First Time Travel to Pakistan


Image by Hussain Ibrahim (Unsplash)
Pakistan is my country - my home turf - and surprisingly very few people - Pakistanis and no-Pakistanis alike, haven't explored the expanse of it. It's a fairly large country, with five provinces that are ethnically diverse. And I kid you not - the mountainous part and the desert in Balochistan make some of the best views that nature can offer.

However, I'll be honest, that for non-Pakistanis, it's not an easy place to travel in. Going on a trip requires a little bit of preparation, as well as quite a lot of things to know beforehand. 

Visa
You will likely need to get a tourist visa before traveling to Pakistan, unless you're Pakistani of couse. Apply to the Pakistani embassy in your home country at least one month before you want to go. For U.S. nationals, the cost of a single-entry Pakistani visa is $120, obtainable through the offices in Washington DC. You may also need a letter of invitation, which includes a Pakistani point of contact, and their address and passport copy. Feel free to contact me regarding this.

Security and Travel
Before visiting Pakistan, you should get the latest travel advice from your respective embassies in Islamabad. The U.S. embassy has a tendency to exaggerate security concerns so maybe you should compare their assessment with those of the British or Canadian embassies to get a balanced view.
Inform your embassy’s consular department of your planned itinerary and contact details on arrival, and keep them updated of any changes so they can find you in an emergency (I hope that never happens, but if you want to be risk-averse or over-overcautious).

Flights to Pakistan
PIA offers direct flights to Pakistan and if you book in advance through a travel agent, you can get a ticket as low as $1000, roundtrip. Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Kuwait Airways also have flights to Pakistan with layovers in the Middle East. Emirates is the most comfortable of all airline services. You can always go to India for a $12 ride from Lahore to Delhi (a bus operates) or go to China through the Karakoram Highway. Then, it will be 3 in 1.

Women and Attire
This goes without saying to women traveling solo - be cognizant of your surroundings and stay safe. Women should not travel alone in more remote areas of Pakistan - it is preferable that a male is with her. Groups are always fun but find a partner to come along with you. After all, two heads are better than one. However, the north is frequented by many solo female hikers and mountain climbers, who are clad properly.

Although you don’t need to wear shalwar kameez all the time, be aware of cultural norms and adhere to them to avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself. Both men and women should wear long, loose trousers and long-sleeved shirts, and women should cover their heads with scarves when visiting more conservative areas areas. Never ever wear shorts (even men!). Much of what you wear depends on where you are so the best advice is to observe those around you and do as they do. In spite of what you wear, there are places you will always be be ogled at (I am now used to this constant staring) so don't worry!

Language
The national language of Pakistan is Urdu, but the official one is English. This means that most road signs and banners will use English. In rural areas however, English is not spoken. In the cities, many educated Pakistanis and those who have regular dealings with tourists do speak English quite well. In the northern areas, you can get by with English. Although you can always communicate with a cup of tea!

Now, on to reading the blog!

 Pakistan


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