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 Going off-the-beaten path: 10 Things to Know About Pakistan Before Visiting

Embarking on a journey to Pakistan? Brace yourself for an adventure filled with vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and unparalleled hospitality. I’ve been to Pakistan twice already. Despite what you might hear on the news, this is by far one of the most welcoming countries in the world. To ensure you make the most of your visit, here are 10 crucial things you need to know before setting foot in this diverse and captivating country.

Dress Code Dilemmas: What to wear in Pakistan?

In Pakistan, the attire question often arises. Contrary to popular belief, strict dress codes are not mandatory, except in mosques. While there’s no need to fully cover up, wearing clothing that extends from shoulders to knees is recommended out of respect. This ensures a comfortable and culturally sensitive experience, especially in religious sites. Don’t forget to always carry a shawl with you to make travel more convenient!

How is the weather in Pakistan?

Pakistan’s vast expanse brings diverse climates, varying across regions. Understanding the different climates is essential for planning your visit. Whether it’s the lush valleys of the north or the arid landscapes of the south, strategic planning will ensure you experience the best weather conditions during your stay. Look up the region you’re visiting to see what to expect! Many people venture out here during June and July. The main cities are scorching hot, but the North is pleasant.

How does the Pakistani visa process work?

The entry process to Pakistan has become more traveler-friendly. With the introduction of online visa applications, 191 nationalities can easily obtain their visas, streamlining the process and encouraging tourism. Navigating the entry requirements has never been more accessible.

This can take weeks, though. Make sure to plan accordingly. I suggest having accommodation booked on with free cancellation, and once you’ve gotten the visa you can cancel it. You might get asked for it on arrival. Make sure you have one. A return ticket is ideal. If you’re not going with a guide who can issue an invitation letter, you can still go on your own. But please DO make sure you do this with plenty of time to spare in case they ask for more documents.

People will be begging to take pictures with you if you look foreign.
How to adjust to Pakistani cuisine?

Pakistani cuisine is delicious! But surprise, surprise, the unfamiliar environment may pose a challenge to your stomach. Opt for hygienic establishments, avoid street food at all costs and carry necessary medications to tackle any unforeseen stomach issues.

The food is extremely oily and that’s what personally makes me sick whenever I visit. If you do get sick, balance it out by eating Western food every other day (sad, I know). Don’t let this stop you from visiting. It’s like Bali Belly or Delhi Belly. It’s just part of the traveling experience.

How to deal with money in Pakistan?

While cards are widely accepted in major cities, having local currency is essential, so please make sure to exchange USD when you arrive. This will especially be useful for smaller shops and for moving around the city.

How safe is it to visit Pakistan?

Contrary to what the media portrays, Pakistan is much safer than commonly perceived. Personal safety is rarely an issue, and the hospitality of the locals is unparalleled. Just arm yourself with basic travel safety tips, and be travel smart like you would anywhere else in the world. There are some regions close to the borders with Afghanistan that might not be suitable for foreigners, but those can be easily avoided.

What are some traditions to look out for?

Besides the clothing, please do not forget that this is an Islamic country. Do not expect to find alcohol, and always interact with others using cultural sensitivity. If you have any doubts, you can read this article on how to navigate visiting Muslim countries.

Expect people to be friendly, overly curious, and looking to engage with you, especially if you do not look stereotypically Pakistani.

How to travel around Pakistan?

What most people do is fly from one region to the next, but they’re missing out! Services like Faisal Movers have some of the best buses I’ve ever been on. Expect someone acting like a flight attendant, and massage chairs included as part of your ride. You can also opt to go the local way (since those Business class buses are very expensive for people earning a local salary) if you’re looking for more of an adventure.

What about the language?

I’ve found that many of the people I encounter at least speak some basic English. Either way, this doesn’t mean that you should assume everyone speaks it. Break down language barriers by familiarizing yourself with key Urdu phrases. This together with a smile can go a long way. When in doubt, use the offline version of Google Translate.

Just go for it

Pakistan is definitely not a beginner type of destination, but it is one I’d highly recommend. The cities are wonderful for interacting with people, and the beauty up north is unparalleled. As usual, I always encourage you to visit lesser-known destinations before they become popular. I do not think Pakistan will be ridden with tourists anytime soon, but I do believe that it would be cool to visit it before others do.

Armed with these 10 insights, you’re ready to embark on a journey to Pakistan that transcends expectations. Embrace the warmth of the people, savor the flavors of the cuisine, and immerse yourself in this wonderful country. Safe travels!

a woman posing in the water

Hey there, and welcome to Go Global with Sibu! I’m a global citizen that has been living and traveling around the world since 2005 – all through budget travel, scholarships, study/work and living abroad opportunities.  I share everything I’ve learned over the years here – to prove to you that you don’t need money or privilege to enjoy everything that this world has to offer. 

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