Iran/Pakistan Border Crossing – Middle East, Asia

For those planning to head overland from Iran to Pakistan, I thought I would write my own experience to give you an indication of what to expect. Or at the very least, so you can garner some information from my own journey. This is from late 2007 during emergency rule. I did it solo.

Kharanaq mud city, Iran

Kharanaq mud city, Iran

From Yazd I took the 5:00 p.m. bus, scheduled to arrive 7:00 a.m. at Zahedan. I chose to go direct from Yazd as a few people had visited Kerman and said the accommodations were expensive, and that there wasn’t much to see. Same for Bam due to the earthquake. I had already seen some great mud citadels near Yazd.

Apologies if others really enjoyed Kerman and Bam, but this was a choice I had to make. Also, I was getting tight on time after spending close to a month in Iran.

The bus trip was fine even though I was far too apprehensive to allow myself a good night’s sleep after I had read other people’s reports. We passed through Bam and about four or five police checks. We had no police escort, no passport inspections; we never left the bus.

View from the bus

View from the bus

We arrived Zahedan at 7:30 in the morning. The bus station was a bit messy, but again, fine. Not a single police type was in sight. I headed across the quiet road to where numerous taxis were stationed and asked for the crossroads at Forudgah Square (Meydan-e-Mirjaveh) where shared cars leave for the border. One thousand rial for a taxi.

At the roundabout I was surrounded by the usual burly taxi men, all shouting Mirjaveh and Pakistan. A few rough characters, but I chose a nice enough bloke who after five minutes of experienced bartering, agreed on the local price of 30,000. We were three in the back, one smartly dressed man in the front. It turned out he was from Iranian Immigration, and wanted to know where my police escort was!

I joked that with him here I was sure to be fine, luckily he laughed and we headed off for the 30-minute journey. The two men beside me did little to reassure me; they said we should get a taxi to Quetta together at a cost of $15.00 each. They told a story from two days ago when a bus had been attacked by bandits; three Germans were stripped of everything. I suspected this to be a wind up, and/or con. I laughed it off, stating a bus ticket was only 350 rupee and I had no money to rob, I waved them away. In return they said I had a nice shirt and the bandits would like that instead.

The journey was about an hour or so after a few more police stops. At the border the taxi dropped me off right at the "exit" office. I walked in, saw tons of bags everywhere, and some locals at a bank buying tickets. I headed straight to the little wood and glass passport cubicle near the doors at the end. Four minutes later two officials stamped my passport and wished me the best. I then ducked into the very clean toilets – a good place to hide money!

I then went outside, straight to the gates, where 30 or so people were waiting with an Iranian guard. I had my passport checked again and walked into Pakistan. Pakistan Immigration is immediately to your right; a hut and a one-story white concrete building. I waved to the officials in my now customary: I am a solo traveler passed the point of no return. I was greeted back with a friendly, "Welcome to Pakistan".

The money changers swarmed. They brought me the entry paper I needed to fill, made easy by the fact they crossed out things like flight number. Having an accommodation address was good. I changed money at a terrible rate. I queued with the locals and was ushered past the queue by a small scruffy (but pleasant) local official type. Inside I was confronted by a high wooden reception like desk with several web cams pointing at people! I got my face scanned and a few nervous minutes later, more officials spoke in Farsi and stamped me in. I also had bought a bus ticket to Quetta from a local.

I went through customs. After a friendly "Hello, I am a tourist" wave from me in my stout fake British posh accent (no better to announce yourself to the world), I was greeted with smiles, passport details taken down and a friendly handshake. No bag search. My bus ticket to Quetta entitled me to a free bus trip to Taftan.

You can easily walk to the little town of Taftan. And I would if I were to do it again. Read why.

I sat with my money changer friend, who I discovered later was either stupid and gave me a fortune, or I was the idiot and he made a fortune. We drank tea sitting cross legged under a dusty tent surrounded by grinning locals. The little boys swinging off the multi-coloured tinsel adorned bus started chirping madly, time to move. The bus drove me the five minutes to Taftan, to the office of the busy company where I had bought the ticket. I was issued a "new" ticket and told I could leave my bag. The bus was to depart at 4:00 p.m., but later it was changed to 5:00 p.m.

"The" bus

"The" bus

At 4.30 p.m., I was introduced to the bus driver. I watched my bag being put on the roof; we were off to Quetta at 5:05 p.m. A local next to me said I would not sleep on this bus. The 150 kilometers of the Iranian built road was good, barring the washed out bits. Then it got bad; my seat acted like a massage chair on Viagra! Darkness fell, the interior filled with red neon lights, and loud Asian music that would fit well into any James Bond film. I was enjoying it all and I started to like Pakistan.

Soon the road deteriorated into nothing; we bounced along like on a fairground ride. At 9:00 p.m., we stopped in the middle of nowhere for tea. I got off the bus and was immediately set upon by the driver and his assistant. "This Whiskey". It sounded like he was saying, "This your stop".

I knew this was a con straight away, but after nearly 38 hours of being awake, I was not fully with it. They demanded my ticket, which I took out slowly only to remember it was written in Farsi. Nuts. Thankfully, the guy next to me grabbed the much-sought-after ticket and examined it.

Local man in Quetta

Local man in Quetta

Later I found out the ticket had "Niskey" as the destination. The man at the Taftan office had cheated me, along with the driver and staff on board. The bus was full; some people were in the aisle. They had either been trying to get money out of me to buy another ticket, sell the seat to someone else or leave me for the bandits in the middle of nowhere. The man sitting beside me dismissed the staff sternly but quietly. All was fine again, though I took a serious mental note about making sure to get a local to read bus ticket destinations out to me next time.

Anyway we headed off. With only one military stop, I wrote my details into my co-passenger’s log book. We arrived at 3:30 a.m. somewhere in an unknown street inside the towns centre. Still anxious over the bus company, I thought my bag was gone too, thankfully it was not. I was pleased the man next to me was heading to Sadabahar Bus terminal – a place full of strange characters, Afghan refugees, odd old men feeding little birds in their pockets, and a stream of people wanting to greet me. I didn’t sleep due to my new found celebrity status. A few hours later, I took an auto rickshaw to my inn that everyone told me closed at 10:00 p.m. some 42 hours after my departure from Iran. The fun was not over yet though, someone had been shot in Afghanistan and there were riots in Quetta!

Check out the author’s site, Point2Point.

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