Safety and security
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.
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, northern Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have a high level of lawlessness.
Public demonstrations are common in Pakistan. You should keep track of the local news. Protests can occur with little warning and while most remain peaceful, they can turn violent and escalate quickly. During elections, political events, rallies and polling stations have been the target of terrorist attacks. You should avoid all political demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events and be prepared to change your plans as necessary.
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.
Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Pakistan, including Gilgit-Baltistan. More information about altitude sickness is available from TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre).
Except for official border crossing points, foreigners are not 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.
The situation for border crossings between Afghanistan and Pakistan may change rapidly due to the security situation in Afghanistan. The FCDO advises against all travel to Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s Balochistan Province and a number of districts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. See summary
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 can be prone to varying levels of violence, and the safety of daily activity can be unpredictable. Criminal and political violence is 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.
There’s a high threat of terrorism throughout the country. On 17 February 2023 militants attacked a police station in the city killing a number of police officers. On 26 April 2022, a suicide bomb at the University of Karachi targeted Chinese nationals and killed 4 people. 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. 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.
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. You should avoid religious events or gatherings, public events and large crowds of people throughout Pakistan.
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 the N10/N25 intersection to the Balochistan/Sindh border, including the port city of Gwadar.
If you intend to visit the southern coast of Balochistan, make sure you have the necessary permission from the authorities and proper security arrangements in place.
In late August 2023, there were large-scale religious protests in Skardu, Gilgit Baltistan. There remains a risk of protests, which could turn violent, and road closures throughout the region. Gatherings of four or more people are banned and the mobile phone and data network is disrupted. You should take care to avoid demonstrations, large crowds of people and political events.
The terrain in Gilgit-Baltistan is mountainous, with remote and isolated locations that are difficult to police effectively. You are strongly advised to obtain and follow local security advice and make appropriate personal security arrangements in advance of any visit.
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 permission 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.
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 up to the junction with the N15. 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.
The FCDO advises against all travel to much of the province (see Summary). There is military or militant activity in a number of districts. Militant violence is frequent in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). 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.
The FCDO advises against all travel 10 miles of the Line of Control.
Following a terrorist attack in Pulwama on 14 February 2019, there remain heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, particularly across the Line of Control.
There is regular military activity on the Line of Control. Although a ceasefire has been implemented, there remain significant tensions between India and Pakistan and there is a serious risk of 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.
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.
The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to areas of Sindh Province north of, and including, the city of Nawabshah. There are high levels of lawlessness in the north of Sindh Province with a very high risk from crime and kidnapping. The area is frequented by criminal gangs or bandits with access to heavy weaponry. On 6 November 2022 a large criminal gang attacked police in Ghotki, northern Sindh, killing several officers and taking others hostage.
The UK Air Safety List (ASL) lists all known airlines in Pakistan that do not meet international safety standards and are banned from operating commercial air services to, from, and within the UK. Check the UK Air Safety List when considering which airlines to fly with. The list is maintained by the Department for Transport, based on advice from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
Passengers travelling on domestic air routes are no longer required to present evidence of COVID-19 vaccination.
Due to recent cases of Mpox (formerly known as Monkey Pox) there may be enhanced screening and preventive measures at points of entry.
There is limited public transport from the Islamabad International Airport (IIAP), but taxi services are available. It is recommended that you only use taxis from reputable, licenced companies that are radio-controlled.
Allow yourself enough time to get through enhanced airport 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.
Flights into the mountainous areas in the north of Pakistan are frequently delayed or cancelled due to extreme weather.
Avoid using the railway network, which has been subject to terrorist attacks as well as derailments.
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 selected UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. If you are 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, licensed companies which are radio-controlled.
For your safety, 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.
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.