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Tips Pakistan

Written by DanielaZavala. Posted in Asia, Middle East, Tips

Published on October 18, 2012 with No Comments

How to get there: The airlines that fly to Islamabad –the capital of Pakistan- are Etihad, Emirates, Kuwait Airways, PIA and United.

Visa: A visa is required to enter Pakistan. Visa fee depends on nationality. For US citizens, it is $US120. The processing time –according to the Embassy in Washington DC- for visa is 4-6 weeks.

Currency: Pakistani Rupee. In the cities, you can use the credit cards and find ATMs. It is recommend to take cash if going to the countryside or trekking. Small denomination is best.

Communications: Internet is slow, but there are cyber cafes and hotels frequent by foreigners offer Wi-Fi. Buying a local SIM card on your own may be difficult because the sell of those to foreigners is controlled by the authorities. Ask a local to buy it for you. You may be lucky to get one sold to you but you will need to provide a copy of your passport.

Travel Agencies: For trekking, I can recommend the following agency. They can help also coordinating other trips around Pakistan.

Lela Peak Expedition (www.lelapeakexpedition.com.pk) is a tour company run by a twin brothers of the Baltistan. I personally met one of them, Akbar Syed, while trekking in the mountain and had also the opportunity to meet the group of trekkers who traveled with him. I was very impressed by his Spanish (very fluent in Spanish, English and other languages) and also by the quality of the trekking equipment his group carried. Based on the comments of the Spanish expedition he lead, Lela Peak did an extraordinary job with logistics and on the field. This agency specializes in adventure travel so it may be a great choice for high adventures to semi adventure programs, and those who prefer personalized service. For more information, contact Akbar at info@lelapeakexpedition.com.pk

What do in Pakistan:

-TREKKING: Pakistan has some of the world’s most striking and colossal mountains. It is the home of some famous 8000 meters peaks in Karakorum, including K2, the second highest mountain in the planet and according to the mountaineers, the most difficult to climb. The Karakorum Range is rough, tough and spectacular. It should be in the “must-do” of anyone who calls himself an adventurer or a nature lover.

-ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani capital is like any modern city in the world. However, there are some attractions to visit: the futuristic Faisal Mosque (can’t miss this master piece!), Rawalpindi (it is a district outside the city, but its markets are colorful and traditional, enjoy the amazing truck art there!), the view point Daman-e-Koh (located in the middle of the Margalla Hills), the National Monument and the Saidpur Village, for more traditional ambience. I strongly recommend to stay at Casa Bonita (www.casabonita.pk), a beautiful, clean and budget hotel with great service and good location. Address: Begum Sarfraz Iqbal Rd Islamabad 44000, Pakistan. Phone: (0) 51 2831101

-KALASH VALLEY, CHITRAL: Due to time restrictions and weather conditions, I didn’t make it to Chitral, but it was high in my list. This is a fascinating and beautiful place in northern Pakistan. Among the mountains, you can meet the Kalash people, also known as the pagans of Pakistan. They are said to be descend from the soldiers of Alexander the Great, and have managed to protect their own culture thanks to the isolation provided by the peaks.

-LAHORE: This is a chaotic city with some amazing architecture gems, including Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort-Shahi Qila and Wazir Khan Mosque. Also visit the Wagah Border & the Lahore Museum.

PESHAWAR: Peshawar is a legendary frontier city within the tribal belt, which is very conservative and has high presence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Pakistan Taliban militants, so foreigners should be cautious. I was able to visit with the company of the Director of tourism of the city, who was very kind to me and took me to a few sites including the Old City, the great Peshawar Museum (great Buddhism collection), Andar Shahar bazaar, Mahabat Khan Mosque, Bala Hisar Mosque and Islamia College. Check security before visiting the Smuggler’s bazaar and Khyber Pass.

Dangers & Precautions: A terrorist attack can happen anytime and anywhere. However, from my personal experience in Pakistan, I have to say that in most places I went in the country I felt completely safe (except Peshawar where tensions are high). Pakistanis are some of the most hospitable people I have met in the world and if you are respectful to their country and culture, they will welcome with open hands and will go overboard to make you feel welcomed and protected. My recommendation is to keep away from the tribal areas, and always ask locals their opinion. I didn’t make it to Karachi, but I was told that crime is high, so take precautions. I have added here a statement of the U.S. State Department although I strongly believe this shouldn’t discourage a traveler from going to Pakistan, especially if heading up north for trekking the Karakorum as it is quite safe up there.

“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated August 27, 2012, to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan.Protests have taken place across Pakistan against the United States, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and NATO. There have also been widespread demonstrations and large political rallies condemning drone strikes, Pakistan’s ongoing energy crisis, and Pakistan’s July 3, 2012, decision to reopen NATO transit routes to Afghanistan. These protests and demonstrations are likely to continue. U.S. citizens in Pakistan are strongly urged to avoid protests.”

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