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PAKISTAN - AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against non-essential travel to Pakistan due to the unpredictable security situation and the threat of terrorist attacks..
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development 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.
See Security 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.
From June 8-10, 2014, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan gunmen laid siege to the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, causing deaths and injuries. Although airport operations have resumed, expect disruptions and flight delays.
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. The June 3, 2014 arrest of the MQM political party’s leader, Altaf Hussain, in London, United Kingdom, may also lead to demonstrations and strikes throughout the province of Sindh, particularly in Karachi. 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).
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. Terrorists also target popular trekking sites, such as Nanga Parbat, in Gilgit-Baltistan. 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.
A court in the F8 market area of Islamabad was targeted by a terrorist attack that caused 11 deaths on March 3, 2014. The threat to foreigners in the capital has increased, and security has been reinforced at government installations in the downtown area of Islamabad known as the "Red Zone," at the Marriott, Serena, Holiday Inn, and Best Western Hotels, and at the Margalla Motel. Avoid the Centaurus Mall and the Kohsar market.
Remain vigilant, keep a low profile, and continue to exercise caution while in Pakistan, particularly in areas regularly frequented by westerners.
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 the Emergency Watch and Response Centre. 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.
See Transportation Safety 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. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. 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. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
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.
See Laws & culture for more information.
If you stay in Pakistan for more than four weeks, you must show proof of polio vaccination when leaving the country. See Health for more information on polio.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending a large amount of time outdoors) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Travellers to countries in South Asia should speak to a health care provider about getting vaccinated.
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in South Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Cholera is a bacterial disease that is most often spread by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated. It causes diarrhea and in severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.
Most travellers are at very low risk. Travellers at higher risk include those visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation, or to areas where outbreaks are occurring. Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care provider the benefits of getting vaccinated.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers at high risk visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in South Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that typically causes fever, bleeding under the skin, and pain. Risk is generally low for most travellers. It is spread to humans though contact with infected animal blood or bodily fluids, or from a tick bite. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Southern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
There have been human cases of avian influenza in this country. Avian influenza is a viral infection that can spread quickly and easily among birds and in rare cases, it can infect people.
Avoid high risk areas such as poultry farms and live animal markets including areas where poultry may be slaughtered. Avoid contact with birds (alive or dead) and surfaces that may have bird droppings or secretions on them. Ensure all poultry dishes, including eggs, are well cooked.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
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.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention 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 in Pakistan. If local authorities consider you a Pakistani citizen, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services, thereby preventing Canadian consular officials from providing you with those services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
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.
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.
During the lunar month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim calendar), refrain from drinking, eating, and smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around June 18, 2015.
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.
Natural disasters & climate
Natural 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.
An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale struck the town of Awaran, in the province of Balochistan, southern Pakistan on September 24, 2013, causing fatalities and material damages. Transportation, health and telecommunications services may be affected, and land travel could be disrupted. Monitor local news reports, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.
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.
Islamabad - High Commission of Canada
Karachi - Consulate of Canada
Lahore - Consulate of Canada
For emergency assistance after hours, call the High Commission of Canada in Islamabad and follow the instructions. You may also call the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885.
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