After 2 visits to Pakistan, once as an independent backpacker and the other hosting a group tour for 16 women from around the world, I have an idea of the dress code for Pakistan for foreigners and what to wear in Pakistan.
Pakistan is a conservative Muslim country and there is a dress code for tourists in Pakistan that needs to be observed but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you may think and what to wear in Pakistan will differ depending on where in the country you are, who are you with and the activities you are doing.
For example, a different dress code is required when you are visiting the old streets of Lahore compared to when you are hiking in the North where life is much more chilled.
What to Wear in Pakistan
In this Pakistan travel blog, I will share my packing list for Pakistan, advise what to wear as a woman in Pakistan specifically as well as what to wear in Pakistan as a male.
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Dress Code in Pakistan
As a tourist in Pakistan, you can wear what you want within reason and it’s unlikely you will be ‘told off’ for not covering properly but because it is a traditional, conservative Muslim country it is best to follow this dress code in Pakistan..
Women should wear clothing that covers their knees so no shorts or skirts, midriff should be covered and shoulders/tops of arms should be covered so no vest tops.
Men should cover their shoulders but are allowed to wear shorts that are not too short.
Tourists do not need to wear traditional Pakistani clothing and you’ll notice in cities like Islamabad and Karachi that are more modern, many Pakistanis will wear Western clothing which means you can too, however, as I said with the Abaya in Saudi, trying out the local clothing is a nice thing to do as well as being the best way to keep cool which I’ll go into below.
Note – You do not need to wear a headscarf in Pakistan, I just wear one.
Modest Clothing for Pakistan
Overall, you should think about dressing modestly in Pakistan. Whilst tight jeans and a T-shirt are okay in many cities as well as Northern areas that are used to tourists like Hunza, dressing modestly with clothing that is light, covered and a bit more baggy can provide positives as well as being respectful like keeping cool in the Pakistan heat.
The heat in Pakistan cannot be understated. Cities like Karachi and Lahore are hot all year round during the day and extremely hot and humid in the summer months. You’re most likely to visit Northern Pakistan during the summer months and whilst it doesn’t have the humidity of the south, the daytime in the North during summer is very hot.
I’ve been to Northern Pakistan in September and October and whilst the nighttimes were very cold, the day times were very warm and a T-shirt was needed!
Why do women need to dress modestly in Pakistan?
As I mentioned, you are not likely to be ‘told off’ for not dressing modestly and whilst respect and keeping cool are reasons to dress modestly, another is to warn off unwanted attention.
If you are female and travelling in a group as I was with guides, you will get less attention as you will have male guides around you but if you are travelling independently, especially in the cities you may / will get men staring and asking for photos. The more covered you are, the better this will be for you.
I say the same in my guide on what to wear in Istanbul. Tourists can wear what they want in Istanbul (within reason) and many local Turkish women will not dress modestly but as a female tourist, you will get less unwanted attention if you cover your legs, shoulders and chest more.
What to Wear in Pakistan
For women, light, long or 3/4 length baggy trousers, or leggings with a t-shirt, tunic or light linen shirt are great items to wear in Pakistan to stay dressed modestly but stay cool too.
When thinking about what tops to pack for Pakistan, it’s better to pack tops that cover your bum especially if you’re in leggings. If your trousers are on the baggier side, this isn’t as much of a problem.
The cities in Pakistan get very hot during the day and if you want to wear a vest top/tank top, the best way to do this is to have a shawl that you tie around your shoulders. This will give you a bit of a breeze whilst covering your shoulders and chest. However, a baggy light T-shirt or Tunic might be even better.
If you like the idea of wearing a traditional outfit in Pakistan with a matching tunic and trousers, you really should! Walking the streets of Lahore or Karachi in the shopping areas you’ll see plenty on sale.
If you want to get a set that is better quality and shop in a more relaxed environment with a changing room, I recommend visiting a Sapphire store in Pakistan as they have beautiful ready-to-wear pieces which are not too expensive but do benefit from high quality.
I visited the Sapphire store in Gulburg in Lahore which is where I got this blue outfit! I got so many compliments on it. It’s so light and unbelievably comfy to wear!
As long as you are following the dress code for Pakistan that as a woman you have your legs covered past your knees and shoulders covered, you can enter a mosque. It’s better if you have your arms covered but as a tourist, it doesn’t matter too much and you could use your scarf to cover your arms a bit too if in a T-shirt.
Men can wear shorts and a T-shirt to a mosque. You’ll notice many local men won’t be in shorts. As a tourist and non-Muslim you will be okay to wear shorts although full-length trousers for men inside mosques are deemed more respectful in Pakistan.
What to Wear Hiking in Pakistan
The great news is that when hiking in Pakistan, you can pretty much wear what you’d normally wear hiking at home and in other parts of the world.
Women should still ideally refrain from wearing shorts and opt for 3/4 or full-length leggings/trousers instead and refrain from wearing a sports bra only or a top that shows the chest area. Women can wear a top that shows their arms no problem.
The ideal outfit would be a light and baggy sweat-wicking t-shirt along with light summer hiking trousers.
Men can wear shorts hiking along with a T-shirt.
The slightly more relaxed feeling of what to wear hiking in Pakistan is because most of the hiking is done in the North and these Northern areas are very used to tourists hiking therefore locals are more used to what tourists to Pakistan wear and it isn’t seen as disrespectful but again, as a women, be mindful still that the less you wear, the more attention or stares you might get.
In the summer months, it does get very hot during the day hiking in Northern Pakistan, it’s also warm during the day in Spring and Autumn (I’ve been to Pakistan in September and October and hiking during the day in both months was very warm), however, Northern Pakistan gets very cold at night especially in Spring and early Autumn when I went so you will need a range of layers and warm clothes as well.
Hiking Boots are a must when hiking in Pakistan or at least hiking shoes if you can’t fit boots in your bag but something to protect your ankle is best.
Popular hikes in Northern Pakistan are hiking to the Fairy Meadows and then onto Nanga Parbat Basecamp, Rakapooshi Basecamp, Attabad Lake Viewpoint and in Hunza hiking to Passu Bridge, the Black Glacier and White Glacier and all of these are very rocky and good ankle protection especially if you are not used to hiking is best.
That said, I did hike in Hunza in trainers a few years ago as did my friend Travel TomTom but we didn’t do the Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat Basecamp and after going this year, I wouldn’t have liked doing that in trainers!
Remember to also pack the following items to help you hike and look after you in case you get ill or feel bad in a remote location as most of Northern Pakistan is very remote:
- A backpack that can carry 1.5L of water
- Hiking Poles
- Tummy medication
- Pain relief
- Blister plasters
- Small first aid kit
- Snacks like energy & protein bars
- Down Jacket
- Hiking Socks
What to Wear Swimming in Pakistan
You may get the chance to swim in a few places in Pakistan, mainly in the North around Hunza. Attabad Lake is a popular swimming spot although we didn’t swim there on our group tour. Instead, we went to Borith Lake as pictured below where we got the chance to swim.
Bikini’s or a Swimming Costume are a no-go for Pakistan so don’t even pack them!
Instead, you’ll need to wear covered clothes and basically ‘normal’ clothes you don’t mind getting wet. The best idea is to pack an extra pair of gym leggings and workout t-shirt or long-sleeved top that you can get wet and that won’t be heavy in the water and pack a towel so you can dry and get changed easily.
At Borith Lake there is a restaurant with bathrooms to change in.
What to Pack for Pakistan
To recap, below is a packing list for Pakistan aimed at women which takes into account a trip covering Southern Cities and the Northern Areas. As a traveller to Pakistan, it’s likely you will be covering both areas and will have hiking in the North planned.. and if you don’t you should!
Here’s my 2 week Pakistan itinerary to help visit the North!
Pakistan Packing List
- Baggy / Light Long or 3/4 length trousers
- A few tunic tops
- Hiking Boots
- Hiking Trousers / Gym Leggings
- Sweat Resistance Top
- Woolly Hat*
- Down Jacket
- Waterproof Jacket
- Waterproof Trousers
- Hiking Socks
- Light PJ’s for South
- Long PJ’s for North*
- Backpack for Hiking
- Travel Towel
- Big Waterbottle
- Stomach Medication
*These items are needed if you are visiting the North in Spring or the approaching Autumn, in the middle of summer like July & August when evenings do not get as cold, you can do without them, unless you plan to hike to a Basecamp where it will get cold at night even in the summer.
I hope this packing list for Pakistan and guide on what to wear in Pakistan helps you out!
- For more of my posts on Pakistan to help you plan your trip see:
- Pakistan Travel Advice. Things To Know BEFORE You Go to Pakistan!
- A 2 Week Pakistan Itinerary to Northern Pakistan & the Cities!
- How To Do the Wagah Border Crossing on Foot? India to Pakistan!
- 13 BEST Places To Visit in Karachi That You Shouldn’t Miss, From a Local!
- How To Visit Amritsar’s Golden Temple and the Wagah Border Ceremony