Pakistan's security Situation
Is Pakistan a safe place to visit? After more than a year of direct experience, here’s my response, which includes information on where it is and isn’t safe to visit and safety suggestions for traveling in Pakistan.
You’ve seen pictures of magnificent mountains and breathtaking temples. I’ve heard stories of unending hospitality. According to media reports, Pakistan is the next greatest tourism destination. You want to go to Pakistan, but you’re not sure if it’s safe.
Is Pakistan safe?
If you wish to visit Pakistan, it is currently safe for visitors of all genders. There are still security concerns in more distant sections of the nation, but after years of battle with violence and terrorism, many sites in Pakistan are now secure for both residents and outsiders. You should conduct a study before traveling to the nation, as you would with any other trip.
Though I don’t think it’s the easiest nation to visit for a number of reasons, I feel adventurous, and other experienced travelers must consider going!
In conclusion, Pakistan is safe.
What is the truth about Pakistan's security situation?
Since the peak of Taliban activities in 2009-2012, the nation has greatly stabilized. Pakistan’s military maintains a tight grip on the country in order to keep the peace. The country’s intelligence service, ISI, is very busy behind the scenes, ensuring that any threats are dealt with before anyone is harmed. Streets may appear militant due to all of the checkpoints and army personnel, but they are considerably safer than they were previously.
The Pakistan you see on the news, with its abundance of weapons, explosives, and terrorists is far different from the Pakistan that exists in reality. Nowadays, there is tranquillity in places where casual visitors are likely to visit. There is minimal need to worry about terrorist attacks. Pakistan is secure, as you may witness for yourself if you visit!
Which regions in Pakistan are "unsafe" for travel?
Though not all of Pakistan’s regions are unsafe or home to nasty people, some of them are riskier than others.
Why: For a number of reasons, Baluchistan is dangerous. In the province’s core, criminals prey on residents. For those who oppose its construction, the path for the CPEC—China-Pakistan Economic Corridor—China is creating through the nation is delicate. Separatists who seek to found their own Baloch state are harbored in Baluchistan.
Allowed to enter? Balochistan welcomes visitors from Pakistan without restriction. Without a NOC, foreigners are not permitted to enter or leave Balochistan, and they won’t get one unless they pass into Iran. However, some foreigners have managed to enter illegally and use local assistance to travel the Makran Coastal Highway and reach Hingol National Park.
Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
Why: Some of the “agencies” near Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan continue to support terrorist organizations and encourage bloodshed, in addition to other individuals engaging in unethical behavior there.
Allowed to visit? All foreign visitors require a NOC in order to visit any of the tribal agencies, despite the fact that they were just included in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Local visitors are welcome to visit. However, they must provide their CNIC in order to enter FATA.
Kashmir Line of Control (LOC)
Why: There have been conflicts along the border between Pakistan and India in Azad Kashmir for many years, and they still occur sometimes. Given the escalating hostilities between India and Pakistan, it is now even more off-limits. Foreigners who approach too closely are nearly always seen as spies.
Allowed to visit? In Kashmir, places like Muzaffarabad and Mirpur, which are more than 10 kilometers from the Pakistan-India border, are now open to foreign visitors. This excludes well-liked tourism spots for locals like Neelum Valley, and accessing Kashmir may still be challenging.
Kohistan and Diamer (Dasu to Chilas)
Why? Even by Pakistani standards, the region along the Karakoram Highway between Dasu and Chilas suffers from severe poverty, a lack of access to education, and a lack of gender equality. Although the area is generally largely safe and visitors frequently travel the Karakoram Highway, there have been several assaults in the past, and there are still occasional problems, such as the 2018 burning of girls’ schools.
Driving along the Karakoram Highway is allowed for tourists. Now, visitors from outside may travel freely in Chilas. In this area, armed security personnel frequently ride public transportation. In the vicinity of Dasu town, lone tourists could have a security escort. The side valleys off the KKH in this area, like Darel, require a NOC, so keep that in mind.
What about Pakistan’s other regions?
But I hear you asking, “Are the other areas of Pakistan safe?” I’ll briefly review them here.
Few tourists are aware of Sindh’s southern province (although I think it should be). Only a few individuals travel to Karachi and maybe Sehwan Sharif. Due to this, many foreigners continue to perceive Sindh as a frightening and dangerous location. It does not help that some Pakistanis will tell you the same thing.
Despite its image as a violent city, travelers are rarely the victims of crime in Karachi. Despite Sindh’s underdevelopment and friendliness toward visitors, other regions of the country are also safe to visit. That Desert is the only place that is truly off-limits.
Finding (affordable) lodging is sometimes a challenge in Sindh because so many facilities are unable to accommodate foreigners. Another issue is overbearing security officers who would rather that you leave than perform more duties. There are times when local officials insist you require a security escort, but in Sindh, there are no set restrictions.
Lahore is a secure city for international visitors, as I describe a little lower down, and practically everyone who visits Pakistan travels to Lahore. The rest of Punjab is also safe to go through. However, as there aren’t many international visitors to rural Punjab yet, you could encounter an overbearing security guard, and it’s conceivable that some hotels won’t let you remain.
Foreigners are restricted from free movement in a number of Punjabi cities. Two excellent examples are Bahawalpur and Multan. If the authorities discover you wandering about these cities, they’ll probably put you on the next bus back to your starting point. Although the police would claim otherwise to get rid of you, this isn’t because these cities are hazardous; rather, it’s because of the army and intelligence operations there. They do not want spies from abroad. Use Couchsurfing to find a host who is aware of the situation if you intend to visit these cities.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK)
Many people believe that KPK is still a hub for terrorism and that Westerners are not actually permitted to visit. Although this used to be the case, much of KPK province is now open to foreigners’ free travel.
Later in this essay, I have a specific section about Peshawar, although KPK has much more to offer than just this beautiful metropolis. Visitors should be aware that KPK is still an extremely conservative region, even if I believe the majority of its locations, including Swat, Chitral, and the Kalash Valley, are safe to visit. When visiting this country, tourists should take care not to disturb local traditions.
As I said above, there are a few locations in KPK that are unsafe for foreigners. You won’t be able to stay here, so don’t worry.
Gilgit Baltistan (GB)
One of Pakistan’s safest regions in Gilgit Baltistan. Further down this guide, you can discover additional information on GB.
High-risk environments in Pakistan
The majority of meetings in Pakistan are safe; however there is a higher danger of terrorist strikes at some locations and gatherings.
In Pakistan, terrorists frequently target minority religious organizations and activities. Any non-Sunni religious organization is considered a minority. Consider Shia Muslims and their celebrations of Ashura and Muharram, or Sufis and their urs in Sehwan Sharif or urs at Data Darbar in Lahore. Recently, numerous Sufi shrines have been attacked:
- Data Darbar in Lahore was bombed in May 2019.
- In Quetta, Baluchistan, a shrine was bombed in October 2017. (not accessible for foreigners)
The bombing of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine in Sehwan Sharif, Sindh, in February 2017
Does that imply that you should avoid attending events or gatherings of minorities in Pakistan?
If you’re going off the beaten path in Pakistan, you should be able to research the dangers and decide for yourself whether or not you think taking them is worth it.
To understand more about organizations and events personally, in my opinion, is a risk worth taking. I frequently go to Sufi meetings in Lahore, I’ve been to Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras all throughout the nation, and I’ve spent days surrounded by throngs of people during Muharram and Safar, months of mourning that are very significant for Shia Muslims. All of which contravene the advice of my administration.
It’s important to note that there is strict security during major minority gatherings. Mobile signal blocks, vehicle roadblocks, barbed wire, cops everywhere, and even more. They are dangerous locations, yes, but security authorities take that into consideration and take every precaution to lessen it. It’s helpful to have locals with you to help since there are occasions when they might not want to let outsiders in due to security issues.
In Pakistan, where may you travel without fear?
At some point or another, the majority of visitors to Pakistan desire to visit Hunza. Overall, Gilgit Baltistan is a calm region, but Hunza is where you should start if you want simple travel, hospitable locals, and a proven reputation for safety.
With the exception of a few incidences of harassment, the most visited area of northern Pakistan has been tranquil for decades. Hunza is a safe and easy place for most visitors to visit. Each year, a large number of visitors—both domestic and foreign—come for activities like motorcycling and hiking.
Ghizer, Gilgit Baltistan
Similar to Hunza, the calm Ghizer area is located west of Gilgit city along the route to Shandur Pass. It is a very friendly town for visitors and is home to Ismaili Muslims, who are often well-educated and liberal. My favorite area in Gilgit Baltistan is Ghizer; the Phader Valley is a fantastic starting point.
The safest city in Pakistan is, without a doubt, the capital. Although this results in a fairly sterile experience (in my perspective, at least), it’s a secure and forgiving place to begin any journey to Pakistan.
Is it safe to travel to Peshawar?
It seems to sense that people are wary of visiting Peshawar given its proximity to the Afghan border, reputation as a terroristic Wild West where firearms and hashish are freely peddled, and the prevalence of burqa-clad women in the streets. Many nations still warn against visiting Peshawar, where foreign tourists used to be accompanied by security guards.
Today, however, Peshawar is safe to visit, and I wholeheartedly endorse doing so! After being decimated by violence in recent decades, the City of Flowers is making a significant effort to rehabilitate and draw tourists. Although its overt conservatism may be at first shock, it is also home to some of Pakistan’s most stunning structures (don’t miss the Sethi Haveli and Mahabat Khan mosque), and Pashtuns are unquestionably the country’s friendliest people.
Is Pakistan safe for female tourists?
We won’t recommend you travel alone unless you have courage because bad experiences can happen anywhere, anytime. However, Kashmir is safe and has the friendliest people around. Still, please book a travel guide to accompany you.
What are the actual dangers of traveling in Pakistan?
Oh, you mean in addition to the top 5 risks involved with visiting Pakistan?
Jokes aside, the following is what I believe visitors to Pakistan should be wary of:
Harassment. Both male and female tourists in Pakistan frequently encounter groping, stalking, and other types of harassment. In huge groups, groping is extremely prevalent.
Road accidents. Pakistani motorists are crazy. Cities have busy roads. Many truck and bus drivers don’t give a fuck and smoke a lot of hashish while they navigate their routes. Avoid putting yourself in front of a moving bus at all costs.
Food Poisoning. Pakistan has subpar hygiene standards. Visitors frequently experience stomach problems at some time during their journey due to a combination of the food’s heavy usage of oils and spices.
Violence or stampedes in large crowds. In Pakistan, individuals have a tendency to lose their temper easily, and when they do, they really lose it. When huge crowds become disorderly, use caution since it is simple for violence to erupt or for stampedes to begin.
Altitude. The heights of many settlements in northern Pakistan are high enough to produce altitude sickness, and several common crossings (such as the Babusar Pass and Khunjerab Pass) are 4,000 meters or higher. Take it easy as you ascend higher, and if you start to feel unwell, don’t hesitate to relocate to a lower elevation or take a break.
Is Pakistani water safe to drink?
Most of Pakistan, particularly in the big cities, has unsafe tap water to drink. Most Pakistanis living in cities consume filtered or bottled water. To purify tap water, I personally use a Steripen, and LifeStraw bottles are another excellent zero-waste alternative to bottled water.
In the mountains, tap water is occasionally safe to consume. Cloudy glacier water will be offered to you by strangers who will claim it is nutritious and mineral-rich. Since glacier water has been associated with renal issues in the local people, I do not advise drinking it without first filtering it.
However, some individuals either pipe or directly access mountain springs for their water. Drinking spring water is hygienic and secure. The dangerous issue is that you are unsure of how reliable their pipe system is or when it was last cleaned. You decide whether to take the chance, although I often accept spring water. Again, if you don’t want to take a chance, a Steripen is useful.
Is trekking safe in Pakistan?
Yes, trekking is normally safe in Pakistan. Pakistan is a mountain lover’s paradise. Every year, both experienced climbers and casual hikers converge on its mountain ranges.
Trekking in Pakistan differs from trekking in more industrialized nations. You won’t find the teahouse-to-teahouse kind of trekking that you see in nations like Nepal since the trails are not well documented and maps are not easily accessible. You must be well-prepared in the case of an accident because access to proper healthcare is sometimes far away.
Hiring local guides is strongly advised if you plan to go on any overnight or lengthy hikes in Pakistan. They are the experts on the mountains and can help you avoid getting lost or finding yourself in a hazardous location.
I suggest establishing a base in a hamlet and going on day hikes from there if you don’t want to hire a local guide. Kalam in the Swat Valley, Gulmit or Karimabad in Hunza, and Skardu in the east are a few excellent starting points for day hikes.
Best travel insurance for Pakistan
Anything may occur in Pakistan. Anything. There are several possible hazards associated with coming to Pakistan, from unanticipated hospital visits caused by food sickness to the necessity for airlifting out following a motorbike or hiking mishap. I strongly advise everyone visiting Pakistan to purchase travel insurance.
When visiting Pakistan, I use and advocate World Nomads travel insurance. They’re simple to use and interact with, their basic plans cover the majority of the country’s tourist destinations, and you’re insured at elevations high enough for all of the common treks and destinations visited by the ordinary visitor. Here to request for a price from World Nomads.
Travel safety tips for Pakistan
Trusting your intuition is the most crucial thing you can do while traveling in Pakistan back off if something feels wrong or strange.
I realize it’s vague. You’ll develop instincts over time and come to your own conclusions there. In the meanwhile, I advise tourists to Pakistan to follow a few additional safety precautions:
Get a travel guide. In Pakistan, it is especially crucial to be aware of your surroundings, places where foreigners are permitted to reside, and cultural warnings.
A local phone number and SIM card should always be carried. People will frequently provide their phone numbers to you for assistance. I know it sounds crazy right now, but trust me. Spare some! They are excellent for communicating with hosts and other helpful individuals, interpreting in challenging situations, and letting others know where you are. In Pakistan, Telenor and Zong provide the finest mobile coverage.
If you’re not ready to travel alone, don’t be hesitant to join a tour. In Pakistan, there are several businesses offering every imaginable form of the trip; I personally provide several! If a 2-week motorbike adventure vacation through Pakistan seems like your cup of tea, check out my 3-week tour for women exclusively.
Speak with residents and experienced visitors for information. Facebook groups like Female Pakistan Travelers (local and international women only), See You in Pakistan (local and foreign), and Backpacking Pakistan (mainly foreigners only) are gold mines of knowledge and contacts. Another fantastic tool for meeting locals is couch surfing.
When in a large crowd, be cautious. Crowds may be tricky since they can be the scene of bum grabs, brick throws, and bag stealing. In large crowds, keep an eye on your belongings and body parts, just in case.
Trust people. Although reading this advice may seem overwhelming, having faith in the people you encounter will ultimately help you to enjoy your stay in Pakistan. The majority of Pakistanis are exceedingly kind to foreign visitors and will make every effort to make your stay pleasant. Suspicion is exhausting; believe those who look trustworthy. I can guarantee you that if someone invites you over to their house, it’s most likely because they want to show you off to their family and feed you a lot, not shoot you to pieces.