Harbouring more than 209 million inhabitants within its bounds, Pakistan is officially the fifth-most populous country in the entire world. Stretching upon only 881,913 square kilometres of land, it reaches into the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, of course. Bordered by China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, India, and Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor, it houses traces of the “Indus Valley Civilisation” (one of the earliest records of human civilisation in our known history). So, let us cut to the chase as soon as we can and examine what pros and cons this place has to offer us!
1. Language barriers:
Okay, so the main idea in a foreign country is to always try and learn a few basic words in the native language. But how can we go about this in Pakistan? Well, here’s the thing: the official languages there are Urdu and English. Urdu is used for street bargaining, official discourses and so on whilst English is used by institutions. In short, both of these languages are widely accustomed to but the Pakistani English dialect may confuse your ear at first. Most people will speak it to some degree but you might have to tune your ear to their inflections a bit to make sure that all conversations go down meaningfully. There are no substantial language barriers to be concerned about in Pakistan but it is always good to be prepared.
2. Eat, drink, smoke:
There is no doubt about the fact that the food of the Middle East is beyond what you may call exquisite. Just imagine the best food you’ve tasted in your life and multiply that by three – that is how well the spices are imbued in Pakistani dishes. This, however, should not mean that your attention to what you eat diminishes. Always think twice before accepting food from street stalls (no matter how alluring the dish might look like), as you might not want to produce a Karachi belly (wink). On the drinking side, you must be 21 years old to be able to consume alcohol. The tap water is generally unsafe for drinking but certain establishments filter it – note that ice is generally made of tap water and should be avoided if possible. The best way to avoid problems is to stick to bottled water throughout your trip.
Not every country in the Middle East practices tipping but Pakistan has surely made its way towards a more western approach. The general idea of leaving a little extra has already crept under the sheets of their culture and thus you should stay polite and practice it as well. Certain bills will include a service charge but you may never know whether the worker will actually get it. So, the best way to go about the problem is to give a few rupees (the local currency), or 10%, to waiters/waitresses/bartenders directly. Even rounding up the bill to the nearest 10 will be much appreciated. You should always try and go out of your way to make someone’s day – that is a general rule of thumb, no matter where you go (wink)!
The climate of Pakistan is generally hot and desert-like and what you should definitely pack is sunscreen – especially if you hail from a country with less sunshine. With three distinct seasons (winter, summer, and a monsoon season), one should always be prepared with proper clothing. It is important to know that the highest reliably measured temperatures in Asia have been detected within the bounds of the country and they can go well beyond 40 degrees Celsius during summertime. However, it is also vital to note that Pakistan experiences temperature fluctuations depending on altitude (and season, of course, to some degree). This means that if you are visiting the mountainous regions during wintertime, you might even encounter sub-zero temperatures. Oh, and about the monsoon season, what can we say? Pack a poncho (wink)!
Understanding that the official religion of Pakistan is Islam (called a state religion) is vital in all regards – it should influence not only your clothing but also your behaviour. During the Ramadan period, adherents of the Muslim faith are prohibited from eating, drinking, cursing, lying, etc. (this process is called fasting). This means that doing any of those in public during the ninth and most sacred month of the Islamic calendar is considered beyond sacrilegious and outright offensive. Stay on the good side of people if you travel to Pakistan during this period and always be friendly and accepting. You will find, thus, that the Pakistani people are inviting and cheerful also.
As we may have spoiled it a bit in the introductory phase, Pakistan is one of the most populous countries in the world. However, when you consider the area upon which it extends, you will soon realise that the population density there is quite intense (and growing). Karachi, for example, is one of the densest places in the world. Agoraphobic travellers, beware! Intrepid daredevils, rejoice (wink)!
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in Pakistan and how have they shaped your overall impression of the place? Would you go there again were you given the chance? Until our next adventure, be sure to check back from time to time for some exciting new updates and articles! Safe travels!