Capital Islamabad
Currency Pakistani rupee (PKR or Rs)
Population 162,419,946 (July 2006 est.)
Electricity 230V/50Hz ("Europlug" C, old British plugs D & M)
Country code +92
Time zone UTC+5

Pakistan (Urdu: پاکستان), officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is in South Asia and is the world's 34th largest country by size. With a population exceeding 180 million people, it is the sixth most populous country in the world. Pakistan is strategically located astride the ancient trade routes of the Khyber and Bolan passes between South Asia and Central Asia. Another pass, which now has the Karakoram Highway through it, leads to Western China. All these passes, and some ports in Pakistan, formed part of the ancient Silk Road which linked Asia and Europe.

Pakistan's tourism industry was in its heyday during the 1970s when the country received unprecedented numbers of foreign tourists, thanks to the Hippie Trail. Subsequently the number of foreign tourists has come down, due to instability in the country and many countries declaring it as unsafe and dangerous to visit. Even so, it continues to attract tourists due to its unique, diverse cultures, people and landscapes. The country's attractions range from the ruin of civilisations, such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Taxila, to the Himalayan hill stations, which attract those interested in winter sports. Pakistan is home to several mountain peaks over 7,000 m, which attract adventurers and mountaineers from around the world, especially K2.


Pakistan is a federation of four provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, as well as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a federal territory in the northwest. The government of Pakistan exercises de facto jurisdiction over the western parts of the disputed Kashmir region, organised into the separate political entities Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan (formerly Northern Areas).

Map of Pakistan
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.
Northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA))
Home of the rugged Pashtuns, for some it's forbidding and mysterious... yet below the surface are some of the most hospitable people in the country. Northern Pakhtunkhwa (including Swat, Abbottabad, etc) is considered the most beautiful part of Pakistan.
Azad Kashmir
Pakistan-administered portion of the disputed Kashmir region is sometimes referred to as "Heaven on Earth" because of its scenic beauty.
The most populous and agriculturally fertile region in the country, and home to many historical shrines and mosques.
Most visitors head for Karachi or the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-daro but the region offers a lot more to see.
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.


Nine of Pakistan's most notable cities follow. Other cities are listed in the article for their region.

Other destinations

See also Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent and the UNESCO World Heritage listings for Pakistan.



See also: British Raj

The history of Pakistan can be traced back to the earliest ancient human civilisations in South Asia. The earliest evidence of farming in South Asia is from 7,000 BCE in Mehrgarh. Mehrgarh in present-day Balochistan was a small farming village and centre of agriculture in South Asia during New Stone Age period which lasted until its abandonment around 2600 BCE due to climate change and was succeeded by Indus Valley Civilization, a civilization in the early stages of development growing along one of the major rivers of Asia, the Indus. By 3300 BCE, the IVC extended throughout much of what is modern-day Pakistan. It became one of the great civilisations of the ancient world along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. This Bronze Age civilisation with its remarkably sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning become most advanced civilisation of its time which had well-planned towns and well-laid roads, as recorded in its major city of Mohenjo-daro which today is an archaeological site of immense historical significance. The Indus Valley Civilization declined and disintegrated around 1900 BCE, possibly due to drought and geological disturbances. Most historians believe that the Vedic people were migrants who encountered this civilization in decline and perhaps hastened that decline. The Vedic people eventually occupied most of North India, laid the foundations of Hinduism and flourished in the ancient city of what is today known as Taxila. After the defeat of the first Persian Empire, Achaemenid, which ruled much of modern Pakistan, Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic King of Macedon, invaded the region of Pakistan and conquered much of the Punjab region for his Macedonian empire.

Prior to the late 18th century, Pakistan was the main Islamic stronghold in the Mughal Empire, which at its peak covered the great majority of the Indian subcontinent. The area that now makes up Pakistan kept its status as one of the main cultural and political hubs of South Asia for over 300 years. From the late 18th century until 1947, Pakistan was part of the British Empire, and one can still see the signs of Pakistan's colonial past in most places.

The name Pakistan was used officially after the partition of (British) India into the two nation-states of India and Pakistan in 1947. However, the word Pakistan was first used by Choudhry Rahmat Ali back in 1933 in his declaration, Now or Never – calling for its separation from the Empire. Afterwards, British-ruled India was divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (with two sections, West and East) and India. Later, East Pakistan seceded and became the separate nation of Bangladesh, as a result of an extremely brutal war which also involved India. A dispute over Kashmir is still ongoing between India and Pakistan and has resulted in three wars and many skirmishes, acts of terrorism and an insurgency and counter-insurgency in the part of Kashmir controlled by India and claimed by Pakistan.

Today Pakistan is populated mostly by people whose ancestors originated from various other places — including Arabs from after the Islamic expeditions, Persians from Bukhara and Samarkand, Turks from Central Asia — and the native Sindhus whose ancestors converted to Islam. Ethnic groups such as Punjabis, Sindhis, Seraikis, Pashtuns, Mohajirs and Balochs all have different native languages, cultures and histories.


Kashmir dispute

India and Pakistan have a bitter and long-standing dispute over Kashmir; each government claims territory that is currently under the control of the other. They have fought wars over this three times since independence in 1947.

Wikivoyage, however, deals only with the current situation on the ground; our maps show and our text describes that situation without taking sides in the dispute. If you can go there with a Pakistani visa today then we treat it as being in Pakistan, and if you need an Indian visa, we treat it as being in India. This is the most important distinction for travellers.

Most of the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan) is currently safer than most of the rest of Pakistan, but travellers should check current conditions before visiting Kashmir and be wary of areas quite close to the tense de facto border between Pakistani and Indian control, as both governments consider them highly sensitive and keep large military forces along the borders. In practice, however, the Pakistani government is unlikely to let you go very close to the Line of Control, anyway.

Located along the Arabian Sea, Pakistan is surrounded by Afghanistan to the northwest, Iran to the southwest, India to the east, and China to the northeast. Pakistan has its own unique character but also has many commonalities with neighbouring nations, especially Afghanistan and India.

Pakistan is one of those few countries in the world that has every kind of geological structure. It has the sea, desert (Sindh & Punjab), green mountains (North West Province), dry mountains (Balochistan), mountains covered with snow, rivers, rich land to cultivate (Punjab & Sindh), water resources, waterfalls, and forests. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan contain the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush. Pakistan's highest point is K2, which, at 8,611 metres, is the second highest peak in the world. The Punjab province is a flat, alluvial plain whose rivers eventually join the Indus River and flow south to the Arabian Sea. Sindh lies between the Thar Desert and the Rann of Kutch to the east, and the Kirthar range to the west. The Balochistan Plateau is arid and surrounded by dry mountains. Pakistan experiences frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe, especially in the north and the west.


Mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north. Flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August). Fertile and sub humid heat in the Punjab region. The climate varies from tropical to temperate, with arid conditions in the coastal south. There is a monsoon season with frequent flooding due to heavy rainfall, and a dry season with significantly less rainfall or none at all. There are four distinct seasons: a cool, dry winter from December through February; a hot, dry spring from March through May; the summer rainy season, or southwest monsoon period, from June through September; and the retreating monsoon period of October and November. Rainfall varies greatly from year to year, and patterns of alternate flooding and drought are common.


Pakistan is theoretically a democratic, parliamentary federal republic modelled on the British Westminster system, with Islam as the state religion. The President, indirectly elected, is the Head of State, but his position is primarily ceremonial. The Prime Minister and his cabinet run the government. The Parliament is bicameral. The National Assembly, the lower house, is directly elected by universal adult franchise, while the Senate is the upper house and indirectly elected. The National Assembly is the more powerful of the two, primarily because a majority in the National Assembly is required to form a government and pass budgets. Pakistan has a vast number of political parties and, in recent times, no party has secured a majority in the National Assembly, leading to unstable governments, short-lived political alliances and raucous politics. Pakistan has a strong and independent judiciary and a free press.

However, political instability has resulted in (or some would say, has been partially caused by) a high degree of military control in Pakistan. Most of the prime ministers have been influenced by the chief of the Pakistani secret police (ISI) and army in major decisions related to foreign policy, and there have been periods of outright military dictatorship in the past.

Pakistan is also a Federal Republic, divided into provinces. Each of these has its own legislature, with a government run by a chief minister and a cabinet.

Street demonstrations and political agitations occur, as they do in any democracy. There is also occasional low-level violence, but a visitor has a vanishingly small chance of getting caught in that. Terrorism is a bigger problem, though. It can occur anywhere, and some parts of the country are too dangerous to visit because of the great risks in those areas (see "Stay safe").



Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.

  • 6 June – 5 July 2016 (1437 AH)
  • 27 May – 24 June 2017 (1438 AH)
  • 16 May – 14 June 2018 (1439 AH)
  • 6 May – 3 June 2019 (1440 AH)
  • 24 April – 23 May 2020 (1441 AH)

If you're planning to travel to Pakistan during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.

Pakistan being home to numerous ethnic groups is culturally diverse nation that emphasise both on local culture and tradions alongwith the traditional Islamic values. The culture is greatly influenced by many of its neighbours states.


Under the law of Pakistan, women are supposed to get equal rights and entitlements to those of men but in reality, Pakistan's largely a male-dominated society results in a situation not always compatible with the law. Especially in rural areas, women are often mistreated and women's access to education and employment remain lower than men's. In urban areas, the status of women has improved but still far lower than that of men.

As in many Muslim countries, women get a particularly raw deal in the courts. Sex outside marriage is prohibited and international organisations have estimated that more than 80% of women that are jailed suffer punishment because they had failed to prove rape charges but their testimony as to the facts was used to convict them of adultery or fornication while their abusers walked away free.

Still, women have played some prominent roles in the development of the country. Fatima Jinnah who was the only sister of founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was an instrumental figure in the Pakistan movement and in considered as one of the leading founders of Pakistan. Benzair Bhutto was the first female premier of Pakistan, in office 1988-1990 and again 1993-1996. Women have served in many other prominent areas in politics; for example, Fehmida Mirza was Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan and Hina Rabbani Khar was Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is believed that had General Ayub Khan run fair elections who then became 2nd President of Pakistan in 1958, Fatima Jinnah would have become the first Muslim female leader in the Muslim world to be a leader of a democratic government.

Other than politics, women in Pakistan have progressed and still are quickly emerging in various fields of life such as education, economy, services, health as well in the military. Recently, Pakistan Air Force starting to use female fighter pilots.

Not to mention Malala Yousafzai, who at 17 became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and the first Nobel Peace Prize winner from Pakistan.


Kashmir Solidarity Day February 5 Protest against Indian administration of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been observed each year in Pakistan as a day of protest against Indian control of part of Kashmir. The purpose of Kashmir Solidarity day as per Pakistani view, is to provide sympathetic and political support to the Kashmiri separatists who they believe are struggling for freedom from Indian rule. Nonviolent rallies and public marches are held across the country.
Pakistan Day 23 March Commemorates the Lahore Resolution of 1940, and the adoption of the first constitution of Pakistan during the transition of the Dominion of Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on 23 March 1956 making Pakistan the world's first Islamic republic. It is a major holiday and significant day for Pakistanis, other being the Independence Day on 14 August. Republic Day parade by the armed forces is a common celebration for the event. The celebrations regarding the holiday include a full military and civilian parade in the capital, Islamabad. These are presided over by the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan and are held early in the morning. After the parade, the President confers national awards and medals at the Presidency. Wreaths are also laid at the mausoleums of Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Many military and civilians parades and celebrations also held at national level across the country, mostly in major cities, and are worth to witness.
Labour Day 1 May An annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers and to commemorate the social and economic achievements of workers. Nonviolent rallies and protest demonstration held in major cities.
Independence Day 14 August biggest National holiday to commemorate independence from the British Raj, forming the new nation of Pakistan. Usual celebratory events this day include flag-raising ceremonies, parades, cultural events, and the playing of patriotic songs. As the month of August begins, special stalls and shops are set up across the country for the sale of national flags, buntings, banners and posters, pictures of national heroes, and other celebratory items. Vehicles, private buildings, homes, and streets are decorated with the national flag and buntings. Streets and houses are decorated with candles, oil lamps and pennants, national flag as well as firework shows occur as a part of celebration. A change of guard takes place at national monuments.
Iqbal Day 9 November Birthday of national poet Muhammad Iqbal.
Birthday of Quaid-e-Azam 25 December birthday of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Ashura Muharram 9 and 10 Marks the end of the Shia mourning for the martyred Imam Hussein ibn Ali. Primarily Shia'a people gather across the country to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Seminars, rallies, mourning processions (Matmi Jaloos), Majalis, etc. are organized on this day.
Eid-ul-Fitr Shawwal 1 the largest celebration of the year, celebrated by all Muslims after the holy and fasting month of Ramadan to mark the end of Ramadan, starting on the first day of the month of Shawwal. Food is the highlight and if you're lucky you'll be invited into a private home to party and feast. Businesses close for at least a couple of days if not a week. (The official holidays are theoretically two days: the first and second day of the month of Shawwal. Anyhow, practically it includes the 30th day of Ramadan and may include the third day of Shawwal if it touches the weekend. Therefore, usually all offices are closed for 3 to 7 days.)
Eid-ul-Adha Dhul Hijja 10 the festival of sacrifice, commemorates the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Animals are slaughtered and meat or food is distributed among the poor. Families join together for large feasts and parties.
Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi Rabi`-ul-Awwal 12 Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.

Get in


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.

Holders of Taiwan passports are refused entry except in airport transit.

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).

By plane

Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are the main gateways to Pakistan by air. Eight other international airports are in Quetta, Gawadar, Peshawar, Sialkot, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad and Dera Ghazi Khan. Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad all served by many international airliners and are directly connected to cities from Europe, North America, Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Pakistan's national carrier Pakistan International Airlines provide good connectivity within the country as well to major hubs around the world. PIA was once a major and reputated airlines in the world, but is now suffering due to bad governance. It is still the largest airline of the country and serve most number of destinations , both local and international.

PIA has direct connections with Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Birmingham, Barcelona, Bangkok, Beijing, Copenhagen, Dubai, Doha, Dammam, Delhi, Dhaka, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kabul, Istanbul, Kuwait, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, London, Oslo, Paris, Riyadh. Sharjah, Singapore, Manchester, Medinah, Mumbai, Milan, Muscat, New York, Riyadh, Tokyo, Toronto-Pearson, and Zahedan.

Most number of flights and airlines orignates from Gulf countries where most of overseas Pakistan work and thus are often reasonable. Other than flag career PIA, private airlines such as Airblue and Shaheen Airlines also operate flights to numerous Arab destinations.

By train

Pakistan has train links with India and Iran, though none of these trains are the quickest and most practical way to enter Pakistan. Should speed be a priority it is better to take the bus, or if you are really in a hurry, to fly, however the trains are sights in their own right.

From India:

From Iran: There is only one link, from Zahedan to Quetta.

By car

From ancient times people have been travelling through Pakistan using the Grand Trunk Road and the Silk Road that run through Pakistan and into the Indian subcontinent. It's a rewarding but time consuming way to see this part of the world. New highways have been developed and the country is due for an expansion in its highway network. A world-class motorway connects the cities of Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore, and Faisalabad but drivers' behaviour is still poor and capriciously policed.

From China: Pakistan is connected to China by the Karakoram Highway, a modern feat of engineering that traverses a remarkably scenic route through the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains. Plans are in place for this highway to be expanded from its current width of 10 m to 30 m as a result of the increase in trade traffic due to Gwader port opening.

From Afghanistan:

By bus

From India: While there is international service running from Delhi to Lahore it is just as fast, much more flexible, and much cheaper to take the journey by stringing together local transport and crossing the border on foot. As of October 2009, the bus was Rs 1,500. The journey details can be found here: You cannot buy the ticket on the spot, rather you will need to show up a few days before at Delhi Gate with photocopies of your Pakistani and Indian visas. The bus leaves at 06:00 but you will need to be at Delhi Gate at 04:00 to check in for it.

From China: You can take a bus from Kashgar over the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan.

From Iran: Via the Mijva border in Iran which is half an hours drive from Zahedan. The Pakistani border town is called Taftan and has facilities of immigration, customs, hotels, etc.

Get around

Getting around Pakistan has become much easier in recent years with the completion of some motorways, and an increase in private airlines. Whilst the cities are well covered, roads in rural areas are not, with many minor roads missing - Google Maps in particular has a worrying habit of marking dried up river beds as minor roads, so if you're exploring out in the sticks, it's a good idea to use Google Earth to double check your route.

By plane


Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) serves numerous domestic destinations and is the only airline to serve the three airports in the north of interest to trekkers or climbers: Chitral, Gilgit, and Skardu. There are usually two flights from Islamabad to these cities daily, but they are often cancelled due to bad weather, and often over-booked ; show up early to guarantee a seat.

Other domestic carriers include Shaheen Air International and Airblue.

By train

Pakistan Railways Network Map

Pakistan Railways provides passenger rail service. The stations tend not to have their timetables in English, but sales agents can usually explain everything to you. There are several different classes of fares depending on amenities.

Air-Conditioned Sleeper class is the most expensive class, where the fares are almost at par with air fare. Bedding is included with the fare and this air conditioned coach is present only on popular routes between Karachi to Lahore. The sleeper berths are extremely wide and spacious and the coaches are carpeted.

Nowadays Pakistan Railways is going through a recession. The number of trains has been lessened and trains don't usually reach their destinations on time.

By bus

Highway network

A large portion of travel between cities in Pakistan is carried out by bus. Travel by bus is often the cheapest and most convenient alternative. The Daewoo company runs a regular bus service between several major cities, with air-conditioned buses and seats booked one day ahead. While rather inexpensive, they are still almost five times as expensive as the cheap and uncomplicated rides offered by minibuses or larger buses between the major bus stations of the cities. On the regular bus services, fares are often (though not always) paid directly on the bus, there is no air-conditioning, and sometimes very little knee space, but you get where you are going all the same. You'll also probably benefit from kind interest and friendly conversation on many rides. Buses leave almost incessantly from the major bus stations for all the major cities, and many smaller locations, so booking ahead is neither possible nor necessary on the simpler buses. When travelling between major cities, smaller buses are to be preferred over the larger ones, as the larger ones tend to pick up passengers along the way and, therefore, travel more slowly.

The situation is similar for local transport. While the organization of local transport may look a little different between cities, there is usually an active bus service running throughout each city, with varying levels of government control.


See also: Urdu phrasebook

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 1840s 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.

The local variety of English is Pakistani English.

Languages of Pakistan


Dudiptsar Lake, Kaghan Valley, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Rakaposhi Nagar
Kachura Lake

Pakistan's attractions range from the ruins of civilisations such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Taxila, to the Himalayan hill stations, which attract visitors not only from across the country but also from all over the world who are interested in winter sports and natural beauty. Pakistan is home to several mountain peaks over 7,000 m, especially K2 and is a hotspot for adventurers and mountaineers. Along with natural beauty, the northern part of the country also offer ancient architecture such as old fortresses. The Hunza and Chitral valley are home to small pre-Islamic Animist Kalasha communities claiming descent from Alexander the Great, while the romance of the historic Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is timeless and legendary. Punjab province has the site of Alexander's battle on the Jhelum River and the historic city of Lahore. Lahore is Pakistan's cultural capital, with many examples of Mughal architecture such as Badshahi Masjid, Shalimar Gardens, the Tomb of Jahangir and the Lahore Fort. The cultural and physical diversity of Pakistan should have advanced it into a tourist hot spot for foreigners, but numbers have diminished in this century due to security fears and low standards of service and cleanliness.

Post-independence Pakistan retained its heritage by constructing various sites to commemorate its independence by blending various styles and influences from the past.

World Heritage Sites

Pakistan has six major cultural sites that are categorised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include:

Natural attractions

Pakistan is profound blend of landscapes varying from plains to deserts, forests, hills, and plateaus ranging from the coastal areas of the Arabian Sea in the south to the mountains of the Karakoram range in the north. Pakistan's northern areas especially Gilgit-Baltistan and Northern side of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are full of natural beauty and include parts of the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram Range, and the Himalayas. This area has some of the world's highest mountain includes such famous peaks as K2 (Mount Godwin Austen, at 8,611 m, the second highest mountain in the world). Five peaks over 8,000 m, many over 7,000 m, and the largest glaciers outside the polar region. More than one-half of the summits are over 4,500 m, and more than fifty peaks reach above 6,500 mPakistan's administered Azad Kashmir is rich in natural beauty. Its snow-covered peaks, forests, rivers, streams, valleys, velvet green plateaus and climate varying from Arctic to tropical, join together to make it an excellent tourist attraction. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is known as the tourist hotspot for adventurers and explorers. The province has a varied landscape ranging from rugged mountains, valleys, hills and dense agricultural farms. Pakistan has some 29 national parks.

Cultural and historical attractions

Popular monuments in Pakistan are:

Museums and galleries

In Pakistan, there's a museum from archaeological and historical to biographical, from heritage to military, from natural history to transport—nearly every big city has a museum worth visiting. The highest concentrations of these museums are found in the largest cities, but none compare to Lahore, home to Lahore Museum. Karachi also has an array of some good museums, including the National Museum of Pakistan, PAF Museum and Pakistan Maritime Museum. For those looking out for a transport museum, Pakistan Railways Heritage Museum in Islamabad is a major attraction.


Pakistan is a world class destination for trekking and hiking. Gilgit-Baltistan is a "mountain paradise" for mountaineers, trekkers, and tourists. The region has some of the world's highest mountains, including five peaks over 8,000m, many over 7,000m, and the largest glaciers outside the polar region.

Horse riding is also very affordable. Cycling opportunities abound.

For water-based activities fans, Karachi is the only place in the country to head for. From snorkelling, scuba diving, boating, fishing, and even cruise dining.

You can also shop to your heart's content, in massive range of markets and bazaars without worrying about your budget, as a recent survey found Karachi as the world's most cheapest city.


The national currency of Pakistan is the rupee (Rs), which is commonly shortened to Rs and coins are issued in 1, 2, and 5 rupee denominations. Banknotes come in Rs 10 (green), 20 (Orange Green), 50 (Purple), 100 (Red), 500 (Rich Deep Green), 1000 (Dark blue), and 5000 (Mustard) values. The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise (singular: paisa). 5 rupees 75 paise would normally be written as Rs 5.75. It is always good to have a number of small bills on hand, as merchants and drivers sometimes have no change. A useful technique is to keep small note (10-100) in your wallet or in a pocket, and to keep larger notes separate. Then, it will not be obvious how much money you have. Many merchants will claim that they don't have change for a 500 or 1,000 note. This is often a lie so that they are not stuck with a large note. It is best not to buy unless you have exact change.

The coins in circulation are 1, 2 and 5. Coins are useful for buying tea, for beggars, and for giving exact change for an bus fare or auto-rickshaw.

Pakistanis commonly use lakh and crore for 100,000 and 10,000,000 respectively. Though these terms come from Sanskrit, they have been adopted so deeply into Pakistani English that most people are not aware that they are not standard in other English dialects. You may also find non-standard, although standard in Pakistan, placement of commas while writing numerals. One crore rupees would be written as 1,00,00,000, so first time you place a comma after three numerals, then after every two numerals. This format may puzzle you till you start thinking in terms of lakhs and crores, after which it will seem natural.

Number English Format Pakistani Format
100 Hundred Sau
1000 Thousand Hazaar
1,00,000 Hundred Thousand One Lakh
10,00,000 Million Ten Lakh
1,00,00,000 Ten Million One Crore

ATMs exist in most areas and accept major cards such as AmEx, MasterCard and VISA.

Pakistan, and particularly Karachi, features in surveys as one of the cheapest places in the world to shop. It has a wide range of markets and bazaars to visit and things to buy without worrying about blowing your budget:

Buying Pakistani currency

It's usually best to get your foreign currency converted to Rupees before you make purchases (of course that's only applicable if you're planning to buy with cash not a credit card). A number of licensed currency exchange companies operate, and a passport might be required as an identification document but this requirement is often ignored. Currency exchange shop can easily found in major shopping areas. Be sure to say the amount you wish to exchange and ask for the 'best quote' as rates displayed on the board are often negotiable, especially for larger amounts.

Most large department stores and souvenir shops, as well as all upmarket restaurants and hotels accept major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard and Visa cards. Some small shops will want to pass on their 2-3% merchant charge to you. In many cities and towns, credit cards are accepted at retail chain stores and other restaurants and stores. Small businesses and family-run stores almost never accept credit cards, so it is useful to keep a moderate amount of cash on hand.

Rates for exchanging rupees overseas are often poor, although places with significant Pakistani populations (e.g. Dubai,) can give decent rates. Try to get rid of any spare rupees before you leave the country.

Most ATMs will dispense up to 50,000 in each transaction. HBL, MCB Bank, National Bank of Pakistan and United Bank, all are the biggest bank in Pakistan and have the most ATMs. They accepts most of the international cards at a nominal charge. International banks like Standard Chartered have a significant presence in major Pakistan cities. It is always worthwhile to have bank cards or credit cards from at least two different providers to ensure that you have a backup available in case one card is suspended by your bank or simply does not work work at a particular ATM.


In Pakistan, you are expected to negotiate the price with street hawkers but not in department stores. If not, you risk overpaying many times, which can be okay if you think that it is cheaper than at home. In most of the big cities, retail chain stores are popping up where the shopping experience is essentially identical to similar stores in the West. Although you will pay a little more at these stores, you can be confident that what you are getting is not a cheap knockoff. The harder you bargain, the more you save money. A few tries later, you will realise that it is fun.

Often, the more time you spend in a store, the better deals you will get. It is worth spending time getting to know the owner, asking questions, and getting him to show you other products (if you are interested). Once the owner feels that he is making a sufficient profit from you, he will often give you additional goods at a rate close to his cost, rather than the common "foreigner rate". You will get better prices and service by buying many items in one store than by bargaining in multiple stores individually. If you see local people buying in a store, probably. you can get the real Pakistani prices. Ask someone around you quietly, "How much would you pay for this?"

In general shops are open 09:00-23:00 in the large cities. They open and close for business earlier in the smaller towns and rural areas.


Most visitors will find Pakistan quite cheap, although it is noticeably more expensive than neighbouring Afghanistan. Karachi is also generally more expensive than the rest of the country. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury hotels and air fares are comparatively affordable, with even the fanciest 5-star hotels costing less than Rs 20,000/night.

Tipping is considered a good practice in Pakistan. Hotel porters, taxi drivers, delivery men will appreciate a small tip if you have been provided with exemplary service.


Peshwari naan freshly prepared in a tandoor in Karachi
Chapli Kababs is one of the popular barbecue meals in Pakistan
Chicken Tikka is a popular dish
Seekh Kababs
Sindhi Biryani: the most popular dish in Karachi

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. The "Pakistani food" served by many so-called Pakistani or Indian restaurants in the Western hemisphere is inspired by specifically Mughlai cuisine, a style developed by the royal kitchens of the historical Mughal Empire, and the regional cuisine of the Punjab, although degree of authenticity in relation to actual Mughlai or Punjabi cooking is sometimes variable at best and dubious at worst. Within Pakistan, cuisine varies greatly from region to region, reflecting the country's ethnic and cultural diversity. Food from the eastern provinces of Punjab and Sindh and Mughlai cuisine are similar to the cuisines of Northern India and can be highly seasoned and spicy, which is characteristic of the flavours of the South Asian region. Food in other parts of Pakistan, particularly Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, involves the use of mild aromatic spices and less oil, characterizing affinities to the cuisines of neighbouring Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia.

Pakistani main courses food which is mostly consists of curry dishes is eaten with either flatbread, also called wheat bread or rice. Salad is generally taken as a side dish with the main course, rather than as an appetizer beforehand. Assorted fresh fruit or sometimes desserts are consumed at the end of a meal. Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani food, compared to other South Asian cuisines. According to a 2003 report, an average Pakistani consumed three times more meat than an average Indian. Of all the meats, the most popular are goat or mutton, beef and chicken and is particularly sought after as the meat of choice for kebab dishes or the classic beef shank dish nihari. Seafood is generally not consumed in large amounts. Food tends range from mild to spicy depending on where you are and who your cook is. So state your preference before beginning to eat. In general, most of the food that you find in the high end hotels is also available in the markets (but European-style food is generally reserved for the former).

Pakistan food has a well-deserved reputation for being hot, owing to the Pakistani penchant for the liberal use of a variety of spices, and potent fresh green chilis or red chilli powder that will bring tears to the eyes of the uninitiated. The degree of spiciness varies widely throughout the country: Punjab food is famously fiery, while Northern Areas cuisine is quite mild in taste.

To enjoy the local food, start slowly. Don't try everything at once. After a few weeks, you can get accustomed to spicy food. If you would like to order your dish not spicy, simply say so. Most visitors are tempted to try at least some of the spicy concoctions, and most discover that the sting is worth the trouble.


Cuisine in Pakistan varies greatly from region to region. Culinary art in Pakistan comprises a mix of Middle Eastern, Iranian, Afghan, Indian, and Turkish influences that reflect the country's history as well as the variation of cooking practices from across the country. Urban centres of the country offer an amalgamation of recipes from all parts of the country, while food with specific local ingredients and tastes is available in rural areas and villages. 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.

Pakistani cuisine is a blend of cooking traditions from different regions of the Indian subcontinent, originating from the royal kitchens of sixteenth-century Mughal emperors. It has similarities to North Indian cuisine, although Pakistan has a greater variety of meat dishes. Pakistani cooking uses large quantities of spices, herbs and seasoning. Garlic, ginger, turmeric, red chilli and garam masala are used in most dishes, and home cooking regularly includes curry. Chapati, a thin flat bread made from wheat, is a staple food, served with curry, meat, vegetables and lentils. Rice is also common; it is served plain or fried with spices and is also used in sweet dishes.

Varieties of bread

Pakistan is wheat growing land, so you have Pakistani breads (known as roti), including chapatti (unleavened bread), paratha (pan-fried layered roti), naan (cooked in a clay tandoori oven), puri (deep-fried and puffed up bread), and many more. A typical meal consists of one or more gravy dishes along with rotis, to be eaten by breaking off a piece of roti, dipping it in the gravy and eating them together. Most of the Pakistani heartland survives on naan, roti, rice, and lentils (dal), which are prepared in several different ways and made spicy to taste. Served on the side, you will usually find spiced yogurt (raita) and either fresh chutney or a tiny piece of exceedingly pungent pickle (achar), a very acquired taste for most visitors — try mixing it with curry, not eating it plain.

Pakistanis eat breads made of wheat flour as a staple part of their daily diet. Pakistan has a wide variety of breads, often prepared in a traditional clay oven called a tandoor. The tandoori style of cooking is common throughout rural and urban Pakistan and has strong roots in neighboring Iran and Afghanistan as well.

The types of flatbread (collectively referred to as Naan) are:

As you might have noticed, 'Naan' is usually used to pick up liquid and soft foods like shorba in curries and beans. Forks and knives not commonly used during meals in Pakistan (unless someone is eating rice or is dining out). Attempting to cut a naan with a knife may elicit some amusement around you. Watching others may help.

There are too many shorbas, or sauces/soups, to enumerate.

Vegetarian dishes

Popular and commons veg dishes are:

Other dishes include Aloo gobi, Baingan, Karela, Bhindi and Saag

Pulses/lentil dishes

Various kinds of pulses, or legumes, make up an important part of the Pakistani dishes. While lentils (called daal), and chick peas (called channa) are popular ingredients in homestyle cooking, they are traditionally considered to be an inexpensive food sources. Because of this reason, they are typically not served to guests who are invited for dinner or during special occasions. Combining meat with lentils and pulses, whether in simple preparations or in elaborate dishes such as haleem, is also a distinctively Pakistani touch not commonly seen in neighbouring India where a substantial number of its population are vegetarians.

Rice dishes

Pakistan is a major consumer of rice. Basmati is the most popular type of rice consumed in Pakistan. Rice dishes are very popular throughout Pakistan. The rice dishes are sometimes eaten mixed with other dishes. The most simple dish of Pakistani cuisine is Plain cooked rice (Chawal) eaten with Dal (Lentil). Khichdi is Plain cooked rice cooked with Dal. The Karhi chawal is Plain cooked rice eaten with Karhi.

Biryani is a very popular dish in Pakistan, is cooked with pieces of beef, lamb, chicken, fish or shrimp. and has many varieties such as Lahori and Sindhi biryani. Tahiri, which is also a form of vegetarian biryani, is also popular. All of the main dishes (except those made with rice) are eaten alongside bread. To eat, a small fragment of bread is torn off with the right hand and used to scoop and hold small portions of the main dish. Pickles made out of mangoes, carrots, lemon, etc. are also commonly used to further spice up the food. Biryani smells more nice from the saffron and other seasonings added. In the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, feasts using mountains of spiced rice combined with pieces of slowly roasted lamb are often served for guests of honour. These kind of pulaos often contain dried fruit, nuts, and whole spices such as cloves, saffron and cardamom. Such rice dishes have their origins in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Dishes made with rice include many varieties of pulao:

Meat dishes

Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani cuisine compared to the other South Asian cuisines and is a major ingredient in most of the Pakistani dishes. The meat dishes in Pakistan include: bovine, ovine, poultry and seafood dishes. The meat is usually cut in 3 cm cubes and cooked as stew. The minced meat is used for Kebabs, Qeema and other meat dishes. Of all the meats, the most popular are goat or mutton, beef and chicken and is particularly sought after as the meat of choice for kebab dishes or the classic beef shank dish nihari. The meat dishes are also cooked with pulses, legumes and rice.

Tandoori chicken, prepared in a clay oven called a tandoor, is probably the best-known Pakistani dish originated in Pakistani Punjab.

The variety is endless, but here are a few examples:

Barbecue and kebabs

Meat and grilled meat has played an important part in Pakistan region for centuries. Sajji is a Baluchi dish from Western Pakistan, made of lamb with spices, that has also become popular all over the country. Another Balochi meat dish involves building a large outdoor fire and slowly cooking chickens. The chickens are placed on skewers which are staked into the ground in close proximity to the fire, so that the radiant heat slowly cooks the prepared chickens. Kebabs are a staple item in Pakistani cuisine today, and one can find countless varieties of kebabs all over the country. Each region has its own varieties of kebabs but some like the Seekh kebab, Chicken Tikka, and Shami kebab are especially popular varieties throughout the country. Generally, kebabs from Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tend to be identical to the Afghan style of barbecue, with salt and coriander being the only seasoning used. Regional kebab recipes from Karachi and the wider Sindh region is famous for its spicy kebabs, often marinated in a mixture of spices, lemon juice and yogurt. Barbecued food is also extremely popular in some cities of Punjab such as Lahore, Gujranwala and Sialkot.

Pakistani cuisine is rich with different kebabs. Meat including beef, chicken, lamb and fish is used in kababs. Some popular kebabs are:

Other dishes include Chargha, Dhaga kabab, Gola kebab, Reshmi kebab and Sajji.


Popular desserts include Peshawari ice cream, Sheer Khurma, Kulfi, Falooda, Kheer, Rasmalai, Phirni, Zarda, Shahi Tukray and Rabri. Sweetmeats are consumed on various festive occasions in Pakistan. Some of the most popular are gulab jamun, barfi, ras malai, kalakand, jalebi, and panjiri. Pakistani desserts also include a long list of halvah such as multani, sohan halvah, and hubshee halvah.

Kheer made of roasted seviyaan (vermicelli) instead of rice is popular during Eid ul-Fitr. Gajraila is a sweet made from grated carrots, boiled in milk, sugar, green cardamom, and topped with nuts and dried fruit and is very popular in the country during winter season.

Apart from local restaurants, international fast food chains have also popped up throughout Pakistan. They include, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Subway, Nandos, Mr.Cod, Papa Johns, Dominoes etc. There are more European chains than North American.

Snacks (Pakistani fast food)

Pakistani snacks comprise food items in Pakistan that are quick to prepare, spicy, usually fried, and eaten in the evening or morning with tea or with any one of the meals as a side-dish. A given snack may be part of a local culture, and its preparation and/or popularity can vary from place to place. These snacks are often prepared and sold by hawkers on footpaths, bazaars, railway stations and other such places, although they may also be served at restaurants. Some typical snacks are dahi bhala, chaat, chana masala, Bun kebab, pakora, and papar. Others include katchauri, pakoras-either neem pakoras or besan (chickpea) pakoras,gol gappay, samosas—vegetable or beef, bhail puri or daal seu and egg rolls. Nuts, such as pistachios and pine nuts, are also often eaten at home. These snacks often smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals.


Pakistani condiments

Variety of Chutneys

Popular condiments used in Pakistani cuisine:

Raita with cucumber and mint



Tip is expected everywhere in Pakistan especially in restaurants and is always a considered a good practice in the country so tip between 5-10% at sit-down places.

In Pakistan eating with your hand (instead of cutlery like forks and spoons) is very common. There's one basic rule of etiquette to observe, particularly in non-urban Pakistan: Use only your right hand. Needless to say, it's wise to wash your hands well before and after eating. For breads for all types, the basic technique is to hold down the item with your forefinger and use your middle-finger and thumb to tear off pieces. The pieces can then be dipped in sauce or used to pick up bits before you stuff them in your mouth. Unlike India, a spoon is commonly used in Pakistan for eating rice dishes.


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 are widely available and costs Rs 80 for a 1.5 litre bottle. At semi-urban or rural areas, it may be advisable to ask for boiled water.

The taste of the water is said to be very good in the north-eastern side of Pakistan, especially in Swat, Kaghan and Gilgit. Ask for bottled water wherever possible, and avoid anything cold that might have water in it.

Try a local limca cola, which makes a "pop" sound when opened. Pakola, Pakistan's premier soft drink brand, is available in flavours of 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.

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. If you are a foreigner and looking for alchohol, you can contact customer department at Murree Brewery for assistance by telephone at. +92 051-5567041-7.

Tea varieties

Pakistanis drink a great deal of tea, which is locally called "chai in most Pakistani languages" and everywhere you can get tea from one variety or another. Both black with milk and green teas are popular and are popular in different parts of Pakistan. It is one of the most consumed beverages in Pakistani cuisine. Different regions throughout the country have their own different flavours and varieties, giving Pakistani tea culture a diverse blend.

Biscuits are often enjoyed with tea.


Besides tea, there are other drinks that may be included as part of the Pakistani cuisine. All of them are non-alcoholic as the consumption of alcohol is prohibited by Islam. During the 20th century, drinks such as coffee and soft drinks have also become popular in Pakistan. It is very common to have soft drinks nowadays with Pakistani meals. istani meals.


Drinking alcohol is generally frowned upon. Murree Brewery is the only reputable maker of Pakistan's beer brand which is widely available throughout the Pakistan. Karachi is very lax towards Alcohol where there're wine shops from one can get any brand of liquor.


Pakistan, as a middle income country with a sizeable middle class and a significant domestic tourism industry, 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. Currently Pakistan is facing a significant slump in international tourist numbers; in the northern areas in particular you'll often find yourself the only guest.

Budget 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. Previously 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.

Solo female travellers are at a disadvantage when it comes to hotels. All budget and many mid-range places will be the sole reserve of men, in particular in the cities - and hotel owners may be uncomfortable with the idea of an unaccompanied women staying at their hotel. Hence you may be forced to stay at the upper-mid range and top end places - which will eat through your budget that much quicker.

Note that in some places the term "hotel" in Pakistan is reserved for simpler establishments, with "Guest House" referring to medium-sized establishments where the standard is typically higher. Also note that restaurants are also called "hotels", creating a fun potential for confusion.

Stay safe

WARNING: Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere at any time in Pakistan especially in areas bordering Afghanistan and in particular FATA where there is a high threat of terrorist attack against places that are frequented by foreigners. Some governments advise against travel to those parts of Pakistan due to lawlessness and political and religious violence and terrorism. There have been reports of kidnappings for ransom in those areas. The rest of Pakistan is relatively safe particularly Punjab, Gilgit and Kashmir.

Pakistan has topped the list of countries that observed decrease in terror attacks according to the 2014 report issued by the US State Department which states Pakistan saw the maximum decrease in terror attacks. (June 2015)

Government travel advisories


Pakistan has endured several bomb attacks over the last few years 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. Currently these attacks are increasing due to increased military action against the Taliban. For the ordinary traveller, Pakistan has a tradition of hospitality that has been subverted in recent years 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.

Sensitive areas

Use common sense and a healthy dose of courtesy when in conversation with Pakistanis. Kashmir is a particularly sensitive topic and best avoided altogether. Discussion about religion and Islam should remain respectful and positive some Pakistanis are not tolerant of other religions, and if theirs is spoken about negatively, it could result in violence.

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 Federally Administered Tribal Areas & 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.

Peace has returned to Swat Valley and the army holds full control with lots of foreign nationals working for NGOs there. Road infrastructure was destroyed due to the 2010 floods but the army is making massive efforts to restore the infrastructure. Balochistan is considered dangerous and not fit for travellers due to increased kidnappings of foreigners.

The visitor should be aware of the ever changing 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. 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.

Be aware of sensitive areas. 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 possible involvement of your embassy.

Dangerous drivers

African countries typically top the list of road fatalities per 100,000 motor vehicles, but few countries in Asia are able to beat Pakistan's score in 2010 of 383. Pakistan has a high number of fatal traffic collisions and the World Health Organisation estimated 30,131 deaths on its roads in 2010.

Drivers are reckless and scoff at laws and what would be common courtesies in other countries. Their philosophy of "might is right" often leads to horrendous crashes between trucks and trucks & buses.


Prostitution has no legal recognition in Pakistan. Moreover, despite the growth of male prostitution, homosexuality is outlawed in the country.

Homosexuals should be very cautious in Pakistan, because, as in most Muslim countries, homosexuality remains a crime in Pakistan and punishments can be severe. Under Section 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code, whoever voluntarily has "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than two years nor more than ten years, and shall also be liable for a fine. Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section. Arrests are not common for homosexuality, as evidenced by a vibrant gay nightlife existing in many metropolitan areas.

Stay healthy

Visitors are strongly advised to refrain from drinking tap water; many Pakistani locals themselves drink boiled or purified water. Take every precaution to drink only boiled, filtered or bottled water. Tap water is known to contain many impurities. Ice is usually made from regular tap-water, and may be even harder to avoid. Fresh milk from the carrier should be boiled and cooled before consumption. Non-pasteurized dairy can spread tuberculosis. Be careful of the people with a hacking cough. Nestle Milk Pack, Haleeb Milk, Olpers, and others are trusted brands and are available at most grocery stores.

Take precautions against both dengue fever and malaria, which are both spread by mosquitoes. The first and most effective way is to avoid getting bitten, but if you plan to stay in a place where malaria is common, you will need to take prophylactic medicines such as Proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine. The risk of getting malaria decreases with higher altitudes and is usually negligible above 2500m.
No prophylaxis or cure is available for dengue fever. It is prevalent during summer, especially during the monsoon (July to September) and can be fatal. It is caused by mosquitoes that bite during the day and the most widespread outbreaks of dengue are expected in Punjab province.

In the summer it gets very hot. Be careful to stay hydrated. Temperature range between 40°C to 50°C in June and July! But, as soon as monsoon rains set in during Aug-Sept months, it cools to around 30°C - but with high levels of humidity.

Do not eat food that has been lying out for some time, as high temperatures speed up deterioration. Avoid posh but unfrequented restaurants.

Some Pakistani dishes can be very spicy! Always notify your host, cook or waiter if you can not take very spicy food.


Shalwar kameez colours

Customs in Pakistan are very similar to those in other Muslim and neighbouring countries, in particular, India with whom Pakistan share many characteristics. The culture, like most others in the Middle East and Central Asia, has a strong tradition of hospitality. Guests are often treated extremely well. Pakistanis pride themselves on their tradition of hospitality to guests (mehmanawazi in Urdu). While, Pakistan has not seen many foreigners in recent years and there is some insularity as well; consequently any foreigner may be regarded with suspicion and may be stared at. But in general, Pakistanis are warm, friendly and generous individuals with a strong interest in foreigners and other cultures.


In dealing with Pakistani people, the following tips relating to customs and etiquette may prove useful:

In a business lunch or dinner, it is usually clear upfront who is supposed to pay, and there is no need to fight. But if you are someone's personal guest and they take you out to a restaurant, you should offer to pay anyway, and you should insist a lot. Sometimes these fights get a little funny, with each side trying to snatch the bill away from the other, all the time laughing politely. If you don't have experience in these things, chances are you will lose the argument the first time, but in that case, make sure that you pay the next time. (And try to make sure that there is a next time.) Unless the bill amount is very large do not offer to share it, and only as a second resort after they have refused to let you pay it all.
The same rule applies when you are making a purchase. If you are purchasing something for yourself, your hosts might still offer to pay for it if the amount is not very high, and sometimes, even if it is. In this situation, unless the amount is very low, you should never lose the fight. (If the amount is in fact ridiculously low, say less than ₹10, then don't insult your hosts by putting up a fight.) Even if by chance you lose the fight to pay the shopkeeper, it is customary to practically thrust (in a nice way, of course) the money into your host's hands.
These rules do not apply if the host has made it clear beforehand that it is his or her treat, especially for some specific occasion.


The country code for Pakistan is +92 if you are calling from outside the country. Phone numbers are seven digits long with two digit city code in larger districts, and six digits long with three digit city code in smaller districts, for a total of nine digits as a standard nationwide (except for Azad Kashmir). All mobile numbers, however, are seven digits long and begin with a four digit network code "03XX", where XX indicates the cellular provider. Thus Pakistani mobile numbers are linked to one particular cellular provider, NOT one particular city as in North America. Therefore the city prefix should not be dialled in addition to the cellular prefix. As in many countries, omit the initial zero when dialling a city or cell code from outside Pakistan and prefix the '92' country code after dialling your country's international access code. Thus Telenor™ cell number 765 4321 dialled from the USA/Canada would be 011 92 345 765 4321 and Peshawar landline 234-5678 dialled from France or the UK would be 00 92 91 234-5678.

The international access code for outgoing calls from Pakistan is 00.

PTCL offers landline and wireless phone services.

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.

Cell phone

Calling from Price Syntax Example
Same city Local number 123-4567
Different city STD 0-area code-number 051 123-4567
Overseas ISD +92-area code-number +92 51 123-4567

Major providers of mobile phone service (GSM) are:

One very convenient feature is that all Pakistani cellular operators use the GSM platform, so that cellular handsets nationwide are freely interchangeable between providers.

Cell phones were considered as a status symbol a few years ago but, since 2002, the telecommunications industry has experienced a bit of a boom. These days you can hardly find a single person in the country without a personal cell phone. 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.


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.

You can also subscribe to GPRS/EDGE bundles, which drops the price really low.

Wateen, Mobilink Infinity, WiTribe, and Qubee are WiMax internet providers. National telecommunication company PTCL offers a USB EVo device for very fast internet connections.

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

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 10, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.