If you ever decide to go on a trip to Pakistan, I promise you that you will have the adventure of your lifetime.
From hitchhiking on tractors and psychedelic trucks to driving over extremely narrow mountain roads built on a cliff 1,500 meters high, soldiers who voluntarily give you their AK-47 for taking a photo, the most striking landscape and the fact that you can camp in the middle of a paradise completely by yourself.
Pakistan is, definitely, the ultimate traveling experience.
For all the practical information, don’t forget to check my 70 Useful tips for traveling to Pakistan
Capital – Islamabad
Population – 201 million (6th)
Official language – Urdu
Visa – The rule of thumb is that you can only get a Pakistan visa in your home country or country of residence. There is no way to get it abroad unless you send your passport back home. The one and only exception is that you can get a 15-day transit visa at the embassy of Tehran. However, just bear in mind that they may stop issuing visas for no apparent reason. For more information on visas, read my 70 Pakistan travel tips.
When to go – Most people want to go to Pakistan because of the mountains and, if you want to do trekking, they are only accessible from May till early October. In winter, the temperature drops to freezing temperatures but the Karakoram Highway remains open all year long, so if you just wanna drive around, the north will still be accessible. The south of Pakistan is more cultural and, since it is mostly a desert, it is recommended to come here during the winter season.
Safety in Pakistan – The security situation in Pakistan is very relative and complicated. For a deeper understanding read my analysis: Is Pakistan safe?
Top experiences in Pakistan – Whether you are a nature and trekking lover or you just want to discover epic mosques and cultural heritage, there are loads of stuff to do in Pakistan. I spent 2 months in Pakistan and, so far, these were my most favorite experiences:
- Driving the Karakoram Highway
- Trekking around some of the highest mountains in the world
- Exploring remote mountain villages in Astore
- Attending a Pagan Festival in the Kalash Valleys
- The Sufi culture of Multan
- The cultural capital of Lahore
For more information, read my 1-month Pakistan itinerary
Travel Insurance for Pakistan – Pakistan is a crazy country, so if you go there without insurance you are completely nuts. Normally, I would recommend World Nomads, but since some areas of Pakistan are considered potentially dangerous by most governments, the World Nomad’s policy (as well as most other companies) is very limited. Therefore, you should get a travel insurance specialized in high-risk countries, like First Allied.
For more information, read how to find the right travel insurance for high-risk countries
Hospitality in Pakistan – If you have been to Iran or Sudan and you found that people were really hospitable, then wait for Pakistan. The hospitality in this country is what I call incredibly overwhelmingly. The locals are so hospitable that, after a few weeks, I sometimes preferred to stay in a hotel because it was just too much. You are likely to receive house and meal invitations every day. The downside is that, in their culture, some Pakistani people can’t understand the element of privacy, so this is something that you have to get used to.
Cultural etiquette – Pakistan is a very conservative Muslim country, more than any other place I have ever been to. There are some regions, like the Swat Valley and Peshawar, where people have very strong fundamentalist ideas. In those areas, women wear the Afghan burqa and, basically, many men have never talked to a woman who isn’t family related. You must always be very respectful with their culture and that involves not shaking hands or even staring at their women and, if possible, you should dress the way they do. In the rest of the country, you will find all sorts of Pakistanis but always try not to say anything which might, somehow, offend Islam.
Transportation in Pakistan – The south part of the country is well-connected by train and bus. In the northern areas, there is also public transportation but, in my opinion, hitchhiking was much easier and faster.
Accommodation – There are plenty of accommodations. In my 1-month Pakistan itinerary, you can find different recommendations per city.