Is Pakistan Safe For Tourists?

Pakistan is endowed with culture, delicious food, bustling city life, beautiful mountainous terrains, lush green landscapes, ice and snow-topped mountains, sparkling blue lakes, and stunning valleys. All the physical features of Pakistan combined can make it one of the best countries of the world for travel for hikers and trekkers, families, tourists, foreigners, etc. it is also named the “top tourist destination of 2020”. No doubt, Pakistan can be and is one of the prettiest and culturally rich countries of the world to travel in, there is still a long way to go to make it a very safe and secure traveling place.

Pakistan is sadly lesser known for its mighty Karokorams and more for its tourist attacks and military attacks by the extremists as well as its street crime. While a lot of what is shown on the news can be true, a large extent of it is exaggerated media tactics. The media of the 21st century is such that it banks on bad news or conspiracies but all that is shown is not 100% depiction of any country. That being said, every place has safe places and unsafe places that tourists can go to. Moreover, lots of places do have safety guidelines, if followed then the travel can be risk and stress-free. Like anything slightly challenging, traveling to Pakistan also requires an open mind and patience. In my opinion, the rich culture and drop-dead canvas of the mountains and valleys are something worth taking a risk for.

Safety in Pakistan can be classified region-wise. There are some regions that a tourist should not consider going to and some that are safe and travel-worthy.

Unsafe regions

Balochistan

On the border of Iran and Afghanistan, this is one of the most unsafe regions of Pakistan. The proximity to Afghanistan has made the region prone to frequent terrorist attacks especially in its capital, Quetta, as well as it carries high kidnapping threats. Moreover, with a rural backdrop; it is not a place for women to roam freely. Infrastructure is also not very well established there. Visiting Balochistan requires a special permit which not many travelers can get access to. 

Tribal areas

The tribal areas of Pakistan are now a semi-autonomous province and they are occupied by Pashtuns, an ethnic, extremist Islamic group. It is one of the most underdeveloped regions of Pakistan and even the government has little control inside it. 

Similar to Baluchistan, the tribal areas also require a special permit to travel for tourists and should not be considered in your Pakistan travel itinerary.

Relatively safe regions but still be cautious

Swat valley

Swat is one of the most beautiful areas of Pakistan with the Kalam valley, Mahodand Lake, Saidu Sharif, and many other beautiful, unadulterated spots. The area is dominated by Pashtuns and they live a simple, rustic lifestyle there. It is 315km away from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan and also the third-largest city of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

It is relatively a peaceful territory but in 2007 it was taken over by the Taliban which did cause some unrest that has lasted all these years. An armed guard may or may not be assigned to travelers by the police in Swat.

Chitral and Kalash valleys

The Kalash valleys are inhibited by locals who do not follow Islam. Instead, they follow an ancient culture known as Kalash. This region is generally safe and the people very gentle and follow a rich plethora of their festivals and traditions. It would be a culturally rich experience as a tourist to spend time in the beautiful Chitral region and with its people. It is also likely you will be assigned a guard here for safety as well as a cultural aide.

Karachi

Karachi, one of the most populated and bustling metropolitan city of Pakistan is not to be missed if you travel to Pakistan. However, due to its population and hustle-bustle, street crime is quite high here. That being said, if you are careful with your belongings, rent a hotel in a good neighborhood and have a safe ride; the city of lights never sleeps. Malls, cinemas and the magnitude of restaurants here barely close late night for a few hours. Food and shopping options are plenty, diverse and a must-visit.

Safest regions of Pakistan

Islamabad

The Pakistani capital is no doubt the safest place to visit and live in Pakistan. With checkpoints everywhere, cleanliness of high importance and proximity to Murree and Margalla hills, it makes Islamabad one of the most ideal destinations to travel in Pakistan.

Lahore

Although terrorist attacks do happen in Lahore, they are few and in specific areas. In fact attacks of this magnitude happen anywhere in the world so to single out Lahore to be unsafe just because it is a part of Pakistan is unfair and biased. Lahore is quite a safe and modern city to live in and visit. The culture, infrastructure, fashion and eateries of Lahore are top-notch and visiting Lahore can surely be a highlight of your Pakistani trip.

Gilgit-Baltistan

The most beautiful valleys of Pakistan are fortunately also the safest ones. If you are looking for lush green valleys against snow-capped mountains backdrop surrounded by crystal blue waters then it is safe to say that most of your time will be spent in this region. Gilgit-Baltistan is also home to Karakoram Highway that houses some of the highest mountains of the world.

In conclusion, Pakistan like any other developing nation does come with its risks and problems involved. However, it is also true that unlike most developing nations; Pakistan has more to offer in terms of culture, beauty, history, etc. I would say, a well-researched and planned itinerary to Pakistan will surely result in a memorable trip for you whether alone or as a family.

Afshan Riaz Bhayani
Afshan Riaz Bhayani

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