Pakistan is a country that has always remained in the limelight when it comes to adventure tourism around the world. The country has been blessed with the mightiest of mountain ranges, the most magical valleys and lakes, expansive cities offering rich cultural and historical exposure, and people who are the epitome of unmatched hospitality.
The United States’ widely followed travel and lifestyle platform Condé Nast Traveller declared Pakistan as the no. 1 travel destination for 2020, while Forbes rated it as the top underrated travel destination for 2020 as well. Unfortunately, the travel industry did come to a temporary standstill that year due to the pandemic’s reign. Covid-19, however, does not continue to deter travelers from getting on a plane to explore this country with some of the most majestic views of nature.
Be it family adventures or solo trips, travelling in Pakistan is not always easy, especially if your holiday destination is in some remote part of the country. But worry not, this is exactly what makes your experience the ultimate adventure getaway!
It is always best to familiarize yourself with the country’s norms, do’s and don’ts before you embark on your tour of a lifetime. Below are some tips you can remember before you plan out your next adventure tour to Pakistan.
You can also check out the upcoming tours being arranged by The Mad Hatters!
- Itineraries are necessary, but set realistic expectations
Pakistan carries intrinsic value when it comes to being a tourist destination. The country, however, does not frequently offer luxurious or hassle-free travelling, especially when it is a road trip you’re planning. You do mostly find good hotels with courteous, friendly staff and decent amenities, nevertheless, luxury hotels are not available everywhere, especially at remote locations. Your typical Pakistani adventure tour will include long off-roading sessions, a lot of mud and dirt, possible flight delays, unannounced obstructions due to landslides/protests/construction work, and so on. Managing your expectations according to locally available infrastructure is necessary to be able to ultimately enjoy your experience.
Developing an itinerary after proper research is strongly advised for you to be able to plan things out. Not every tour will be possible impromptu without prior hotel bookings, vehicle arrangements, weather status checks, construction site updates, etc. Your local tour operator will be able to guide you through this and develop detailed itineraries for you to maximize your adventure tour experience.
In case of any queries on itineraries for tours, please contact us here.
Rest assured, luxury or no luxury, your adventure tour will be one of the best experiences you’d ever have and you’ll remember it for eternity!
- Be well-prepared for all situations
Preparedness is key for travel in Pakistan. The country is beautiful, welcoming, warm, and adventurous, and will take your breath away with all it has to offer. But being unprepared for unprecedented circumstances can put a dent in your otherwise remarkable experience.
One crucial travel tip that I have for years reiterated to anyone who would listen, is to always carry basic essentials and an extra pair of clothing in a smaller backpack other than your overall luggage. Your big-sized suitcases are mostly packed away, tarped, and roped up to the roof of the vehicle you’re travelling in, and aren’t always accessible midway. Carrying a backpack with overnight essentials makes things much more comfortable in case of any unforeseen delays.
Pro tip: Always keep some snacks with you, especially if you’re travelling across remote areas with no superstores on the way. Chocolates are your best friend!
In case you are wondering what kind of items you need to pack when preparing for your trip, check out our FAQs section for details.
- Add a ‘local’ element to your tour
You can travel on your own on a solo trip across cities in Pakistan, or you can move with a tour bus, it will always be prudent to have a local guide to help you through your travel destination in Pakistan. The charm and experience that local guides offer, coupled with background stories, histories, and the inside scoop, can never be matched by a tour devoid of the local experience.
It’s also necessary to mention here that hiring a local guide might seem like an added expense. But it is a means of earning a respectable income for people living in the remotest of areas under the harshest of conditions. It can be your way of supporting local businesses while gaining an experience that will be well worth the money.
If you’re lucky, you might even get invited into a local household for a cup of chai, and you will for sure be blown away by their hospitality!
- Be mindful of local cultural sensitivities
Witnessing local culture is often the top-most point of attraction for travelers, especially those travelling from foreign lands. We understand the fascination – the idea of experiencing a way of life that’s entirely different from yours is exotic and you can’t help wanting to immerse yourself in it. But it is also necessary to remain respectful of local cultural sensitivities and see what’s appropriate and what’s not.
For example, the Kalasha culture from Kalash Valley is widely popular due to their unusual traditions and women’s colorful dressing. As a traveler, you might be tempted to photograph the local women in their long black robes with colorful threadwork and headgear. But these women are often conservative and do not appreciate this invasion of privacy. It is always better to strike up a conversation first, befriend them, show interest in their work and life, maybe make a little purchase, and then ask for consent from them or their male guardian for photography.
Similarly, western clothing in popular Pakistani holiday destinations like Hunza, Skardu, Deosai, Lahore, and Karachi is usually acceptable, but shorter dresses and shorts might irk some locals. It’s best to dress with modesty in line with local cultures for your own comfort as well as that of others around you.
Ask your local Pakistani tour operators and travel agencies for cultural restrictions and appropriate behaviors beforehand to have a pleasant and comfortable experience.
- Of ATM machines, SIM cards, NOCs, and so on
A few additional important things that your traveler friends might miss out on:
– ATM machines are available and functional in most holiday destinations, but in some remote areas, they are at great distances and may not always work or have cash in them. Credit card machines in places other than the major cities of Pakistan are also rare. So carry cash in local currency with you, and do not rely on cards for payments.
– Jazz, Zong, Telenor, Ufone, and SCom are all mobile operators in Pakistan with SIM cards available far and wide. However, not all regions will have coverage for all of these telecom service providers. Zong and Telenor have good coverage and reasonable data packages in most cities. Telenor works the best in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while nothing other than SCom works in Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir. Do your research on which SIM card to purchase based on your itinerary and invest in one with a good data package. It’s cheap and easily affordable.
– If you’re a foreigner, you might need a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to visit certain tourist destinations. Ask your local travel agency for more details on travel document requirements.
– Pakistani people are known for their hospitality and as a foreigner coming from a different land, it might at times overwhelm you. Remaining respectful in these circumstances is imperative.
– Keep multiple photocopies of all of your original travel documents and stash them away in different pieces of your luggage in case any of it gets misplaced.
– Power banks!
– Lastly, and most importantly, remain patient. There will be delays and changes in plans that are unprecedented, but there will also always be ways to overcome those and have an exceptionally great time. All that matters is that you remain patient and prioritize your local cultural and adventure experience.
Summer in Pakistan is the peak season for all kinds of travelling across different cities, mountains, and valleys, when all the destinations are full of the warm weather, hustle and bustle of businesses, festivals, and holiday fever. But if you are looking for better weather and fewer tourist crowds during your visit, especially to the northern side, it would be better to choose the spring and fall months (Sep-Nov/Mar-April) for your travel plans, during which the colorful beauty of the northern side truly reveals itself.
So, don’t miss out on your travel opportunities and hop on that plane for the best travel destination on a budget!
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Written by: Tooba Latif