Experience these special border posts in Transnistria, North Korea and Pakistan
If you travel regularly through Europe, you would almost forget that up until 25 years ago, you were sometimes waiting in line at border crossings for hours. Fortunately (or unfortunately), you can still experience this today. You just have to travel a bit further. Here are three unique border crossings and how to get there.
1. Transnistria-Moldova-Ukraine border crossing
How does a border crossing feel in a country that does not really exist? You experience this in Transnistria: an unrecognised state in the country of Moldova. Everything seems real at first sight: when you enter the country from Ukraine you are lined up and your passport is checked. In the past, you were even officially stamped as having entered Transnistria. Also, the Transnistrian custom officials look at you very harshly when you drive past them and you are welcomed by signs like: ‘Welcome to Transnistria’ and ‘These are the traffic rules in Transnistria.’
Moldovan Immigration Service
So everything seems to be normal until you want to get out of Transnistria and travel on to the rest of Moldova. This is where the difficulties start: you get out of the country of Transnistria easily, but you do not get into Moldova just like that. As Transnistria is not recognised by Moldova, they regard the strip of land as an integral part of their country. It is a bizarre situation, you officially enter Moldova from Ukraine, only the border is managed by Transnistria, so you do not get an official entry stamp from Moldova. If you then go from Transnistria to Moldova, you are at the mercy of the Moldovan immigration service on the border between these two areas.
Visa on the spot
Visa on the spot
The border patrol sometimes make you wait a few hours until they admit with grumpy faces in broken English that you can also buy a Moldavian visa ‘on the spot’. You then pay a few euros for a printed form with a stamp. After you have done that, you can officially enter Moldova. In that case, you will have the guarantee that you can continue your journey with peace of mind.
2. China-Pakistan border crossing: the highest in the world
The world’s highest border crossing (4800m) is on the Pakistan-China border, at the famous Khunjerab pass. It is a remote place on the route of the famous Karakoram Highway towards the western Chinese city of Kashgar.
The contrasts between two countries, in this case China and Pakistan, are hardly anywhere more prominent than here. What is particularly special is that you are closer to Damascus then as you are to Beijing. Nevertheless, the comprehensive presence of the Chinese Communist Party on entering China is equally noticeable.
In recent years, China has been trying to get a better grip on the ethnic minorities in the western part of the country. Through cultural indoctrination and massive ‘imports’ of Han Chinese from the east, Beijing’s influence is becoming more and more noticeable.
The region is therefore of strategic importance to China. The Karakoram Highway is the most important link between China and the Indian Ocean. That is why a good relationship with Pakistan is so important for China. Certainly not least because of the tensions between China and India.
This Sino-Pakistani border crossing exposes all geopolitical relations well. That is why this is certainly a border crossing you have to experience.
2. Border crossing China North Korea (and also a piece of DMZ)
Many people wonder whether it is difficult to enter North Korea. That may be because the country is seen as one of the most isolated countries in the world. According to the prevailing image, North Korea is a closed place where it is difficult to go and it is also difficult to get away from if you have bad luck.
Entering via China
Yet (with a little help) it is quite easy to enter North Korea. You can do that via China, because the border with South Korea has been closed for years (you can visit the DMZ, by the way). The Russian-Korean border is also open, but mostly only for freight traffic and diplomats. Most tourists enter North Korea via the Chinese city of Dandong. This Chinese city lies on the banks of the Yalu River. With its Korean counterpart Sinuiju, which lies on the opposite bank, it forms a double city, as it were.
The only accessible bridge across the river is the China-North Korea Friendship Bridge. This auto-rail bridge is a one-way road. So at one point there is only one-way traffic: either to China or to North Korea. As a result, permanent traffic between the two countries is not possible. Next to the Friendship Bridge is the Broken Bridge. This bridge was bombed during the Korean War. The Chinese side is still there: as a silent witness of this forgotten war.
North Korean customs
When you cross the bridge from Dandong, you arrive by train at Sinujiu station. You are then officially in North Korea. This is also immediately noticeable by the Korean soldiers who enter into the train. Wildly gesticulating and talking, they hand over (unclear) immigration forms, while taking all the passports from the tourists. The controls carried out by the North Korean custom service are not very consistent. Sometimes all tourists have to open their suitcases on the platform. On other days, you have your passport back within fifteen minutes and the train continues to Pyongyang. But one thing is certain: you will always be admitted to North Korea with a valid visa.
Do you want to visit Transnistria, Pakistan or North Korea? Then make sure to take a look at our group tours and individual trips.