I know there is very similar question, however it was in 2011 and many things have changed since then. Now is 2016.

I'm interested in public transportation overland (buses, trains), least - oversea, but no flights at all. I feel fairly ok with travelling through Iran. This month sanctions lift (in regard to anti-nuclear policy) shows the relations of Iran with "West" are getting better and the country is getting more hospitable and somehow open for other views. Also the number of hostels are increasing which is another good indicator. I know there was some pretty decent railway connection from Ankara to Tehran, however with latest hostilities on border with Syria and some local Kurd uprisings on the east it got suspended and foreign offices discourage to go in southern and eastern Turkey, near the border. So this is "problem A" - is there still some fairly safe route to travel from Turkey to Iran overland?

Another problem is Pakistan - which is problem B. Pakistan for me is simplest route to India from Tehran (I don't even mention Afghanistan). Do you know of any fairly safe land route for transit thru Pakistan? I've read about not so uncommon foreigner abductions (like FATA regions and Baluchistan). Are there some regions strictly under government control with minimized partisan influence (which can be avoided with proper rules and some basic knowledge about region)? Or perhaps some public sea transportation from Iran to India is available?

Also I'd like to avoid getting thru Russia.

To add some context to this complex matter - I'm male in early 30's, white, born in central-eastern Europe, with good English, some French and good manners.

  • Kurd uprisings - both in 2016 and now - are mostly in Syria, and what you occasionally have in Turkey is mostly repression campaigns rather than uprisings. The occasional attacks against government forces do not target things like trains, or tourists etc. , but rather army/police forces.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 13:18
  • 1
    I have done that trip but since it was 1982, my experience won't be much use. Your nationality may be relevant. With my UK passport, I would not have been able to make the trip. With my Irish passport, I was able to.
    – badjohn
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 17:16

2 Answers 2


If you want to avoid going through Russia, that's a unique challenge.

You can try the Turkey-Iran-Pakistan-India route as described https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Istanbul_to_New_Delhi_over_land here. It's very detailed; your challenges might be getting the right visas and the Iran-Pakistan border.

Or you can take a more northern route. Let's look at the map!

From North to South (slightly West to East too) you have Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. If Russia, Afghastanistan and Pakistan is out (and they are, you can't get into India from Pakistan and also there is no public transit from Iran into Pakistan) you need to get across somehow the other two. You can forget Turkmenistan with public transit, you can't get in, you can't get across and you can't get out. Everything else is peachy :)

So then let's look at Kazakhstan from Turkey without Russia. If we had a ferry from Baku, Azerbaijan to Aktau then we would be all set. Does it exist? This is where things get challenging it exists but barely. If you can give up "land only" for this hop, Azal flies this which is often <100USD (airport codes: GYD for Baku, SCO for Aktau). I would say it is well worth to be across in an hour instead of a week and that doesn't include the challenges of finding the port and the horrible conditions on such a cargo ship. Of course, if you have. say, medical problems with flying then good luck with the ship.

Edit: since 2016 October it is possible book the Alat-Aktau ticket online. It confirms it goes from Alat and not Baku. Same page can be used for Türkmənbaşı.

From there it's easy just very long: According to Rome2Rio you can take trains to Almaty, and from Almaty in a mere five days across China http://www.rome2rio.com/s/Almaty/New-Delhi you can get to New Delhi.

OK so we need to get to Baku from Turkey but that's easy http://www.rome2rio.com/s/Istanbul/Baku there's a direct bus.

  • A wonderful set of links and advices. Thank you very much. A horrible conditions on a Baku-Aktau cargo ship doesn't sounds that bad, considering you're all prepared properly for what you get. However I'm surprised you've put out Turkmenistan and Tajikistan so easily. Tashkent and Dushanbe seems like important cities in the region, that needs some infrastructure and communication. Are you sure going through one those cities is a bad idea in terms of a prepared and modest traveller?
    – Jan Desta
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 2:24
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    Similar cargo ship to Turkmenbasi, train to Turkmenabat, chain of taxis to Bukhara across the border, on to China rome2rio.com/s/Bukhara/%C3%9Cr%C3%BCmqi and to India rome2rio.com/s/%C3%9Cr%C3%BCmqi/New-Delhi . Do read up on Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan .
    – user4188
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 5:18
  • technically a ship makes that this isn't an overland route :)
    – jwenting
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 3:50

So here's update 3 years later. I've did the trip in Oct-Dec 2017. So it was totally possible then, I believe it's still is now. In short: all went fine.

I've went through Turkey-Iran-Pakistan-India. I'm very glad I did it this way, as all countries and its people were fantastic and incredibly interesting, especially those least known and visited: Iran and Pakistan.

The biggest problem is getting through pakistani Balochistan province from Zahedan/Mirjave (you might have problem getting sleep in Zahedan as well). There is no public transportation from the Irani Border to Quetta. You cannot get a bus as a tourist, as it poses a risk for other local passengers (Taliban lurks nearby), but it's still possible with levies. The militia levies (lightly militarised police) escort you with crude trucks and pickups, station by station, up to Quetta through desert. They are all very nice, but the transport conditions are harsh and slow. Trip from the border to Quetta lasts 2 days (no shopping, strict escort with police, sleeping in selected hotels or police station is the only option). And then in Quetta you still have escort which makes simple things difficult, like going to shop, buying a train ticket, etc. You cannot leave Quetta by bus either (too much risk, bus drivers won't let you in), you have to get a train. We (me and other traveller I've met in Zahedan, as some people go through here from time to time) didn't get any problems though with security and locals were incredibly friendly, curious & helpful. Once you leave Baluchistan the escort is off and you're free to roam Pakistan. However if you go north toward Karakorum and Hunza valley, you again find escort "for your protection". Pakistani government however wish to rather let you in with enhanced protection, than not to let you in at all. And this is really great, because once you get in there, you can throw away your funny stereotypes to trash and meet wonderful and curious Pakistani people (perhaps most friendly ppl I've met anywhere).

Besides edgy Balochistan I was able to get a bus/train everywhere in Turkey and Iran. Turkish-Irani border near Dogubayazit were also a littly edgy and pushy (long line, many people, no tourists at all), but ok. The border taxis on Irani side were also rough, but once you're get through them – Iran and its people are amazing.

You can check more details on my blog: dzikie-banany.blogspot.com (if you can't read polish, just google-translate-it). There's also a map there of my whole trip (it was world wide).

Basically what you're doing here is a modern silk road with you as a export commodity from West to East. A suberb thing to do, if you ask me.

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    Thanks for your update! We too rarely see people come back (especially after this long) to post an update.
    – user4188
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 6:29

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