Updated: Where do I need security in Pakistan?

“Pakistan doesn’t have a security problem, it has a problem with security,” was our running joke about security in Pakistan. Where do I need security in Pakistan? is a notoriously difficult question for foreign tourists to answer. To make life easier, here’s a list of all the places we’ve visited (or wanted to visit), and the “security situation” on the ground.

If you’ve followed our adventures through Pakistan, you know the country is dangerously hospitable. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any security issues, though.

The government, police, and army do everything in their power to keep you “safe”… and are sometimes overprotective to a fault. We’ve kept a list of all places where security, or, more likely, security personnel, might pose an issue.

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Baluchistan

 

Security in Balochistan

Basically off limits unless you’re going to/coming from Iran. You need an NOC from Quetta, and you will have an armed escort throughout the province. Let’s hope these things will change, since we hear Baluchistan in beautiful. For now though, traveling freely seems nearly impossible.

 

Sindh

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Karachi

Karachi

Security personnel will hardly hassle you, which is surprising because the streets are filled with heavily armed men. If they do bother with you, it’s mostly out of curiosity.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Makli

Thatta/Makli

We’re not sure about this one. What we do know is that only one hotel is allowed to accept foreigners: SRO Hotel. It charges 3,000 rupees a night, which was fair value, but a bit high for budget travelers. The kind owner will more than make up for it, though.

You might need a police escort… but we’re not sure. When we were there we could roam free, but were asked about our “protocol” by a police constable that found us at a shrine. We pretended our nose bled, and he put us in a rickshaw back to the hotel. From here we could roam free once more.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Hyderabad

Hyderabad

Besides the odd checkpoint, security personnel won’t hassle you.

Because of Pakistan’s “security situation”, most travel insurance providers don’t cover travel to the country. We recommend First Allied Travel Insurance, which specializes in coverage for high risk areas, including Pakistan.

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Sehwan Sharif

Sehwan Sharif

A security guard will likely appear out of nowhere when you visit the shrine of Lal Shahbaz, and loosely follow you as you wander around. Ours was a bit overprotective: several people that wanted to talk to us were shouted away with a growl and the wave of a stick. But the guard didn’t follow us out of the shrine.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Larkhana and Moenjo-daro

Larkana and Mohenjo-daro

Besides the odd checkpoint, security personnel won’t hassle you.

 

Sukkur

According to Tim of UrbanDuniya, Sukkur can be a hassle as a foreigner if you’re spotted by police. They attempted to shut him in a hotel until he left, then required him to have an escort while walking around the city… despite saying the city wasn’t dangerous. You can read Tim’s experience in Sukkur here.

 

Punjab

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Bahawalpur

Bahawalpur

Unless you know someone here, or are using Couchsurfing, we suggest budget travelers skip it. Hotel One, the only hotel that is allowed to accommodate foreigners, is near the airport and very expensive. If you do decide to make the trip, make sure to get some kind of written permission letter from the military before trying to visit any of the sites. Anything official looking in English with a stamp should do. Otherwise, you won’t be allowed to visit any of the palaces, as they’re all occupied by the military.

 

Multan

Unless you have a bigger budget, or know someone here/are using Couchsurfing, we suggest you skip it. Only a handful of hotels are allowed to accommodate foreigners, and all cost more than $60 per night. We also heard that security personnel tend to hassle you a lot in Multan.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Lahore

Lahore

Besides the odd checkpoint, security personnel won’t hassle you in friendly Lahore.

However, you won’t be allowed to visit the smaller border ceremony at Ganda Singh Wala without prior permission. We’ve been told this does not apply to the more famous Wagah border ceremony.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Islamabad and Rawalpindi

Islamabad/Rawalpindi

Besides the odd checkpoint, security personnel won’t hassle you.

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK)

 

Update May 12: NOCs for KPK can be acquired in a single day in Peshawar.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Naran

Naran Kaghan

No security issues. A very popular tourist destination.

 

Swat Valley

As of March 2016, foreigners no longer need permission to enter the Swat valley. You can see and download the official announcement here. Could be useful for showing to pesky police!

Update August 14, 2016: Will H. says that authorities are still asking for NOCs all throughout Swat. The Karakoram Club Facebook group can help you with organizing an NOC for Swat valley, and you can find out more about traveling through Swat and the northern areas in Will’s comprehensive guide to backpacking in Pakistan.

Update May 2017: There’s a Swat Valley Backpackers Facebook group that can help foreigners arrange NOCs and figure out travel in the region.

Update September 2017: NOCs are definitely not needed, and though some secondary parties may need some convincing, we did not need to provide any NOC to enter Swat or the surrounding areas.

 

Chitral

Foreigners no longer need an NOC to enter Chitral.

Update May 11, 2017: Several foreigners traveling from Gilgit to Chitral have been turned away on the road to Chitral since they had no NOC. It’s not Chitral that’s the problem—it’s the road to it! Rumor has it that as long as you have a security escort, you’ll be able to pass through without issue. Alternatively, you can simply fly to Chitral or approach from Peshawar/the south and avoid the issue.

 

Kumrat Valley

In season, foreigners are allowed to enter and stay overnight in Kumrat Valley. However, we tried to stay in the off-season, and were prohibited by the army… and our driver. Their reasoning? Because Alex is a girl, and it’s dangerous for women to stay overnight in the valley for fear of kidnapping.

Bollocks (literally) aside, if you’re a woman or traveling with one, don’t plan on staying overnight in Kumrat Valley unless you have an escort, or are visiting in the high season (June – August).

 

Gilgit-Baltistan

Update May 2017: There was a big kerfuffle about foreign tourists requiring an NOC for all of Gilgit-Baltistan at the start of this month. However, the ruling was never enforced, and ultimately was reversed thanks to resistance on all fronts. Foreigners have been freely traveling through the region without issue.

 

Gilgit

No security issues. You may have read reports of needing security in Gilgit, but we were informed in July 2016 that the rule was changed a couple of months ago. Foreigners no longer need to be escorted in Gilgit.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan? - Raikot bridge near Chilas - Lost With Purpose

Raikot bridge (en route to Fairy Meadows) near Chilas. You’ll be escorted here by security.

Chilas

We only recommend coming to Chilas if necessary for breaking up a trip that goes through Babusar Top in summer (ex. to Fairy Meadows or Naran).

If you come by road via Babusar Top, you’ll get a police officer to you from there to Chilas. There are only two hotels in Chilas that are allowed to accommodate foreigners: Shangri La Hotel and Panorama Hotel. Both are relatively expensive. You also won’t be allowed to leave the hotel without police supervision. The police will only show up to escort you out of Chilas and to your next destination.

 

Naran to Chilas and Fairy Meadows in Pakistan

Fairy Meadows

If you come from Chilas, you’ll be escorted all the way to the meadows. If you come from another place, you’ll be escorted from Raikot on.

The police officer will sleep in the police hut in the meadows, and will leave you alone while you’re in the meadows. You’ll need to alert the officer when you want to go hiking to places such as Biyal or the Nanga Parbat base camp so they can accompany you.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Skardu

Skardu

No security issues.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan? - No security with Sebastiaan in Deosai Plains - Lost With Purpose

Deosai Plains

No security needed.

 

Naltar Valley

We were told foreigners cannot go there unless they are with a guide, or have permission from the military. Two independent German tourists were turned away a couple of weeks before the time of writing (early July 2016).

Update July 24, 2016: Two British motorcyclists made it to Naltar and were not required to have a guide, only go through checkpoints.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Karimabad

Karimabad

We’ve heard stories of foreigners being followed by the intelligence, but we had no trouble here. Quite the opposite.

 

Where do I need security in Pakistan: Sost

Sost

You’ll be escorted from Aliabad onwards by a guard, who will leave you once you arrive in Sost. We were hassled a bit by intelligence in Sost–just be firm, ask for their ID, and be wary of who you give your passport to.

 

Where to find more information?

There’s a new Facebook group in town: Backpacking Pakistan. It’s specifically oriented towards foreigners traveling to Pakistan, and is admittedly much easier to sift through than the Karakoram Club group. We’re active members, as are other bloggers such as Will of The Broke Backpacker and Joan of Against the Compass.

 

A final note

For the record, you’re technically required by the Powers That Be to check in at a police station when you enter a new city. So intelligence can stalk you and all.

But for those looking to lurk under the radar, we highly recommend connecting with locals via services like Couchsurfing or the Karakoram Club on Facebook.

If you’re taking public transport, the police will find you eventually, but staying in local homes and getting rides from people you meet is a good way to avoid security escorts along the way.

 

Figuring out where you will and will not need security when traveling in Pakistan is notoriously difficult. To make your life easier, here's a list of places in Pakistan, and up-to-date information on whether or not you'll need security as a foreigner while traveling there.

 

Traveling to Pakistan? Don’t miss our practical Pakistan travel guide with everything you need to know!

Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

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16 thoughts on “Updated: Where do I need security in Pakistan?

    Iqra Javed says:

    I am from Lahore, Pakistan and living/working in Sweden for past 5 years. It was so refreshing to read your blog in general and post about Pakistan in particular. It is always a great feeling when some outsider show the real face of Pakistan, unlike what media portray. Thanks for such kind words and hope to see you some time either in Pakistan or somewhere else 🙂 I have linked your Instagram account to couple of my colleagues here and my words were ‘See told ya, you don’t get killed by visting Pakistan’ haha. Take care friends !

    Thank you for your kind words. We’re just glad to have experienced the real Pakistan. Now let’s hope the next holiday destination for your colleagues is Pakistan 😉

    Ahsan Haroon says:

    Foreigners don’t need any kind of permission to go to Wahga Flag ceremony. One of my German couchsurfer went there a week all by himself and according to him, he wasn’t hassled at all. Ganda Singh Wala might be a different story but I have no idea about it.

    Thanks for the info. When was this? We got conflicting info from some of the rangers at the checkpoint to Ganda Singh Wala.

    Ahsan Haroon says:

    Less than 2 weeks ago

    LoneWolf INTJ says:

    Hey Sebastian,

    Hope you made it to Chilas from Naran via Babusar without any major hassle…!!

    Crossing Babusar Pass was a strict ‘NO’ for foreigners in 2015. I hope that restriction has been lifted since it saves 5-6 hours of precious travel time that is wasted by travelling on the KKH all the way from Gilgit/Hunza to Islamabad or vice versa.

    Let me share a personal experience of travelling with two companions from Luxembourg while coming from Hunza to Islamabad (August 2015). Despite me being a Pakistani, we were stopped at Chilas and the local security officer (an old man in his late 50s) was stubborn on not letting us pass the Babusar. To make his case, he showed me a letter issued by the Ministry of Interior about grouping of around 10-14 militants for a possible terrorist attack in the region (which in the end turned out to be some faulty intelligence). His assistant even called the security incharge in Gilgit for his clearance. But to our sheer luck, he could not connect because of poor telecom signals. Offering him a cigarette and having a chit-chat for about half-an-hour, I finally convinced him to allow us to cross Babusar. I asked for his contact no. telling him, if we made it to the other side, I will give him a call from Islamabad. He refused gave his number. The Chinese which were travelling in another vehicle also took benefit from this permission.

    At times, the problem is with the wrong information circulating and the bureaucracy that makes travelling an arduous task while travelling to Northern Areas of Pakistan.

    Have safe travels. Cheers.

    Haha luckily we had no such troubles at Babusar. We just needed to give our info, and a police officer escorted us to Chilas. I’m glad we didn’t have to go through the same ordeal as you 😉

    Ahhhh security in Pakistan. I love your first quote about “Pakistan doesn’t have a security problem, it has a problem with security” – sooooo true! I recently travelled all around Sindh with no problem at all, but when I arrived in Sukkur had an incredibly frustrating run-in with the security personnel. Ended up not being able to see anything – it seems to be similar to the situation with Bahawalpur and Multan. It’s definitely possible to visit these places, but you need to have money. I would try to visit with local friends – a better experience anyway, and no issues with security people 🙂

    Bah, go figures. What was the requirement in Sukkur—that you needed to stay in expensive hotels? We can add it to the list with a bit of clarification.

    And you’re right! If you Couchsurf or find friends it’s much easier to… ahem, avoid security issues 😉

    Yup, pretty much – expensive hotel, and security guard in tow everywhere. I had a particularly bad experience which I wrote about here, if you’re interested – http://urbanduniya.com/traveller/evening-sukkur-police/

    Just read through it and ugh, seems like typical security nonsense! Go figure. At least the other police officers were kind. Strange that other foreigners have slid through the cracks before… Perhaps they were staying at expensive hotels already.

    Will add your information and link to our post later. Thanks for sharing!

    It’s not that other foreigners have slid through the cracks – they had a security escort, but they just didn’t get interrogated and kept under hotel arrest like I was. They still “toured” with a guard by their side :/

    My pleasure – I hope it can help someone else avoid the same frustration!

    Johnny Normark Friskilä says:

    Interesting to read. I stayed my entire time in Pakistan with couchsurfers so I didn´t really have problems with security guards at all. However, some hosts can also be a bit over protective 🙂

    I walk around freely at Thatta/Makli. If a police officer asks for a “protocol”, in most cases I think it is a way of starting a conversation. He needs to say something cause he is probably just curious.But yeah, the rangers didn´t allow me to see the ceremony at the Wagah Border – there I should have had a guide and prior arrangements. Well well, just another reason to go back 🙂

    The security apparatus in Pakistan is an erratic beast. Let’s hope it changes one day, so traveling there becomes a little easier.

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