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Xīnjiāng

Getting there & away

Domestically, you can fly to Ürümqi from virtually everywhere.

New international flights are constantly being proposed (though not necessarily finalised). You can fly to Ürümqi from a number of Central Asian cities, including Almaty (Kazakhstan), Bishkek and Osh (Kyrgyzstan), Islamabad (Pakistan, via Kashgar), Novosibirsk (Russia), Moscow, Baku (Azerbaijan) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan). There’s also continued talk of new flights to Lahore (Pakistan) and Punjab (India); seasonal flights go to Seoul. Linking Tashkent and Lahore with Kashgar has been debated forever.

There are overland border crossings with Pakistan (Khunjerab Pass), Kyrgyzstan (Ir­keshtam and Torugart Passes) and Kazakhstan (Korgas, Ālāshānkǒu, Tǎchéng and Jímǔnǎi). Apart from Ālāshānkǒu, China’s rail link with Kazakhstan, all of these borders crossings are by bus, though you can generally get a bike over.

Remember that borders open and close frequently due to changes in government policy; additionally, many are only open when the weather permits. It’s always best to check with the Public Security Bureau (PSB; Gōngānjú) in Ürümqi for the official line, or Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree to see what other travellers are saying. A new crossing, the Kulma Pass to Tajikistan, may open to foreign travel in the coming years.

Heading back into China, the obvious route is the train running through Gānsù. More rugged approaches are along the southern Silk Road from Charklik to Qīnghǎi, and Karghilik to Ali (Tibet).