Travel Guide Asia Pakistan



Pulao at a cafe.

Pulao at a cafe.

© alexchan

Pakistan is embroiled in a Cold War type conflict with India, has unsteady neighbours like Afghanistan and is developing a growing dislike for the US and its War on Terror: if you brave these obstacles and survive, we think the experience of travelling Pakistan is almost worth the danger.

Though Pakistan is a Muslim nation, its past was heavily influenced by the two other major religions in the area as well. Monuments of Hinduism and Buddhism reveal some of the complexities of Pakistan, while making for fantastic sightseeing. Sights are most dramatic in the north, though, where the landscape is perhaps the most impressive in all of Asia: gut-wrenching peaks (including K2, the second highest mountain in the world) are great photo opportunities, or, if you're the mountaineering type, the biggest adventure of your life. Even for those a little less daring, trekking through Pakistan is immensely rewarding.

Warning: Many foreign governments advise against travel to much of Pakistan. Protests can take place throughout Pakistan with little warning and can turn violent quickly. You should avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events. During holy periods/religious holidays, there is an increased potential for targeted attacks. The threat of terrorism, kidnap and sectarian violence is high throughout the country, including large cities like Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi. Foreigners may be directly targeted. Densely populated areas such as markets, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, airports, and public transport are potential targets..



Brief History

The first known inhabitants of the modern-day Pakistan region are believed to have been the Soanian - Homo erectus, who settled in the Soan Valley and Riwat almost 2 million years ago. Over the next several thousand years, the region would develop into various civilizations like Mehrgarh and the Indus Valley Civilization. Throughout its history, the region has also been apart of various Greek, Persian, Turkic, Islamic and British empires.

The political history of the nation began with the birth of the All India Muslim League in 1906 to protect Muslim interests, amid fears of neglect and under-representation of Muslims, in case the British Raj decided to grant local self-rule. On the 29 December 1930, Muhammad Iqbal called for an autonomous state in "northwestern India for Indian Muslims", demanding the formation of independent states for Muslims in the East and the West of British India. Eventually, a united Pakistan with two wings - West Pakistan and East Pakistan - gained independence from the British, on August 14, 1947.

Pakistan declared itself an Islamic republic on adoption of a constitution in 1956, but the civilian rule was stalled by the 1956 military coup d'etat by Ayub Khan, who ruled during a period of internal instability and a second war with India in 1965. Economic grievances and political dissent in East Pakistan led to violent political tensions and army repression, escalating into civil war followed by the third war with India. This ultimately led to the secession of East Pakistan and the brith of Bangladesh. Modern-day Pakistan came in existence in 1971, after a civil war in the distant East Pakistan and emergence of an independent Bangladesh.

Civilian rule resumed from 1972 to 1977 under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, until he was deposed by General Zia-ul-Haq, who became the country's third military president. Pakistan's secular policies were replaced by the Islamic Shariah legal code, which increased religious influences on the civil service and the military. With the death of Zia-ul-Haq in 1988, Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan. Over the next decade, she alternated power with Nawaz Sharif, as the country's political and economic situation worsened. Military tensions in the Kargil conflict with India were followed by a 1999 coup d'état in which General Pervez Musharraf assumed executive powers.

In 2001, Musharraf named himself President after the resignation of Rafiq Tarar. In the 2002 Parliamentary Elections, Musharraf transferred executive powers to newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who was succeeded in the 2004 by Shaukat Aziz. On November 15, 2007 the National Assembly completed its term and a caretaker government was appointed with the former Chairman of The Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro as Prime Minister. Following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, that resulted in a series of important political developments, her husband Asif Ali Zardari was eventually elected as the new President.

Elections were held in May 2013. Nawaz Sharef became Prime Minister Of Pakistan, while Mamnoon Hussain became the president Of Pakistan.




Pakistan covers an area of 796,095 km2, approximately equal to the combined land areas of France and the United Kingdom. It is the 36th largest nation by total area, although this ranking varies depending on how the disputed territory of Kashmir is counted. Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre-long coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and land borders of 6,774 kilometres in total: 2,430 kilometres with Afghanistan, 523 kilometres with China, 2,912 kilometres with India and 909 kilometres with Iran. It shares a marine border with Oman, and is separated from Tajikistan by the cold, narrow Wakhan Corridor. Pakistan occupies a geopolitically important location at the crossroads of South Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia.
Ranging from the coastal areas of the south to the glaciated mountains of the north, Pakistan's landscapes vary from plains to deserts, forests, hills and plateaus. Pakistan is divided into three major geographic areas: the northern highlands, the Indus River plain and the Balochistan Plateau.[138] The northern highlands contain the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges (see mountains of Pakistan), which contain some of the world's highest peaks, including five of the fourteen eight-thousanders (mountain peaks over 8,000 metres), which attract adventurers and mountaineers from all over the world, notably K2 (8,611 metres) and Nanga Parbat (8,126 metres). The Balochistan Plateau lies in the west and the Thar Desert in the east. The 1,600-kilometre-long Indus River and its tributaries flow through the country from the Kashmir region to the Arabian Sea. There is an expanse of alluvial plains along it in Punjab and Sindh.





  • Balochistan - The largest and most remote province, its lack of infrastructure can make for rough travelling. Most foreign visitors here are just passing through from Iran, stopping briefly in Quetta.
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Old name = North West Frontier Provinces "NWFP") - Home of the rugged Pashtuns, and some of the most hospitable people in the country. Northern Pakhtunkhwa (including Swat, Abbottabad, etc) is considered the most beautiful part of Pakistan.
  • Punjab - The most populous and agriculturally fertile region in the country, and home to many historical shrines and mosques.
  • Sindh - Most visitors head for Karachi or the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-daro but the region offers a lot more to see.


Pakistani-administered portions of the Kashmir

  • Azad Kashmir - Pakistan-administered portion of the disputed Kashmir region is sometimes referred to as "Heaven on Earth" because of its scenic beauty.
  • Northern Areas - Home to some of the world's tallest mountains, it's brimming with dramatically fantastic landscapes and can easily compete with Nepal for trekking opportunities.




  • Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan
  • Karachi is Pakistan's economic and social centre, also it is the world's second most populated city. Located on the Arabian Sea, it acts as the country's economic hub and boasts Pakistan's largest port.
  • Lahore is an amazing city with a long complex history.
  • Faisalabad - a major city in Punjab, famous for its textile industry
  • Gilgit
  • Muzaffarabad - capital of Azad Kashmir and a very picturesque city
  • Rawalpindi
  • Multan - the City of Saints, famous for blue pottery, ornamental glasswork, and Khussa – a type of shoes
  • Hyderabad
  • Peshawar is the border town between Pakistan and the tribal areas of the north.
  • Quetta - a large, beautiful and slightly unruly city in the southern state of Balochistan, you'll pass through here en route to or from Iran
  • Sialkot - the city of sports goods, famous for its exports industry, and one of the oldest cities in the region
  • Taftan is the border crossing town with Iran.



Sights and Activities

Fairy Meadows

Fairy Meadows

© zartash


Pakistan is noted as having some of the best trekking terrain in the world. From hosting K2 treks to leading the Karakoram trail into China its rare that a country could top Pakistan for its breathtaking mountain views. These trails range from novice inclined to full scale 'Hiliary' type expeditions. Unlike many other mountainous countries, Pakistan's ice capped trails are largely tourist free due to recent political problems. But the northern areas are renown for their peaceful and friendly inhabitants.

Be prepared though. Not much, if any, equipment is available to buy in Pakistan. So make sure you bring your own equipment such as hiking boots, weather gear and anything else you might need on a trail.


Further south in Peshawar you will experience a city that few others on the planet can top. Peshawar has become a haven for Afghan refugees and settlers since the war in their homeland. As such the city had grown a new cultural behaviour that is quite fascinating to behold. Afghan's mixed with local Pashtun's create a wealth of culinary, visual and cultural delights for the traveller.

It's not a city for the weak at heart though. Peshawar is very crowded. The roads make some of India's look tame in comparison. Cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, bicycles, motorbike, cars, multicoloured buses and people all hustle for space here in amongst plumes of oily smoke. Yet in amongst all this chaos you will still be greeted by friendly faces, bar the odd manic taxi driver.

Khyber Pass

Peshawar is also home to the starting point of the Khyber Pass trail. Made famous as the main overland route used by Kings and war mongers of yesterday as a gateway between Central Asia, Asia, and Europe. Alexander the Great is perhaps it's most famous of travellers. Today it is an excellent hike to a still very remote part of the world.


Moenjodara is a short train from Karachi or a water taxi from Larkana. This stunning ancient Indus Valley city dates back to 2500 BC other then one stupa. This is by far one of the best persevered Indus Valley cities. There is also an excellent museum attached to the sight that has several nice relics.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Chaukundi tombs and cemeteries are an amazing place outside of Karachi.
  • Khunjerab Pass and National Park is located high in the mountains and on the border with China, this national park and mountain pass has stunning archaeological sites and wildlife.
  • Nathiagali is a great place to enjoy hikes in heavily wooded hills and mountains.
  • Takht-I-Bahi is the stunning ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery.
  • Hunza Valley



Events and Festivals

National Cultural Festival

Kicking off the festival calendar in February, the National Cultural Festival is a celebration of Pakistan’s rich and diverse cultures. Organized by the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, the festival spans nine days and is filled with a host of cultural activities including everything from traditional music and dance shows to crafts fairs where local craftsman and artisans display their goods. Travelers who are lucky to be in Islamabad during this period are bound to receive a crash course in Pakistan’s culture.

Pakistan Flower Show

Also in February is the annual Pakistan flower show. Held in Karachi at Sea View Park, the flower show displays the best in flowers and plants that the region has to offer. The event is professionally organized by the Horticulture Society of Pakistan and the vibrant colors and decadent aromas are a feast for the senses.


One of the most popular festivals in the country is Basant, the annual kite festival. Held in March in Lahore, the festival takes place to welcome the arrival of spring and wave goodbye to the winter. The skies are filled with amazingly colorful kites and both adults and children have a wonderful time.

Shandur Cup

Fans of the equestrian sports will be happy with the Shandur Cup, a polo festival which takes place every year in July. Established in 1936, this festival is a Pakistani institution with people from all over the country traveling to the Shandur Pass, between Gilgit and Chitral, to partake in the fun. The world’s highest polo tournament is met with great celebration in the form of musical events and folk dancing.

Chitral Festival

Taking place every year for a week in September, the Chitral Festival is a celebration of competitive sports in the country. Everything from archery, wrestling and rock climbing to sitar music, dance and the dramatic arts can be seen on display. This ‘Pakistani Olympics’ is extremely popular, with many tour groups placing it at the top on their itineraries.

Lahore Fashion Week

Lahore is the country’s fashion capital which is why it makes sense that the annual Fashion Week is held here. Taking place every October and organized by the Pakistan Fashion Design Council, the event is well-known world wide. The festival has also garnered great attention, mainly as a result of the threats made by extremists who are opposed to it because of the skimpy clothing worn by many models.




There are many variations in the climate in Pakistan, with very high mountains in the north, deserts in the south and southeast that receive little rain and of course the wet season in many parts of the country. There are three principal seasons:

1. From mid-October until late February is the cool season, when the weather is generally pleasant, sunny, and relatively warm by day but with chilly nights and occasional frost in some areas. There is some rain in the northern and western parts of the country. Temperatures in much of the country are around 25 °C during the day. Conditions in the higher mountains at this time are cold, with snow and extremely low temperatures high in the mountains. But temperatures in the south and centre of the country rise to much higher levels. The heath is unpleasant despite the relatively low humidity. Some occasional rain may occur at this time and ther is also the possibility of dust storms at this time.

2. From March onwards to June the temperatures start to rise and in some places humidity increases as well. Jacobabad for example has the reputation of being one of the hottest places in the world from April until September. June is the hottest month with average daytime temperatures of 46 °C and an absolute high of 53 °C! Nights are sometimes over 30 °C.

3. The rainy season over most of the country is from late June until early October. This is the season of the southwest monsoon and although temperatures are a little lower the high humidity makes this time not a very pleasant one to visit.
Still, not all of Pakistan is equally wet during the rainy season. The wet season is most common in the eastern and central lowlands of the country, for example in Islamabad, where daytime temperatures of 35 to 40 °C are combined with almost 250 mm of rain in July and August. The desert region of the south and southeast receives little rain at this time and is sunny and hot. More towards the coast there is some relief of the heat but higher humidity makes things equally bad in for example Karachi.



Getting There

By Plane

Pakistan International Airlines, the national carrier, is based at Jinnah International Airport (KHI) in Karachi, the largest airport in the country. Other international airports include Allama Iqbal International Airport (LHE) in Lahore and Islamabad International Airport (ISB) in the capital Islamabad.

Destinations are mainly to major Asian cities and also to some European and North American cities such as London, New York and Toronto.

By Train

  • Karachi to Jodhpur

Since February 2006, a train travels between the Indian city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan and the coastal city of Karachi in Pakistan. It's the first international train travelling directly between the two countries since 1965.
The Thar Express leaves Karachi at 11:00pm on Fridays, taking almost 24 hours before arriving in Jodhpur on Saturday evening. In the opposite direction, trains leave and arrive on approximately the same time on the same days taking 24 hours as well.

  • Lahore to Amritsar

On Mondays and Thursdays the Samjhota Express leaves Amritsar at 7:00am, scheduled to arrive in Lahore in Pakistan just after 2:00pm. In the other direction, trains leave Lahore on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8.30am to the Indian town of Atari, from where there are connections to Amritsar, arriving at 3:00pm.

As of late 2007 the train from Iran into Pakistan via Taftan and onto Quetta no longer runs with passengers. There is still a cargo train from Taftan to Quetta, but it is unclear if passengers can board.

By Car

You will need a Carnet de Passage if you are travelling through with your own vehicle, the police/customs will stop you and ask for it. If driving your own vehicle be prepared for crazy traffic. Be sure to have proper insurance as well as an international driving permit. Crossings to/from Iran and India are the easiest and quite a few people make it here overland from Europe to Asia.

By Bus

You can cross into Pakistan to/from India, Iran, China and Afghanistan. There are few direct buses though. The best one to take is the bus between Lahore and Delhi. With proper visa arranged, crossings to the other countries are also possible but usually require a change of transport across the border and you have to cross on foot. Crossing to China is via the Khunjerab pass. Buses go to Tashkurgan at the border and onward across the border to Kashgar. To Iran, the border crossing is at Taftan and buses go from Quetta to the border and onwards to Zahedan in Iran. A popular route to Afghanistan is from Peshawar across the Khyber Pass towards Jalalabad and Kabul.
Note that due to ungoing safety problems in the north of Pakistan, crossings to and from Afghanistan and China might not be safe or even possible anymore. Check the latest conditions once in Pakistan.

By Boat

There are no international passenger services by ferry.



Getting Around

By Plane

Pakistan International Airlines, Aero Asia and Bhoja Air are just a few airlines that have domestic routes. There are many daily flights between Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Sukkur, Faisalabad and Quetta.

By Train

Train services, operated by Pakistan Railway, are easy in Pakistan, but it is advisable to book ahead by a day or so. The hardest part in travelling by train is understanding the various classes and types of seats. The basics are: Economy, which is just a seat. Berth, which is pretty much a long cushioned seat of, and Parlor. The latter two have the added option of being with or with out air conditioning. For longer short or budget travel Berth in 1st class AC would be a good option. There's a very good and cheap book for sale just about everywhere (try outside the stations) called Time & Fare Table, that's worth the purchase to save time understanding which train you need, and what type of seat.

By Car

You will need a carnet de passage if you are travelling through with your own vehicle, the police/customs will stop you and ask for it. Taxis are cheap and plentiful. If driving your own vehicle be prepared for crazy traffic.
It is usually much better to rent a car with a driver who doubles as a guide. If you want to drive yourself, there are car rental agencies in most bigger cities and the airports of Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

By Bus

Buses a numerous and plentiful in Pakistan. They lack air conditioning in all but a few companies Daewoo being the most popular and reliable, but are generally not too uncomfortable. You baggage is placed on the roof. Nearly all buses are brightly and colourfully decorated with lucky charms hanging from every conceivable area.

It is not possible for a tourist to take a direct Bus from Quetta to Peshawar due to the NWFP terrorist activities, for your own protection police have been asked to remove tourists from any buses traveling that route and send them back. The only option is to avoid the NWFP by either train or bus.

By Boat

Most boats used by travellers are on the Indus River and include tours and packages. There are no noteworthy regular public passenger services.



Red Tape

Visa Restrictions: Entry will be refused to citizens of Israel with an Israeli passport. However, other passports containing Israeli stamps or visas are not problematic for entry.

Citizens of 24 "Tourist Friendly Countries" (TFC) are eligible for one month visas on arrival if they travel through a designated/authorised tour operator who will assume responsibility for them while in the country. Any extensions of this type of visa must also be done through the tour operator. They include: Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, UK and USA.

Nationals of most other countries (and those not wanting to travel with a tour operator and group) need to apply in advance for a visa, which are usually issued for 30-90 days depending on nationality and where you apply. Double-entries are sometimes given, but be clear and persistent that you need this when applying. Visas for Pakistan are usually easier to obtain in your home country as the missions around the world have been given more authority to issue visas without checking with Islamabad, which should help in getting applications turned around quicker.

A handful of countries are issued visas on arrival: Iceland and Maldives for 3 months, Hong Kong, Nepal and Samoa for 1 month, while Tonga and Trinidad and Tobago nationals can stay for an unlimited amount of time.

Nationals of Israel are not allowed entry as it is not recognised as a nation by Pakistan (and most other Muslim countries), but there is no restriction on Jews holding passports from other nations. Despite much on-line information to the contrary, Israeli stamps and visas would usually pose no problems for entry into Pakistan, though you may be subject to more stringent questioning by immigration officers. And while under normal circumstances visas can not be obtained by Israeli passport holders, there have been exceptions in which nationals of Israel have been admitted to Pakistan after obtaining an NOC from the Ministry of Interior in Islamabad beforehand, which they then submitted along with application for Pakistani visa.

Indian nationals can apply for 30 day tourist visas but must travel in a group through an authorised tour operator. Visitor visas to meet relatives or friends are more easy to obtain, and come with some restrictions. Religious visas are granted for groups of 10 or more for 15 days. The High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi issues visas with varying degrees of difficulty, taking at least 1 day (and sometimes several) to process the application. Applications are only accepted in the mornings from around 09:00-11:00. Arrive early and expect the process to take a few hours, and possibly a few return visits. Window 5 is for foreign tourist and business visas (under the big white sign).

Nationals of Afghanistan are refused entry if their passports or tickets show evidence of transit or boarding in India.

Citizens of certain countries can obtain Business visas on arrival at major airports (Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta or Karachi) if their local host company either obtain an approval from the immigration authorities or arrange an invitation letter duly recommended by the concerned trade organizations in Pakistan. Recommendation letter issued by chamber of commerce & industry is also acceptable.

The Pakistan Consulate in Istanbul does not issue visas unless you are a resident of Turkey, although it may be possible in Ankara.

The consulate in Zahedan in Iran no longer issues visas, head for the embassy in Tehran.

People of Pakistani origin living overseas are granted 5 year multiple entry visas (along with their spouses), good for single stays of up to 1 year. Visas aren't required at all if they are holding a Pakistan Origin Card (POC) or a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).

As of January 2018, applications for tourist visas in Delhi are refused to everyone, regardless of the nationality.




See also: Money Matters

Pakistan uses the Rupee (Rs) which comes in the form of Rs5, Rs10, Rs50, Rs100, Rs500 and Rs1,000 denomination notes. There are also some lower denomination coins of Rs1, Rs2 and Rs5.

A lot of the notes are quite battered and torn, some shop keepers will refuse to accept them. So it's best to refuse them yourself.

There are ATMs scattered around most of the larger cities that accept VISA and MasterCard. But they rely on a satellite system to connect and this can often be off line. So its best to keep a stash of cash with you. Standard Chartered is a reliable bank and is in most of the main cities. Once past Chitral there are no ATMs. Money changers are plentiful.




Urdu is both the national and an official language and is spoken throughout Pakistan as a lingua franca. In addition to Urdu, most Pakistanis speak their regional languages or dialects such as Punjabi, Pothohari, Sindhi, Pashto (Pushtun), Balochi, Saraiki, Shina, Burushaski, Khowar, Wakhi, Hindko etc.

English is also an official language (British control began in the 1840's and did not end until 1947). English is widely spoken and understood in major cities, as well as at varying levels of competence by many people around the country. It is used in government, educational establishments and is widely used in the business and corporate worlds and especially in banking and trading.




Pakistani cuisine is a refined blend of various regional cooking traditions of South Asia. Pakistani cuisine is known for its richness, having aromatic and sometimes spicy flavors, and some dishes often contain liberal amounts of oil which contributes to a richer, fuller mouthfeel and flavour. It is very similar to Indian cuisine and there is a good chance that you'd have tasted it in your country as Indian food and Pakistan food often served together in a restaurant.

Cuisine in Pakistan varies greatly from region to region. Besides the main dishes of salan, with or without meat and cooked with vegetables or lentils, there are a number of provincial specialties such as karahi, biryani, and tikka, in various forms and flavours, eaten alongside a variety of breads such as naan, chapati, and roti.




Pakistan has a decent range of hotels covering all price ranges. International tourists are often disappointed by the cleanliness of Pakistani hotels - bedding is often clean but bathrooms can be a bit grungy.

The cheapest hotels are usually found around busy transport hubs like bus and train stations. Don't be fooled by an impressive lobby - ask to see the room and check the beds, toilets, lights, etc, before checking in. Hot water and air conditioning will be luxuries in this class.

Mid range covers a wide spectrum of hotels - often listed in your guide book or on-line. All mid-range places will have a/c and hot water - although check if they have a working generator - air conditioning isn't of much use without electricity! Always check the room before handing over any money - ask for a no smoking room away from the street - and haggle to get a better rate. PTDC (government run) hotels fall in to the mid range section and warrant a special mention - often these places are the oldest hotel in town, in an excellent location, but the facilities will be showing their age. They are still a good option however, and discounts can be negotiated. Mid range prices are around Rs2,000 - Rs6,000 per night.

Top end covers the Serenas, Pearl Continentals and Marriotts. The Serena hotels are almost always excellent, whilst the Pearl Continental hotels are more patchy (e.g. the one in Rawalpindi is a bit grungy whilst the one in Muzaffarabad is very nice. At top-end places, security is very visible with small armies of security guards stationed around the perimeter. Prices are from Rs 6,000 and up, with the big city luxury hotels charging at least Rs 10,000 a night.

Government rest houses are mentioned in numerous guide books and are located in rural and mountainous areas for local civil servants to use on their travels, with many built pre-independence and exuding a quaint English charm. Back in the day the adventurous tourist could book these places for the night for Rs1,000 or so, and have a lovely time. But the tourist slump means that the forestry departments who run these places don't bother any more - phones will go unanswered - tourist information offices won't have any details etc, so count yourself lucky if you manage to arrange to stay in a Government rest house.




Tap water can be unsafe for drinking. However, some establishments have water filters/purifiers installed, in which case the water is safe to drink. Packed drinking water (normally called mineral water in Pakistan) is a better choice. As for bottled water, make sure that the cap's seal has not been broken, otherwise, it is a tell tale sign of tampering or that unscrupulous vendors reuse old bottles and fill them with tap water, which is generally unsafe for foreign tourists to drink without prior boiling. Bottled water brands like Aquafina (by PepsiCo) and Nestle (by Nestle) are widely available and costs Rs 80 for a 1.5L bottle of mineral water. At semi-urban or rural areas, it may be appropriate to ask for boiled water as well.

Try a local limca cola, which makes a "pop" sound when opened. Pakola, Pakistan's premier soft drink brand, is available in flavours such as Ice cream soda, Lychee, Orange, Raspberry, Apple Sidra, Vino, Double cola and Bubble up. Try Lassi, which is a classic yoghurt drink served either plain or sweet and sometimes flavoured or even fused with fresh fruit. Rooh-Afza, a red-coloured, sweet, herbal drink. Sugar Cane Juice — which is extracted by mechanical force — is best when served fresh. You might also love the Falouda and Gola Ganda, which include various kinds of syrups in crushed ice.

Tea (or Chai as it is referred to in Pakistan) is popular throughout the country.

In the warmer southern region, sweet drinks are readily available throughout the day. Look for street vendors that have fruits (real or decorations) hanging from their roofs. Also, some milk/yogurt shops serve lassi. Ask for meethi lassi for a sweet yogurt drink and you can also get a salty lassi which tastes good and is similar to the Arabic Laban if you are having "bhindi" in food or some other rich dish. There is also a sweet drink called Mango Lassi which is very rich and thick, made with yogurt, mango pulp, and pieces of mango.

Alcohol (both imported and local) is available to non-Muslim foreigners at off licenses and bars in most top end hotels. The local alcoholic beer is manufactured by Murree Brewery (who also produce non-alcoholic beverages including juices). It is prohibited for Muslims to buy, possess or consume alcohol in Pakistan. There is a huge black market across the country and the police tend to turn a blind eye to what is going on in private. In Karachi and other parts of Sindh, the alcholol can be purchased from designated liquir shops.




See also: Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Pakistan. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Pakistan) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Pakistan. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is prevalent in the country, but only below the elevation of 2,000 metres. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Dengue outbreaks sometimes occur, but there is no vaccination.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also: Travel Safety

The security situation in Pakistan has improved considerably, but some Western governments still advise against travel to all or part of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, the city of Peshawar and districts south of the city, all or part of Balochistan Province, the Karakorum Highway and areas within 10–50 km of the borders, and caution against non-essential travel to some other areas, including the city of Karachi. Areas bordering Afghanistan (and in particular, the former FATA) has a high threat of terrorist attack against places that are frequented by foreigners, are more dangerous than other destinations, and are generally considered to be unsafe for travel.

Several extremist movements are active in the country, including the Pakistan So-called Taliban Movement (TTP), which seeks to destabilise the country's governance through terrorist attacks, most of which target Pakistani authorities, but also civilian targets such as schools, mosques, churches and mass gatherings. Terrorists and organised crime have occasionally taken people hostage. As economic hardship has increased and pandemics, price rises and summer devastation have pushed people into poverty, conventional crime has increased, especially in large cities. In big cities, there can be large gaps in security between the 'better off' areas and those inhabited by the less well-off. Be vigilant and avoid walking in the dark. Westerners should avoid staying near mosques, especially during Friday afternoon prayers and major religious holidays. Some mosques are well protected and well-known tourist attractions, while others are dominated by radical movements. Check the local security situation before visiting.

Pakistan has endured several bomb attacks against security forces and so called western institutions (e.g. the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad), and has seen the public assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto upon her return from exile. These attacks have decreased significantly since 2014 due to successful military operations against terrorists. For the ordinary traveller, Pakistan has a tradition of hospitality that has been subverted by perceptions of 'Western' unfairness. Social protests tend to turn violent and political demonstrations are always sensitive. Before travelling you should check with your embassy about off-limits areas, the latest political and military developments and keep an close eye on current issues with independent news sources.

Stay away from military convoys as they are a potential target for suicide bombing. Similarly, going near military or intelligence facilities can be dangerous.

Carrying firearms can land you in police custody, except if you get a special permit from a relevant authority.

The line of control between Azad Kashmir and the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir is off-limits for foreign tourists, though domestic tourists can visit Azad Kashmir without any restriction, but should keep their identity cards with them.

The former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Northwest Pakistan and all regions near the sensitive Afghan border should not be visited at any time by foreign tourists, as the Pakistan government has little to no authority in these areas and cannot aid you in an emergency. If you do have reason to visit, seek expert guidance, including that of your embassy, who can advise you on the special permissions required.

Balochistan is considered dangerous and not fit for travellers due to increased kidnappings of foreigners.

The rules regarding sensitive areas and No Objection Certificates (NOCs), Note Verbals and other permissions and paperwork some in officialdom deem necessary for your to travel around the country are ever-changing. The most notorious NOC regulation is for foreigners to enter Kashmir, with the intention being so the security services can keep track (i.e. follow) foreigners to make sure they don't visit places they shouldn't. Outside Kashmir diplomats are the primary user of NOCs and theoretically the normal tourist should be exempt. However those in officialdom can view all foreigners with suspicion and demand an NOC when you step of a plane or out of a bus. NOCs need to be applied for through the Ministry of Interior, however if you are travelling on a non-diplomatic passport you should be fine - but its good to be aware of this nonetheless.

You may see road signs in English saying 'no foreigners allowed beyond this point', for example on the road to Kahuta near Islamabad. If you see and need to pass one of these signs, at the very least stop at the nearest police station and see if they will let you pass (speaking Urdu is an advantage here), or turn back and find another route. Typically, restricted areas are those with nuclear or military installations nearby. Kahuta, southeast of Islamabad, and the Sakesar hill station near the Amb temples in the Salt Range are two restricted areas the visitor may stumble across. Getting caught in a restricted area will mean a lot of wasted time, embarrassment and arrest.

Homosexuals should be very cautious in Pakistan, as homosexuality remains a crime in Pakistan and punishments can be severe. Pakistani law criminalizes "unnatural carnal intercourse" that includes homosexuality, and those convicted can be jailed for 10 years. Arrests are not common for homosexuality, as evidenced by a vibrant gay nightlife existing in many metropolitan areas.



Keep connected


Cybercafes can be found on virtually every street corner and the rates are as low as Rs 15-20 per hour. They usually don't have a very fast operating system so don't be too impatient. They usually use 14 inch monitors with Windows 2000, Windows 98 or Windows XP usually installed. Most of the cafes have a decent speed internet connection.

Internet Access can be obtained easily on notebook computers with the help of GPRS enabled mobile connections, supported by almost all of the five mobile operators. Mobilink provides EDGE based connection in very limited areas of Karachi, but Telenor's coverage of EDGE is wider. The standard price of GPRS/EDGE usage is Rs 10-18 per MB of data transferred but Zong offers Rs 15/h. If you wish to download much more, you may want to use unlimited packages, provided only by Warid, Mobilink and Telenor at this time. World Call and Ufone also offers USB Modem.3G and 4G based connections are also available from all the mobile service providers, rates are nearly same as EDGE.

There are Wi-Fi hotspots all over Pakistan, in hotels, malls, and cafes/restaurants.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for Pakistan is +92 if you are calling from outside the country.

Major providers of mobile phone service (GSM) are Mobilink, Telenor, Ufone, Warid and Zong - China Mobile. One very convenient feature is that all Pakistani cellular operators use the GSM platform, so that cellular handsets nationwide are freely interchangeable between providers.
There are various service providers offering a huge variety of plans. Among them are Mobilink, Warid Telecom, Telenor, Ufone & Zong (China Mobile). It's not a bad idea to buy a cell phone and use a prepaid plan to get yourself connected while you are in the country. The mobile phones and the prepaid plans are very cheap; you can usually get a new cheap cell phone just for Rs 2,000 and a prepaid connection for Rs 150-400.

Due to security threats, in order to purchase a SIM card you will need to provide formal identification such as Visas, resident permits, residing address in Pakistan along with a written declaration that you will not use the provided phone number for any illegal activity. Starting March 2015, possesion of unverified SIM will be considered a serious and punishable crime.

Public Call Offices can be found all over the country. You will find a PCO in nearly 50% of the general stores where there is usually someone who operates the phone and fax. Fees will be charged according to the time spent, and you will pay when you have finished your call.


The Pakistan postal service works well. But be aware you are not allowed to send CD's or DVD's out of the country. This includes your photo's on CD. This is due to the high number of software and media trafficking in Pakistan.



  1. 1 May 2008 Estimate. Source: Pakistan's Population Census Organization

Quick Facts

Pakistan flag

Map of Pakistan


Federal Republic
183,230,500 [1]
796,096 km²
Urdu (national), English (official), Punjabi, Sindhi, Siraiki, Pashtu
Islam (Sunni, Shi'a), Christianity, Hinduism
Pakistani Rupee (PKR)
Calling Code
Time Zone


as well as Hien (10%), TLWH (8%), Peter (3%), Lavafalls (3%), alishah (1%), ashiqullahmg (1%), dr.pepper (<1%), joffre (<1%), kareemjojohn (<1%)

Pakistan Travel Helpers

  • musawir

    if you want to visit pakistan you can inform me i can help you to travel

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  • TLWH

    Traveled through Pakistan during Emergency Rule 2007. Anyone need any tips or advice, jsut let me know?

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  • fareed

    I've travelled all over this beautiful country although my home base is Lahore, the historical city in the world. I may be available for Lahore guidance.

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  • Am Raza

    I am a traveller and a tour organizer to northern areas of Pakistan so I have a lot of experience of about beautiful destination and attractions in those areas.

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  • G-trotter

    Twice I have visited this incredible country. Its well worth a visit, especially for nature lovers and people who want to know the trough behind the propaganda.
    I can provide plenty of recommendations for the stunning north of the country, as well as general knowledge as well as some extras ;o)

    Ask G-trotter a question about Pakistan

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