The Qolma pass is the only border crossing between China and Tajikistan. It has been a standard international border crossing from 1st of June 2014, but until 2017, no one who did not speak fluent Chinese got through.
Since the summer of 2017, many foreigners have crossed and we have no record of any refusals after summer 2017. We collect reports in the Qolma Pass border crossing forum topic.
Note that I have no clue of the correct spelling of this border crossing.
China and Tajikistan agreed to open the Qolma pass continuously, instead of the previous 15 days a month. It’s not open on Saturday and Sunday, though.
The Chinese border opens weekdays at 11am (Beijing time GMT+8), soon afterwards to be closed at 1pm for at least 1 hour. In the evening the border closes around 5pm depending on traffic.
On the Tajik side, it opens around 10 and closes around 16.
Is it closed in winter? Some say yes, others say it is open year-round weather permitting. We don’t know for sure. In any case, travelers have passed in November and in May.
Border peculiarities and facilities
- Fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs may be confiscated.
- There is no currency exchange before Kashgar or Murghab. Nearest ATM is in Kashgar on the Chinese side, or Khorog on the Tajik side.
- Cyclists will need to have their bicycles put on a truck when crossing the border.
Customs and immigration on the Tajik side is right at the Kulma pass, which is at the top of a mountain, while Chinese customs and immigration procedures are conducted 14 km downhill from the pass at the Kalasu Port of Entry, which is right next to the Karakorum Highway.
Prepare adequately: it gets very cold there! Expect snowfall until May.
Note that on the Chinese side there is no currency exchange, which is also the case in Tashkurgan unless you accept the unfavourable rate at the Crown hotel.
China -> TAJ: There is no bus service across the Kulma, and even though the Kalasu Port of Entry is right on the Karakorum Highway, it’s not so easy to get to from the nearest town, Tashkurgan. There is a once-daily Tashkurgan-Kashgar bus which can drop you off at Kalasu for 30 yuan. It leaves Tashkurgan at 10am Beijing time.
When hitchhiking, try hopping on the #4 city bus from southwest of the old city to the last stop (the split in the g314). The northern branch of the highway to Kashgar has much more long-distance traffic.
The nearest major city, Kashgar, is 220 km away in the opposite direction. You could be stuck on either side for a long time. There are several tiny ethnic Kyrgyz settlements nearby but there are no hotels or hostels.
TAJ – China: Without your own transport, you will need to hitch a ride with a trucker from Murghab, or get a local to drive you. About 20km of the road is rough, the rest is paved.
Accommodation & food
66 km out of Murghab en route to the Qolma pass, a truck stop offers a hotel-like experience ( N38°035.15. E074°34.297.) with heated rooms, hot showers, toilets, and food. It comes recommended as affordable luxury – 50 somoni per person for a room, 14 somoni for dinner (2017).
You can also camp in the border post. 1 km before the crossing (91 km from Murghab), an open and flat alpine meadow offers a stunning view of Mustagh Ata.
Campers might want to fill their water bottles at passport control. There aren’t many great options for filling up in streams that don’t appear to be polluted.
No tips yet.
From Murghab to the checkpoint – a rough ride
Past the Tajik checkpoint, the pavement is nice.
Tajik checkpoint before the climb up to the pass
10 km to go
The Tajik border post at 4365 m
Only trucks here. Note the bad weather.
Carrying Chinese goods to Tajik consumers
In the distance, Muztagh Ata towers. It is very high.
3.800m high on the Karakorum Highway
Kalasu Port of Entry” or just “Kalasu Port”, located right next to the Karakorum Highway, approximately 14 km from the Kulma Pass. It is the Kulma Pass that marks the actual Sino-Tajik border, not the Kalasu Port. Chinese customs and immigration procedures are conducted at the Kalasu Port for goods and people crossing the Kulma Pass, but it should not be mistaken for the border itself.
Kalasu, Port of Entry
The turn-off to Tajikistan on the Karakorum Highway
Thanks go to ZendaCCC and Colin Maclennan for the pictures.