Electricity

Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round two or three-pin plugs are used.

Language

Urdu is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood. There are also several regional languages and local dialects.

Money

The Pakistani Rupee (PKR) is divided into 100 paisa. Larger shops and hotels commonly accept credit cards, and ATMs are available in big cities. Banking hours are generally 9am to 5pm, Monday to Thursday, but close earlier on Fridays and on weekends. Bargaining is expected in street markets and small stores.

Tipping

The larger hotels and restaurants add a service charge of 10 percent to their bills, otherwise tipping is not obligatory in Pakistan. However, Baksheesh (a tip) helps get things done more quickly.

Health

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry to Pakistan by travellers coming from an infected area. Malaria exists in areas below 6,562 feet (2,000m) year round, and travellers should seek medical advice before travelling. Dengue fever is another reason to protect against mosquito bites. Vaccinations for typhoid, Japanese encephalitis (long-term travellers to rural areas) and polio are also recommended. There is a risk of diarrhoeal diseases; visitors should only drink bottled or otherwise sterilised water, and avoid dairy products, uncooked meat, salads, and unpeeled fruit. There is a low risk of Hepatitis E. Outside the major cities there are few hospitals of a high standard. Medical insurance is strongly advised.

Safety

Holiday visits to Pakistan are currently not advised and only necessary business travel or visits to family should be contemplated in light of the threat of terrorist activity. Major cities such as Karachi and Lahore have improved their security situations in recent years but are still dangerous. Foreigners of Western origin are particularly likely to be targets for terrorists, including kidnapping. Women are not advised to go anywhere alone. Crime is also high, as are incidents of sectarian attacks and tribal killings. It is recommended that visitors avoid places of worship during busy prayer times and festivals.

Kashmir in the north is regarded as particularly dangerous, with a high incidence of lawlessness and militant activity. It is recommended that all travel to Waziristan and to northern and western Balochistan be avoided, and only essential travel to the Sui area, the Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and to the border areas other than official crossing points be undertaken. Travel by bus and train in Balochistan should be avoided due to repeated bomb plants. Visitors should avoid the centre of Gilgit, as there are occassional outbursts of sectarian violence. It is recommended that road travel along the Karakoram Highway to and from Islamabad be undertaken only during daylight hours.

Local customs

Pakistan is a strict Muslim state and religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking, and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal. It is considered offensive to give, receive or eat with the left hand. Affection between opposite sexes is not shown in public. Women, in particular, are expected to dress and behave modestly in public; even in the large cities shoulders and legs should be covered, and men should not wear shorts. Westerners should expect to be stared at - this is not considered rude in Pakistan, and is purely because you are new and different. Do not take photographs at military establishments, airports, or any infrastructure.

Doing business

In Pakistan, third party introductions are vital to doing business successfully. Building up good working relations and a level of trust is essential and plenty of time will be spent socialising and getting to know each other. Face to face dealings are imperative and meetings are usually conducted somewhat formally. Communication may be somewhat frustrating as Pakistanis can approach things in a roundabout manner, although English is widely spoken and understood. Bureaucracy can also hold up any deals. Punctuality is important, although meetings might not begin on time. Business cards are usually exchanged on greetings. Greetings should be between same sexes only. Business attire is usually formal, and women in particular should dress conservatively. Business hours are usually 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday and Saturdays. Some businesses are open until 12.30pm on Fridays.

Duty free

Passengers arriving in Pakistan over 18 years do not have to pay duty on either 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 500g tobacco, as well as 250ml eau de toilette and perfume, provided that not more than 125ml of that is perfume, and gifts and/or souvenirs up to the value of US $100. The import of alcohol is strictly prohibited for both residents and non-residents, regardless of nationality. Other prohibited items include matches, fruits, plants, and plant material.

Communications

The international dialling code for Pakistan is +92. The outgoing international code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). Visitors should purchase a local sim card to avoid costly roaming charges.

Passport & Visa

All foreign passport holders require a visa issued in their country of origin (or the nearest consulate if there is no diplomatic representation) to enter Pakistan. A return ticket and all documents needed for next destination are required. All visitors are advised to carry a photocopy of their passport, including the Pakistani visa, at all times. If the stay exceeds 30 days, passengers must register within 30 days at the Immigration Head Office. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Temporary and emergency passports are not accepted. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.

UK nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.

Canadian nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.

Australian nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.

South African nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.

Irish nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.

New Zealand nationals require a valid passport, and a visa.

Useful contacts

Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation: +92 051 927 2089 or http://www.tourism.gov.pk/

15 (Police) ; 115 (Ambulance)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Pakistan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 243 6500.

Pakistan High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7664 9200.

Pakistan High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 238 7881.

Pakistan High Commission, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6273 1114.

Pakistan High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 362 4072.

Pakistan Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 261 3032.

Pakistan High Commission, Wellington: +64 4 479 0026.

Embassies / consulates in Pakistan

United States Embassy, Islamabad: +92 51 201 4000

British High Commission, Islamabad: +92 51 201 2000.

Canadian High Commission, Islamabad: +92 51 208 6000.

Australian High Commission, Islamabad: +92 51 835 5500.

South African High Commission, Islamabad: +92 51 226 5302.

Irish Consulate, Karachi: +92 21 3589 1181.

New Zealand Consulate-General, Karachi: +92 21 3565 6993.

Send a link to this travel guide