So you’ve decided to visit Pakistan! Voted as one of Forbes places to visit in 2019, Pakistan is truly one of the up and coming destinations for the more discerning traveller, particularly those keen to get a little off grid.
I’ve put together a Pakistan travel guide to questions I’ve been asked about first time travel to Pakistan, as well as some general tips for travel to Pakistan.
Is Pakistan safe?
In a word, yes, but let’s look a little deeper.
Pakistan has been in the media a lot over the past few years which has unfortunately given it somewhat a bad reputation in the eyes of many. When the Taliban insurgence in the mid 2000s took place a lot of the border areas with Afghanistan and some of the more Northern Areas became off limits and potentially dangerous to visit. Of course we are now 10 years past this and actually Swat and the North of Pakistan are becoming some of the highlights of the country for many people. Many countries find their previous reputation hard to shake and indeed the British government still has Swat on it’s ‘Do not travel’ list. For me however it was a highlight of my visit.
In any country it’s wise to travel with caution, but in Pakistan I actually experienced less general day to day trouble than in many places. Street harassment by shop keepers and other members of the public was very low and actually the people that did want to come and chat to me were pretty respectful and polite. Not once did I feel concerned for my safety in Pakistan.
What are the people like in Pakistan? / Are people friendly in Pakistan?
Pakistan is known for its hospitality; on a superficial level I was warmly welcomed on social media, with many people offering help if I needed it. In reality these kind of offers were actually acted upon and wherever I went then locals seemed to go out of their way to offer me drinks and food. Equally whenever there was a queue then locals would insist that I went to the front so I didn’t have to wait, of course this almost made me feel rude but the people were so insistent and kind. Pakistani hospitality has rightfully gained a reputation for being excellent and I was made to feel so welcome during my time there.
What to wear in Pakistan
What to wear in Pakistan as a women – Most of my Pakistani friends said that I could wear jeans and a t-shirt, and whilst ‘could’ is probably true, then in reality outside of the major cities (particularly Karachi) then women dress more conservatively including looser pants, kurtas or Shalwar Kameez. In mosques or religious sites then it’s necessary to cover your head and observe ‘proper Islamic dress’, which generally means long sleeves and full length skirt or trousers. See my full article on what to wear in Pakistan as a woman here.
What to wear in Pakistan as a man – In the cities many men wear jeans and t-shirts, but once you get into the countryside then generally men wear traditional clothing. Male tourists can get away with wearing jeans wherever they visit but shorts (whilst allowed) are not particularly common. See my full article on what to wear in Pakistan as a man here.
Getting a visa for Pakistan
It’s easier than previously to apply for a Pakistani visa, however my advice would be to apply well in advance as particularly during busy periods then it may take a lot longer than stated online to receive your visa.
- How to get a Pakistan visa as a British citizen – It’s possible to get an e-visa for Pakistan as British citizen, however don’t underestimate how long this will take. Online it states that it will take 7-10 working days, however it actually took 5 weeks for my visa to come through and I had to go into the high commission twice to speed this along! The staff were really nice but clearly a little snowed under with work. You’ll need details of any sponsor if you have one, approximate travel dates, and potentially even bank statements. Apply here.
- 30 countries can now apply for visa on arrival for Pakistan (which can take 48 hours to apply for.) This includes citizens of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and New Zealand. Full list of countries can be found here.
How to get around in Pakistan? / Do you need to go with a tour group in Pakistan?
I may be a little biased as I never travel with tour groups but I did make use of Pakistan’s only online travel portal Find My Adventure They offer fully customisable itineraries including cars, guides and accommodation. This was particularly helpful for the places that I wanted to visit that didn’t have any public transport going to them, they can also offer Pakistan travel advice and tips.
Intercity buses in Pakistan go from the terminals in each city and are pretty cheap. For the smaller journeys then minibuses leave at unspecified intervals, usually for less than 50 rupees if you can avoid the foreigner tax! The minibuses often line up quite well with each other so you’ll be able to get off one when it finishes it’s route and probably not have to wait too long for the next to arrive.
What is food like in Pakistan? / Pakistani cuisine
There are some similarities between Indian food & Pakistani food, but I also noticed a very distinct cuisine and style of cooking in Pakistan. I mentioned on Twitter that I felt Pakistani cuisine was quite meat heavy and received quite a lot of messages from people saying that they agreed. Note, that I’m not implying that all meals involved meat, just that if you are a vegan for example, you may find the cuisine in Pakistan a little more challenging than in a few other countries. Having said this, as I found the people to be so hospitable then they would go out of their way if you did have any special dietary requirements. A couple of times I was caught out ordering Dal in Pakistan when trying to find something without meat, despite asking if it was meat free it did end up coming with chicken in!
Pakistani food is rich and flavoursome, with a range of breads rather addictive for us carb lovers. The food is often quite oily, but with the benefit of being rather filling. Street food in Pakistan is also delicious and many simple snacks like grilled corn tossed in salt can be found cheaply and easily.
I hope you enjoyed this guide for first time travel to Pakistan and that you found some helpful tips for travel to Pakistan.
If you’ve been to Pakistan yourself or you’re from there and have your own tips for travel to Pakistan please leave a comment below.