We interviewed Abdullah, a traveler from Kuwait who visited Pakistan in 2022. We asked him about his experiences in Pakistan and what advice he would offer to other tourists like himself who were considering visiting Pakistan!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Abdullah, I’m from Kuwait and I consider myself an avid traveler; interested in traveling to destinations that aren’t usually popular among most tourists. I like to stray off the beaten path and find places most people wouldn’t have heard of or wouldn’t have thought of visiting.
What planted the seed for your love of travel and adventure?
My country is relatively small and isn’t particularly diverse nor rich in culture or heritage. Entertainment opportunities in the Gulf are generally quite limited and most people tend to travel abroad come the holidays. I’ve always been fascinated ever since I was young when my parents would take us on trips during our summer vacations to visit and experience countries that were vastly different from ours. There’s something incredibly humbling in witnessing the differences in cultures, but also the striking similarities regardless of the distances in-between. Travel reminds us how we’re all interconnected by threads of humanity, caregiving, and empathy and opens our eyes to new perspectives.
Would you like to tell us a little bit about your travel experiences so far?
I’ve had my fair share of traveling to “mainstream” destinations with my family but as an adult, I prefer seeking out more adventurous locales. I grew up traveling to Europe in the summers and have visited most of the countries on the continent. I started branching out and visiting slightly more unorthodox destinations in my early 20s, starting in East Africa and making my way to Asia.
What made you want to venture to Pakistan?
During university, I befriended many Pakistanis and felt their intense sense of patriotism when they started describing their country and the many provinces within it. One thing they always mentioned was the natural beauty of Pakistan, particularly the mountainous northern areas, which left an impression on me because it’s not what I associated with the country. I began seeing Pakistan in a new light. It really made me want to visit the country one day and experience it all for myself. Visiting the Pakistani pavilion at Expo2020 (Dubai) was extremely inspiring and sealed the deal for me. I booked my tickets shortly thereafter.
Did you have any reservations about traveling to Pakistan?
Personally, as I mentioned, after conversing with so many of my friends I didn’t have any anxieties that one wouldn’t normally have when traveling. I was mainly worried about logistics – getting a phone SIM, accessibility, and transportation, etc. Especially since I was planning on traveling to the more rural, northern regions of Pakistan. I was worried that things might be tiring in terms of trying to get to places or that I might be limited in where I could go because of transportation issues, but that wasn’t the case.
I didn’t expect there to be apps like Uber and the like that provide on-demand transportation, which was a great relief. I would say that was my main concern; the lack of simple yet necessary amenities. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case at all.
However, some of my family and acquaintances were a bit more nervous about my trip. They were unsure if it would be safe for me to travel alone, especially since I do not speak Urdu. But I ignored their warnings and went ahead with my trip anyway and I’m glad I did!
How did you begin planning for your trip?
I initially noted down the places I was interested in visiting; I also consulted my Pakistani friends as to where the places they recommend. Nowadays YouTube helps a lot in terms of finding travel vlogs that help you figure out what places you might be interested in. Reading up reviews isn’t as helpful as seeing someone go through the experience themselves and there are a lot of Pakistani and foreign vloggers who have detailed their journeys online. After that, I proceeded to contact numerous tour agencies to arrange transportation to different parts of Pakistan.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey through Pakistan and the highlights of your trip?
I started my trip in Lahore, and spent about 4 nights there, then proceeded to Islamabad by road before our flight to Gilgit. After a couple of nights in Islamabad, we flew north and managed to go from Gilgit to Karimabad. We stayed there for two nights then proceeded to explore more of Hunza Valley.
I would say my highlight was Karimabad; being surrounded by those imposing mountains and the starry skies at night was absolutely breathtaking.
Reflecting on your trip, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I would have spent more time in the north if I could, there are so many other parts that I wish I had the time to experience, but unfortunately, I had to return home. I’m a mountain boy at heart and would love to experience Hunza through all seasons, particularly the winter. I visited in the summer, and it was much hotter than I expected which put a slight damper on my trip at some points.
Did you encounter any difficulties through your trip that you were unprepared for – mentally or otherwise?
YES. ISLAMABAD AIRPORT. It’s incredibly unfortunate but I absolutely hated my experience there. There were problems with everything from check-in to immigration. It was an incredibly sour end to an otherwise beautiful trip. For a country that encourages tourism and welcomes tourists, they make it incredibly difficult sometimes.
What advice would you give other non-Pakistanis traveling to Pakistan?
Throw all your pre-conceived notions out the window and just go for it. Pakistan has so much to offer and it’s a nature lover’s paradise. The people are so hospitable, and the food is incredibly delicious (special mention to lovers of spicy food!). It’s a country that’s authenticity will greet you the moment you land and will envelop you throughout your stay.
Every country is different, and every culture is beautiful in its own right. Drawing from your extensive travel experience, how do you feel Pakistan compares as a travel destination compared to other countries around the world?
I think in terms of what it has to offer in the way of outdoor activities, the northern areas present limitless opportunities. If it’s culture you’re after, then cities like Lahore and Rawalpindi are full of it. If you’re interested in history and food, then Karachi is the place to go. It’s a very well-rounded country with so much to offer and is relatively inexpensive compared to other destinations, which is always a bonus.
Written by: Hira Sami