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Pakistan

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Pakistan (Urdu: ???????), officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is in South Asia and is the world's 34th largest country by size. With a population exceeding 180 million people, it is the sixth most populous country in the world. Pakistan is strategically located astride the ancient trade routes of the Khyber and Bolan passes between South Asia and Central Asia. Another pass, which now has the Karakoram Highway through it, leads to Western China. All these passes, and some ports in Pakistan, formed part of the ancient Silk Road which linked Asia and Europe.

Pakistan's tourism industry was in its heyday during the 1970s when the country received unprecedented numbers of foreign tourists, thanks to the Hippie Trail. Subsequently the number of foreign tourists has come down, due to instability in the country and many countries declaring it as unsafe and dangerous to visit. Even so, it continues to attract tourists due to its unique, diverse cultures, people and landscapes. The country's attractions range from the ruin of civilisations, such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Taxila, to the Himalayan hill stations, which attract those interested in winter sports. Pakistan is home to several mountain peaks over 7,000 m, which attract adventurers and mountaineers from around the world, especially K2.

Regions

Pakistan is a federation of four provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, as well as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a federal territory in the northwest. The government of Pakistan exercises de facto jurisdiction over the western parts of the disputed Kashmir region, organised into the separate political entities Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan (formerly Northern Areas).

Cities

Nine of Pakistan's most notable cities follow. Other cities are listed in the article for their region.

  • Islamabad – the federal capital, a relatively new planned city with a much more "laid back" feel than the other cities
  • Faisalabad – a major city in Punjab, famous for its textile industry
  • Karachi – the financial capital and the largest city of the country, it's an industrial port city and the provincial capital of Sindh
  • Lahore – city of the Mughals, it's a bustling and very historical city in the Punjab that shouldn't be missed
  • Multan – the City of Saints, famous for blue pottery, ornamental glasswork, and Khussa – a type of shoes
  • Muzaffarabad – capital of Azad Kashmir and a very picturesque city
  • Peshawar – capital city of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it has a bit of an outlaw edge to it, and is the gateway to the Khyber Pass
  • Quetta – a large, beautiful and slightly unruly city in the southern state of Balochistan, you'll pass through here en route to or from Iran
  • Sialkot – the city of sports goods, famous for its exports industry, and one of the oldest cities in the region

Other destinations

  • Karakoram Highway – part of the historic Silk Road and the main artery running north to China
  • Murree – a popular Himalayan hill station one hours drive from Islamabad
  • Khewra Salt Mine – the second largest salt mine of the world. Nearly two hours drive from Islamabad towards south via the motorway
  • Mohenjo-daro – archaeological site from the Indus Valley Civilisation, about 2000 BCE
  • Taxila – archaeological site for the Gandharan period (1st millennium BCE and 1st CE)
  • Changa Manga- is a planted forest locating in 12,423 acres.

See also Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent and the UNESCO World Heritage listings for Pakistan.

Understand

History

See also: British Raj

Humans are thought to have first migrated into the Indian subcontinent around 70,000 BCE and there are some archaeological sites for stone age in Ancient Pakistan. One important one is at Mehrgarh (Pakistan), with the oldest known evidence of agriculture in the subcontinent, around 7000 BCE.

The Indus Valley Civilization (3300-1300 BCE) was one of the world's first Bronze Age civilizations and very advanced for its time. At its peak (2600-1900 BCE) it covered most of what is now Pakistan, plus some of northern India and eastern Afghanistan. The two main archaeological sites, both in Pakistan, are Mohenjo-daro and Harappa.

Some time after 2000 BCE, the Aryans, herdsmen from somewhere to the northwest, migrated into the region. At about the same time, related groups invaded Greece (Hellenic Greeks displacing Minoans), Anatolia or Turkey (the Hittites), Persia and other areas. It is believed that all these tribes spoke related languages and many modern languages, including most of those spoken in northern India and in Europe and some in Central Asia, are descended from them. Linguists classify them all in the Indo-European language family.

The history of Pakistan has been traced back to the earliest ancient human civilisations in Southern Asia. The earliest evidence of farming in South Asia is from 7,000 BCE in Mehrgarh. Mehrgarh in present-day Balochistan was a small farming village and centre of agriculture in South Asia during New Stone Age period which lasted until its abandonment around 2600 BCE due to climate change and was succeeded by Indus Valley Civilization, a civilization in the early stages of development growing along one of the major rivers of Asia, the Indus. By 3300 BCE, the IVC extended throughout much of what is modern-day Pakistan. It became one of the great civilisations of the ancient world along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. This Bronze Age civilisation with its remarkably sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning become most advanced civilisation of its time which had well-planned towns and well-laid roads, as recorded in its major city of Mohenjo-daro which today is an archaeological site of immense historical significance. The Indus Valley Civilization declined and disintegrated around 1900 BCE, possibly due to drought and geological disturbances. Most historians believe that the Vedic people were migrants who encountered this civilization in decline and perhaps hastened that decline. The Vedic people eventually occupied most of North India, laid the foundations of Hinduism and flourished in the ancient city of what is today known as Taxila. After the defeat of the first Persian Empire, Achaemenid, which ruled much of modern Pakistan, Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic King of Macedon, invaded the region of Pakistan and conquered much of the Punjab region for his Macedonian empire.

Prior to the late 18th century, Pakistan was the main Islamic stronghold in the Mughal Empire, which at its peak covered the great majority of the Indian subcontinent. The area that now makes up Pakistan kept its status as one of the main cultural and political hubs of South Asia for over 300 years. From the late 18th century until 1947, Pakistan was part of the British Empire, and one can still see the signs of Pakistan's colonial past in most places.

The name Pakistan was used officially after the partition of (British) India into the two nation-states of India and Pakistan in 1947. However, the word Pakistan was first used by Choudhry Rahmat Ali back in 1933 in his declaration, Now or Never – calling for its separation from the Empire. Afterwards, British-ruled India was divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (with two sections, West and East) and India. Later, East Pakistan seceded and became the separate nation of Bangladesh, as a result of an extremely brutal war which also involved India. A dispute over Kashmir is still ongoing between India and Pakistan and has resulted in three wars and many skirmishes, acts of terrorism and an insurgency and counter-insurgency in the part of Kashmir controlled by India and claimed by Pakistan.

Right after its independence Pakistan was a peaceful, tolerant, progressive and prosperous country and a magnet for international travelers. By the late 1960's Pakistan's tourism industry was flourishing and the country became a hotspot for many young Western travelers and the hippie types. In the absence of political and ethnic violence and terrorism Pakistan showed the image of a cosmopolitan, orderly country but by the 1980's the reputation of Pakistan had changed drastically, and today it is a very different place from what it used to be.

Today Pakistan is populated mostly by people whose ancestors originated from various other places — including Arabs from after the Islamic expeditions, Persians from Bukhara and Samarkand, Turks from Central Asia — and the native Sindhus whose ancestors converted to Islam. Ethnic groups such as Punjabis, Sindhis, Seraikis, Pashtuns, Mohajirs and Balochs all have different native languages, cultures and histories.

Geography

Located along the Arabian Sea, Pakistan is surrounded by Afghanistan to the northwest, Iran to the southwest, India to the east, and China to the northeast. Pakistan has its own unique character but also has many commonalities with neighbouring nations, especially Afghanistan and India.

Pakistan is one of those few countries in the world that has every kind of geological structure. It has the sea, desert (Sindh & Punjab), green mountains (North West Province), dry mountains (Balochistan), mountains covered with snow, rivers, rich land to cultivate (Punjab & Sindh), water resources, waterfalls, and forests. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan contain the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush. Pakistan's highest point is K2, which, at 8,611 metres, is the second highest peak in the world. The Punjab province is a flat, alluvial plain whose rivers eventually join the Indus River and flow south to the Arabian Sea. Sindh lies between the Thar Desert and the Rann of Kutch to the east, and the Kirthar range to the west. The Balochistan Plateau is arid and surrounded by dry mountains. Pakistan experiences frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe, especially in the north and the west.

Climate

Mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north. Flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August). Fertile and sub humid heat in the Punjab region. The climate varies from tropical to temperate, with arid conditions in the coastal south. There is a monsoon season with frequent flooding due to heavy rainfall, and a dry season with significantly less rainfall or none at all. There are four distinct seasons: a cool, dry winter from December through February; a hot, dry spring from March through May; the summer rainy season, or southwest monsoon period, from June through September; and the retreating monsoon period of October and November. Rainfall varies greatly from year to year, and patterns of alternate flooding and drought are common.

Politics

Pakistan is theoretically a democratic, parliamentary federal republic modelled on the British Westminster system, with Islam as the state religion. The President, indirectly elected, is the Head of State, but his position is primarily ceremonial. The Prime Minister and his cabinet run the government. The Parliament is bicameral. The National Assembly, the lower house, is directly elected by universal adult franchise, while the Senate is the upper house and indirectly elected. The National Assembly is the more powerful of the two, primarily because a majority in the National Assembly is required to form a government and pass budgets. Pakistan has a vast number of political parties and, in recent times, no party has secured a majority in the National Assembly, leading to unstable governments, short-lived political alliances and raucous politics. Pakistan has a strong and independent judiciary and a free press.

However, political instability has resulted in (or some would say, has been partially caused by) a high degree of military control in Pakistan. Most of the prime ministers have been influenced by the chief of the Pakistani army in major decisions related to foreign policy, and there have been periods of outright military dictatorship in the past.

Pakistan is also a Federal Republic, divided into provinces. Each of these has its own legislature, with a government run by a chief minister and a cabinet.

Street demonstrations and political agitations occur, as they do in any democracy. There is also occasional low-level violence, but a visitor has a vanishingly small chance of getting caught in that. Terrorism is a bigger problem, though. It can occur anywhere, and some parts of the country are too dangerous to visit because of the great risks in those areas (see "Stay safe").

Culture

Pakistan being home to numerous ethnic groups is culturally diverse nation that emphasise both on local culture and tradions alongwith the traditional Islamic values. The culture is greatly influenced by many of its neighbours states.

Women

Legally women and men have equal rights under the law in Pakistan, however society is largely patriarchal and women are particularly mistreated in rural areas, where their access to education and employment remains limited.

Nevertheless, women have played a prominent role in the development of the country in government, education, services, health as well as the military. Benazir Bhutto was the first female premier of Pakistan, and the first democratically elected female leader of a Muslim country and women have served in many other prominent areas in politics. The Pakistan Air Force has also recently started to employ female fighter pilots.

Holidays

Get in

Visas

Citizens of 24 "Tourist Friendly Countries" (TFC) are eligible for one month visas on arrival if they travel through a designated/authorised tour operator who will assume responsibility for them while in the country. Any extensions of this type of visa must also be done through the tour operator. They include: Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, UK and USA.

Nationals of most other countries (and those not wanting to travel with a tour operator and group) need to apply in advance for a visa, which are usually issued for 30-90 days depending on nationality and where you apply. Double-entries are sometimes given, but be clear and persistent that you need this when applying. Visas for Pakistan are usually easier to obtain in your home country as the missions around the world have been given more authority to issue visas without checking with Islamabad, which should help in getting applications turned around quicker.

A handful of countries are issued visas on arrival: Iceland and Maldives for 3 months, Hong Kong, Nepal and Samoa for 1 month, while Tonga and Trinidad and Tobago nationals can stay for an unlimited amount of time.

Nationals of Israel are not allowed entry as it is not recognised as a nation by Pakistan (and most other Muslim countries), but there is no restriction on Jews holding passports from other nations. Despite much on-line information to the contrary, Israeli stamps and visas would usually pose no problems for entry into Pakistan, though you may be subject to more stringent questioning by immigration officers. And while under normal circumstances visas can not be obtained by Israeli passport holders, there have been exceptions in which nationals of Israel have been admitted to Pakistan after obtaining an NOC from the Ministry of Interior in Islamabad beforehand, which they then submitted along with application for Pakistani visa.

Indian nationals can apply for 30 day tourist visas but must travel in a group through an authorised tour operator. Visitor visas to meet relatives or friends are more easy to obtain, and come with some restrictions. Religious visas are granted for groups of 10 or more for 15 days. The High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi issues visas with varying degrees of difficulty, taking at least 1 day (and sometimes several) to process the application. Applications are only accepted in the mornings from around 09:00-11:00. Arrive early and expect the process to take a few hours, and possibly a few return visits. Window 5 is for foreign tourist and business visas (under the big white sign).

Nationals of Afghanistan are refused entry if their passports or tickets show evidence of transit or boarding in India.

Holders of Taiwan passports are refused entry except in airport transit.

Citizens of certain countries can obtain Business visas on arrival at major airports (Islamabad, LahorePeshawarQuetta or Karachi) if their local host company either obtain an approval from the immigration authorities or arrange an invitation letter duly recommended by the concerned trade organizations in Pakistan. Recommendation letter issued by chamber of commerce & industry is also acceptable.

The Pakistan Consulate in Istanbul does not issue visas unless you are a resident of Turkey, although it may be possible in Ankara.

The consulate in Zahedan in Iran no longer issues visas, head for the embassy in Tehran.

People of Pakistani origin living overseas are granted 5 year multiple entry visas (along with their spouses), good for single stays of up to 1 year. Visas aren't required at all if they are holding a Pakistan Origin Card (POC) or a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).

By plane

Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are the main gateways to Pakistan by air. Eight other international airports are in Quetta, Gawadar, PeshawarSialkotMultanRahim Yar KhanFaisalabad and Dera Ghazi Khan. KarachiLahore and Islamabad all served by many international airliners and are directly connected to cities from Europe, North America, Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Pakistan's national carrier Pakistan International Airlines provide good connectivity within the country as well to major hubs around the world. PIA was once a major and reputated airlines in the world, but is now suffering due to bad governance. It is still the largest airline of the country and serve most number of destinations , both local and international.

PIA has direct connections with Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Birmingham, Barcelona, Bangkok, Beijing, Copenhagen, Dubai, Doha, Dammam, Delhi, Dhaka, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kabul, Istanbul, Kuwait, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, London, Oslo, Paris, Riyadh. Sharjah, Singapore, Manchester, Medinah, Mumbai, Milan, Muscat, New York, Riyadh, Tokyo, Toronto-Pearson, and Zahedan.

Most number of flights and airlines orignates from Gulf countries where most of overseas Pakistan work and thus are often reasonable. Other than flag career PIA, private airlines such as Airblue and Shaheen Airlines also operate flights to numerous Arab destinations.

By train

Pakistan has train links with India and Iran, though none of these trains are the quickest and most practical way to enter Pakistan. Should speed be a priority it is better to take the bus, or if you are really in a hurry, to fly, however the trains are sights in their own right.

From India:

  • The Samjhauta Express runs on Tuesdays and Fridays between Delhi and Lahore via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. This is the most common option chosen by travellers, however, tourists should be aware that after recent terrorist attacks on the train, which caused many a casualty and strained relationships between the two neighbours, it is strongly advised that you take taxis or buses to and from the border instead.
  • The Thar Express runs from Bhagat ki Kothi in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Karachi in Pakistan's Sindh province. This route restarted in February 2006 after 40 years out of service, but is not currently open to foreign tourists.

From Iran: There is only one link, from Zahedan to Quetta.

By car

From ancient times people have been travelling through Pakistan using the Grand Trunk Road and the Silk Road that run through Pakistan and into the Indian subcontinent. It's a rewarding but time consuming way to see this part of the world. New highways have been developed and the country is due for an expansion in its highway network. A world-class motorway connects the cities of PeshawarIslamabadLahore, and Faisalabad but drivers' behaviour is still poor and capriciously policed.

From China: Pakistan is connected to China by the Karakoram Highway, a modern feat of engineering that traverses a remarkably scenic route through the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains. Plans are in place for this highway to be expanded from its current width of 10 m to 30 m as a result of the increase in trade traffic due to Gwader port opening.

From Afghanistan:

  • The Khyber Pass connects Peshawar to Jalalabad and Kabul and requires an armed escort and a permit to travel through the tribal regions between Peshawar and the border. Onward travel from the border to Kabul is of questionable safety, check the current situation locally.
  • The Bolan Pass connects Quetta to Kandahar and is considered very dangerous. This route is not currently open to foreign tourists, and is only open to locals and aid workers.

By bus

From India: While there is international service running from Delhi to Lahore it is just as fast, much more flexible, and much cheaper to take the journey by stringing together local transport and crossing the border on foot. As of October 2009, the bus was Rs 1,500. The journey details can be found here: dtc.nic.in/lahorebus . You cannot buy the ticket on the spot, rather you will need to show up a few days before at Delhi Gate with photocopies of your Pakistani and Indian visas. The bus leaves at 06:00 but you will need to be at Delhi Gate at 04:00 to check in for it.

From China: You can take a bus from Kashgar over the Karakoram Highway to Pakistan.

From Iran: Via the Mijva border in Iran which is half an hours drive from Zahedan. The Pakistani border town is called Taftan and has facilities of immigration, customs, hotels, etc.

Get around

Getting around Pakistan has become much easier in recent years with the completion of some motorways, and an increase in private airlines. Whilst the cities are well covered, roads in rural areas are not, with many minor roads missing - Google Maps in particular has a worrying habit of marking dried up river beds as minor roads, so if you're exploring out in the sticks, it's a good idea to use Google Earth to double check your route.

By plane

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) serves numerous domestic destinations and is the only airline to serve the three airports in the north of interest to trekkers or climbers: Chitral, Gilgit, and Skardu. There are usually two flights from Islamabad to these cities daily, but they are often cancelled due to bad weather, and often over-booked —; show up early to guarantee a seat.

Other domestic carriers include Shaheen Air International and Airblue.

By train

Pakistan Railways provides passenger rail service. The stations tend not to have their timetables in English, but sales agents can usually explain everything to you. There are several different classes of fares depending on amenities.

Air-Conditioned Sleeper class is the most expensive class, where the fares are almost at par with air fare. Bedding is included with the fare and this air conditioned coach is present only on popular routes between Karachi to Lahore. The sleeper berths are extremely wide and spacious and the coaches are carpeted.

By bus

A large portion of travel between cities in Pakistan is carried out by bus. Travel by bus is often the cheapest and most convenient alternative. The Daewoo company runs a regular bus service between several major cities, with air-conditioned buses and seats booked one day ahead. While rather inexpensive, they are still almost five times as expensive as the cheap and uncomplicated rides offered by minibuses or larger buses between the major bus stations of the cities. On the regular bus services, fares are often (though not always) paid directly on the bus, there is no air-conditioning, and sometimes very little knee space, but you get where you are going all the same. You'll also probably benefit from kind interest and friendly conversation on many rides. Buses leave almost incessantly from the major bus stations for all the major cities, and many smaller locations, so booking ahead is neither possible nor necessary on the simpler buses. When travelling between major cities, smaller buses are to be preferred over the larger ones, as the larger ones tend to pick up passengers along the way and, therefore, travel more slowly.

The situation is similar for local transport. While the organization of local transport may look a little different between cities, there is usually an active bus service running throughout each city, with varying levels of government control.

You can purchase bus tickets online with the Daewoo bus company.

Talk

See also: Urdu phrasebook

Urdu is both the national and an official language and is spoken throughout Pakistan as a lingua franca. In addition to Urdu, most Pakistanis speak their regional languages or dialects such as Punjabi, Pothohari, Sindhi, Pashto (Pushtun), Balochi, Saraiki, Shina, Burushaski, Khowar, Wakhi, Hindko etc.

English is also an official language (British control began in the 1840s and did not end until 1947). English is widely spoken and understood in major cities, as well as at varying levels of competence by many people around the country. It is used in government, educational establishments and is widely used in the business and corporate worlds and especially in banking and trading.

See

Pakistan's attractions range from the ruins of civilisations such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa and Taxila, to the Himalayan hill stations, which attract visitors not only from across the country but also from all over the world who are interested in winter sports and natural beauty. Pakistan is home to several mountain peaks over 7,000 m, especially K2 and is a hotspot for adventurers and mountaineers. Along with natural beauty, the northern part of the country also offer ancient architecture such as old fortresses. The Hunza and Chitral valley are home to small pre-Islamic Animist Kalasha communities claiming descent from Alexander the Great, while the romance of the historic Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is timeless and legendary. Punjab province has the site of Alexander's battle on the Jhelum River and the historic city of LahoreLahore is Pakistan's cultural capital, with many examples of Mughal architecture such as Badshahi Masjid, Shalimar Gardens, the Tomb of Jahangir and the Lahore Fort. The cultural and physical diversity of Pakistan should have advanced it into a tourist hot spot for foreigners, but numbers have diminished in this century due to security fears and low standards of service and cleanliness.

Post-independence Pakistan retained its heritage by constructing various sites to commemorate its independence by blending various styles and influences from the past.

World Heritage Sites

Pakistan has six major cultural sites that are categorised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include:

  • Archaeological ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization at Moenjodaro.
  • 1st Century Buddhist Ruins at Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol.
  • The ruins of Taxila from the Gandhara Civilization
  • The Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.
  • Historic Monuments of the ancient city of Thatta.
  • The ancient fort of Rohtas.

Natural attractions

Pakistan is profound blend of landscapes varying from plains to deserts, forests, hills, and plateaus ranging from the coastal areas of the Arabian Sea in the south to the mountains of the Karakoram range in the north. Pakistan's northern areas especially Gilgit-Baltistan and Northern side of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are full of natural beauty and include parts of the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram Range, and the Himalayas. This area has some of the world's highest mountain includes such famous peaks as K2 (Mount Godwin Austen, at 8,611 m, the second highest mountain in the world). Five peaks over 8,000 m, many over 7,000 m, and the largest glaciers outside the polar region. More than one-half of the summits are over 4,500 m, and more than fifty peaks reach above 6,500 mPakistan's administered Azad Kashmir is rich in natural beauty. Its snow-covered peaks, forests, rivers, streams, valleys, velvet green plateaus and climate varying from Arctic to tropical, join together to make it an excellent tourist attraction. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is known as the tourist hotspot for adventurers and explorers. The province has a varied landscape ranging from rugged mountains, valleys, hills and dense agricultural farms. Pakistan has some 29 national parks.

Cultural and historical attractions

Popular monuments in Pakistan are:

  • Pakistan Monument
  • Minar-e-Pakistan
  • Quaid-e-Azam Residency
  • Tomb of Muhammad Iqbal
  • Mazar-e-Quaid

Museums and galleries

In Pakistan, there's a museum from archaeological and historical to biographical, from heritage to military, from natural history to transport—nearly every big city has a museum worth visiting. The highest concentrations of these museums are found in the largest cities, but none compare to Lahore, home to Lahore Museum. Karachi also has an array of some good museums, including the National Museum of Pakistan, PAF Museum and Pakistan Maritime Museum. For those looking out for a transport museum, Pakistan Railways Heritage Museum in Islamabad is a major attraction.

Do

Pakistan is a world class destination for trekking and hiking. Gilgit-Baltistan is a "mountain paradise" for mountaineers, trekkers, and tourists. The region has some of the world's highest mountains, including five peaks over 8,000m, many over 7,000m, and the largest glaciers outside the polar region.

Horse riding is also very affordable. Cycling opportunities abound.

For water-based activities fans, Karachi is the only place in the country to head for. From snorkelling, scuba diving, boating, fishing, and even cruise dining.

You can also shop to your heart's content, in massive range of markets and bazaars without worrying about your budget, as a recent survey found Karachi as the world's most cheapest city.

Buy

Money

The national currency of Pakistan is the rupee, denoted as Rs (ISO code PKR). Coins are issued in 1, 2, and 5 rupee denominations. Banknotes come in Rs 10 (green), 20 (orange green), 50 (purple), 100 (red), 500 (deep green), 1000 (dark blue), and 5000 (mustard) values. The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise (singular: paisa). "5 rupees 75 paise" would normally be written as Rs "5.75". It is always good to have a number of small bills on hand, as merchants and drivers sometimes have no change. A useful technique is to keep small note (10-100) in your wallet or in a pocket, and to keep larger notes separate. Then, it will not be obvious how much money you have. Many merchants will claim that they don't have change for a 500 or 1,000 note. This is often a lie so that they are not stuck with a large note. It is best not to buy unless you have exact change.

The coins in circulation are 1, 2 and 5. Coins are useful for buying tea, for beggars, and for giving exact change for an bus fare or auto-rickshaw.

ATMs exist in most areas and accept major cards such as AmEx, MasterCard and VISA.

Changing money

It's usually best to get your foreign currency converted to rupees before you make purchases (of course that's only applicable if you're planning to buy with cash not a credit card). A number of licensed currency exchange companies operate, and a passport might be required as an identification document but this requirement is often ignored. Currency exchange shop can easily found in major shopping areas. Be sure to say the amount you wish to exchange and ask for the 'best quote' as rates displayed on the board are often negotiable, especially for larger amounts.

Most large department stores and souvenir shops, and all upmarket restaurants and hotels accept major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard and Visa cards. Some small shops will want to pass on their 2-3% merchant charge to you. In many cities and towns, credit cards are accepted at retail chain stores and other restaurants and stores. Small businesses and family-run stores almost never accept credit cards, so it is useful to keep a moderate amount of cash on hand.

Rates for exchanging rupees overseas are often poor, although places with significant Pakistani populations (e.g. Dubai,) can give decent rates. Try to get rid of any spare rupees before you leave the country.

Most ATMs will dispense up to 50,000 in each transaction. HBL, MCB Bank, National Bank of Pakistan and United Bank, all are the biggest bank in Pakistan and have the most ATMs. They accepts most of the international cards at a nominal charge. International banks like Standard Chartered have a significant presence in major Pakistan cities. It is always worthwhile to have bank cards or credit cards from at least two different providers to ensure that you have a backup available in case one card is suspended by your bank or simply does not work work at a particular ATM.

Counting

Pakistanis commonly use lakh and crore for 100,000 and 10,000,000 respectively. Though these terms come from Sanskrit, they have been adopted so deeply into Pakistani English that most people are not aware that they are not standard in other English dialects. You may also find non-standard, although standard in Pakistan, placement of commas while writing numerals. One crore rupees would be written as 1,00,00,000, so first time you place a comma after three numerals, then after every two numerals. This format may puzzle you till you start thinking in terms of lakhs and crores, after which it will seem natural.

Shopping

Pakistan, and particularly Karachi, features in surveys as one of the cheapest places in the world to shop. It has a wide range of markets and bazaars to visit and things to buy without worrying about blowing your budget:

  • Textiles and Garments such as garments, bed linen, shirts, T-shirts are cheaply available stores including Chen One, Bonanza, Ideas (Gul Ahmed), Cambridge Shop. Many world renowned brands like Adidas, Levis, Slazenger, HangTen, Wal-Mart etc. get their products prepared from Faisalabad which has one of the largest textile industries in the world. You can get a pair of Levis jeans (or any other good brand for that matter) at a very reasonable price ranging between Rs 1,400-2,500.
  • Leather goods, like shoes, jackets and bags are also a speciality of Pakistan. Go to English Boot House, Sputnik, Shoe Planet, Servis, Metro, Gap shoes, Lotus, Step-in, Jaybees for best quality shoes at low prices.
  • Sports goods such as cricket bats, balls, kits, footballs, sports wear and almost anything related to sports you can imagine. You will not find such high quality equipment at such low cost anywhere else. Sialkot produces 90% of the world’s sports goods and is the largest provider of sports equipment to FIFA for the World cup.
  • Musical instruments are produced economically and to high quality in Pakistan. Acoustic guitars cost as lttle as Rs 2,000.
  • Surgical instruments
  • Computer accessories
  • Chinese goods especially Electronics & Cameras which are re-exported from Pakistan and are cheaper than other parts of the world.
  • Carpets and rugs in Arabian, Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani varieties
  • Wood Carvings such as decorative wooden plates, bowls, artwork, furniture and miscellaneous items.
  • Jewellery such as necklaces, bracelets etc. are very inexpensive in Pakistan.
  • Gems and handicrafts: (Ajrak from Sindh, Blue pottery from Multan, pottery from Karachi), glassware, brassware, marble products, crystal works and antiques Also buy pashmina, rugs, wool-shawls or wraps, which can cost anywhere between US$15 and US$700. Remember to haggle.
  • Books
  • Souvenirs such as decorative items from Sea Shells.
  • Food stuffs local products, including Swat honey, biscuits and locally made chocolate are of good quality and inexpensive. Go to shops such as Dmart, Makro, Metro, Hyperstar.
  • Home accessories
  • Kitchen Utensils and Cutlery
  • Art lovers should get in touch with a local to take them around. There are many art galleries in KarachiLahoreIslamabad that are worth visiting and each will offer a completely different range of artwork, style and pricing. All should be visited if you are an art lover.

In general shops are open 09:00-23:00 in the large cities. They open and close for business earlier in the smaller towns and rural areas.

Bargaining

In Pakistan, you are expected to negotiate the price with street hawkers but not in department stores. If not, you risk overpaying many times, which can be okay if you think that it is cheaper than at home. In most of the big cities, retail chain stores are popping up where the shopping experience is essentially identical to similar stores in the West. Although you will pay a little more at these stores, you can be confident that what you are getting is not a cheap knockoff. The harder you bargain, the more you save money. A few tries later, you will realise that it is fun.

Often, the more time you spend in a store, the better deals you will get. It is worth spending time getting to know the owner, asking questions, and getting him to show you other products (if you are interested). Once the owner feels that he is making a sufficient profit from you, he will often give you additional goods at a rate close to his cost, rather than the common "foreigner rate". You will get better prices and service by buying many items in one store than by bargaining in multiple stores individually. If you see local people buying in a store, probably. you can get the real Pakistani prices. Ask someone around you quietly, "How much would you pay for this?"

Costs

Most visitors will find Pakistan quite cheap, although it is noticeably more expensive than neighbouring AfghanistanKarachi is also generally more expensive than the rest of the country. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury hotels and air fares are comparatively affordable, with even the fanciest 5-star hotels costing less than Rs 20,000/night.

Tipping is considered a good practice in Pakistan. Hotel porters, taxi drivers, delivery men will appreciate a small tip if you have been provided with exemplary service.

Eat

See also: South Asian cuisine

Pakistani cuisine is a refined blend of various regional cooking traditions of South Asia. Pakistani cuisine is known for its richness, having aromatic and sometimes spicy flavors, and some dishes often contain liberal amounts of oil which contributes to a richer, fuller mouthfeel and flavour. It is very similar to Indian cuisine but a lot meatier and has some Afghan, Central Asian and Persian influences, there is a good chance that you'd have tasted it in your country as Indian food and Pakistan food often served together in a restaurant. Cuisine in Pakistan varies greatly from region to region. The "Pakistani food" served by many so-called Pakistani or Indian restaurants in the Western hemisphere is inspired by specifically Mughlai cuisine, a style developed by the royal kitchens of the historical Mughal Empire, and the regional cuisine of the Punjab, although degree of authenticity in relation to actual Mughlai or Punjabi cooking is sometimes variable at best and dubious at worst. Within Pakistan, cuisine varies greatly from region to region, reflecting the country's ethnic and cultural diversity. Food from the eastern provinces of Punjab and Sindh and Mughlai cuisine are similar to the cuisines of Northern India and can be highly seasoned and spicy with vegetarian options, which is characteristic of the flavours of the South Asian region. Food in other parts of Pakistan, particularly Balochistan, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, involves the use of mild aromatic spices with more meat and less oil, similar to the cuisines of neighbouring Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia. Due to Muslim beliefs, pork is a banned item in Pakistan and is neither consumed nor sold.

Pakistani main courses food which is mostly consists of curry dishes is eaten with either flatbread, also called wheat bread or rice. Salad is generally taken as a side dish with the main course, rather than as an appetizer beforehand. Assorted fresh fruit or sometimes desserts are consumed at the end of a meal. Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani food, compared to other South Asian cuisines. According to a 2003 report, an average Pakistani consumed three times more meat than an average Indian. Of all the meats, the most popular are goat or mutton, beef and chicken and is particularly sought after as the meat of choice for kebab dishes or the classic beef shank dish nihari. Seafood is generally not consumed in large amounts. Food tends range from mild to spicy depending on where you are and who your cook is. So state your preference before beginning to eat. In general, most of the food that you find in the high end hotels is also available in the markets (but European-style food is generally reserved for the former).

Pakistani food has a well-deserved reputation for being hot, owing to the Pakistani penchant for the liberal use of a variety of spices, and potent fresh green chilis or red chili powder that will bring tears to the eyes of the uninitiated. The degree of spiciness varies widely throughout the country: Punjab food is famously fiery, while Northern Areas cuisine is quite mild in taste.

To enjoy the local food, start slowly. Don't try everything at once. After a few weeks, you can get accustomed to spicy food. If you would like to order your dish not spicy, simply say so. Most visitors are tempted to try at least some of the spicy concoctions, and most discover that the sting is worth the trouble.

Cuisine

Cuisine in Pakistan varies greatly from region to region. Culinary art in Pakistan comprises a mix of Middle Eastern, Iranian, Afghan, Indian, and Turkish influences that reflect the country's history as well as the variation of cooking practices from across the country. Urban centres of the country offer an amalgamation of recipes from all parts of the country, while food with specific local ingredients and tastes is available in rural areas and villages. Besides the main dishes of salan, with or without meat and cooked with vegetables or lentils, there are a number of provincial specialties such as karahi, biryani, and tikka, in various forms and flavours, eaten alongside a variety of breads such as naan, chapati, and roti.

Pakistani cuisine is a blend of cooking traditions from different regions of the Indian subcontinent, originating from the royal kitchens of sixteenth-century Mughal emperors. It has similarities to North Indian cuisine, although Pakistan has a greater variety of meat dishes. Pakistani cooking uses large quantities of spices, herbs and seasoning. Garlic, ginger, turmeric, red chilli and garam masala are used in most dishes, and home cooking regularly includes curry. Chapati, a thin flat bread made from wheat, is a staple food, served with curry, meat, vegetables and lentils. Rice is also common; it is served plain or fried with spices and is also used in sweet dishes.

Varieties of bread

Pakistan is wheat growing land, so you have Pakistani breads (known as roti), including chapatti (unleavened bread), paratha (pan-fried layered roti), naan (cooked in a clay tandoori oven), puri (deep-fried and puffed up bread), and many more. A typical meal consists of one or more gravy dishes along with rotis, to be eaten by breaking off a piece of roti, dipping it in the gravy and eating them together. Most of the Pakistani heartland survives on naan, roti, rice, and lentils (dal), which are prepared in several different ways and made spicy to taste. Served on the side, you will usually find spiced yogurt (raita) and either fresh chutney or a tiny piece of exceedingly pungent pickle (achar), a very acquired taste for most visitors — try mixing it with curry, not eating it plain.

Pakistanis eat breads made of wheat flour as a staple part of their daily diet. Pakistan has a wide variety of breads, often prepared in a traditional clay oven called a tandoor. The tandoori style of cooking is common throughout rural and urban Pakistan and has strong roots in neighboring Iran and Afghanistan as well.

The types of flatbread (collectively referred to as Naan) are:

  • Naan - A soft and thick flat bread that often requires special clay ovens (tandoor) and cannot be properly made on home stoves. Typically leavened with yeast and mainly made with white flour. Some varieties like the Roghani and Peshwari may also be sprinkled with sesame seeds. Naans are seldom, if ever, made at home since they require tandoor based cooking and require prep work. Numerous varieties of plain as well as stuffed naans are available throughout Pakistan and each region or city can have their own specialty. Naan is a versatile bread and is eaten with almost anything. For instance, 'saada naan' or 'plain naan' are often served with Sri-Paya (Cow's head and totters) or Nihari (slow cooked beef stew) for breakfast in many parts of the country. It is recognized by its larger, white exterior.
  • Roti - These are extremely popular all over Pakistan. Tandoori rotis are baked in a clay oven called tandoor and are consumed with just about anything. In rural Pakistan, many houses have their own tandoors while the ones without use a communal one. In urban Pakistan, bread shops or "nanbai"/"tandoor" shops are fairly common and supply fresh, tandoor baked breads to household customers as well. A homemade bread that doesn't have as much flavor as naan. It is a cheap alternative that is ready in minutes.
  • Chapatti - A homemade bread, much thinner then naan and usually made out of unrefined flour, and which is ready in minutes. Most common bread made in urban homes where a tandoor is not available. Chapatis are cooked over a flat or slightly convex dark colored pan known as 'tava'. Chapatis are made of whole wheat flour and are thin and unleavened. Tortillas are probably the most common analogous to chapatis, though chapatis are slightly thick. A variant, known as 'romali roti' (lit: handkerchief bread) is very thin and very large in size.
  • Paratha - An extremely oily version of the roti. Usually excellent if you're going out to eat, but beware of health concerns; often it is literally dripping with oil because it is meant to be part of a rich meal. Paratha is more declicious if you cook it in pure oil like "desi ghee". A flat, layered bread made with ghee and generally cooked on a 'tava'. However, a 'tandoor' based version is also common in rural areas. Parathas are very similar to pastry dough. Parathas most likely originated in the Punjab where a heavy breakfast of parathas with freshly churned butter and buttermilk was commonly used by the farmers to prepare themselves for the hard day of work ahead. However, parathas are now a common breakfast element across the country. Along with the plain layered version, many stuffed versions such as 'Aloo ka Paratha' (Potato Stuffed Parathas), 'Mooli ka Paratha' (Radish stuffed parathas) and 'Qeemah stuffed paratha' (Ground meat stuffed paratha) are popular.
  • Sheer Mal - This is a slightly sweetened, lightly oiled bread that has waffle-like squares punched in it. It is often considered the most desirable bread and is a delicacy to most people. Often paired with nihari. Another breakfast version of sheermal is very much like the Italian Panettone (albeit in a flat naan-like shape) with added dried fruits and candy. It is a festive bread prepared with milk ('sheer') and butter with added candied fruits. Sheermal is often a vital part of food served in marriages, along with taftan. It is often sweetened and is particularly enjoyed by the kids.
  • Taftan - Much like the 'sheer mal' but with a puffed-up ring around it. This is a leavened flour bread with saffron and small amount of cardamom powder baked in a tandoor. The Taftan made in Pakistan is slightly sweeter and richer than the one made in neighboring Iran.
  • Kulcha - This is a type of naan usually eaten with chickpeas and potatoes and mostly popular in urban centres of Punjab.
  • Roghani Naan - (lit. Buttered Naan) It is a preferred variety of Naan sprinkled with white sesame seeds and cooked with a small amount of oil.
  • Puri - This is a breakfast bread made of white flour and fried. Typically eaten with sweet semolina halwa and/or gravy (made out of chickpeas and potatoes). Puri is a fairly urban concept in Pakistan and puris are not part of rural cuisine anywhere in Pakistan. However, Halwa Puri has now become a favored weekend or holiday breakfast in urban Pakistan where it is sometimes sold in shift carts or in specialty breakfast shops.

As you might have noticed, 'Naan' is usually used to pick up liquid and soft foods like shorba in curries and beans. Forks and knives not commonly used during meals in Pakistan (unless someone is eating rice or is dining out). Attempting to cut a naan with a knife may elicit some amusement around you. Watching others may help.

There are too many shorbas, or sauces/soups, to enumerate.

Vegetarian dishes

Popular and commons veg dishes are:

  • Daal - Yellow (made of yellow/red lentils) or brown (slightly sour) lentil "soup". Usually not very spiced. Common to all economic classes.
  • X + ki sabzi - A vegetarian mixture with 'X' as the main ingredient.

Other dishes include Aloo gobi, Baingan, Karela, Bhindi and Saag

Pulses/lentil dishes

Various kinds of pulses, or legumes, make up an important part of the Pakistani dishes. While lentils (called daal), and chick peas (called channa) are popular ingredients in homestyle cooking, they are traditionally considered to be an inexpensive food sources. Because of this reason, they are typically not served to guests who are invited for dinner or during special occasions. Combining meat with lentils and pulses, whether in simple preparations or in elaborate dishes such as haleem, is also a distinctively Pakistani touch not commonly seen in neighbouring India where a substantial number of its population are vegetarians.

  • Haleem - Thick stew-like mix of tiny chunks of meat or chicken, lentils and wheat grains.

Rice dishes

Pakistan is a major consumer of rice. Basmati is the most popular type of rice consumed in Pakistan. Rice dishes are very popular throughout Pakistan. The rice dishes are sometimes eaten mixed with other dishes. The most simple dish of Pakistani cuisine is Plain cooked rice (Chawal) eaten with Dal (Lentil). Khichdi is Plain cooked rice cooked with Dal. The Karhi chawal is Plain cooked rice eaten with Karhi.

Biryani is a very popular dish in Pakistan, is cooked with pieces of beef, lamb, chicken, fish or shrimp. and has many varieties such as Lahori and Sindhi biryani. Tahiri, which is also a form of vegetarian biryani, is also popular. All of the main dishes (except those made with rice) are eaten alongside bread. To eat, a small fragment of bread is torn off with the right hand and used to scoop and hold small portions of the main dish. Pickles made out of mangoes, carrots, lemon, etc. are also commonly used to further spice up the food. Biryani smells more nice from the saffron and other seasonings added. In the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, feasts using mountains of spiced rice combined with pieces of slowly roasted lamb are often served for guests of honour. These kind of pulaos often contain dried fruit, nuts, and whole spices such as cloves, saffron and cardamom. Such rice dishes have their origins in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Dishes made with rice include many varieties of pulao:

  • Murgh pulao - Chicken and stock added. Creates a brown rice.
  • Yakhni pulao - Meat and stock added. Creates a brown rice.
  • Matar pulao - Pulao made with peas.
  • Maash pulao - A sweet and sour pulao baked with mung beans, apricots and bulghur (a kind of roughly milled cracked wheat). Exclusively vegetarian.
  • Khichdi
  • Zarda

Meat dishes

Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani cuisine compared to the other South Asian cuisines and is a major ingredient in most of the Pakistani dishes. The meat dishes in Pakistan include: bovine, ovine, poultry and seafood dishes. The meat is usually cut in 3 cm cubes and cooked as stew. The minced meat is used for Kebabs, Qeema and other meat dishes. Of all the meats, the most popular are goat or mutton, beef and chicken and is particularly sought after as the meat of choice for kebab dishes or the classic beef shank dish nihari. The meat dishes are also cooked with pulses, legumes and rice.

Tandoori chicken, prepared in a clay oven called a tandoor, is probably the best-known Pakistani dish originated in Pakistani Punjab.

The variety is endless, but here are a few examples:

  • Roasted Chicken (whole) - A whole chicken roasted locally known as 'charga' locally.
  • Aloo Gosht (Potatoes and Meat) - Chunks of potato and goat meat in gravy. Levels of spice vary. One example of a generic dish that includes most things + Gosht(meat).
  • Nihari- Beef simmered for several hours. A delicacy often eaten with Nan, Sheer Mal, or Taftan. Few people will have this available without spice. Eat with lemon, fried onion and caution: it is one of the spiciest curries. Thick gravy made from local spices. Is made with both chicken and beef. Is oily and spicy. Available mostly everywhere.
  • Paye - or 'Siri Paye' is a stew of goat/beef/mutton bones (typically hooves, skull) and bone marrow. Extremely nutritious and generally eaten for breakfast with naan. Very, very wet salan, often served in a bowl or similar dish. Eat by dipping pieces of naan in it, maybe finishing with a spoon. Can be hard to eat.
  • Korma is a classic dish of Mughlai origin made of either chicken or mutton, typically eaten with nan or bread and is very popular in Pakistan.

Barbecue and kebabs

Meat and grilled meat has played an important part in Pakistan region for centuries. Sajji is a Baluchi dish from Western Pakistan, made of lamb with spices, that has also become popular all over the country. Another Balochi meat dish involves building a large outdoor fire and slowly cooking chickens. The chickens are placed on skewers which are staked into the ground in close proximity to the fire, so that the radiant heat slowly cooks the prepared chickens. Kebabs are a staple item in Pakistani cuisine today, and one can find countless varieties of kebabs all over the country. Each region has its own varieties of kebabs but some like the Seekh kebab, Chicken Tikka, and Shami kebab are especially popular varieties throughout the country. Generally, kebabs from Balochistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tend to be identical to the Afghan style of barbecue, with salt and coriander being the only seasoning used. Regional kebab recipes from Karachi and the wider Sindh region is famous for its spicy kebabs, often marinated in a mixture of spices, lemon juice and yogurt. Barbecued food is also extremely popular in some cities of Punjab such as Lahore, Gujranwala and Sialkot.

Pakistani cuisine is rich with different kebabs. Meat including beef, chicken, lamb and fish is used in kababs. Some popular kebabs are:

  • Chicken Tikka - Barbequed chicken with a spicy exterior. Looks like a huge, red chicken leg and thigh. For all meat lovers. Is available most anywhere.
  • Seekh Kebab - A long skewer of minced beef mixed with herbs and seasonings.
  • Shami Kebab - A round patty of seasoned beef and lentils, softer than seekh kababs.
  • Chapli Kebab - A spicy round kabab that is a specialty of Peshawar.
  • Chicken Kabab - A popular kabab that is found both with bone and without.
  • Lamb Kabab - The all lamb meat kabab is usually served as cubes.
  • Bihari kebab - Skewer of beef mixed with herbs and seasoning.
  • Tikka kebab - A kebab made of beef, lamb or chicken, cut into cubes, marinated with a yogurt blend and grilled on coals.
  • Boti kebab - A kebab made from fillet of meat. Sometimes marinated with green papaya to help tenderize the meat.
  • Shawarma - It is usually a kebab or lamb strips in a naan with chutney and salad.
  • Shashlik - Grilled baby lamb chops (usually from the leg), typically marinated

Other dishes include Chargha, Dhaga kabab, Gola kebab, Reshmi kebab and Sajji.

Desserts

Popular desserts include Peshawari ice cream, Sheer Khurma, Kulfi, Falooda, Kheer, Rasmalai, Phirni, Zarda, Shahi Tukray and Rabri. Sweetmeats are consumed on various festive occasions in Pakistan. Some of the most popular are gulab jamun, barfi, ras malai, kalakand, jalebi, and panjiri. Pakistani desserts also include a long list of halvah such as multani, sohan halvah, and hubshee halvah.

Kheer made of roasted seviyaan (vermicelli) instead of rice is popular during Eid ul-Fitr. Gajraila is a sweet made from grated carrots, boiled in milk, sugar, green cardamom, and topped with nuts and dried fruit and is very popular in the country during winter season.

  • Enjoy a variety; ice cream can be found in an abundance of flavours such as the traditional pistachio flavoured Kulfi;
  • Falooda is tasty rosewater dessert and is a popular summer drink throughout the country. Traditional ice-cream known as 'kulfi' mixed with vermicelli, pistachio nuts and flavored with rose-water. Most ice-cream shops have their own versions.
  • Shirini or Mithai: is the generic name for a variety of sweet treats in Pakistan. The sweets are extremely popular in Pakistan and called different things depending on where you go. Eat small chunks at a time, eating large pieces can be rude and will generally be too sweet.
  • Kulfi is a very traditional made ice-cream mixed with cream and different types of nuts.
  • If you want to go to some ice-cream parlours, there are some good western ice-cream parlours in Lahore like "Polka Parlor" "Jamin Java" "Hot Spot". For traditional ice creams, the 'Chaman' ice cream parlour across town is quite popular.
  • Halwa is a sweet dessert. Halwa comes in different styles such as made of eggs, carrots, flour or dry fruits. The halwas are made from semolina, ghee and sugar, garnished with dried fruits and nuts. Carrot halwa (called gaajar ka halwa) is also popular, as is halva made from tender bottle gourds and chanay ki daal. Karachi halva is a speciality dessert from Karachi,
  • Firni or Kheer is similar to vanilla custard though prepared in a different style. the Sohan Halwa is also famous in the country. Equally famous is Habshi halwa, a dark brown milk-based halwa.
  • Gulab jamun — a cheese-based dessert. It is often eaten at festivals or major celebrations such as marriages, on happy occasions and Muslim celebrations of Eid ul-Fitr.

Apart from local restaurants, international fast food chains have also popped up throughout Pakistan. They include, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Subway, Nandos, Mr.Cod, Papa Johns, Dominoes etc. There are more European chains than North American.

Snacks (Pakistani fast food)

Pakistani snacks comprise food items in Pakistan that are quick to prepare, spicy, usually fried, and eaten in the evening or morning with tea or with any one of the meals as a side-dish. A given snack may be part of a local culture, and its preparation and/or popularity can vary from place to place. These snacks are often prepared and sold by hawkers on footpaths, bazaars, railway stations and other such places, although they may also be served at restaurants. Some typical snacks are dahi bhala, chaat, chana masala, Bun kebab, pakora, and papar. Others include katchauri, pakoras-either neem pakoras or besan (chickpea) pakoras,gol gappay, samosas—vegetable or beef, bhail puri or daal seu and egg rolls. Nuts, such as pistachios and pine nuts, are also often eaten at home. These snacks often smaller than a regular meal, generally eaten between meals.

Other

  • Pakistani Chinese cuisine
    • Chicken Manchurian is the most popular dish with pieces of stir fried chicken served in a red ketchup based sauce. It is normally served with Egg or chicken fried rice. Basmati is the most common form of rice used.
    • Chinese soup - Chicken corn soup and hot and sour soup are ubiquitous in restaurants, homes and on TV. these are served with staples such as vinegar (sirka) and chili pepper.
    • Noodles - Chicken chowmein and Chopsuey are popular. Their method of cooking employs hearty use of soy sauce, ajino moto, vinegar and chilli sauce with vegetables, boneless chicken and/or Keema (minced meat). Oil concentrations are higher than normal Chinese noodles.

Pakistani condiments

Popular condiments used in Pakistani cuisine:

  • Chutneys
    • onion chutney
    • tomato chutney
    • cilantro (coriander leaves) chutney
    • mint chutney
    • tamarind chutney (Imli chutney)
    • mango (keri) chutney (made from unripe, green mangos)
    • lime chutney (made from whole, unripe limes)
    • garlic chutney made from fresh garlic, coconut and groundnut
  • Achars (pickle)
    • mango achar
    • lemon achar
    • carrot achar
    • cauliflower achar
    • green chilli achar
    • garlic achar
    • gongura achar
    • Hyderabadi pickle
  • Sauces
    • Raita — a cucumber yogurt dip

Etiquette

In Pakistan eating with your hand (instead of cutlery like forks and spoons) is very common. There's one basic rule of etiquette to observe, particularly in non-urban Pakistan: Use only your right hand. Needless to say, it's wise to wash your hands well before and after eating. For breads for all types, the basic technique is to hold down the item with your forefinger and use your middle-finger and thumb to tear off pieces. The pieces can then be dipped in sauce or used to pick up bits before you stuff them in your mouth. Unlike India, a spoon is commonly used in Pakistan for eating rice dishes.

Drink

Tap water can be unsafe for drinking. However, some establishments have water filters/purifiers installed, in which case the water is safe to drink. Packed drinking water, normally called mineral water in Pakistan, is a better choice. As for bottled water, make sure that the cap's seal has not been broken, otherwise, it is a tell tale sign of tampering or that unscrupulous vendors reuse old bottles and fill them with tap water, which is generally unsafe for foreign tourists to drink without prior boiling. Bottled water brands like Aquafina (by PepsiCo) and Nestle are widely available and costs Rs 80 for a 1.5 litre bottle. At semi-urban or rural areas, it may be advisable to ask for boiled water.

The taste of the water is said to be very good in the north-eastern side of Pakistan, especially in Swat, Kaghan and Gilgit. Ask for bottled water wherever possible, and avoid anything cold that might have water in it.

Try a local limca cola, which makes a "pop" sound when opened. Pakola, Pakistan's premier soft drink brand, is available in flavours of Ice cream soda, Lychee, Orange, Raspberry, Apple Sidra, Vino, Double cola and Bubble up. Try Lassi, which is a classic yoghurt drink served either plain or sweet and sometimes flavoured or even fused with fresh fruit. Rooh-Afza, a red-coloured, sweet, herbal drink. Sugar Cane Juice — which is extracted by mechanical force — is best when served fresh. You might also love the Falouda and Gola Ganda, which include various kinds of syrups in crushed ice.

  • Tea (or Chai as it is referred to in Pakistan) is popular throughout the country.
    • Both black and green tea (Sabz chai or qahvah) are common and are traditionally drunk with cardamom and lots of sugar. Lemon is optional but recommended with green tea.
    • Kashmiri chai (Pink Tea), a traditional tea beverage from Kashmir, is a milky tea with pistachios, almonds and nuts added to give additional flavour. This tea is very popular during weddings, special occasions and in the cold season.
  • Coffee is also available in all cities.

In the warmer southern region, sweet drinks are readily available throughout the day. Look for street vendors that have fruits (real or decorations) hanging from their roofs. Also, some milk/yogurt shops serve lassi. Ask for meethi lassi for a sweet yogurt drink and you can also get a salty lassi which tastes good and is similar to the Arabic Laban if you are having "bhindi" in food or some other rich dish. There is also a sweet drink called Mango Lassi which is very rich and thick, made with yogurt, mango pulp, and pieces of mango.

Alcohol (both imported and local) is available to non-Muslim foreigners at off licenses and bars in most top end hotels. The local alcoholic beer is manufactured by Murree Brewery (who also produce non-alcoholic beverages including juices). It is prohibited for Muslims to buy, possess or consume alcohol in Pakistan. There is a huge black market across the country and the police tend to turn a blind eye to what is going on in private. In Karachi and other parts of Sindh, the alcholol can be purchased from designated liquir shops. If you are a foreigner and looking for alchohol, you can contact customer department at Murree Brewery for assistance by telephone at. +92 051-5567041-7.

Tea varieties

Pakistanis drink a great deal of tea, which is locally called "chai in most Pakistani languages" and everywhere you can get tea from one variety or another. Both black with milk and green teas are popular and are popular in different parts of Pakistan. It is one of the most consumed beverages in Pakistani cuisine. Different regions throughout the country have their own different flavours and varieties, giving Pakistani tea culture a diverse blend.

  • In Karachi, the strong presence of Muhajir cuisine has allowed the Masala chai version to be very popular.
  • Doodh Pati Chai is thick and milky. It is made by cooking tea leaves with milk and sugar and sometimes cardamom for fragrance. Extremely sweet, this is a local variation of a builder's tea. It is more preferred in Punjab.
  • "Sabz chai" and "kahwah", respectively. Kahwah is often served after every meal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Pashtun belt of Balochistan and with saffron and nuts in Kashmir.
  • Sulaimani chai is black tea served with lemon.
  • Kashmiri chai or "noon chai", a pink, milky tea with pistachios and cardamom, is consumed primarily at special occasions, weddings, and during the winter when it is sold in many kiosks.
  • In northern Pakistan (Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan), salty buttered Tibetan style tea is consumed.

Biscuits are often enjoyed with tea.

Beverages

Besides tea, there are other drinks that may be included as part of the Pakistani cuisine. All of them are non-alcoholic as the consumption of alcohol is prohibited by Islam. During the 20th century, drinks such as coffee and soft drinks have also become popular in Pakistan. It is very common to have soft drinks nowadays with Pakistani meals. istani meals.

  • Lassi - Milk with yoghurt, with an either sweet or salty taste. Lassi is a traditional drink in the Punjab region
  • Gola ganda - Different types of flavours over crushed ice
  • Sugarcane juice (Ganney ka ras) — In summer, you can get fresh sugarcane juice in many places and even a lot of fresh fruit juice varieties. Be careful as fresh juice may contain many germs besides unhygienic ice. The juice vendors do not always clean their equipment properly and do not wash the fruits either.
  • Lemonade (Nimbu pani)
  • Sherbet (A syrup mixed in water)
  • Sikanjabeen - Lemonade (Mint is also added)
  • Almond sherbet
  • Sherbet-e-Sandal - Drink made with the essence of sandal wood
  • Kashmiri chai/Gulabi chai - a milky tea known for its pink colour, with an either sweet or salty taste
  • Sathu - Famous drink from Punjab
  • Thaadal - A sweet drink from Sindh
  • Sardai - Mixture of different nuts and kishmish.
  • Sattu - famous drink in lahore

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol is generally frowned upon. Murree Brewery is the only reputable maker of Pakistan's beer brand which is widely available throughout Pakistan. Karachi is very lax towards Alcohol where there're wine shops from one can get any brand of liquor.

Sleep

Pakistan, as a middle income country with a sizeable middle class and a significant domestic tourism industry, has a decent range of hotels covering all price ranges. International tourists are often disappointed by the cleanliness of Pakistani hotels - bedding is often clean but bathrooms can be a bit grungy. Currently Pakistan is facing a significant slump in international tourist numbers; in the northern areas in particular you'll often find yourself the only guest.

Budget The cheapest hotels are usually found around busy transport hubs like bus and train stations. Don't be fooled by an impressive lobby - ask to see the room and check the beds, toilets, lights, etc, before checking in. Hot water and air conditioning will be luxuries in this class.

Mid range covers a wide spectrum of hotels - often listed in your guide book or on-line. All mid-range places will have a/c and hot water - although check if they have a working generator - air conditioning isn't of much use without electricity! Always check the room before handing over any money - ask for a no smoking room away from the street - and haggle to get a better rate. PTDC (government run) hotels fall in to the mid range section and warrant a special mention - often these places are the oldest hotel in town, in an excellent location, but the facilities will be showing their age. They are still a good option however, and discounts can be negotiated. Mid range prices are around Rs2,000 - Rs6,000 per night.

Top end covers the Serenas, Pearl Continentals and Marriotts. The Serena hotels are almost always excellent, whilst the Pearl Continental hotels are more patchy (e.g. the one in Rawalpindi is a bit grungy whilst the one in Muzaffarabad is very nice. At top-end places, security is very visible with small armies of security guards stationed around the perimeter. Prices are from Rs 6,000 and up, with the big city luxury hotels charging at least Rs 10,000 a night.

Government rest houses are mentioned in numerous guide books and are located in rural and mountainous areas for local civil servants to use on their travels, with many built pre-independence and exuding a quaint English charm. Previously the adventurous tourist could book these places for the night for Rs1,000 or so, and have a lovely time. But the tourist slump means that the forestry departments who run these places don't bother any more - phones will go unanswered - tourist information offices won't have any details etc, so count yourself lucky if you manage to arrange to stay in a Government rest house.

Solo female travellers are at a disadvantage when it comes to hotels. All budget and many mid-range places will be the sole reserve of men, in particular in the cities - and hotel owners may be uncomfortable with the idea of an unaccompanied women staying at their hotel. Hence you may be forced to stay at the upper-mid range and top end places - which will eat through your budget that much quicker.

Note that in some places the term "hotel" in Pakistan is reserved for simpler establishments, with "Guest House" referring to medium-sized establishments where the standard is typically higher. Also note that restaurants are also called "hotels", creating a fun potential for confusion.

Stay safe

In an emergency, call the police by 15 from any landline phone. To get an ambulance, dial 115 from any landline or mobile phone.

Terrorism

Pakistan has endured several bomb attacks over the last few years against security forces and so called western institutions (e.g. the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad), and has seen the public assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto upon her return from exile. Currently these attacks are increasing due to increased military action against the Taliban. For the ordinary traveller, Pakistan has a tradition of hospitality that has been subverted in recent years by perceptions of 'Western' unfairness. Social protests tend to turn violent and political demonstrations are always sensitive. Before travelling you should check with your embassy about off-limits areas, the latest political and military developments and keep an close eye on current issues with independent news sources.

Stay away from military convoys as they are a potential target for suicide bombing. Similarly, going near military or intelligence facilities can be dangerous.

Carrying firearms can land you in police custody, except if you get a special permit from a relevant authority.

Sensitive areas

The line of control between Azad Kashmir and the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir is off-limits for foreign tourists, though domestic tourists can visit Azad Kashmir without any restriction, but should keep their identity cards with them.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas and all regions near the sensitive Afghan border should not be visited at any time by foreign tourists, as the Pakistan government has little to no authority in these areas and cannot aid you in an emergency. If you do have reason to visit, seek expert guidance, including that of your embassy, who can advise you on the special permissions required.

Peace has returned to Swat Valley and the army holds full control with lots of foreign nationals working for NGOs there. Road infrastructure was destroyed due to the 2010 floods but the army is making massive efforts to restore the infrastructure. Balochistan is considered dangerous and not fit for travellers due to increased kidnappings of foreigners.

The visitor should be aware of the ever changing rules regarding sensitive areas and No Objection Certificates (NOCs), Note Verbals and other permissions and paperwork some in officialdom deem necessary for your to travel around the country. The most notorious NOC regulation is for foreigners to enter Kashmir, with the intention being so the security services can keep track (i.e. follow) foreigners to make sure they don't visit places they shouldn't. Outside Kashmir diplomats are the primary user of NOCs and theoretically the normal tourist should be exempt. However those in officialdom can view all foreigners with suspicion and demand an NOC when you step of a plane or out of a bus. NOCs need to be applied for through the Ministry of Interior, however if you are travelling on a non-diplomatic passport you should be fine - but its good to be aware of this nonetheless.

Be aware of sensitive areas. You may see road signs in English saying 'no foreigners allowed beyond this point', for example on the road to Kahuta near Islamabad. If you see and need to pass one of these signs, at the very least stop at the nearest police station and see if they will let you pass (speaking Urdu is an advantage here), or turn back and find another route. Typically, restricted areas are those with nuclear or military installations nearby. Kahuta, southeast of Islamabad, and the Sakesar hill station near the Amb temples in the Salt Range are two restricted areas the visitor may stumble across. Getting caught in a restricted area will mean a lot of wasted time, embarrassment and possible involvement of your embassy.

Dangerous drivers

African countries typically top the list of road fatalities per 100,000 motor vehicles, but few countries in Asia are able to beat Pakistan's score in 2010 of 383. Pakistan has a high number of fatal traffic collisions and the World Health Organisation estimated 30,131 deaths on its roads in 2010.

Drivers are reckless and scoff at laws and what would be common courtesies in other countries. Their philosophy of "might is right" often leads to horrendous crashes between trucks and trucks & buses.

Sexuality

Prostitution has no legal recognition in Pakistan. Moreover, despite the growth of male prostitution, homosexuality is outlawed in the country.

Homosexuals should be very cautious in Pakistan, because, as in most Muslim countries, homosexuality remains a crime in Pakistan and punishments can be severe. Under Section 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code, whoever voluntarily has "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than two years nor more than ten years, and shall also be liable for a fine. Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section. Arrests are not common for homosexuality, as evidenced by a vibrant gay nightlife existing in many metropolitan areas.

Stay healthy

Visitors are strongly advised to refrain from drinking tap water; many Pakistani locals themselves drink boiled or purified water. Take every precaution to drink only boiled, filtered or bottled water. Tap water is known to contain many impurities. Ice is usually made from regular tap-water, and may be even harder to avoid. Fresh milk from the carrier should be boiled and cooled before consumption. Non-pasteurized dairy can spread tuberculosis. Be careful of the people with a hacking cough. Nestle Milk Pack, Haleeb Milk, Olpers, and others are trusted brands and are available at most grocery stores.

Take precautions against both dengue fever and malaria, which are both spread by mosquitoes. The first and most effective way is to avoid getting bitten, but if you plan to stay in a place where malaria is common, you will need to take prophylactic medicines such as Proguanil, doxycycline, or mefloquine. The risk of getting malaria decreases with higher altitudes and is usually negligible above 2500m.
No prophylaxis or cure is available for dengue fever. It is prevalent during summer, especially during the monsoon (July to September) and can be fatal. It is caused by mosquitoes that bite during the day and the most widespread outbreaks of dengue are expected in Punjab province.

In the summer it gets very hot. Be careful to stay hydrated. Temperature range between 40°C to 50°C in June and July! But, as soon as monsoon rains set in during Aug-Sept months, it cools to around 30°C - but with high levels of humidity.

Do not eat food that has been lying out for some time, as high temperatures speed up deterioration. Avoid posh but unfrequented restaurants.

Some Pakistani dishes can be very spicy! Always notify your host, cook or waiter if you can not take very spicy food.

Respect

Customs in Pakistan are very similar to those in other Muslim and neighbouring countries, in particular, India with whom Pakistan share many characteristics. The culture, like most others in the Middle East and Central Asia, has a strong tradition of hospitality. Guests are often treated extremely well. Pakistanis pride themselves on their tradition of hospitality to guests (mehmanawazi in Urdu). While, Pakistan has not seen many foreigners in recent years and there is some insularity as well; consequently any foreigner may be regarded with suspicion and may be stared at. But in general, Pakistanis are warm, friendly and generous individuals with a strong interest in foreigners and other cultures.

Etiquette

In dealing with Pakistani people, the following tips relating to customs and etiquette may prove useful:

  • When entering a house, you will often be showered with tea, sweets and gifts — it's considered ungrateful to refuse these. Finishing a meal involves a delicate balance. Cleaning your plate will invite more to be served, while leaving too much may be a sign you didn't care for it. Aim for leaving just a little, announcing you're full, and heavily praising the food. When you're being invited to a home for the first time, bring a food gift such as a cake or a sweet box, it is considered very generous and will be very appreciated.
  • As with most of South Asia or in the Muslim world, you should use your right hand for eating, shaking hands and giving or receiving everything (including money), and reserve your left hand for handling shoes and assisting in toilet duties.
  • Most Pakistanis are religious, but fairly liberal and open minded in big cities and secular points of view are not uncommon. Although its strict Islamic moral code is well known, Pakistani laws are not as strict as other Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia. Respecting the dozens of unspoken rules and regulations of Pakistani life can be a daunting prospect for travellers, but don't be intimidated. As a foreigner you will be given leeway and it doesn't take long to acclimatise yourself.
  • Most Pakistani women don't usually interact with strangers, so don't get embarrassed if they avoid communicating with you. If they don't answer you, it is best not to attempt further communication. People of opposite sex do not shake hands when they greet each other. It is sometimes usual among men to put the left hand on your chest (heart) when shaking hands. In urban Pakistan and in some other parts of the country, men and women usually lower their head and lift their hand to their forehead to make the "adab" gesture when greeting each other.
  • Business tends to move slowly, and will often be preceded by a lot of socializing, tea drinking, and meeting of the family. Rushing to the point may be considered rude, and even sour the deal.
  • Pakistan is a conservative country and travellers should be aware of the fact that Pakistani females generally dress conservatively, although in metropolitan cities more liberal attire can be seen. It is advisable for women to wear long skirts or trousers in public. It is not mandatory for women to wear hijab or abaya. Pakistani women wear the traditional shalwar kameez. In the big cities, women wearing jeans and khakis is not a very uncommon sight, especially in casual settings, shopping malls and around picnic spots. Dress codes for men are more lax, though shorts are uncommon. Females dressing immodestly may attract unwanted attention from men. Avoid walking in such clothes late at night even in the bigger cities and it is best to avoid going out on the roads alone even at day time. Keeping some company is always advisable.
  • Greetings are considered to be of extreme importance in Pakistani culture. Men should never shake hands with or touch a woman they don't know very well.
  • Avoid taking photos of men and women without their consent, as this may lead you into serious trouble. Pakistani people are very conservative about someone they don't know taking pictures of them. Also, photography in non-touristy areas can be considered sensitive due to recent terrorist activities in the country.
  • Keep in mind that Pakistanis will consider themselves obliged to go out of their way to fulfill a guest's request and will insist very strongly that it is no inconvenience to do so, even if this is not true. This of course means that there is a reciprocal obligation on you as a guest to take extra care not to be a burden. It is customary to put up a token friendly argument with your host or any other member of the group when paying bills at restaurants or while making purchases. The etiquette for this is somewhat complicated.
In a business lunch or dinner, it is usually clear upfront who is supposed to pay, and there is no need to fight. But if you are someone's personal guest and they take you out to a restaurant, you should offer to pay anyway, and you should insist a lot. Sometimes these fights get a little funny, with each side trying to snatch the bill away from the other, all the time laughing politely. If you don't have experience in these things, chances are you will lose the argument the first time, but in that case, make sure that you pay the next time. (And try to make sure that there is a next time.) Unless the bill amount is very large do not offer to share it, and only as a second resort after they have refused to let you pay it all. The same rule applies when you are making a purchase. If you are purchasing something for yourself, your hosts might still offer to pay for it if the amount is not very high, and sometimes, even if it is. In this situation, unless the amount is very low, you should never lose the fight. (If the amount is in fact ridiculously low, say less than ?10, then don't insult your hosts by putting up a fight.) Even if by chance you lose the fight to pay the shopkeeper, it is customary to practically thrust (in a nice way, of course) the money into your host's hands. These rules do not apply if the host has made it clear beforehand that it is his or her treat, especially for some specific occasion.
  • It is considered rude to introduce yourself to strangers; it is generally advisable to ask some mutual acquaintance to introduce you. Strangers will speak with each other in the "formal" register of Urdu, and using the familiar register will be seen as very rude. When being introduced to elders or strangers while seated it is customary to get up as a sign of respect and It is advisable to ask a person how they wish to be addressed.
  • If at all possible, try not to schedule meetings during Ramadan. The workday is shortened, and since Muslims fast, they will not be able to offer you tea, which is a sign of hospitality. Meeting are also not scheduled at namaz.
  • Remember to remove your shoes when entering a religious building such as mosques or shrines. There are dedicated areas where your footwear may be stored for a small fee in shrines while in mosques, there may be racks to store the shoes but where they're not available, you can leave them where others do. Women aren't generally allowed to visit mosques in Pakistan so they shouldn't except some exceptions, but where they do, they must wear very modest clothes (long skirts and shawls to cover the body as well as sleeves and legs), and cover their heads with a headscarf or such like. Men should also wear modest clothes, not shorts as it is considered rude. Mosques are sometimes off-limits to non-Muslims so it is always better to inquire with someone at the mosque before entering.

Sensitive issues

  • Be careful of initiating political discussions. It's best not to discuss topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict or the role of Islam in society regardless of what opinion you hold. India is a sensitive subject about which many Pakistanis will have strong views. Take care when discussing the issue, and avoid getting into a conversation about the whole issue. It's fine to have a chat about your visit to India, the people, and Indo-Pak cricket matches. But it is far better to avoid any discussion of the political disputes with India or the Kashmir Conflict. Likewise, bitterness and often intense dislike may be expressed concerning Indians or the nation of India and its strong allies. Discussion in favour of the United States and Israel is also discouraged.
  • Use common sense and a healthy dose of courtesy when in conversation with Pakistanis. Kashmir is a particularly sensitive topic and best avoided altogether. Discussion about religion and Islam should remain respectful and positive — some Pakistanis are not tolerant of other religions, and if theirs is spoken about negatively, it could result in violence.

Connect

The country code for Pakistan is +92 if you are calling from outside the country. Phone numbers are seven digits long with two digit city code in larger districts, and six digits long with three digit city code in smaller districts, for a total of nine digits as a standard nationwide (except for Azad Kashmir). All mobile numbers, however, are seven digits long and begin with a four digit network code "03XX", where XX indicates the cellular provider. Thus Pakistani mobile numbers are linked to one particular cellular provider, NOT one particular city as in North America. Therefore the city prefix should not be dialled in addition to the cellular prefix. As in many countries, omit the initial zero when dialling a city or cell code from outside Pakistan and prefix the '92' country code after dialling your country's international access code. Thus Telenor cell number 765 4321 dialled from the USA/Canada would be 011 92 345 765 4321 and Peshawar landline 234-5678 dialled from France or the UK would be 00 92 91 234-5678.

The international access code for outgoing calls from Pakistan is 00.

PTCL offers landline and wireless phone services.

Public Call Offices can be found all over the country. You will find a PCO in nearly 50% of the general stores where there is usually someone who operates the phone and fax. Fees will be charged according to the time spent, and you will pay when you have finished your call.

Cell phone

Major providers of mobile phone service (GSM) are:

  • Mobilink
  • Telenor
  • Ufone
  • Warid
  • Zong - China Mobile

One very convenient feature is that all Pakistani cellular operators use the GSM platform, so that cellular handsets nationwide are freely interchangeable between providers.

Cell phones were considered as a status symbol a few years ago but, since 2002, the telecommunications industry has experienced a bit of a boom. These days you can hardly find a single person in the country without a personal cell phone. There are various service providers offering a huge variety of plans. Among them are Mobilink, Warid Telecom, Telenor, Ufone & Zong (China Mobile). It's not a bad idea to buy a cell phone and use a prepaid plan to get yourself connected while you are in the country. The mobile phones and the prepaid plans are very cheap; you can usually get a new cheap cell phone just for Rs 2,000 and a prepaid connection for Rs 150-400.

Due to security threats, in order to purchase a SIM card you will need to provide formal identification such as Visas, resident permits, residing address in Pakistan along with a written declaration that you will not use the provided phone number for any illegal activity. Starting March 2015, possesion of unverified SIM will be considered a serious and punishable crime.

Internet

Cybercafes can be found on virtually every street corner and the rates are as low as Rs 40-50 per hour. They usually don't have a very fast operating system so don't be too impatient. They usually use 17 inch monitors with Windows 2000, Windows 98 or Windows XP usually installed. Most of the cafes have a decent speed internet connection.

Internet Access can be obtained easily on notebook computers with the help of GPRS enabled mobile connections, supported by almost all of the five mobile operators. Mobilink provides EDGE based connection in very limited areas of Karachi, but Telenor's coverage of EDGE is wider. The standard price of GPRS/EDGE usage is Rs 10-18 per MB of data transferred but Zong offers Rs 15/h. If you wish to download much more, you may want to use unlimited packages, provided only by Warid, Mobilink and Telenor at this time. World Call and Ufone also offers USB Modem.3G and 4G based connections are also available from all the mobile service providers, rates are nearly same as EDGE.

You can also subscribe to GPRS/EDGE bundles, which drops the price really low.

Wateen, Mobilink Infinity, WiTribe, and Qubee are WiMax internet providers. National telecommunication company PTCL offers a USB EVo device for very fast internet connections.

There are Wi-Fi hotspots all over Pakistan, in hotels, malls, and cafes/restaurants.


AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Karachi

Karachi continues to experience unprecedented levels of violence, stemming mainly from the political situation. Although this violence is currently common in Orangi, Baldia, SITE, Liyari, Saddar, Liaquatabad, Korangi, Landhi, Shah Faisal Colony, Jamshed and Gulberg, it could spread to other areas. In response to spates of violence, various groups may call for strikes and protest marches, which tend to take place in the central areas of Karachi. These events could cause travel disruptions throughout the city and create the necessary conditions for additional violence. Maintain a high level of vigilance, minimize your movements around the city, avoid large gatherings and demonstrations and stay away from areas where they may take place, as they could turn violent without warning.

Since January 2010, a series of targeted attacks in Karachi has killed a number of activists from Pakistan’s various political factions. While foreigners are not targeted by these killings, they may face incidental risks given that these acts could trigger violent demonstrations and rioting in Karachi. Expect tighter security measures and increased police presence in the affected areas of the city.

Express kidnappings have occurred in Karachi where the person is kidnapped for a couple of hours and forced to purchase goods and/or to withdraw money from an automatic banking machine (ABM).

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (see Advisory)

The security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in northwestern Pakistan remains volatile due to sectarian violence and fighting between government forces and militants. Lawlessness is a serious concern in several areas. Bombings, shootings and mass demonstrations occur regularly, resulting in deaths and injuries. Curfews are sometimes imposed. The security situation in Swat and South Waziristan is particularly volatile. The military operations in these areas have caused a number of civilian casualties, including deaths.

Leave the area if it is safe to do so. Avoid road travel through Swat to Gilgit and Chitral.

Border with India (see Advisory)

Tensions between Pakistan and India remain since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks and are susceptible to sudden increase. You could experience difficulties when travelling between the two countries and may risk being scrutinized if officials from either country become aware that you have recently travelled to the other country.

A ceasefire is in effect along the Line of Control with India and at military outposts in the Karakoram Mountains, including the Siachen Glacier.

Exercise caution as the situation remains unpredictable.

Terrorism

The security situation remains fragile and unpredictable. The terrorist threat remains very high. Terrorist attacks have occurred throughout Pakistan, causing many deaths and injuries. Heightened security measures are currently in place throughout the country. Checkpoints may be set up without warning.

Suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, and political assassinations were among the tactics used in these attacks. Some attacks involved detailed planning to maximize casualties by using multiple and consecutive explosions. Extremism, ethnic divisions, sectarian strife, regional political disputes, and the situation in Afghanistan are usually the reasons behind these attacks.

Attacks have taken place in public areas, such as airports, hotels, markets, transportation hubs, Western-style fast food outlets, restaurants and religious sites, including places frequented by foreigners. Terrorists also target popular trekking sites, such as Nanga Parbat, in Gilgit-Baltistan. Use only the very best hotels that have stringent security, including metal detectors; however, no location should be considered free of risks. Avoid mosques and their vicinities at prayer times, especially on Fridays.

Large cities, such as KarachiLahore and Peshawar, are particularly vulnerable to indiscriminate bombings and other attacks.

Be particularly vigilant in the lead-up to and on days of national significance, such as National Day (March 23), Independence Day (August 14), the Islamic month of Muharram and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Expect heightened security measures and associated disruptions during these periods.

In response to a general threat alert of possible terrorist attacks in Islamabad, security arrangements have been heightened at government installations in the downtown area of Islamabad knows as the "Red Zone" and the Marriott Hotel, Serena Hotel, Holiday Inn, Best Western and Margalla Motel in Islamabad.  
 
Due to security concerns, avoid the Centaurus mall in Islamabad. Remain vigilant, keep a low profile, and continue to exercise caution while in Pakistan, particularly in areas regularly frequented by westerners.

Exercise extreme caution at all times and follow the advice of local authorities. Report any suspicious-looking package or behaviour immediately to the nearest security authorities.

Kidnapping

There is a very high risk of foreign nationals being kidnapped throughout Pakistan. Kidnapping for criminal and political purposes is a rising phenomenon. A number of foreigners, including diplomats, journalists and aid workers have been kidnapped in the past. Some foreigners have also been killed. Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times and use varied and unpredictable routes and schedules when moving from one place to another.

Demonstrations and civil unrest

Demonstrations and civil unrest may occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Deaths, injuries and widespread violence have been reported. The current political situation, ethnic and sectarian conflicts, power cuts, and the rising price of commodities are among the current causes of concern.

Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities, monitor local media and minimize time spent in places frequented by foreigners.

Crime

Violent crime is a problem, particularly in Karachi. Armed robbery, random shootings and armed carjackings occur, mostly in major urban centres.

Avoid travelling after dusk, particularly in rural areas where road conditions are unsafe. Make arrangements to be met at the airport, especially if arriving after dark.

If travelling by car, keep valuable belongings out of sight, windows closed and doors locked.

Petty crime is common. To reduce the probability of becoming a victim, avoid showing signs of affluence and ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. There are reports that cell phones, credit cards, and passports are currently favourite targets.

Cases of drugged food followed by robbery have been reported. Do not accept food or drinks from strangers, and do not leave food or drinks unattended in commercial establishments. Order only bottled drinks in order to maintain control of the situation.

Extortion and corruption can occur in the business environment. Tribal and criminal groups are usually behind these actions. Report any extortion attempts to Pakistani authorities and officials at the High Commission of Canada in Islamabad.

Forced marriages

Cases of Canadians being forced into marital arrangements have been reported. Some are detained in Pakistan against their will and subjected to threats, intimidation and violence by family members. Passports have been retained by family members and some victims have been unable to return to Canada.

Forced marriages are contrary to Canadian law. If you are in Canada and you believe that you are being forced to travel overseas or to marry, contact provincial social welfare authorities and the local police. You may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre. In Pakistan, contact the nearest Canadian government office.

For more information about forced marriages, consult our Marriage Overseas FAQ and our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide.

Regional travel

Avoid overland travel into Sindh province unless police are notified well in advance and are able to make the necessary security arrangements. Avoid rural areas of the provinces of Sindh and Punjab due to banditry.

The province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, is notorious for cross-border smuggling.

Travel to Hunza via the Karakoram highway only during daylight hours. Two drivers should be present if travelling by bus. Sections of the road are very narrow with precipitous drops and are sometimes partially obstructed by rock and earth slides.

Trekking and climbing

Use licensed guides and tourist agencies only.

Avoid the disputed areas along the border with India (Karakoram Mountains). The following peaks are considered dangerous: Rimo; Apsarasas I, II and III; Tegam Kangri I, II and III; Suingri Kangri; Ghiant I and II; Indira Col; and Sia Kangri.

Road travel

Traffic drives on the left. Road conditions are poor. Roads are mostly unpaved outside major urban centres, narrow, crowded, and poorly lit and signed. Many vehicles do not have proper lights for night driving. Accidents are common. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are strongly recommended. If an accident occurs and you feel that your safety is threatened, leave the area and report the accident to the nearest police station.

Do not use public transportation or taxis.

Avoid rail travel as it has been targeted by rioters and terrorists in the past. Rail accidents have occurred as a result of low safety and maintenance standards.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

Carry copies of your passport and visa at all times.

Ensure that your passport and other travel documents are valid and readily available.

Heightened security measures are currently in place throughout the country. Checkpoints may be set up without warning.

Canadian officials may not be in a position to provide consular assistance to Canadians in some parts of the country due to security concerns or in areas where the Government of Pakistan prohibits entry or requires advance permission for entry.Emergency services.

Dial 15 for emergencies throughout Pakistan.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Japanese encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending time outdoors in rural areas) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Polio

There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in South Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Cholera

There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Southern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, and malaria.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that typically causes fever, bleeding under the skin, and pain. Risk is generally low for most travellers. It is spread to humans though contact with infected animal blood or bodily fluids, or from a tick bite. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Southern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.

Avian Influenza

There have been human cases of avian influenza ("bird flu”) in this country. Avian influenza is a viral infection that can spread by contact with infected birds or surfaces and objects contaminated by their feces or other secretions.

Avoid unnecessary contact with domestic poultry and wild birds as well as surfaces contaminated with their feces or other secretions. Ensure all poultry dishes and eggs are thoroughly cooked.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are good in major cities, but limited in rural areas. Immediate cash payment could be required for any medical service.

Health tips

Air pollution could become a health concern, especially in winter.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

An international driving permit is required.

Illegal or restricted activities

Religious proselytizing is not permitted.

The possession and consumption of alcohol is prohibited. Transgressions could be punished by detention or other penalties. Penalties for illegal drug possession, use, or trafficking are severe. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences, heavy fines and deportation.

The death penalty may be imposed for drug trafficking, murder, illegal gathering, blasphemy and rape.

Homosexual activity is illegal, as is living together without being married.

Avoid physical contact, such as holding hands, in public.

Pork products are illegal in Pakistan.

Photographing government buildings, military installations, and airports is prohibited. Ask permission before taking photographs of local residents.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship is not legally recognized, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times.

If you were born in Pakistan, or if your father was born in Pakistan, you should confirm your citizenship status with the High Commission of Pakistan in Ottawa as you could be considered a Pakistani citizen while on Pakistani soil.

Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.

Dress and behaviour

The country’s customs, laws and regulations adhere closely to Islamic practices and beliefs. Sharia law has been adopted in the Swat Valley. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.

Shorts are considered inappropriate attire for both men and women, particularly in remote locations. Women should consider carrying a headscarf with them at all times while travelling in Pakistan. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.

Money

The currency is the Pakistani rupee (PKR). The economy mainly operates on a cash-only basis. Credit cards and traveller’s cheques are accepted by a few establishments in larger cities. Currency can be exchanged at all international airports. Automated banking machines are available.

Climate

Severe earthquakes can occur in the western and northern regions of the country. Landslides are possible in affected areas, and strong aftershocks may occur up to one week after the initial quake.

An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale struck the town of Awaran, in the province of Balochistan, southern Pakistan on September 24, 2013, causing fatalities and material damages. Transportation, health and telecommunications services may be affected, and land travel could be disrupted. Monitor local news reports, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

The monsoon season extends from July to September and can result in flooding, especially along the Indus River. In July 2010 and August/September 2011, monsoon rains caused significant flooding and landslides in many regions of the country. Property and road infrastructure were significantly damaged and reconstruction efforts are still ongoing in these regions.

Avalanches in the mountains can occur.

Pakistan’s coastline is subject to tropical cyclones, which are usually accompanied by high winds and heavy rain. During any storm, flash floods and mudslides as well as damage to transportation routes and infrastructure may occur. Monitor regional weather forecasts and follow the advice of local authorities.

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