If you go on to the US State Department website, Pakistan has been ranked on level 3 on the list of High Risk Travel destinations. All US citizens are advised to reconsider their plan of traveling to Pakistan because of potent security threats.
Then there is of course the fact that most of the times any foreigner would hear about Pakistan, there are news regarding bombings and killings. The projection that Pakistan receives from International media is one reason why Pakistan is barely on a foreign traveler’s bucket list. Let’s shatter some of the myths regarding Pakistan.
Coming directly from a local who has traveled the length and width of the country. Here are some of the travel misconceptions about Pakistan:
Misconception #1 → Pakistan is a Vast Desert
Not true. Absolutely false. Pakistan has everything to offer. If you’re into mountaineering & hiking, let me open it up to you the fact that 5 of the 14 world’s highest mountain peaks are in Pakistan. The country takes immense pride for being home to the mighty K2, 2nd largest mountain peak of the world. In case you’re looking for serene, non-populous beaches away from the urban hustle & bustle, Pakistan has a coastline of 1046 Km. Inundated with calm, tranquil beach spots. Pakistan is also home to one of world’s oldest Indus Valley Civilization that dates back around 5000 years old. It’s a country rich in heritage and culture.
Pakistan is home to various lush green meadows as well. The world famous Fairy Meadows which was named by the German Climbers is situated on the base camp of Nanga Parbat (9th highest mountain peak in the world). Then there are jaw dropping meadows of Kashmir. Green and calm. In the South Asian region, Kashmir is touted as the paradise on earth. World famous Rock Band, Led Zeppelin traveled to the Kashmir region in the early 70’s and their song Kashmir was tribute to the mesmerizing beauty of the valley of Kashmir. Traveling across Pakistan would give you a clue that Pakistan is anything but a desert. There’s lot of vegetation because the country’s economy is dependent on agricultural produce. There are 5 major rivers including the historic River Indus.
Misconception #2 → Pakistanis Only Speak Arabic
Due to the very fact that Pakistan is a Muslim majority country and in close proximity to the gulf, it is usually taken as an Arab country which is anything but true. The national language of Pakistan is Urdu whereas English has been declared as an official language. Let’s astound you with a breaking stat that approximately 94 million people in Pakistan speak English as a 2nd language which is greater than the total population of England.
Unlike China & Russia where as a traveler, language is pretty much a barrier. Pakistan is a travel destination for foreigners in this particular regard is very convenient. 90% of the road signs across the roads are in English. When you’re lost you can ask anyone around, you won’t need a translator app for that. Like the English, Pakistanis are fond of their tea and Cricket.
Misconception #3 → Pakistan is a Not a Safe Place to Travel
After the war on terror in Afghanistan, Pakistan has gone through a tough phase from security point of view. But the last 6-7 years, things have settled down and security situation in the country has been stable now. There are a handful of spots which could be deemed unsafe for tourists otherwise all major tourist spots are safe and open for foreign and local tourists. The newly elected Pakistani government is working diligently to bring more foreign tourists to the country to propagate the soft image of the country.
Lately, international food vloggers Mark Weins from Thailand toured Pakistan. He traveled across the country and named Pakistan as a prime food spot of the world. Another Vlogger Trevor Jones is touring Pakistan as well and his journey is documented on Youtube and other social media channels for others to see. He had only good things to say about Pakistan. It is also interesting a fact that both of these acclaimed vloggers traveled across the country rather than a few urban centers of Pakistan and their feedback about Pakistan as a travel destination can be viewed and heard on their social media handles. Though there are of course some travel precautions that foreign travelers must look into prior to coming over to Pakistan but in general, the country is well open and safe for foreigners to travel.
Lastly, international news handles like English Daily Times and the Gulf News touted Pakistan as the next tourist haven of the 21st century. Since the last 5 years there has been more influx of foreign tourists in Pakistan than ever. Reasons are the better security conditions, improved infrastructure and cheap accommodation options.
Misconception #4 → Pakistan is a Difficult Place to Travel
This pointer could not have been on the list if there had not been recent developments in easing out red tapism from the tourism industry. Just about a month ago, the Pakistani government announced that they will now offer on arrival visa to over 50 countries whereas the facility of e-visa is open for tourists of 175 countries (list of countries here: www.Tourism.gov.pk). As a foreign tourist, you can apply for the Pakistani visa online paying a meager fee and the whole process would take less than two weeks before you’re on to go.
If you are novice traveler, there are loads of local travel guides and agencies in Pakistan, who’d design a tour for you catering to your needs. Also from a logistics point of view, the country is well sorted. There are plenty of airports, plethora of bus services and national Railway system that connects the country. Well if you are guessing this is an over stated argument, you can check out the German Backpacker who hitchhiked across Pakistan from Southern city of Karachi to Khunjerab in the North. So if you’re sitting down in your apartment having second thoughts on either to travel to Pakistan or not just because you think it is not gonna be easy doing all the paperwork. Well you’re just thinking too much. It’s way easier than you think.
Misconception #5 → Pakistan is a Hostile Country
If you’d ask me as a local, what is the best thing about Pakistan that the tourists may not find else where? I think it is neither the mountains of the north nor the bazaars of the urban centers. The best thing about Pakistan, the one thing that has the capacity to make you fall in love with the place is the people of Pakistan. This is not coming from a biased view. I had the privilege to travel to various countries but the kind of openness and hospitality that the people of Pakistan offer to the tourists is unprecedented.
The major reason for the very down to earth nature of people is because of the very fact that Pakistan had been isolated. After 9/11 things heated up for Pakistan and being the ally of the US, Pakistan had to bear the brunt for near a decade. During this period there was hardly any tourism. Due to the way the country was projected on international media, there was near to zero foreign tourists coming over to Pakistan. When you’re in Pakistan as a tourist enjoying a local snack, it would be interesting for you to experience that not one but most food vendors won’t accept payment saying ‘you’re our guest’. It is in the very culture of Pakistanis to feed the guests, for guests are the embodiment of God as it is believed locally. It is little things like these that makes people come back to Pakistan over and over again.
A Few Interesting Facts About Pakistan:
- 50% of the world’s Soccer balls are made in Pakistan
- World’s largest planted forest – Changa Manga
- Highest polo ground of the world is in Pakistan – Shandoor Polo Ground 12,200ft
- Pakistan is home to the 2nd largest salt mine of the world – Khewra Salt Mine
World Famous Tourist guide Lonely Planet, regards Pakistan as the Next Big Thing of the global tourist industry. You might want to travel to Pakistan before the rest of the world finds this exotic land as a tourist destination.