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Crossing The Qolma Pass Between Tajikistan & China

Updated May 2024Crossing Qolma Pass Between Tajikistan & China was originally written in July 2018

Qolma Pass, the sole border crossing connecting Tajikistan and China. Starting in late 2016 tourists have begun to cross between Tajikistan and China at Qolma Pass. Crossing Qolma Pass is one of the more adventurous border crossings in the world because it involves you hitching a ride over the 14 km long no-man’s-land between the two countries, and at 4,363 meters (14,315 ft) is one of the highest border crossings in the world.

July 2023 update: I’ve received an update from the first foreign tourist crossing Qolma Pass by bicycle since Covid began, so it’s finally open once again!

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Why Cross The Qolma Pass?

  • In our case, which was leading a tour from Tajikistan into Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan Province crossing the Qolma made the most sense. For those looking to connect the Pamir Highway with an adventure down the Karakoram Highway, this is the way to do it. Of course, this involves crossing a small bit of Xinjiang (China) that separates the two countries.
  • Crossing between Tajikistan and Xinjiang without needing to travel into Kyrgyzstan.
  • Stamp collectors. Yes, there are people that are taking collecting to a whole different level. Some people country-count, others are out to collect the most obscure passport stamps. And trust me, this is a really obscure one, after returning to China after having crossed both the Qolma/Kalasu as well as the Khunjerab Pass between China and Pakistan any time we showed our passports it caused quite a flurry of interest for police and military officers.
  • This is one of the prettiest border crossings in the world, especially for those traveling from Tajikistan to China with the views of Muztagh Ata, Kokosel, and Karakunlun towering over the Kalasu Port.
  • The thrill of hitchhiking with truckers across one the world’s least visited and one of the highest border crossings.

Going to Tajikistan? Check out the Tajikistan Travel Guide & the Pamir Highway Guide to start planning

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Hitching across Qolma Pass in a Kamaz Truck with our friendly driver Rustam

Important Things To Know Before Crossing The Qolma

  • As far as I am aware, you must hitch a ride with trucks headed over the pass, usually en route between Urumqi or Kashgar and Dushanbe. The officers working the border on both sides are aware of this, so they will try to coordinate getting you on a truck over the pass after you “exit” either country. On the way from China into Tajikistan we ended up having groups of two hitch rides over in Kamaz trucks, and the final group of two ended up hitching a ride in the Chinese military van that was taking officers to the Chinese customs building at the Tajik port to change out shifts.
  • Cyclists will need to put their bicycles on a truck and hitch across the border as well.
  • You need a GBAO permit and visa in advance of your arrival at Qolma Pass. Apply for an e-visa.
  • Migration cards have been a thing of the past in Tajikistan, however, we were given migration cards upon arrival into the Qolma Pass immigration office (June 2018). We were asked to hand them over when exiting Tajikistan at Qolma Pass as well. There are reports of other travelers being given a little hassle who did not have migration cards, that have exited at Qolma but entered Tajikistan at a different border post. Expect a little arguing to ensue over this. 2019 Update: I believe migration cards are once again required as I was given one on arrival at Dushanbe Airport this year, though a friend that met me there lost his and had no issues leaving the country without it.
  • The Qolma Pass border is located between the cities of Murghab, Tajikistan, and Tashkurgan, China. Note that the border is at 4,363 meters (14,315 ft) in altitude.
  • There are no currency exchangers at the border on either side. In China, money exchange and ATMs are available in Kashgar. Finding a working ATM or an exchange office in Tashkurgan can be a challenge, so if you will be arriving from Tajikistan it is wise to exchange for some RMB in Murghab. In Tajikistan, you can exchange money in Murghab, but if needing to withdraw the money you’ll need to go to Khorog for that. You can pay in US dollars in Tajikistan much of the time, but expect change to be given in Somoni.
  • Qolma (Tajik) and Kalasu (China) ports are located 14 kilometers apart.
  • Dress warm, Qolma Pass is cold and usually windy even in summer.
  • You will see the border referred to as Qolma, Kulma, Kalasu, and Karasu.
  • For further planning in Tajikistan, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of Bradt’s Tajikistan.

Days & Hours Of Operation

The Qolma Pass border crossing is open Monday through Friday only. The Chinese and Tajik sides have different opening hours.

Chinese Side

Kalasu Port is open Monday through Friday from 11 am to 5 pm Beijing time*, and closed for lunch from 2 pm and 3 pm. We arrived at Kalasu just in time for the border opening and no one was there. No one actually showed up until about 11:45 am, so you don’t necessarily have to stress about getting there early.

*Beijing time is the official time zone for all of China, however, Xinjiang does operate unofficially 2 hours behind. Note that most government services and transportation operate on Beijing time, but always ask to verify. 

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Kalasu Port

Tajik Side

The Tajik side of Qolma Pass is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm Dushanbe time* and closed for lunch from 1 pm to 2 pm, however, these hours can vary a bit from day to day (welcome to Tajikistan).

*And to continue with the timezone weirdness- Tajikistan officially has one timezone, however, Murghab and the far east of Tajikistan operates unofficially on Kyrgyz time. Generally, most government services will operate on Dushanbe time but always ask to verify which time.


The border closes for many Tajik and Chinese holidays. Check ahead of time for upcoming holidays for either country.

Getting There & Transportation

Qolma Pass Map
Click map above to view on Google Maps

Note that there is no public transport across the Qolma Pass. The easiest way to get to the border is to hire a taxi from Kashgar or Tashkurgan to Kalasu for those bound for Tajikistan.

For those traveling from Tajikistan to China, it is easiest to hire a car from Murghab Bazaar or through a tourist agency in Tajikistan to bring you to the border. Getting across the 14 kilometer pass between the two countries involves hitchhiking with truckers. More on crossing the border below.

China To Tajikistan

It’s easiest to hire a taxi to take you from Tashkurgan or Kashgar to drop you off at the Kalasu Port which is located right on the Karakoram Highway. A taxi from Kashgar will cost about 500 RMB ($74 USD), and a taxi from Tashkurgan will cost around 350 RMB ($52 USD).

Kalasu Port is about a 5 hour drive south from Kashgar and roughly 1.5 hours north from Tashkurgan.

Reportedly for 30 RMB, you can take the Tashkurgan to Kashgar bus that departs daily at 10 am Beijing time to be dropped off at Kalasu Port. Otherwise, you can try your thumb at hitchhiking to the port.

Going to Xinjiang? Read: Kashgar Travel Guide & One Day In Turpan to plan your trip

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Inside Kalasu Port with anti-drug campaign posters

Once to Kalasu Port you’ll first need to show your passport and go through a security checkpoint before continuing on to the actual port building. Once inside the building, you will yet again go through a security checkpoint.

After security, you will officially exit China and will be asked to see your Tajik visa. After exiting China you’ll wait until border officers find a truck ready for you to hitch on.

At the top of the pass is the Tajik border. The truck will stop, you’ll get out at a Chinese military checkpoint where bags will be checked, then you will continue onto the Tajik immigration building.

Tajik immigration is pretty straightforward. You’ll be fingerprinted, visas will be checked and you will be given a migration card. After entering Tajikistan you will go through a quick customs check and then on your way.

Plan your time in Murghab: The Murghab Travel Guide

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Looking back toward China from Tajik immigration

Heading to Pakistan? Check out the Khunjerab Pass Border Crossing Report

For arriving to Tajikistan it is best to have a ride arranged in advance by setting up a private car hire through an agency. Don’t expect taxis to be waiting here.

Tajikistan To China

You will need to either arrange transport beforehand to get to Qolma Pass by either private car hire or hitching with a truck bound for China. Private car hire to Qolma Pass from Murghab will cost about 470 TJS ($50 USD).

To arrange a car to the pass you can head to the Murghab Bazaar and find a driver, or you can contact any tour company in the area. For those wanting to hitch you can usually find China-bound trucks departing Murghab in the early morning toward the border, most drivers will expect a small payment.

Once to the border, enter the immigration building, hand over your passport and migration card (if you’ve come through Qolma previously and even have one). You’ll be fingerprinted and your Chinese visa will be checked.

Once through immigration head to customs for a baggage check. You’ll then walk your bags to the Chinese military checkpoint. At the Chinese military checkpoint, you will be x-rayed, your bags searched, computers and phones will be scanned, and photos will be reviewed.

After the military check, border officers will find trucks bound for China for you to hitch a ride on.

After rolling 14 kilometers downhill you’ll arrive at Kalasu Port. Once to the port, you’ll go to immigration to get your entrance stamp to China and be fingerprinted. After clearing immigration you’ll go through a bag search and then you’re officially in China.

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Coming down the pass toward China

Arriving to China it’s best to have a taxi arranged to pick you up in advance. This is not a common border crossing so there will not be taxis waiting outside. If you do turn up without a ride, ask one of the border officers to call you a taxi from Tashkurgan.

Want to learn more about all the entry points into Tajikistan? Check out my post on all the Tajik border crossings with neighboring countries

Where To Stay

Tashkurgan & Kashgar, China

With China recently reopening to foreign visitors, many accommodations in Xinjiang will not accept foreign guests at this time. It is advised to contact hotels well in advance of your visit to secure accommodation that will let you stay with them.

Murghab, Tajikistan

Tulfabek Guesthouse (45 TJS per night, call +992 935389159 to book)
Erali Guesthouse (95 TJS per night, call +92 919260943 to book)


China: Most nationalities need a visa to visit China. Visas cannot be obtained on arrival, so you will need to get a visa in advance. For US citizens, read this post on how to get a tourist visa to China.

Visa costs vary depending on nationality, so check with your embassy for prices. Check the map below to find out the visa policy for your nationality.

Map by Twofortnights

Tajikistan: Most nationalities need a visa or e-visa to enter Tajikistan. E-visas can be easily arranged online and are typically approved within about 2 days. You also need a GBAO permit to enter Tajikistan at the Qolma Pass and travel within the GBAO region.

Apply for your GBAO permit when applying for your visa or e-visa. E-visas are $50 and GBAO permits are $20. Traditional tourist visa and GBAO permit prices can vary by nationality, so check with your embassy or consulate for prices.

The map below shows the visa policy for Tajikistan.

Visa policy of Tajikistan
Map by Twofortnights

Explore the moon-like Murghab Plateau with the Eastern Pamir Travel Guide

Need More Information On The Qolma Pass?

Ask in the comments below!

More Posts from Tajikistan:

18 thoughts on “Crossing The Qolma Pass Between Tajikistan & China”

  1. It’s 3 December 2023. I was hoping to cross the Punjerab border, as Pakistan and China had promised to keep it open. Instead it seems it is closed instead. Do you know if the Qolma Pass is open at this time of the year? I am trying to travel back to Europe without catching a plane.

    1. I don’t have the current phone number for the border xing on either side to verify if it’s open. I would recommend asking around and seeing if you can track down a functioning phone number to ask ahead.

      1. For dress, you’ll want to wear a black abaya, headscarf and niqab to blend in. As for the itinerary there are places to stay between Hawf and Shibam, though I wouldn’t recommend trying to do that route with only 1-2 days as it’s a long distance and it’s quite expensive.

  2. Hello Nicole,
    Do you know if you can drive from Pakistan to Tajikistan via Kolma pass in your own car. Do you need a Chinese temporary driving permit. What documents do you need for the car in each country i.e. China and Tajikistan. I would be much obliged if you could answer this query and help me out.
    Lahore, Pakistan

    1. Currently I am not sure what the regulations are for taking your own car but I would guess there are some permits that need to be in order. The only people who have crossed that I am aware of this year have been cyclists and hitchhikers.

  3. I officially became the first tourist (and on a bicycle) to cross the (Qolma pass from China into Tajikistan) today, July 10th. I did not get that other piece of paper.

    1. Great news! So no migration slip? They seem hit or miss, I had to fill one out arriving at the Dushanbe airport in June but returning back over the border from Afghanistan a few days ago there were no migration slips.

    2. and enjoy Tajikistan! I am out in Khorog at the moment and plan to be in the Pamir until the end of the month, so may run into you somewhere out there.

  4. I’m currently in Kashgar (July 4th, 2023) waiting for my Tajikistan eVisa approval. Took a detour with my bicycle from Kyrgyzstan since the border to Tajikistan is still closed.

    Pleas note for this post: Old Town Hostel has closed down. Pamir Hostel doesn’t accept foreigners anymore. The only hostel Trip. com manually found me by calling each one (after I was denied staying at the Pamir Hostel) was the Ancient City Yashe Hostel. I stayed 2 nights. Beds are 1 inch flat japanese style floor roll up mattresses on plywood. It’s slightly more comfortable than the floor. Location is great but loud. You’re above the bars where each has a singer blasting music to drawn the compitition. And no western toilets at Yashe so traditional hole in the floor (and this is where you also shower… One shower/hole per floor so if someone is showering, no toilet for you).

    I left after 2 days and forked out the money for a proper hotel. Still, many more now don’t accept foreigners since covid hit.

    Great detailed writing though. Your blog has been very helpful as I seem to be the only western foreigner in Kashgar now so no one to chat about what’s ahead.

    I’ll update you on Qolma pass – if I get my eVisa approved. It’s beens a challenge so far. Every other day for a week Tajikistan keeps asking for a new piece of information from resending a scanned 2 page passport image but less than 1mb, (no pics permitted) to asking for proof of accommodations, than proof of deparrure. There’s one to call or return emails so I sent them a scan of the email I wrote them attached to the evisa online application modifying section explaining I’m on a freaking bike and can’t provide details of accommodations for every night nor can I guess when I will exit into Uzbekistan. I’m waiting for a response but note that this might be a new procedure now – or I just got unlucky. It’s the hardest online visa I ever had.

    Pulled an all nighter as I’m supposed to enter Tajik July 5th waiting for their response. The 6th is a Friday and I don’t want to risk getting stuck before the weekend. I won’t risk trying to pedal there. No hotels on the way and no camping allowed. From Ulugchat to Kashgar I had 4 different unmarked undercover police following me between 4 of the 6 checkpoints within 101km for my “safety” they said. They will probably call you a taxi at the first checkpoint outside of Kashgar and if you veer off course the undercover will redirect you back on track.

    Coming from Kyrgyzstan, cyclists have to take a Taki 140km to the last customs border checkpoint before we can pedal on. If it’s late at night as happened to me because when I asked the Krygyz gaurd when the border will open the next day (the gate to the tracks was closed: The truck line started 16km from the border so I wasn’t expected entry at almost 6pm), he radio-ed it in and an officer came and said for tourists it’s open until 8pm (Kyrgyzstan time). They pretty much forced me to exit and ride the next 3km to China bidding me Goodluckin China.

    I wanted to camp out. FYI, no hostels or guesthouses exist anymore in Nura or Irkshetam border town. Zero accommodations. Don’t trust map.me, Overlander, Google, or any app.

    In China they barely checked my bags. It overwhelmed them and it was late, everyone wanted to go home. Had lots of tea, cigs, and they even gave me snacks and fruits (not many cyclists or tourists come this way either apparently). When they stamped my passport everyone cheered that we can all go home now. I didn’t get anything x-rayed nor did I have to walk through the scanners. Didn’t even take my frame bag or handle bag off the bike. Or my water or petrol bottle. None weren’t checked. After checking 2 of my bags, me taking my time to unpack and repack, they just asked what’s in the other nags and trusted me. They enjoyed my photos but didn’t go through all of the as I have over 20k in total so far haha.

    I could have kept my knives instead of shipping them home and buying a cheap pocket knife at the Osh Bazar only to give it as a gift to the border officer who was excited to receive a for from his first Israeli (that was a trip too cos they didn’t know Israeli passport holders don’t need a visa for 60 days – took 40 minutes to prove it. Didn’t help that my Chinese visa was on my American passport since it a 10 year visa and that throw them on a loop only comics Ted more because I’m officially a resident of Japan so that pretty much broke them and they gave up asking which is my 1 nationality. They don’t comprehend duel let alone triple citizenship which is why I don’t carry my Italian passport anymore outside of Europe.

    Moral of the story, enter late but make sure you have 400RNB min for the taxi to Ulugchat and cash for the hotel too. I had just enough leftover cash from my last visit to China, precovid. No where in Osh would exchange money to RNB. INCLUDING banks. I. Ulugchat there are banks but the ATM is inside so you need to get there before they close. China bank accept my ATM card. The other bank did not.

  5. Hi Nicole,
    I am planning to cross the Kulma Pass. Is it open in July 2022? From Tajikistan to Tashkurgan and then Pakistan.

    Do you know if China will require all the complicated covid entry conditions, if I only want to transit it through the Karakoram Highway from Tashkurgan to Pakistan? Are there travelers who are crossing now in 2022? Thank you!

    1. Hi Zuzana, it doesn’t really look like travelers are crossing Qolma right now just because China still has pretty ridiculous entrance requirements. Northern Pakistan is okay for solo female travelers but of course you do have to be careful about pervy and overamourous men out there. Alex of Lost with Purpose has traveled Northern Pakistan quite extensively (more so than I) and she likely will have some super useful solo travel info specifically for that area.

  6. Hello i’m interested is there any border shops in border of Tajikistan with China or Tajikistan-Uzbekistan. Thanks for detailed explanation

    1. Hi Nora,
      The Tajikistan-China border crossing at Qolma there is nothing on either side for a very long distance. On the Tajik side, Murghab is the nearest place that would have any shops or anything. On the Chinese side is very similar with Tashkurgan being the nearest city, there were smaller villages before Tashkurgan, though you would need to enquire locally if you can even visit them (they were off-limits when I was there last).

      As for the Tajikistan-Uzbekistan border, which crossing are you looking at? These all will have small towns closer to the border where there would be shops, but on the borer per se, you’ll mostly just find taxi drivers.

  7. Hello,

    Thanks for this detailed report. How do you travel to Pakistan after Kalasu port instead of Xinjiang? Since KKR is right next to Kalasu port, can I hitch a ride from a bus coming from China to Pakistan?

    1. As for getting to Pakistan, you’ll need to go to Tashkurgan. I’d recommend having a car arranged to pick you up at Kalasu to take you to Tashkurgan as there isn’t much traffic through there and there likely won’t be any taxis or anything waiting around. If you’re determined enough you can probably hitchhike it, but I’d say bring camping gear just in case if that’s what you opt for. Once to Tashkurgan you can go to the bus station in the morning and get a ticket on the NATCO bus that goes across the border to Sost.

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