Driving from Pakistan to China is a common route for overlanders who want to go to India or SE Asia.
The Karakoram Highway was completed in 1985 and opened to the public in 1985. It is officially known as the Sino-Pakistani Friendship Highway. It is a 1,300-kilometre highway connecting Hassan Abdul (several kilometres away from Islamabad, Pakistan) and Kashgar (the second largest city in Xinjiang, China). Once it was an important “Silk Road” route linking the Indian subcontinent with China, nowadays it is considered as the eighth wonder of the world because of its height and construction conditions, which makes it a masterpiece of architecture.
Therefore, the Karakoram Highway has attracted tourists from all over the world for decades.This is not only because it is the highest road in the world (the altitude of Khunjerab Pass is 4,800 meters), but also because it passes through three largest mountains ranges in the world: the Mount Himalayas, the Mount Karakoram and the Mount Hindu Kush. The Karakoram Highway may be one of the places in the world where you can enjoy 8,000-meter-high peaks from car windows.
The Karakoram Highway is absolutely the most epic road trip in history. Moreover, these huge mountains and contrasting landscapes are not the only reasons for such a journey. Along the way, you will pass through countless areas where there live a large number of ethnic and religious groups: from Punjabi people in central Pakistan to Ismayi in Hansa, Tajiks in Tashkurkan, and of course, Uighurs in Xinjiang. Traveling along the Karakoram Highway is like traveling through a few small countries, where you can receive warm hospitality.
What time to leave? – Due to snowy days and low temperatures, side valleys are not accessible in winter. The road itself can be used all year round, but you should know that the temperature dropped sharply from October to November. However, if you plan to transit from Pakistan to China, and vice versa, you should know that due to snowy weather, the Khunjerab Pass will not be open to the public from November to March, and will reopen to go through the entry and exit formalities from April 1(weekends and statutory Chinese holidays except).
Inspection of mobile devices and digital electronic products when you enter China – You can’t hold any pictures or documents in your equipment that might offend the Chinese authorities, including pornographic pictures and pictures with guns.
Note: If you travel in Pakistan, you will definitely have pictures with guns. Customs and border checks may require you to delete these photos or reset your equipment.
Smoking all your Pakistani cannabis before getting on the bus – Chinese authorities do not accept drugs. On the Chinese border, anti-drug dogs will conduct drug inspections.
Take Pakistani rupee with you – You need to pass the Khunjerab National Park before crossing China from Soest. At the entrance, foreigners are forced to pay 800 PKR fees ($7.50), and you will not be the exceptional.
Please prepare plenty of snacks and water – Khunjerab Pass` altitude is about 4,600 meters. This means that you may have a plateau reaction while waiting for countless hours in China’s entry customs. Drinking more water can help alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Step 1 – Arrive in Soest
Soest is a small village 90 kilometers away from the Chinese border. This is the place for entry and exit formalities in Pakistan, where you will take a bus or drive your own car to China.
The exit formalities in Pakistan can begin around 9 a.m., so it is recommended that you arrive in Soest the day before departure. You can also buy bus tickets one day in advance, but some locals say you can also buy bus tickets on that day.
Soest’s accommodation recommendation – Pamir Serai Guest House – is run by local Wakhi (Alam Jan) and is also the guide of the entire Wakhan region, including Afghanistan and Tajikistan. If you plan to go to the Wakhan area later, you can ask him for advice.
Step 2 – Pakistani Exit Procedures
The Pakistani Immigration Bureau will process immigration formalities around 9 a.m. The Pakistani authorities will check all your luggage. If everything is OK, they will give you an exit seal before boarding the bus. As the Chinese authorities require certificates of vaccination, they will also force you to be vaccinated with polio drugs. However, if you have an international vaccination card indicating that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever, you do not need to take these vaccines.
Step 3 – China Border (Khunjerab Pass)
The road linking Soest to the border between China and Pakistan is a 90-kilometre winding road through snow-capped peaks and plains, where yaks graze. The scenery is really great. By the way, it’s the tallest road in the world.
The journey takes about three hours until you cross the landmark gorgeous border gate. The transit building is about one kilometer from the gate. When you get there, it may take you several hours to leave.
Step 4 – Chinese Immigration
There will be strict entry procedures and border checks for inbound tourism from the Khunjerab Pass, because in their view, you are only a foreigner trying to enter Xinjiang, which is one of the most troublesome places in China. They will check all your belongings, including laptops, photos, etc. In the waiting area, oxygen masks can be provided for acute altitude sickness. But you will have no guide service here, guide can only wait you in Tashkurgan county according to Chinese laws.
They people works at Khunjerab port can only speak a little English.
Step 5 – Arrive in Tashkurgan County
After the customs and immigration procedures in Khunjerab, all cars must go directly to Tashkurgan County, a city 130 kilometers from the border, where you will get the actual entry stamp. There will be military guide seat in your guide and take you to Tashkurgan.
And you will also meet your Chinese guide there. you need park your car at customs parking plot for one night. Our staff will go to customs office in Kashgar the next day to deal with the customs clearance process, and then you can take out your car and drive to Kashagr.
The road is also amazing. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed and cars will be escorted by Chinese police. Keep going to Kashgar and the followings are the hotels I recommend:
Economy Hotel – Kashpamir Youth Hostel – the cheapest accommodation in town. This is a good place to meet with other backpackers and local Chinese tourists.
Mid-range Hostel – Nurland Hotel in Xinjiang – this is one of the most valuable hotels you find in China. Everything is very good, and it’s not expensive compared to other places in the same area. The best choice for mid-range travelers in Kashgar.
Seman Hotel and Tianyuan Business Hotel are also good choices for mid-level hotels.
High-end HoStel – Kashgar Lisheng Hotel – if you want comfortable place, Kashgar Lisheng Hotel is one of the most popular luxury hotels in the city.
Step 6 – Processing Temporary License Plate and Driving License
It takes two days to get a temporary license plate and a Chinese temporary driver’s license in Kashgar. After you get the license, you can drive legally in China.
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