Heading West from India towards Europe overland

India Map If you need to travel west from India you are faced with a few choices although you are restricted by security issues, visa availability and time of year:

Southern Pakistan to Iran – if you are cycling, this isn’t a lot of fun as you will have to be in a police escort for about 15 days as it is considered too dangerous. Each day the police drive along with you and stay outside your hotel or you have to cycle from police station to police station. You can get a Pakistani visa in India and you can pick up an Iranian visa organised through a travel agency (Iranianvisa.com) in Pakistan or in India.

Northern Pakistan and into China via the Khunjerab Pass – This is a great choice as long as the Khunjerab Pass is open. (May to November). You can get a Chinese visa in Pakistan and the Pakistani, Indian, Kyrgyz and Kazakh visas in Delhi. If you are already in China, you can enter Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan with a visa that you can pick up in Urumqi although for Kyrgyzstan this involves a 2000km detour round the edge of the Taklamakan Desert.

Don’t cross from China to Kyrgyzstan via the Torugart Pass, use the Irkeshtan, less cost and hassle and also it’s easier to get from the Irkeshtan to Osh and then Uzbekistan unless you need to go to Bishkek. The only reason to go via the Torugart pass is if you have to go to Bishkek and you want to see Lake Issyk Kul or spend time in the Tien Shan mountains near Karakol. East Kyrgyzstan is beautiful but the Torugart is a pain because the Chinese don’t let you cross the border independently, only in organised transport that costs lots

You can get all the rest of the onward visas for the Stans in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan if you haven’t already got them.

In Pakistan it’s wise to get transport from Islamabad to Chilas as the Hindu Kush is a bit dodgy for cyclists, too many stone throwers. Once in Chilas the place is superbly friendly and easy to cycle around although it does head up hill a lot.

Nepal into Tibet/China then West – this is impossible at the moment but for the last few years has been OK. It’s unlikely to be allowed for a while as both Tibet and Xinjiang are a bit sensitive. we were quoted $3500 to be escorted from Nepal to Ali by a Chinese guide taking three weeks. You can’t get across any check point without all the people on your Group Visa (the only visa available in Nepal) If you enter Nepal with a Chinese visa it can’t be used to enter China from Nepal. And in any event newspapers are reporting that no tourists are being allowed into Tibet this spring and I suspect that these restrictions will continue all of 2009 (20th anniversary of Tianemen Square, 60 years of China, 50 years since the Dalai Lama escaped)

There’s oil in the desert of Xinjiang province so the Chinese are a bit tense at the moment. We could only travel through much of it because we had a HK ID card so don’t expect to be able to cut across the Tien Shan mountains, you may be forced to cycle all the way around. You can also enter Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan from China and pick up your Kazakh or Kyrgyz visa in Urumqi. These don’t need a letter of invitation if you are from one of 28 countries listed on the Kazakh website. You can also do this in India.

Flying Over Pakistan / Tibet to Uzbekistan – you can fly from Delhi direct to Tashkent in Uzbekistan with Air India/Uzbekistan Airlines (Code Share) for about $400 one way or $500 return. You may need to have a return ticket to Uzbekistan to actually be allowed into the country even if you have a visa. If you get a return ticket you can cancel it when you arrive, but you can only get your full refund in India although you do have 2 years to do so.

Several countries don’t need an LOI (UK and most European Countries but NOT Canadians) If you need an LOI then contact the Uzbek embassy who can advise you – they were really helpful when we went there. It’s next door to the Bangladesh Embassy which is in the Lonely Planet. Stan Tours can sort you out any letters of invitation that you might need for the Stans and are very efficient and quick to respond to emails. You can pick up your Iranian visa in Tashkent quite easily although it must be pre-arranged with a company like Iranianvisa.com

Flying Over Pakistan / Tibet to Kyrgyzstan - If you want to go to the fantastic Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan Air, Turkish Airlines and Aeroflot fly via Tashkent to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. tickets range from $700 to $1200 dollars. Most nationalities can get a visa on arrival for Kyrgyzstan. at the airport The Iranian embassy in Bishkek is rubbish so don’t arrange to pick up your visa there.

Payment to travel agents in Central Asia / Iran normally involves getting a MoneyBookers account because they can’t accept Visa or PayPal because of various restrictions. You can do bank transfer but this takes a lot longer. If you organise your Moneybookers account at home it will be much easier as you have to wait a few days, check your credit card statement for a payment amount and then enter this amount on their website before you can use the Moneybookers account. Once you’ve done this you can pay by entering an email address in the Moneybookers website and it’s all done. Check Iranianvisa.com or Stantours for their payment email addresses.

Useful addresses and information:

Stan Tours: www.stantours.com    email: stantours@gmx.net

Iranian Visa: http://iranianvisa.com  email: info@iranianvisa.com or iranianvisa@gmail.com

MoneyBookers: www.moneybookers.com


We’ve chosen to fly to Uzbekistan..we’ll let you know what happens in the comments.

Excess baggage is about $2 / Kg

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