General Information for Tourists
"As often as possible, do what others are not doing: Go
off-season instead of on, go in bad weather instead of good, walk when others
ride, laugh when others cry...."
Ed Buryn, 1971
Car Hires / Taxi Service
There are car hire facilities at all International Airports. Agencies also function in major hotels. In the streets you can get yellow cabs or taxis. Metered taxis of different capacities are available everywhere in big cities. In case of difficulty, get the assistance of Police officials on duty. On some occasions you may also need to exercise some bargaining as well. Try asking a few taxi drivers located at different places to get a clear idea of the charges.
Apart from a valid driving licence for self-driven rented cars, firms insist on a minimum age of 21 and may refuse to rent a car to any one over 60. Pakistan observes, "Right Hand Drive".
Distances on the roads are indicated in Roman numerical and also mentioned in Urdu. Sometimes there may be confusion between kilometers and miles. Within the city, especially on busy roads, it is better to drive within 50 kilometers (31 miles) per hour.
The railroad network is extensive, but when travelling, go first class or in an air-conditioned coach for comfort. Ideally, rent a "Tourist Car" which can be attached to any train. Fares are cheap by Western Standards and bookings should be done in advance both for seats and sleepers. Pakistan Railways also offer special concessions to tourists and well maintained Rest Houses are also offered as and when available.
Post & Telegraph Services: Countrywide postal, telegraphic and telephone facilities are available. Fax and telex services are also available. There are numerous Cyber Clubs throughout major cities of Pakistan which can provide you with economical Internet facility as well.
Special services offered by Pakistan Post Office include:
- Local Express Service (LES);
- Urgent Mail Service (UMS);
- Air Express & Int'l Speed Post (ISP);
- Surface Air Lifted Mail (SAL).
Telephone & Exchanges
Telephone facility is available in almost all the cities. More than 100 cities are linked with nation wide direct dialing system. For codes consult any telephone directory. Cellular mobile telephones are also available in big cities. They can also be hired on daily basis. Pay card phone booths are also installed at important places in big cities.
Courier services for sending your documents and letters are available in private sector as well. These services are more expensive and the delivery is taken from the sender's address to the addressee. These service are also available for international points.
Pakistan's main cities - the Federal Capital, Islamabad and its twin city Rawalpindi, as well as the Provincial capitals, except Quetta i.e. Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar have international standard 5 - Star accommodation for tourists. In Quetta, the Provincial capital of Balochistan, a 4-Star Serena Hotel is located. Serena Hotel is also located in Faisalabad, Gilgit and Hunza. In all these touristically important cities, good international standard accommodation is available. Main cities have hotels suitable for every pocket.
Tourists in search of cheaper accommodation should try the local Youth Hostels or YMCA's hostels which offer clean accommodation and wholesome atmosphere at cheaper fare then the 3 or 4-Star hotels.
The Rest Houses owned by the various Government Departments all over the country are also available for tourists after advance bookings. This is, however, a cumbersome process as one has to reach the right official who can only rent out the Rest House to a tourist if it is not required by a government official during that period. In the Northern Areas and Hill Stations, however, Rest Houses have been built by local authorities, especially for travellers and tourists. The accommodation at these places is good and at places watchmen-cum-chefs are available which reduces the expenses of board considerable.
PTDC operates Rest Houses or Motels in a number of beautiful places where tourists go. These include Ziarat near Quetta, Taxila. Moenjodaro and various hill towns in the Northern Areas.
The State Bank of Pakistan is the Central Bank. There are domestic commercial banks - Allied Bank, Habib Bank, National Bank of Pakistan, United Bank, Cooperative Banks, 8 development finance organisations and 15 principal foreign banks including ANZ Grindlays, Abn Amro, Emirates Bank International, American Express and City Bank.
Office Hours: 9 am to 5 pm with one hour break from Monday to Thursday and with two hours break on Friday. Saturday is half working day from 9 am to 1:30 pm without break. Sunday is off.
Counter Services : 9 am to 1:00 pm from Monday to Thursday and 9 am to 12:30 on Friday and Saturday, with no break.
Special timings may be observed during the month of Ramazan, and you should make sure of these timings if you happen to be in the country in this holy month.
Major credit cards such as American Express, Visa, Master Card, and others besides Rupee credit cards launched by National Bank of Pakistan & Habib Bank etc. can be used for your shopping and other transactions.
Laundry & Hair Dressing
First class hotels offer 24-hour laundering and dry cleaning services as well as hair dressing facilities. Many Hair Dressing Establishments and Beauty Parlours are available in all cities. These are generally closed on Mondays.
All the cities have modern hospitals and Medical Centers staffed by western-trained specialists. There are private clinics as well. The European standard medical facilities are pretty cheap. In the rural areas, however, you should be careful to carry your own drugs, which are easily available in all towns. Foreigners, especially from the developed countries are advised to be careful of their drinking water. Outside the 4 or 5 Star Hotels, the water may not have been boiled and they should make inquiries about it and ensure the standard of drinking water, which goes well with their health. They can however, get disposable mineral water bottles at economical rates. Tourists are also advised to vaccine themselves from their home country before coming to Pakistan for diseases like Hepatitis B.
Liquor is completely banned for Muslims in Pakistan. Foreigners and non-Muslims can have it on permits or in hotels wherever available. It cannot be imported in baggage. Import of liquor is banned except for the mountaineering, trekking and scientific expeditions.
The process for getting a permit is to get a certificate from a Tourist Information Center and then call at the Excise and Taxation Office where a nominal fee is charged. In a first class hotel you can buy liquor and enjoy it in your rooms. Beer and some other drinks are produced locally. These are less expensive than the imported ones. The standard however, is just reasonable.
Service charges are added to the bill in some restaurants and hotels. When tipping for food and other services, use your discretion.