Irkeshtam Pass: Kyrgyzstan (Osh - Sary Tash) to China (Kashgar)

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Myers3000
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Irkeshtam Pass: Kyrgyzstan (Osh - Sary Tash) to China (Kashgar)

Postby Myers3000 » Tue Dec 02, 2014 7:24 am

We crossed over from Kyrgyzstan to China via the Irkeshtam pass a week ago so can give a quick update of our experiences for anyone it might help.

We took a taxi from Osh to Sara Tosh and then hitched a ride on a lorry from Sara Tosh to the border. If you're buying food, I'd do it in Osh before you get the taxi. There's very little in Sara Tosh and onwards.

It's far better to take a taxi straight from Osh to the border if you're doing this in winter. Sara Tosh is extremely cold and accommodation/food is limited to a single cafe and nearby house (the cafe was closed when we arrived). Our taxi driver refused to go any further passed Sara Tosh which left us a little stranded.

Fortunately one of the last houses on the left had a family who were generous and gave us a place to stay, food etc...until we could find a vehicle doing the rest of the trip.

At the border there is a small guest house to stay for around 40 sum. They were doing decorating when we arrived, but let us sleep in a communal area there.

It's hard to find though. You can ask someone. Or, as you're facing the border, head down the slight hill to the left. It's on the left. You should pass a lot of small cabins on the right. There is also a small shop selling food/drinks and a tiny restaurant next to the accommodation.

At the border you can walk straight to the front passed all the vehicles. They let the 5 foreigners (westerners?) go first.

On the border a Kyrgyzstan guard tried to ask for money, but didn't push it once we made it clear we weren't going to give him any. Once you're across, you need to hitch a ride to the China side. It's a few KM away. Do this at the border itself - there are guards that will help you find a lorry. If you begin walking, as we did, it's much, much, harder.

There will probably be a long line of lorries/trucks waiting at the Chinese side of the border. Once you've arrived, get out of the lorry and walk to the border crossing. If you don't do this, you'll have a LONG wait. The Chinese border guards are friendly but they keep your passport until you agree a deal with a taxi. They don't let you take any other transport except a taxi. Taxis, naturally, exploit this by charging high rates.

Expect to pay $25 per person or $70 to $100 for an entire taxi. The later you arrive, the fewer other passengers there will be. This means you might have to pay a lot more for a taxi yourself. You don't need RMB, you can pay in USD for this. Have small notes though. I didn't see a place to change money until we arrived in Kashgar.

Remember too you're only agreeing a deal to get you to the interior border 150km wait, not to Kashgar. You can expect to pay another $20 for this.

They closed the border for 2 hours for lunch. There are places to eat around this border crossing. In fact, you're pretty free to wander around - you just can't leave without a taxi taking you.

The taxi driver dropped us off at Kashgar international bus station which isn't in the center of the city. There is a hotel right next to it which isn't great, but it's cheap. Otherwise you'll need to grab another taxi to your hotel/hostel. There are also a few atms down this road. Be aware that some atms might be out of money, so try them all at each bank, you'll find one that works.

If you're buying train tickets for an onward journey, so it as far in advance as possible.

Safe travels.
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Re: The Irkeshtam Pass - Kyrgyzstan to China (in Winter)

Postby steven » Thu Dec 04, 2014 5:56 am

Thank you for a great report! And well done navigating this pass in winter. It must have been COLD.
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Irkeshtam Pass Crossing Report

Postby funkyboots » Thu Jun 11, 2015 4:36 am

My advice is to take a hood book and a great deal of patience...

I got a minibus from Osh to Sary Tash the previous day so I could make an early start, stayed in Hotel Tatina on the right as you come into ST, just before the garage - it's signposted. negotiated down to 600 som for a bed, dinner, and a couple of hardboiled eggs with bread to pCk for brekky the next morning.

Was at side of road by 6.45 a.m., 2 Chinese trucks passed and gestured 'no' to me. I could see a local car further along the road with someone jumping out and trying to flag down the trucks, too. He also failed, then the car came back along the road to my spot and offered me a ride to the border for 2000 som. I laughed and showed the contents of my wallet, which I had reduced to 400 som, saying that was all I had, so they said ok to that. Then we drove to the house of the guy who was China- bound, as he had forgotten his passport.

Left ST about 7.15 a.m. Got to a checkpoint about an hour later, where passports were checked - the border guard then told me I couldn't go further in the car and he made the driver of the Kyrgyz truck behind us take me. ( was glad I had only paid half the agreed fare at this stage) I guessed maybe there had been a passport issue for the local guy, but the car passed us a while later, so then I guessed my 200 som may have gone towards a bribe? :)

Arrived at Kyrgyz border at 8.40 and joined a long line of trucks waiting for 9 a.m. opening. Driver indicated I should get out and walk down to immigration. Nobody else there waiting, was stamped out in seconds, and a very friendly English-speaking guard chatted with me about his own travels and then came and arranged for the first truck to take me the 5 km to the China post. Was impressed at how easy and quick it was all going. Then we arrived at the Chinese post...

The sign on the wall says 'China Immigration - Sunshine Service - Comfortable - Instant - Intelligent'. Well, I had immigration and I had sunshine, that was about it...!

Passport was checked, bag was checked, ipad photos were viewed slowly one by one. Bag handed back, went to ask for passport back and was told to wait. An hour later I was still waiting, and all enquiries were met with a smile and a 'please wait', when 3 Kyrgyz locals arrived. Several officers now arrived and switched on the xray machine, and checked all bags, including mine, again. It seemed they were waiting for enough people to warrant switching on the machine and summoning a taxi. They would not allow me to go further in a truck, even though one of previous drivers was now there and suggesting it. So, joined 3 Kyrgyz in a taxi, 100 yuan each ($16ish) and finally left for the main Chinese immigration building, stopping at 2 roadside checkpoints enroute.

We got to the main checkpoint just before the immigration building at 12.10 pm, 10 mins after they had closed for their 2 hour lunchbreak. We sat outside as truck after truck rolled into the waiting area, churning up dust, but it was just too hot to wait in the car. The toilet appeared not to have been cleaned for possibly several years, each squat bowl piled high with dried turds. It was quite a sight. At 2pm the driver motioned us into the waiting room, where we waited for another half an hour for anything to actually happen.

At about 2.40, we got our passports back and proceeded to the main immigration building - big, flashy, with a clean loo and an amazing amount of people in smart uniforms, none of whom seemed to be doing anything. We waited a while for someone to take our passports off into an office, and then waited a while longer for them to be returned, before queueing at the quarantine desk, then the immigration desk and finally getting stamped in. Then was the wait for the luggage machine to be switched on, that took a while... finally bags had gone through and I, naively thought we might be about to leave... we paid the taxi driver, who arranged for another taxi to take us to Kashgar for 40 yuan ($6ish) each. Then we waited another hour and a half because of a 'money problem' connected to the baggage of the Kyrgyz woman, I think... as with the rest of the day, I had no real idea of why we were waiting, and lacked the language to find out, but managed to get hints from the limited English of one of the Kyrgyz who did his best to explain. We eventually left in the taxi at 5.30 pm... about 8 hours after I had arrived at the first Chinese border post.
Got into Kashgar a little over an hour later. I was knackered and gagging for a cold beer so I decided to take a taxi to the hostel instead of walking.. it was just unfortunate that, despite being given the address, and a map, it took the driver almost an hour to locate a building that turned out to be about 5 mins drive from where we started!

Worth doing? Yes - great scenery most of the way, the ride in from Sary Tash was gorgeous and the truck swapping stuff was a bit of craic. But, as I said, take food, drink, a good book and expect it to take an eternity.

If you are with a taxi-sized group you would possibly not be kept waiting as long at the first Chinese post and might make the second one before it closes, in which case it would be a breeze, relatively. Or you might just get lucky and arrive as a taxi is about to leave for the second border post. Otherwise expect delays... long ones!
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Re: Irkeshtam Pass Crossing Report

Postby steven » Sat Jun 13, 2015 1:46 am

Will add that to the article: gorgeous, and a bit of craic :-)
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İrkeshtam Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China by bicycle

Postby johcla » Tue Jun 23, 2015 4:58 am

Crossing the İrkeshtam from China to Kyrgyzstan was not sooooo easy for us, so we would like to provide a little bit more information.
The immigration office in new Ulumquaat is about 85 km before old Ulumquaat!
We cycled to new Ulumquaat on S309.
From there, the immigration is not signposted with "immigration", but with "custom clearance area" only, which means it is easy to miss! İf you miss it, you can cycle another 80 km without being stopped, but probably you ll have to go back because of the missing exit stamp..!!
We got our exit stamp there within 10 minutes, but had to wait 3,5 hours due to an extra long "lunch break" 11:30 - 03:00pm. We had to organize the taxi before going through inspection (03:00pm), and because we and our bikes were the only ones in the multivan it costed us 400 yuan.
The taxi drove 140 km untill the last Chinese checkpoint, where we waited another 45 minutes due to another mysterious "break"..From there we cycled 5 km to the Kyrgyz border. The Kyrgyz had an issue with their computer system and it was already around 7 pm. After another hour discussion and phone calls they decided to let us sleep in the empty DutyFree Shop. We got our stamp the next morning, and happily entered Kyrgyzstan :-)
So make sure you do not miss the new Ulumquaat immigration office and get your exit stamp :D
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Re: İrkeshtam Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China by bicycle

Postby bwv812 » Tue Jun 23, 2015 7:01 pm

I think the immigration point has been in Ulugqat/Wuqia/Uche for at least three years. The hours suck, but they are pretty standard Xinjiang hours for government services.

http://caravanistan.com/border-crossing ... htam-pass/

Could probably be updated with your helpful info on Chinese hours (as well as a note that the hours are official Beijing time, not the Xinjiang time everyone uses).
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Re: İrkeshtam Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China by bicycle

Postby steven » Thu Jun 25, 2015 2:50 am

will add that to the article.
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Re: İrkeshtam Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China by bicycle

Postby bwv812 » Thu Jun 25, 2015 8:39 am

A map showing the correct immigration building (use satellite imagery and ignore the route, which is offset quite a bit as Chinese maps tend to be).

https://goo.gl/maps/yhGZw
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Irkeshtam Pass: crossing from Osh to Kashgar

Postby Iridium » Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:54 pm

Hello,

I am planning a trip to Central Asia in the middle of March and I was wondering if it's gonna be ok (weather conditions like snow) to cross the Irkeshtam Pass to Xijiang with local transportation.

Thanx!
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Re: Irkeshtam Pass: crossing from Osh to Kashgar

Postby steven » Fri Jan 15, 2016 6:27 am

The Irkeshtam pass is open year-round. The road might be temporarily blocked due to heavy snow fall, but it will open again soon after. So no problem.
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