Traveling in Pakistan

Pakistan has so much to offer in terms of natural beauty, culture, history, hospitality, and a lot more. But the tourism landscape here is still in the development stage, so there can be a lack of proper infrastructure and facilities at times, especially in remote areas. Check-out the following resources to give you guidelines about traveling in Pakistan.

Pakistan Tourist Visa

Your main point of reference is going to be NADRA – the National Database & Registration Authority. Follow this link to find a list of countries eligible for E-Visa services. Citizens from over 179 countries are eligible to apply online. For those who cannot use the online services, here is a list of Pakistani embassies around the world.

Everyone except Pakistani nationals and overseas Pakistanis (those with non-resident NICOP or POC cards) need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) for their Pakistani visa. In some cases, hotel booking confirmations can suffice for getting a visa. You can get an invitation letter to apply for the visa from a tourism company or an individual of Pakistani origin. Getting a Letter of Invitation through a tourism company will be the safest option to get the visa smoothly.

Most tourists apply for a 30-day, single-entry tourist e-visa. Certain nationalities are eligible to apply for a Visa on Arrival, but we do not recommend it as this is a relatively unreliable process and securing your visa beforehand is a much safer option for a hassle-free travel experience.

If you are planning to tour Pakistan with the Mad Hatters, we can help you get started with the visa application by providing you a LOI. All you need to do is give us a scan of your passport. You can check this blog for more details about the visa application process.

It is best to set aside 3 months for the application process, just so there are no hiccups along the way and no last-minute panic setting in. The average time expected for visa processing is 1-2 weeks but better safe than sorry!

Local Norms and Culture

Be respectful of local religion, customs, traditions, and practices. Avoid physical contact between men and women in public. Avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours during Ramzan (Muslim holy month of fasting).

What to Wear

Pakistan is a conservative Islamic country, which means you need to be careful about the way you dress.

Men and women are advised to cover their shoulders, arms, and legs in public. Men can wear t-shirts and jeans/trousers almost everywhere. Shalwar kameez, the local dress/pants combination, is most ideal… and the most comfortable for men as well as women.

For women, shirts with at least ¾ length sleeves that cover your butt are the norm. Looser shirts that hide your body’s figure are ideal—leave curve-hugging and cleavage-showing clothes at home. Long pants are a must, though tighter clothing like skinny jeans and leggings won’t get you too much attention so long as your butt is covered by your shirt. 

In the mountains, you can be a bit more flexible with your dressing as people are used to seeing tourists trekking in all kinds of clothes. We still recommend wearing long sleeves, but you can get away with wearing a t-shirt if walking for the day. Again, still no shorts, please.

Covering your head isn’t necessary outside of mosques, but women should always carry a scarf. You can use it to cover your head in religious places, as well as cover your chest in more conservative areas such as bazaars if you’re feeling uncomfortable.

Medical Facilities

Facilities at some clinics and hospitals in major cities are close to Western standards. In most towns, and especially in rural and remote areas these facilities are quite limited. In an extremely rare case of a serious injury or sickness, you may need medical evacuation, please ensure that your travel insurance covers this.

Vaccinations for Pakistan

There are no official vaccination requirements for traveling in Pakistan. 

WHO recommended vaccinations include:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Typhoid
  • Cholera
  • Polio booster

But, of course, we’re no doctors—it’s best to ask your local physician or travel clinic about what your vaccination options are. 

You may be asked to take a polio booster before leaving Pakistan.

Public Spaces

It is rare to see women in public spaces in Pakistan, so do not get intimidated by men who dominate the streets and love to stare. People in the north are usually more open-minded as they are used to seeing more tourists around.

Public Holidays

Plan your trip keeping in mind the local and public holidays. Most of the religious events such as Ramzan and Eid are subject to moon sightings. Most tourist destinations get overcrowded during public holidays, so we advise avoiding traveling at these times.

Local Currency

Pakistan has a cash-based economy, especially in remote areas. The local currency is Pakistani Rupee (PKR). International hotels, large stores, and some shops in urban centers usually accept credit cards. ATMs and money exchanges are easily available in urban cities but can be difficult to find in the mountains and other remote areas. We advise having enough cash to meet all your requirements while on the tour before leaving the big cities.

If you are bringing foreign currency and plan to get it converted to PKR, then USD or Euro will be the easiest to exchange, but you can exchange other popular currencies as well. Do bring clean (nothing written or stamped on them) and new (latest notes that are not outdated) currency notes. Also, preferably bring large bills of 50 or 100. The money exchanges in Pakistan will not accept or give you a very bad exchange rate for the currency otherwise.

Tipping

You can tip the guides, drivers, and other individuals who serve you on the trip as per your will. The amount can range from a few hundred to a few thousand rupees depending upon the service they provided. At the restaurants, you can tip around 10% of the bill amount.

Contingency Funds

It is advised to ensure you have an extra USD 500-1,000 for emergencies (such as extreme weather, natural disasters, or political unrest) or other events that result in changes to the tour plan. The suggested amount is listed in USD for the relatability of international travelers; however, the local currency (Pakistani Rupees) is what you need while traveling in Pakistan.

Driving

You will have to acquire a driving license to be able to drive in Pakistan and get used to right-hand drive vehicles.

Flights

International airports in Pakistan are becoming more modern (especially in the major and tourist cities). To enter the airport, you must have a copy of your flight ticket and passport. 

Domestic flights in Pakistan have strict weight limits – 20 kg of check-in luggage. Flights between Islamabad and Gilgit/Skardu/Chitral are often delayed or canceled due to unpredictable weather. If your flight is canceled, you can try to take the next available flight. Failing that, you can follow a contingency plan to travel by road.

Emergency Contact Information

These numbers are for Islamabad and Lahore only. For local area emergency contact information, our local guide will advise you.

Fire Brigade and Rescue Services

Call 1122 or 16. (Dial city code 051 for Islamabad and city code 042 for Lahore, for calling landlines).

Medical Emergencies

Call 1122 or 115, or go to the nearest hospital.

Police

Emergency helpline 15, or visit the nearest police station. (Always get a police report when you report a crime)

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