|Currency||Pakistani Rupee (PKR)|
|Population||162,419,946 (July 2006 est.)|
|Electricity||230V/50Hz ("Europlug" C, old British plugs D & M)|
Pakistan, (officially: the Islamic Republic of Pakistan), (Urdu: پاکستان) is a large country (1.5 times the size of France) in South Asia. Located along the Arabian Sea, it 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 strategically located astride the ancient trade routes of the Khyber and Bolan passes between South Asia and Central Asia. Another pass, which now has the Karakoram Highway through it, leads to Western China. All of these passes, and some ports in Pakistan, formed part of the ancient Silk Road which linked Asia and Europe.
The history of Pakistan traces back to the beginnings of human life in South Asia. The earliest evidence of farming in South Asia is from 7000 BCE in Mehrgarh. Pakistan was home to the Indus Valley Civilization, which is amongst the oldest in the world. By 3300 BCE, this civilization had well-planned towns and well-laid roads, but gave no evidence of weapons or fortifications. The Indus Valley Civilization declined and disintegrated around 1900 BCE, possibly due to drought and geological disturbances. Most historians believe that the Vedic people, or Aryans, were migrants who encountered this civilization in decline and perhaps hastened that decline. The Vedic people eventually occupied most of North India, while the descendants of the Indus Valley cultures moved South and gave rise to the Dravidian culture.
Prior to the late 18th century, Pakistan was the main Islamic stronghold in the Mughal Empire which covered the Indian sub-continent. The area which now makes up Pakistan kept its status as one of the main cultural and political hubs of southern 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 official name of Pakistan was used 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 Ch. Rehmat 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. A dispute over the state of Jammu and Kashmir is ongoing between India and Pakistan.
Today Pakistan is made up of people from various races including Arabs from after the Islamic expeditions, Persians from Bukhara and Samarkand, Turks from Central Asia and the native Sindhus who were converted to Islam. Ethnic groups of Pakistani people are based on ethnolinguistic such as Punjabis, Sindhis, Seraikis, Pashtuns, Mohajirs and Balochs.
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 Provice), 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 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. Seasonal climate and daily weather
- Youm-e-Aashura (The Day of Ashura) - on 10th day of Muharram (the first month of the Hijera or Islamic Lunar Calendar), 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. (Officially, 9th and 10th of Muharram are holidays.)
- Eid-ul-Fitr - the largest celebration of the year, celebrated by all Muslims after the Holy Month 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, i.e. days 1 and 2 of the month of Shawwal. Anyhow, practically it includes 30th day of Ramadan and may include 3rd day of Shawwal if it touches the weekend. Therefore, usually all offices are closed for 3 to 7 days.)
- Eid-ul-Adha - the festival of sacrifice, starts from 10th of Zilhajja and continues until 12th and, for some people, the 13th, and 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. (Official holidays from 10 to 12 of month of Zilhajja, the last month of Islamic Lunar Calendar.)
- Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi - Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.S), celebrated on 12th of Rabi-al-Awwal, (the third month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar), varies according to Hijira calendar.
It's important to understand that Pakistan has its own Islamic Lunar Calendar, which is normally one day behind the Islamic Calendar of Saudi Arabia and Dubai. It can be said that the "Lunar dateline" passes between Pakistan and Dubai.
- Pakistan Day - 23 March, commemorating the Lahore Resolution.
- Labour Day - 1 May
- Independence Day - 14 August, biggest National holiday to commemorate independence from the British Raj, forming the new nation of Pakistan.
- Quaid-e-Azam's death anniversary - 11 September, day of the death of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
- Quaid-e-Azam's birthday - 25 December, birthday of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
- Ramadan (no holidays) - the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar. 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. Foreigners, travellers, etc are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public.
|Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly known as the Northern Areas)
Home to some of the world's tallest mountains, it's brimming with dramatically fantastic landscapes and can easily compete with Nepal for trekking opportunities.
|Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province)
Home of the rugged Pashtuns, for some it's forbidding and mysterious... yet below the surface are some of the most hospitable people in the country.
Pakistan-administered portion of the disputed Kashmir region is sometimes referred to as "Heaven on Earth" because of its scenic beauty.
The most populous and agriculturally fertile region in the country, and home to many historical shrines and mosques.
|Federally Administered Tribal Areas (formerly Northwest Frontier Province)
This area is mostly off-limits to foreigners and does not have a Provincial Government; instead affairs are federally administered through the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Home to the legendary Khyber Pass, and the gun making city of Darra Adam Khel.
Most visitors head for Karachi or the ancient ruins of Moenjodaro.
The largest and most remote province, its lack of infrastructure can make for rough travelling. Most foreign visitors here are just passing through from Iran, stopping briefly in Quetta.
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.
Pakistan has many cities and towns. Below are nine of the most notable. Other cities are listed under their specific regions.
- Islamabad - The Federal capital, a relatively new planned city with a much more "laid back" feel than the rest of the country's cities
- Karachi - The financial capital and the largest city of the country, it's an industrial port city and the provincial capital of Sindh
- Lahore - City of the Mughals, it's a bustling and very historical city that shouldn't be missed. Located in the Punjab
- Multan - The city of Saints, famous for blue pottery, ornamental glasswork, and Khussa - a type of shoes
- Quetta - A large, beautiful and slightly unruly city in the southern state of Balochistan, you'll pass through here en route to or from Iran
- Peshawar - Capital city of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it has a bit of an outlaw edge to it, and is the gateway to the Khyber Pass
- Sialkot - The city of sports goods, famous for its exports industry, and one of the oldest cities in the region
- Nagar Valley – The Nagar Valley, situated at an elevation of 2,438m (7,999 feet), is a very beautiful valley in the north of Pakistan. It is popular for its Rakaposhi and many other beautiful high mountains
- Hunza Valley – one of the more stunning and popular parts of the high mountain areas, some liken it to paradise on Earth. Supposedly the setting for James Hilton's Shangri-La, and the valley lives up to that reputation
- Swat Valley – one of the most famous and rewarding visitor destinations with the gushing Swat and Ushu rivers, lovely waterfalls, snow covered peaks for skiing, together with some of the best fruits you'll ever taste and very hospitable people (check current travel advisories first)
- Skardu - popular for its Shangrila resort
- Murree - a popular Himalayan hill station one hours drive from Islamabad
- Khewra Salt Mine - the second largest salt mine of the world. Nearly two hours drive from Islamabad towards south via the motorway
- Mountain peaks and glaciers – Gilgit-Baltistan is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including K2, Rakaposhi and Nanga Parbat, and offer incredible trekking opportunities. In an area of about 500 km in width and 350 km in depth, is found the most dense collection of some of the highest and precipitous peaks in the world, boasting more than 700 peaks above 6000 metres, and more than 160 peaks above 7000 metres.
- Kalasha Valleys – witness the decline of a truly unique culture in Chitral District
- Deserts – Pakistan is home to the Thar desert in Sindh and the Cholistan desert in the Punjab, which it shares with neighboring India.
- Beaches – Pakistan is home to some of the worlds most beautiful beaches located between Karachi and Gwadar along Makran coastal highway. French Beach, Hawksbay to name a few.
- World Heritage Sites – the country's rich history has left many things to explore; Taxila, Moenjodaro, Thatta and Harappa are some of the more famous.
- See also: Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent
Almost all nationalities require visas. These are usually easier to obtain in your home country, though recently the individual missions around the world have been given more authority to issue visas without checking in with Islamabad, which should help in getting applications turned around quicker.
Recently a list of 24 "Tourist Friendly Countries" (TFC) was announced that are eligible for one month visas on arrival if they travel through a designated/authorized tour operator who will assume responsibility for them while in the country. Any extensions on 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 when applying that you need this.
A handful of countries are issued visas on arrival: Iceland, Maldives and Zambia for 3 months, Hong Kong, Nepal and Samoa for 1 month, while Tonga and Trinidad and Tobago nationals can stay for an unlimited amount of time.
Nationals of Israel are not allowed entry as it is not recognized 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.
Indian nationals can apply for 30 day tourist visas but must travel in a group through an authorized tour operator. Visitor visas to meet relatives or friends are more easy to obtain, and come with some restrictions. Religious visas are granted for groups of 10 or more for 15 days.
Nationals of Afghanistan are refused entry if their passports or tickets show evidence of transit or boarding in India.
Holders of Taiwan passports are refused entry except in airport transit.
Business visas are now being issued for up to 5 years, multiple entry, as soon as 24 hours before arrival.
The High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi issues visas with varying degrees of difficulty, taking at least 1 day (and sometimes several) to process the application. Applications are only accepted in the mornings from around 9-11AM. Arrive early and expect the process to take a few hours, and possibly a few return visits. Window 5 is for foreign tourist and business visas (under the big white sign).
People of Pakistani origin living overseas are granted 5 year multiple entry visas (along with their spouses), good for single stays of up to 1 year. Visas aren't required at all if they are holding a Pakistan Origin Card (POC) or a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).
Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are the main gateways to Pakistan by air. However, there are 134 airfields in Pakistan. Six other international airports are in Quetta,Gawadar, Peshawar, Sialkot, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan and Faisalabad.
- Jinnah International Airport in Karachi is served by many international airlines, including Air Arabia, Air China, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Emirates, Flydubai, GMG Airlines, Gulf Air, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, Iran Air, Iraqi Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Thai Airways, and Turkish Airlines . It's also the main hub of the national carrier "PIA"and 2 private airlines (Air Blue and Shaheen Air).
- Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore has been completely renovated with a new terminal for international arrivals and departures. Many airlines are currently operating to the airport including Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Gulf Air, Pakistan International (PIA), Saudi Arabian Airlines, Thai Airways, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air, Uzbekistan Airways and two private airlines from Pakistan.
- Benazir Bhutto International Airport (Islamabad International Airport) is currently in review to be expanded and modernized to meet the needs of the future passenger numbers as demand for air travel has increased dramatically. There are many airlines operating into Islamabad including many of the above with Ariana Afghan Airlines, Kam Air, Kyrgystan and China Southern Airlines. The only problem is that the airport is also used by Government officials as well as arrivals from foreign diplomats so the airport may shut down as security is increased so flights are delayed.
Pakistan has train links with India and Iran, though none of these trains are the fastest or 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. Nowadays Pakistan Railways is going through recession. The number of trains has been lessened and trains don't usually reach the destinations on time.
- The Samjhauta Express runs on Tuesdays and Fridays between Delhi and Lahore via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. This is the most common option chosen by travellers, however, tourists should be aware that after recent terrorist attacks on the train, which caused many a casualty and strained relationships between the two neighbours, it is strongly advised that you take taxis or buses to and from the border instead.
- The Thar Express runs from Bhagat ki Kothi in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Karachi in Pakistan's Sindh province. This route restarted in February 2006 after 40 years out of service, but is not currently open to foreign tourists.
From 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, and Faisalabad.
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 10m to 30m as a result of the increase in trade traffic due to Gwader port opening.
- The Khyber Pass connects Peshawar to Jalalabad and Kabul and requires an armed escort and a permit to travel through the tribal regions between Peshawar and the border. Onward travel from the border to Kabul is of questionable safety, check the current situation locally.
- The Bolan Pass connects Quetta to Kandahar and is considered very dangerous. This route is not currently open to foreign tourists, and is only open to locals and aid workers.
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. 1500. The journey details can be found here: http://dtc.nic.in/lahorebus.htm. 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 6 a.m. but you will need to be at Delhi Gate at 4 a.m. to check in for it.
Getting around Pakistan has become much easier in recent years with the completion of some motorways, and an increase in private airlines.
There are three good on-line maps for Pakistan; OpenStreetMap, Naqsha, and Google Maps. 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.
Nelles produces a good printed map of Pakistan - this map and others are available in Saeed Book Bank in F7 Markaz (markaz is the local term for "market") in Islamabad - and at cheaper prices than available on-line from Western booksellers.
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. Foreigners and students with an ISIC card can get 25% and 50% discounts, respectively, by first visiting the PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation) office, getting a verification certificate there, and bringing it with them to the station's commercial ticket office (which is different from the regular ticket office, but usually close by).
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 airconditioning, 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.
For local transport within cities, auto rickshaws are a cheap and flexible alternative. A development of the bicycle rickshaw, the auto rickshaw is a small vehicle powered by a two-stroke or four-stroke engine. The original gasoline versions constantly emit a stuttering noise and foul blue-black smoke, but many are opting for the CNG(compressed natural gas) versions, which are less polluting and a little quieter. Blue-and-yellow auto rickshaws take passengers, other colours tend to be privately owned. Always negotiate a price before entering the rickshaw.
Rickshaws are banned in the capital, Islamabad.
Urdu is the national language and is spoken throughout Pakistan as lingua franca. In addition to Urdu most Pakistanis speak their regional languages or dialects such as Punjabi, Pothohari, Sindhi, Pashto (Pushtun), Balochi, Saraiki, Shina, Burushaski, Khowar, Wakhi, Hindko etc.
English is the official language, is widely spoken and understood in major cities, used in all government and most educational and business entities, and is also understood and spoken at varying levels of competence by many people around Pakistan, especially the upper classes and people who have gone through higher levels of education, and those residing in the larger cities.
The local dialect is called Pakistani English.
- Karachi. Observe the wonders of Karachi, Pakistan's former capital and its largest city. Situated on the shores of the Arabian Sea. Karachi has a lot of things to offer both to see and do. The magnificent Quaid-e-Azam's Mazar, the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, is made entirely of white marble with impressive north African arches and is an important and well-known landmark.
- Shah Faisal Masjid (Mosque), Islamabad. A majestic white building comprises four 88m (288ft) minarets and a desert tent-like structure, which is the main prayer chamber and can accommodate a hundred thousand worshippers.
- Mountains, including K2, Nanga Parbat. Pakistan boasts some of the highest mountains in the world in Kashmir, including the famous Nanga Parbat and the second-highest mountain in the world, K2. The Baltoro Glacier and the Batura Glacier are the largest outside the polar regions.
- Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The city is surrounded by high walls with 20 entry gates. Much of the surrounding area is still under the jurisdiction of tribal law. These areas can only be visited with a permit from the relevant authorities.
- The Khyber Pass. Visit the legendary 1,067m- (3,501ft-) high break in the sheer rock wall separating Afghanistan and Pakistan. as of 2013, this is quite dangerous and not recommended.
- Chitral, Hindu Kush Mountains north of Peshawar. Visit this wild and beautiful area of Pakistan. It is inhabited by the Kalash people, the last of the non-Islamic tribes of Kafiristan. This valley is noted for its hot springs and trout-filled rivers.
- Swat Valley, East of Chitral. An area of wild mountains and fantastic alpine scenery. In ancient times, it was home to the famous Gandhara school of sculpture, a manifestation of Greek-influenced Buddhist forms. The ruins of great Buddhist stupas, monasteries and statues remain. It also boasts popular mountain retreats such as Miandam and Mingora.
- A Cricket or Polo Match. Some of the most popular sports in Pakistan. Polo is particularly popular in the northern towns of Gilgit and Chitral.
Pakistan is a world class destination for trekking and hiking. Horse riding is also very affordable. Cycling opportunities abound.
The national currency of Pakistan is the rupee (PKR), which is commonly shortened to Rs and coins are issued in 1, 2, and 5 rupee denominations. Banknotes come in Rs 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 5000 values.
ATMs exist in most areas and accept major cards such as AmEx, MasterCard and VISA.
Pakistan, and particularly Karachi, features in surveys as one of the cheapest places in the world to shop. It has a massive range of markets and bazaars to visit and things to buy without worrying about blowing your budget:
- Textiles and Garments such as garments, bed linen, shirts, T-shirts can be bought very cheaply from local branded stores include Chen One, Bonanza, Ideas (Gul Ahmed), Cambridge Shop. Many world renowned brands like Adidas, Levis, Slazenger, HangTen, Wal-Mart etc. get their products prepared from Faisalabad which has one of the largest textile industries in the world. You can find cheap products of these brands at local stores. You can get a pair of Levis jeans (or any other good brand for that matter) at a very reasonable price ranging between Rs 1400-2500.
- Leather goods, like shoes, jackets and bags are also a speciality of Pakistan. Go to English Boot House, Sputnik, Shoe Planet, Servis, Metro, Gap shoes, Lotus, Step-in, Jaybees for best quality shoes at low prices.
- Sports goods like 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. You can even get an acoustic guitar for as low as Rs 2000 (c. US$20).
- Surgical instruments
- Computer accessories
- Chinese goods especially Electronics & Cameras which are re-exported from Pakistan and is cheaper than other parts of the world.
- Carpets and rugs in Arabian, Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani varieties
- Wood Carvings such as decorative wooden plates, bowls, artwork, furniture, and other miscellaneous items.
- Jewellery such as necklaces, bracelets etc. are very inexpensive in Pakistan.
- Gems and handicrafts: (Ajrak from Sindh, Blue pottery from Multan, Clay pottery from Karachi), glassware, brassware, marble products, crystal works and antiques Also buy pashmina, rugs, wool-shawls or wraps, which can cost anywhere between US$15 to as much as US$700. Remember to haggle.
- 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 any super store like 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 so 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.
Buying Pakistani currency
The Pakistani currency is the Pakistani Rupee (Rs). It's usually best to get your foreign currency converted to Rupees before you buy stuff (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.
Most large department stores and souvenir shops, as well as all upmarket restaurants accept American Express, MasterCard and VISA cards. Some small shops will want to pass on their 2-3% merchant charge to you.
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. 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, 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 and less oil, characterizing affinities to the cuisines of neighbouring Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia.
Pakistani main courses food which is mostly consists of curry dishes is eaten with either flatbread, also called wheat bread or rice. Salad is generally taken as a side dish with the main course, rather than as an appetizer beforehand. Assorted fresh fruit or sometimes desserts are consumed at the end of a meal. Meat plays a much more dominant role in Pakistani food, compared to other South Asian cuisines. According to a 2003 report, an average Pakistani consumed three times more meat than an average Indian. Of all the meats, the most popular are goat or mutton, beef and chicken and is particularly sought after as the meat of choice for kebab dishes or the classic beef shank dish nihari. Seafood is generally not consumed in large amounts. Food tends range from mild to spicy depending on where you are and who your cook is. So state your preference before beginning to eat. In general, most of the food that you find in the high end hotels is also available in the markets (but European-style food is generally reserved for the former).
To enjoy the local food, start slowly. Don't try everything at once. After a few weeks, you can get accustomed to spicy food.
Cuisine in Pakistan varies greatly from region to region. Culinary art in Pakistan comprises a mix of Middle Eastern, Iranian, Afghan, Indian, and Turkish influences that reflect the country's history as well as the variation of cooking practices from across the country. Urban centres of the country offer an amalgamation of recipes from all parts of the country, while food with specific local ingredients and tastes is available in rural areas and villages. Besides the main dishes of salan, with or without meat and cooked with vegetables or lentils, there are a number of provincial specialties such as karahi, biryani, and tikka, in various forms and flavours, eaten alongside a variety of breads such as naan, chapati, and roti.
Pakistani cuisine is a blend of cooking traditions from different regions of the Indian subcontinent, originating from the royal kitchens of sixteenth-century Mughal emperors. It has similarities to North Indian cuisine, although Pakistan has a greater variety of meat dishes. Pakistani cooking uses large quantities of spices, herbs and seasoning. Garlic, ginger, turmeric, red chilli and garam masala are used in most dishes, and home cooking regularly includes curry. Chapati, a thin flat bread made from wheat, is a staple food, served with curry, meat, vegetables and lentils. Rice is also common; it is served plain or fried with spices and is also used in sweet dishes.
Varieties of bread
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.
- 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.
- 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 centers 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.
- Aloo gobi
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 exporter and 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.
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.
The variety is endless, but here are a few examples:
- Roasted Chicken (whole) - A whole chicken roasted. Very famous around Pakistan. You'll see them on the rotisserie while driving on Lahore streets. Also 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.
- 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
- Dhaga kabab
- Gola kebab
- Reshmi kebab
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 flavors 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 parlors, there are some good western ice-cream parlors in Lahore like "Polka Parlor" "Jamin Java" "Hot Spot". For traditional ice creams, the 'Chaman' ice cream parlor across town is quite popular.
- Halwa is a sweet dessert. Halwa comes in different styles such as made of eggs, carrots, flour or dry fruits. The halwas are made from semolina, ghee and sugar, garnished with dried fruits and nuts. Carrot halwa (called gaajar ka halwa) is also popular, as is halva made from tender bottle gourds and chanay ki daal. Karachi halva is a specialty 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.
A part from local restaurants, international fast food chains have also popped up throughout Pakistan. They include, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Subway, Nandos, Mr.Cod, Papa Johns, Dominoes etc. You are also prone to finding 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
In Pakistan eating with your hand (instead of cutlery like forks and spoons) is very common. There's one basic rule of etiquette to observe, particularly in non-urban Pakistan: Use only your right hand. Needless to say, it's wise to wash your hands well before and after eating. For breads for all types, the basic technique is to hold down the item with your forefinger and use your middle-finger and thumb to tear off pieces. The pieces can then be dipped in sauce or used to pick up bits before you stuff them in your mouth. Unlike India or Middle East, spoon is commonly used in Pakistan for eating rice dishes.
Tap water can be unsafe for drinking. However, some establishments have water filters/purifiers installed, in which case the water is safe to drink. Packed drinking water (normally called mineral water in Pakistan) is a better choice. As for bottled water, make sure that the cap's seal has not been broken, otherwise, it is a tell tale sign of tampering or that unscrupulous vendors reuse old bottles and fill them with tap water, which is generally unsafe for foreign tourists to drink without prior boiling. Bottled water brands like Aquafina (by PepsiCo) and Nestle (by Nestle) are widely available and costs PKR 80 for a 1.5 L bottle of mineral water. At semi-urban or rural areas, it may be appropriate to ask for boiled water as well.
The taste of the water is said to be very good in the north-eastern side of Pakistan, especially in Swat, Kaghan and Gilgit. Ask for bottled water wherever possible, and avoid anything cold that might have water in it.
Try a local limca cola, which makes a "pop" sound when opened. Pakola, Pakistan's premier soft drink brand, is available in flavours such as Ice cream soda, Lychee, Orange, Raspberry, Apple Sidra, Vino, Double cola and Bubble up. Try Lassi, which is a classic yoghurt drink served either plain or sweet and sometimes flavoured or even fused with fresh fruit. Rooh-Afza, a red-coloured, sweet, herbal drink. Sugar Cane Juice — which is extracted by mechanical force — is best when served fresh. You might also love the Falouda and Gola Ganda, which include various kinds of syrups in crushed ice.
- Tea (or Chai as it is referred to in Pakistan) is popular throughout the country.
- Both black and green tea (Sabz chai or qahvah) are common and are traditionally drunk with cardamom and lots of sugar. Lemon is optional but recommended with green tea.
- Kashmiri chai (Pink Tea), a traditional tea beverage from Kashmir, is a milky tea with pistachios, almonds and nuts added to give additional flavour. This tea is very popular during weddings, special occasions and in the cold season.
- Coffee is also available in all cities.
In the warmer southern region, sweet drinks are readily available throughout the day. Look for street vendors that have fruits (real or decorations) hanging from their roofs. Also, some milk/yogurt shops serve lassi. Ask for meethi lassi for a sweet yogurt drink and you can also get a salty lassi which tastes good and is similar to the Arabic Laban if you are having "bhindi" in food or some other rich dish. There is also a sweet drink called Mango Lassi which is very rich and thick, made with yogurt, mango pulp, and pieces of mango.
Alcohol (both imported and local) is available to non-Muslim foreigners at off licenses and bars in most top end hotels. The local alcoholic beer is manufactured by Murree Brewery (who also produce non-alcoholic beverages including juices). It is illegal 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.
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 flavors 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. istani meals.
- Lassi - Milk with yoghurt, with an either sweet or salty taste. Lassi is a traditional drink in the Punjab region
- Gola ganda - Different types of flavours over crushed ice
- Sugarcane juice (Ganney ka ras) — In summer, you can get fresh sugarcane juice in many places and even a lot of fresh fruit juice varieties. Be careful as fresh juice may contain many germs besides unhygienic ice. The juice vendors do not always clean their equipment properly and do not wash the fruits either.
- Lemonade (Nimbu pani)
- Sherbet (A syrup mixed in water)
- Sikanjabeen - Lemonade (Mint is also added)
- Almond sherbet
- Sherbet-e-Sandal - Drink made with the essence of sandal wood
- Kashmiri chai/Gulabi chai - a milky tea known for its pink colour, with an either sweet or salty taste
- Sathu - Famous drink from Punjab
- Thaadal - A sweet drink from Sindh
- Sardai - Mixture of different nuts and kishmish.
Drinking alcohol is generally be frowned upon. Murree Brewery is the only reputable maker of Pakistan's beer brand which is widely available throughout the Pakistan. Karachi is very lax towards Alcohol where there're wine shops from 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. Currently Pakistan is facing a significant slump in international tourist numbers; in the northern areas in particular you'll often find yourself the only guest.
Budget The cheapest hotels are usually found around busy transport hubs like bus and train stations. Don't be fooled by an impressive lobby - ask to see the room and check the beds, toilets, lights, etc, before checking in. Hot water and air conditioning will be luxuries in this class.
Mid range covers a wide spectrum of hotels - often listed in your guide book or on-line. All mid-range places will have a/c and hot water - although check if they have a working generator - air conditioning isn't of much use without electricity! Always check the room before handing over any money - ask for a no smoking room away from the street - and haggle to get a better rate. PTDC (government run) hotels fall in to the mid range section and warrant a special mention - often these places are the oldest hotel in town, in an excellent location, but the facilities will be showing their age. They are still a good option however, and discounts can be negotiated. Mid range prices are around Rs2,000 - Rs6,000 per night.
Top end covers the Serenas, Pearl Continentals and Marriotts. The Serena hotels are almost always excellent, whilst the Pearl Continental hotels are more patchy (e.g. the one in Rawalpindi is a bit grungy whilst the one in Muzaffarabad is very nice. At top-end places, security is very visible with small armies of security guards stationed around the perimeter. Prices are from Rs 6,000 and up, with the big city luxury hotels charging at least Rs 10,000 a night.
Government rest houses are mentioned in numerous guide books and are located in rural and mountainous areas for local civil servants to use on their travels, with many built pre-independence and exuding a quaint English charm. Back in the day the adventurous tourist could book these places for the night for Rs1,000 or so, and have a lovely time. But the tourist slump means that the forestry departments who run these places don't bother any more - phones will go unanswered - tourist information offices won't have any details etc, so count yourself lucky if you manage to arrange to stay in a Government rest house.
Solo female travellers are at a disadvantage when it comes to hotels. All budget and many mid-range places will be the sole reserve of men, in particular in the cities - and hotel owners may be uncomfortable with the idea of an unaccompanied women staying at their hotel. Hence you may be forced to stay at the upper-mid range and top end places - which will eat through your budget that much quicker.
Note that in some places the term "hotel" in Pakistan is reserved for simpler establishments, with "Guest House" referring to medium-sized establishments where the standard is typically higher. Also note that restaurants are also called "hotels", creating a fun potential for confusion.
Many Pakistani companies are looking for Sales representatives and usually all manner of companies will be happy to speak to a well-dressed Westerner about business.
Many tourists are known to buy leather goods and other curios in Pakistan sell them in Goa India or somehow get them shipped back to the West.
Otherwise your best way of working is contact the numerous Aid agencies that work out of Peshawar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Pakistan has endured several bomb attacks over the last few years against security forces, so called western institutions (e.g. the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad) and has seen the public assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto upon her return from exile. Currently these attacks are increasing due to increased military action against the Taliban. For the ordinary traveler it's a fairly hospitable country but social protests tend to turn violent and political demonstrations are always sensitive. Before traveling you should check with your embassy about off-limits areas, the latest political & 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.
Use common sense and a healthy dose of courtesy when in conversation with Pakistanis. Kashmir is a particularly sensitive topic and best avoided altogether. Discussion about religion and Islam should remain respectful and positive — some Pakistanis are not tolerant of other religions, and if theirs is spoken about negatively, it could result in violence.
The line of control between Azad Kashmir and the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir is off-limits for foreign tourists, though domestic tourists can visit Azad Kashmir without any restriction (but should keep their identity cards with them).
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas & all regions near the sensitive Afghan border should not be visited at any time by foreign tourists, as the Pakistan government has little to no authority in these areas and cannot aid you in an emergency. If you do have reason to visit, seek expert guidance, including that of your embassy, who can advise you on the special permissions required.
Peace has returned to Swat Valley and the army holds full control with lots of Foreign Nationals working in the form of NGOs. Road infrastructure was destroyed due to the 2010 floods but the army does massive efforts to restore the infrastructure. Balochistan is considered dangerous and not fit for travelers due to increased kidnappings of foreigners.
Prostitution has no legal recognition in Pakistan. Moreover despite growth of male prostitution, homosexuality is outlawed in the nation. 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 to fine. Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offense described in this section. Arrests are not common for homosexuality evidenced by a vibrant gay nightlife existing in many metropolitan areas.
The visitor should be aware of the ever changing rules regarding sensitive areas and No Objection Certificates (NOCs), Note Verbals and other permissions and paperwork some in officialdom deem necessary for your to travel around the country. The most notorious NOC regulation is for foreigners to enter Kashmir, with the intention being so the security services can keep track (i.e. follow) foreigners to make sure they don't visit places they shouldn't. Outside Kashmir diplomats are the primary user of NOCs and theoretically the normal tourist should be exempt. However those in officialdom can view all foreigners with suspicion and demand an NOC when you step of a plane or out of a bus. NOCs need to be applied for through the Ministry of Interior, however if you are traveling on a non-diplomatic passport you should be fine - but its good to be aware of this nonetheless.
Finally 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 an advantage here) or turn back and find another route. Typically restricted areas are those with nuclear or military installations nearby. Kahuta southeast of Islamabad, and the Sakesar hill station near the Amb temples in the Salt Range are two restricted areas the visitor may stumble across. Getting caught in a restricted area will mean a lot of wasted time, embarrassment and possible involvement of your embassy.
Homosexuals should be very cautious in Pakistan, because homosexuality is a crime in Pakistan and highly punishable.
Visitors are strongly advised to refrain from drinking tap water; many Pakistani locals themselves drink boiled or purified water. Take every precaution to drink only boiled, filtered or bottled water. Tap water is known to contain many impurities. Ice is usually made from regular tap-water, and may be even harder to avoid. Fresh milk from the carrier should be boiled and cooled before consumption. Non-pasteurized dairy can spread tuberculosis. Be careful of the people with a hacking cough. Nestle Milk Pack, Haleeb Milk, Olpers, and others are trusted brands and are available at most grocery stores.
Take precautions against malaria, which is 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 may need to eat prophylactic medicine as well. The risk of getting Malaria decreases with higher altitudes.
In the summer it gets very hot. Be careful to stay hydrated. Temperature range between 40°C to 50°C in June and July! But, as soon as Monsoon rains set in during Aug-Sept months, it cools to around 30°C - but with high levels of humidity.
Do not eat food that has been lying out for some time, as high temperatures speed up deterioration. Avoid posh but unfrequented restaurants.
Some Pakistani dishes can be very spicy! Always notify your host, cook or waiter if you can not take very spicy food.
Beware of the dengue fever in the summer, especially during the monsoon (Jul-Sept). It is caused by mosquitoes and can be fatal. The most widespread outbreaks of dengue are expected in the Punjab province.
Pakistanis pride themselves on their tradition of hospitality to guests (mehmanawazi in Urdu, milmastia in Pashtu, puranadari in Punjabi). When entering a house, you will often be showered with tea, sweets and gifts — it's considered ungrateful to refuse these. Finishing a meal involves a delicate balance.... cleaning your plate will invite more to be served, while leaving too much may be a sign you didn't care for it. Aim for leaving just a little, announcing you're full, and heavily praising the food.
Most of the Pakistani women don't usually interact with strangers. So, don't get embarrassed if they avoid communicating with you. 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 Sindh and in other parts of the country, men and women usually lower their head and lift their hand to their forehead to make the "adab" gesture when greeting each other.
Business tends to move slowly, and will often be preceded by a lot of socializing, tea drinking, and meeting of the family. Rushing to the point may be considered rude, and even sour the deal.
Pakistan is a conservative country and it is advisable for women to wear long skirts or trousers in public (Pakistani women wear the traditional shalwar kameez. But in the big cities, women wearing jeans and khakis is not very uncommon sight, especially in casual settings, shopping malls and around picnic spots). Dress codes for men are more lax, though shorts are uncommon. Men should never shake hands with or touch a woman they don't know very well.
As with most of South Asia, you should use your right hand for eating, shaking hands and giving or receiving everything (including money), and reserve your left hand for handling shoes and assisting in toilet duties.
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 sign of respect and It is advisable to ask a person how they wish to be addressed.
If at all possible, try not to schedule meetings during Ramadan. The workday is shortened, and since Muslims fast, they will not be able to offer you tea, which is a sign of hospitality. and Meeting are not scheduled at namaz time.
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 city 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 some other countries. Therefore the city prefix should not be dialled in addition to the cellular prefix. As in many countries, omit the initial zero when dialing 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 7654321 dialled from the USA/Canada would be 011-92-345-7654321 and Peshawar landline 2345678 dialled from France or the UK would be 00-92-91-2345678. The int'l 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.
|Same circle||Local||92-area code-number||92-51-12345678|
|Different circle||STD||0-area code-number||051-12345678|
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.
Cybercafes can be found on virtually every street corner and the rates are as low as Rs 15-20 per hour. They usually don't have a very fast operating system so don't be too impatient. They usually use 14 inch monitors with Windows 2000, Windows 98 or Windows XP usually installed. Most of the cafes have a decent speed internet connection.
Internet Access can be obtained easily on notebook computers with the help of GPRS enabled mobile connections, supported by almost all of the five mobile operators. Mobilink provides EDGE based connection in very limited areas of Karachi, but Telenor's coverage of EDGE is wider. The standard price of GPRS/EDGE usage is Rs 10-18 per MB of data transferred but Zong offers Rs 15 per hr. If you wish to download much more, you may want to use unlimited packages, provided only by Warid, Mobilink and Telenor at this time. World Call and Ufone also offers USB Modem.
You can also subscribe to GPRS/EDGE bundles, which drops the price really low.
Wateen, Mobilink Infinity, WiTribe, and Qubee are WiMax internet providers. National telecommunication company PTCL offers a USB EVo device for very fast internet connections.
There are Wi-Fi hotspots all over Pakistan, in hotels, malls, and cafes/restaurants.