In China (just)!

On the 12th of July 2002 at approximately 06:00 GMT (14:00 China Time) all nine campervans and seventeen people of the "Camping-Cars sur les Routes de la Soie" China 2002 trip entered China via the Torugart Pass from Kyrgyzstan. But it was close thing...

Stop Press (from the 11th of July): On the morning of the 11th our guide, on finding that the French did not have Kyrgyzstan visas, but were relying on the "72 hour rule" allowing transit of one CIS country by those holding a visa to an adjacent CIS country, suggested that this might be a problem. A phone call to CMTA confirmed that this was indeed a problem!

Getting into China via the Torugart Pass is notoriously difficult and people regularly get turned back. This is partly because it is a "Class II" crossing between Kyrgyzstan and China (and thus only intended for nationals of these countries) and party because of its remoteness and the poor road conditions. Because the Kyrgyzstan side of the border opens at 09:00 local time (GMT+6) and the Chinese side only opens from 13:00 to 17:00 Beijing time (GMT +8) the window for crossing is relatively small. Be at the border when it opens. This means leaving Naryn at about 03:00 or better still leaving Tash Rabat at 06:00 (assuming a slow campervan).

To leave Kyrgyzstan via the Torugart Pass you must have a valid Kyrgyzstan visa and an entry stamp. You must not rely on the "72 hour rule" (It seems that this rule was abandoned anyway about a year ago, but this did not stop the French contingent crossing the Kazakstan - Kyrgyzstan border in July 2002 without a visa and without getting an entry stamp into Kyrgyzstan! As a result two of the French had to dash back from Naryn to Bishkek by Jeep to get visas for the them all).

For most European countries, the USA and Canada you no longer need to register with the OVIR in Kyrgyzstan. It is probably not technically necessary, but it is far easier if you have 10 copies of a list of people and vehicles with the names in both Arabic and Cyrillic. The exact content of these lists is difficult to establish but they should include the vehicle registration number, make, model and colour, they should also include the full names and passport numbers of the people in each vehicle. As far as possible everything (names, colour etc.) should be in Arabic and Cyrillic script. These lists are best provided by a Kyrgyzstan travel agency. It is also prudent to have a document from the Chinese Travel agency that is meeting you stating clearly your names, vehicle registration numbers and the time and date they are to meet you.

The border now seems far more relaxed than a few years ago, and although it was disorganized and slow it was no longer the nightmare that it was reported to be. However having a local guide (who has done it many times before) is well worth while, particularly if you are traveling in a group.

To enter China you need a valid visa and the representative of the travel agency meeting you must be at the "Arch". (The "Arch" is a miniature "Arc de Triomphe" marking the entry into China). Until you are given official permission to pass through the "Arch" you must stay on the "no-man's land" side and your "guide" must stay on the Chinese side. You can however stand a metre apart and chat. There does not appear to be any restriction on photography at the "Arch" and at least when we were there everything was very relaxed.

Womble was first thru the Arch.After you pass through the arch there are two more Chinese check points before you are fully in China.

To drive your vehicle in China you need a temporary number plate, a "tax disk" on your windscreen, a vehicle registration document, and a temporary Chinese driving licence. All these must be arranged in advance by the Chinese Travel Agency meeting you.

The road conditions on the Kyrgyzstan side of the border degenerate past the turning to Tash Rabat. At one point one of the campervans become stuck on a large rut and had to be towed off. The road is however quite passable (in the dry) to two wheel drive campervans.

The road conditions between the "Arch" and the final Chinese check point (Customs) was reasonable (though un-surfaced and corrugated). The road between customs and Kashi was however appalling, due to continual diversions and road works. Allow at least 2 hours for the 50km.

The entire group is now in the car park of the Seman Hotel, Kashi, ready to celebrate Bastille Day!

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2002-07-19.