My complete guide to motorcycle travel in Pakistan, gathered through years of independent bike travels (and fails) and running my own motorcycle tours of Pakistan.
Traveling in Pakistan is always an adventure—sometimes expected, sometimes not—but if you really want to up the ante, there’s no better way to travel Pakistan than by motorcycle. In this girl’s humble opinion, anyway.
See, Pakistan runs on motorcycles. From puttering 70cc Hondas to zippy Yamaha 125s to dependable Suzuki 150s, small motorcycles are the transport of choice for the vast majority of Pakistanis. Locally referred to as “bikes”, they’re cheap to fuel, small enough to maneuver through the most congested traffic, and easy to fix should something go awry.
If you want to travel Pakistan like a local, get yourself a bike, strap your luggage down, and hit the road. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Motorcycle travel in Pakistan: index
- The easiest way to travel Pakistan by motorcycle
- Should I rent or buy a motorcycle in Pakistan?
- The best motorcycle for traveling Pakistan
- How much does a motorcycle cost in Pakistan?
- Where to rent motorcycles in Pakistan
- Do I need a license to ride a motorcycle in Pakistan?
- Is it safe to ride motorcycles in Pakistan?
- Motorcycle travel in Pakistan as a woman
- Planning motorcycle tour routes
- Motorcycle mechanics in Pakistan
- Motorcycle gear in Pakistan
- Tips for motorcycle travel in Pakistan
- Emergency numbers in Pakistan
The easiest solution for motorcycle travel in Pakistan: tours
Want to drop in, get on your bike, and hit the road with no hassle? Motorcycle tours of Pakistan are the easiest solution. Bike, gear, accommodation, guide, the works… it’s all included in the tour cost.
I run two-week motorcycle tours of Pakistan, both public and for private groups. My local tour partner, Coyote Trail, can also arrange motorcycles and bike trips for you. Get in touch if you want to know more!
Should I rent or buy a motorcycle in Pakistan?
Everyone knows that renting is the easiest option while traveling, but buying a motorcycle in Pakistan could be cheaper than renting in the long term… right?
Sort of. Though buying a motorcycle is often cheaper if you plan on traveling for at least 3-4 weeks, the hassle of buying and selling the bike might make the whole process more expensive than you bargained for. It’s not easy for foreign travelers to register motorcycles to their name; most people have a Pakistani friend buy the motorcycle in their name, then borrow the bike from them. Selling the bike at the end of your trip can also be a bit of a hassle, as you’ll need to fix things up, then deal with lots of random men calling you in Urdu and not showing up for viewings as planned.
In short: renting is the easiest way to go, but buying makes sense if you’re traveling on planning for weeks to months at a time and have a local friend who can help you with buying and selling a bike.
Motorcycle travel in Pakistan: which bike is best?
When traveling in Pakistan by motorcycle, there are a few things you have to keep in mind when choosing your bike:
- Looks: Bigger bikes get you more attention, both positive and negative. They’re more likely to be stolen, and people will often come and fiddle with your bike when you’re not looking if it looks particularly nice.
- Size: Smaller is better, especially when navigating rush hour in any Pakistani city.
- Ease of repair: Bike mechanics are everywhere in Pakistan, but most are only experienced with fixing smaller Japanese bikes. Big bike mechanics are only found in the big cities.
- Reliability: Chinese bikes are flooding the market, but finding spares for them can be tough and they’re not known to be reliable in the long term.
If you’re picking up your bike in Pakistan—as opposed to riding in or shipping your bike from elsewhere—I recommend going with a local 150cc bike from a Japanese brand.
I personally own, use, and recommend the Suzuki GS 150 line. My little Suzuki has been eeeeverywhere in Pakistan, from the roughest of offroads in the northern mountains to river crossings in the heart of Punjab. Small as it is, it’s never failed to make it to whatever crazy destination I throw at it. Can’t recommend it enough—that’s why I use it on my motorcycle tours, too.
Motorcycle rental costs in Pakistan
Naturally, costs vary by bike, renter/dealer, and the current rupee/dollar exchange rate. Small 70cc bikes can be quite cheap, but will give you hell if you’re trying to ride up mountains in Gilgit-Baltistan. Larger enduro or dual sport bikes are rare and incredibly costly to import to Pakistan—rental costs reflect that. Here are some approximate daily costs of motorcycle rental in Pakistan:
- Honda CG 125: 3000 PKR
- Suzuki GS 150: 5000 PKR
- Yamaha TTR 250: 15000 PKR
- Kawasaki KLX 250: 20000 PKR
Where to rent or buy motorcycles in Pakistan
Motorcycle rental in Pakistan
Bike rental companies are few and far between, mostly because it’s complicated to get replacement parts and tourists are notorious for destroying the bikes before bringing them back. However, a handful of companies exist.
Where to buy a used motorcycle in Pakistan
There are plenty of bazaars where you can buy used motorcycles in Pakistan, but the easiest way to find used bikes for sale is to check PakWheels.com for used bike listings.
Do I need a license to ride a motorcycle in Pakistan as a foreigner?
If you’re a foreigner riding a motorcycle in Pakistan, you’re not likely to be asked for your license unless you’re pulled over for speeding… and even then, local police don’t know the difference between a foreign bike license and foreign car license. In all my years of riding in Pakistan, I’ve only been asked for my license once. And yes, it was at a speed trap.
The only documents you’ll likely be asked for are your passport and the registration papers of the bike (if the police is mad enough at you to demand them – usually they just ask for a passport).
Some bike rental companies might ask for a general driver’s license to rent bikes, or a motorcycle-specific license for larger bikes. But otherwise… as long as you have some idea of how to drive, you’re free to ride.
Is motorcycle travel in Pakistan safe?
Let’s be real: riding motorcycles anywhere in the world isn’t particularly safe. However, to be fair, Pakistan is a relatively challenging country to ride in. Metropolitan roads are congested, drivers are not particularly bothered with road rules (understandable when many never officially learned to drive), and road conditions can be poor in villages and mountainous areas.
If you’re a novice rider, definitely take a few days driving around in calm parts of the cities before heading out on a longer trip. If you’re more experienced, by all means, head out on your merry way. Just keep in mind that Pakistan has its own unofficial system of road etiquette; you can’t expect people to abide by the same rules that they do at home.
What to expect from motorcycle travel in Pakistan as a woman
The harsh truth is that, though there are a handful of women biking in Pakistan, motorcycles are a definitively male pastime in Pakistan.
That’s not to say motorcycle travel in Pakistan is impossible for women—I’m proof, don’t ya know?
Attention will be your biggest daily obstacle. If setting out on bike as a woman, be prepared for stares. Lots of them. Some of them are friendly, some judgemental (especially for brown female travelers), and some outright confused. I am regularly asked if I am a man or woman when out on bike; some people don’t believe my answer even after I remove my helmet.
If you want to minimize attention, I recommend wearing protective gear or baggier Western clothes; people will assume you’re a man and not give you a second look.
Otherwise, though you’ll be viewed as an anomaly, there’s no real safety difference between normal female travel in Pakistan and motorcycle travel in Pakistan. Take the same safety precautions as you would if on foot.
Planning motorcycle travel in Pakistan
When planning your motorcycle tour itinerary in Pakistan, there are a few things to keep in mind to avoid frustrations and misunderstandings:
Motorcycles are not allowed on motorways in Pakistan
Unfortunately motorcycles, even large ones, are not allowed on motorways in Pakistan. It’s a measure authorities take to try to limit accidents and breakdowns on the motorways… much to the frustration of riders everywhere. Alas, what to do? When planning your route, try selecting “Avoid highways and motorways” or something similar in your route planning app.
Not all routes are open year-round
Some passes in the mountains are closed due to snow for several months each year—plan your route or timing accordingly. The most notable passes are Babusar Pass between Naran and Chilas and the Shandur Pass connecting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. Babusar closes a bit earlier and opens a bit later, but you can generally expect both to be closed from November to April or so.
Motorcycles are not allowed to drive in Lowari Tunnel
If you’re heading to anywhere near Chitral, know that you’ll be asked to put your motorcycle on a pickup truck (sigh) to cross the 8km+ Lowari Tunnel. Again, it’s a decision made to reduce the risk of accidents in the tunnel. You miiight be able to talk your way around the rule if you’re polite and on a big enough bike… but don’t count on it.
Google Maps’ motorcycle mode is to be used with caution
In Pakistan, Google Maps offers a bike mode when giving directions. In the cities, feel free to use it as much as you want. But when riding around in more remote areas… beware. I’ve had many a rough offroad experience due to Google Maps thinking steep footpaths on the side of cliffs are valid bike routes. Use with discretion and/or a sense of adventure.
Motorcycle repairs and mechanics in Pakistan
My first memory of a visit to a village bike mechanic in Pakistan involved five men, one large sledgehammer, and a destroyed wheel bearing.
Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Though bike mechanics are a dime a dozen in Pakistan, not all mechanics are made equal. Most mechanics are only familiar with fixing the little red Hondas you see all over the country. Many will claim they know what they’re doing, destroy your bike, then charge you too much for the repair because you’re foreign and don’t know any better.
(The one exception: puncture repair. There are tire shops at many of the larger petrol pumps where you can fix a flat in no time.)
Especially if riding a larger and more expensive bike, see if you can find a brand-verified mechanic in the big cities before trying out other workshops. Regardless of which bike you’re on, if you have the luxury of choice when something goes wrong, try to get recommendations from local bikers before choosing your mechanic.
Some reputable mechanics I’ve used in the past:
Motorcycle mechanics in Islamabad and Rawalpindi
- Bismillah Autos (Islamabad) – For smaller bikes – Google Maps
- Shaheen Autos (Rawalpindi) – Suzuki parts and repairs – Google Maps
- Ustad Bashir (Rawalpindi) – Large bike repairs – Google Maps – Whatsapp +923335139455
Motorcycle mechanic in Lahore
- Ehsan Auto – Google Maps
Motorcycle mechanic in Gilgit
- Nafees Autos – Larger and smaller bikes – Google Maps
Motorcycle gear in Pakistan
Pakistan won’t amaze anyone with its gear offerings, but if you’re in need of something slightly more protective than the dubious antique styrofoam helmets favored by delivery drivers, you have a few options.
You can expect to find reasonably priced protective gear (helmets, gloves, body armor, etc.) as well as basic bike accessories in any of the major cities. Rawalpindi is particularly known for its motorcycle culture, and there you can find all the unnecessary bling you could ever ask for for your bike, too. Rainbow-wrapped exhausts, anyone?
If you’re looking to buy some protective gear in the cities, I’ve purchased gear from…
- Rawalpindi: Throttle Inspiration – A woman-owned (!!!) bike shop in Bahria Town with quality internationally-approved gear.
- Lahore: Vohra Autos – A small, subterranean bike gear shop with helpful staff in Gulberg
Tips for motorcycle travel in Pakistan
I’m almost done, I swear! If you’ve made it this far, good on ya. Here are a few more tips to keep you happy and safe while traveling by bike in Pakistan:
- Drive on the left! Pakistan follows the British driving system.
- Use your horn to let people know you’re there. Many people won’t pay attention to you until you do.
- Drive defensively. Bikers are the lowest of the low on the driving food chain in Pakistan.
- Use the leftmost lane at toll plazas. Bikers don’t have to pay road tolls, so ride on through.
- Look for bike-specific pumps at petrol stations. They’re usually in the back, staff will point you in the right direction.
- Watch out for bad petrol. If a petrol station looks defeated, its petrol probably is, too. Where possible, stick to busy, reputable petrol brands like government-run PSO, Shell, Attock, and Go.
Emergency numbers for motorcycle travel in Pakistan
Get a local SIM card, and save these numbers to your phone if you’re planning on motorcycle travel in Pakistan. Hopefully you’ll never need to use them, but you never know when you might need them in a pinch.
- 1122 – Emergency
- 130 – National Highway/Motorway assistance
- 15 – Police
More resources for travel in Pakistan
Looking for more blog posts about travel in Pakistan, by motorcycle or otherwise? I have a zillion and one in my Pakistan archives, but these are some of the most popular:
- My complete guide to travel in Pakistan
- Is Pakistan safe for travel?
- Guide to female travel in Pakistan
- Pakistan visas and overstays
- Homestays in Pakistan
- Women-only tours of Pakistan