Asia Pakistan

10 Things To Know BEFORE You Go to Pakistan | Travel Tips!

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Right now, Pakistan is a pretty misunderstood country, but things are changing. Pakistan is opening up to tourism and I’m so pleased that I recently visited Pakistan, at a time when people are still not sure what there is to do in Pakistan, why you would go travelling to Pakistan and if it’s safe.

I had an amazing time backpacking Pakistan, better than I could have imagined in fact. Therefore I wanted to write this Pakistan travel blog post and Pakistan travel guide to give you the Pakistan travel tips I picked up during my trip there, and to cover things that I wish I had known before going to Pakistan and some things that would have reassured me before going to help show you why you need travel to Pakistan, and soon!

Travel Tips for Pakistan.

If you’d rather WATCH me talk about Pakistan and these travel tips for Pakistan, watch my YouTube video here:

1-Pakistan is Safe!

Is it safe to go to Pakistan?

Yes! Pakistan is safe for tourists.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are places in Pakistan that as foreign tourists we should not visit, mainly places in Pakistan close to the Afganistan border, and Iran border I believe. However, these places are not going to appear on a ‘best places to visit in Pakistan’ list anytime soon so you won’t even be inclined to visit them!

If you stick to the main cities like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Swat and the Northern mountain areas of Pakistan like Hunza, Gilgit and Skardu that are frequented by domestic Pakistani tourists and foreign tourists, you will be safe in these places.

In terms of safety like theft, I felt totally safe in this way in Pakistan, I would never be worried about theft in Pakistan.

Here are the places I recommend you visit in Pakistan!

ellie quinn on passu bridge in Hunza Pakistan | Pakistan travel tips

The most unsafe I felt in Pakistan was on these suspension bridges in Hunza!

2- The Hospitality of Pakistan!

People of Pakistan.

You may have heard about the hospitality of the people of Pakistan and I can assure you that it is true and the people of Pakistan are truly amazing.

Due to tourism in Pakistan being so low for so long, the local people of Pakistan are very welcoming to foreigners, they want to know where you’re from, why you’re in Pakistan, where you’ll be visiting and of course, what you think of Pakistan.

I really urge you to speak to as many people in Pakistan as you can, we met so many domestic tourists from the cities up in the mountains and had so many nice conversations where we learned a lot about their country. The best thing about travelling to Pakistan too is that most people speak English really well, especially in the cities so there are limited communication barriers and the potential for lots of amazing conversations.

Never did I feel scammed by locals either which is a total contrast to places like India and South East Asia where you often have to be cautious of scams due to how big tourism is in these countries and locals just seeing dollar signs in your eyes. I did not feel this in Pakistan at all and I really hope it stays that way too.

The only thing I’ll say is not to take advantage of the hospitality. For example, some people may say you do not have to pay for your food, accommodation etc because in the religion of Islam we are guests to their country and guests do not pay, but firstly this is not sustainable if travel to Pakistan is going to grow, and secondly, as responsible travellers we should be paying for what we buy so ensure you do pay.

Pakistani men with ellie quinn | Pakistan travel tips

These were some of the men we met in a teahouse in the mountains. Everyone wanted a photo and to talk to us.

3- Female Safety in Pakistan!

Is Pakistan safe for female travellers?

I didn’t travel to Pakistan as a solo female traveller, I travelled with my friend TravelTomTom, but I did spend a few days on my own in Islamabad at the end of the trip and I travelled into Pakistan on my own from India via the Wagah Border.

With that being said, I have travelled most of the world solo so I did assess a lot of the situations and thought about what it would be like to travel solo in Pakistan, and what I’ll say is that I left Pakistan knowing that I would, and will, go back to Pakistan on my own as a solo female traveller in Pakistan!

If you are a well-travelled woman wanting to travel to Pakistan I hope that reassures you that you should too.

I wouldn’t say that I’d recommend travelling Pakistan solo to a beginner traveller (male or female), just like I wouldn’t recommend you travelling to India. Pakistan is not Thailand or Indonesia, but it is safe.

The only time I felt mildly overwhelmed in Pakistan was when we got asked for a lot of selfies which happened a lot in Islamabad and Lahore in the Mosques and Lahore Fort. Like in India, selfies in Pakistan start with 1 group asking you, then other people see you taking photos, they come over and it often doesn’t end for 10 minutes.

If I was travelling Pakistan as a solo woman I would probably say no to most selfies which would defuse this situation and not make it as much of a problem. It is important to remember though that people are just being nice and they don’t realise it can get overwhelming being treated like a selfie machine!

ellie quinn at Rama Lake | Pakistan travel tips

The conclusion of my trip to Pakistan, even though I didn’t go alone, is that I will go back on my own without a second thought.

To hear me talk more about my experience as a female traveller in Pakistan, have a watch of my YouTube video on female travel in Pakistan:

4- Pakistan Visa Process!

How to get a visa for Pakistan?

This is essentially one of the reasons why people haven’t travelled to Pakistan as much in the past because the visa for Pakistan was quite hard to obtain and people wonder how to visit Pakistan? The visa for Pakistan is not really easy right now, but it is getting easier.

Right now, there are 50 countries that can get a visa on arrival for Pakistan! The rest (including the UK) need to apply for an e-visa for Pakistan and when you apply for Pakistan e-visa you need either a letter of invitation or hotel confirmation to go alongside your visa application.

Letter of Invitation (LOI)- This needs to be a letter from a tour company saying you are going on a tour with them. If you want to go on a tour of Pakistan, go for it and the tour company will supply you with this straight away, but what if you want to visit Pakistan independently as I did? Well, it’s very likely that you can pay a company to write you a letter of invitation for Pakistan, you upload it and it will get approved. This is what I did.

I followed The Broke Backpacker’s post on how to get a Pakistan letter of Invitation which you can read here and I used the support of Caravanistan as they suggest, so I recommend this to you too.

Hotel Confirmation – When using this option, note that you need to upload hotel confirmation for the duration of your trip, so when completing your visa application for Pakistan, if you say you’ll be there for 2 weeks, you need to show 2 weeks worth of hotel confirmation. If you are sticking to a strict Pakistan itinerary, this will be easy to do, but if you are travelling Pakistan with no set plans (which I did and I’d recommend), this is harder. Yes, you can book hotels on Booking.com and cancel them but this will cause you some admin work.

Here’s my recommended 2 Week Pakistan itinerary to get some ideas of where to go in Pakistan to help you when completing the visa application as they do ask where you’ll visit in Pakistan!

I’d personally recommend going via the route of LOI for Pakistan, however, I strongly suggest that you do not book any flights to Pakistan until your visa gets approved. Also, keep in mind that the e-visa for Pakistan can take 5-10 working days to be approved.

The visa process for Pakistan is changing a lot, I will keep this post as updated as I can but also check details on the official Pakistan visa website before applying. 

Nadra website for Pakistan visa | Pakistan travel tips

This is the official site to apply for a visa for Pakistan.

5- Weather in Pakistan.

What is the best time to visit Pakistan?

Pakistan is an all year round destination but you cannot visit all of Pakistan all year round due to the extreme weather Pakistan has.

For example, if you want to visit the Northern areas of Pakistan like I did, you’ll want to visit during late spring, summer and early autumn as winter brings a lot of snow in North Pakistan. However, in the summer months, South Pakistan including Karachi and Lahore are horribly hot and it’s best to visit Southern Pakistan during the winter.

ellie quinn and Passu Mountains | Pakistan travel tips

At night in October, Hunza was cold but during the day we had blue skies and sunshine!

6- Getting Around Pakistan.

How to get around Pakistan?

Getting around Pakistan is actually really easy, this is something I was worried about, especially when I initially planned to go to Pakistan solo. Would it be expensive to get travel around Pakistan as tourism isn’t as popular, and how easy would it be?

The first thing to note is that although foreign tourism in Pakistan is low right now, domestic tourism isn’t, Pakistani people travel their own country a lot so there is infrastructure for tourism!

We used Uber in Pakistan to get around Lahore and Islamabad which is cheap and reliable.

We took a high-quality coach from Lahore to Islamabad. I used this website to check timings. You can book bus tickets online in Pakistan technically, but it wouldn’t take my international bank card so instead, we arrived at the bus station a bit before the bus left and got a ticket with no issues.

Daewoo coach Pakistan | Pakistan travel tips

I used this coach company to travel from Lahore to Islamabad.

We flew from Islamabad to Skardu and Gilgit to Islamabad. There are regular flights every day with Pakistan Airlines. Our first flight was cancelled from Islamabad to Gilgit and flight cancellations are very common due to the weather. We couldn’t book onto another flight to Gilgit for another 3 days so we changed routes and booked another flight free of charge to Skardu instead. Flexibility is key in Pakistan.

It is also possible to get an overnight bus from Islamabad to Northern Pakistan and back which is a better option if you need to arrive back in Islamabad on a fixed date to leave the country for example, because the overnight bus to Islamabad is more reliable than flying and you don’t want to miss your flight out of Pakistan!

Trains connect the major cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Whilst in Northern Pakistan we got taxi’s really easily. We also tried hitchhiking a few times as hitchhiking in Pakistan is popular, and safe. We also hired a jeep and driver for one day too!

jeep hire Deosai National Park | Pakistan travel tips

Hiring this jeep for 1.5 days was a great way to see more of the country and the Deosai National Park!

7- Planning Your Pakistan Itinerary.

How much time to spend in Pakistan?

The visa length for Pakistan is 1 month for most nationalities, you can get a visa extension for Pakistan fairly easily I believe, but I’d say that on a first trip to Pakistan 1 month in Pakistan is a good amount of time.

You may be doubtful of this if you don’t know too much about Pakistan but trust me when I say that there are so many places to see in Pakistan and the more you see, the more you realise how much there is to see!

I spent 3 weeks in Pakistan which was a good amount of time, although I could have stayed longer.

I’d say that 2 weeks in Pakistan is the minimum time you should spend there to make the trip worth it as it does take a while to get from place to place.

Here’s my Pakistan 2 week itinerary to help you plan your trip!

Upper Kachura Lake and Mountains | Pakistan itinerary

I hadn’t even thought of visiting Skardu but at the last minute we did and it was amazing! Another reason to spend as long as you can in Pakistan!

8- Internet in Pakistan.

How to get a Sim Card in Pakistan?

It is fairly easy to get a sim card in Pakistan, not really easy, but not that difficult.

Zong and Jazz are the main network providers in Pakistan in the South (including Lahore & Islamabad) and they have stores you can visit to buy a Pakistan sim card in the cities. For example, I stayed at MaryLeena Hotel in Gulberg in Lahore and there was a Jazz store down the road where I got my sim card from, and Tom had Zong which he got from a store in Islamabad. Both networks worked really well in Lahore and Islamabad.

However, in the Northern areas of Pakistan, we had to get another sim card as neither Zong or Jazz work up there. When getting a sim card in Hunza, or Skardu, you’ll need Scom or Telstar. This is an issue that Pakistani people face too so Scom sim cards are easy to purchase.

We did have more problems than a Pakistani person as hotels in Pakistan cannot sell you a sim card without a CNIC number (a Pakistani identification number) so to buy a sim card in Pakistan as a foreigner you have to go into an actual store.

I found that the wifi in Pakistan was fine in Lahore and Islamabad but in Northern Pakistan, it wasn’t good, so prepared to be disconnected a bit, especially in the mountains. Forget about booking things in advance, travel the old school way, and enjoy it!

On that note, many hotels in Pakistan are not online, again, especially in North Pakistan, even in tourist towns like Karimabad in Hunza, so I do recommend you turn up and look when you’re there! Again, embrace the old school travel way before the internet was so popular!

Jazz Pakistan network provider | Pakistan travel tips

I’d recommend a Jazz zim card!

9 – Cash & ATM’s in Pakistan.

How to get money in Pakistan?

I recommend that foreigners to Pakistan bring a few bank cards because we found that not all foreign bank cards work in all bank in Pakistan. For example, I had more luck with using Visa over Mastercard in ATM’s in Pakistan so I’m glad I had both options on me.

If you are landing in Islamabad Airport, note that right now it doesn’t have an ATM that works for international cards so try and bring some Pakistani Rupee with you for a taxi if you landing there. There’s also no ATM if you are crossing the Wagah Border from India to Pakistan, although you can exchange money at the border both sides.

After much trial and error, we found that Bank Al Falah was the best bank to use with an international bank card and we could get 40,000 Rupee out whereas with many others we could only get 20,000 out so look out for these.

We paid for everything in cash in Pakistan too, paying my card in Pakistan is not common, at least not using a foreign bank card, so make sure you always have cash on you and when you go to North Pakistan I’d recommend taking out a lot of cash when you can as ATM’s are more limited there and you don’t want to run out of cash!

Here’s how I organise my bank cards and cash when I travel which paid off in Pakistan!

Bank Alfalah | Pakistan travel tips

Look out for this bank!

10- Pakistan is changing a lot!

What’s the future of Pakistan?

I think that tourism in Pakistan will blow up soon. The prime minister Imran Khan is really trying to increase traveling to Pakistan and changing the old and negative perception of Pakistan. Making the visa process easier is a good example of this.

If you are an intrepid traveller looking for off the beat destinations, you have to go to Pakistan soon!

If you like visiting countries before they get ‘too touristy’, you have to go to Pakistan soon!

If you like unplanned adventure, incredible scenery, hospitable people and good value travel, you have to go to Pakistan soon!

Convinced? Good!

ellie quinn on husseini suspension bridge | Pakistan travel tips

Adventure mode = on!

Be sure to watch my Pakistan vlogs on YouTube here!

 

Here are more of my Pakistan travel blog posts:

How to Cross the Wagah Border on Foot | India to Pakistan!

2 Week Itinerary for Pakistan | Best Places to Visit on Your First Trip!

 

Combing a trip to India and Pakistan? Here are some of my India blog posts:

24 Places to Visit in India Perfect For Your First Trip to India!

Packing List For India & What To Wear in India as a Female!

How To Apply for the India Tourist E-Visa in 2020!

A 2 Week India Itinerary For Your First Trip To India!

 

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Anne Slater-Brooks
    November 28, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    OMG the pictures look amazing. The visa sounds a pain but is not that different to some places I have visited. Thanks for all the info

    • Reply
      TheWanderingQuinn
      November 30, 2019 at 2:15 pm

      The scenery is so incredible! Yes that’s true, there are many countries where you need to apply for a visa first. Thanks for reading.

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