Pakistan is a parliamentary federal republic in South Asia, with a population of nearly 170 million people. President Pervez Musharraf came to power in October 1999, and was indirectly elected to office in 2002. The military continues to play a significant role in the nation’s governance. Pakistan is a developing country, with tourist facilities available in major cities but limited in outlying areas. The infrastructure of the areas of Kashmir and the Northwest Frontier Province was devastated as a result of the October 8, 2005 earthquake and is not yet recovered. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Pakistan for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens traveling to Pakistan for any purpose are required to have valid U.S. passports and Pakistani-issued visas. Further information on entry requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Pakistan at:
Travelers may also contact one of the Consulates General of Pakistan in:
Boston: 20 Chestnut Street, Needham, MA 02492; telephone: (781) 455-8000; fax: (617) 266-6666; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chicago: 333 North Michigan Ave., Suite 728, Chicago, IL, 60601; telephone: (312) 781-1831; fax: (312) 781-1839; email: email@example.com
Houston: 11850 Jones Road, Houston, TX, 77070; telephone: (281) 890-2223; fax: (281) 890-1433; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles: 10850 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1100, Los Angeles, CA 90024; telephone: (310) 441-5114; fax: (310) 441-9256; email: email@example.com
New York: 12 East 65th St., New York, NY 10021; telephone: (212) 879-5800; fax: (212) 517-6987; website: www.pakistanconsulateny.org
If a traveler plans to stay longer than the time listed on the visa, he or she must extend the stay with the local passport office of the Ministry of Interior. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Pakistan and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Pakistan website for the most current visa information.
See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction. Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: A number of extremist groups within Pakistan continue to target American and other Western interests, high-level Pakistani government officials, as well as members of minority indigenous and religious groups. Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness and capability to attack targets where Americans are known to congregate or visit. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombing -- including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices -- assassinations, carjacking, assault or kidnapping. American fast food restaurants and other companies in Karachi were bombed in late 2005, resulting in several deaths and multiple injuries. None of the casualties were Americans. On March 2, 2006, an American diplomat, his locally employed driver, and three others were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives in front of the U.S. Consulate in Karachi. Fifty-two others were wounded in the attack. Occasional sectarian violence has resulted in fatal bomb attacks in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore, and other Pakistani cities in 2006. Rallies, demonstrations, and processions occur from time to time throughout Pakistan on very short notice and have often taken on an anti-American or anti-Western character. Because of the possibility of violence, Americans are urged to avoid all public places of worship and areas where Westerners are known to congregate.
Karachi and the southern parts of Punjab Province have experienced protracted political or sectarian violence that poses a potential danger to American travelers. During the Islamic (Shi’a) religious observance of Moharram, rivalries and hostilities often increase. Family feuds are frequently fatal and may be followed by retaliation.
It is best to avoid public transportation. For security reasons, U.S. Mission personnel are prohibited from using taxis or buses. (See the Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section below.)
Women are advised to dress conservatively, with arms and legs covered, and avoid walking around alone. It is unwise for anyone to travel on the streets late at night. Visitors to Pakistan should attempt to maintain a low profile, blend in, be aware of their surroundings, and seek security with their family or sponsoring organization.
Returning Americans of Afghan origin may be harassed or come under scrutiny by local police, immigration, and customs officials.
Northern Areas - Americans wishing to trek in Gilgit, Hunza, Chitral and the upper Swat valley should use only licensed guides and tourist agencies. While overall crime is low, there have been occasional assaults on foreign visitors.
Northwest Frontier Province - The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border, and certain areas within the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), are designated as tribal areas and are not subject to normal government jurisdiction. The Government of Pakistan requires all citizens of countries other than Pakistan and Afghanistan to obtain permission from the Home and Tribal Affairs Department prior to visiting these locations. The permit may stipulate that an armed escort must accompany the visitor. Even in the settled areas of the NWFP there is occasional ethnic, sectarian, and political violence, as well as anti-foreign rhetoric. Members of the Taliban and Al-Qaida are known to be in the FATA, and may also be in the settled areas. Foreigners should avoid these areas.
Kashmir - While direct military hostilities between India and Pakistan across the Line of Control (LOC) have ceased, militant groups engaged in a long-running insurgency on the Indian side of the LOC are reported to have bases and supporters operating from the Pakistani side. Most of these groups are anti-American, and some have attacked Americans and other Westerners. The Government of Pakistan restricts access to many parts of this region and requires that visitors obtain a permit from the Ministry of Interior before traveling. These areas bore the brunt of the October 8, 2005 earthquake and have not fully recovered. The Department of State strongly recommends against travel to this area. Those Americans who feel they have urgent business there should contact the Embassy for further guidance.
Punjab Province - Sectarian violence has decreased considerably in recent years, though occasional violent demonstrations, bombings, and attacks on places of worship of all faiths do occur. As a precaution against these possible dangers, U.S. citizens are cautioned to avoid public transportation and crowded areas. The Wagah border crossing into India near Lahore remains open (from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) daily for travel to and from India if the passport holder has a valid visa for both countries. Visitors are advised to confirm the current status of the border crossing prior to commencing travel.
Sindh Province - In Karachi and Hyderabad, there has been recurring violence characterized by random bombings, shootings, and kidnapping for ransom. Americans and other Westerners continue to be a particular target of hostility. The deadly March 2006 suicide attack near the U.S. Consulate is only the most recent in a string of violent incidents in Karachi over the past few years, including occasional mosque bombings and anti-Western mob violence. The Consulate in particular has been the target of several major terrorist attacks or plots in recent years. Non-essential travel to these cities is strongly discouraged.
In rural Sindh Province, the security situation is hazardous, especially for those engaged in overland travel. The Government of Pakistan recommends that travelers limit their movements in Sindh Province.
Balochistan Province - The Province of Balochistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan, is notorious for narcotics and other forms of cross-border smuggling. Members of the Taliban and Al-Qaida are also believed to be present there. Armed battles between clans are frequent. Tribal unrest sometimes turns violent, as occurred after the killing of a prominent local leader in August 2006. Because provincial police presence is limited, travelers wishing to visit the interior of Balochistan should consult with the province’s Home Secretary. Advance permission from provincial authorities is required for travel into many areas. Local authorities have detained travelers who lacked proper permission. Quetta, the provincial capital, has experienced occasional gun battles in the streets and the imposition of curfews. Terrorist attacks against Pakistani government installations and infrastructure have been reported throughout 2005 and 2006.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet website where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Crime is a serious concern for foreigners throughout Pakistan. Carjacking, armed robberies, house invasions, and other violent crimes occur in many major urban areas. Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common. American travelers to Pakistan are strongly advised to avoid traveling by taxi and other forms of public transportation, and have members of their host organizations or families meet them at the airport.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm .
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Adequate medical care is available in major Pakistani cities, but is limited in rural areas. Facilities in the cities vary in level and range of services, resources, and cleanliness, and Americans may find them below U.S. standards; facilities in rural areas are consistently below U.S. standards. Medical facilities require prepayment and do not accept credit cards.
Water is not potable anywhere in Pakistan and sanitation in many restaurants is inadequate. Stomach illnesses are common and can be life-threatening. Effective emergency response to personal injury and illness is virtually non-existent in Pakistan. Ambulances are few and are not necessarily staffed by medical personnel. Any emergency case should be transported immediately to recommended emergency receiving rooms. Many American-brand medications are not widely available, but generic brands from well-known pharmaceuticals usually are. The quality of the locally-produced medications is not known.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en/.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Pakistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic in Pakistan moves on the left, opposite of U.S. traffic. In addition to this source of potential confusion, travel by road in Pakistan has a variety of other risks. Roads are crowded, drivers are often aggressive and poorly trained, and many vehicles, particularly large trucks and buses, are badly maintained. Donkeys, cattle, horse carts, and even the occasional camel can pose roadside hazards in some areas. Roads, including most major highways, also suffer from poor maintenance and often have numerous potholes, sharp drop-offs and barriers that are not sign-posted. Extreme caution should be exercised when traveling at night by road since many vehicles do not have proper illumination or dimmers nor are most roads properly illuminated or signed. Driving without experienced local drivers or guides is not recommended.
It is best to avoid public transportation. For security reasons, U.S. Mission personnel are prohibited from using taxis or buses. (See Safety and Security section above.)
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Pakistan’s national tourist office at http://www.tourism.gov.pk/ and the national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.nha.gov.pk/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Pakistan’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Pakistan is largely a cash economy. Personal checks are not commonly accepted. Most Pakistanis do not use checking accounts for routine transactions. Outside of major cities and tourist destinations, even credit cards and travelers’ checks are generally not accepted, and there have been numerous reports of credit card fraud. There are bank branches as well as registered moneychangers in all international airports. ATMs can also be found in major airports. English is widely spoken by professional-level airport staff.
Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Pakistani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Pakistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living or traveling in Pakistan are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Pakistan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is located at Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5; telephone: (92-51) 208-0000; Consular Section telephone: (92-51) 208-2700; fax: (92-51) 282-2632; website: http://islamabad.usembassy.gov/
The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, located at 8 Abdullah Haroon Road, closed its public operations indefinitely due to security concerns. U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance should call the Consular Section in Karachi; telephone: (92-21) 520-4200; fax: (92-21) 568-0496; website: http://karachi.usconsulate.gov/
The U.S. Consulate in Lahore is located on 50 Sharah-E-Abdul Hamid Bin Badees (Old Empress Road), near Shimla Hill Rotary; telephone: (92-42) 603-4000; fax: (92-42) 603-4200; website: http://lahore.usconsulate.gov/; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar is located at 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, Peshawar; telephone: (92-91) 526-8800; fax: (92-91) 528-4171; website: http://peshawar.usconsulate.gov
Courtesy of http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_992.html