PAKISTAN - AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Pakistan due to the unpredictable security situation and the threat of terrorist attacks.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to the following regions:
- areas reporting military or militant activity;
- all border areas, except the Wagha official border crossing point;
- to the Kashmir region, including Azad Kashmir;
- to the province of Baluchistan, including the city of Quetta;
- to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, including Swat, the city of Peshawar and the Khyber Pass;
- and to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Consider leaving these regions if your presence is not necessary.
Consult the Security tab for more information.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
Karachi continues to experience unprecedented levels of violence, stemming mainly from the political situation. Although this violence is currently common in Orangi, Baldia, SITE, Liyari, Saddar, Liaquatabad, Korangi, Landhi, Shah Faisal Colony, Jamshed and Gulberg, it could spread to other areas. In response to spates of violence, various groups may call for strikes and protest marches, which tend to take place in the central areas of Karachi. These events could cause travel disruptions throughout the city and create the necessary conditions for additional violence. Maintain a high level of vigilance, minimize your movements around the city, avoid large gatherings and demonstrations and stay away from areas where they may take place, as they could turn violent without warning.
Since January 2010, a series of targeted attacks in Karachi has killed a number of activists from Pakistan’s various political factions. While foreigners are not targeted by these killings, they may face incidental risks given that these acts could trigger violent demonstrations and rioting in Karachi. Expect tighter security measures and increased police presence in the affected areas of the city.
Express kidnappings have occurred in Karachi where the person is kidnapped for a couple of hours and forced to purchase goods and/or to withdraw money from an automatic banking machine (ABM).
Violent clashes between Sunni and Shia groups were reported in April 2012. Although the security situation is relatively calm at the present time and there is no reason to believe it will deteriorate in the near future, you are advised to exercise a high degree of caution as the security situation in Pakistan remains fragile and unpredictable.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (see Advisory)
The security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in northwestern Pakistan remains volatile due to sectarian violence and fighting between government forces and militants. Lawlessness is a serious concern in several areas. Bombings, shootings and mass demonstrations occur regularly, resulting in deaths and injuries. Curfews are sometimes imposed. The security situation in Swat and South Waziristan is particularly volatile. The military operations in these areas have caused a number of civilian casualties, including deaths.
Leave the area if it is safe to do so. Avoid road travel through Swat to Gilgit and Chitral.
Border with India (see Advisory)
Tensions between Pakistan and India remain since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks and are susceptible to sudden increase. You could experience difficulties when travelling between the two countries and may risk being scrutinized if officials from either country become aware that you have recently travelled to the other country.
A ceasefire is in effect along the Line of Control with India and at military outposts in the Karakoram Mountains, including the Siachen Glacier.
Exercise caution as the situation remains unpredictable.
The security situation remains fragile and unpredictable. The terrorist threat remains very high. Terrorist attacks have occurred throughout Pakistan, causing many deaths and injuries. Heightened security measures are currently in place throughout the country. Checkpoints may be set up without warning.
Suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, and political assassinations were among the tactics used in these attacks. Some attacks involved detailed planning to maximize casualties by using multiple and consecutive explosions. Extremism, ethnic divisions, sectarian strife, regional political disputes, and the situation in Afghanistan are usually the reasons behind these attacks.
Attacks have taken place in public areas, such as airports, hotels, markets, transportation hubs, Western-style fast food outlets, restaurants and religious sites, including places frequented by foreigners. Use only the very best hotels that have stringent security, including metal detectors; however, no location should be considered free of risks. Avoid mosques and their vicinities at prayer times, especially on Fridays.
Large cities, such as Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, are particularly vulnerable to indiscriminate bombings and other attacks.
Be particularly vigilant in the lead-up to and on days of national significance, such as National Day (March 23), Independence Day (August 14), the Islamic month of Muharram and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Expect heightened security measures and associated disruptions during these periods.
In response to a general threat alert of possible terrorist attacks in Islamabad, security arrangements have been heightened at government installations in the downtown area of Islamabad knows as the "Red Zone" and the Marriott Hotel, Serena Hotel, Holiday Inn, Best Western and Margalla Motel in Islamabad.
The US Embassy in Islamabad issued a security message on October 23, 2012 advising its citizens against conducting official or personal business at the Serena and Marriott Hotels in Islamabad due to ongoing security concerns. Avoid these areas, remain vigilant, keep a low profile, and continue to exercise caution while in Pakistan.
Exercise extreme caution at all times and follow the advice of local authorities. Report any suspicious-looking package or behaviour immediately to the nearest security authorities.
There is a very high risk of foreign nationals being kidnapped throughout Pakistan. Kidnapping for criminal and political purposes is a rising phenomenon. A number of foreigners, including diplomats, journalists and aid workers have been kidnapped in the past. Some foreigners have also been killed. Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times and use varied and unpredictable routes and schedules when moving from one place to another.
Demonstrations and civil unrest
Demonstrations and civil unrest may occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Deaths, injuries and widespread violence have been reported. The current political situation, ethnic and sectarian conflicts, power cuts, and the rising price of commodities are among the current causes of concern.
Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities, monitor local media and minimize time spent in places frequented by foreigners.
Violent crime is a problem, particularly in Karachi. Armed robbery, random shootings and armed carjackings occur, mostly in major urban centres.
Avoid travelling after dusk, particularly in rural areas where road conditions are unsafe. Make arrangements to be met at the airport, especially if arriving after dark.
If travelling by car, keep valuable belongings out of sight, windows closed and doors locked.
Petty crime is common. To reduce the probability of becoming a victim, avoid showing signs of affluence and ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. There are reports that cell phones, credit cards, and passports are currently favourite targets.
Cases of drugged food followed by robbery have been reported. Do not accept food or drinks from strangers, and do not leave food or drinks unattended in commercial establishments. Order only bottled drinks in order to maintain control of the situation.
Extortion and corruption can occur in the business environment. Tribal and criminal groups are usually behind these actions. Report any extortion attempts to Pakistani authorities and officials at the High Commission of Canada in Islamabad.
Cases of Canadians being forced into marital arrangements have been reported. Some are detained in Pakistan against their will and subjected to threats, intimidation and violence by family members. Passports have been retained by family members and some victims have been unable to return to Canada.
Forced marriages are contrary to Canadian law. If you are in Canada and you believe that you are being forced to travel overseas or to marry, contact provincial social welfare authorities and the local police. You may also contact Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre at 613-996-8885. In Pakistan, contact the nearest Canadian government office.
Avoid overland travel into Sindh province unless police are notified well in advance and are able to make the necessary security arrangements. Avoid rural areas of the provinces of Sindh and Punjab due to banditry.
The province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, is notorious for cross-border smuggling.
Travel to Hunza via the Karakoram highway only during daylight hours. Two drivers should be present if travelling by bus. Sections of the road are very narrow with precipitous drops and are sometimes partially obstructed by rock and earth slides.
Trekking and climbing
Use licensed guides and tourist agencies only.
Avoid the disputed areas along the border with India (Karakoram Mountains). The following peaks are considered dangerous: Rimo; Apsarasas I, II and III; Tegam Kangri I, II and III; Suingri Kangri; Ghiant I and II; Indira Col; and Sia Kangri.
Traffic drives on the left. Road conditions are poor. Roads are mostly unpaved outside major urban centres, narrow, crowded, and poorly lit and signed. Many vehicles do not have proper lights for night driving. Accidents are common. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are strongly recommended. If an accident occurs and you feel that your safety is threatened, leave the area and report the accident to the nearest police station.
Do not use public transportation or taxis.
Avoid rail travel as it has been targeted by rioters and terrorists in the past. Rail accidents have occurred as a result of low safety and maintenance standards.
Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
General safety information
Carry copies of your passport and visa at all times.
Ensure that your passport and other travel documents are valid and readily available.
Heightened security measures are currently in place throughout the country. Checkpoints may be set up without warning.
Canadian officials may not be in a position to provide consular assistance to Canadians in some parts of the country due to security concerns or in areas where the Government of Pakistan prohibits entry or requires advance permission for entry.Emergency services.
Dial 15 for emergencies throughout Pakistan.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Pakistani authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Pakistan, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected departure from that country.
Canadians must be in possession of a visa to visit Pakistan.
Work visa: Required
Tourism visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Do not overstay the duration of your visa.
Travellers are charged a cash-only departure fee. Economy passengers can expect to pay up to PKR 1720 and the fee for business passengers will be up to PKR 2720. Passengers may be denied boarding if they are not able to pay the cash-only fee. Canadians are advised to check with the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority for the exact fee amount.
Journalists may have to provide an itinerary to get a visa, which should be strictly followed during the stay.
Additional documentation may be required to visit some regions in Pakistan. Check with the High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Canada for entry requirements for the regions you intend to visit.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized. Canadians travelling to Pakistan on Pakistani passports are advised that a valid Canadian passport will be required for return travel to Canada. Canadian citizenship cards are not accepted as travel documents and there are no exceptions to this rule.
Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Please consult our Children page for more information.
The Agency strongly recommends that you consult with a travel medicine clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure.
The Agency publishes travel health advice for Pakistan.
Medical facilities are good in major cities, but limited in rural areas. Immediate cash payment could be required for any medical service.
Air pollution could become a health concern, especially in winter. Take this into account and consult with your physician prior to departure if you have respiratory problems.
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention FAQ for more information.
An international driving permit is required.
Illegal or restricted activities
Religious proselytizing is not permitted.
The possession and consumption of alcohol is prohibited. Transgressions could be punished by detention or other penalties. Penalties for illegal drug possession, use, or trafficking are severe. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences, heavy fines and deportation.
The death penalty may be imposed for drug trafficking, murder, illegal gathering, blasphemy and rape.
Homosexual activity is illegal, as is living together without being married.
Avoid physical contact, such as holding hands, in public.
Pork products are illegal in Pakistan.
Photographing government buildings, military installations, and airports is prohibited. Ask permission before taking photographs of local residents.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times.
If you were born in Pakistan, or if your father was born in Pakistan, you should confirm your citizenship status with the High Commission of Pakistan in Ottawa as you could be considered a Pakistani citizen while on Pakistani soil.
Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.
Dress and behaviour
The country’s customs, laws and regulations adhere closely to Islamic practices and beliefs. Sharia law has been adopted in the Swat Valley. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.
Shorts are considered inappropriate attire for both men and women, particularly in remote locations. Women should consider carrying a headscarf with them at all times while travelling in Pakistan. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.
The currency is the Pakistani rupee (PKR). The economy mainly operates on a cash-only basis. Credit cards and traveller’s cheques are accepted by a few establishments in larger cities. Currency can be exchanged at all international airports. Automated banking machines are available.
Disasters & Climate
Severe earthquakes can occur in the western and northern regions of the country. Landslides are possible in affected areas, and strong aftershocks may occur up to one week after the initial quake.
The monsoon season extends from July to September and can result in flooding, especially along the Indus River. In July 2010 and August/September 2011, monsoon rains caused significant flooding and landslides in many regions of the country. Property and road infrastructure were significantly damaged and reconstruction efforts are still ongoing in these regions.
Avalanches in the mountains can occur.
Pakistan’s coastline is subject to tropical cyclones, which are usually accompanied by high winds and heavy rain. During any storm, flash floods and mudslides as well as damage to transportation routes and infrastructure may occur. Monitor regional weather forecasts and follow the advice of local authorities.
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