It's now ten months since I left England and am presently in Antalya, south west Turkey. Will spend time here renewing my UK passport and obtaining Iranian visa. There is conflicting advice around about cycling in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and I would really like to hear from 'local' hosts and recent, i.e. 2012, travellers.
I've been travelling solo but would welcome some company for parts of this segment of my 'world' tour. Plan to stay in northern Iran, more or less straight across Afghanistan and into north Pakistan and then onto India.
All input very welcome.
Think so it`s impossible to get a pakistanian visa in Turkey and Iran. The only way is to cross the Stans. On the other hand you can`t reach India.
I have similar concerns but will be arrive next year. The costs of these visas are very expensive for the UK and if they are inaccessible in Istanbul I would be worried.
I went through Iran a year ago and it was pretty much safe, even after the terror act with the british embassy. There was just a second fence on the road...
The Iranian visa you can get in Trabzon, turkey, but I dont know cause you are british right?
It takes only a day, costs 75 euro.
The problem might be to get the Pakistanian visa abroad. I had a second passort and a friend applied for me in Berlin, also for the indian one at the same time and sened me the passport, while I continued through Georgia and Armenia.
The route across southern Iran is safe, since Bam you have police escort with you, due to the Belouchistan region. But they are not annoying as much as the pakistanian police for the same reason, Belouchistan.
From Zahedan (after crossing the border into Pakistan) to Quetta they force you to take a bus, but its just gambling, they have no money for petrol, maybe they do not escort you at al or just sometimes. From Quetta go east to Sukkur and via Multan to Lahore, from there its safe and you can cross the Wagah Border into India.
But the most important advice is, follow every stupid rule of the police. Do not discuss with them or they get rid of you and disappear, as in my case. and then, pray and think on England...
Is that you??? If it is, awesome you're back on two wheels.
There's really good info written by Christian Bomio, a nice Italian chap, on 'crazyguyonabike'
He rode the same trip from Alaska to Ushuaia, then crossed over to Japan, and rode from Somewhere China back to his home in Italy. I don't think he ever rode in Afganistan, but he did ride in Iran and Pakistan, and very close to the border with Afganistan, and then home through Turkey. Have a look, we used a lot of his notes for nice offroad routes throughout south america.
Thx for the replies.
Anna: I'm not 'that' Ian. I hail from South Africa and have been travelling for a few years. The Africa and Europe legs of my journey haven't required pre-planning (neither for safety or visa issues) and I'm a naive traveller through the middle east.
Will spend Feb and March in Turkey and am researching a southern route.
Thanks for your reply, I figured that afterwards when I checked your profile, oops.
Anyway, just a link here to Christian's blog, it may help you here or there. Enjoy the ride
I'm also in Turkey right now and I have similar worries. I will cycle from Istanbul to Ankara (India visa, they don't ask a flight ticket) end of Februari. Then I go to the Black Sea coast to Trabzon (Iran visa, without LOI). I will cross Georgia and Armenia towards Iran. I take this detour to avoid crossing the 3000 meter passes in Turkey, where there is snow untill end of march, or later. So Iran I will cross in the north with a stop in Tehran (China and Uzbekistan visa) and Mashad (Turkmenistan visa). From there to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China.
I'm also trying to get a Pakistan visa (maybe from China into north of Pakistan to India, or directly from Iran to Pakistan to India), but it is indeed impossible to get it out of your home country. I contacted a visa service in my home country, Belgium, to send my passport. Waiting for answers.
If not Pakistan, then Tibet - Nepal - India, which will be expensive though.
Anyway, that's all future plans, everything can change. I'm also looking for a travel buddy, so if you cycle more north, let me know.
Good luck! x Inge
be aware, that the winter in the caucasus mountains is long. Till april it can be snow everywhere.
I cycled beginning of november till mid decembre and it became earlier than expected for the locals pretty cold and snowy. The average altitude in armenia is 2000 meters ASL, but so beautiful even in the winterwonderland. But be prepared for -10 degrees.
But dont let this stop or change your plans.
I heard they stopped giving visa on arrival from china to pakistan otherwise the border is closed from decembre till may anyway.
No I am not prepared for minus 10! I'm still quite traumatised from the winter in Bulgaria. The hydraulic brakes and the gears were frozen so I was braking all the time and cycling like a hamster. So I guess it will be some WWOOF or HelpX at the Black Sea for some weeks when it's too cold.
Was there a VOA from China to Pakistan??? Is there a slight chance it will be possible again? Would be great news.
Thanks for your tips, looking forward to go east x Inge
Yeah there ws a VOA but as I heard they stopped it last year. Try to doublecheck it in thorntree or somewhere.
Inge, Ill send you a link to some cyclists, who did wwoofing in turkey. You can ask them for directions to find the farm.
Don't! I hate to be sarcastic, well maybe not, but have you not been up on world news in the past 10+ years?
If you go ahead I would strongly advise leaving a very detailed route plan with friends or family with check in points so if things go south for you someone knows where to begin the search.
[Author requested edit removed]
Thx for all other replies
No thank you for when I was a child and later in life when having children of my own; I and they I'm certain felt sometimes advise given which was contrary to whatever was our goal at the time was not at all helpful or enlightened or even realistic!
Not surprising at all that I am an American. Likely the same type of American who has stood up to the bullies of the world way too many times saving those without the means or strength to do the job. I can think of something about 70 years ago in your case.
I'm sure there is common ground between you and I on a personal level even if you can't see it. In America we sometimes agree to disagree and that's where I'll leave this.
I do wish you safe travels, smooth roads and tailwinds.
Have you ever been to Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan as a tourist? Or does your opinion only come from the media?
Never been to Iran. I have been to Pakistan and Afghanistan and most every other country in that region of the world more than once. That would also include North Africa. I actually recently tallied up my country count and it was 60 countries I have visited, worked or lived in. Now that does not make me an expert at all about any of those countries, but I know places I would avoid like the plague. Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan would be in my top 10, but not the top five.
I also realize there are good and bad everywhere, but there is a lot of bad there and from time to time and it's expressed against you as a political statement and costs you your head.
I just found it very strange that you are the first person who actually went to Pakistan I hear saying it's a place to avoid. I did quite some research, mainly real travel stories from cyclists in the last two years. I'm looking forward to cycle in the Middle East! The only danger is not listening to the police. Yes you will probably have a police patrol between Zahedan in Iran and Quetta in Pakistan. They give you tea and food. Maybe it's poisoned? I could imagine though that you have this opinion if you only went to Pakistan and Afghanistan as a journalist or UN worker or something similar. They actually do read the warning from Ministeries of Foreign Affairs. According to them, everything is dangerous. Best to stay at home and watch TV. BTW I can imagine that traveling in the Middle East is different for an American than for other nationalities. For example: Peshawar is really dangerous for Americans but totally ok for other tourists. I can't help their racism, but I do believe it is easier traveling in the Middle East for other nationalities than Americans.
Happy trails. Ride safe, smooth roads, keep the rubber side down, strong tailwinds and anything else I forgot to add. When you're all done drop me a line or two.
Hi to all,
about stories I can tell from my own experiences and of course from my point of view.
Lets say I had bad time in Pakistan, just for example.
Its now up to me, if I tell those stories to scare the people or if I want to sound like a hero who survived, anyway.
Or I share my experience, but do not differ from good and bad experiences.
On the other hand there are a lot of people travel into so called difficult or even dangerous places and had a good time. But they never tell anyone about it, cause its just as normal as at home for them. At home its safe, why should I point on it and tell everyone, that it safe to travel. Or they found it even a bit boring, that nothing happened.
It means you might hear only bad stories at all.
Statistically spoken you could say, there is a place where 1000 people go there and one had a bad experience. Is it from now on a dangerous place?
Now we change the point of view to the listeners: There are two groups in my opinion:
The first group hear bad and dangerous stories from the TV and propaganda and now someone comes along and confirm their doubts.
This helps them in their believes about the dangers.
Or someone comes along and tells them, that it is safe and they had a good time and met nice people, friendly people.
The people who doubt the safty, they just ignore them and take it as a isolated case. Cause it does not match with their beliefs.
The second group are people who think positive. They might ignore the problems and dangers and they might be a bit too naiv.
If I tell you, that I met a girl who got robbed in Italy by poisening her drink that she woke up in the hospital not able to remember anything or my mums wallet got stolen in Berlin, you can listen to yourself, how you deal with this informations and if you would doubt the safty in this well known so called safe european countries.
I think its never black and white. We should be aware about all informations we can get, bad and good and go our own way. Never believe all the stuff you hear, but also never doubt all the stuff.
And with our senses and experiences of travelling and our intuition we can avoid dangers even in dangerous environment.
It's a while ago since I cycled through Iran (March-April 2013). It's one of the safest countries I ever visited. It's extremely social though, which was pretty overwhelming for me. You got interviewed and invited along the road 50 times a day. No chance to spend your daily budget, because the locals give you as much food as you can eat, and more. Don't mention couchsurfing and warmshowers to cops though, it's illegal. But in reality no problem at all. If you want to know more, read my blog. I didn't cycle through Pakistan yet. Others still do, they love it. I hope you can ones have that great experience of travelling through a country so open minded and welcoming as Iran.
Take care x Inge
As an Iranian I should remind you that CS and WS are not illegal in Iran but I am completely agree with you that there is no need to shout their names ( and a lot of other things) everywhere !
we have made a joke in Iran: you can say *any thing* BUT in the right time and in the right place :) .
have a good ride!