From the burning plains of Balochistan to the top of K2, the world’s second highest mountain, Pakistan is the link between the steamy subcontinent and the wild mountains of Central Asia. 4 of the great mountain ranges of the world collide in the North and the scenery is matched by an eclectic collection of people and cultures.
It is your responsibility to arrange visas. Visa requirements vary from embassy to embassy but we will provide letters of invitation and any other visa support that you may require.
If you are based in the UK or Australia then we can recommend using The Visa Machine as a visa agent. Visit the Untamed Borders page at their website – untamedborders.thevisamachine.com.
Pakistan is 5hrs ahead of GMT
Health and vaccinations
Please consult your local GP about the necessary vaccinations for Pakistan. Note that many of our trips involve journeys over high passes, whilst there is no real risk of severe altitude sickness if you have a history of heart problems it may well be worth contacting your doctor.
Insurance is your own responsibility and we will ask for a copy of your details at the beginning of the trip to ensure that we can take action in the unlikely event that anything happens. Please ensure that your insurance agent is aware of where and what you are doing. Many will state that they are worldwide policies but may not pay out in areas that the UK government does not deem as safe to visit.
If you have any concerns please contact us and we can provide a list of insurers we and others have used in the past. They all have years of experience insuring expeditions, journalists and ex-pats in some of the worlds wildest places. They will able to provide a number of comprehensive insurance options for Pakistan.
Weather and climate
Pakistan lies in the temperate zone meaning it has cool, dry winters and hot summers. In the Northern areas of Pakistan the winters are harsh and snowy. Even in the summer it can get chilly when at altitude, especially at night. Add to this the monsoon which hits the South of Pakistan as far north as Peshawar and Islamabad and you can see that there is a mix of weather to contend with.
Cash is the best form of currency. In Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar there are cash machines that take credit cards and debit cards. If you bring cash, dollars are probably best although money changers in Islamabad and Peshawar will be able change almost any currency you give them.
The unit of currency in Pakistan is the Pakistani Rupee. It fluctuates a fair bit and the Pakistani economy is in particular trouble at the moment. But hey, whose isn’t?
For up to date exchange rates please have a look at www.xchange.com
Electricity and Internet
Pakistan suffers from a chronic shortage of power. Most of the year sees cities implement “load shedding” systems in which different parts of cities or different districts receive electricity for certain hours each day. We pack plenty of candles and torches but it is best to bring your own as well. Internet facilities are available in the larger cities but sometimes suffer from a lack of power. In northern Pakistan, some areas have reliable power from small micro-hydro power facilities. But it’s not reliable, so don’t assume that you will have access to internet outside the main cities.
Food and Alcohol
If you have any special dietary requirements or are a vegetarian please let us know ahead of time and we will do our best to accommodate. Food in the major cities has a lot of variety and can be spicy. Food in northern Pakistan can be basic and the lack of variety can be a bit of a drag for gastronomes. During Ramadan all Muslim fast during daylight hours. Whilst this is undoubtedly an interesting time to visit and the evening fast breaking meal of Iftar is a great occasion, the lack of shops and restaurants open during the day can be difficult.
As an Islamic country alcohol is officially banned in Pakistan. Duty free should be confiscated on arrival but this is rarely enforced on foreign visitors if they do not openly display it. Outside of Islamabad the only place you are likely to get anything to drink is Kalash wine and a mulberry flavoured moonshine found throughout the North known as Hunza water.
Language and Religion
Pakistan’s official languages are English and Urdu. But Pakistan has a big lingual variety. While Urdu is only spoken as a first language by 8% of the population, more than half of the Pakistani population are Punjabi speakers. Other regional languages include Balochi, Pashto, Sindhi and Saraiki. Islam is Pakistan’s state religion and more than 95% of the population are Muslims. Within the Islam there is a divide between Sunni (>80%) and Shia (<20%) muslims. Christianity, Hinduism, Kalash and other religions are a minority.
Safety and security
We would not visit Pakistan or maintain an office there if we did not think so. In Pakistan the recent unrest since the summer of 2007 has been directed at military and political targets. Whilst it is true that Pakistan is subjected to attacks, the chances of getting caught up in a blast in the short time you are in Islamabad or Peshawar is very, very slim. You are much more likely to be hurt due to some of Pakistan’s erratic driving techniques. The Pakistani people are very conscious of their image in the world and often you will be dragged into a conversation in which it is carefully explained to you that Pakistanis and Muslims are not terrorists.
Once in the Northern areas of Chitral, Gilgit, Hunza and Baltistan we leave the troubles behind and these areas have never had any of the problems with insurgency that has troubled the rest of the country.
Please contact us if you have any further concerns or questions about how we work to ensure the safety of our guests.
This list is not comprehensive, in fact it is very subjective. It is stuff we like and think you may as well:
Son of a Lion – Benjamin Gilmour
Award winning film shot entirely on location in the tribal areas just South of Peshawar by writer/director Gilmour using local people as actors. Great film, beautifully shot.
We do not directly arrange international flights to Pakistan. We can suggest routes and operators. You can also contact the Untamed Borders dedicated team at Flight Centre for suggested routes. Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: +44(0) 844 560 9966 They will match any price you find online.
From Europe flying with Turkish airways or one of the Gulf operators offers the most convenient way to get to Pakistan.