The Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Urdu: پاکستان) is a country at the crossroads of Western, Central, South and East Asia. Conceived as a separate homeland for Muslims in South Asia, the country's tourism industry had its heyday during the 1960s thanks to the Hippie Trail. Unfortunately, the country has been in a state of flux since the 1970s, with many countries declaring it unsafe to visit.
Despite this, Pakistan continues to attract tourists due to its unique, diverse cultures and landscapes. The history buff can rejoice at the vast number of ruins from ancient civilisations, such as Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa and Taxila; The architecture lover can feast their eyes at Mughal-era architecture; The adventurous traveller can try their luck at scaling the vast number of mountain peaks, including K2.
Pakistan is a federal republic consisting of four provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. The government of Pakistan also exercises de facto jurisdiction over two parts of the disputed Kashmir region: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan (formerly Northern Areas).
Part of the disputed territory of Kashmir, it is home to some of the world's tallest mountains, brimming with dramatically fantastic landscapes and can easily compete with Nepal for trekking opportunities.
|Northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)|
Primarily Pashtun, the region is very rugged and mountainous but the people are very hospitable. Northern Pakhtunkhwa is considered to be one of the most beautiful areas of the country. The region includes the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
|Azad Kashmir |
Part of the disputed territory of Kashmir, it is sometimes referred to as "Heaven on Earth" because of its scenic landscape.
The most populous and agriculturally fertile region in the country, and home to many historical shrines and mosques.
In the most industrialised region in the country, most visitors head for Karachi or the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-daro, but Sindh is also known for its distinct culture which is influenced by Sufism.
The largest and most remote province, its lack of infrastructure and a low-level insurgency can make for rough travelling. It is, however, home to the world's second largest juniper forest, beautiful natural beaches, and regions which are famous for their delicious fruit.
Nine of Pakistan's most notable cities follow. Other cities are listed in the article for their region.
- 1 Islamabad – the federal capital, a relatively new planned city with a much more "laid back" feel than the other cities
- 2 Faisalabad – a major city in Punjab, famous for its textile industry
- 3 Karachi – the financial capital and the largest city of the country, it's an industrial port city and the provincial capital of Sindh
- 4 Lahore – city of the Mughals, it's a bustling and very historical city in the Punjab that shouldn't be missed
- 5 Multan – the City of Saints, famous for blue pottery, ornamental glasswork, and Khussa – a type of shoes
- 6 Muzaffarabad – capital of Azad Kashmir and a very picturesque city
- 7 Peshawar – capital city of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the gateway to Khyber Pass
- 8 Quetta – capital city of Balochistan
- 9 Sialkot – the city of sports goods, famous for its exports industry, and one of the oldest cities in the region
- 1 Karakoram Highway – part of the historic Silk Road and the main artery running north to China
- 2 Murree – a popular Himalayan hill station one hours drive from Islamabad
- 3 Khewra Salt Mine – the second largest salt mine of the world. Nearly two hours drive from Islamabad towards south via the motorway
- 4 Mohenjo-daro – archaeological site from the Indus Valley Civilisation, about 2000 BCE
- 5 Taxila – archaeological site for the Gandharan period (1st millennium BCE and 1st CE)
- 6 Changa Manga- is a planted forest locating in 12,423 acres.
- 7 Nankana Sahib- birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
|Currency||Pakistani rupee (PKR)|
|Population||223.7 million (2021)|
|Electricity||230 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, AC power plugs and sockets: British and related types, BS 1363, BS 546)|
|Time zone||UTC+05:00, Asia/Karachi|
|Emergencies||1122 (emergency medical services), 15 (police), +92-16 (fire department)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Pakistan is the world's 33rd largest country by size. With a population exceeding 207.2 million people, it is the fifth most populous country in the world.
The history of Pakistan can be traced back to the earliest ancient human civilisations in South 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 1960s 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 1980s 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.
India and Pakistan have a bitter and long-standing dispute over Kashmir; each government claims territory that is under the control of the other. They have fought wars over this three times since independence in 1947.
Wikivoyage, however, deals only with the current situation on the ground; our maps show and our text describes that situation without taking sides in the dispute. If you can go there with a Pakistani visa today then we treat it as being in Pakistan, and if you need an Indian visa, we treat it as being in India. This is the most important distinction for travellers.
Most of the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan) is safer than most of the rest of Pakistan, but travellers should check current conditions before visiting Kashmir and be wary of areas close to the Line of Control (the de facto border). Both governments consider these areas highly sensitive, keep large military forces in them, and restrict travel to them.
Pakistan is strategically located astride the ancient trade routes of the Khyber and Bolan passes to 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.
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.
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.
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 lot of political parties, and no party is able to secure 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").
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you're planning to travel to Pakistan during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
Pakistan, being home to numerous ethnic groups is a culturally diverse nation that emphasizes both on local culture and traditions along with the traditional Islamic values. The culture is greatly influenced by Northern India, Afghanistan and Iran.
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 started to employ female fighter pilots.
|Kashmir Solidarity Day||February 5||Protest against Indian administration of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been observed each year in Pakistan as a day of protest against Indian control of part of Kashmir. The purpose of Kashmir Solidarity day as per Pakistani view, is to provide sympathetic and political support to the Kashmiri separatists who they believe are struggling for freedom from Indian rule. Nonviolent rallies and public marches are held across the country.|
|Pakistan Day||23 March||Commemorates the Lahore Resolution of 1940, and the adoption of the first constitution of Pakistan during the transition of the Dominion of Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on 23 March 1956 making Pakistan the world's first Islamic republic. It is a major holiday and significant day for Pakistanis, other being the Independence Day on 14 August. Republic Day parade by the armed forces is a common celebration for the event. The celebrations regarding the holiday include a full military and civilian parade in the capital, Islamabad. These are presided over by the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan and are held early in the morning. After the parade, the President confers national awards and medals at the Presidency. Wreaths are also laid at the mausoleums of Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Many military and civilians parades and celebrations also held at national level across the country, mostly in major cities, and are worth to witness.|
|Labour Day||1 May||An annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers and to commemorate the social and economic achievements of workers. Nonviolent rallies and protest demonstration held in major cities.|
|Independence Day||14 August||biggest National holiday to commemorate independence from the British Raj, forming the new nation of Pakistan. Usual celebratory events this day include flag-raising ceremonies, parades, cultural events, and the playing of patriotic songs. As the month of August begins, special stalls and shops are set up across the country for the sale of national flags, buntings, banners and posters, pictures of national heroes, and other celebratory items. Vehicles, private buildings, homes, and streets are decorated with the national flag and buntings. Streets and houses are decorated with candles, oil lamps and pennants, national flag as well as firework shows occur as a part of celebration. A change of guard takes place at national monuments.|
|Iqbal Day||9 November||Birthday of national poet Muhammad Iqbal.|
|Birthday of Quaid-e-Azam||25 December||birthday of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.|
|Ashura||Muharram 9 and 10||Marks the end of the Shia mourning for the martyred Imam Hussein ibn Ali. Primarily Shia'a people gather across the country to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Seminars, rallies, mourning processions (Matmi Jaloos), Majalis, etc. are organized on this day.|
|Eid-ul-Fitr||Shawwal 1||the largest celebration of the year, celebrated by all Muslims after the holy and fasting month of Ramadan to mark the end of Ramadan, starting on the first day of the month of Shawwal. Food is the highlight and if you're lucky you'll be invited into a private home to party and feast. Businesses close for at least a couple of days if not a week. (The official holidays are theoretically two days: the first and second day of the month of Shawwal. Anyhow, practically it includes the 30th day of Ramadan and may include the third day of Shawwal if it touches the weekend. Therefore, usually all offices are closed for 3 to 7 days.)|
|Eid-ul-Adha||10 Zilhajj||the festival of sacrifice, commemorates the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Animals are slaughtered and meat or food is distributed among the poor. Families join together for large feasts and parties.|
|Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi||Rabi`-ul-Awwal 12||Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.|
As of late May 2019, the long-awaited e-visa system has been opened up for citizens of 191 countries. Unclear yet as to whether this is for both airports and land borders.
Citizens of 24 "Tourist Friendly Countries" (TFC) are eligible for one month visas on arrival if they travel through a designated/authorised tour operator [dead link] 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.
Citizens of certain countries can obtain business visas on arrival at major airports (Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta 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. A recommendation letter issued by the Chamber of Commerce & Industry is also acceptable.
People of Pakistani origin living overseas are granted 5 year multiple entry visas (along with their spouses), valid 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).
Nationals of Israel are not allowed entry as Israel 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 an application for a Pakistani visa.
Nationals of Afghanistan are refused entry if their passports or tickets show evidence of transit or boarding in India.
As of January 2018, applications for tourist visas in Delhi are refused to everyone, regardless of the nationality.
As of May 2019, the Embassy of Pakistan in Bishkek will sometimes grant visas to non-Kyrgyz citizens. The paperwork is extensive but turnaround is fast, 2–3 days in practice.
Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are the main gateways to Pakistan by air. Eight other international airports are in Quetta, Gawadar, Peshawar, Sialkot, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, Faisalabad and Dera Ghazi Khan. Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad all served by many international airliners and have direct connections from Europe, North America, Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Pakistan's national carrier Pakistan International Airlines provides good connectivity within the country as well to major hubs around the world. PIA was once one of the most reputable airlines in the world, but is now suffering due to bad governance. It is still the largest airline of the country and serves the most 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.
British Airways has a direct service from London to Islamabad and Lahore, while Virgin Atlantic has services from London and Manchester to Islamabad and from London to Lahore.
Most flights and airlines originate from Gulf countries, where most of the overseas Pakistan work, and those flights are often reasonably priced. Other than flag career PIA, private airlines such as Airblue and Shaheen Airlines also operate flights from numerous Arab destinations.
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.
- 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, after terrorist attacks on the train, which caused many casualties 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 open to foreign tourists.
From Iran: There is only one link, from Zahedan to Quetta. This link was suspended around 2014 for passengers. Local media reported that reinstatement was due as of September 2018 but no train on this route appears on timetables from Pakistan or Iran, and there are no reports of passengers crossing - it would be unwise to rely on such a service existing for now.
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 Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore, Multan 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.
- The Khyber Pass connects Peshawar to Jalalabad and Kabul. This was considered closed to foreign tourists for many years, but since 2017 it is theoretically open and there have been some reports of successful crossings from Afghanistan to Pakistan. An armed escort and a permit to travel through the tribal regions are both required between Peshawar and the border (or vice versa). Onward travel (on the Afghanistan side) from the border to Kabul is of extremely questionable and oft-varying safety, check the current situation locally.
- The Bolan Pass connects Quetta to Kandahar and is considered very dangerous. This route is not open to foreign tourists, and is only open to locals and aid workers.
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 [formerly dead link] . 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.
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. Paramilitary police are likely to make foreigners ride in the bed of one of their pickups from Taftan to Quetta rather than taking a bus at this time. There is an overnight stop in Dalbandin.
Getting around Pakistan has become much easier 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.
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.
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 airfares. 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.
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 Bookkaru booking engine.
- See also: Urdu phrasebook
At the federal level, Urdu and English are the official languages of Pakistan. Urdu serves as the national language of Pakistan and as a lingua franca. It is the first language only for a tenth of the population.
Punjabi is native language of roughly 40% of the population and is the most widely spoken language throughout the country. The variant of Punjabi used in Pakistan uses the Shahmukhi alphabet, a variant of the same script used to write Urdu.
Fluency in English varies vastly depending on education levels, occupation, age and region. English is widely spoken among affluent sectors of the population in major cities and around most tourist places, as well as in most police stations and government offices.
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 Lahore. Lahore 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.
Pakistan is a 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
- Quaid-e-Azam Residency
- Tomb of Muhammad Iqbal
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, State Bank of Pakistan Museum & Art Gallery, MagnifiScience Centre, PAF Museum and Pakistan Maritime Museum. For those looking out for a transport museum, Pakistan Railways Heritage Museum in Islamabad is a major attraction.
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 snorkeling, 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 survey found Karachi as the world's most cheapest city.
Exchange rates for Pakistani rupee
As of January 2022:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The national currency of Pakistan is the rupee, denoted as Rs (ISO code PKR). Coins are issued in 1, 2, 5 and 10 rupee denominations. Banknotes come in Rs 10 (green), 20 (orange green), 50 (purple), 100 (red), 500 (deep green), 1,000 (dark blue), and 5,000 (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 small merchants will claim that they don't have change for a Rs 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 Rs 1, 2, 5 and 10. 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 American Express, MasterCard and Visa.
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.
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.
|Number||English Format||Pakistani Format|
|1,00,000||Hundred Thousand||One Lakh|
|1,00,00,000||Ten Million||One Crore|
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 and things to buy without worrying about blowing your budget:
- Textiles and Garments such as garments, bed linen, shirts, T-shirts are cheaply available in shops including Chen One, Bonanza, Ideas (Gul Ahmed), Cambridge Shop. Many world renowned brands such as 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 many other good brand) at reasonable prices ranging between Rs 1,400-2,500.
- Leather goods, such as shoes, jackets and bags are also a speciality of Pakistan. Go to 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 little 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 Pakistan has a long history of carpet production and makes many today for both domestic and export markets.
- 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 pashmina, rugs, wool-shawls or wraps, which can cost anywhere between US$15 and US$700. Remember to haggle.
- Books There are Urdu Bazars in every big city in Pakistan.
- 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 Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad 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.
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?"
Most visitors will find Pakistan quite cheap, although it is noticeably more expensive than neighbouring Afghanistan. Karachi 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.
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. Food in Pakistan is a blend of Mughal, 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 more 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 course foods which mostly consist of curry dishes are 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, particularly 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 in Pakistan varies greatly from region to region. Culinary art in Pakistan comprises a mix of Iranian, Afghan, Indian, and Central Asian 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 specialities 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 and tends to use oil as opposed to ghee. 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.
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
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.
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.
- Biryani (Most Popular)
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.
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 split chickpeas. 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, McDonald's, 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.
- 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.
Popular condiments used in Pakistani cuisine:
- 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
- Raita — a cucumber yogurt dip
Tipping is expected everywhere in Pakistan, especially restaurants. Tip 5-10% at sit-down places.
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. Wash your hands well before and after eating, of course.
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.
Tap water is unsafe for drinking. However, some establishments have water filters/purifiers installed, making it safe to drink. Ask for bottled water, and make sure that the cap's seal has not been broken. Some unscrupulous vendors reuse old bottles and fill them with tap water. Bottled water brands like Aquafina (by PepsiCo) and Nestle are widely available and costs Rs 80 for a 1.5 litre bottle. Ask for bottled water wherever possible, and avoid anything cold that might have water (ice) in it. In semi-urban or rural areas, it may be advisable to ask for boiled water.
Try a local limca cola, which makes a "pop" sound when opened. Pakola, Pakistan's premier soft drink brand, is available in many unusual flavours. Try a Lassi, 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.
- 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 alcohol can be purchased from designated liquor shops. If you are a foreigner and looking for alcohol, you can contact the customer service department at Murree Brewery for assistance by telephone at. +92 051-5567041-7.
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.
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.
- 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
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 with wine shops where one can get any brand of liquor.
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. 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 Rs2,000 - 6,000 per night.
Top end covers the Serenas, Pearl Continentals [dead link] 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, 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. In some places the term "hotel" is reserved for simpler establishments, with "guest house" referring to medium-sized establishments where the standard is typically higher. Restaurants are also called "hotels", creating a fun potential for confusion.
In an emergency, call the police by 15 from any landline phone. To get an ambulance, dial 115 and 1122 from any landline or mobile phone.
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. These attacks have decreased significantly since 2014 due to successful military operations against terrorists. For the ordinary traveller, Pakistan has a tradition of hospitality that has been subverted 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.
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 former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Northwest Pakistan 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.
Balochistan is considered dangerous and not fit for travellers due to increased kidnappings of foreigners.
The 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 are ever-changing. 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 arrest.
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 Organization 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.
Prostitution has no legal recognition in Pakistan.
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.
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, which might be the cause of those hacking coughs you hear on the street. 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, so stay hydrated. Temperatures may rise 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 cannot tolerate very spicy food.
Despite sharp political differences, Pakistan and India share a common culture; some (emphasis on "some") of the various respect tips found in the India article will come in handy during your visit.
The culture 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). Nonetheless, Pakistan does not see many foreigners and there is some insularity as well; consequently foreigners may be occasionally regarded with suspicion and attract stares. But in general, Pakistanis are warm, friendly and generous individuals with a strong interest in foreigners and other cultures.
Thanks to the traditionally close and friendly diplomatic relationship between China and Pakistan, Chinese may found themselves being exceptionally welcomed by Pakistanis.
Religion and rituals
- Although Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, most Pakistanis have liberal, open-minded attitudes towards Islam. Secular points of view are not uncommon, and there are no strict dress-codes in effect.
- Discussion about religion should always remain respectful and positive — A number of Pakistanis are strongly religious, and negative talk about religion can very easily elicit some strong responses.
- 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. Meetings are also not scheduled during prayers. Also refer to travelling during Ramadan if you must do so.
- Remember to remove your shoes when entering a religious building. 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.
- Pakistanis, by and large, are neutral communicators. Although Pakistanis try to be respectful and courteous in social situations, words are often taken at face value. It's important to be explicitly clear and upfront about what you intend to say as euphemisms, idiomatic language, and the like may be misunderstood.
- Direct personal questions (based on your personal life, salary, education, and lifestyle) are commonly asked. To Pakistanis, it's not considered impolite, but rather it's a way to get to know someone fully. In some cases, you may find others giving you advice on whatever it is you're doing, either warranted or unwarranted. Don't feel annoyed or irritated by this as Pakistanis don't intend to patronise or pull you down in any way. If you feel the question was too personal, simply give an indirect answer and move along.
- Family values are highly revered by many Pakistanis, and respect for the elderly is immense. Passing unwarranted comments about someone's family life won't win you friends or praise, and similarly, it's not considered good form to criticise someone much older than you.
- As in all countries in South Asia, you will often be showered with tea, sweets, snacks, and gifts when entering someone's home. Do not refuse any of these as it is likely to offend your hosts.
- You'll often be encouraged by your hosts to take second helpings ad infinitum. If so, take it as a form of respect as it may leave a good impression on your hosts. 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.
- Never show up to someone's home empty handed. You don't have to provide an incredibly expensive gift, but a simple gift such as sweets will leave a good impression on your hosts.
- 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.
- 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. Men should never shake hands with or touch a woman they don't know very well.
- Business and operations tend to move slowly, and will often be preceded by chit-chat, family meetings, and the like. Keep your calm, as showing frustration and/or rushing to the point can be seen as rude, and even humorous.
- Pakistan people 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 an unusual 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.
- Do not take photographs of people without their consent. As in all Muslim-majority countries, people place a high value on personal privacy. Also, taking photographs in non-tourist areas may be met with suspicion.
- 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.
- 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 it is not true. This of course means that there is a reciprocal obligation on you as a guest.
- It is customary to put up a token friendly argument with your host or any other member of the group when paying bills at restaurant 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 chance 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. 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.
Things to avoid
Pakistanis will understand that you are not fully aware of what's considered appropriate/inappropriate in their country, and they will usually be tolerant of your blunders. This said, you should avoid doing the following during your stay in the country.
- Avoid being overly enthusiastic about India. The two countries have had a hostile, strained, often violent history, which has culminated in millions of deaths and refugees. Attempting to compliment or say anything that could be perceived as positive about India can evoke a strong response from some Pakistanis. Don't be afraid to inquire about the Indo-Pakistani relationship, but bear in mind that it can result in a very heated, often emotional, conversation.
- Be cautious when discussing politics. Pakistan is a politically troubled country. Social protests tend to turn violent and political demonstrations are almost always sensitive. As a visitor, you'll note how ardently political the Pakistanis are, and you may be exposed to a breadth of political opinions both publicly and privately. This said though, you could immediately be seen as uninformed if you do not follow Pakistani news closely. Don't hesitate to engage in political discussions, but it's worth mentioning that being a visitor puts you in a delicate position.
- Be cautious when discussing the Pakistani military. The military is highly venerated in the country, and criticising anything about it may be met with dismay by some.
- Kashmir is a particularly sensitive subject which many Pakistanis have strong views about. The issue of converting Gilgit-Baltistan into a full-fledged province is a particularly touchy subject and this has, in the past, often evoked strong responses. Inquiries into the Kashmir conflict can be met with fierce, passionate, or even hostile debates depending on your views. Some Pakistanis may voice their support for certain Kashmiri militant groups (particularly Jaish-e-Mohammed) and may react with dismay if you call them terrorist organisations.
- Although the insurgency movement in Balochistan has simmered down, some, if not all of the inhabitants of the region, advocate for separation from Pakistan.
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.
|Different city||STD||0-area code-number||051 123-4567|
|Overseas||ISD||+92-area code-number||+92 51 123-4567|
Major providers of mobile phone service (GSM) are:
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 Jazz, 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 and 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, possession of an unverified SIM will be considered a serious and punishable crime.
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 XP or Windows 7 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. Jazz provides 3G and 4G based connection in urban areas of the country, Telenor's also provides services in 3G to most of the urban parts of country. 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 all networks. World Call and Ufone also offers USB Modem. 3G and 4G based connections are also available from all the mobile service providers.
Wateen, 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.
The first time 5G was ever tested was in Pakistan. 5G service will be commercially available in the country after November, 2022.