How to travel from Iran to Pakistan overland
For those planning to travel 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. However it's been updated recently based on contacts I have there. I did it solo. Having COVID-19 vaccination paperwork is essential these days.
This guide is under the presumption you already have your Pakistani visa. Check out my visas section for help on how to get these visas.
The trip from Iran to the border
From Yazd I took the overnight 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 accommodation was expensive and that there wasn't much to see. Same for Bam due to the earthquake. There were also multiple kidnappings in the area at this time too.
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.
What to expect on the bus from 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 of roadside robberies, kidnappings e.t.c., We passed through Bam with about four or five police checks. We had no police escort, no passport inspections; we never left the bus.
From Zahedan to the Iranian border with Pakistan
We arrived Zahedan at 7:30 in the morning. The bus station was a bit messy, but again, fine. Not a single police presence was in sight. I walked 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.
Taking a shared taxi to the border
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 guy who after five minutes of experienced bartering agreed on the local price of 30,000. We were three in the back and one smartly dressed man in the front. It turned out he was from Iranian Immigration and wanted to know where my police escort was!
At this time all foreigners were required to have a police escort (same in 2019), though it's not enforced. There is no charge.
I joked that with him here I was sure to be fine, luckily he laughed and we traveled 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 $25.00 each. They told a story from two days previously when a bus had been attacked by bandits; three Germans were stripped of everything. I suspected this to be a bait, 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.
Such is solo travel in such regions during this time. The most important this is to remain calm. In hindsight it might have been better if I'd said I was meeting someone.
The Iranian Pakistan border formalities
The journey was about 30 minutes or so after a few more police stops. At the border the taxi dropped me off right at the "exit" office. I walked in where there were mountains of bags lined up everywhere and some locals at a bank buying tickets.
I walked 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 switch currency without anyone noticing.
Crossing into Pakistan
When outside I walked 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 and travel into Pakistan proper. They made it easy by the fact they crossed out things like flight number e.t.c,. Having an accommodation address ready is a good thing.
What to do immediately after getting stamped into Pakistan:
I changed money at a terrible rate, but then there isn't much choice here. 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 had also bought a bus ticket to Quetta from a local.
I then went through customs. After another friendly "Hello, I am a tourist" wave from me in my stout overly 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.
Changing money at the Pakistani border
You can easily walk to the little town of Taftan from the border. And, I would if I were to do it again. Read on to find out 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.
What bus to take at Taftan?
There are buses leaving all the time in all directions. You also have to keep in mind I was traveling during a high state of security, curfew and emergency rule at the time. There were also several kidnappings along this and the Iranian route over the past few weeks.
I'd read that the night day bus to Quetta got in at 10pm-1am. It was also the bus that had the most warnings about problems. The next bus people spoke about was the night bus which generally have bad reputations for traveling on too.
I chose to travel on the night bus as the rumored time of arrival was between 6am and 8am, with some break downs included. At least this way I would not be in Quetta during the curfew nor during the middle of the night.
There are other buses departing here for Lahore but I was not interested.
To get down to Karachi you still had to travel to Quetta first. Security sometimes allows these buses.
The bus journey from Taftan to Quetta
The little boys swinging off the multi-colored tinsel adorned bus started chirping madly. Time to move. The border bus drove me the five minutes to Taftan and 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 night bus was to depart at 4:00 p.m., but later it was changed to 5:00 p.m.
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.
Avoiding trouble on the Taftan bus
Soon the road deteriorated into nothing and we bounced along like 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. Thankfully, the guy next to me grabbed the much-sought-after ticket and examined it.
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 already. 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.
We started moving again. With only one military stop. I wrote my details into the passenger's log book the army have you sign.
Arriving into Quetta in the early morning
We arrived at 3:30 a.m. somewhere in an unknown street inside the towns center. We were 4 hours early. Still anxious over the bus company screw job I thought my bag was gone too. Thankfully it was not.
There were however a lot of military around along with random armed trucks of locals on loudspeakers. Curfew was on they were giving orders to the new arrivals.
Where to go at 3am in Quetta?
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. A good place to go if you arrive in the middle of the night.
I didn't sleep due to my new found celebrity status. A few hours later, I took an auto rickshaw to my guesthouse that everyone told me closed at 10:00 p.m only to find out it was open 24 hours.
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!
Quick Facts about traveling overland from Iran to Pakistan
Yazd to Kerman via bus: Departure 5pm, arrival 7:30am. Cost about 80,000 Rial
Taxi from Bus terminal to Forudgah Square (Meydan-e-Mirjaveh) 2,000 Rial
Shared Taxi from Forudgah Square (Meydan-e-Mirjaveh) to Border 80,000 Rial
No border charges. Money changers on both sides
Money changers on Pakistan side helped with form filling
Buy a bus ticket in Taftan town not the border
Check costs and times with more than one bus company
Ticket to Quetta cost 900 Rupees for a 15 hour trip that only took 9 + hours (Sadabahar Pvt. Tel: (+92) 2452290)
Ask a local to confirm where the ticket says it is going to
Bring food and water
The hotels in Quetta are open 24/7
Hotel Bloomstar is just across from the railway station. See my Pakistan travel guide for more information.
Please allow bargaining for all taxi or private transport prices. Public transport prices are fixed.