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Everything You Need To Know Before Traveling To Pakistan.

Pakistan is an incredible location for tourists with its breathtaking scenery and hospitable people. The rich culture of Pakistan is barely shown in the media amidst all the other news.

Despite all that goes on about the security and other matters of Pakistan, is now Pakistan becoming more and more popular with foreign tourists because of its ancient sites and soaring mountain ranges.

A Typical Pakistan truck in northern Pakistan.

A Typical Pakistan truck in northern Pakistan.

In the last decade or so, extensive military efforts have stabilised the country, and now, much of Pakistan is a safe and super place to travel to. Now that we have the primary concerns aside let us discuss what makes Pakistan a fantastic destination for travellers.

Fast Fact About Pakistan.

  • The border in the north with China close 31st. November and open again normally 1st May again.
    During winter, the roads are blocked by snow.
  • Daily Budget: Low 5/10 Usd. Middle 10/20Usd. High 25+Usd.

Important facts.

  • Capital: Islamabad, but Karachi is the biggest city.
  • Population: Approximately 200 Million.
  • Language: Urdu and English, it was never a problem finding English-speaking locals even in rural areas.
  • Currency: Pakistani rupee (RPS or Rs) 100RPS to 1USD and 110RPS to 1 Euro.

Travel Tips About Pakistan

  • ATM in the big city´s, only ATM´s in Gilgit in the north, bring USD/Euro to exchange.
  • If crossing the border to China, try to get some Chinese RMB before Sost, Sost often runs out of RMB.
  • Bring photocopies of your passport and visa; there are checkpoints where you need it.
  • Only drink bottled water!

When to Visit Pakistan

  • In Central and southern Pakistan: November to April.
  • Northern Mountains Areas: Can be visited all year but nights in December to February gets very cold.
  • Far Northern areas shut down from 1.December to around 1.may when the border with China is closed.
  • Do Not visit central Pakistan in August it´s unbearable warm and humid!

Food to Try in Pakistan

  • Haleem
  • Samosas
  • Behari Kabab
  • Biryani

Table Manners in Pakistan.

  • When offered, always accept tea, even if you only put it to your lips or just take a few sips.
  • Do not chew loud enough for others to hear.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Don´t put your elbows on the table.

 

Visa For Pakistan.

Getting a Pakistani visa was for a long time a real pain, where you could only apply in your home country and tons of papers where required. But lately, with the introduction of e-visa have things become easier but not perfect.
Before you start your application be sure you have a jpeg copy of your passport information page, and a passport photo of yourself, you will also need a letter of invitation from tour company or hotel booking confirmation.

The whole process takes around 1 hour do to a lot of question with some seem unnecessary and odd. The visa fee is 35usd, and it takes 7+/- working days to get approved. Be sure to print the email you get with your visa.

Man powered ferris wheel in Lahore

Man powered Ferris wheel in Lahore.

Getting To Pakistan.

Getting to Pakistan is easiest done by flight to one of the nine international airports in the country, Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are the main gateways to by air.
From Europe do British Airways operate flights between London and Islamabad.

National Airline “Pakistan International Airlines” operate flights between Pakistan and various European destinations like Oslo, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Manchester, Milan, Paris with more.

Major Middle Eastern Airlines like Ethiad, Emirates, Oman Airlines, Qatar Airlines and Turkish Airlines all have at least one daily flight to all major cities in Pakistan. Thai Airways has direct flights to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad from Bangkok.

Pakistan has land borders with India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the northeast. And a tinny border with Tajikistan in the northwest.

Overland travelling to Pakistan:

From India: Only possible at the Wagah border close to Lahore and Amritsar in India.

wagah border between Pakistan and India

The border between India and Pakistan

From Iran: Zahedan to Quetta in southwest Pakistan.
Afghanistan: No open border for foreigners, the legendary Khyber Pass is currently off-limit.
China: Across the world highest border crossing at Khunjerab Pass at an elevation of 4.733m (15,528ft) above sea level. The Khunjerab Pass is the highest point on the Karakoram Highway.
Tajikistan: No open border crossing. 

Sost last town in Pakistan before going to China.

Sost the last village before reaching China.

 

Getting Around Pakistan.

Getting around this huge country is easy, but it depends on your budget and the time you got to spare. The country got an extensive rail network, very comfortable buses, to dirt cheap minibuses, and budget flights s also getting more common between the larger cities here.

Traveling the amazing Karakoram HIghway in northern pakistan.

Travelling the amazing Karakoram Highway in the northern part of the country.

Budget Airline in Pakistan:
AirBlue
SerenaAir

National Airline in Pakistan:
Pakistan International Airlines

Train Traveling In Pakistan.
Pakistan has an extensive rail network covering most of the country from Karachi in the south, to Peshwar in the north.
If you want to travel with trains in Pakistan or wondering about train travelling in general check out this amazing guide about train travelling in Pakistan from Lost with Purpose.

Bus travelling around Pakistan. 
The two best bus companies here are Daewoo and NATCO in the northern part of the country.
While both companies are reliable and secure, so are they often almost five times more expensive than the cheap minibuses and larger local buses. But you get what you pay for.

Travelling within cities.
Uber and Careem is the best and safest way to travel around the bigger cities for foreigners. While a Rickshaw is cheaper for locals will they often overcharge foreigners.

Money In Pakistan.

Getting Money from an ATM or actually finding a working ATM can be a real pain in Pakistan, even in the larger cities can this be a problem.
There´s ATM in about every town in the country, but in smaller places, they often run out of money.

The most reliable banks in Pakistan for foreign bank cards are Allied Bank, Habib Bank, MCB Bank, Standard Charted. The banks charge a 500 (3usd) withdraw fee.
Primarily in Northern Pakistan does atm´s often run out and are only available in the larger town, so be sure to bring enough cash when you travel the Karakoram Highway.

Internet In Pakistan.

Wifi and 3/4G connection are technically available everywhere, but it can be very unstable and don´t expect it to be fast and reliable.

WIFI: About every hotel and guesthouse in the country together with upscale coffee shops and restaurants have WiFi These days, but don´t expect it to be fast outside of the main cities in Pakistan.

Travel guide to Pakistan

complete travel guide to Pakistan

Getting a local sim card is your best bet if you require internet. There are currently 4 (5) different network companies in Pakistan, with Jazz, is the largest followed by Telenor and Zong (China Mobile) all three works fine in most of the country.

If you are planning to travel to the two northern regions Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan so are SCOM the network to get, SCOM only works in the two northern regions, the other networks also works in the north, but SCOM has much better coverage then the others.

Buying a sim card in Pakistan can be a bit of a pain as a foreigner. Foreigners/Tourists can´t be a sim card from any small shop; we will have to visit the bigger shops called customer service centres, where you will likely have to wait for a while in a line together with tens of other locals.
You will have to fill out a registration form, and you will have to bring your passport.

For SCOM are the Costumer service centres in Astore, Aliabad Gilgit, and Karimabad. For Azad Kashmir are the best Customer Service centres in Mirpur and Muzaffarabad.

Language in Pakistan.

The vast country is home to  74 different languages spoken as first languages. With five of them have more than 10 million speakers each around the country – Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki and Urdu.
But Urdu is the national language in Pakistan, which, along with English, is also the official language.

And from my personal experience is it easier to find a good English speaking local in Pakistan compared to a good English speaking person in India, especially outside the main tourist trail.

Power Plugs in Pakistan. 

The standard voltage is 230 V, and the standard frequency is 50 Hz with the power plugs mostly being standard European power plugs.

Why Should You Travel To Pakistan?

What is it that makes Pakistan a great place to visit? There are all these beautiful places, but then what really sets the country apart is its people. The values, culture, and hospitality is definitely something that travellers should experience in their lifetime.

Based on my own experience of travelling around the country, here are some reasons you should visit.

  • Magnificent scenery: Pakistan has a variety of beautiful mountains that includes some of the world’s highest mountain ranges, the Himalayas. Apart from the incredible trekking and hiking sites, the peaceful villages and valleys up north are what make Pakistan worth visiting.

  • Ancient sites: Mughal era mansions, Silk Road relics, ancient Buddhist abbeys, and some destroyed civilisations are few of the many historical sites that you can visit in Pakistan.

  • Cuisine: Thousands of delicious dishes and cuisines, including biryani, karahi, nihari, and haleem are like no other you have ever eaten.

  • Culture: The rich culture of Pakistan is a very exciting prospect for travellers. From the Sindhi Ajrak to the Punjabi bhangra, you will get to learn a lot about the people in the subcontinent from Pakistan.

  • Hospitality: If not for anything, the friendliness, generosity, and overall hospitality of Pakistan are what make it one of the best tourism sites in the world. Often, you will go entire trips without having to pay a dime! Such is the hospitality of the people of Pakistan.

What To Wear When Travelling In Pakistan?

While packing for Pakistan, dressing for the weather will be the hardest thing to do. But click here to read a good guide about what to wear in Pakistan.

Pants or trousers with any sort of shirt will be sufficient for men for daily wear. You can wear t-shirts, polos, and formal shirts with no one batting an eye. As for shorts, you can wear those too, but then the people will give you stares as they’re meant for the home only. Men wearing tank tops are very rare here, so it’s best to avoid those.

Pakistan Cold

The Northern Part of the country it can get very cold.

For women, the traditional combination of shirt and pant, known as shalwar kameez, is the most suitable dress for you in while travelling here. It is comfortable and easy to wear in the cities with 40°C+ temperatures. Moreover, you will earn a lot of local respect too if you decide to invest in shalwar kameez.

However, the mountains won’t allow you to wear this. They are cold even in the summers. Irrespective of whether you’re trekking or not, warm clothes that should pack your body with robust shoes are a necessity if you’re about to visit the northern side.

How to find the best accommodation in Pakistan?

Finding accommodation can be difficult in Pakistan. Online bookings and websites can be useful, but only if you are staying at high-end hotels. The rest of them prefer direct calls for the reservations of rooms, especially up north where most of the mountain ranges and valleys are.

Booking.com and Airbnb are getting more familiar here. However, there are still mostly mid-range and luxury hotels.

The mid-range accommodation options broaden up at Facebook pages that are common and an easier way to contact and reserve a room. There are several travel groups that you can find with tour guides and information about the cheapest places to stay all over the country. Backpacking Pakistan is one such group.

For women, Female Pakistan Travelers is a popular group to get information on accommodation, clothing, and other aspects.

Finding a cheap place to sleep is a challenge for a newcomer. Guidebooks cannot be relied upon for prices. You’ll need to find a traveller to guide you for your tour as not all cheap hotels or guesthouses accept foreign tourists.

The People of Pakistan and Hospitality of the locals.

The people of Pakistan are the most hospitable, kind, and welcoming around the globe. From the bustling streets of Karachi to the beautiful valley of Hunza, every local that interacts with you would reward a grin, a free cup of chai and often an invitation to their house.

local Pakistani

Locals got the style

friendly pakistan

friendly local

Pakistani people consider guests as a gift from God, and therefore it is an honour for them to treat these guests. They would invite you to stay in their house despite not knowing you at all. They would sleep on the floor just so you can sleep on the only bed in the house.

Even during the month of Ramadan when they are fasting, they will not fail to offer you some of the best dishes they have to offer.
They would become your tour guide and invest their time to show you the cities and villages with not expecting any favour in return. They would gift you anything just to make you happy and to show their hospitality.

The people of this country are its greatest asset. They are the people who are the easiest to interact with.

However, sometimes, it can be difficult to deal with a Pakistani. 97% of this country’s population is Muslim.
This makes the country homogenous, and therefore, its people are mostly conservatives.

They are unable to handle criticism. Everything here has a way to do, and anyone opposing it may face the intolerant people. People do not really welcome a difference of opinions.

pakistan

Best beard ever

Pakistan is an Islamic republic that makes religion the most sensitive subject there. They are very open to accepting people having other faiths but admitting atheism there can cause a problem for you. Therefore, you should be careful when discussing religion in the country.

This should not pull you off visiting and its people though; just to be cautious, as a rule of thumb, be respectful to their religion and their practices and all should go well!

The Pakistan infrastructure and what to expect.

Considering it is a developing country, you should expect some things if you’re planning a visit to Pakistan. The toilets on roadside dhabas and village homes are not more than just holes. Road closures, strikes or car breakdowns would change a 6-hour drive into a 10-hour road journey.

You can face paved roads with potholes with dirt and nearly everything and anything in between this journey. The flights to Gilgit and Skardu may get cancelled due to weather conditions. At times, you will also have to put in a hassle with the airport staff because of the unspoken weight limits of your bags too.

There is not much anyone can do anything about this. This might demotivate you to plan a tour here, but it will still be worth visiting.

Drugs, drinks and beer in Pakistan.

You have to be careful with substances in Pakistan. The authorities will not be easy for you to deal with if they find you on drugs. Even though the general public is fine with substance use, there are still some issues regarding the legality and morality of substance use here.

Murree Brewery is the only legal beer brewery in Pakistan. They have a monopoly in this industry as It deals with every kind of alcohol.
The religion there prohibits alcohol, so only the foreigners/non-Muslims can purchase from permit shops or high-end hotels. You can find local illegal brands, especially in multicultural Sindh, but they can be a great risk for you by legal means.

Some people might arrange imported material for you without a permit and charge an extra fee for it, but it is best to avoid that.

#beer #Pakistan_beer #Murre

Murree´s Millennium, the only local beer.

Being A Responsible Tourist.

It is the responsibility of every tourist to leave a positive image to the country and its people.

A tourist to Pakistan can easily indulge in bad activities that are encouraged in Pakistan, but one should always remember its responsibility as a tourist. Here are some things that a tourist should keep in mind while visiting this beautiful country.

Do not capture someone’s photograph without asking them, especially women. The same goes for taking pictures of children without their parent’s consent. They can be very sensitive about this picture, and their male family members might abuse or even beat you.

Similar to neighbouring India so are Pakistan not a very clean country in terms of garbage and trash. Keep the country clean and become an example for the local people too. Do not throw trash anywhere other than the dustbin.
This will create an image of good to the people here that might take you as an example to keep their country clean.

Local guides and drivers would help you with your tour. You can find a Punjabi as they tend to control the tourism field, but these locals are only in Punjab.

Places You Should Visit In Pakistan

There are countless places that tourists can visit all over the country, but it is almost impossible to cover all of them on a single tour. If you are visiting Pakistan for the first time, I recommend including the following places to enjoy an experience of a lifetime:

The Mountain Ranges.

The Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain ranges are two of the highest in the world. You can find the peaks of these ranges in the northern part of the country.

When visiting the country, you should consider visiting K1 through K5 peaks (particularly K2, which is the second-highest in the world), the Siachen glacier, and Nanga Parbat. These are some of the most breathtaking sites that I have come across all my travels and would recommend them to everyone visiting Pakistan.

Hunza Valley.

The Hunza Valley is the Shangri La of Pakistan – the mountainous valley is situated in Gilgit-Baltistan and is home to the most beautiful trekking sites, historic sites, rivers, and waterfalls in the country. There is nothing more fulfilling then overlooking the sunset over the Hunza Valley from the Eagle’s Nest. 

Hunza Valley

The beautiful Hunza valley in the northern part of the country.

Baltit fort

Baltit fort in Hunza Valley

Chapursan Valley.

One of the most peaceful sites to visit in the north of the country is the Chapursan valley. From the incredible hospitality of the locals to the superb trekking sites, if you enjoy some alone time and want to connect yourself with mother nature, then you should add Chapursan to your list of places to visit in here.

Chapursan valley in northern pakistan

The amazing Chapursan valley in the northern part of the country

The Silk Road.

The Silk Road is a historic trade route that spans the Orient and linked the treasures of the Roman Empire to the dynasties of China.

If you want to go back in history, then you should visit the Silk Road, which is right at the heart of the Karakoram ranges. If you are looking for a stunning view, an incredible motorbike/driving adventure, then you should visit the Silk Road on the seemingly endless Karakoram highway another historical part of Pakistan worth a visit is the stunning Swat Valley

The Major Cities: Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar.

If you want to experience the culture and cuisine of Pakistan, then I recommend visiting the major cities that the country have to offer.
Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, but not the largest city in the country, will most likely be your first destination and gives you a taste of what the country is all about.

For a better experience of the cuisines and culture, visit Karachi (the commercial hub of the country) in Sindh, Lahore in Punjab, and Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Is Pakistan Safe? And which Places should you stay away from?

For various reasons, some places in Pakistan are still considered unsafe or inaccessible for foreign travellers. When you plan your trip here, it is best to leave out these places from your itinerary.

  • The Khyber Pass, Waziristan, and adjacent areas to the Afghan border.

  • Balochistan, including the major city of Quetta, most foreign travellers are not permitted to visit the province due to security concerns. It is best to listen to authority on this matter unless you have permission.

  • Azad Kashmir is currently a disputed area between India and Pakistan. You can visit Muzaffarabad and the adjacent areas but not anything too close to the border, which has a heavy presence of Military particularly the 15-mile-wide buffer zone along the Line of Control that separates India and Pakistan.

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    complete travel guide to pakistan

    Complete travel guide to Pakistan, everything you need to know, from transportation to visa, where to visit and what to wear.

    Travel guide to Pakistan

    Travel guide to Pakistan

     

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Gail Fewson

Thursday 12th of December 2019

Damn, now I want to go back NOW. I was there in September this year via Tashkurgan. Northern Pakistan is the most beautiful place I have visited. Wasn't that excited by Islamabad and Lahore but lad I saw them. The immigration check point at Dust was a great experience. They were so friendly and happy. After China it was good to hear laughter. Definitely need to return. Highly recommend this wonderful country.