Is the Karakoram highway safe? Is the visa nightmare for India-Nepal-Tibet and into China surmountable?
There appears to be two possible overland routes into China from India.. The first, via the Karakoram highway, is actually via Pakistan. Has anyone made this trip recently and if so just how safe would you say this route was? The second would be via Nepal and into Tibet. I know that you can go Kathmandu-Lhasa on various packages, but do you have to do it on a group visa (losing your personal one in the process)? And just how free are you to then lose the group and proceed into China proper? Any advice gratefully received.
Andy n Ali
As far as I know the Karakoram Highway is still up and running as a tourist route. That part of Pakistan is still safe and backpackers were still using it to get to India. But check Lonely Planet's Thorntree forum for the latest updates.
Nepal to Tibet is no problem, except of course about losing whatever China visa you might have got prior to it. You can get a 1 person or 2 person group visa. It works like this, until Lhasa you will be stuck with a group of however big, everybody will be on their own group visa's. After Lhasa, once the tour is over you can opt to continue on into China or return to Nepal by flight. the only problem with even the individual group visa's is that you can get only a certain amount of time on it. I can't remember how much, I think I managed to get it up to 4 weeks or so. Anyway once you get into China you can extend it and get at least another month. Price remains the same by the way, since you are in a group for the Tibet part, even if you are on your own group visa.
Thanks. The problem with going by the Karakoram is going to be getting a visa for Pakistan? Is this not nigh impossible from India or nearby (so it doesn't expire before use) countries? I guess the Tibet route might work ok, and we could simply go into Mongolia, S. Korea, Hong Kong to get a longer visa for continued travel... On that note, do you have any experience of obtaining a China visa from any of the 'stans or Mongolia?
Thanks again for your advice,
I just read the thorntree forum on getting a Pakistani visa in India and it seems to be a no go at the moment,but rules change constantly so who knows? If you are in Thailand you could try the Pakistani embassy there. Mostly they will give you three months to get to Pakistan, but not sure what the policies are these days.
I have got a China visa in Tashkent, no problems, you could get 4 month double entry as maximum. This was as of last year July, so not up to date I guess. I think in Mongolia it is no problem whatsoever, it is normal for many backpackers to go to Mongolia on their China trip and then come back again.
As I said, you can extend the 'group' visa once outside Tibet, but you would still have little time I suspect. So good options would be Mongolia or HK, to just get a new visa.
Thanks again Ralf. As you are being so helpful and I know of your travels around India (have your off-beaten track recommendations saved). Do you, off the top of your head, know how things are with the Indian visas at the mo? Have heard that 6 month multi-entry are no more and then there's the "have to be out of the country for 2 months afore re-entering" rule... Doesn't fit well with nipping to Bangladesh or Sri Lanka for a month and then back in. Are they implementing this rigidly? Things just seem to have been so much more straight forward years ago....
Sorry for the late reply, I am on the road myself and very busy arranging my trip to Myanmar at the moment (crispy new dollars are needed for there, and then the places I might want to go need permits, so I am looking into what is possible and what not). Anyway to answer you question, I have heard the same, but haven't been to India since this new rule was implemented. I would suggest to visit an Indian embassy and see what they say. Maybe you can still get a 6 months multiple entry at some embassies, who knows? In and with India anything and everything is possible. But as you said I have heard the same about the 6 month multiple entry. Again I suggest asking at the embassy or perhaps see what they say at the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum. Sorry that I can't help much on this department.
We'll be visiting Myanmar ourselves in about a year so will look forward to your blogs from there.
Hey, some info on the India visa. I just talked to an Australian who was going to India tomorrow and he had got himself a 6 month multiple entry visa at the Indian embassy in Bangkok. So clearly it is still possible. Maybe it is just a question of insisting or maybe some embassies do it and others don't. Either way, now you know that at least some embassies are still issuing them.
Thanks again Ralf, that is promising and would fit in with our probable route.