Crossing this border is a 1000 km, multi-day journey. I have summarized and condensed the long journey from traveler reports: 2 forum topics collect reports from the Iran -> Pakistan crossing and the Pakistan -> Iran crossing.
Thanks to David and Josephine for the use of their pictures from their crossing report.
Iran to Pakistan
The journey from Zahedan to Quetta is done in 2 or 3 days under escort by Pakistani border guards called Levies. In Quetta, you will need to get a paper called NOC. After that, you will be escorted out of Baluchistan, where your escort will leave you and you are free to roam Pakistan.
If you have your own transport, you will drive yourself, behind the escort. Backpackers will be seated in the back of a pickup truck in the blazing sun.
Zahedan to the border
It is advised to not stay in a hotel in Zahedan as the hotel staff is obliged to call the police to inform them about you, meaning you will get an escort from Zahedan to the border. If you camp out or sleep in Bam, you will not get the escort.
Most travelers find the escort on the Iranian side of the border is unnecessary, but make up your own mind. Going without escort will save you a lot of time.
At the border, the paperwork is nothing out of the ordinary and you should pass through within an hour or so.
Border to Dalbandin
If you arrive later in the day at the border, you will be asked to sleep at the Pakistani side of the border in the Levies station (for free). However, if you show up early enough, you may be allowed to journey to Dalbandin the same day. Journey time is 6-8 hours.
Here the escort system starts: you drive from station to station, changing Levies guards at each stop. In total, you will be escorted by more than 15 escorts before you get to Quetta.
In Dalbandin, you have to stay at an unnamed hotel. The price starts at 1500 rupees for a room, but it can be bargained down to 1000, 800 or even 0. You will stay at the drafty VIP room, which does not have clean sheets or a clean toilet. A guard will sleep in the room next door.
If you say you have no money, you can stay at the police station for free.
Dalbandin to Quetta
The next day you will be escorted to Quetta. It will be a long day, with some 13 changes of escorts. Count around 12 hours. Driving is not so tedious, but waiting for the new guards, taking selfies, chatting over tea, … this all takes time.
Some of the Levies have been known to ask for gifts. Biscuits are a good gift. Perhaps cigarettes too?
In Quetta, you have to stay at the Hotel Bloomstar and you are not allowed to go out. See more on the Bloomstar in the helpful tips section below. The room has a hot shower.
Getting the NOC
The next day heavily armed police men will bring you to the Home and Tribal Affairs Office for the NOC (No Objection Certificate). Just bring your passport and follow the instructions. The NOC is free, and takes between 30 minutes and 4 hours to get. After that, police will escort you back to the hotel and in the city if you have to do some shopping.
The NOC seems just to be a piece of paper and it may look like a mere formality, but there is a whole system behind it. After getting the NOC, the home department in Quetta sends faxes to all the police departments in Baluchistan informing them that you are in the country and that you need to get an escort.
You will most likely leave Quetta the next day.
Self-drivers will continue to be escorted until the border of Baluchistan province.
Backpackers tend to take a train north or east (you can take a bus too). If you do, make sure you go to the train station immediately after receiving the NOC, so you can buy a train ticket to wherever you’re going. An escort may or may not accompany you on the train until the first stop outside of Baluchistan.
Pakistan to Iran
The process is similar in the other direction. Here is a first report from August 2017. As a backpacker, after arriving in Quetta, you will stay at the Bloomstar Hotel and will have to apply for the NOC. After that, you can take a bus to Taftan (12h). Once you cross the Iranian border, you will be handed over to different escorts until you reach Zahedan.
- Change money in Iran; border rates are terrible. Kerman has a very good exchange rate.
- Pakistan drives on the left, remember that.
- In Pakistan, if you want to change money, take big notes with you. They will give you more money for it than for the smaller 1, 5, 10 or 20 dollar notes. You can also just use an ATM, but check before hand which ones are cheaper, as some issue large transaction fees.
- Don’t worry about the papers at the border. People will help you and won’t rip you off. Just make sure you find officials to help you, not “civilians”.
- Go on a Monday or Friday, so you are not stuck in Quetta in the weekend, as the border crossing normally takes 3 days, and the Home Office closes early on Fridays, meaning you will not be able to get your NOC in time.
- The day you leave to go to the border, go early! It will most likely save you one day of travelling and you don’t have to sleep at the border.
- Take a lot of copies of your passport and visa with you and write your license plate number on it, if applicable. Makes life way easier and faster. At every check-point you have to fill in your personal information, but you can also just give this piece of paper.
- Backpackers should bring plenty of water and other supplies for the trip, as they will be spending most of your time in the back of a pickup truck in the blazing sun (or in the cold, in winter).
- The Bloomstar Hotel is a terrible place. Its owners are well-connected in government and will take full advantage of their monopoly position as the only place in Quetta where foreigners are allowed to stay. We recommend getting angry at staff at every step and refusing to pay their rip-off prices. A regular price would be 1500 rupees for a room, but rates keep going up with every new report we get. If you say you have no money, you can stay at the police station for free.