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Dear Sohail, Ali Yameen [guide] did a fantastic job considering there was major civil unrest in Karachi. Most of the main roads were blocked and it took us nearly 3 hours to do a normal journey of 15 ...

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Travel Notes
  

General Information


Communications:

Post & Telegraph Services: Countrywide postal, telegraphic and telephone facilities are freely 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.


Telephone & Exchanges:

A telephone facility is available in all cities. More than 100 cities are linked with nation wide direct dialing system. For codes consult any telephone directory. Mobile telephones are also networked in big cities and there is an ongoing expansion programme. However, they will not work north of Abbotabad. They can also be hired on daily basis. Pay card phone booths are also installed at important places in big cities. 


Courier Services:

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.


Accommodation:

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 fact all cities that are on the tourist trail have good international standard accommodation. Other cities have hotels suitable for every pocket. TravelPak only uses hotels and rest houses that offer a high standard of accommodation, service and food, in a relaxed friendly atmosphere.


Banking:

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, Citi Bank and Standard Chartered. UK debit/credit cards will be rejected by local banks and on occasion by the larger international banks. In our experience Citi Bank has never given us cause for complaint, branches of which are in Lahore and Islamabad Banking Timings 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 Ramadan, and you should make sure of these timings if you happen to be in the country during this time.


Credit Cards:

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.


Medical Facilities:

All the cities have modern hospitals and Medical Centres staffed by western-trained specialists. There are private clinics as well and European standard medical facilities are pretty cheap. Visitors, especially from 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 or treated and you should check beforehand if it's ok to drink straight from the tap. Bottled mineral water is widely available cheaply and what you will be drinking for the majority of the time. 


Do's & Don'ts

 

Clothing:

Remember that you are in an Islamic country and so revealing bare flesh or figure hugging clothing can and will cause offence. You can generally get by with T shirts and for men even shorts in the cities but outside of that it will only draw attention. For women, it’s advisable to keep arms and legs covered when in smaller towns and villages. This extends to trekking and cycling. The shalwar kameez is definitely the way forward as it is lightweight, comfortable and cheap. For women a scarf or dupatta is also an essential item as you may be required to cover your head when entering a mosque or a home.

 

The Right Hand:

Muslims consider the left hand unclean so if you are left handed try to shake hands, take food and drink with the right. Again, in the bigger cities, no one will make a fuss but it’s when you’re out of the cities as you will be for the majority of the time.  

 

Greetings:

 For men this will nearly always be a handshake, women are generally excused from making contact with men when greeting and you may find that sometimes the men put their hand on their heart instead whilst greeting you. Affectionate greetings such as kissing is rarely seen, unless you’re in Karachi !

 

Conversations:

When meeting someone for the first time, don’t feel put out by the personal nature of questions such as age, marital status, occupation and salary etc. as it’s through a genuine desire to get to know you. People are always interested in your family and background so that’s always good as a conversation starter.

 

Religion:

Although people like a good debate, you won’t do yourself any favours by having strong views, particularly towards Islam as nearly everyone has strong beliefs and you’ll end up causing offence.

 

Hospitality:

Pakistanis are renowned for their hospitality so you may well be offered into their homes for tea and snacks many times. It’s polite to refuse once or twice but be careful not to be thought of as rude. You WILL drink many cups of tea. Get to like it!

 

Women:

Pakistani and Islamic society in general is strongly patriarchal. Women are simultaneously seen as lowly and precious. Don’t be offended if you ask a question of a trader and the response goes to your male companion, although foreign women generally do not have this problem as much.

 

Alcohol:

Pakistan is officially dry. However, the top end hotels in the big cities will have bars and foreigners are able to buy alcohol and in others you may be requested to drink only in your rooms.

Permits are available after going through various bureaucratic hoops so do enquire if you want to bring some for the trip. However, whilst acceptable in the big cities, the local police outside may not be so lenient. 

 

Tipping:

Service charges are added to the bill in some restaurants and hotels. When tipping for food and other services, use your discretion. 

 

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