Top events in Pakistan

December
05

This vibrant festival remembers the Sindh poet, Shah Abdul Sehwan Sharif, who is considered a literary icon in Pakistan. The festival draws...

February
01

Organised by Lok Virsa, National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, the nine-day event sees artisans and craftspeople from across the...

March
01

The kite festival of the Punjab region, especially in Lahore. This festival is to welcome the coming of spring and sees the skies fill with colour...

Badshahi Mosque Lahore, Pakistan
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Badshahi Mosque Lahore, Pakistan

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Pakistan Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

796,095 sq km (307,374 sq miles).

Population

193.2 million (2013).

Population density

242.7 per sq km.

Capital

Islamabad.

Government

Federal Republic. Gained independence from the UK in 1947.

Head of state

President Mamnoon Hussain since 2013.

Head of government

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif since 2013.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two- or three-pin plugs are in use.

From the ancient Mughal city of Lahore to the snow-capped peaks of the Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan is a diverse nation defined not just by its natural beauty and architectural splendours, but by its friendly inhabitants, varied wildlife and rich culinary traditions.

Shame then, that political instability and sectarian violence has made large parts of the country a no-go for tourists, and prevented Pakistan from realising its potential as a top travel destination.

However, those daring enough to take a punt on Pakistan will be richly rewarded for their endeavours – particularly those with a penchant for the great outdoors. The North-West Frontier Province and Gilgit-Baltistan region are home to some of the world’s most famous mountain ranges, including Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush.

That explorers will have these sights more or less to themselves is another boon; gone are the well-marked routes and tea houses of India and Nepal, here lies real adventure.

From jaw-dropping mountain scenery to bustling conurbations, Pakistan’s vibrant cities each have their own distinct flavour. The super-sleek capital, Islamabad, is a modern metropolis bristling with contemporary architecture, world-class cultural attractions and some of the country’s finest restaurants.

Lahore is the very antithesis to Islamabad. Pakistan’s cultural capital, this ancient city abounds with UNESCO listed attractions, stunning shrines and ornate Mughal architecture. Its old town is a maze of bustling bazaars, which harbour mosques, museums and manicured gardens.

Karachi, the former capital and the economic powerhouse of the country, is a mega-city in every sense of the word, cramming 15 million or so into its boundaries. Meanwhile, Peshawar, in the North-West Frontier Province, remains a frontier town, sometimes dangerous and always intriguing.

Those seeking sun and seclusion, should explore Pakistan’s glorious coastline, which is home to some of the most pristine, crowd-free beaches in South Asia. While those looking to evoke the spirit a Kipling-style adventure should follow the ancient trade routes of the Khyber Pass, Grand Trunk Road and Karakoram Highway.

All of this and more lies in Pakistan, and all remains accessible to the more adventurous tourist.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 24 November 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

  • the Federally Administered Tribal Areas
  • the districts of Charsadda, Kohat, Tank, Bannu, Lakki, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, Buner and Lower Dir in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
  • the city of Peshawar and districts south of the city, including travel on the Peshawar to Chitral road via the Lowari Pass
  • northern and western Balochistan
  • travel on the Karakoram Highway between Islamabad and Gilgit

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

  • the Kalesh Valley, the Bamoboret Valley and Arandu District to the south and west of Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
  • the city of Quetta
  • the city of Nawabshah in Sindh Province, and areas of interior Sindh to the north of Nawabshah
  • Gilgit-Baltistan

There is a high threat from terrorism, kidnap and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan.

On 2 November a suicide bomb attack at the Wagah border crossing near Lahore caused multiple casualties. The border crossing remains open, but there may be increased security measures and delays.

The month of Muharram, which ends on 22 November, includes a number of important religious anniversaries, often marked by processions. This includes the festival of Ashura on 4 November which will be marked by processions in many cities. While most events remain peaceful, there has been violence during Ashura processions in the past. The Pakistan authorities have prepared security plans for policing these events and you should follow their instructions and guidance.

Political demonstrations have been taking place since August. The only permanent protest site is the Parade Area close to the Parliament buildings in Islamabad but demonstrations are planned in other major cities as well. You should avoid demonstrations or large gatherings as they may turn into confrontation or violence.

The Pakistan military are intermittently taking action against militant groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Security forces across Pakistan remain on high alert for possible attacks. There may be increases in security force presence, and restrictions on movement may be put in place at short notice.

In response to the World Health Organisation’s emergency recommendations about the spread of polio virus, the government of Pakistan now requires all departing travellers who have spent more than 4 weeks in Pakistan to produce a valid vaccination certificate at the time of their departure. This certificate should show that either Oral Polio Vaccine or Inactivated Polio Vaccine has been administered between 4 weeks and 12 months before departure from Pakistan. See this advice issued by the National Travel Health Network and Centre about protection from the polio virus.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Around 270,000 British nationals visit Pakistan every year. Most visits are trouble-free.

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