Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

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Re: Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Post by vistetequenosvamos »

08/04/19 - The Irkestam border China -Kirguistan continues with its hours and customs at lunch time.

From the bus station of Kashgar we take a bus (4 seater taxi for 33 CNY/person) towards Ulugqat. This was a Sunday (close border).

We wanted to sleep in Ulugqat that night, so on Monday morning in the early morning do the long Chinese border procedures.

In the police control 3 Km before arriving in the city, they held us for 2 hours. Many questions. They checked in all corners of our backpacks, including mobiles, camera and computer. They tried to install some program in the Android but they did not get anything.

After that time, they told us that we could not sleep in Ulugqat. They proposed us to return to Kashgar but we refused.

Finally, they took us to a hotel next to the border control, near an industrial zone, 3 Km from Ulugqat. We had no choice. They isolated us. We paid 80 CNY/night/room with three beds and a private bathroom.
There is nothing to buy, just four stores and a restaurant. Evidently, we were accompanied by the police and their patrol car in the work of looking for food. Very kind and friendly.

The next day, in the morning, they came to look for us at the hostel and accompanied us to the border control gate. It took us 3 hours to get the exit stamp from China. They did not check our backpacks but they asked a lot of questions and they reviewed the camera and mobile phones again.

Finally, exit stamp and we rode in the taxi (100 CNY/person) that took us to the last Chinese border control. Previously we passed a couple of simple controls more. The buffer zone China is all militarized are about 180 Km.

Once in no man's land, we walk 1 Km to Kyrgyz territory where a military passport checks you. From this point to the custom there are 3 Km. We went walking but some Chinese asked the military for a taxi, he called and a taxi came to look for them. We do not know price.
With a Spanish passport, easy and fast border control in Kyrgyzstan, we not need visa and were even welcomed. We were free!

To get out of Kyrgyzstan's custom, we recommend hitchhiking to Sary Tash. Taxis ask for 100 CNY/person from Irkestam to Sary Tash, but it is achieved in half. There is place to sleep in Irkestam. In Sary Tash there is only one cashier who accepts Visa and does not charge commission. At the gas station of Sary Tash they change money easily.

Thanks to China for the border experience never lived, and for the landscapes Absolutely incredible! :)

We hope our experience helps other travelers.


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

Post by Jade »

Hey fellow travelers,

Wanted to share some updates from our experience making the crossing a few days ago (April 2019):

- In Kashgar, public bus #28 will take you to the long distance bus station from a stop just across the street from Id Kah mosque (on the night market side). The streets are empty, but this bus does run early enough to get you to the bus station before it opens (we were told it opens at 9am, but they started letting people in at around 8:40 Beijing time).

- The woman at the counter refused to sell us tickets to Wuqia at first. With some pestering she told us "there is no car going to Wuqia now. Maybe 9:30." We hung around and shortly thereafter saw her sell a ticket to Wuqia to a Han Chinese guy. It seems to be that they're now only willing to put foreigners in a separate car because there's one very lengthy security check en route that holds up foreign travelers for an annoying amount of time. We were a group of 3 and met 1 Japanese woman at the station, so with the group of 4 we were able to convince her to convince a driver to take us. We paid the usual 33 yen at the counter and then the driver refused to go until we paid for the full car. Another Japanese guy showed up, so we only had to split 2 extra seats between 5. Moral of the story: being in a larger group is definitely an advantage.

- The first and most severe (really just tedious, time-consuming, and invasive) security check for us was actually before entering Wuqia. The driver had to wait for over an hour while they took everything out of our bags and very inefficiently scrolled through all of our electronic devices at least twice and asked a few sporadic, mostly useless questions.

- The second security check was about 1.5km later. Since we were all headed the same place the driver very helpfully dropped us off here, at the somewhat distant entrance of the customs center. Here they did a half-assed bag search (yes again only 1.5km later!) and again collected all of our electronic devices to look through and made the same documentation of our passports. We put our bags through another scanner and then were instructed to walk about 1km to the customs building.

- At the customs office, they took our passports and called us back individually to go through all of our electronic devices again (for the 4th time in 3km). All very polite and stress-free, but it did take about 45 minutes again. Meanwhile, we asked about an official taxi driver, and they procured one pretty promptly, who asked the standard 100 yen/person. After another quick bag scan, they stamped us out of China (good riddance!) and passed our passports to the driver.

- We were lucky to have a pretty speedy driver, and there was only 1 security check in the no man's land past customs. We passed through security with a quick and painless baggage/passport scan – no issue with it being 2:30ish Beijing time.

- The driver dropped us at the actual border around 4:30 Beijing time, and they checked our passports and stamps before letting us through. Then a redundant check about 200m later – as a reminder of why we're leaving China. ;) Then about 1km downhill to the first Kyrgyz border post. Here they checked our passports briefly, and we opted for the 20 yen taxi to the customs building about 3km down the road. Could have walked it, but wanted to save some time and had spare yen to get rid of.

- At Kyrgyz customs they stamped our passports with a smile and we were out in the fresh mountain air within 5 minutes.

- Taxis were waiting just up the hill to take us to Osh. 8000 som for a car which can take 4. We couldn't find anywhere to change money on either side of the border (though we did ask), but the driver was happy to take us to an ATM + exchange office when we got to Osh. We made good time and arrived in Osh at around 7:45 (Kyrgyzstan time), about 14 hours after leaving our hostel in Kashgar.
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Re: Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Post by Granite2018 »

Kashgar to Osh in early June.

I met two cyclist in the hostel in Kashgar that wanted to leave on the same day as I did, so we organised a taxi direct to the customs checkpoint. Iskander, the guy who runs the Tourist Service Centre close to the big mosque, was very helpful and his English is excellent. We ended up paying 600 RMB total for a seven seater that could fit the bikes.

The plan was to leave Kashgar at 08:30, but we realised the evening before that we didn't have enough cash to pay our hostel bill, so we went to the ATM. ATMs in Kashgar only operate from 10:00-17:00 Beijing time (don't ask me what the logic behind that is), so we left 90 minutes later than planned the next morning. The taxi driver said there was an ATM in the customs building, but we didn't see one.

The first check, approaching customs, was much easier than expected. A very half hearted bag search and they didn't even check my phone or camera (although they did check the others'.

The checkpoint before the customs building itself was a breeze. They wrote down passport details, xrayed bags, and then sent us to the customs building.

The lunch break is from 13:30-16:30, although you're better off planning with 13:00-17:00. We arrived at 13:00 and were told I could go but the cyclists would have to wait until after lunch. Lots of messing around by the police, with seemingly every cop in the building coming over and asking for our passports for no reason. Was then told I'd have to wait until after lunch as well. They locked the building but let us leave our bags there.

They returned at 16:35 but we waited another hour until things got moving, coincidentally when some guy with a video camera and a tripod arrived. Without asking permission, they filmed a cop check one of the cyclist's passport and then asked him to fill out another departure card on camera. Then the guy filming wanted several takes of us going through passport control and drafted the taxi driver who was going to take us to Uluqqat in as well. I flatly refused and after one take, the cyclists' patience ran out as well and we grabbed our bags and started loading them into the taxi. We waited in the taxi when the guy who checked our passports came out and asked us to help him, he needed pictures with us. We refused, telling him we had to get going.

The inside of the customs building looks pretty new and I think they were filming some PR or training video. Probably why we had to wait an extra hour after lunch, for the camera man to turn up.

Bags were only Xrayed and no phone or camera check.

We were stamped out in the customs building. Then the taxi to Uluqqat, where we arrived at 20:00 to find the border closed and no cops in sight. After a few phone calls, we were let through at 20:20. The driver drove us up to the actual border gate, which was padlocked. We asked a soldier to open it and he told us to wait, they were eating. After another 20-30 minutes, one guy finally came out to let us through. It got pretty cold here. Worth changing into warmer clothes in the Chinese customs building before the taxi.

We entered Kyrgyzstan at around 21:00 Beijing time, 19:00 Kyrgyz time. I didn't ask for it, but a taxi with three guys in it pulled up and told me 2000 Som to Osh, but because there were still empty seats I'd have to pay 6000 Som. He went on to tell me that there's a taxi mafia at the border, with no other taxis allowed, so he was my only option. Cold and tired, I paid the 20 RMB he demanded for a lift to passport control.

Kyrgyz passport control was a breeze, five minutes and a warm "welcome to Kyrgyzstan" from the soldier. He told us to ask about accommodation at the canteen/cafe right beside the mosque (you can't miss it). They have a three bed room which we paid 600 Som for (200 each). The room was good and had a heater. Normal Kyrgyz food available at a good price. Outdoor toilet wasn't great.

I hitch hiked to the outskirts of Osh with a trucker the next day. Didn't have to wait long. Head for the petrol station about 5 minutes walk from the border. A lot of guys park up for the night there and leave the next morning. Trucks crossing from China start arriving at 14:00, I was told.

It took about 8 hours, as the trucks are slow on the steep mountain passes. I reckon the ideal cost/time balance would be truck to Saray Tash and then Mashrutka to Osh. Give the extortionist taxi drivers a miss. A seat from Osh to Bishkek costs around 1100 Som, which is around twice the distance of Irkeshtam to Osh.
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Re: Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Post by mobybick »

Crossed July 4th
Kashgar Bus Station (opposite train station) to Ulugqat in 7 seat taxi @1000h: 28 Yuan + 10 Yuan extra for drop off at immigration gate.
Major police checkpoint was ~10km before Ulugqat with body scanners and passport control but very relaxed bag search.
Immigration at Wuqia @1230h: passport check at front gate and extensive (1.5 hour) questioning in immigration building, phone gallery examination, no bag search
Shared taxi to border: 400 Yuan.
Border closed til 1630 Beijing time. Easy exit, no further bag searches or questioning.
Kyrgyz border to Osh taxi for 3 people: 450 Yuan, 4 hours
Arrived at Osh guest house 9pm.
Scenery: stunning.
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Re: Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Post by THock »

Very long (and already probably outdated) post to follow! We crossed the border from Kashgar, China to Osh, Kyrgyzstan at Irkeshtam with New Zealand passports on 22 May 2019.

We had been told to talk with Iskander at the tourist centre on the main square in Kashgar about the possibility of getting a ride share with other tourists crossing the border. We went the day before our intended crossing date and he told us that he could arrange to get us a car to the border for 360RMB. We prevaricated for a long time, but in relation to the prices that we had seen for the bus plus the taxis to get to the border, we thought it might be a good use of money to reduce the stress. So, we asked him to book us a car for the next morning. A few hours later, we saw another tourist in the tourist office who we had met previously. He had also booked a car for the next day, for himself and his two travel companions. We asked Iskander whether he could instead order a van that could take us altogether and we would be happy to give up our deposit on the car we had booked. He said that would not be possible, which seemed strange.

The next morning, our ride arrived at 8:10 am. In a van. We were pretty annoyed, as we would have saved a lot of money if we had split the ride with our three acquaintances, and there was plenty of room.

At 8:30 am, the driver dropped us at the bus station and asked us to take our stuff out of the car. We don’t speak Mandarin and he didn’t speak any English, so we were very confused as to what was happening. He managed to convey that we were to wait for him through the station where the buses pick people up. He returned at 9:45 am with some paperwork and we left again. I’m not sure what this step was about.

We hit the expressway at about 10 am and our first checkpoint at 11 am. The checkpoint included passport control, full body scan, bag search, and a border guard looking through photos on our phones. He also asked to see any photos on our laptop. Then, our phones were taken by another set of border guards who installed then deleted some software... We were free to go at 11.35 am There was no queue, and I imagine this could be very slow if there were lots of other tourists there.

At 11.50 am we arrived at a border control gatehouse, around 100 km from the border. Here, the van and driver left us. We were actually pretty furious - Iskander had told us that we would be getting taken to the border, but really we were being taken to the customs area where a public bus can drop you for bugger all money, so we felt pretty ripped off. I rang him and he was very nice and apologetic about it, and I think it may have been a legitimate misunderstanding (though when coupled with the fact he wouldn’t let us change our arrangements to share a van, I am still a little unsure as to how genuinely helpful he is). The moral of the story is that NO CARS can take you from Kashgar all the way to the actual border, they can go only to the major customs point, 100km from the border).

So, at 11:50 am we arrived at the gate of the customs controlled area. Our bags were checked again twice (within the distance of about 3 metres...), photos on our phone were checked again, our passports were checked four times by four different officials. We then entered into the gated area. The police, one of whom spoke English, assisted with taxi. 400 RMB for whole car, all the way to the border.

We then arrived at the massive customs office (200 metres or so from gatehouse) where we were given departure cards to fill out. Our passports were taken. We then waited half an hour. My partner was taken to a room and his bags were checked very thoroughly. Officers asked about why I (his girlfriend) had been to China twice but he hadn’t come with me. They belaboured this point for a long time, he eventually (after explaining multiple times that we sometimes holiday separately...) lied and said that he hadn’t had enough money to join me on that trip. They kind of accepted that.

He then was able to repack his bag and I was taken to the room to have my bag thoroughly searched. The officers asked how long we had been together and did the same spiel about why we hadn’t travelled together when I had last been in China. I was questioned about the Lonely Planet, where I had bought it and where it was published. The officer questioning me then took the book to his superior, who came back with him and said I could keep it if I acknowledged that it had “bad maps” and that Taiwan was part of China... I said “OK...” and they gave it back to me. They searched through my photos, some of which would not load as they were on google photos and I didn’t have my VPN on. This didn’t appear to cause too many problems. He queried a photo that I had taken that showed a crowd of people and asked me lots of questions about it. I then repacked my bag.

At 1.25 pm we went through passport control and had passports taken to be given to the taxi driver. By that stage we had met up with the three tourists who we had run into at the tourist office. We shared the 400 RMB taxi with them. Another passport check a few minutes later. Passport retained by driver.

At 2.10 pm we joined a line of cars/trucks for further checks. Passports were returned to us, scanned in another customs house. Drove on at 2.30 pm.

At 3.47 pm we were stopped at a long line of trucks. Our taxi driver drove around the whole queue to the front and it turned out it was just a telephone wire that had fallen over the road. By 4.00 pm the wire had been removed and we were on the road again.

4.23 pm we stopped for break at what appeared to be truck stop. It had little restaurants and small shops. At 4.43 pm we drove on and were immediately stopped for further passport checks. After a few more minutes driving, at 4.50 pm the driver returned our passports and we got out and the taxi left us. At this point our passports were checked again, including some queries about our English work visa, which is is a large vignette with a photo pasted into our passports. At 5.00 pm we started walking along a long line of trucks. A few metres later, another passport check.

We walked for about 20 mins (but we were going very slowly as one of our companions had an injury). We passed through the ‘gate’ and were very relieved to be in Kyrgyzstan! There was a very small shed where a Kyrgyz official looked at passports. A taxi was waiting there who drove us for 200som/20 RMB per person. We started driving at 5.30 pm (China time). We reached passport control at 5.35 pm (China time) and were out of there by 5.45 pm (China time). There was then another very brief passport check to get out of the compound.

We had a very long conversation with taxi drivers (a young driver spoke English and did a very good job translating). We eventually managed to get a van to take three of us to Osh and two to Sary Tash. I can’t quite remember what we paid to get to Osh but we think it might have been around 100 RMB each. The driver was totally happy to accept RMB. Once that was all sorted and we’d jumped into the taxi, we ended up circling back to the customs area to pick up an army officer who we ended up taking to Osh. He did not offer to contribute to the fare and we didn’t push it! By 6.20 pm (China time) we were on the road. We reached beautiful Sary Tash at 7.30 pm (China time) and rather regret not staying a night there. The taxi driver was an absolute madman on the roads, we actually spun out of control on a wet patch and ended up with the car facing in the wrong direction on the shoulder of the road very close to a drop into a river. It was quite terrifying (and didn’t convince him to slow down at all). But all’s well that ends well and we arrived at Osh at 10.20 pm (China time).

All in all, it was as expected - slow, fairly expensive and very annoying, with a lot of invasive checks and an inordinate amount of passport checks, but not scary or even particularly difficult.

Good luck to all you travellers!
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Re: Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Post by AreWeThereYet? »

Long and rambling post, detailing my experience doing Sary Tash to Kashgar on 11/7/19. I left ST at 08.00 Kyrgyz time and got in Kashgar at 19.00 Beijing time, 17.00 Kyrgyz, so all in all some 9 hours. Not bad going.

Shamurat, the owner of Pamirextreme guest house, took me to the border on his car for $50. I recommend doing this because for starters Pamirextreme is a nice place, much better than any other guesthouse I’ve been at in ST or Sary Mogol. Secondly he has a permit to drive you not just to the border post, but up to the chinese fence, which many can’t do; lastly, others were quoting $10 more.

The Kyrgyz checks are bland and the usual local experience, i.e. nice, friendly locals. I was through by 09.30.

Then the fun began!

Check#1. Past the first fence, by a very annoyed Chinese squaddie sat in a metal & glass box. I’d be pissed too if I was made to sit there, in body armour, under the sun but he really set the scene. First time that my passport and visa were noted in a ledger.

Check #2. Ten meters after the sentry box was a Portakabin with a few cops inside, decorated with the slogan “sunshine service”. They gave me a candy, checked passport and visa, wrote everything in a ledger. After 10-15’ of waiting a Uzbek truck arrived and I got on, having politely declined the taxi and them having told me that walking 24km to the immigration post wasn’t a good idea.

I expected the journey to be quite quick but it wasn’t. Massive queue of trucks, basically covering the entire 24km, because the Chinese were x-raying every one of them. Considering these trucks contain either coal or air, quite an exercise in futility, but Lean Six Sigma definitely hasn’t made its way to Xinjiang. The Uzbek drivers had been crossing the border for a day now, and they were very hospitable. After an hour of going nowhere they flagged a cop car and the kind policeman drove me in minutes to Immigration... big big thanks to the Uzbek guys!!!

Check #3. I was the only punter at Immigration; two police officers took my passport, phone and camera (no laptop). The phone is an old iPhone, which they connected to a rectangular device of sorts covered in a ruggedised case. It unlocked the phone and then they had a look in my photos and things, but no apps have been installed. The camera caused some sensation because I still had photos of our previous trip to Chile and they were very excited at the sight of a volcano and of vicuñas. It took quite a while to explain whence they’d came from. It also took a while to explain why I was travelling without my wife (couldn’t really say “she’s been to China enough times already!”). Most of the conversation was done in English with a translating app.

Check #4. Swipe passport, went through a gate where photos were taken.

Check #5. My backpack was thoroughly searched by an officer. Great cabaret moment when I explained the difference between Gaviscon and Imodium, between paracetamol and Aspirin. We were all laughing hard, a lady was in tears. Once we settled that I was introduced to a little guy who turned out to be a cabbie. He had a van, asked 100RMB for 4 people and I was 4th; we then got on the road with him, a Kyrgyz driver and two Han chinese.

Check #6. What I was to learn is a staple of Xinjiang highways: a toll booth followed by a security check. Everyone had to get off and go through a metal detector and ID check. The gates are temperamental with non-Chinese ID so be patient.

Check #7. Customs!! But... not so fast. We arrived to the customs’ slip road at 14:50 Beijing time and were met with a queue of 30-or so trucks. It was still lunch time so we parked under an overpass and our driver went to sleep. I thought we’d be going at 15:00 or 15:30, but got underway only at 16:40 when our driver got pissed, overtook all the trucks, arrived outside the front gate, got the officers to open and drove through. The gate was then closed again; no rhyme or reason why we were allowed and the trucks didn’t. Customs was very quiet; we were made to sit on a few couches and we were interrogated by the officers, one of whom wore a body camera. They were super kind with me and embarrassed at their lack of English; but by the time I got fingerprinted and stamped it was all smiles and handshakes.

Check #8. The real customs! A proper customs officer opened and searched my entire bag, rather quickly I have to say. After that back on the van we went.

Check #9. 200 meters after customs, immediately before exiting, there was another sentry box where they had to check our passports and visas.

Check #10. 10 meters after #9... you guessed it, another sentry box where they wrote our details in a ledger. This was made fun by the arrival of an army of Kyrgyz drivers that had since long lost patience... it was worth noticing that the officers were Han and Uyghur, and didn’t understand each other too well.

Check #11. The van left us outside the bus (?) station. My passport was checked by two cops in a military vehicle, of the kind that SWAT uses in America, then I went through a metal detector and X-ray. Got a ticket for 33RMB and then followed the others to a car park where a number of people and cars waited. Got a sedan with another 3 passengers, squeezed inside (the two Han at the back were on the plump side) and off we went to Kashgar.

Checks #12 and #13. There were 2 more checks on the 80km road to Kashgar, motorway-style roadblocks where we all had to dismount with our bags and get them x-rayed and us photographed, metal-detected and get our passport scanned. For Chinese nationals with ID cards it’s painless, less so for foreigners. The passport readers might not work, and when they do you still need to stop at a booth to get your data written in a ledger by somebody who clearly is struggling with Latin letters, and understandably so. I also got in trouble because they were crumpling my passport photo page and I politely asked them to be careful, which they didn’t like. My driver was quite crossed with me for taking so long, which led to a discussion. At last he dropped us at the bus station, from where I got a taxi to where I needed to go.
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Re: Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Post by Fess »

We crossed the border from Kashgar over the Irkeshtam pass yesterday. We took bus 20 for 1 yuan to the bus station arriving at the station around 9am. We were 8 people who met at the 2 hostels in town. Although I was told by another tourist the cost was 28 yuan who just had bought their ticket and spoke Chinese, we were charged 35 yuan and went in a minibus. Our ticket was for 9:30 and we left closer to 10:00. The whole ride was very uneventful other than when we arrived at the bus station the driver asked 5 yuan from each of us for the additional 2.3 kms. You could walk or negotiate but we wanted to get to the main customs office as quick as possible. This turned out very easy as they spoke English and were super friendly. While we were in the main seating area they talked to only 1/2 of us and asked a few questions and looked at about 1/2 our group's phones for a few minutes. They didn't search any bags other than the x-ray. We all paid 800 yuan to the stop for lunch. This is a good spot to change money- good exchange rate. You then wait until 16:30 for the border to open. This was also easy. You then walk to the Kyrgyzstan border where they would not allow us to walk to 3 kilometers and charged each of us 200som. This seemed a bit of a scam and if I did it over I would ask for a receipt and say I need for business and see what happens. Then the worst part of the journey- the taxi to your destination in Kyrgyzstan. They wanted 8000 som to take 4 people and then reduced to 4000 to take us to Sary-Mogol. Seven people paid 850 som each to Sary Tash but we decided to walk and hitch. Super easy the truck drivers will immediately take you for free! Other than the taxi mafia forced the drivers 3 times to not take us after we were in the truck! They followed us and we kept walking a few kilometers and reached a police checkpoint at which time we complained about the harassing taxi. They forced the taxis to leave us and got us trucks (2 per truck) in minutes! You can hitch super easy I would just walk right past the taxi and walk good distance and out of view and if they follow continue all the way to the police checkpoint before hitching. In Sary Tash we point sim cards only 145 som for 8GB and then paid 300 som each (4 of us) to Sary Mogul.
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Re: Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Post by chouse »

Here’s a summary of the steps we went through to go from Kashgar to Sary Mogol.

My partner and I traveled with 3 other people (total group size 5 tourist). We left our hostel in Kashgar at 8:30AM Beijing Time and we arrived in Sary Mogol the following day at 9:30AM Local Time. We had originally intended to get all the way to at least Sary Tash on the same day, but we had a lot of difficulties getting tickets on the shared minibus out of Kashgar. Specifically, we spent over 45 minutes trying to get a shared taxi or minibus ticket and we were told that we would have to buy an entire 18-person minibus at 30-40 yuan per seat (the price kept changing). Eventually, our group literally had to barricade the ticket counter and not move/allow anyone else to get a ticket until they sold us each one ticket. We had to hold the line up for at least 10 minutes until they finally sold us each one ticket for 24 yuan each. Because getting tickets took so long, we didn’t arrive at the first Chinese Immigration checkpoint until 1PM Beijing Time and they told us the checkpoint was closed until 4:30PM Beijing Time. This was frustrating, because there was a sign right next the the officer that clearly showed the border doesn’t close until 1:30, but we weren’t going to argue with the guy.

After eating a mediocre lunch and wasting three and a half hours we went back to the entry gate for the first immigration check. We walked through approx 20 meters and then we were called back and told to get in a minivan. We asked how much and the said it’s free. Ok, there’s no way this is free, but we all got in. He drove us 200 meters to the actual immigration office and we walked in to find the building completely empty. We walked to the back left and found all the staff members in a side room. They then directed us back to the front of the building and asked for us to sit down and hand over our passports. Our group included 3 Americans, 1 Brit, and 1 Indonesian. They only asked questions and looked at the phone of the Indonesian tourist. Compared to the checkpoints coming from Mongolia into Xinjiang Province the questions seems less probing and the immigration officers never took his phone to a back room or anything. After maybe 15 minutes, our bags were scanned and then we got our passports stamped. No ones bags were searched and in total we were at the building for maybe 30 minutes. It was a surprisingly painless process. The only curve ball was our passports were not handed directly back to us rather they were given to the taxi driver that had driven us 200 meters. It turned out, we would be paying him 100 yuan each to take us to the actual border.

The drive to the Chinese/Kyrgyzstan border took 2 hours (our driver was really slow). When we arrived, there was a closed hangar like structure built over the road that we stop at. Eventually, the doors opened and we drove inside and the military personnel looked at our passports. After the quick check, one of the officers got in the front seat and travelled with us to the border. Here our passports were checked and finally we were able to walk out of China. Woo-hoo! Freedom!!! The time was approximately 6:30PM Local Time.

We walked to the Kyrgyzstan check-post, got a salute from the officer, and then continued walking to the immigration building. The Kyrgyzstan Immigration process took maybe 10 minutes for all 5 of us. It was around 7:30PM when we were officially in Kyrgyzstan. At this point, we knew it was late, but we still held out hope we could get to Sary Tash. However, the drunken taxi mafia was out in full force asking for ridiculous amounts to take us there (I think one quoted us 8,000 som). So we decided to stay the night and planned to hitch the next day. We found a place on saying a room was 300 som per person, but we paid 20 yuan/person for a 6-bed small dorm room. Not the nicest, but not the worst (no running water, though). Our group had a fun dinner in one of the wagons (170 som/person for a good soup, bread, and tea). We hadn’t changed any money and didn’t find anyone offering what we thought was a reasonable rate for yuan to som. We all ended up paying with yuan at exchange rate of 9 som to 1 yuan (the actual rate is 10:1). Before going to bed the owner of the Homestay told us in Russian that there was a bus at 6AM that cost 250 som to go to Sary Tash. We were quite skeptical, because none of us spoke Russian and it didn’t seem like the kind of place that would have a bus. We woke up at 5:30AM Local Time to find the town completely dead. However, right at 6AM Local Time the marshrukta pulled up and the driver told us he was going all the way to Osh. He tried to raise the price, but we just calmly held our ground and he agreed to 250 som/person to Sary Tash (which was probably too much). The early morning drive was incredible and had the perfect light. We stopped to pick-up others and random goods along the way, so we were able to jump out and take pictures. It worked out perfectly. The last hurdle was getting som. At Sary Tash there was supposed to be an ATM, but the power was out and we had to exchange our dollars the local bank at a terrible rate (56 som to 1USD). Finally, we stood hitching by the road for maybe 10 minutes and the first not full car pulled over and gave us a ride to Sary Mogol. We arrived at 9:30AM Local Time feeling fairly well rested and happy to be in beautiful Kyrgyzstan!

1. Public Bust to bus station via Bus 28 - 2 yuan/person
2. Shared minibus to Wuqia Bus Station - 24 yuan/person
3. Same shared minibus to customs - 10 yuan/person
4. Shared Taxi to Immigration Office and actual border - 100 yuan/person
5. Walked to Kyrgyzstan Immigration
6. Slept at cheap, but okay Homestay - 200 som or 20 yuan/person
7. Marshrutka to Sary Tash 250 som/person
8. Hitched to Sary Mogol
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Re: Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Post by aknight »

Crossing report 3rd Sept Kashgar- Osh

Crossed today and went pretty smoothly!

-We were 3 foreigners (UK, Dutch, Japanese)
-Taxi to bus station in Kashgar (opposite train station)
-Easy enough to get a ticket to Wuqia in a minibus (40 RMB), on the road by 10am.
-Checkpoint before Wuqia- fine, we had to bring our bags in for a scan (only us 3, not the others in the van) and spent 15 mins looking at passports but no questions or checking luggage
-Mini bus dropped us straight at immigration- seems to be on the way into Wuqia. Arrived 12:10.
-More passport checks, bag scans.We then walked the 15mins to main Chinese building arriving 12.30
- Lots of waiting while they had our passports- acted liked they'd never had to process anyone before.
-Told us we would be questioned 1 by 1 and took the Japanese girl first. She had been in the room for about 45mins (now its 1.15pm) when they came and told us she would be a long time ("she has lots of memory cards, laptops and photos"), they said she wouldn't be done until after the lunch break (so another 4-5 hours) and that we should go now. So sadly we had to leave her and got a taxi (400 RMB set price for the car) and got out the gates at 1.29pm before they closed for lunch. Me and the Dutch guy did not have our bags checked or any questions asked- who knows why.
-2 hour drive and arrived at customs at 3.30pm and had to wait until 4.30pm until the lunch break finished (we were able to buy a simple meal and tea but over prices- 20RMB for plate of rice and vegetables)
-at 4.30pm went through customs, all fine, no checks or questions. Taxi left us at a final gate (finally out of China!)and we walked about 15mins down the hill to a Kyrgyzstan checkpoint where the guard called a taxi (20RMB pp), to drive few mins to Kyrgyz immigration, stamped in, took 2 mins
-Negotiated with taxi drivers out the front, paid 600 RMB for car to Osh (I paid 200 of this to get dropped of at Sary Tash). Arrived at guest house in Sary Tash 4.30pm Kyrgyz time/6.30pm Beijing time.

Tips- bring enough money to cover costs of transport the whole way, if you are alone then its good if you can buddy up, we saw 0 other tourists so think it would be likely you need to cover costs of taxis yourself. I would have hitchhiked to Sary Tash if I didn't have someone to split it with. Bring snacks, and hope you can get through before the lunch break!
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Re: Irkeshtam pass report – Kashgar, Xinjiang to Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan

Post by rhinomaxil »


I crossed the border on September 9th, going from Kashgar to Osh. It took the whole day but everything went rather smoothly - my phone and my camera weren’t checked.

- took a taxi to the bus station in front of the train station in Kashgar in the morning
- got there around 8:45, bought a bus ticket at the counter for 24¥. Was told that there were no 4-seater going that day so we would have to wait for the 16-seater to fill up. At that point I had met with 3 other foreigners traveling the same way (2 at the Pamir Youth Hostel the same morning, 1 Australian at at the bus station)
- around 9:10 a driver came to us to offer to take us in his 4-seater taxi. The Australian had a bike so he had bought 2 tickets. The bike didn’t fit in the truck so he couldn’t join us in the end. We had to pay for the 4th empty seat. We also had to pay an extra 10¥ each as we were going in a 4-seater instead of a 16. So the total price per person was 34¥ for a 4-seater.
- because of the above we left a bit later, around 10:00
- made it to the border in Wuqia (Ulugat) around 12:00. There was one checkpoint just before Wuqia which took a little time (around 30 min) - only passport check and a few questions though
- the taxi took us directly to the custom office without having to pay an extra fee
- before entering the border area there are a few shops and restaurants where you can buy food and drinks
- in Wuqia you first pass a little house with a passport check, then walk for about 800m to the main custom office. There, there was a big group of old Swiss people on a tour so we had to wait a bit for them to pass the controls. The three of us (ES, JP, FR) made it around 1:00. It took 5 minutes each - phones, cameras and bags weren’t checked (beyond the usual X-ray), we weren’t asked questions.
- then they gave our passports directly to a taxi driver waiting on the other side. He took us + 2 UK cyclists already waiting there to the actual border (~160km away) for 100¥/pers (we didn’t negotiate the price - not sure you can). Also to note that there is a little duty free store there where you can buy cigarettes or liquor
- before the actual border we stopped in a little place with restaurants, waiting for the lunch break to be over. Like said above, you can get a basic meal (meat soup + tea for 20¥ - way too expensive but still affordable —> meaning that you don’t absolutely need to stock up on food like I read before)
- the taxi then drove us to the actual border when it opened. Last passport check. Walk downhill for 500m to the first Kyrgyz checkpoint where the guy just checked the passport. Then further 500m to another Kyrgyz checkpoint where we had to wait for a taxi. The 2 UK cyclists were able to cycle down at this point
- here is the only little unpleasant event: the Kyrgyz guard made me wait while everybody was leaving. Then once they all left he asked to open my bag and asked me for some perfume or cologne (because I’m French.......). I didn’t have any so he went through all my stuff asking me to give him random things such as my lock or drops for the eyes. I just said no firmly and repacked my stuff.
- then we took the (supposedly) mandatory taxi to do the extra 1-2km to the immigration control. The guy asked for 2¥/person then when we arrived he asked for 20¥/pers. I think he genuinely confused between 2 and 20 at first but still we ended up paying only 10¥/pers.
- Kyrgyz immigration took 2 minutes just for the guy to put the stamp on the passport.
- then at this point we were only 2 people left (me and the JP guy). No sign of the taxi mafia I read about when we left the building. We started walking down the road and eventually started hitchhiking at some point. The first car to stop was actually a taxi with 6 people in already. We negotiated for 200¥ each to Osh. We arrived in Osh around 8:30 I think. When we arrived the taxi tried to do the usual "oh no it’s not 400¥ total but 400¥ each" but he didn’t insist long so we only paid 200¥ in the end
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