For International Travelers.
Ever since the international travel guides featured Pakistan among the top-rated travel destinations, thousands of tourists have planned to visit this country on their next holiday. From the beautiful cascades and frozen glaciers to multi-cultural cities and tranquil shores, Pakistan is filled with a myriad of activities to perform for local and international travelers. Visiting Pakistan as a firsthand foreign traveler can be intimidating to the core. Don’t worry; this guide has got your covered for all the things that may concern you during your stay.
Let’s start the preparation, shall we?
1. Getting a visa
Owing to a rise in tour visa applications in Pakistan, the concerned departments have introduced an e-Visa system during May 2019. Before this online visa application system, international travelers could only apply from their home country. Fortunately, you can now apply for Pakistan tour visa from anywhere in the world. The system not only eliminates the hassle of running to and fro embassy for visa application but also saves time by offering a seamless visa application system. You can get two types of tour visa:
- Single entry tourist visa which lasts for 11 months
- Multiple entry tourist visa which holds for a year
Although the e-Visa system in Pakistan is quite handy, there are still some shortcomings to be addressed. Make sure that your concerned embassy is familiar with this system to avoid any trouble.
2. Hiring a tour operator
Did you think you can travel to Pakistan without missing any famous tourism spot? Well, we urge you to think again. One of the most intriguing things about visiting Pakistan is that the country is always full of pleasant surprises. You may believe that Google is showing you all the essential tourist spots which you shall visit, but in reality, local tour guides triumph the world’s number one search engine in this regard. There is no better tour guide for visiting Pakistan than a local tour guide. In the last three years, online tour operators have become rampant in the country. You can easily check their reviews and hire a tour operator based on your needs. Another exciting thing is that these operators offer amazingly affordable tour packages, and you can never go wrong with hiring them.
3. Learn some local phrases
Visiting Pakistan as an international traveler can be quite challenging at times. Owing to lack of education, most of the locals you meet won’t be able to communicate in English. For instance, if you visit the local bazaars, you are quite likely to face a lot of trouble in communicating with the vendors. However, the silver lining here is that, despite the ethnic diversity, the majority of the public is Urdu speaking and they will immediately understand you if you can speak some Urdu phrases. Learning a couple of Urdu phrases will instantly make you the apple of the eye of every local you meet. Trust me, once that is achieved, there is nothing that can stop you from experiencing the hospitality the locals always have to offer.
4. Be mindful of cultural values
Pakistan is a land of multiple ethnicities and diverse cultures. From the banks of the burgeoning Gwadar Port in Karachi to the mountain peaks in Northern Areas, the country is filled with varying cultural values at each stop on the way. Your dressing and food preferences are two of the behaviors which the locals focus upon the most. It is recommended that you don a beautiful Shalwar Kameez to fit in the cultural panorama. Since it is an Islamic country, prefer not to ask for alcohol as it is prohibited in the country. Some restaurants offer international cuisines on their menus, but it is hard to find them in remote areas and small cities.
5. Bargain- it works!
One of the dreading mistakes you can ever make as a firsthand visitor in Pakistan is to agree upon whatever price the vendors propose. Aside from supermarkets and big shopping centers, every local shop has a huge discount margin, which can be availed with a little bit of bargaining. As long as you don’t see the “Fixed Price” tags in a shop, go for bargaining. Pakistanis try to be as welcoming as they can, which is why, with a little bit of luck, you may counter a shop owner who will give you stuff for free. However, this happens only on special occasions.
6. Food is super spicy!
As a former part of united Indo-Pak sub-continent, Pakistan has preserved the rich cultural diversity which different traders brought to this land hundreds of years ago. Locals love spicy food. Some even add extra spice in their plates. If you have a low tolerance for spice, street food is a no-go. Despite all your requests for lesser spice, the food corners will fail to meet up to your expectations. Not their fault, the flavors cannot do without spice. You can ask the locals for any 5-star restaurant offering international cuisine on its menu. This may save you from teary eyes, burning tongue, and heat flushes due to eating spicy local food.
7. Pack what is necessary:
Contrary to the global misconception of lack of amenities in Pakistan, the country holds a variety of goods of all sorts. Whether you are looking for an electric thermos to take on trekking or want a pair of suede Nike shoes, Pakistani markets have them all for you. Therefore, instead of stuffing your rucksack with unnecessary items with a thought of, “I may need it,” opt for packing lighter. A light suitcase will not only reduce the need for carrying stuff from one hotel to the next but also help you during long-distance traveling adventures.
8. Chalk out transport routes:
Local buses and trains are common means of transport for traveling within the city or across adjacent cities. You can also book flights to travel across big cities in Pakistan. Ride-booking services, such as Uber and Careem, are also available. You can try auto-rickshaws and taxis to reach your destinations within any city. Asking locals about possible bus and train routes is a great way to save you from getting lost. Although traveling alone in Pakistan is quite safe, you may take a local partner to help you with any problems during your journey.
9. Register on a mobile network:
Stay connected with your friends and family while visiting Pakistan by getting yourself registered on any local mobile networks. If you are planning to visit remote areas, Telenor and Zong networks have great signal ranges. Don’t forget to subscribe to their extremely affordable and abundant packages to enjoy endless MBs, calling minutes, and SMS. The local telecom authority, PTA, has established new regulations for registering foreign handsets. Make sure to check these regulations and comply with them; otherwise, you risk losing the network on your phone.
10. Stay vigilant
Despite being notorious for terrorism internationally, Pakistan is far more peaceful. The country’s authorities have done a remarkable job in eliminating violent terrorist attacks by dealing with the culprits as due. Although terrorism may not be a big concern for travelers anymore, you still need to stay vigilant from criminals. Some places, especially remote areas, have a higher crime rate, and it is in your favor to choose the safest methods of exploring the country. Take special care of your belongings and never trust any stranger who tries to offer shady advice. You never know what hides beneath their smiles. Making local friends can help you in staying safe during your visit.
11. Always carry some cash
Pakistan’s local currency is Pakistani Rupees and if you plan to shop from local bazaars always take some money with you. Majority of the shops, eateries, tourist spots and commercial centers in Pakistan do not support credit cards. To avoid any problem during your shopping sprees or citywide romps, carry some change with you at all times.
12. Make friends:
Karakoram Country Club and big cities like Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore offer tremendous opportunities for making friends for travelers. Due to the excessively friendly nature of people of these areas, you can expect to find a couple of reliable people whom you can count upon for guidance and advice. You may think that you can visit Pakistan on your own, but let’s be real: only locals can show you all the amazing things this country has in store for you.
13.Picking the right time for your visit:
Pakistan has a diverse climate. From cold Northern regions and humid shores to extremely hot planes and deserts, the country possesses all kinds of weather patterns. If you are planning to visit Pakistan to explore Northern areas, periods from March to April and June to September are the most suitable. Summers are very harsh, so you need to prepare yourself for temperatures as high as 50 Degree-Celsius for your stay in Pakistan during summer vacation.
14. Carry adapter plugs
As a developing country, Pakistan does not support international power standards. The safe voltage ranges show great discrepancies as compared to those of American and European regions. Moreover, it is less likely to find multi-functional sockets for connecting your devices. Carrying adapter plugs and multi-purpose extension leads is the most effective method of saving your electronic devices from voltage fluctuations.
All in all, visiting Pakistan on your next holiday can be one of the most significant decisions you ever made in your lifetime. Follow the above-mentioned guidelines to avoid any trouble during your visit to Pakistan. Don’t forget to spread the word of your travels when you return from your trip to Pakistan.