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bomboliere 2 Mar 2009 16:54

best way to cross pakistan
Coming from Quetta and going to Lahore I have identified two ways:
1) Quetta, Zhob , Dehra Ismail Khan, Jihang, Lahore (829 km)
2) Quetta , Dehra Ghazi Khan, Multan, Lahore (922 km)

The 1) is slightly northern, 2) more central.
Which is the best, as condition of roads, touristic interest, safety?


Toukakoukan 2 Mar 2009 21:40

I went the first way.
The road from Quetta to Zhob was undergoing large amounts of work when I was there about 4 months ago, at the time it was about 60% metalled with the worst of it being flood damage in the mountains which as far as I could see wasn't being repaired, though the mountain road is pretty cool in places.
When I went through there'd been an earthquake in that area not long ago which probably didn't help the condition of the roads...

Also while I was there there was a protest on that road which got me caught up in a mob of people who beat me with sticks and threw stones at me...
Isolated incident though I'm sure!

MikeS 3 Mar 2009 00:03

I suspect you'll probably get directed further south by the cops, I was told not to take the Zhob road a few months ago. In Dera Ismail Khan, I really struggled to get a room as no one wanted a foreigner in their hotels as it was a major security risk. A few days after I was there, I understand there was a suicide bomb. I was heading west and was advised to go down to Dera Gazi Khan where I ended up with police escorts to Kingri. After that I had no more escorts until the Iran border but I've heard you'll probably get an escort from the border if you're heading into Pakistan.

But surely you'll be going over to Islamabad and then up the KKH too? That was the best bit for me.

Jezz 3 Mar 2009 02:25

Pishin /Turbat crossing vs. Zahedan crossing

I'm new to this website. Very helpful and informative!
I am planning to ride from Delhi to Europe in June. Can anyone tell me about taking the southern route down the valley from Lahore towards Karachi, turning off at Shikarpur and crossing at Pishin / Turbat into Iran. Is this safer than taking the route via Quetta? are the roads ok? Or is it still a better ride staying further north? It seems this is the more common route.

GSPeter 3 Mar 2009 03:55

best way to cross Pakistan
Bomboliere, local conditions decide, I arrived in Quetta intending to drive over Lorelie towards Lahore in oct. '08. The earhquake, and aftershocks, and social consequences with displaced people, forced me to make an unwanted detour through the Sind desert to Sukkur. There is a lot of tension in Pakistan at the moment, so one can risk being dettoured. Police escorts, and rerouting, are part of your day, but it's all on a daily basis, your safest/most interesting route can change overnight.
Jezz - I'm afraid you don't have any choice, there is only the Taftan - Zahedan border crossing available for tourists. The southern route is not safe, and the wonderful road on the Pakistani Gov website does not exist - yet! Stay clear of Karachi, in fact the Punjab is more or less off limits to tourists, but ask around (police, PTDC, other travellers) for updates. It's no joke to be caught up in civil unrest, or be taken hostage in a local conflict, and this is a possibility in this area. People are so friendly, especially to overland bikers, that it's hard to believe things can go wrong so quickly in a mob situation.
Peter, in Oslo

"Too much of a good thing......is just wonderfull" - Mae West

danielsprague 5 Mar 2009 12:24


Originally Posted by GSPeter (Post 231448)
Jezz - I'm afraid you don't have any choice, there is only the Taftan - Zahedan border crossing available for tourists. The southern route is not safe, and the wonderful road on the Pakistani Gov website does not exist - yet! Stay clear of Karachi, in fact the Punjab is more or less off limits to tourists, but ask around (police, PTDC, other travellers) for updates. It's no joke to be caught up in civil unrest, or be taken hostage in a local conflict, and this is a possibility in this area. People are so friendly, especially to overland bikers, that it's hard to believe things can go wrong so quickly in a mob situation.
Peter, in Oslo

Sorry Peter, I really must disagree with some of this, I think you're being far too cautious on the subject - we can all read the FCO for this.

The Crossing between Mand (west of Turbat) to Pishin is cloised to foreigners (I've been to both sides), not due to safety concerns but due to the fact that there are no customs or immigration facilities. The 'danger' in Balochistan is rather hyped - it is a desolate area, often slightly lawless, with friendly but very conservative people, and with very few settlements or water sources, but it does NOT suffer from the genuinely dangerous situation of, say, many parts of NWFP. The coast is actually safer than the interior, as people are more used to outsiders and a little more open minded - I was welcomed with nothing but smiles, warmth and hospitality. The area is probably safer than that which the main Quetta to Taftan road traverses. The more dangerous area of Baluchistan is really across the border in Iran, though I had no problems (police aside) driving throughout this stunning region.

I'm not sure which road you are accusing does not exist, but if you mean the Makran Coastal Highway, this is 100% real - I drove over 600km of perfect (and I mean perfect) asphalt from the Quetta - Karachi Highway to Gwadar. I would say it's one of Asia's great drives, there are some heart-stopping beaches along here, and they are of course totally deserted. Gwadar and Pasni are lovely little towns too. There is also a very ancient hindu pilgrimage site, the most westerly in the world.

Karachi has it's moments of civil strife, but so do Paris and LA. It doesn't deserve being labelled a no-go. If you want to see the 'real' Pakistan, Karachi is the place to come. The Liari Expressway has just been completed and opened (westerly) easing congestion. The worst part of Karachi is the traffic, comparable to Tehran or Dhaka.

As for Punjab being more or less off-limits for tourists, this is absolute nonsense! Not even the FCO recommends this. Punjab is the most prosperous and stable province of Pakistan. There have been recent clashes in Lahore, but this is not representative of the whole province. Most of Punjab is peacefull, timeless countryside. The worst thing to fear is the stupefying summer heat. The same goes for Sind - outside of very rare instances of violence in Hyderabad, Sind is totally peaceful, and very interesting. I highly recommend visiting the Tharparkar desert - where you can see in full technicolor that Pakistan is nowhere near 100% muslim. I have a very close friend in Hyderabad, have toured Sind extensively, lived there for some time. It really is safe. Ten to twenty years ago, there was a problem with banditry / dacoity, but this has largely disaoppeared, and daytime travel is safe.

Pakistan is not without it's problems, but please only dispense advice which comes from experience... this is not useful to travellers.


danielsprague 5 Mar 2009 12:33

If you're determined to just cross Pakistan - which is a great shame as one wastes the oppurtunity to see one of the most fascinating and untramelled regions of the subcontinet - there are three routes;

In addition to the two listed by the OP, there is Quetta - Sibi - Shikarpur - Rohri, which gets you onto the Indus highway. This is the 'safest' and also the route which is in best condition. All the Indus Highway from Lahore to Karachi is in decent condition.

The route via Zhob does have genuine risks, (hey Sam!), but that via DG Khan is OK.

Beware that anytime between April and September, the area around Sibi - Jacobobad - Sukkur - Bahawalpur - Multan is horrendously hot - Multan is currently the world's hottest city, with a maximum of 56C shade air temperature. So be warned!


bomboliere 6 Mar 2009 15:19

Dear Danielsprague,
thanks for your infos.
Which is in your opinion the average speed you can get on the indus higw in comparison to other routes?
Because it seems that is - anyway - the longest option...
Thanks for your infos

pecha72 6 Mar 2009 17:00


Originally Posted by danielsprague (Post 231900)
I'm not sure which road you are accusing does not exist, but if you mean the Makran Coastal Highway, this is 100% real - I drove over 600km of perfect (and I mean perfect) asphalt from the Quetta - Karachi Highway to Gwadar.

When was your trip? I remember a couple years back there were news about some floods, which had destroyed many roads in that area (or so they claimed). Could be rebuilt by now, too.

BTW, did you need any special permits to go anywhere in that region, I mean west from the Quetta-Karachi highway, and south from the Quetta-Taftan highway? If so, where did you get these from? And you were allowed to go on your own most of the time in that area?

I´ve no doubt it must be a fascinating part of Pakistan. It seems I may have trusted the guidebooks warnings too much, because I went straight from Taftan to Quetta and onwards to India.

danielsprague 7 Mar 2009 17:45

Bomboliere: Your average speed is up to you! Traffic genrally moves at about 80 - 90km/h. If you're on bikes, you might well be lumbered with an escort. I knew one poor guy who had an escort all the way to Lahore! There are highways on both the east and west banks of the Indus, but the east bank route is generally better, all good asphalt. Traffic varies along the route, but it's almost all 4-laned, so you should be OK.

ALL the routes between Quetta and the Indus are (according to people who have ridden them) unpaved in places, and generally not in good condition. From memory, the route via Sibi (you pass Mehrgarh, the oldest archaeological site on the sub-continent at 9000 years) entails the least hardship. I would not really recommend taking the route through Loralai, especially if this is your first time in Pakistan.

I have to say, that I always take the southern route to Karachi, Ive never driven on any of these roads, but I have met overlanders and bikers who have driven each route.

I drove the Makran Coastal Highway twice in December 2008. The snag is that it's almost a dead end. There is a road to Tubat, which is apparently metalled, but from then on Baluchistan is all dirt tracks to Quetta. There is a route from near Nushki on the Quetta - Taftan road which goes south to Kharan on a paved road, then on dirt tracks (and Ive heard they're pretty bad) to Panjgur, then Turbat, then the coast.

Regarding permits, the situation is like many in Pakistan. If you ask the authorities "can I go", they will assume that it must be dangerous (otherwise you wouldnt have asked) and say NO. So I just went. The police were a little surprised to see me when they caught me in Pasni, and said I should have obtained an NOC - a No Objection Certificate - from Quetta. I had applied for one, but the guy who I was dealing with obviously couldn't be bothered to do anything (also very Pakistani) and went on Hajj. The police then gave me a gunman on the trip to Gwadar, and when I walked around Gwadar.

The police are concerned for your safety here, not because it's overtly dangerous (although there are incidents), but because if anything does happen to you, they all get fired. That's why they're so shaky.

To do this properly, it would be best to arm yourself with an NOC from Quetta, but if not, just go.

I'm going to try to get to Kharan, off the Quetta to Taftan road, later this month.

BTW I'm in a 4x4, which seems far lower profile than bikes. All bikers seem to get escorts through Baluchistan, but I've never been bothered. Another advantage of the Hilux!

Take care


GSPeter 10 Mar 2009 17:09

Pakistan-routes and security
Hi Daniel, you are obviously a braver man than I am. I do take warnings about my personal security seriously. The main routes are open, but you will probably have a police escort. This is an annoyance, and they are definatly not in the tourist industry - I had escorts from Sukkur to Lahore in october '08, and a detour to Moenjodaro was not permited. I have no way of knowing why, they probably wanted to hand me over to the next escort as soon as possible.
The security situation has deteriated since october. The info I had on the Makran Coastal Highway was obviously wrong, my Pakistani colleaugue was not up to date. Karachi also has a nasty reputation, and I cannot find any 'must see' features, so I think you who have contacts, and obviously know the region can advise people.
You are quite right when you say bikes are more noticeable, anything less than 50 people standing gawping at you is unusual, but you get used to it.
Concerning Punjab, both rural and urban, people were very polite and friendly, but warned me constantly that the area was not secure. My police escorts could hardly say anything else. On the KKH they said 'don't stop outside towns', and there were checkpoints phoning ahead, but no escorts. In towns there was heavy police presence, plus all the private security with their pump-action shotguns. Seemed pretty heavy to me.
The up side of the escorts is finding your hotel for you, but they barge through traffic with sirens on, waving their guns, which is very bad PR for tourists.
Safe travels
Peter, in Oslo

danielsprague 16 Mar 2009 14:17

Hi Peter

Sorry to hear you had so many escorts. It's such a shame they're so cautious. The Pakistanis are deeply concerned about their image, and are literally desparate for foreigners NOT to get kidnapped / killed etc. Hence the seriously OTT advice. In my experience, people (anywhere in the world) in one place tend to tell you the people up the road are head hunting barbarians, and that you shouldn't go there. Normally it's just ignorance. Ask someone if they've been there, if they haven't, stop listening.

I was there Sept - Dec 2008, no escorts apart from the small stretch of the Makran Coastal Highway that I mentioned.

Karachi admittedly has no 'must sees' from a sightseeing perspective, but there is some interesting colonial-era architecture, some stunning tombs just outside the city's eastern limits, and it oozes atmosphere, in a chaotic Pakistani way. It doesn't have the cultural legacy of Lahore, the frontier atmosphere of Peshawar or Quetta, but it is interesting in my book. You see the modern Pakistan here, alongside the slumbs Just outside the eastern ciy limits are some nice beaches, and if you're into Scuba diving... hire a boat to Charna Island. I think more people should see Karachi. It's nasty reputation is not entirely unjustified, but it's way better than the 70's and 80's when (apparently - I wasn't alive) the army controlled the streets.

I've really never heard of rural Punjab being unsafe, apart from the edge on the western side along the Indus, which is grotty and uninteresting to boot. Not somewhere you really need to see.

There is heavy police presence everywhere in Pakistan. Banks, shops, petrol stations, ice cream parlours, rich people's front gates all have men with pump-action shotguns snoozing on a plastic chair. It doesn't mean they're expecting a riot anytime, they're just living in a country which does suffer from bouts of instability.

As for villages off the KKH being dangerous, there is some truth to this, though I'd say they're more hostile than overtly dangerous. A friend and I got pelted with rocks by kids coming down from the Babusar Pass, and Indus Kohistan is notorious for cyclists who often attract a hail of stones from the local brats. Side valleys like Darel and Tanger are dangerous, and highly xenophobic, unless you have a local guide. But once you're out pf NWFP and into the Northern Areas, it's totally safe, aside from rockfalls. My truck got whacked by a rock thudding down from a cliff near Karimabad, lost a free-wheeling hub.

I would happily travel anywhere in Pakistan outside of southern / central NWFP. I remember when I came to Dir, to find the police hiding in the police station armed to the teeth with new MP5s. I reckon police escorts are like sticking a big "I'm a foreigner" target on your car / bike.

Good luck, I hope you can explorte more of Pakistan soon, it's one of those places that has endless appeal in my opinion.


TurboCharger 21 Mar 2009 13:15

Pakistan Security
This is a good thread, please anyone who has been to Pakistan recently add some more info here. I am still deciding on our route through Pakistan although Lahore and Quetta are definites.

I particularly like the statement that instability can arise at anytime, this is true for even the more stable of countries, take Greece for example. We are looking forward to travelling in Pakistan in May and will definitely report back.

morinipete 22 Mar 2009 10:40

Hi everyone,

I agree, any info appreciated. I'll be coming through from the India side heading for Turkey soon. I would have been hitting Lahore about the 5th April, but due to Iran visa issues I can see it'll be more like 20th Now (maybe still being rather optimistic :thumbdown:) so any 'latest' news would be useful.


PS. If anyone wants the latest news on the on-going 'Nepal petrol fiasco' drop us a line as I live/work there and can give a bit more accurate info than some that is being posted elsewhere.

jopos 22 Mar 2009 11:31

Hi there erverybody,

I drove november 2008 in one day from Quetta to Multan using the road crossing Dehra Ghazi Khan. There is 75 km unpaved road and the total trip did take 15 hours-driving!

Staying overnight in Dehra Ghazi Khan was not allowed by the police who did give a escort from Dehra Ghazi Khan to Multan.
On my website Going East - Home you can see a small movie and read a dutch (or translated) diary. (there will be a good englisch diary in 2 weeks)

Enjoy: Going East - Home

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