Strategically situated between India, China,Afghanistan, and Iran, Pakistan follows the Indus River down fromthe spectacular mountain ranges in the north (which include theworld's second highest peak, K2) to the Arabian Sea. The riverpasses through the lush provinces of Punjab and Sindh in the eastand south. The southwest of Pakistan consists of the arid plateauof Baluchistan. The major cities of Karachi, the capital Islamabad,Lahore, and Rawalpindi are all situated in the lowlands of theIndus valley.
The nation of Pakistan itself may be relatively new,but the Indus region has hosted civilisation for thousands of yearsand the country has a rich culture and fascinating history fromAlexander the Great to the heyday of the Silk Route, with thelucrative trade between China, India and the Roman empire, andrivalries between Hindu and Islamic dynasties and later the BritishEmpire.
Life in the bustling southern cities is a mix ofancient tradition and modern technology, where shoppers haggle incolourful bazaars and craftsmen ply their trade, while others tuckinto hot and spicy treats at street restaurants, or take their easeat teahouses.
Pakistan is largely overlooked as a traveldestination due to valid safety concerns, but those brave enough toexplore its cities and landscapes will be rewarded withunforgettable sights and experiences.
Pakistan contains marvels for its travellers toexplore, mostly due to its complex and intriguing history. With somany rich cultural and historical sites to be seen, a trip toPakistan will surprise visitors with the unexpected and give themsomething to remember.
Offering visitors beautiful mosques to see nationwideas well as forts, tombs, and national monuments to explore, thosein search of military or religious landmarks will not bedisappointed. There are also incredible caves to be seen in theBalochistan province for the adventurous, and Lahore Historic Cityboast some wonderful historic architecture with its pink and whitemarble buildings, and the beautiful Moghul-style Badshahi Mosque,one of the largest mosques in the world. Visitors will also see theShalimar Gardens and the Tomb of Jahangir, both memorablesites.
The city capital, Islamabad, offers much to discoverin any one of its museums, most popular of which are the NaturalHistory Museum, the Lok Virsa Museum, or the National Art Gallery.All will leave visitors with a deeper understanding of thecolourful Pakistan.
Pakistan's climate is varied because of the difference inelevation from one end of the country to another. During the summermonths from April to September the mountainous north is pleasantand temperate, but the Indus Valley swelters in temperatures of100ºF (40ºC) or more. In late summer the southern regionexperiences monsoons, particularly along the coast. In winter thelow-lying areas cool down appreciably to average temperatures ofbetween 50ºF and 70ºF (10ºC to 25ºC), while the northern mountainsice up with the air well below freezing.
The Pakistani Rupee (PKR) is divided into 100 paisa. Largershops and hotels commonly accept credit cards, and ATMs areavailable in big cities. Banking hours are generally 9am to 5pm,Monday to Thursday, but close earlier on Fridays and on weekends.Bargaining is expected in street markets and small stores.
Urdu is the official language, but English is widelyspoken and understood. There are also several regional languagesand local dialects.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round two- orthree-pin plugs are used.
US nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.
UK nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.
Canadian nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.
Australian nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.
South African nationals require a valid passport, and avisa.
Irish nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.
US nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.
New Zealand nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.
All foreign passport holders require a visa issued in theircountry of origin (or the nearest consulate if there is nodiplomatic representation) to enter Pakistan. A return ticket andall documents needed for next destination are required. Allvisitors are advised to carry a photocopy of their passport,including the Pakistani visa, at all times. If the stay exceeds 30days, passengers must register within 30 days at the ImmigrationHead Office. It is highly recommended that passports have at leastsix months validity remaining after your intended date of departurefrom your travel destination. Temporary and emergency passports arenot accepted. Immigration officials often apply different rules tothose stated by travel agents and official sources.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry toPakistan by travellers coming from an infected area. Malaria existsin areas below 6,562 feet (2,000m) year round, and travellersshould seek medical advice before travelling. Dengue fever isanother reason to protect against mosquito bites. Vaccinations fortyphoid, Japanese encephalitis (long-term travellers to ruralareas) and polio are also recommended. There is a risk ofdiarrhoeal diseases; visitors should only drink bottled orotherwise sterilised water, and avoid dairy products, uncookedmeat, salads, and unpeeled fruit. There is a low risk of choleraand Hepatitis E. Outside the major cities there are few hospitalsof a high standard. Medical insurance is strongly advised.
The larger hotels and restaurants add a service charge of 10percent to their bills, otherwise tipping is not obligatory inPakistan. However, Baksheesh (a tip) helps get things done morequickly.
Warnings have been issued against non-essential travel toPakistan in light of the threat of terrorist activity. There is aserious threat of terrorism in Pakistan, particularly in majorcities where suicide bombings, kidnappings, and murders have takenplace, often injuring or killing innocent bystanders. Foreigners ofWestern origin are particularly likely to be targets forterrorists, including kidnapping. Women are not advised to goanywhere alone. Crime is also high, as are incidents of sectarianattacks and tribal killings. It is also recommended that visitorsavoid places of worship during busy prayer times and festivals.Particular care should be taken if visiting Karachi, as well asPeshawar, due to recent bombings. Visitors of visibly Westernorigin are advised to avoid hanging around public places and to beparticularly vigilant in areas frequented by foreigners. Thedeparture of Musharraf from Pakistan's presidency has led tofurther political upheavals, with parties fighting over theleadership of the country. Travellers should keep up to date withthe latest travel advisories regarding Pakistan before and during avisit. Currently holiday visits are not advised, and only necessarybusiness travel or visits to family should be contemplated. Kashmirin the north is regarded as particularly dangerous with a highincidence of lawlessness and militant activity. It is recommendedthat all travel to Waziristan, as well as to northern and westernBaluchistan, be avoided, and all but essential travel to the Suiarea, the Swat Valley in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP),the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and Agencies (FATA), and tothe border areas except for official crossing points, beundertaken. Travel by bus and train in Baluchistan should also beavoided due to repeated bomb plants. Visitors should also avoid thecentre of Gilgit, as sectarian tension is high at present, accessto Gilgit should be by air only. It is recommended that road travelalong the Karakoram Highway to and from Islamabad should beundertaken only during daylight hours.
Pakistan is a strict Muslim state and religious customs shouldbe respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating,drinking, and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet asit is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal. Itis considered offensive to give, receive or eat with the left hand.Affection between opposite sexes is not shown in public. Women, inparticular, are expected to dress and behave modestly in public;even in the large cities shoulders and legs should be covered, andmen should not wear shorts. Westerners should expect to be staredat - this is not considered rude in Pakistan, and is purely becauseyou are new and different. Do not take photographs at militaryestablishments, airports, or any infrastructure.
In Pakistan, third party introductions are vital to doingbusiness successfully. Building up good working relations and alevel of trust is essential and plenty of time will be spentsocialising and getting to know each other. Face to face dealingsare imperative and meetings are usually conducted somewhatformally. Communication may be somewhat frustrating as Pakistaniscan approach things in a roundabout manner, although English iswidely spoken and understood. Bureaucracy can also hold up anydeals. Punctuality is important, although meetings might not beginon time. Business cards are usually exchanged on greetings.Greetings should be between same sexes only. Business attire isusually formal, and women in particular should dressconservatively. Business hours are usually 9am to 5pm Monday toThursday and Saturdays. Some businesses are open until 12.30pm onFridays.
The international dialling code for Pakistan is +92. Theoutgoing international code is 00, followed by the relevant countrycode (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). City/area codes are in use, e.g.(0)51 for Islamabad, (0)21 for Karachi. There are several GSM 900and 1800 mobile networks in operation, providing fair coverage,concentrated in urban areas.
Passengers arriving in Pakistan over 18 years do not have to payduty on either 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 500g tobacco, as wellas 250ml eau de toilette and perfume, provided that not more than125ml of that is perfume, and gifts and/or souvenirs up to thevalue of US $100. Non-residents do not have to pay duty on 200cigarettes, 50 cigars or 227g tobacco, 250ml perfumed spirits andeau de toilette, gifts and souvenirs to the value of Rs.2, 000. Theimport of alcohol is strictly prohibited for both residents andnon-residents, regardless of nationality. Other prohibited itemsinclude matches, fruits, plants, and plant material.
Tourism Developement Corporation of Punjab: +92 (42) 111 111 042or http://www.tdcp.gop.p
Pakistan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 2436500.
Pakistan High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 76649200.
Pakistan High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 238 7881.
Pakistan High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 3624072.
Pakistan High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsiblefor New Zealand): +61 2 6273 1114.
Pakistan Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 261 3032.
Pakistan High Commission, Wellington: +64 4 479 0026.
United States Embassy, Islamabad: +92 51 201 4000
British High Commission, Islamabad: +92 51 201 2000.
Canadian High Commission, Islamabad: +92 51 208 6000.
South African High Commission, Islamabad: +92 51 226 2354.
Australian High Commission, Islamabad: +92 51 835 5500.
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Karachi: +92 21 920 6654.
New Zealand Consulate-General, Karachi: +92 21 3564 4740.