The Karachi International Airport is located 9 miles from the city centre (about 25 min by car). It has a bureau de change and several shops. There is a bus that provides transfers to the capital city every 30 min during the day. A taxi should cost around £2.
FCO UPDATE:The current safety conditions in Pakistan are unstable and all trips to any part of the country are strongly discouraged. Security has been increased in Islamabad and Riwalpindi since unrest in the latter over 16 and 17 November 2013.
The FCO advises against all travel to: the Federally Administered Tribal Areas the districts of Charsadda, Kohat, Tank, Bannu, Lakki, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, Buner and Lower Dir in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the city of Peshawar and districts south of the city, including travel on the Peshawar to Chitral road via the Lowari Pass, northern and western Balochistan, travel on the Karakoram Highway between Islamabad and Gilgit.
The FCO advises against all but essential travel to: the Kalesh Valley, the Bamoboret Valley and Arandu District to the south and west of Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the city of Quetta, the city of Nawabshah in Sindh Province, and areas of interior Sindh to the north of Nawabshah Gilgit-Baltistan.
Avoid large crowds and gatherings.
Avoid the downtown and remote districts of Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi, as well as going out at night.
Tourists are advised to avoid the Baluchistan region and the tribal provinces along the borders of Afghanistan. Governmental authority is not exercised in the tribal zones and it is best to not to venture off the main roads. To visit the city of Darra, you have to be escorted by an armed guard. Crime in the Baluchistan region is endemic and visitors from other countries have been kidnapped in the past. The area along the Iranian border, where drug convoys pass, is to be avoided. It is also dangerous to approach the Line of Control in Kashmir, the scene of recent conflicts between Pakistan and India.
For the latest developments, see the FCO Travel Advice section for Pakistan.
Urdu is the official language. Punjabi, Pushto and Sindhi are some dialects also spoken in Pakistan. English is spoken by a small part of the population.
Required travel documents for
Valid passport and visa to be picked up at the embassy. Bring two ID photos and a justifying document from your travel agency. Files can be dropped from 9.30am to 12.00pm, and visas can be picked up during the same hours two days later.
9 % Muslims (a majority of Sunnis), plus a minority of Hindus and Christians.
The national currency is the Pakistani Rupee (PKR). Credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) and travellers cheques are only accepted in the main hotels, in PIA agencies (Pakistan International Airlines) and certain shops. There are no automatic cash machines here but you can, under exceptional circumstances, withdraw money with a Visa or American Express card in the foreign bank agencies in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. Therefore, bring enough cash and travellers cheques (in US dollars only). Banks are open Monday to Thursday from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. They are closed on Fridays.
Taxis: numerous and low cost in cities. There is a choice of different models: rikshaws, individual taxis or collective taxis. Rikshaws and individual taxis have no counter so you have to negotiate the fare before getting on.
Buses: an excellent bus and mini-bus network allows you to go from town to town. Pakistani buses truly are master pieces in kitsch art. The drivers drive like kamikazes and the music, on long-distance journeys, is deafening. But the fares are low and, all cramped against one another, the passengers soon get a chance to be acquainted. Departures, very frequent and mainly in the morning, take place at bus stations. The buses only leave once the drivers have managed to pack as many passengers as possible on. They aren't particularly comfortable on long distances, but they are ideal for short to medium trips. The "flying coaches", air-conditioned, ensure an inter-city link, and are so much more comfortable than the small vans.
Trains: the railway network links Karachi to Lahore (a 16-hour journey), Rawalpindi (28 hours) and Peshawar (32 hours). It is a 6-hour journey from Lahore to Rawalpindi. Several departures daily. Opt for first class seats, in air-conditioned carriages and on express trains, by buying your tickets from a travel agency or a hotel. Economical, but the trains are timeworn, the couchettes torn apart and delays frequent.
Driving: car rental is possible in major cities. You have to hire a driver with the car. Which isn't bad, considering the state of the roads. On northern territories, it is best to drive a 4 x 4 or a Jeep. Most provided models seem to date from World War I, but they still drive. And anyway, the drivers are also excellent mechanics. The prices are quite high and must be negotiated. If you take the time to chat over it a little, you can sometimes obtain a good deal.
Flights: it definitely is the fastest and most comfortable way to travel from region to region. The fares are very reasonable (on short distances, hardly double the price of a bus trip). PIA, the national company (Pakistan International Airlines) ensures daily air-links to most of the country's cities. Lahore, Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Hyderabad, Quetta, Saidu Sharif, etc. As for the northern cities (Gilgit, Skardu), the flights are often cancelled for a few days in a row because of bad weather conditions. As a result, the waiting lists can become quite long. It is best then to reserve your flight well in advance, allow for enough delay time and, at each stage, it is essential to confirm your reservation in the local PIA agency.
No particular vaccine is required but it is highly recommended to be up to date with the following: tetanus, poliomyelitis, typhoid fever, hepatitises A and B.
Concerning malaria, the country is listed in zone 3: serious risks all year long and areas resistant to Chloroquine. Take a preventive treatment (Lariam) and bring an effective mosquito repellent product. Never drink tap water, and do not eat raw or half-cooked food. Pack a full pharmacy kit, warm clothes and a raincoat for mountain areas, as well as sunglasses, a hat and a sunscreen.
Voltage is 220. International adapter for electrical outlets is needed
Taxes and tips
Announced prices in hotels and restaurants include taxes and service. Giving tips is not common practice, except in large hotels and restaurants.
To call Pakistan from the UK, dial 00 + 92 + the area code (Karachi: 21; Islamabad: 51; Lahore: 42) + the number you are trying to reach.
From Pakistan to the UK: 00 + 44 + the area code + the number.(without the initial 0).
Useful AddressesIn the UK
At the destination
35-36 Lowndes Square
London SW1X 9JN.
Tel: 020 7664 9200.
Fax: 020 7664 9224.
Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC)
House n°170, Street 36, F-101, in Islamabad 44 000.
Tel: (51) 294 790.
British High Commission
Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5, PO Box 1122, Islamabad.
Tel: 00 92 51 201 2000.