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Pakistan Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time is GMT +5.

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.

Travel 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 cholera and Hepatitis E. Outside the major cities there are few hospitals of a high standard. Medical insurance is strongly advised.

Tipping

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

Safety Information

Warnings have been issued against non-essential travel to Pakistan in light of the threat of terrorist activity. There is a serious threat of terrorism in Pakistan, particularly in major cities where suicide bombings, kidnappings and murders have taken place, often injuring or killing innocent bystanders. 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 also recommended that visitors avoid places of worship during busy prayer times and festivals. Particular care should be taken if visiting Karachi, as well as Peshawar, due to recent bombings. Visitors of visibly Western origin are advised to avoid hanging around public places and to be particularly vigilant in areas frequented by foreigners. The departure of Musharraf from Pakistan's presidency has led to further political upheavals, with parties fighting over the leadership of the country. Travellers should keep up to date with the latest travel advisories regarding Pakistan before and during a visit. Currently holiday visits are not advised, and only necessary business travel or visits to family should be contemplated. 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, as well as to northern and western Baluchistan, be avoided, and all but essential travel to the Sui area, the Swat Valley in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and Agencies (FATA), and to the border areas except for official crossing points, be undertaken. Travel by bus and train in Baluchistan should also be avoided due to repeated bomb plants. Visitors should also avoid the centre of Gilgit, as sectarian tension is high at present; access to Gilgit should be by air only. It is recommended that road travel along the Karakoram Highway to and from Islamabad should 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 decorously 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.

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 round about 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.

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). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)51 for Islamabad, (0)21 for Karachi. There are several GSM 900 and 1800 mobile networks in operation, providing fair coverage, concentrated in urban areas. Internet cafes also exist in the main towns and cities.

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 Rs.2,000. Non-residents do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 227g tobacco, 250ml perfumed spirits and eau de toilette, gifts and souvenirs to the value of Rs.2,000. 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.

Become our Pakistan Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Pakistan travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Pakistan or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.

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