What do you first think when you hear the word Pakistan? For me, living in New Zealand and India, since 9/11 it’s been synonymous with terrorism. News reports, the movie Zero Dark Thirty, and Mark Owen’s book No Easy Day were, like most, all I knew about Pakistan.

Zero Dark Thirty Movie Poster

I had similar worries about India from my conditioning from the Western media before I travelled there. That’s why I ended up writing the India Survival Guide, to help put traveller’s minds at rest by quickly teaching them the ropes to make their trip to India a success.

I’ve consistently throughout my life found media stereotypes to be scaremongering and far from the reality on the ground.

Access all available safety information

Government travel advisories for Pakistan weren’t very encouraging either. They rated Pakistan as an extreme and high-risk travel destination. Those same Government advisories had also rated Ladakh and Kashmir in India, where I’d just been, as an extreme risk too (and all of India as ‘some risk’).

So far I hadn’t found much positive info on travelling to Pakistan.

Next, I started searching for blogs about others experiences in Pakistan. This search came back very positively with many travellers raving about Pakistan, and it’s beauty.

After that, I went and got opinions from my friends. Unsurprisingly, my Hindu Indian and Kiwi friends all said something along the lines of, “You’re going to get kidnapped or blown up.” My Muslim Indian and the very few Pakistani acquaintances I had were far more positive.

My Pakistani friends, including a woman who works at a local shop I frequent, all immediately offered me hospitality in their cities. As I talked to them and read Pakistan travel experiences online, the worries I had started to fade.

Advice from a British traveller I met in Pakistan

Pakistanis are incredibly hospitable and very friendly. Walk through any city and you will be met by a barrage of people wanting to introduce themselves or offer you a cup of tea.

There are barely any tourists here, so people are often excited to see you. Sometimes your rickshaw driver will refuse payment, declaring that you are his guest. Outside the city, people become even more friendly.

However, the government and in particular the Military and Intelligence services appears to be getting increasingly paranoid around the activities of foreigners.

Be prepared to be stopped again and again by the authorities and have your passport at the ready.

Some of this official attention is for your own safety, there are, of course, very dangerous areas in Pakistan and the government of Pakistan will stop you going there, or for the slightly less dangerous areas, issue you with a police bodyguard.

The fact that the government issues foreigners with police protection shows that at some level there is still a very welcome commitment to opening as much of the county up as possible to tourists.

Regarding danger from terrorism, there is only one incident to my knowledge where Westerners were specifically targeted, the 2013 massacre of climbers at Naga Parbat.

Whilst terrorist attacks continue to plague parts of Pakistan, they are rare in Lahore and especially in Islamabad. The targets are not foreign tourists (there are barely any to target).

Foreign government websites offering travel advice are important to consult, but usually extremely risk-averse. You might find yourself, for example, staring at an overpriced box of Ferrero Roche in a fancy service station on the flawless motorway to Peshawar and realise, that you have strayed into a zone in which the British FCO advises against all travel.

In seven trips to Pakistan over the past twelve years I have never once felt threatened.

Know where to be extra careful or not go

That being said, there’s no denying that some regions of Pakistan are high risk due to terrorist organisations operating. This map shows you the troubled areas.

Safety in Pakistan: Areas of crime and terrorism activities
Safety in Pakistan: Areas of crime and terrorist activities. Green is safe, the rest have various issues. Updated in early 2018.

My decision

After weighing up all the opinions, I decided to go to Pakistan and even enter the zones of extreme risk. My risk tolerance is quite high compared to others so I can understand others deciding against it. If you want to go but are still a bit worried then just stick to the highway going from Islamabad in the north to Hyderabad in the south.

I was also lucky that I had a friend in Peshawar who I’d be staying with there. He informed the local Police the dates I’d be arriving and they requested a copy of my VISA and Passport. The Police there will work to ensure your safety. If you have friends back home that can introduce you to trusted people in these areas, then you can travel there much more confidently with a local.

I already had a wealth of experience from visiting and living in India, so the worry that I’d struggle with language, customs, bargaining, scams, and the daily life weren’t there. I was already a confident traveller.

UPDATE: After visiting – A warning

Pakistan was a great country to travel, but I did face one issue that I didn’t expect. Everyone online warns you about terrorists, but the problem I encountered was with the Government.

The short story is, coming to Pakistan on foot from India and visiting Peshawar (red area on the map) I raised some flags amongst Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Firstly, as I crossed the border, they called my Pakistani friend who’d invited me and began questioning him about me and telling him where not to take me (even though I’d included all his details in my VISA applications months before).

Then they called him a second time a week later asking him more questions about where I’d been and where I was currently.

Whoever was on the phone wouldn’t say what agency they were from. It was weird and made me extremely paranoid wondering why the hell they were keeping an eye on me. I’ve never experienced this anywhere else in the world.

The thing is, I’m not sure you can avoid being monitored in Pakistan unless you’re on an organised group tour. Pakistan’s relationship with the West is strained, they are wary of foreigners, and have a strong dislike of Americans. Until that changes, it won’t be as welcoming to tourists as most countries are.

My privacy is something that’s important to me and it resulted in me leaving Pakistan early.

Knowing all that now, I still would have gone to Paksitan, because it isn’t until you’re being watched that you realise how much your privacy means to you.

UPDATE: Another tourists experience

YouTube comment from another tourist about being spied on in Pakistan.
YouTube comment from another tourist about being spied on in Pakistan.

39 Comments

  1. Ali Ahmed

    You travelled from India to Pakistan.. Pakistani authorities have busted dozens of indian spies in the last few years.. authorities keep an eye on indian travellers.. maybe this was the reason..

    • Pakistan busted dozens of Indian spies? LOL Pakis lie so much. You kidnapped one Indian from Iran. This is what Karl is talking about. Your army might kidnap him through their terrorist groups and ask his native country to pay for his release. They do that quite often and that’s why your Pakistan is on a terror watch list.

      • @HK506
        Lets dissect how dumb your comment is.
        You are implying that terrorist Kulbhushan Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran (a staunch Indian ally country) by the Taliban (as the Indian media reported) and handed over to the Pakistani intelligence.
        Based on the above statement, it can be concluded that:

        A. There are Taliban in Iran (a country they are/were at odds with)
        B. The Taliban infiltrated the Iranian border and can come and go as they please
        C. Pakistan can (using the army or proxies) access at will the Chabahar Port (a strategic Indian base).

        All 3 conclusions above point to the fact that the Iranians (and Indians based in Iran) are completely incompetent. Shouldn’t the Indian government take this issue with Iran on how an Indian national was kidnapped from Iran and taken to another country?

        As far as the post from Karl, its all conjecture. He ‘felt’ he was being watched or followed. To my understanding, he was never approached or apprehended by any intelligence operative. I am sure that an anti-Pakistan post or video will win him a lot of followers in India, and that is what his intention might be right from the beginning.

      • Shoun Francis

        “LOL”. Ironic and really odd for you to even say that. Ali is right. There has been more eyes on people traveling from the Indian Border. This raised a huge red flag. And they don’t “Kidnap” to just get ransoms. Please fix the information your giving off for gods sake man.

  2. When karl was stopped by mini truck driver after crossing the border in pakistan, my heart skipped a beat.
    Mujhe laga ye toh gaya beta…ho gya kidnap.kal ko video aayegi iski, asking for some ransom from NZ govt.
    Chalo its great to know that you are “escaped” safely from pakistan

  3. Most of foreign tourists coming to Pakistan dont face this issue, maybe it was cz u disclosed urself so openly inviting which ever agencies called u who might have nothing else to do to track u…also this opinion of urz from ur blogs also seem to be influenced by India and its views about Pakistan. As every other tourist except u have mentioned Pakistaniz are the most welcoming people in the world…Next time ill say not to complicate things this much

  4. This is security check specially for Indians .Because India keep sending terrorist in the form Kulbhushan yadav and harbajeet Singh that are involved in countless attacks on Pakistani citizens.

  5. Akash Sinha

    Aap safe hain yah sunkar bohot aacha laga.
    Maine pehele hi warn kiya tha(YouTube channel pe aapne nhi dekha hoga saiyad) ki aap waha aase mat jaye.
    Aap India ko explore kariya aapka style meko bohot aacha lagta hai..Mai aapki har video YouTube pe dekhta hu.

  6. Kamran haider

    Bro, you’re in a country, who is fighting terrorism for the last 20 years. Where US spies killed civilians on the road. Where there are indian spies (Kulbusham Yadav). Government is really trying hard to eradicate this problem. They are just doing it to keep Pakistan safe and that’s their duty. I think you have to see the both sides bro. Respect and love from Pakistan.

    My friend came from Netherlands. He’s dutch. He had visited 24 countries previously and he too came from India. He wanted to stay here for 2 weeks but he stayed for around 8 weeks. He didn’t had any issue. It’s just that you mentioned a friend in Peshawar or something. Just don’t hate Pakistan, goverment just want to make sure safety and security. Peace and love from Pakistan 🇵🇰

  7. you came in Pakistan via india and it’s a reason to face these issue. You know Pakistan and india issues.

  8. Hello Karl. Could you perhaps one day cover other places in India on your vlogs like the south or the north-east? The north-east in general is unknown to the western media, heck even many Indians don’t know much about them. Ask any average guy in Delhi about the north-east and I bet 7 out of 10 times they would screw up by telling you about the 7 sister states of the north-east when in reality it has been 8 states with the inclusion of Sikkim since 1975. I just think this would be very interesting for you as well, to experience and show the world the cultural difference among different parts of India. Thank you and keep up the good work.

  9. There are thousands of foreigners living in Islamabad and lahore
    They are not being surveyed this much becuase they came to pakistan from their country of origin and not India
    This was the only reason you were being checked brother , nothing else

  10. Herr Müller

    I am from Germany and i was there last month i didn’t faced any issues there it was the most memorable trip.
    I don’t know why you felt insecure?Maybe because you live in a rival country and the peeps there have brainwashed you a little bit which makes you think that someone is watching you or something bad is going to happen.
    ICH LIEBE PAKISTAN ❤
    Pakistanischer Leute sind sehr nett
    Indische leute stinkt 🤢🤪
    Pakistan Zindabad

    • Irfan Elahi

      Danke Schön Herr Müller. I have many German friends who live in Köln, Berlin und Leverkusen. Infact they were here last year and they really enjoyed their stay here in Lahore. Unfortunately because of workload we were unable to see other cities but maybe next time.

    • For a German person, your noun-verb agreement “stinks”. Leute stinken.
      Also, Inder and Pakistaner are the correct nouns.
      Next time you write a fake comment, make sure you get at least the grammar right.

  11. Many white people have been to Pakistan before and didn’t face this issue, maybe the problem is you. You chickened out like the little bytch you are.

  12. Mistrust was never there in early 90s and before that its after the so called war on terror that so mang westerners came to pakistan disgused as tourist journalists and other but were looking to harm this country…. and mr karl every country has right to survail or do anything to make sure that no one brings harm to ur country and by the way if survaliance is like not disturbing u then i think it was not a big deal but any way if u feel that we brought harm to ur privacy then i m sorry on b half of my country pakistan….. hope u will understand us .. regards

  13. To be honest I did not like your video. You are showing WRONG INFO of the indian spy did not mention truth. Secondly, I emailed you just after your first video about Pakistan and offered you my help. I am myself a travel blogger in Dubai RESING here and I told you I can come to assist you thats shows how much we respect foreign tourists. As far as spy its very common and we will keep watching every single person who come from India as we caught lots of Indian spy in recent years. If someone visit India from Pakistan, RAW will do same things for SURE so it’s completely right and normal thing between such counties who has conflict.

  14. Pakistan is one of the most hospitable and welcoming country..Actually the problem was that u came from India and in recent decades india have been sending spies in here.. Hope u undersatnd the Pakistan ind controversy.. Thou Pakistan is extremely rich in culture with heart breaking mountains in the north to deserts and beaches in the south…cities like Lahore ,taxila, multan and deep sindh are very culturely rich!

  15. Pakistan in short is breeding ground for terrorist…Hafiz saaed has $25,000,000 bounty on his head from US and UN..and is on top of terrorist list and banned to leave country and he gives speeches in open field for 10,000+ crowds regularly and monthly…this shows you, who is in control…If I had a $2.5 bounty on my head in a local town, I’ll b in jail in 5mins in India…Pakistani citizens are jus like Indians.. warm, sweet and welcoming… But the Govt is playing a game on its citizens….UN has openly said Pakistani Govt to stop breeding terrorists….If we let Kashmir valleys to get in the hands of Pakistan, thn it’s game over for India….They’ll breed terrorist (Govt and hafeez saaed) jus like preparing roti’s in local restaurant…I don’t know why Pakistani citizens accept this..jus to hate India ??? Grow up Pakistani citizens…come see how well Indian Muslims enjoy their life in India…U ve been brainwashed by Govt(hafeez saeed)…Pakistani, Indians are like brothers who love each other very much but don’t show the affection and talk..lol.

  16. Hi Karl,

    You’re obviously influenced by Indian negativity against Pakistan. These Indian can never see Pakistan happy. I’ve had foreign friends from UK visits Pakistan and they loved it. I’m not sure how why you felt like you were being watched. I’m sorry to hear that but if the ISI was watching you, they wouldn’t be calling on a mobile.

    Obviously you came from India and India is known to send spies/ terrorists to Pakistan so Pakistan government ensure to keep its citizens safe.

    Anyway if you are around in Pakistan again let me know, you can stay in my house all by yourself as it’s unoccupied at the moment and if you have any issues you can email me.

    Cheers

  17. bro alot of my family members are living in New Zealand and i know what you are know about Pakistan? you are see that indian media show you . and alot of our family friends in new Zealand local peoples are visted Pakistan and they donot face any probleum and there last word for leaving Pakistan is Pakistan zindabad and they want to come back and many of fournier’s are living in islamabad and they love this country. you’re in a country, who is fighting terrorism for the last 20 years and know it is peaceful and all terrorism come from india and know our army control and know he is better and we are proud of our army that do work day and night and do this. and please see a bright sight .and one day you can see that all these issues are clear and this day is very near . if you see paradise in a world then you see Pakistan. Pakistan zindabad and Pakistan army zindabad. and please visit Pakistan next time and make video i personally receive you and i show you what is Pakistan and what is a power of Pakistan . Inshallah we will meet soon .

  18. Pakistani

    The way you had started the video, it is pretty evident that you are either brainwashed by your Indian friends and media OR you were on a mission and your cover was blown. Quoting anti ISI and anti Army news from mostly Indian media speaks for itself.

    Thousands of foreigners travel to Pakistan without issues. When we go to western countries, we are subjected to worse forms of discrimination. We are scrutinized based on our appearance. If we have a beard, we are thoroughly interviewed. We have to go through strip searched on the airports. We are deported without any specific reason and never even told why. You on the contrary did not go through any such treatment.

    The supposed so called agency did not even directly get in touch with you. They did not bother you at all. They were in touch with your friend for your own safety. I highly doubt it ever happened though, now that I review your anti Pakistan video. It seems it was all made up either by you or your Indian friends to malign ISI and Army. To scare the tourists away.

    It is exactly the same line Indians take about Pakistanis being friendly and hospitable bla bla and that its the ISI and the Army which is rough, at fault and the real reason why relations are soar between India and Pakistan etc. Well guess what, we Pakistanis love our Army and ISI and cannot stand anyone maligning it. We could care less if you have a good opinion about us. But if you have a bad opinion about our Army, we don’t want anything to do with you.

    Kulboshan Yadev is a in-service naval officer of Indian Navy and has openly admitted that he was providing funds to the terrorists in Pakistan. Hundred of RAW agents have been caught red handed in Pakistan supporting terrorist activities. As soon as Kulboshan was caught, terrorism in Pakistan dropped by more than 80%. Taliban have openly admitted to getting financial help and weapons from Indian RAW. He was involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan. CIA, RAW and Blackwater agents have repeatedly broken the law in Pakistan and killed thousands of Pakistani civilians. Foreign journalists have been involved in spying in Pakistan and have been asked to leave the country, They have traveled within Pakistan with OBL name to malign our country.

    You conveniently overlooked all this and started maligning the country for no reason. It seems your experiences in India has made you skeptical and suspicious about everything. As if the entire world is out to rip you off and after you. You are not that special. Either that made you overly paranoid about a very normal situation or you made it such a big deal because your cover was blown and you wanted out ASAP. I think you were just not cut out for this spying game and you realized it and chickened out. If that is not the case then I dare you to make a video on the plight of Kashmiris. Make a video on the innocent civilians being killed in Kashmir every day. If you are so righteous than raise your voice against the illegal occupation of Kashmir by India and the atrocities their army is committing over there. If you have political views about us, mention the Hindu extremist atrocities against minorities in India. If not, it will be justified to say that you had an agenda and it was thwarted. If that is the case, you are not welcome in our country anymore.

  19. Pakistan has a long history of kidnapping foreigners through a terrorist group of their own and asking their native country to pay ransom. They have kidnapped an Indian man from Iran and tried to hang him via military court but UN came down hard on them and stopped it. They try to say he’s some sort of a spy but the truth is well known that Pakistan is the most dangerous country on earth for non Muslims. I’m glad you’re back in India.

  20. There are thousands of foreigners living in Islamabad and lahore
    They are not being surveyed this much becuase they came to pakistan from their country of origin and not India
    This was the only reason you were being checked brother , nothing else

  21. I would like you to just read what happened with Raymond Davis. Not from his book as it is part of the controversy. We are a small country with unfortunately not so good relations on three sides of the border and our autonomy and security is very important to us.

  22. I’m sorry that you had this experience but I also understand why intelligence services will be more vigilant with everything that’s happening. But thank you for visiting Pakistan and for saying nice things about us. You’re a good man. God bless you

  23. Blitz Falcon

    Pakistan Tourism industry is picking up , i suppose you could always try another time ( As for Privacy……good luck CIA , RAW , MOSSAD and ISI even inside India has all info on you probably XD)

  24. Taimur Winter

    Let me tell you how it works in western countries.

    1. They can “detain” you for hours on end, ask the minutest of details anout your life, your previous travels even your interests/hobbies, all in the name of national security.
    2. No to mention all the kind of physical searches of yourself and the luggage multiple times just to be sure.
    3. After that they still reserve the right to deny you entry without having to answerable about it in the name of national security.
    4. Despite all of this, these measures can even be tightened to the extent of cavity searching, interrogation by armed agents if you happen to be comming from a hostile country

    Meanwhile in Pakistan , you crossed the border on foot, got asked 3 questions in a friendly manner and thats it , you were not directly bothered according to info you provided let me remind you directly questioning a individual is standard process all around the world but you wernt meaning you wernt that high of a surveillance target as you presume , I can assure you its for your safety and Pakistanis safety. ( They would not want a tourist , especially a rather well known tourist to be harmed. )

  25. Abdullah Akhtar

    Don’t bother the government… They can not do any thing for us even…. Except the construction work…..invluding flyovers.. Roads… Shity politics querls etc… We respect every person not because we don’t saw tourists often around us… But because we are Pakistanis❤️. We will welcome all of you with more smile even its a 1000 time.. Love from Pak.

  26. Hi Karl Rock,

    All the Pakis ranting and raving over here that India is sending spies to Pakistan, they themselves have been brainwashed by their beloved Pak media and hate mongering school syllabi. Google ‘Pakistan studies’. Such is a hate for India in Pakistan, that every child born is taught that ‘India is your enemy’. You are lucky to come back alive in India.

    Daniel Pearl was murdered by a Pakistani. Osama was found in Abottabad, Pakistan. Most Wanted Terrorists Hafeez Saeed is roaming freely in Pakistan. Pakistan is a haven for terrorists. In fact, Kulbhushan Jadhav was framed and his statement was taken on gunpoint. The video is on Youtube. Pakistanis are taught to hate India and Indians. That is why they deny their ancestry. They are second rated Arabs and they will bow to their Arab overlords who don’t even give a damn to Pakis.

  27. In the map, you have highlighted Pakistan-occupied part of India (Jammu & Kashmir) in a map called ‘Safety in Pakistan’. It would be appropriate if you mentioned it as Pakistan-occupied J&K. It’s not a legal part of Pakistan.

  28. Suyash Dixit

    love from India, if you’re still here then I would definitely like to meet you and show you some places here.
    -One of your fan from India, I hope you’ll consider my request

  29. Karl,
    The only reason they did this is not because they are vary of foreigners; its because of you crossing the wagah border, a border BETWEEN India and Pakistan.You may know that these two countries aren’t exactly on friendly terms.So next time you visit Pakistan try travelling through air and you’d see the difference.Pakistanis in general are very friendly and hospitable.

  30. you know what brother ppl of pakistan is good but it is their agency or military dictactorship that control the terrotory.goverment their is just to rule the fulish ppl and they are over protective about the terrotory so that no one comes to end our dictectorship by establishing democracy.how can you imagine peace by providing ultra modern military weapon to common ppl through khyber pass.they are doing nothingh just to fooling the ppl.in fact the basis of pakistan is in it so why can not they do so…….and finally brother you do a right choice by coming out from pakistan more faster otherwise think about what happen to sabjeet a low income farmer killed in jail when they do not find anythingh about him,think about kulbhusan jadav and many more. they pay their life for hatred of pakistani towards india and finally pray for kulbhushan

  31. Excellent post thank you so much for sharing this article

  32. Hey Karl,
    Gday

    I just came across your video and your blog. I think your strong ties with India, are probably what raised Red Flags among LEA’s in Pakistan. It is probably as simple as that, I have met hundreds of foreign visitors to Pakistan over the years, and those with ties off any sort with India, or are regular visitors to India, attract the attention of agencies here. If you had little or no association with India, your presence would have not raised a Red flag, of course that does not discount the fact, that we have had trouble with foreigners in the country, people like Raymond Davis, in case u have not heard off him, he was a spy working for Langley, who made the silly mistake of running people over while speeding in Lahore. Hence some distrust is, and will be there. Also Peshawar is not particularly a place foreigners are advised to visit, even locals from other parts are sometimes advised against traveling there, if you had let’s say stayed in Lahore, Islamabad, maybe headed down to Karachi, less liklihood of a red flag, multiple red flags, the first being your strong ties to India, another traveling solo, not with a family or a tour group, third Peshawar on your iternary, not exactly a tourist destination. Sometimes it is for safety of foreign visitors, they like to keep checks and balances, last thing Pakistan needs is bad PR with regards to mishaps to foreign visitors. I do hope you swing by again, if you add Karachi to your trip in the future, please feel free to get in touch.

    Kind Regards

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