Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan?

Interested in visiting Pakistan, but concerned because you’re a woman? You’re not the only one. Plenty of women have asked me “is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan?” Here’s the answer I give, after several months of backpacking in Pakistan as a female.

 

“Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan?”

As one of the few women who traveled to Pakistan and blogged about it, I get this question all. the. time. There aren’t many people traveling to Pakistan in general, and most of those who do are men. Not the best source for female travel information!

Pakistan is brilliant, and more travelin’ ladies should visit… but I want to err on the side of caution with my encouragement. Pakistan is not an easy country to travel in, and in truth, I don’t recommend travel in Pakistan to all girls just yet.

 

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Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? - Female travel in Deosai, Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

Being girly (for once) in Deosai, Pakistan.

Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? Here’s the short answer.

  • Is Pakistan safe to travel in? Yes, I believe so.
  • Is Pakistan safe if I’m a woman traveling with a man? For sure. Don’t even bother reading this—go pick something from my Pakistan archives instead.
  • Is Pakistan safe to travel in as a solo female or group of girls? Yes, I believe so… if you take the proper precautions, just like any other country.
  • Is Pakistan safe for me to travel in? … maybe.

 

Is it safe for women to travel to Pakistan? - Holding a Kalashnikov on the border crossing from Iran to Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

Traveling overland from Iran to Pakistan was not your typical backpacking border crossing…

FYI: traveling to Pakistan is not like traveling to Paris or Bali

It seems a bit of an obvious statement, but I do get messages from girls who haven’t yet grasped this concept. But it’s okay, I get where you’re coming from.

Solo female travel is “in” right now. Girls have been traveling by themselves all over the world for decades, but these days every other travel blog and #wanderlust Instagram account is singing the praises of solo female travel. It’s cool… but it can be misleading.

Most of the girls promoting solo female travel are traveling to places filled with other travelers, such as Southeast Asia or South America. They gush about how you’ll never be alone if you don’t want to, how you can always buddy up with other travelers when necessary. The countries they visit have plenty of tourist infrastructure. Oft-visited Western Europe is at the forefront of gender equality, and the streets are relatively safe regardless of what’s between your legs or in your heart.

Pakistan is none of those things. Sorry, girls, but Pakistan is not the next step after your month of backpacking in Bali.

 

Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? - Female traveling to Saif al Muluk lake in northern Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

Basking in the glory of Saif al Muluk lake

Here are the downsides of traveling as a woman in Pakistan

  1. There are few travelers in Pakistan. You cannot count on pairing up with a fellow traveler if things get uncomfortable, or if you want to share the costs of an outing.
  2. There’s not much infrastructure for foreign tourists, unless you count the occasional security escort in “dangerous” areas. There’s a lack of information, even with blogs like this out there, and getting from A to B isn’t always as easy as it seems.
  3. Pakistan is patriarchal as fuck. Many are not yet accustomed to women going out and doing things by themselves. Shitty, but that’s the reality. The chance that a man is going to touch you or say unwanted things to you is high, unfortunately.
  4. Outside of major cities such as Lahore or Islamabad, there are plenty of places where you won’t find many women on the streets, especially at night.
  5. In some places, such as towns and villages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, you’ll be the only mature woman not wearing a burqa or chador, and the goings on of men and women are quite segregated.

 

Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? - Female travel to Karachi, Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

Keepin’ it classy at Mohatta Palace in Karachi

So get to the point. Should I travel to Pakistan if I’m a [solo] female?

Let’s do a little test, shall we? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have you traveled independently before?
  2. Have you traveled to particularly patriarchal countries before? Common examples would be India, Egypt, and Iran.
  3. If traveling solo, have you traveled solo before in “difficult” locations? (Meaning, not Southeast Asia or Europe.)
  4. Do you trust your traveler’s instinct to know when a situation or person is suspicious, dangerous, or trying to get into your pants?
  5. Will you be okay if you’re the only girl around for potentially days on end?
  6. Are you ready to put in effort to figure out where to stay or how to get places ahead of time?
  7. Are you okay with potentially having a male police escort with you for hours on end?
  8. Do you generally understand what’s involved in traveling as a solo girl or a group of girls? Ex. be extra cautious at night, tell trusted people where you’re going, etc.?
  9. Are you able to take a massive disparity between the freedom of men and women’s lives in stride? Or will it upset you?
  10. Can you “handle” someone groping you or verbally assaulting you? Or will it ruin your entire trip?

If your answer is yes to most of the questions, then sure, you go for it girl! Move on to the next section.

Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? - Only men around in Fairy Meadows, Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

A typical day in Pakistan: many dudes, only one girl

If your answer is no to most of them, I strongly urge you to consider testing the waters in other destinations.

If you want epic nature, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are close by and cheap. If it’s culture you’re interested in, there are plenty of overlaps in culture between Pakistan and its more touristic neighbor, India.

 

Is it safe for women to travel to Pakistan? It's a common question, but the answer is more nuanced than you'd expect. Click through to learn if it's safe for females to travel in Pakistan.

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The actual problem with female travel in Pakistan

So you’ve decided you’ll go? Excellent — now we can get to the planning part!

The good news: Pakistan and its people are absolutely brilliant. Most of the people you’ll meet will be genuinely kind, friendly, and interested in helping you along your merry way.

Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? - Super friendly male park rangers in Deosai, Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

Instead of being creepy, these park rangers in Deosai taught me how to make parathas!

The bad news: there are also men skulking about that might seem hospitable, but actually just want to get a grab at your bum or check out your boobs… like in every country. (Sigh.)

Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? - Creepy man in Thatta, Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

This mosque’s caretaker seemed friendly enough, only asking for photos… until he groped me, that is.

Normally that’s not the biggest issue, but in Pakistan it can pose a tricky problem. Because people are so hospitable, they’ll be inviting you for all sorts of things, ranging from a cup of tea to a dinner to a night—or three—in their home! If you were a man, accepting these would be no issue, but as a girl you must be more discerning in what you accept.

Many would say accepting such invitations as a female is improper, or is an invitation for men to do whatever they want to you. Luckily, there are plenty of people not living in the Stone Age, but know that some may interpret your acceptance as such, and act accordingly.

Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? - Friendly man in Skardu, Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

This mango smoothie master in Skardu was incredibly friendly. His son? A serial boob-brusher.

It’s up to you to decide if an invitation is genuine or not, which is why it’s important to have a well-honed traveler’s instinct before traveling to Pakistan as a female. If you’re not sure, better to politely decline. It may be a missed opportunity, but better safe than sorry.

 

Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? - Corn eyes in Lahore, Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

Pakistan is gold, as long as you take the necessary precautions.

Resources for meeting people in Pakistan

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should forego Pakistani hospitality in favor of playing it safe! If you plan ahead a bit, you’ll be able to meet plenty of awesomesauce Pakistanis, and won’t have to worry about whether or not people are legitimate.

Following are some resources you can use to find people to meet up with or be hosted by:

  • Couchsurfing: The holy grail of meeting awesome people abroad, you probably know this one already. Still, it doesn’t hurt to mention it! There are plenty of people on Couchsurfing in major cities, just be sure to vet them well before asking to meet up. Only stay with people that have recommendations from foreign travelers, ideally female. Be cautious about posting public trips—it’s best that people don’t know exactly where you’ll be on any given date.
  • Backpacking Pakistan: A super helpful Facebook group aimed at encouraging foreign travelers to coordinate with each other. Specifically geared towards helping girls find travel companions and clearing up confusion about foreign travel in Pakistan. Includes both foreign and local travelers.
  • The Karakoram Club: The go-to place for anything and everything about travel in Northern Pakistan. There are almost too many helpful people in the group, and any questions you post in there will be flooded with answers and offers for help. Be wary of false information, and don’t accept any friend requests from dudes who didn’t help you. If group members are being creepy to you, alert the admins. They have a strict no harassment policy, and will be quick to curse him to the depths of hell enforce the policy.

 

Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan? - Fairy Meadows sunset - Lost With Purpose

Basking in the glory of towering Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world

Resources for planning travel in Pakistan

From here on out, it’s all about planning your trip! Here are some things you might find useful:

 

For now, happy planning, and safe travels! Feel free to comment or contact me if you have any more questions.

 

Is it safe for women to travel to Pakistan? It's a common question, but the answer is more nuanced than you'd expect. Click through to learn if it's safe for females to travel in Pakistan.

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Want to know more about Pakistan? Don’t miss this popular post: 5 serious dangers of traveling in Pakistan.

Alex

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

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33 thoughts on “Is it safe for women to travel in Pakistan?

    I would even go further as to say that it’s a good idea not to be too public about your travels plans if you’re a man in Pakistan. Pakistan is safe enough country, but there’s no need to become more of a travelling celebrity than any foreigner already is!!

    Agreed. We were always a bit vague about where we were and where we were going. You never know who might be reading.

    Very informative post, thank you for that!
    What do you think of a gay (two people perceived as female) couple travelling in Pakistan or Iran?
    Me and my fiancé would love to go there but we’re scared. We know that it wouldn’t be easy and that we should probably just show ourselves to other people as two friends travelling together. But it’s still scary. It’s difficult to hide all the love you have for yourselves and stop doing even simple gestures like putting one’s hand on another and we’re scared of what would happen.
    What do you think about this issue? You probably had no experience with it but hey, it’s never bad to ask!

    Though you’re right, we don’t have firsthand experience, we think it’s certainly possible.

    Small gestures subtly done might go unnoticed, or be disregarded. I don’t know where you’re from, but in these countries, people are much more forward and touchy with each other than you or I might be used to. Boys hold hands, girls hold hands, but boys and girls don’t hold hands in public (go figure). What, to you, might seem like gesture of affection for your partner might come off as a friendly gesture to locals. You might actually have more freedom than a hetero couple traveling around in the countries, as PDAs between a boy and a girl are a most definite no-no.

    Of course, you shouldn’t go around advertising the fact that you’re a gay couple. If you just say you’re friends, and keep the displays of affection behind closed doors, there’s no reason for any concern. It’s frustrating that it’s necessary, but I don’t think there’s a need to be scared, especially since you’re foreign visitors, not citizens.

    Bina Kamran Khalfay says:

    Hi there. As a Pakistani I suggest keeping the fact you’re a couple on the down-low when traveling in Pakistan. Just say you’re friends. Also ‘platonic’ type of PDA, something you could do with your mom, kid, sibling is ok. Like holding hands, hugging. As long as it’s nothing sexual. Even for a hetero couple, kissing etc is considered indecent, and may get them into trouble. In Pakistan, intimacy is meant to be, well, very intimate – something not to be advertised to the world. Even my parents don’t show affection in front of us & it’s just how the culture is. We’re just not very touchy-feely that way.

    Khan Hamza says:

    Your blog is too much informative but i would like to add few points…
    1. In big cities like lahore, islamabad, karachi etc you can easily go around in day time. If you want to visit local market better to dress up like locals. During night time its better not walk alone. Dont take local taxi, prefer to have a taxi from registered cab services. Most hotels provide cab services that are totally safe.
    2. In northern areas if you are traveling alone, better to book some good hotel, do contact the tourism department as they can guide you fully about which places to visit and which to not and also they can help you if you get any problem.
    3. Local people are very co operative, very hospitile, and very friendly.
    4. There are many facebook groups and pages for booking a local trip. Mostly which are registered with govt and are safe.

    Bina Kamran Khalfay says:

    Hi Alex. Great practical advice.
    I have another suggestion for people thinking of traveling to Pakistan but a bit afraid to go alone. If you know any Pakistani, they will gladly hook you up with a place to stay at a family member’s home and give you some contacts to call, just in case you are stranded or run into trouble.
    When I lived in Islamabad, we had people coming and staying with us from Lahore and Karachi all the time. Either for visa interviews, or as part of a trip to the Northern Areas, things like that. It’s just a normal thing. Having guests. For example, My grandmother in Karachi would call and say, I have a friend whose daughter has a visa interview at the US embassy in Islamabad. She needs a place stay. And so she came & stayed with us. This is very common practice. We had people coming and staying with us we didn’t know and hadn’t met, but because they were friends or relatives of someone we knew we treated them like our so.
    It is is however good manners to take a gift/token for the household you will be staying with, so you don’t look like you’re a freeloader and also as a token of appreciation for their hospitality. It could be chocolates for the kids or a fruit basket. Anything.
    So if you know any Pakistani colleague or friend etc, they can organise a place for you to stay, at a relative’s/family friend’s. Just ask.

    Thanks a lot for your comment. I’m sure our readers are happy with your input and the info you provide. Cheers!

    Hey Alex, its so great to see people from outside Pakistan coming and exploring our country. Hey I would love it if you look into my article which I just wrote. Hope you could relate you journey with it.

    Lots of Love

    Sebastiaan says:

    Hiya, thanks for reaching out. I’ve deleted the link, as you already mentioned it in another comment. Don’t want our comment section to become too spammy. Sure you understand. Cheers!

    Female Dutchie says:

    Hi Alex (and Sebastiaan),

    The information you are providing has been exactly what I have been looking for (and more)! And not to forget those beautiful pics… Planning to go to Pakistan in the coming year but wasn’t getting too happy with the information I was getting on the internet (as so many I guess..). In desperate need of some positivity and I found it here. Well, I will be sending a link of this page to anyone who has doubts about me (female Dutchie +husband) going to this beautiful country.

    Thank you so so much, stay safe and enjoy the beauty of the world!

    Sebastiaan says:

    So glad it’s useful. When we told people we were going to Pakistan, people told us we were crazy. Our parents even offered to pay for a flight to India, so we could skip Pakistan. Not listening to them was one of the best travel decisions we’ve made to date.

    We’re sure you’ll have an awesome time. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. And when do you plan on going?

    Mill says:

    Hello!
    Thanks for all the awesome travel articles! So what cities did your visa say? I have heard if you are sponsored by a local pakistani with full attested documents, you can only go to that city. Did you find this to be true?
    Thanks!

    Sebastiaan says:

    Hi there, glad you like our content. As far as we know, that only applies to Indian citizens. Our visas don’t say anything about travel restrictions.

    Jaysun says:

    This is a great article for anyone travelling to a place like Pakistan, whether male or female. I arrived on this page while researching recent travellers experiences, as my first ever trip abroad was to Pakistan (for three months – as a solo traveller in the 1990s!) and I’m hoping to return there next year. It seems like little has changed. For the most part people can expect hospitality unparallelled with any other nation (I say this wil many many travels under my belt to the lower Asian nations. There will always be a curiosity amongst the locals, as they see so few foreigners. One of the biggest ice breakers for me was that I wore the local dress from the very beginning and grew my beard, and tried to learn some words in the language of the areas I was in (note- languages in PK vary between regions). And unbelievably, it was impossible to pay for anything most of the time, as the hosts I always found myself with refused to take a single dime, or a grain of rice. Truly touching experiences are to be had in Pakistan, and I applaud anyone who is reading this and has made the decision to visit for their first time.

    Abdullah says:

    Hallo Alex
    Your article tells it all

    The pictures are super amazing

    My one thought is, i think tourism in pakistan was at pretty low for last almost 10 to 15 yrs. So hopefully if people start coming, this I think can also increase awareness. Although it does not change the patriarchial approach, But i think it can improve !.

    And anyone who plans to come, can always contact me for any kind of support !

    Alex says:

    Thank you Abdullah, for both the compliments and the offers for assistance!

    Yes, I think with time, people will grow more accustomed to female travelers exploring the country, and inshallah girls will have less troubles here in the future. Luckily, despite the bad eggs in the bunch, most men are more helpful than creepy 😉

    Sandra Fraser says:

    Hello Lost with a Purpose,

    I just wanted to say you two have a lovely blog, and I especially appreciated this post about Pakistan. I love female solo travel, and this gave me a great insight to the country. Thank you so much for the helpful information, beautiful pictures and a taste of the culture.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks a lot, that’s great to hear!

    Katerina says:

    Thanks for this post! I’m thinking of going to Pakistan this summer for a friend’s wedding in Lahore–I’d be spending a good portion of my time in the city, but I definitely would want to venture out of the city to see nature. There is a possibility of pairing up with a fellow wedding attendee, but chances are that I’d have to travel alone outside of the wedding events.

    I’m a woman with solo travel experience, but mainly to Europe. For your test, I answered “no” to question #2, “not to difficult countries” for question #3, and “I think so?” for question #10. I am not discouraged from doing this trip (I really want to go!) but I do want to make sure I do my homework before I commit to it.

    What did you find was the best way to deal with creeps? Did you yell at them, or quietly try to remove yourself from the situation? Did you get any retaliation for calling them out?

    Thank you for all of the information!

    Elle says:

    Hi Alex.

    Great post! You inspired me to consider travelling to Pakistan. I was wondering if I will stick out like a sore thumb there as a Filipina then I saw your bio (you’re Filipina by appearance :))

    I’ve traveled to Iran before so I can handle patriarchal and conservative places, and to Central Asia (as a matter of fact, I will be back there in the next months) for a about couple of weeks each time. So no long-term experience in backpacking a particular country due to work commitments but I’ve been to challenging destinations. I would have to think if I can handle Pakistan in the near future though.

    Alex says:

    Woop, always happy to hear I’ve inspired others!

    Given your travel experience, I think you should certainly consider visiting. If you’re apprehensive about it, give Lahore and the northern areas (Gilgit Baltistan) a try. They’re traveler friendly, and you’re likely to face less difficulties there than in other parts of the country. Pakistan is also picking up as a destination — you might run into other travelers to buddy up with in those parts these days!

    Anna Misurina says:

    I would not ever think of traveling in Pakistan, alone or with a friend!

    Alex says:

    Fair enough! To each his or her own 🙂

    Ellie says:

    I am a white British female travelling with some male friends next week, 1 British Pakistani, 1 British Indian and 1 British Chinese, so will not be alone. I can’t wait! Thank you so much for your informative article. Your photos are beautiful. Please can you tell me where the sweetcorn photo was taken?

    Alex says:

    Thank you for the kind words, and exciting that you’re heading to Pakistan soon! The sweet corn photo was taken on a roadside outside of Lahore in May.

    Jannah says:

    Hello!! Thank you for this post and many other posts on Pakistan from you guys! I will be visiting Pakistan soon.

    I have a question. I read somewhere about not to mention certain areas like Hunza or Gilgit and Karachi if asked or when applying for the visa. Is it still an issue now? I get it why not to mention Gilgit or those northern parts, but Karachi? Isn’t it one of the main cities?

    Thanks!
    Jannah

    Alex says:

    Not mentioning Karachi? No, I’d say Karachi is fine—I’ve put it on every single one of my visa applications…

    Az says:

    Hi guys,

    I’m also thinking of going to Lahore for a friend’s wedding. I am a young, white British woman. I’m really excited about the whole idea, however I have been warned not to travel there alone. I’m hoping a male friend will join me on the adventure but I have been waiting forever to hear back from him…

    As women our lives are more difficult than our male counterparts, and if you don’t travel with a man you’re basically viewed as ‘available’. My main concern about going to Lahore is that men will be quite threatening/intimidating… I can deal with catcalling and have been groped before (in my own country, because this is a problem everywhere), but I don’t know whether it will be more threatening or frightening over there.

    My mum is terrified and thinks I’ll get kidnapped/trafficked or whatever, I told her it’s not that bad but when you grow up on a diet of Western movies it’s quite hard to shake that image off, I guess. But I am dying to go as my friend is really important to me, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    Oops, this was a bit more rambly than I intended. Sorry!

    Alex says:

    No worries, I am Queen of the Rambling!

    Most men in Lahore will not be very intimidating, and catcalling isn’t as common—at least, not in a language you understand! I think groping and other unpleasant touching is your most likely concern, not people being aggressive and intimidating.

    As for being kidnapped… I’m 99.9% certain that’s a non-issue 😉 I know from experience that shaking your mum’s perspective on it is probably impossible, so best thing is to go and not get kidnapped (ideally) then tell her all about how wonderful people were once you return!

    Alyson Long says:

    Hi, thanks for this. I’m not going solo, I’m going with my husband and kids, but still, with them, I’ve been groped in India. No problems in Egypt, but India yes. So my question to you, what to wear? We’ll be trekking. Is normal trekking gear OK or do I need to be more covered as you are here? Love your outfit so I’m kind of hoping I need to go out and buy some lovely new stuff.

    Alex says:

    Groping, the international scourge of lady travelers!

    What to wear while trekking depends on where you are. If you’re trekking in Gilgit Baltistan, just wear long trekking trousers, and you can get away with wearing short sleeves if really necessary. You definitely won’t need to wear a hijab. The population of Gilgit Baltistan as a whole is relatively liberal.

    If you’re trekking in mountains in more conservative places like KPK (Swat Valley being the most common destination), you’ll definitely want to wear a long-sleeved shirt, and do consider covering your head until you get further into the mountains with less people. You’ll be the only one not wearing a hijab if you don’t…

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