Border crossing report: Overland from Iran to Pakistan (Mirjaveh to Taftan)

For those who are unaware of this particular point of the world, Iran’s overland crossing to Pakistan is an odyssey that needs to be reported. Not just for your family to stop suffering and your insurance company to count you back in their clients, but for all those who are thinking about doing it at some point. It’s hard to find up-to-date information. Here we leave our experience.

Before we crossed, we counted with the help of two recent crosses, but both made with their own vehicle, so many of the data they mention in our case change considerably. If you’re crossing your car, you can see the experience here. We had no method of transport since we usually hitchhike or take public transport.

Our crossing began on 18 may 2017 at 4:00 in the morning, we wrote these first lines from the headquarters to the Pakistani side of the border. We finished it on 25th of may at half a day. The moment we reached Lahore.

From Kerman to Bam:

We left to our last city in Iran with the last rials in our pocket. The bus to Bam has a duration of about 3 hours and costs 90.000 rupees per person.

We got to Bam past half a day, the bus left us at the service station, a crossing that makes the times as bus terminal. We took a taxi for 40,000 Rs to Akbar guest house, recognized meeting point for all those thinking about crossing the border by land. Unfortunately, we came back to reality, and we realized that this time we were going to be the only ones crossing because there were no other guests in the place. Bam is usually out of the main tourist route unless your destination is the border, especially after the earthquake that destroyed much of its main attraction, which, by the way, has been rebuilt.

Akbar is an older, chatterbox, entertaining and kind man. The price of the guest house has increased quite a lot,  the last report we read was just over a year before our cross and by then the price was half. When they arrived they offered us a room for both of us for 800.000 rupees that we had to deny, the number of rials in our pocket would not give us so much and were the last we had.

After arguing with Mohammad, his son, Akbar appeared and asked us how much we had a night, a few words, a tea and finally ended up agreeing to the 600.000 we offered him (honestly) something his son did not like so much. The guest house has wifi, but hidden and you need Mohammad to program it, (and we were not especially of its worship so we could not enjoy it) and we were able to use the kitchen without problems.

Akbar on the other hand, helps a local school and occasionally takes some of the tourists who pass through their guest house to the classes, so there we ended up, at 6:30 pm to answer all kinds of questions made by Iranian teenagers from 13 to 22 years. A whole experience.

We could not pass through the citadel because when we came back we fell into the problem that we would hasten to do the crossing: the country’s general election would be held on Friday (it was Wednesday night) and we had no idea if the functioning of the borders would be altered by the event. Without thinking it twice and without wanting to get stuck in Quetta for more than two days we decided to leave the next day.

From Bam to Zahedan:

Few buses come out of from Bam to Zahedan but it is possible to stop those who come from long distance routes, the only problem is that these buses pass through Bam between 4 and 5 in the morning. In order to get you on one, you just have to go back to the gas station you came to (everyone knows where it is, in case you’re lost) and wait for one to make their appearance.

We left the guest house at 3:45 in the morning and not a single soul was passing through the street. The only car we saw stopped and drove us to the station for 50.000 rupees. If you have more time, it is possible to ask Akbar to order a taxi in the morning.

With a little luck, once at the service station, you won’t be the only one waiting. Some people make their way down in Bam and others, like you, they’ll be making their way to Zahedan. All you have to do is wait for the bus to stop, make sure you ask if it goes to Zahedan and if yes, just get on.

The price per person was 100.000 RS, much cheaper than we had heard in other reports mentioning buses or taxis of 300.000 Rs per person.

Once we crossed the border of the Iranian Balochistan, a couple of armed policemen took the first bus seats and two others took over about 100 km later. We arrived at Zahedan at 8:30 AM after 3 relays and two passport controls. It was not necessary to ask the driver to get off at Meydan e Mirjaveh as we read in other cases, from the bur station there are shared taxis going directly to the border.

From Zahedan to Mirjaveh:

At the station we had some breakfast, we bought a lot of water for the trip and cigarettes for at least 5 days, cookies and some more nonsense to be prepared for the next few days. Bring cigarettes, the Levies will love you.

As soon as we get off of Bam’s bus we already had a cab at 200.000 rupees per person to the border, it’s not hard to get them. In order for the car to come out, it needs to be filled so that other travellers can make the tour. About 3 shared taxis left the station from 8:30 am to the moment we took ours, 11:45 am, the price we paid was the same as the two Pakistanis that accompanied us.

Border Crossing, Mirjaveh to Taftan

After about an hour on the taxi, we reached the border crossing. We got our exit stamp with no problems or much bureaucracy and we crossed the Pakistani side.
There we completed a form where we were asked for an address (luckily we had a reservation in Bahawalpur for the first days after Quetta) and after some questions, we got our entry stamp.

When you leave the office you will find the currency sharks, they don’t call them sharks for nothing, the exchange price is absurd and it usually is not even the “last”, that is to say, we were offered 108 rupees per euro and at the end between one thing and the other ended up giving us 104. We did not want a fight and we were just going to change 50€ so we got rid of the 300.000 we left (at a price also absurd, 50.000 Rs for 100 RP) and we got out of there as soon as possible.

They didn’t give us any instructions, but on the way out Laskahar, a guy dressed in black with his face completely covered and sunglasses that didn’t inspire any trust was waiting for us. We followed him only because of the “levies” on his shoulder. After a few sentences, he discovered his face and turned out to be a charming guy with a super friendly smile. With him, we did the walk to the Levies centre in the border and there he left us in charge of his companions.

They put us in what looked like an office and we used it to sleep for a few hours. In the middle time, they brought us some water, a couple of samosas and tea. Jesper became friends with two guys who were in a cell (who reportedly also seem to be friends with the levies, all very bizarre) and from there we got some sweets and cookies.

If you have your Iranian sim data card here, you still have coverage, so make sure you keep some to kill the time since you will be not allowed to leave. Electricity wasn’t a problem during the hours we were in but it can come and go as it pleases.

Next to the centre there is a small store where can go in case you need something, always accompanied by a Levie (you have everything) and also an ATM, which if we had known, we would have tried before making the currency exchange, we do not know if It works correctly with foreign cards but it’s worth a try.

From Taftan to Dalbandin

Although during the previous day they repeated 3 times that the departure time would be 8 in the morning, at 7 A.M we had them knocking on the door. They don’t give you time to pack, with that I mean a Levie stays in the room door waiting for you to finish (full pressure), once you end you get in the first car and the party starts.

It is possible to they tell you that you will reach Quetta in one day, it is also very possible that that does not happen, 95 % of the cases we know have been done in the same way and only a few have managed to make the journey in just one journey. On the other hand, we don’t know if we would do it at once, it’s tedious as fuck.

You will reach Dalbandin about 7 car changes later, tea and cookies in case you have to wait for your escort (or the car you have been picked just breaks as was our case) and to see all kinds of pickups full of what may possibly be bullet holes (don’t worry, no reason to be scared)

The Levies on the road are kind, always repeat the same questions (for them it is once a day) while you complete the passport data in their registration logs.

Where are you from?
Are you married?
Do you have kids?
How old are you?
Your name?

There’s no reason for getting photocopies, we read it somewhere but we still had to make the registration on the books. Sometimes a car change doesn’t mean registration and vice-versa. To know you just have to ask ” entry?” or ” car change?” and they will guide you (we say it because they usually stop and you have no idea what you’re supposed to do then).

In Dalbandin they will leave you at the hotel (there is only one) where they will offer you a room for 1500 RP the night (for two), we negotiated it down to 1000. The police chief invited us for dinner and breakfast but his subordinate, a pretty creepy dude is quite annoying won’t stop asking you for a “gift”. he’s the only one who did it on the whole way (several times),   If you don’t have the same luck you can ask the kids at the hotel to buy you food on the restaurants next doors, for about 250 RP per person you’ll have more than enough

Right beside the hotel door you have a basic store for drinks and some other things, do not consume your resources in Dalbandin, there you can go to the store almost at any time, save for Quetta because it will be more expensive and more difficult. I mean, if you have food cooking or other supplies, try to save them for Quetta.

There is wifi in the hotel, it is called tenda and the pass when we were 12345678 (we leave it here because it was not easy to get it). Please let us know if has changed.

Finally, every city in Pakistan has energy rationing so there will be two power cuts per day, from 6 to 8 PM and from 11 pm to 9 am, take this into account to plan your day. Finally, before going to Quetta buy water and drinks for the road the night before, the store will not be open the day after at the time of your departure.

If you don’t have any money, you can always negotiate to the fullest and ask them if you can sleep on the terrace, the temperature is much easier up there.

From Dalbandin to Quetta

This is the worst part of the road and the most exhausting. At 7:30-8:00 am, they’ll come and pick you at the hotel and start the escort again. The first two car changes are long, which seems to be strange. Get ready if you don’t go with your vehicle because you’ll be in the sun for at least 5 hours,  a mask or hat to cover your face, enough water and sun cream are a good idea. Dust is also a problem.

The day will run like the day before, registration, car change, registration, car change… for about 12 hours. The road becomes even more tedious about 150 km from Quetta where the escorts will change every less than 10 km.

Attention, we want to clarify that the change of escort is not a security issue, it is a matter of bureaucracy. The group that escorts you is responsible and has jurisdiction in their area. When you reach their border their jurisdiction ends and you need to be handed to the new one. This makes the process something completely absurd, for example, already once in Quetta, we switch cars 3 times in less than 10 minutes… two of them jeeps turned into bulletproof tanks (absolutely unnecessary, really).

They will finally ask you what hotel you want to go to, the question is rhetoric because they will give you only two options, the Serena Hotel (5 Stars, about 200 € the night) or thee Bloomstar hotel hole, A hotel managed by a family with few scruples who knows that they can take advantage of the tourists (since there is no other place to go) and do not hesitate to take every opportunity to do so.

Quetta

This was the part that we hated most of the trip, being locked up in Quetta. The Bloomstar will want to charge you whatever you need. We met a Frenchman at the hotel who was paying 5000 rupees for a single room. To us, he offered us a double for 3000 that after a thousand disagreements we got down to 2500. There we found another group of travellers, one of them understood Urdu and informed us that the price for locals does not exceed 1800 rupees the night.

We know a case of someone who paid 1000 for camping in the garden. On the other hand, if you really don’t have any money, we think it’s possible to end up sleeping at the police station.

These people have a monopoly, unfortunately, there are no more accommodation options that you can access as a tourist so they will do whatever they want with you. Thay will take profit of you having to eat, to get your NOC or anything else. If the guy gets cranky with you, he’ll just decide not to call the police to get your escort to get your NOC.
In the hotel was a group of Chinese citizens who had asked the owner of the hotel to call to get their police Escort (going the opposite direction) and this had told them that he had been calling 3 days when he had not (we know that because the Urdu speaking dude called for them).

Since we did not trust them we managed to get a phone number from one of the officers, 0819202730 is the phone number of the police station and from there they led us to 0819201596 which is supposedly the tourist police. If the thing get ugly and you think the owner is cheating on you, we recommend you look for a Pakistani number and try to make the call on your own.

Thanks to the pressure of the group with which we travelled we managed to go to take money from an ATM  (the only foreign card ATM seems to be fucking far away and we had to change like 5 times the car), to get a simcard, to the NOC office and to the train station. Yeah, it wasn’t easy, and it took the whole day, but at leasy we managed to leave.

The NOC will be given to you for the next day, once you have the paper you’ll have to go to the train station to get your exit train ticket. (all with escort, only if they have time and they have understood you). To buy the train ticket you’ll need a photocopy of your passport. The police guys were kind enough to get one for us.

Our next stop would be Bahawalpur, we got two tickets in economic class (Non AC, no bed because the beds were full) for 2200 RP for both. Most of the trains depart between 8 and 9 am.

Quetta – Bahawalpur – Lahore

Make sure that at the hotel they call the escort from the previous day and always ask about 45 minutes beforehand. The train station is literally 5 minutes walking but between one thing and the other is going to take forever and you don’t want to miss that train.

Before you get on the train, you’ll have to make another passport register. Buy drinks and snacks at the station shops and you’re ready for the day. If you have ordered economic class, prepare for heat and dust. It’s easy, but it’s not for everyone.

The train from Quetta to the north does not make the short distance, passes by Multan in any case so if you go to Islamabad you will have to go around the country (about 26 hours away). On the way, at least until you leaving Balochistan there will be police with you on the train, in some cases in the same wagon in other cases just hanging around. We were lucky since another foreigner was travelling in AC class we did not see them much.

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Our arrival at Bahawalpur was not as we expected, 5 hours before our arrival host in Airbnb wrote to us saying that the police did not allow him to have foreigners at home and had to cancel the reservation leaving us in his knickers. We had no choice but to get to Bahawalpur at 1 am and head to the bus station since hotels were so expensive (the train continues to Lahore but it was full). We decided to buy two bus tickets that would supposedly leave at 3 am and end up leaving 5:20 am. And finally, 29 hours of travel later we arrived in Lahore.

Be aware we have heard similar stories from people arriving in Multan so better to go straight to Lahore, Islamabad or Karachi.

And that’s right, the longest and most tedious border crossing in history. We got so exhausted to Lahore and so tired of the bureaucracy that we were about to leave the country and cross to India. Luckily we decided to give him a second chance and we ended up staying 9 weeks in Pakistan, it’s a beautiful country.

If you have made this border crossing and have any new information please leave it in the comments, other travellers and us thank you to help us keep this up to date.

This post is also available in: Spanish

Un poco de sur

Somos Valen y Jesper, almas de este blog y compañeros de viaje y de vida. Si quieres saber más sobre nosotros puedes hacerlo aquí

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