Pakistan strikes as one of the most intriguing and interesting countries in the world. Within its mountainous boundaries on one side and Arabian sea on the other, it houses a multitude of cultures stemming from a great variety of ethnic groups. Each ethnic group, whether they live in the northern mountain peaks or the metropolitan cities like Karachi brings their own traditions to the fold, which they have been following since ages along with fascinating cuisine and interesting myths. Combined with the beautiful valleys of the country, it makes Pakistan one of the most interesting places to travel. Are you all set to explore Pakistan? Here are some tips that can be valuable if you are planning to visit the country in the Greater Middle East. Whether you are travelling to Pakistan for the mountains in the north, the sea to the south, the culturally historic sites dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization or the stunning Mughal architecture. Majestic as it is, information still remains threatened in the wake of the rise in tourism and visa changes that have occurred in the past decade. It’s important to have a basic understanding of how travel and locals work within the Islamic republic. Some preparation beforehand can certainly make your trip more memorable.
1. Get familiar with the Urdu language
Most urban people in Pakistan speak, write and understand some extent of English, but it is recommended that visitors acquire a minimum of stock phrases in Urdu to make their trip smoother. While the multi-ethnic country is known for hosting several languages and many of the citizens in rural areas cannot speak the national language fluently but foreigners attempting to communicate in Urdu will instantly make them more appealing to the locals.
2. Be prepared for cultural sensitivities
Punjabi, Pashtun, Sindhi, Hazara, Baloch and the ‘Urdu speaking’ form the major ethnic groups in Pakistan (there are many others as well). All ethnic group have their own languages, customs, food, traditions and unique cultural practices and beliefs. However, People of Pakistan have few things in common, for instance, a significant percentage of Pakistanis still encourage cautious interaction between men and women and generally favor modest attire, being an Islamic country.
3. Pack accordingly for your visit to Pakistan
In a single trip, you can experience extreme opposite in terms of weather, depending on what areas you visit and when. In the summer, almost the entire country deals with extreme heat with temperatures going up till 35-45 degrees on a hot day, with the exception of the northern areas, which offer a blissful relief from the scorching weather. During the winter, the southern half experiences pleasant weather, owing to the sea breezes and it gets colder and colder as you travel up north (there are, after all, even glaciers up there). Be sure to pack accordingly!
4. Carry a little bit of money with you at all times
Pakistan is still trying to catch up on its dealing with online payment and relies heavily on cash, so while you should have your bank cards, do keep a reasonable amount of cash handy at all times. ATMs are available even in remote areas so it should not be a hassle to take out cash. However, get your currency exchanged before flying out or do some research on the best money changers to get good rates.
5. Hospitality Runs in The Blood of the Locals of Pakistan
The citizens of Pakistan will go beyond the limits to welcome foreigners and to make them comfortable in the country. Try not to feel overwhelmed if you see them prioritizing your comfort before their own, if you are hosted by a family for a meal, a day, or even a lengthened stay, Tact is the keyword if you wish to dissuade them from any planned extravagance.
6. Don’t forget to bargain
Pakistan is a haven for bargain shopping and most of the vendors are open to bargain, so be ready to stop at each shop if you want to buy some cool things at discounted prices. However, shop keepers are most likely to either refuse for money from foreigners or ask for a hefty price, thinking they wouldn’t know the real price. A local guide can be a big help for you in doing bargaining. Handicrafts are the most popular takeaways from these bazaars, followed by traditional hand-made clothes, shoes and shawls. Pakistan are also famous for its dry fruits.
7. Carry photocopies of all your documents
Make sure that you carry all required and necessary travel and identification documents and keep photocopies handy, because visitors are often required to register at a number of check posts for their own safety. The personnel in charge are usually courteous, and while frequent questions can be time-taking, just remember that all the precautions are for your own good.
8. Food, water and alcohol
The typical Pakistani palate favors spicy food, drinking water is best if bottled, and alcohol is banned as the country is an Islamic republic. Most of the restaurants offer milder options and foreign foods, but these are difficult to find in smaller cities and towns. Don’t miss out on the delicious local dishes, and the fruits in Pakistan are among the best in the world! Foreigners are also allowed to have alcohols in some of the hotels, as the law allows foreigners to bring in their own or buy alcohol in the country.
9. Safety first
As is the case with most developing countries, visitors are advised to remain cautious, obtain information about recommended timings to visit certain locations beforehand, and heed warnings. It is also advised to carry valuables inconspicuously and divide cash into two to three portions and keep it in your pockets and wallet separately to keep them safe.
10. Staying connected
Before leaving for Pakistan, do your homework online to find the best option for the SIM card you will be using here. This way, you can avoid costly roaming charges. Opening a new sim does not require much and can be hassle-free and network offices can be found as soon as you land, at Airport. You can choose your service provider based on your needs: area coverage, data volume and call frequency. As soon as you touch down, make your way to the nearest sales and service centre of the company you want to go for and follow the procedure to acquire your local SIM card.