Foreign travel advice

Pakistan

Important Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel

It is illegal to travel abroad from the UK for holidays. Follow current COVID-19 rules where you live: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In England, you must have a permitted reason to travel abroad and complete the declaration form.

Some countries have closed borders, and any country may further restrict travel or bring in new social distancing rules with little warning. Check our advice for each country you will visit or transit through.

When you return, follow the rules to enter the UK from abroad (except from Ireland).

Safety and security

Crime

Be aware of the risk of street crime and take sensible measures to protect yourself and your belongings. Take particular care of your passport, bank cards, bags, jewellery, laptop and mobile, especially on public transport, when travelling to and from the airport and in crowded areas including markets. There is an active black market in forged and stolen passports. Credit card fraud is common.

Exercise caution when moving around urban areas at night, especially if travelling on foot. The threat from criminal activity is increased at this time.

British nationals of Pakistani origin have been targeted by criminals, including kidnappers, as they are often perceived as being wealthier than locals.

Much of Balochistan, rural Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, including the areas formerly known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Agencies, have a high level of lawlessness.

Political situation

Public demonstrations are common in Pakistan. Protests can occur with little warning and while most remain peaceful, they can turn violent quickly. During elections, political events, rallies and polling stations have been the target of targeted terrorist attacks. You should avoid all political demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events.

Local travel

The Pakistan authorities currently advise that “all foreigners, including diplomats may not move out of their city of residence without proper security and without prior co-ordination with the law enforcement agency”. This requirement has not been rigorously enforced, but you should consider informing local authorities of any travel plans, and be prepared to be stopped and challenged by officials, who may instruct you to turn around.

When travelling in Pakistan, you or your travel company should contact the local authorities of your destination in advance to check the local security situation. They may arrange police protection as necessary and will advise whether you need a No Objection Certificate issued by the Pakistani Ministry of Interior.

You should exercise care in selecting accommodation and take precautions to maintain safety and keep a low profile.

Border areas

The FCDO advises against all travel to the immediate vicinity of the Line of Control.

Except for official border crossing points, foreigners aren’t allowed to travel within 10 miles of Pakistan’s international borders and the Kashmir Line of Control, or within 30 miles of the Afghan border in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Islamabad

Police and security agencies have a significant presence in Islamabad. You should exercise caution in the outlying districts, such as I8, I9, I10 and areas further west, where security forces have conducted operations against suspected criminals and terrorists.

You should avoid all protests. Crowded areas such as the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) and Aabpara Market in G6 have been a focal point for protests in recent years.

Karachi

Karachi has seen an improvement in the overall security situation in recent years. However, the city is still prone to high levels of violence, and the safety of daily activity can be unpredictable. It is vulnerable to violent ethnic conflict between different communities. Criminal and political violence is also common including armed carjacking, robbery, kidnap and murder. Strikes called by various religious and political parties are capable of causing significant disruption across the city and can occasionally lead to violent civil unrest. Smaller scale labour strikes are also a common occurrence and cause regular disruptions on a more localised scale.

Despite a general improvement, terrorist related activity still occurs in Karachi. Public service and health officials have also been subject to attacks in the past whilst delivering health programmes. There is also a risk of violence in parts of the city which include government offices. Major hotels and the financial district are generally regarded as more stable, though there remains a risk of violence, particularly following Friday prayers.

You should carefully plan any travel within the city, taking into account all the threats. You should take advice from hosts or trusted contacts, abide by direction from law enforcement officers and be prepared to cancel or curtail your plans. Lyari, Malir, Quaidabad and Orangi Town have a greater risk of violence based on past activity. Exercise heightened vigilance if visiting these areas.

On Monday 29 June, armed militants attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi. 8 people died in the attack and 7 were injured.

Lahore

Lahore is the capital of Punjab province, and attracts large numbers of tourists and business travellers. While the city has a widespread police presence, there have been a number of terrorist attacks in recent years. These have targeted public places and government or security forces. On 8 May 2019, a bomb exploded near a police vehicle outside Data Darbar shrine in central Lahore. You should avoid religious events or gatherings, public events and large crowds of people throughout Pakistan.

Balochistan

There is a significant risk from kidnapping and militant activity in much of Balochistan. The FCDO advises against all travel to most of the province (see Summary) other than the southern coast of Balochistan where we advise against all but essential travel. The southern coast is defined as the area south of (and including) the N10 motorway as well as the section of the N25 which runs from N10/N25 intersection to the Balochistan/Sindh border, including the port city of Gwadar.

On 11 May 2019, armed militants attacked the Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar in southern Balochistan. Three people were killed and four injured. There are frequent sectarian attacks in and around Quetta.

If you intend to visit Balochistan, make sure you have the necessary permission from the authorities and proper security arrangements in place.

Gilgit-Baltistan

The terrain in Gilgit-Baltistan is mountainous, with remote and isolated locations that are difficult to police effectively. You’re strongly advised to obtain and follow local security advice and make appropriate personal security arrangements in advance of any visit. There are also occasional outbursts of sectarian violence in and around Gilgit.

All foreign nationals must register with the local authorities when visiting Gilgit-Baltistan. You may need a permit for mountaineering or trekking, in particular for mountains over 6,000 metres. The process can take up to 2 months and is best organised through a travel company. The validity of your travel insurance policy may be affected if you do not have the correct permits.

Use reputable trekking agencies, stay on established routes, and always walk in groups. Do not trek alone. Be aware of the risks of altitude sickness.

Karakoram Highway

The Karakoram Highway runs from Hasan Abdal in north Punjab towards Gilgit and the Chinese border. The FCDO advises against all travel on the Highway between Mansehra and Chilas via Battagram, Besham City, Dasu and Sazin. You should avoid travelling on the Highway at night - the road can be narrow with sudden steep drops. All sections of the Highway north of Batagram up to the Chinese border have experienced landslides.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

On 16 December 2019, a bomb exploded outside the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and Peshawar High Court.

There is occasional military or militant activity in the districts of Swat, Buner, Malakand, and Lower Dir. Localised curfews may be imposed at short notice.

Arandu District to the south and west of Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is sometimes subject to cross border attacks.

Pakistan-administered Kashmir

The FCDO advises against all travel to the immediate vicinity of the Line of Control.

Following a terrorist attack in Pulwama on 14 February 2019, there are heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, particularly across the Line of Control.

There is regular military activity on the Line of Control. This includes regular and frequent small arms fire (roughly up to 300 metres from the Line) and occasional mortar fire (roughly up to 7 kilometres from the Line).

Make sure you have the necessary permissions to travel. Specific requirements can change and you should check the latest requirements before travelling. A No Objection Certificate is always required for foreign nationals to travel within 10 miles of the Line of Control or to enter Pakistan-administered Kashmir via Muzaffarabad.

Punjab

If you travel to southern Punjab take advice about the local security situation in advance. There are frequent reports of criminality and public order incidents.

Sindh

There is a very high risk from crime and kidnapping in Interior Sindh. There are reports of increased criminality in Hyderabad.

Air travel

Domestic flight operations have restarted at all airports in Pakistan following the COVID-19 related disruptions earlier this year.

There is limited public transport from the Islamabad International Airport (IIAP), but taxi services are available.

Security was tightened at Pakistan’s airports following a number of terrorist attacks on key airports and aircraft in 2014. Allow yourself enough time to get through enhanced security checks, but do not linger unnecessarily. Be vigilant, follow instructions from security and airport personnel, and contact your airline in the event of any disruption.

From 1 July 2020, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) suspended permission for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate services to the EU and the UK using their own aircraft and crew, on safety grounds. However, on 14 August 2020, the UK Civil Aviation Authority granted PIA permission to resume services to the UK using replacement aircraft and crew provided by EASA approved operators.

The FCDO can not offer advice on the safety of individual airlines, whether operating internationally or domestically. The International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

British government employees in Pakistan are advised against using domestic flights with airlines that are not EASA approved, except when operationally necessary. This position is kept under review.

A list of recent incidents and accidents including the location, type of aircraft and operator can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

Rail travel

Avoid using the railway network, which has been subject to frequent attacks and derailments. There have been attacks on railway stations in Punjab, and militants have planted bombs on the rail network in Balochistan and Sindh.

Road travel

You should have a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Pakistan. 1926 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted. You can only get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel.

Pakistan has a modern and efficient motorway system between the major cities. The quality of other roads is more variable. Take particular care on long road journeys and when travelling cross-country. Local driving standards are erratic, especially at night. Road conditions can be poor and there is a risk of carjacking.

Avoid using street taxis. Only use taxis from reputable companies which are radio-controlled.

For security reasons, you should avoid using public transport, including the Metro Bus which operates between Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

The north of Pakistan is mountainous, with some of the highest peaks in the world contained within this area. As a result many roads are inaccessible at certain times of the year due to extreme weather conditions, and landslides frequently block or destroy roads. The N15 Highway between Chilas and Babusar in Gilgit Baltistan is closed at certain times of the year due to weather and is susceptible to landslides.

It is recommended that you only use experienced local drivers when traversing these routes and should only attempt to do so in clear weather conditions.

Sea travel

The threat from piracy within 12 nautical miles of the Pakistani coastline is low, but you should be aware of the significant threat piracy poses in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.