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Getting There

The airport is 12km (7 1/2 miles) north of downtown. Take a taxi from the airport for ¥10 to ¥15, or you can take bus no. 2, which terminates to the west of the Peoples' Square. The Xinjiang Airport Group (tel. 0998/282-2113) desk is next to reception in the Tianyuan International Hotel; they don't deliver tickets so bring your passport and buy your ticket on the spot or proceed through an agent. Several daily flights connect with Ürumqi, and onward flights can also be booked.

The railway station is southeast of town. Take a 15-minute taxi ride for ¥10, or take bus no. 28 to immediately east of the Peoples' Square. The station sells tickets up to 3 days in advance, and is open from 8:30am to 6pm, but if you want sleeper tickets in the high season it's easiest to proceed through a travel agency, or line up at the Kashi Huochezhan Shoupiao Chu (ticket office) at counter 5 of the Regional Bus Station on Tiannan Lu. Tickets can be purchased 5 days in advance. The ticket office is open from 9:30am to 1:30pm and 3 to 7:30pm. The K9788 for Ürumqi (23 hr.) leaves at 3:20pm, and the 7558 (31 hr.) departs at 8:56am.

Most buses connect to the grandly named International Bus Station (Guoji Qichezhan) in the north of town at Jichang Lu 29 (tel. 0998/296-3630). Fast, comfortable sleeper buses link with Ürumqi daily between 10am and 9pm (24 hr.; ¥248 lower berth, ¥229 upper berth). There are also regular buses to Aksu (468km/290 miles; 7 hr.; ¥86 lower berth, ¥80 upper berth, ¥62 seat), and three daily services (1, 4, and 6pm) to Kuqa (723km/448 miles; ¥131 lower berth, ¥121 upper berth) and Korla (1,003km/622 miles; ¥182 lower berth, ¥162 upper berth). There are three departures daily for the long trip to Yining (1,644km/1,019 miles; 35 hr.; ¥332 lower berth, ¥310 upper berth) at 1, 4, and 6pm. Buses to Sost (2 days; ¥270) and Gilgit (2 days; ¥350) in Pakistan stop overnight in Tashkurgan. Note that this service only runs in summer.

Twice a week a direct bus heads to Bishkek for the scenic ride over the Torugart Pass (¥470), but at press time, foreigners were not allowed on it. Until the pass is upgraded to a "first level" border crossing, travelers will need to charter a vehicle through a travel agency in Kashgar.

It is now possible to take a bus to Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan via Irkeshtam for ¥470. No permit is required, only a valid Kyrgyz visa. At present, the bus departs at 10am on Monday. In winter, you may need to proceed through travel agencies.

The Diqu Keyun Zhan (Regional Bus Station; tel. 0998/282-9673) on Tiannan Lu has buses to Khotan every 90 minutes from 9:30am (520km/322 miles; 8 hr.; ¥67), as well as a sleeper bus that leaves at 9:30pm (¥95 lower berth, ¥87 upper berth). There is also a daily local bus to Tashkurgan at 9:30am (294km/182 miles; 5 hr.; ¥51). There are regular buses to Yecheng (5 hr.; ¥34.50), for those considering the illegal journey to Tibet .

Departure times and tickets are quoted in Beijing time (2 hr. ahead of local time), but be sure to double-check when you buy your ticket.

The Back Door to Lhasa

A 4-hour bus ride south of Kashgar, Yecheng is the main point for hitching a ride to Ali (Shiquan He), the main town in western Tibet. Truck drivers ask in the vicinity of ¥1,000 and may be bargained down to ¥600 for the 1,100km (680-mile) trip that takes at least 4 days. It is likely to take several days to arrange a lift. Aside from travelers' tales of Frenchmen freezing to death in the backs of trucks, be aware that you are putting your driver at risk. If you make it to Ali without incident, at the very best expect to be fined by the PSB (¥400-¥500) and issued with an Aliens Travel Permit (¥50) to continue on to Lhasa; more likely you'll be turned around and sent back where you came from. It is now possible to undertake the journey legally, but for a price. Uighur Tours, Kashgar Mountaineering Adventures, and John's Information Cafe organize 2- or 3-week trips, the longer of which also take in Mount Kailash. Expect to pay at least US$2,500 per person. Permits, 4WD, drivers, accommodation, and entrance fees are generally included in the price, but not food.

Tours & Guides

Kashgar has an overload of travel agents, touts, and tour guides, many of whom are just out for a fast buck, but there are also some decent and professional agencies and individuals. Uighur Tours (tel. 0998/298-1073; www.uighurtour.com) in the lobby of the Chini Bagh is managed by a friendly local, Ali Tash, who can assist with everything from general advice on what to see in the city through to booking bus, plane, and train tickets, permit assistance, day trips to local markets and full-blown tours. Those interested in adventure travel such as the popular trek out to Mustagh Ata; an assault on the world's second-highest mountain, K2; or following in the footsteps of Swedish explorer Sven Hedin into the mountains south of Khotan, should connect with Kashgar Mountaineering Adventures (tel. 0998/252-3660; www.ksalpine.com) at 41301 Yudu Mansions, 43 Jiefang Nan Lu.

Visitor Information

Reliable advice may be obtained from Ali Tash at Uighur Tours (tel. 0998/298-1073; www.uighurtour.com) in the lobby of the Chini Bagh; and John's Information Cafe (tel. 0998/258-1186; www.johncafe.net), which has branches in both the Chini Bagh and Seman hotels.

Fast Facts

Banks, Foreign Exchange & ATMs -- Both traveler's checks and credit cards are accepted at counter 1 of the Bank of China (Mon-Fri 9:30am-1:30pm and 4-7pm) on the south side of Renmin Xi Lu, and there's an ATM outside. There's another branch with ATM just east of Renmin Square, although at the time of writing the main entrance was closed and you had to enter and proceed to the second floor via a courtyard next to the ATM.

Internet Access -- Access is available at John's Information Cafe for ¥5 per hour (8am-midnight), or at various wangba around the city; try the 24-hour basement wangba on the east side of Jiefang Nan Lu, just south of the junction with Renmin Lu for ¥2 to ¥3 per hour. Many places, including Fubar, the Karakoram Cafe, and the Former British Consulate Cafe on the ground floor of the Chini Bagh's North Building now offer free Wi-Fi for customers.

Post Office -- The main post office (10am-7:30pm) is at Renmin Xi Lu 7.

Visa Extensions -- The PSB (tel. 0998/282-2030) is located next to the Home Inn on Youmulake Xihai'er Lu. They are open Monday to Friday 9:30am to 1:30pm and 4 to 8pm and can process visa extensions in a day, but will generally only extend them if you have less than a week left on your current visa.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.