Karakoram Highway (Chinese side): Kashgar to Tashkurgan

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Karakoram Highway (Chinese side): Kashgar to Tashkurgan

Post by rhinomaxil »


This is the story of how you can travel the Karakoram Highway from Kashgar to Tashkurgan and back, without a permit and on public bus thanks to your Tajik visa.

As of September 2019, a permit is needed to travel the Karakoram Highway from Kashgar to Tashkurgan. It seems as it cannot be obtained directly from the Chinese authorities but hostels and agencies can get it for you if you go on an organised tour. Fellow travelers I met at Kashgar Pamir Youth Hostel paid 800¥/pers for 2 days/1 night (but hotel and food were not included) from Kashgar to Tashkurgan and back.

However, there is another way. I was able to travel the Karakoram Highway without a permit on a public bus thanks to my Tajik visa, even though I was not actually going to Tajikistan. This works with the Pakistani visa as well. Long story short: I will go to Tajikistan later but first Kyrgyzstan after China. So if your plan is to go Tajikistan ultimately and if you’d like to experience a bit of the Karakoram Highway, it is worth asking for your Tajik visa in advance (as it is valid for 90 days).

Otherwise it is not possible to go to Tashkurgan without a permit. I met different travelers who were actually able to get on the bus without a permit but they were stopped at the Ghez checkpoint (about 3-4h from Kashgar), from where they had to hitch back to Kashgar as the bus continued without them. It is also worth noting that the scenery gets actually more impressive after the Ghez checkpoint so it is not worth going to Ghez only in my opinion.

For those with a Tajik or Pakistani visa, you need to go around 9am to the "pickups for Tashkurgan" location on maps.me. Say "Tashkurgan" to any taxi driver and he will most likely take you there. There you will find one or two minivans waiting for passengers. The place doesn’t look like a bus station. At first the driver did not want to take me as I didn’t have a permit but I was able to convince him to let me in with my Tajik visa (and the same for two other girls with a Pakistani visa). The bus leaves when full so around 10am. Then he drove to the actual bus station 500m away (no idea why the pickup is not at the bus station and you can probably wait for the bus there as well but it’s best to go to the maps.me location for pickups as you are able to secure a good seat on the bus).

We finally left Kashgar around 12:00 as there was a lot of driving around the city for no apparent reason and the journey takes 7 hours to Tashkurgan. The price of the ticket is 65¥. At the Ghez checkpoint they will ask for permit so show your Pakistani visa or your Tajik e-visa on your phone.

The driver agreed to make a quick stop at the Karakul lake. Otherwise we didn’t stop for pictures but I didn’t feel like we missed anything as the main interest is to enjoy the scenery from the window. So choose your seat carefully: the scenery is most impressive on the left on the way to Tashkurgan (and so on the right on the way back).

In Tashkurgan I stayed at K2 Youth Hostel (available on booking.com). ¥59/pers/night in a dorm. The hostel is quite nice and clean.

The next morning, you need to catch the bus back to Kashgar. This is more tricky as there was only one bus (seating 18 pp). The price is also ¥65. If you miss the bus I think it’s possible to share a taxi but this doubles the price. To take the bus you need to go to the bus station where the bus dropped you off the previous day. The station opens at 9:00 but people start queuing around 8:15. I think it is worth being there at that time, not only to secure a ticket but as importantly to secure a good seat on the bus (it really makes a difference as the whole point of this trip is to enjoy the scenery from the window). The bus left around 10:00 and the trip took 7h again. There was no stop for lunch this time (and no stop at all except for passport checks).
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Re: Karakoram Highway (Chinese side): Kashgar to Tashkurgan

Post by tomtimmerman »


Just an add-on for cyclists. The buses operating between Kashgar and Tashkurgan are way too small to carry bikes. So the only option for cyclists is to cycle the stretch. This is allowed, if you have a Pakistani or Tajik visa. However, do note that camping is not allowed along the route, hotels are few and far between (and often don't take in foreigners). So hide well if you are going to camp, for instance in underpasses below the road.
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