If you have ever dreamed of traveling from Pakistan to Iran by road or vice-versa, you may be familiar with the famous border crossing between Taftan and Mirjaveh in the heart of Balochistan. What many travelers may not be aware of is that recently another major border crossing between Pakistan and Iran has been inaugurated: the Gabd Rimdan Border.
Situated in between the port cities of Gwadar and Chabahar, a trip from Pakistan to Iran by road via the Gabd Rimdan border covers hundreds of kilometers along Balochistan’s scenic Makran coast and guarantees hours of breathtaking views. Thanks to its convenient location, the Gabd Rimdan Border also provides a significantly shorter route to Iran from Karachi and allows travelers to explore the beautiful cities of Gwadar and Chabahar on the way, providing an exciting alternative to air travel.
Earlier this month I had the unique chance to travel from Pakistan to Iran by road via the Gabd Rimdan Border. While there have been various reports from international travelers crossing into Pakistan via this border, I could not find any information the other way round. Without any clue of what to expect, I decided to go ahead and give the new border a try. Traveling from Pakistan to Iran by road via the Gabd Rimdan Border as a third-passport holder turned out to be nothing short of a logistical nightmare but after overcoming all the obstacles, I made it to Iran at last. Now it is my turn to share with you everything I know about crossing the Gabd Rimdan Border – for Pakistanis, Iranians, and international travelers.
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How to Travel from Pakistan to Iran by Road
Whether you want to save the money of the flight tickets, travel with the comfort of your own vehicle, or simply experience the beauty and adventure of overland travel, traveling from Pakistan to Iran by road is a suitable option. There are various border crossings between the two nations, all of which are situated in the region of Balochistan. While some border crossings are quite unsafe and only open for local travelers, two borders are available to the average traveler: the Taftan-Mirjaveh Border and the Gabd Rimdan Border.
The most popular land border crossing between Pakistan and Iran is unquestionably the Taftan-Mirjaveh Border far inland of Balochistan. This border is a classic among tradesmen, pilgrims, and backpackers from around the globe and there is plenty of reliable information about this land border out there. In short, the Taftan-Mirjaveh Border connects the Iranian city of Zahedan with Pakistan’s Chagai District, followed by an over 600-kilometer-long journey to Quetta, from where travelers can connect to other Pakistani cities by air or ground transportation.
The greatest hassle about the Taftan-Mirjaveh Border is its remoteness. Not only is the land between the border and Quetta hopelessly barren but Quetta itself is very far from other Pakistani cities. For instance, if you are leaving from Karachi, rather than traveling to Quetta for ten hours and another nine hours to Taftan, it would be significantly less time consuming to reach Iran directly via the Makran Coastal Highway passing by Gwadar – and thanks to the Gabd Rimdan Border this is now easily possible!
Apart from these land border crossings, it is also possible to reach Iran by boat from Gwadar side, however, this options is only available to locals and your Balochi language skills may be tested.
Where is the Gabd Rimdan Border?
The Gabd Rimdan Border is located near the coast in between Gwadar and Chabahar. By car it takes approximately one hour to reach the border from Gwadar and two hours from Chabahar. The border marks the western end of Pakistan’s legendary Makran Coastal Highway, which smoothly connects the port cities of Karachi and Gwadar alongside various natural and touristic attractions.
Who Can Cross The Gabd Rimdan Border?
Unlike the smaller border crossings in between, the Gabd Rimdan Border is open to holders of passports as well as permits. This includes:
- Pakistani citizens with their passports and valid Iran visas
- Iranian citizens with their passports and valid Pakistan visas
- Residents of Balochistan with a valid permit to cross the border
- Citizens of third countries with valid visas for both Pakistan and Iran*
*Can Foreigners Cross The Gabd Rimdan Border?
The last group listed is where things can get a little trickier. Traveling from Iran to Pakistan via the Gabd Rimdan Border is generally no problem: you cross the border, clear immigration to Pakistan, and are then greeted by the Pakistani authorities. They will ask you to travel in their vehicle non-stop to Karachi. If you have your own vehicle, they will ship it to Karachi for you. The thing to keep in mind is that foreigners are not allowed to travel freely in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, so unfortunately this means you will not get to explore Gwadar, Hingol National Park, or any of the gorgeous beaches on your way.
Traveling from Pakistan to Iran via the Gabd Rimdan Border as a third passport holder is where things get really tricky. As mentioned earlier, foreigners require special permission (NOC) and security escort in order to cross the Pakistani province of Balochistan. While this procedure is relatively well-known for the Taftan border crossing, there is no information available for the Gabd Rimdan Border, leading people to say that foreigners are not allowed to use this border to reach Iran.
You must be wondering how I managed to cross this border with my German passport. To be very honest, it was all a combination of strong personal contacts, passing as a local, street smarts, and luck. I strongly doubt it would have been possible without those factors. Therefore, if you are a citizen of a third country, I recommend you stick to the Taftan border to travel from Pakistan to Iran by road.
Requirements for Entering Iran via the Gabd Rimdan Border
Permit for residents of Balochistan
In order to facilitate family reunions and other activities, residents of Balochistan from both sides of the border are allowed to visit the other side with only a permit. This permit can be obtained from the DC House in Gwadar for purposes such as visiting friends or family. The permit will be valid for 1-3 months and allow travelers to visit only the city they mentioned. If residents of Balochistan wish to visit other places in Iran they must apply for a visa as a Pakistani citizen.
Also keep in mind that the opening hours of the border are more limited for permit holders than visa holders and the immigration process may be stricter and more arbitrary.
Visa for Pakistanis and other nationalities
For all other non-Iranians including Pakistanis, an embassy visa is necessary to enter Iran by road. Depending on your purpose of visit, this can be a tourist visa, pilgrimage visa, business visa, or others. It is possible to submit your application to the official government portal free of cost, however, there have been many cases of tourist visa applications getting ignored or declined when applied on one’s own, therefore it is strongly advised to submit your applications to an Iranian travel agency instead. I applied through Termeh Travel and received my approval within a few business days.
After receiving the approval form, you must make a printout and submit it to your selected embassy or consulate along with your passport. You will then be given a pre-filled cheque and asked to go to a specific bank to submit your visa fee. Afterwards you must return the receipt to the embassy/consulate and you will be notified to pick up your passport and visa a few business days later. I applied through the Consulate General in Karachi and was asked for a visa fee of 11,000 PKR and the visa took three business days to process. I received a single-entry tourist visa valid for 22 days upon entry.
The visa will be issued on a separate piece of paper and your passport will not be stamped at immigration.
As citizens of the country, Iranians need merely a valid passport to enter their own country. There has been some confusion about whether NOC and security escort are required for Iranians traveling back to their own country via the Gabd Rimdan Border but in my personal experience, there have been no problem for Iranians if they take a direct bus from Karachi to the border.
COVID-related entry requirements
As of currently, Iran still requires a valid vaccination certificate as well as a negative COVID test for inbound arrivals via the Gabd Rimdan Border. There is a booth set up by the border that conducts rapid antigen tests for 2,000 PKR per person, so there is no need to arrange a test beforehand.
Requirements for Entering Pakistan via the Gabd Rimdan Border
Residents of Sistan and Baluchistan
The same rule of applying for permits applies to residents of Balochistan on both sides of the border.
Iranians and other nationalities
All non-Pakistanis including Iranians need a visa to enter Pakistan. Most nationalities can apply for an e visa through the official Nadra portal. Visa in your inbox is not available at land borders.
In addition, foreign nationals will be assigned escort directly to Karachi.
Pakistanis need only a valid passport to enter their own country via the Gab Rimdan Border and can travel freely before and after crossing.
COVID-related entry requirements
How to Reach the Gabd Rimdan Border from Pakistan
There are direct buses from Karachi’s Yousuf Goth bus terminal to the border. Check with Al Mumtaz Coach for availability. Otherwise, it is possible to take a bus from Yousuf Goth to Gwadar and continue to the border by taxi.
I don’t think anyone who travels to Iran by land would go for this option but there are flights from Karachi to Gwadar. It is possible to fly from other parts of the country into Gwadar via Karachi and take a taxi from there to the border.
By Private Vehicle
It is possible to cross the border by private vehicle, such as car, motorcycle, or even bicycle. Please check each country’s regulations as well as your insurance policy. When traveling from Iran to Pakistan, the Pakistani authorities may ask you to ride in their vehicle and ship your vehicle to Karachi.
Where to go next
After crossing into Iran from Pakistan, you have the following options:
The closest city about two hours drive from the border. Famous for its Free Zone shopping complex, traditional Balochi food and bazars, and beautiful beaches. It is the gateway to the Iranian Makran coast, which is rich in natural beauty. Chabahar also has an airport and bus terminal with limited service to cities like Shiraz, Kerman, and Zahedan.
If you are lucky, you will find a bus from Rimdan border to Chabahar. It is best to have a friend or driver pick you up. Otherwise, there should be some opportunities to hitchhike.
Iranshahr or Zahedan
The other major cities in Sistan and Baluchistan, with a landscape and culture quite distinct from the coastal areas. Iranshahr and Zahedan are overall better connected to the rest of the country than Chabahar and it will be easier to find flights or buses to other cities in Iran.
When I crossed the border, there were multiple buses leaving to Iranshahr and Zahedan. It’s best to cross the border early so there will be more opportunities to catch buses throughout the day.
Is it Safe to Travel from Pakistan to Iran by Road via the Gabd Rimdan Border?
Safety is a major concern for both Iranians and Pakistanis when it comes to traveling in Balochistan. Although I wish I could simply dismiss their concerns, it is unfortunately true that Balochistan has its fair share of security issues. And while the Taftan Mirjaveh Border has been used by travelers for many years and better secured since, the Gabd Rimdan Border is still very new and few improvements have been made in this remote region.
Below I will shed light on a couple of aspects so you can decide for yourself whether to take the risk or not and which precautions to take.
Terrorist attacks and kidnappings remain a concern for travelers in remote areas of Balochistan. While most attacks by state opposition groups tend to be targeted towards military personnel, there is always a risk of something happening to civilians, especially foreign travelers. The rugged landscape is remote and deserted on both sides of the border, meaning it can offer refuge to all sorts of people. In addition, religiously motivated attacks may also be possible due to the fact that most Pakistanis traveling to Iran are Shia Muslims.
While the chances of any major incident are relatively rare, it is important to keep a low profile and try to blend in with the locals of the region.
In remote areas of Balochistan, robberies are not rare. Robbers often target non-locals, such as Farsi-speaking Iranians and Pakistanis. It is important that travelers maintain a low profile, not travel after dark, and travel with a trusted local person, if possible.
Balochistan is one of the most conservative and patriarchal regions in the world. Women never leave the house alone and the concept of solo female travel is largely unheard of. While I was lucky to be accompanied by local friends most of the time, the few times when I did have to travel all alone in this region were extremely uncomfortable and I did not feel safe at all. I strongly advise any female traveler to not do this journey on your own and have a trusted male friend or family member with you at all times.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Iran is banned from international banking, meaning that international debit or credit cards do not work in Iran and it is not possible to make bank transfers or remittances like Western Union from abroad to Iran. It is crucial that you carry all the money you will need for your trip in cash.
However, since the Iranian Rial is terribly inflated, it will be physically impossible to carry all your money in Iranian Rial in cash. Here are some tips to deal with this problem:
- Carry your money in US dollars. US dollars are best because it is a strong currency and it is possible to exchange them anywhere in Iran. But if you have Pakistani rupees on you, you should try to exchange them into Iranian Rial or US dollars in Chabahar. Outside of Sistan and Baluchistan it may be harder to exchange Pakistani currency.
- Exchange no more than $100 USD at a time. For once, it would be very difficult to keep track of any larger amount of Iranian currency. In addition, it might also be harder to exchange Iranian Rial back to other currencies if you have some leftover currency at the end of your trip.
- Get an Iranian ATM card. I wish I had done this during my trip as it would have saved me a lot of hassle. Due to the low value of the Iranian Rial, it is very cumbersome to carry this huge amount of notes in your wallet and pay with it. Iranians use debit cards for everything, from convenience stores to street vendors, and some place do not accept cash at all; if they do, shopkeepers may struggle to find change. Some travel agencies can help you obtain an Iranian card prior to your trip and if not you can ask around in any city for tourist ATM cards.
- Keep your money and valuables in different places. This should be commonsense when traveling with larger sums of cash but it is even more crucial in Iran, where there is no way to withdraw even a dollar for emergencies. Whether it is US dollars, Iranian Rial, or a local debit card, make sure to distribute the amount well across your belongings: some in your wallet, some in your dress pockets, some in your backpack, suitcase, etc. Do not be afraid, Iran is a very safe country and pickpocketing is rare compared to many other parts of the world, but bad things can happen anywhere and it is crucial to be prepared.
As anywhere in the world, you should refrain from taking photos or videos of military or other official installations. Pay attention to where you film because some places are less obvious than others.
In addition, when traveling through Balochistan you must be very, very careful not to capture any photos or videos of local women! Not even by accident! Most Baloch women observe strict pardah, which includes that for modesty reasons no stranger may capture their faces. It is very important that you respect this cultural value in any circumstance, even if it means you cannot engage in vlogging or street photography the way you usually do,
Expression of Opinions
Mostly in Iran but to some degree also in Pakistan, you should never criticize anything related to the government, military, law enforcement, etc. What may seem like an innocent comment to you might land you in trouble. Same goes for religious opinions, as blasphemy is a punishable crime in both countries. If any person ever tries to talk to you about politics or religion, it is best to act clueless, pretend to not have an opinion, and avoid the topic.
Modest dress is mandatory in Iran (and to be very honest, you should already be following this dress code if you’re traveling on this route!), including long clothes for men and long, loose clothes for women, including headscarf.
If you really want to blend in while traveling through Balochistan, you can try wearing baggy shalwar kameez as a man and a traditional Balochi dress with chadar as a woman. If you cannot get your hands on one of these expensive female dresses, plain abaya with or without niqab will also work.
In general, nobody except for a few English teachers speaks English outside of Iran’s big cities. Not even the staff at the Gabd Rimdan Border! You may find a couple of Urdu speakers up until Chabahar but further west, their number approaches zero. If you know some Balochi, great, but keep in mind that regional dialects vary greatly and someone from a different village may not understand your dialect at all. Farsi is spoken pretty much all over Iran but not in Pakistan.
Your best bet for smooth communication would be to download an offline translator app for Farsi/Urdu/English and of course you should also learn some basic Urdu and Farsi phrases.
Keep in mind that Pakistan and Iran have different driving directions, so if you are traveling with your own vehicle from Pakistan to Iran by road or vice-versa, pay extra attention after crossing the Gabd Rimdan Border until you get used to driving on the other side.
There is no doubt Balochistan is one of the most hospitable regions on earth, even more so than what you may be used to in Pakistan and Iran. Despite economic hardship, Baloch families will insist to invite you into their homes, feed you until your stomach bursts, and shower you in gifts. While having guests over is completely common in Balochi culture, you should be mindful to not take advantage of their hospitality. Do not stay for more than 2-3 days at one home, eat their meals but do not ask for special requests, and refuse every gift at least a couple of times and try to pay for things whenever possible.
Explore Pakistan With Me
Just arrived in Pakistan and still looking for places to explore? Make sure to also check out these places during your Pakistan tour:
- 10 Awesome Things To Do In Islamabad In A Day
- Shogran Valley And Siri Paye Meadows: All You Need To Know
- How To Visit Taxila Independently As A Tourist
- Hunza Valley: A Full Guide To Pakistan’s Jewel Of The North
- Fairy Meadows And Nanga Parbat Base Camp Trek: Everything You Need To Know
- A Complete Travel Guide To Skardu
- The Ultimate Guide To Naran, Pakistan
The recent inauguration of the Gabd Rimdan Border has opened new possibilities to travel from Pakistan to Iran by road and vice-versa. The Gabd Rimdan Border is the fastest way to reach Iran by road when leaving from Karachi and the journey features a road trip on one of Pakistan’s most scenic roads. It is also the most convenient way to explore the unique region of Chabahar on the Iranian side, which would otherwise be hard to access. Nonetheless, there are a handful of challenges that await travelers wanting to travel from Pakistan to Iran by road via this new border. I hope this guide answered your questions and helped prepare you to cross the Gabd Rimdan Border by yourself!
Have you recently crossed the Gabd Rimdan Border or do you have any further tips for traveling from Pakistan to Iran by road? Share your experience in the comments below!