We entered Pakistan through the Mirjaveh-Taftan border. We left early on the 24th of October (Monday) in Bam, Iran. Locals advised us not to drive from Iran to Pakistan in the dark because it is dangerous due to a lot of smuggling on that road. We left around 6 am and arrived at the border around 11 am. At the Iranian side we lost the most time. This may be partly because Arman has a dual nationality (see Iran). At the Pakistani side it all went very smoothly.
They will first ask for the passport of the driver and the CDP. A guy drives with the paperwork to a certain office and does some of the paperwork for you and brings back the completed CDP for exit and your passport. After this you’ll drive to the main building. Just before arriving there, once again they will check your CDP and passport at a booth on the left side, after which you can continue. Once in the main building, you give your visa and passport. They check it and sometimes you will be interviewed.
Different people on fora mentioned that if you arrive early and you successfully crossed the border, you will leave the same day to Quetta. However, one general rule that we noticed is that often these kind of promises are not true. The chief said that if you arrive before 12 pm in the police station, you will be escorted the same day. We arrived at 1 pm and this was not an option anymore, so we had to spend the night at the police station in Taftan. We met a French guy that was hitchhiking. He arrived even a day earlier so he had to wait for 2 days before being escorted.
General things to know
– Don’t count on any promises: the journey can take one day (very unlikely) or it can take seven days depending on a lot of variables. Try not to get upset because there is nothing you really can do about it but make sure they at least know that you are a bit in a hurry otherwise it will probably take seven days.
– Ask and discuss your concerns with the policemen: almost everyone is very friendly and despite not too perfect English communication, you can understand each other after a while. If you want to leave early, need to do shopping, need fuel, … know that you sometimes have to tell them multiple times before they truly understand and that if you tell one police escort, they will often not pass the message to the next escort. So you have to tell it every time they switch escort.
– Take Pakistani Rupees with you from Iran since you are not allowed/or had time to go into town. Fuel is way more expensive than Iran so take plenty of money with you since card payment is almost impossible. Also not every bank in Pakistan accepts foreign cards! We tried two ATM’s that just got stuck. One bank that locals mentioned and that we know that worked for ourselves (in Islamabad though) is Standard Chartered bank. One other option is to find a cell phone/SIM-card sales point and ask them if you can pay money with credit card, after which they give you that amount in cash. They take 2-3% of this money for themselves but once again this is not possible during the escort so bring enough Pakistani Roepie with you for fuel and make sure your tank is full before you enter Pakistan.
– Take plenty of food and water with you (I mean really lots of it!) because of the same reason mentioned above
– Advice from Caravanistan: You need to arrive on a weekday in Quetta because the office that grants your NOC closes early on Fridays and opens again on Monday. Since the journey often takes 3 days and the NOC is essential for you to be able to continue the journey, try to arrive in Taftan early on a Monday or Friday. This gives you the highest chance of not having to spend the weekend in Quetta (being stuck there).
We successfully crossed the border. According to them it was already too late to leave for quetta (even though it was 1 p.m.) we were escorted to the local police station in Taftan. If your car is not too big, you can park the car inside the station, whereafter the doors will be shut. The chief of the police station is Isaac, he’s also the only one who speaks a little bit English. He’s a funny and chatty guy and very nice as well. They will provide you a “VIP room” to sleep in. There is a toilet and “shower” available if you’d like. The shower exists of a bucket and some cold water to pour over yourself. But if you like you can sleep in your car as well like we did. Grab a chair and sit down with Isaac for a chat and a laugh because he is a really funny guy (who has some ‘naughty’ stories to tell you as well). We ended up having a great time but know that there is not a lot to do over there so you have to keep yourself busy.
We left from Taftan at 8 AM and were promised many times by different officers that we would reach Quetta in the afternoon. However, around noon an officer said that it would be too late to move on to Quetta so we had to spend the night at Dalbandin. In the Dalbandin police station we parked our car inside and were given a ‘VIP room’ as well. This luxuous room was the office of the chief and had a very clean toilet and also a shower! There’s also very strong WiFi of which one officer just gave us the password to. Before we started chilling at the station one of the Levies brought us to the city center so we could have lunch in a restaurant. Our first Pakistani meal existed out of very deliciously prepared okra (I couldn’t understand the name of the dish). We also had to pay for the meals of the two Levies officers (for some reason) and in total we paid around 2000 PKR for lunch for 5 people, which was quite okay. So once again make sure you have enough cash with you. No one offered us any food for dinner but luckily we had some Persian ‘instant noodles’ in our van. The French guy didn’t have anything so we shared a meal but otherwise I don’t think he would’ve eaten that evening. I think this is the weirdest place we’ve ever prepared a meal, in a Pakistani police station surrounded by officers carrying AK-47’s. The weirdest thing about the station was the presence of many prisoners in the cells. They were just sitting there and looking at you while you were eating and chilling.
We had the choice of sleeping in our car in the yard or sleeping in the VIP room. Once again we opted to sleep in the car.
After a good night’s rest we left for Quetta at 8 AM. The officer in Dalbandin had told us that because we weren’t able to reach Quetta in one day, he was going to make sure that we would leave early for Quetta the next day to get the NOC before the office closes. After that we would be free to leave Baluchistan the same evening. Once again, this was far from the truth.
We lost count but we had around 8 changes of escorts on our way to Quetta. Every time you stop you have to count at least 10 minutes of waiting, presenting the same documents over and over again. In many cases, the stop took us more than half an hour because the kind Levies offered us very delicious but extremely sweet Baluchistan ‘chai’. Also, at almost every stop you make numerous selfies and pictures with all the guards. Although the escort was an amazing experience, you get tired after the x’th stop. It takes a lot of time and you just want to reach your destination. One time we even played a local board game with some Levies while we actually were in a hurry to get our NOC in time. The conclusion of the third day was that around noon the officer told us that we would not be able to reach the ‘home department’ in time to get our NOC, so we had to spend a night in Quetta.
Entering Quetta was an experience on its own. When you’re driving from Europe to Asia, the driving gradually becomes more chaotic and dangerous. The craziness started in Albania but got a little bit better in Greece. Turkey was next level crazy and Iran was just over the top. Pakistan was the same level of unresponsible mad driving as Iran, until we entered the gates of Quetta. It was a completely different world: donkeys pulling way too heavy carts, cars and thousands of motorcycles filling every little space there was available on the road. Although we had gained some experience in the crazy driving in Iran, this was something else. Once we entered ‘the city center’, 10 heavily armed policemen on motorcycles escorted us to the only hotel foreigners are allowed to sleep in Quetta, the famous Bloomingstar hotel. They asked 5000 PKR for a double room. To sleep in our car on the parking lot of the hotel they asked 3500 PKR. We thought this was way too expensive so after an hour of negotiation they escorted us to the main office. There we slept along the side of the street but it was inside a protected area so we never felt unsafe. We were not allowed to leave the car so a guard came to bring us dinner that night. It is extremely spicy and greasy so be careful if you have a sensitive stomach because you don’t have a toilet nearby and during the escort you don’t always find a toilet.
Try to reach the Home Department (where they issue the NOC) before it opens at 9 AM so you can leave the same day for the border of Balochistan.
They will ask you which road you want to take. We had chosen to go via Sukkur from which the motorway starts to Islamabad. However, although the distance was not that great (380 km), it was another extremely long day of driving, waiting and losing time as a result of the never ending escort. The good part of the drive was that the scenery was fantastic. Eventually, we reached Sukkur when it was dark. They wanted to stop after only 150 km, so not even close to Sukkur but this was not an option for us. We did not want to be accompanied by an escort for another day. So after long insistence we drove further in the dark. We did 200 km in only 3 hours. While through the day we had taken 6 hours over 150 km. Many times (over the distance of 100 km) we told the different policemen that we needed fuel and since you cannot pay with credit card at fuel stations, we were in desperate need of cash. Withdrawing cash with a mastercard is not easy in Pakistan and after visiting several ATM’s, almost dying of stress because the machines kept swallowing the card and crashing for 10 minutes, we accepted the fact that it was impossible. Apparently only Standard Chartered bank allows Mastercard withdrawals, which was not in the area. Out if nowhere, two Pakistani locals started chatting with us and tried to help us. Since nothing worked, one of them withdrew €75 worth of Pakistani Rupees and just gave it to us without any strings attached. He said “take the money since you need it and if you want, some day you can contact me to pay it back, but even if you don’t it’s fine”. The crazy hospitality of that person is still an amazement to us to this day.
Next objective was finding decent diesel which wouldn’t damage out engine. Due to the relatively short distance to Iran, many fuel stations sell Iranian fuel. Although this is not terrible, often quality is not too good and sometimes they alter it which can cause serious damage to your engine. However, multiple people (also with diesel engines) suggested buying diesel from PSO (Pakistani State Oil). After Balochistan, you can also find Shell and Total which sell reliable diesel. After filling up the tank, we really wanted to avoid another night at a police station so we convinced the policemen to let us go to the highway (M5) to sleep on a highway parking. The M5 had several super fancy, clean highway stations where you could safely spend the night. We got the permission to continue our journey in the dark but although we had reached the border of Balochistan (which technically means an escort is no longer needed), they insisted that an escort is still needed. In fact, they told us that and escort is needed until Islamabad. This was horrible news for us, but at that time we just wanted to sleep. We reached the highway parking and the policemen stayed with us all night to guard us. We said many times that they could leave since we were not longer in ‘dangerous’ Balochistan, but they refused.
The next morning, we had several discussions with the policemen where we explained that this was not part of the initial description of the escort. Since they wouldn’t give in, we told them that we agree to the escort, but that we no longer will stop at each checkpoint.
We explained that we will just continue driving at our own speed and that if they still wanted to escort us, they had to communicate with the next checkpoint’s policemen to take over from the previous ones as we reached the checkpoint. Ofcourse many times they said they agreed but in fact this was not the case. They still wanted us to take an exit to switch to different policemen. At one point, we decided to not listen and to continue driving while they took the exit. Eureka, we tought, as we escaped them for two or three hours after which the escort suddenly reappeared when we stopped at a highway parking. Once again we explained them the agreement we made with several policemen and this time they agreed to just drive behind us and let us do our own thing. After two hours or so, suddenly they took an exit and we were free to roam Pakistan without escort. Finally freedom.
After that we drove on the fantastic road of the M5 towards Islamabad and we spent two nights at highway parkings. Both of them had multiple fastfood restaurants (McDonalds, KFC, …) and restaurants. Even showers were present for around €2 (which we didn’t use) and very clean toilets. After these calm and relaxing nights we reached Islamabad.