The Torugart pass closes often, for reasons such as snowfalls, holidays on either side, or too much traffic. Torugart pass is usually snow-free from late May to the end of September. This doesn’t mean you cannot cross after that, it just becomes more difficult and dangerous.
Have a look at our discussion of Chinese border crossings for more on border closures.
The border is open Monday to Friday, from 10am to 5pm, but you should really cross before noon. There is a Bishkek – Kashgar bus, but only for locals. Foreigners are apparently deemed to have too much money to simply take the bus across the border.
Because the Torugart pass is considered a special crossing with extra security needs by the Chinese, you cannot cross the no man’s land past the Kyrgyz customs by yourself, and only Kyrgyz drivers with a special permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can drive there.
Once you arrive at the Kyrgyz border, you will have to show proof that you have arranged transport with a legitimate Chinese tour agency (a fax will do), to take you to Kashgar or elsewhere. Kyrgyz customs officers will not let you go until your Chinese onward transport shows up on the Chinese side of the border.
Then your special-permit-driver will drive you the 6km of no man’s land to the highest point of the pass, where you will be transferred to your new Chinese vehicle. After that, it’s another 6km to the Chinese customs. After this, you will drive another 100km to the immigration station, open from 1pm to 5pm, Beijing time.
All this means that you will need the help of a tour company and that it is going to cost you. 150$ from Naryn to Torugart, another 300$ from Torugart to China is the going rate (2015), but you can share it between your fellow passengers. Which tour company? We can recommend Kubat Tour in Naryn, slightly better prices and similar or better service to other operators like CBT, Novinomad, Celestial Mountains,…
Can you drive your own car or motorcycle across Torugart pass? Unless you have a special permit from the Chinese government and a Chinese driver’s license (or a Chinese driver waiting for you on the other side), you cannot.
But you can cycle across Torugart! But not all the way. You will need a letter from a Chinese tour company saying they will come and pick you up, and onward transport from the Chinese side can then take you away from the border. They take 2 people and 2 bikes per car. Certain tour companies can arrange that for you. Don’t wander too far off the road past Korgon Tash, it’s illegal!