USD also possible(I didn’t do but felt that it is possible but have no idea about the rate,probably not the great.)The wost is with euros but I needed some rupies and had only euros(ATMs seemed not accepting foreign card which is very weird at the international border.)Finally the man in restaurant opposite NATCO office called someone and I had changed 20€ at the very low rate(150 instead 170-174 rates in cities)at near by shop but that was ok in that circumstances.So,if need it very much it is possible.
    At Tashkurgan it seems no problems to change Pakistani rupies in to yuans at quite a few Pakistani shops.Rate was 22.5 rupies for yuan(at Sost 23 rupies for yuan).The were ATMs at Tashkurgan but didn’t hear that they accepted foreign cards.At Kashgar withdrew cash from the ATM at Bank of China in the centre on Sunday.It says at many ATMs they have 24hour service but all I came a cross lied:at least after 9.p.m. they were closed and opened only at 10 a.m. Beijing time.
    Sost is not a nice market village,If you need to spend some time before crossing the border then choose Chapursan valley or Passu.

      1. It is always nice to help others and share own experience.Some more comments/info.
        I spent a month in Pakistan and never took a pictures of myself with the gun though I had numerous opportunities to do so but I never thought that it is any fancy to do,it is kind of teenager stupid boast to me,so claiming that everyone who travel in Pakistan have such a picture is a bit over.
        Polio drops.Well,may be I had spent exactly 28 days in Pakistan I didn’t require them?..Nobody asked me or offer to take them or an insurance,neither Pakistanis nor Chinese.But Pakistani co-travelers had some pills while going to the border on the minivan.

        Which bus company to take.Well,I took NATCO but it didn’t look any order with them,even if they were government company.But it is ok. I’ve got a ticket at 9 a.m. bus the same morning when just arrived from Chapursan Valley at 9 in the morning,there were no problems with tickets but it may be various from day to day.But when I asked days before they advised me to buy a ticket a day before if I wanted to get the bus at 9.m. We went to customs around 9.40.

        I hitgh hiked all the way from Gilgit to Sost-no problem.From Passu to Sost was not big traffic that day but I had a lift in police car).

        Chinese are not going through all pictures but I guess they might do if they get suspicious about something.The last year I spent a day at Chinese immigration at one of the land borders with Xingjian Province for that reason. May be it is my own feelings but I felt that it was easier this year with restrictions in Xingjian comparing to the last year.Despite of many are writing that uigurs are in under pressure in Xingjian,like they are afraid to communicate with foreigners…well,I was trying to hitgh hike from Tashkurgan to Kashgar cause I missed the only bus in the morning,it was hard, but finally one small lorry stopped and took me almost to Kashgar.The driver was a ordinary uigur.We stopped at several check posts on the way,no any of policemen said anything to him or treated him badly and I didn’t see he was afraid of something.Then one young uigur guy came to me himself and started to talk bad but understandable English at Kashgar Railway station.Well,I’m just telling my experience,no any judgment.

        Chinese visa.I’ve got mine in my home country with half a year validity.I didn’t hide I was going to enter China at the border with Xingjian,explaining my itinerary-I’ve got a visa without any questions,no problem.No any flight tickets were needed.

        Khunjerab “national park”.Foreigners pay 1300 Pakistani rupies or 10$ if they don’t have rupies(it comes out a bit cheaper in rupies).Pakistanis also pay 200 or 400 rupies.
        Well,they can do what they want,of cause,it is their country and their right but I think it is ripping off and very rude to do.If you are crossing the border you are not coming to enjoy national park’s treasures,wildlife and so on,just passing through on the bus for an hour but must pay this outrageous quite high tax.I was complaining and shaming them at the check-post,well,the officer stayed as a statue with absolutely no reaction like all these dead-formal officials around the world.I guess that many might disagree but I think all travelers should complain about this tax as the rude government ripping off the travelers as there are no any other options left.Then something might change.It is not also a right justifying that “we are poor country”-no any country should expect getting prosperous if one has no dignity and behaves like a beggar.

  5. I am planning a trip from China to Pakistan on land in April 2020 and there are some information I would like unfortunately without any luck. I came across your post and it is very helpful but would like to ask for some more information.

    1. Does the Kashgar International Bus operate daily and will it only operate when there are specific number of passenger from Kashgar to Sost?
    2. For the public bus from Kashgar to Tushkurgan, what time should I queue up for the bus as I heard it might get full quickly?
    3. For the Tushkurgan International Bus from Tushkurgan to Sost, again what time should I queue up for it as I am afraid it might get full quickly too?
    4. What time does the Tushkurgan International Bus arrive in Sost from Tushkurgan and will it be possible to get to Karimabad from Sost by public transportation during the night time or I will have to arrange private car/ taxi?

    I am sorry to bother you with so many questions, but it would be very helpful if you can provide the information.

    Thanks a Million
    Abbas

    1. Hey Abbas,
      1 – I don’t know anything about the Kashgar International Pass
      2 – If it fills out quickly, I would go asap
      3 – You should book your ticket the day before
      4 – Impossible to tell. The border crossing can take forever but just in case I wouldn’t count on reaching Karimabad by public transportation

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