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PAKISTAN - AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL
Global Affairs Canada advises against non-essential travel to Pakistan due to the unpredictable security situation, which includes the threat of terrorist attacks, kidnapping and sectarian violence.
Regional Advisory - Avoid all travel
Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to to the following regions:
- areas reporting military or militant activity;
- all border areas, except the Wagah official border crossing point;
- the Kashmir region, including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan;
- the province of Balochistan and its capital city, Quetta;
- the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, including Swat, the city of Peshawar and the Khyber Pass; and
- the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), including Khyber Agency, North Waziristan and South Waziristan.
See Safety and security for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
The Government of Canada may not be in a position to provide consular assistance to Canadians in parts of the country due to security concerns, in areas where the Government of Pakistan prohibits entry or where advance permission is required for entry. We strongly recommend that Canadians sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service and include personal and professional contact details.
The security situation in Pakistan is fragile and unpredictable. Several terrorist groups are present and operate in Pakistan. Although the Government of Pakistan has increased its counter-terrorism efforts, attacks occur regularly, causing many deaths and injuries. Such incidents are typically attributed to extremism, ethnic divisions, sectarian strife, regional political disputes and the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan. Due to the high risk of attacks, which can vary from day to day, heightened security measures are in effect.
Terrorist attacks range from targeted killings and kidnapping, to armed assaults against heavily guarded facilities, such as Pakistani military installations. Suicide bombings and detonated improvised explosive devices are common occurrences. Some attacks involve detailed planning to maximize casualties through multiple and consecutive explosions.
A December 16, 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar resulted in 141 deaths, including 132 schoolchildren. The attack led the Government of Pakistan to significantly strengthen its counter-terrorism efforts. Pakistani security forces are engaged in operations in the province of Balochistan, the FATA North Waziristan and Khyber agencies and the city of Karachi in Sindh province. On March 27, 2016, an explosion at the Gulshan Iqbal Park in the city of Lahore killed dozens of civilians and injured many more. Avoid the area and follow the instructions of local authorities.
Attackers frequently target Pakistani government institutions, public areas and places frequented by foreigners such as airports, hotels, markets, transportation hubs, schools, Western-style fast food outlets, restaurants, religious sites and popular trekking sites. Large cities such as Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar are particularly vulnerable to indiscriminate attacks, including bombings.
Civil aviation in Pakistan, including aircraft and facilities, has been the target of bombings and other attacks. Verify flight and airport operation details before travelling, and remain aware of the security situation on routes to and from airports.
There is an increased risk of attack during religious holidays and days of national significance, such as National Day (March 23), Independence Day (August 14), the Islamic month of Muharram (particularly on the day of Ashura) and the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Expect heightened security measures and associated disruptions during these periods.
Only stay in hotels that have stringent security measures in place, including metal detectors; however, no location should be considered free of risks. Avoid mosques and their vicinities at prayer times, especially on Fridays. Remain vigilant, keep a low profile and exercise caution, particularly in areas regularly frequented by foreigners.
Report any suspicious-looking package or behaviour immediately to the nearest authorities.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (see Advisory)
The security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Province and FATA in northwestern Pakistan is unstable. Swat, North Waziristan, South Waziristan, and the Khyber Agency are particularly volatile. While the Government of Pakistan’s security operations in FATA have improved security in both FATA and KPK, they have also resulted in a number of civilian casualties. Bombings, shootings and mass demonstrations occur regularly, resulting in deaths and injuries. Lawlessness is also a serious concern in several areas. Curfews are periodically imposed.
Border areas (see Advisory)
Tensions between Pakistan and India are susceptible to sudden increase. You could experience difficulties when travelling between the two countries and may be subject to scrutiny if officials from either country become aware that you have recently travelled to the other.
The security situation along the Line of Control (LoC), which separates India-controlled Kashmir in the south from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir in the north, and along the working boundary that continues south toward Sialkot, remains volatile. Since September 2016, cross-border gunfire and shelling have been occurring sporadically along the LoC.
Although the Wagah border crossing linking Lahore, Pakistan, to Amritsar, India, is regularly used by international travellers, it remains vulnerable to attack. Security measures were increased after suicide bomb attacks in November 2014, so visitors may experience long delays.
Border areas with Afghanistan, China and Iran often experience terrorist activity, smuggling and violence. With the exception of official border crossings, foreigners are prohibited from travelling in Gilgit-Baltistan within 50 kilometres of the border with Afghanistan.
The security situation in the province of Balochistan remains unstable, due to a long-standing nationalist insurgency and government counter-insurgency operations. Balochistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, is also a known route for smugglers.
Karachi continues to experience extremely high levels of violence, mainly due to organized crime, the political situation and government security operations. Extremist groups such as the Taliban are present in some parts of the city. Violence is common in the districts of Baldia, Gulberg, Korangi, Jamshed, Landhi, Liaquatabad, Liyari, Orangi, Saddar, Shah Faisal Colony and SITE, and could spread to other areas. Strikes and protest marches may be organized in response to violent incidents and tend to take place in central areas of Karachi. These events may cause travel disruptions throughout the city and cause additional violence.
Security in Islamabad improved in 2015, when there were few terror attacks. However, the risk to foreigners in Islamabad remains high. There are extensive security measures in place at government installations in the downtown area of Islamabad known as the Red Zone, at the Best Western, Holiday Inn, Marriott and Serena hotels and at the Margalla Motel. Be particularly cautious in or around the Centaurus and Safa Gold malls; remain aware of your surroundings and do not loiter when visiting Kohsar Market. Avoid the Lal Masjid Mosque (also known as the Red Mosque) at all times.
There is a very high risk to foreigners of being kidnapped throughout Pakistan. Kidnapping for ransom or political purposes is a rising phenomenon and has targeted foreigners, including diplomats, journalists and aid workers, some of whom have been killed as a result of kidnapping. Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times and use varied and unpredictable routes and schedules when moving from one place to another.
“Express kidnappings,” 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, occasionally occur in Pakistan, most particularly in Karachi.
Demonstrations and civil unrest
Demonstrations and civil unrest occur periodically throughout the country and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Deaths, injuries and widespread violence have occurred at such events. The political situation, ethnic and sectarian conflicts, power cuts and the rising price of commodities are the primary contributors to unrest.
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 commonplace, particularly in Karachi. Armed robbery, random shootings and armed carjackings occur, mostly in major urban centres. Banditry is common in rural areas of Sindh and Punjab.
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 also common. Avoid showing signs of affluence and ensure that your personal belongings, passports other travel documents are secure at all times. Cell phones, credit cards and passports are favourite targets.
Spiked food and drinks
Never leave your food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as the items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Bottled drinks can reduce the risk of spiking, however, some bottled water in Pakistan may be contaminated. The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources produces regular reports listing safe and unsafe bottled water brand names.
Some Canadians have been forced into marital arrangements in Pakistan and have been detained against their will and subjected to threats, intimidation and violence by family members. Family members may retain passports to prevent victims from returning to Canada. Keep digital or physical copies of your travel documents in a safe place.
If you are in Canada and you believe that you are being forced to travel overseas or to marry, you should call the police for assistance. If you are in Pakistan and you believe that you are being forced to marry, contact the High Commission of Canada to Pakistan in Islamabad. You may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
Canadian women may consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide.
Avoid overland travel into Sindh province unless police are notified well in advance and are able to make security arrangements.
Business deals can involve extortion and corruption, mainly at the hands of tribal and criminal groups. All business disputes, including those involving criminality, are subject to Pakistani legal proceedings. The High Commission of Canada cannot intervene on a Canadian’s behalf in a private legal matter.
Trekking and climbing
No trekking is allowed in the closed zones located near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and near the LoC between Pakistan- and India-administered Kashmir. Only experienced trekkers should go to the northern mountains of the Himalayas, Hindukush or Karakoram. Because of their great height, the Karakoram Mountains experience heavy glaciation, particularly on the southern, more humid slopes. The extensive presence of glaciers has led to the range being referred to as the Third Pole.
The Pakistan Tourism Development Cooperation provides current trekking and mountaineering information. Only use licensed guides and tourist agencies.
If you intend on engaging in trekking activities:
- never practice these activities alone;
- always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company;
- buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation from remote areas. Confirm that the air ambulance firm contracted has a local agent in Pakistan who can ensure that local rescue teams provide the required emergency services;
- ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity;
- ensure that you are properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard;
- advise a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back to camp;
- know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal;
- sign up for the Registration of Canadians Abroad service; and
- obtain detailed information on trekking routes or ski slopes before setting out and do not venture off marked trails or slopes.
In case of air evacuation, advance payment of the total evacuation cost is required from the insurance company before rescue teams will perform rescue operations. The Government of Canada is unable to intervene or provide (or pay for) rescue services.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
Vehicles drive on the left. Road conditions are poor. In urban areas, roads are narrow, crowded and poorly lit, with limited signage. Outside major urban centres, roads are mostly unpaved. 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. Checkpoints may be set up without warning.
Travel to Hunza via the Karakoram highway only during daylight hours. Sections of the road are very narrow with precipitous drops and are sometimes partially obstructed by rock and earth slides. If travelling long distance by bus, use bus lines that provide two drivers.
Do not use public transportation or taxis.
You should also avoid travelling by train, as there are frequent rail accidents due to low safety and maintenance standards. Railways are also targets for riots and terrorist attacks.
General safety information
Carry copies of your passport and visa at all times, while ensuring that the originals are valid and readily accessible.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the Pakistani authorities and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. 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.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
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. The status or nature of the visa cannot be changed while in Pakistan.
Travellers are charged a departure fee, payable only in cash; travellers unable to pay may be denied boarding. Check with the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority or their travel agent to determine the exact fee amount.
Journalists may have to provide an itinerary to get a visa; the itinerary 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.
If you remain in Pakistan for more than four weeks, you must show proof of polio vaccination, within the last 12 months, 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.
WHO temporary recommendations state that long term travellers:
- Receive an additional dose of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) between 4 weeks and 12 months prior to international travel.
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. In rare cases, it can infect people.
- avoid high risk areas such as poultry farms and live animal markets
- avoid areas where poultry may be slaughtered
- avoid contact with birds (alive or dead)
- avoid 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
Basic non-emergency medical care is available in major Pakistani cities but is limited in rural areas. Facilities in the cities vary in quality and range of services, resources and sanitation. Most medical facilities require prepayment in cash.
Emergency services are virtually non-existent in most of Pakistan. Emergency and ambulance services are very limited, lack medical equipment and are not necessarily staffed by medical personnel.
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 and 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. Transgressors may 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 more than two dozen criminal offences, including drug trafficking, murder, illegal gathering, blasphemy and rape. A moratorium on executions was suspended in late 2014; over 300 convicts were executed in 2015. Executions in Pakistan occur by hanging.
The laws of Pakistan prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. Convicted offenders can face up to life imprisonment. LGBT travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Pakistan. See Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travel for more information.
Couples should avoid physical contact, such as holding hands, in public. It is illegal for heterosexual couples to live together without being married.
Pork products are illegal in Pakistan.
Photographing government buildings, military installations and airports is prohibited.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Pakistan. However, Canadian officials may be limited in their ability to provide you with consular services if local authorities consider you a Pakistani citizen. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present a Pakistani passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). 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.
Ask permission before taking photographs of local residents.
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. In 2017, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around May 27.
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 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 and 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. 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.
Avalanches occasionally occur in the mountains.
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.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 15
- medical assistance: 115 / 1122
- firefighters: 16
Islamabad - High Commission of Canada
Karachi - Consulate of Canada
Lahore - Consulate of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the High Commission of Canada in Islamabad and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are 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 to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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