From Europe to Xinjiang: getting there & visa stuff
Replies: 7 - Last Post: Feb 13, 2013 10:35 AM Last Post By: Wojtek
Feb 12, 2013 3:39 AM
We're planning a trip to Xinjiang/Gansu/Qinghai this summer and we would like to enter from the West- meaning we don't want to fly to Eastern China first. Anyone experienced the crossing into Xinjiang from Kazakhstan? How many border crossings are there? Is it possible to cross somewhere close to Kashgar? Bus/train/plane? Easy?
What are the best airline connections from Europe into Xinjiang or Kazakhstan? I saw that for example Pegasus is flying from Istanbul to Almaty for around 200,- euro's. Any direct connections between Urumqi and Europe on reliable airlines?
And my last question, I heard that it's nowadays quite hard to get a tourist visa for longer than 30 days (before you got 60 or 90 days without problems...). What are the best places in Xinjiang to extend it and how long does it take?
Thank you very much for your replies!
Greetings from Holland,
Feb 12, 2013 5:19 AM
The Kazakhstan-China border is huge, and I believe there are a few places that foreign nationals can cross (though I've never crossed this border personally). The vast majority of travelers between the two countries use the direct route from Almaty to Urumqi - there are trains and buses connecting the two cities, and there should be at least one connection of some sort every day. The Ili River Valley in Xinjiang - which you'll pass close to on the way - is meant to be interesting, but I haven't personally been. There are also less used connections in the north of Kazakhstan, where I think you'll have to travel by bus. Cities like Semey (Semipalatinsk) and Ust-Kamenogorsk might have connections, but I don't know the details. Semey is an interesting city if you want to see something of Kazakhstan. Note that for any of these connections, you'll have to pass through Urumqi (or at least nearby) in order to head to Kashgar.
Kyrgyzstan has two crossings with China, both very high mountains passes, and both multi-day trips. The Torugart Pass is possible only if you pre-purchase private vehicles for each side of the border. You need to arrange a crossing with a travel agency, and it isn't cheap. The crossing is, I believe, only open in the summer. The Irkshetam Pass is open year round (snow permitting) and is possible to cross independently. It's usually a two-day trip from Osh to Kashgar, and there are a host of options: direct bus (fairly expensive), private jeep on the Kyrgyz side and then hitch-hiking on the Chinese side, or hitch-hiking on trucks all the way.
It used to be very easy to get visa extensions in Kashgar, but the latest information I can remember reading on here is that the policy has changed, and Urumqi is the only place in Xinjiang that will now extend visas. Do a search for the Chinese Visa Extension thread and see if there's anything up-to-date. Urumqi used to make you wait a week for a visa extension, and is unlikely to be a good place for them. About a year ago when I was in the city, Lanzhou (the capital of Gansu) was a very handy place for visa extensions.
Feb 12, 2013 6:11 AM
Feb 12, 2013 6:26 AM
Feb 12, 2013 9:42 AM
4Any direct connections between Urumqi and Europe on reliable airlines?
Yes, with China Southern Airlines (e.g.: to Istambul or Moscow).
What are the best airline connections from Europe into Xinjiang or Kazakhstan?
It depends on what do you mean by best. There's more choice of airlines to Kazakhstan than to Urumqi though. Your departure airport is (or can be) relevant too.
Feb 12, 2013 1:03 PM
The only rail line connection (as #1 refers to) is the Alashankou (阿拉山口口岸) at Bole. The other major one is Huocheng (霍尔果斯口岸). We had not personally crossed the border but had wandered around the check-points looking out from the Chinese side, and stood next to the sentry for photo shots.
Once, at Huocheng we saw trucks coming over from Kazakhstan, one of the trucks had two European tourists and their bicycles on the open deck. It was many years ago, do not know if this is still allowed. Hopefully others can fill in…
Further north in a rather remote area, by paying 10rmb each, we did a clandestine crossing just to check out the opposite bazaar for fun. A bit nervous though.
Most tourists go further west after landed at Urumqi Airport. Therefore, if time is not an issue, taking the land crossing is highly recommended.
Feb 13, 2013 8:23 AM
Feb 13, 2013 10:35 AM
7#6 How long does it take in Xining/Lanzhou- any idea? Thanks
#others: I already found a connection via Istanbul with China Southern for around 350 euro- to Urumqi. Pegasus flies even cheaper to Almaty. This airline is worth checking out. All kind of 'exotic' destinations with flights from Istanbul.
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