Pakistan is not a common destination for a solo female traveler. Visas can be difficult to obtain and most governments have strongly advised against travel there. Visas can only be obtained from the embassy in your country of origin, so if you are planning to travel there first, contact the Embassy of Pakistan in your country.
Some nationalities need a letter of invitation (LOI) from a registered tour company or a person who is inviting you that lives in Pakistan. Betty, from the agency Karakoram Bikers, can help you to get a LOI and to organize an itinerary. To apply for the visa you need to have a very specific travel itinerary and you should know with advance the names of the places and cities you want to see in case you have an interview in the Embassy just as I did.
Before traveling to Pakistan I didn’t know what to expect as I didn’t find any useful travel information to prepare my trip. However, after 20 days traveling in Pakistan, I can say it is one of my favorite countries in the world. Pakistan is the land of hospitality and you will find the kindest people you will ever meet. The security situation in Pakistan is totally fine. I never faced any issue and every time I needed some help with language or directions I always found someone willing to help me. If you like landscapes, nature, culture, architecture and delicious food, Pakistan will be the perfect place for you.
Traveling in Pakistan is very easy. Big cities like Islamabad and Lahore have Uber but you can always take a taxi or a tuktuk. The best way to travel between cities is by bus or by plane due to the long distances. Cheap flights are available, but if you don’t want to miss the amazing landscapes, I will recommend you to take a bus.
The best option is Daweoo Express it is the safest and fastest way to move around. You can buy your ticket directly on the bus station or buy it online if you want assure a seat. As well you can get a share taxi to be more confortable during long distance trips or hire a private car with a driver. However I won’t recommend hitchhiking in Pakistan because of the multiple checkpoints you will find on your way. Even though Pakistan is very safe, you will face a lot of checkpoints. That’s why I recommend you to carry your passport with you all the time and bring with you at least 20 copies of your passport and visa.
Accommodation in Pakistan is easy to find. I always booked a hotel or hostel before arriving to each destination. Be sure to reserve a room during public holidays because pakistani people love to travel around their country and all rooms might be booked. However, Pakistani people are so friendly they never let me pay for a room, people always offered me a room and tea. Most of the nights I slept in someone’s home and it was amazing to experience the local life. Pakistani are so friendly they will always offer you great food and of course the best chai in the whole world. So if a family offers you a room to sleep, don’t feel shy and experience the culture.
Many people think that because it is a Muslim country you have to cover your body if you are a woman. The truth is that you can dress however you want but, in my experience, I will recommend you to cover your legs and shoulders. This way you can enter the mosques which are worth seeing from inside.
PLACES TO VISIT
My flight arrived directly in the capital and I stayed in Shelton Guest House. I’m not a fan of big cities but it deserves at least one day of your itinerary. You can take a taxi to move around or if you get a sim card you can ask for an uber or cream, a very popular app to get taxis in Pakistan. Some places you must visit while you are here are the Pakistan Monumento, the Heritage museum and Lok Virsa, which are located in the same place. Lok Virsa is a place where you can hear local music, buy handcrafts, and there is always a cultural event to see. You can see online the program and see what kind of activity you are interested to see. Of course, you can’t miss the Faisal Mosque.
Local people say that “if you haven’t been to Lahore you haven’t been born.” Lahore is considered the Paris of Pakistan. I stayed in Lahore Backpackers, the owner speaks fluent English and will help you with any tourist advice you need. You will surely meet other fellow travelers there. (Saajad Hussain is the manager tel: 0300-8860039). If you are in Lahore, get in touch with Lets go to Pakistan. These guys are inviting and hosting foreign tourists from around the world; giving them a chance to experience the real Pakistan.
Places you can’t miss in Lahore are the Badshahi Mosque which is one of the most splendid and stunning pieces of Mughal architecture and one of the biggests mosques in the world. Other beautiful mosques you must see are Wazir Khan Mosque and Sohneri Mosque. Additionally, you should visit the biggest spice market in Asia, Akbari Mandi, and the Food street where you can find rooftop restaurants with an amazing view and live music.
There is not much to do and see in Gilgit itself but you will end up there because buses and taxis depart from Gilgit to anywhere you plan to go. From Gilgit I went directly to Hunza and stayed in Old Hunza Inn the owner speaks very good English and also organizes trekking and hiking tours. This place is the best option to stay in Hunza so try to book a room with time.
People in Hunza are the nicest people you will ever meet. Hunza has amazing landscapes, plus people are very nice and friendly. Hunza itself is beautiful. You can walk around, meet the locals, and eat amazing food. Music instruments are made here and if you get the chance, go to the local music school to hear some of the traditional instruments of the region, as the rabab.
Gulmit is a village not too far from Hunza, you can get a shared taxi and visit the Gulmit Carpet Centre. This is an organization where women artisans make traditional carpets. It enables the women artisans to own it as the first entrepreneurs.
I took a bus from Gilgit to Chitral. It is a very long ride with too many check points but it is totally worth it. Don’t forget to carry at least 15 copies of your passport with you. I just slept one night in Chitral and the next day continued my journey to the Kalash Valley. I slept in Jumeirah Continental Hotel.
Security situation in Pakistan is very good, even better than what I thought and expected before arriving to the country. As with every country in the world, there are some areas prohibited for foreigners, like the border regions with Afghanistan. Nevertheless, you can get access to some prohibited areas by getting a NOC (non objection certificate). You can get this document in any big police office.
Due to the proximity with Afghanistan and security issues with the Talibans years before you need to apply for an NOC to be in Chitral and surrounded areas. You just have to pay and sign some documents and then they will provide you private security. This was one of the most interesting experiences I ever had. I never had private security before and it was pretty fun. I applied for an NOC in Chitral, to see the Kalash people. I had a police officer and an anti terrorism officer with me during my 3 day trip to this region. They always took care of me and helped me with anything I needed. The best part is that the government offers it for free.
I spent three days with the Kalash people in two different towns called Bamburat and Rumbur. The Kalash are an ancient tribe of Pakistan with a very particular way of life, religion, and rituals. The Kalash people believe that they are descendants of Alexander the Great and women wear colored embroidered dresses and beaded headdresses called susutr.
If you have any doubt please don’t hesitate to contact me. As well, you can contact Asmar Hussein one of the best professional photographers in Pakistan. He loves receiving foreigners and showing them his country.
Have you visited Pakistan? Please share you own tips with our readers in the comments below.
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