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Latest travel advice for Pakistan including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2015-05-20T17:21:32+01:00: Latest update: Safety and security section (Karachi) – editorial amendments

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

There is a high threat from terrorism, kidnap and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan. In the aftermath of an attack on a school in Peshawar in December 2014, there is a heightened threat of terrorist attacks, and kidnapping against western nationals in Pakistan. You should be particularly vigilant at this time and take appropriate security precautions.

Security forces in Pakistan remain on high alert following recent attacks. In February 2014 these included an attack on a police headquarters in Lahore and also attacks on mosques. There may be increases in security force presence and restrictions on movement may be put in place at short notice.

In response to the World Health Organisation’s emergency recommendations about the spread of polio virus, the government of Pakistan now requires all departing travellers who have spent more than 4 weeks in Pakistan to produce a valid vaccination certificate at the time of their departure. This certificate should show that either Oral Polio Vaccine or Inactivated Polio Vaccine has been administered between 4 weeks and 12 months before departure from Pakistan. See this advice issued by the National Travel Health Network and Centre about protection from the polio virus.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Around 270,000 British nationals visit Pakistan every year. Most visits are trouble-free.

Safety and security

Crime

Be aware of the risk of street crime and take sensible measures to protect yourself and your belongings. Take particular care of your passport, bankcards, bags, jewellery, laptop and mobile, especially on public transport, when travelling to and from the airport and in crowded areas including markets. There is an active black market in forged and stolen passports. Credit card fraud is common.

British nationals of Pakistani origin have been targeted by criminals, including kidnappers, as they are often perceived as being wealthier than locals.

Avoid using street taxis. Only use taxis from reputable companies which are radio-controlled.

Much of Balochistan, rural Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, including the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Agencies, have a high level of lawlessness.

Political situation

Public demonstrations and civil disorder are common. Protests often occur with little warning and while most remain peaceful, they can turn violent quickly. Avoid getting caught up in demonstrations, large crowds of people and public events.

Local travel

In 2008, the Pakistan authorities advised that “all foreigners, including diplomats may not move out of their city of residence without proper security and without prior co-ordination with the law enforcement agency”. This requirement has not been rigorously enforced, but you should consider informing local authorities of any travel plans, and be prepared to be stopped and challenged by officials, who may instruct you to turn around.

If you travel to any of the regions listed below, you or your travel company should contact the local authorities in advance to check the local security situation. They may arrange police protection as necessary and will advise whether you need a No Objection Certificate issued by the Pakistani Ministry of Interior.

Balochistan

There is a heightened risk from kidnapping and militant activity in much of Balochistan. There are frequent sectarian attacks in and around Quetta. If you intend to visit these areas, make sure you have the necessary permission from the authorities and proper security arrangements in place.

Border areas

Except for official border crossing points, foreigners are not allowed to travel within 10 miles of Pakistan’s international borders and the Kashmir Line of Control, or within 30 miles of the Afghan border in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan

On 22 June 2013, 10 foreign climbers and their Pakistani guide were killed in a terrorist attack at the Nanga Parbat base camp area. The terrain in Gilgit-Baltistan is mountainous, with remote and isolated locations that are difficult to police effectively. You are strongly advised to obtain and follow local security advice and make appropriate personal security arrangements in advance of any visit. There are also occasional outbursts of sectarian violence in and around Gilgit.

All foreign nationals must register with the local authorities when visiting Gilgit-Baltistan. You may need a permit for mountaineering or trekking, in particular for mountains over 6,000 metres. The process can take up to 2 months and is best organised through a travel company. The validity of your travel insurance policy may be affected if you don’t have the correct permits.

Use reputable trekking agencies, stay on established routes, and always walk in groups. Don’t trek alone. Be aware of the risks of altitude sickness.

Islamabad

Public protests are common in Islamabad. In line with the safety and security advice in this travel advice, British High Commission staff are advised to avoid the area around the Lal-Masjid Mosque in Sector G/6 including Aabpara and Melody markets due to frequent large gatherings and demonstrations, and sectors G7 to G10 and F10 because of the threat from crime. British High Commission staff are also advised to avoid western retail and fast food outlets, coffee bars, shopping centres with concentrations of western style shops and eateries, sports venues and events, live music venues and Christian religious services outside the diplomatic enclave. British High Commission staff are advised not to dwell in market areas any longer than necessary, to remain vigilant for suspicious objects or activity and to avoid the cinema in the Centaurus Mall.

Karachi

There are high levels of violence in Karachi. The districts of Clifton and Defence, and the parts of Saddar which include government offices, major hotels and the financial district are generally regarded as more stable, though there remains a risk of violence. All other districts, and the areas of Saddar immediately around and to the north of the US Consulate General, are at greater risk of violence.

The city is vulnerable to serious violent ethnic conflict between different communities. Criminal and political violence is also common including armed carjacking, robbery, kidnap and murder. Strikes called by various religious and political parties cripple the city and regularly produce violent civil unrest.

It is difficult to predict the safety of daily activity. You should carefully plan any travel within the city taking into account all the threats. If you intend to move outside the more stable areas you should take advice from hosts or trusted contacts and be prepared to cancel or curtail your plans. FCO staff working outside Karachi aren’t allowed to travel there except on official business. Staff travel around the city is subject to strict security measures and movements on foot are not allowed.

In June 2014 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised Karachi based diplomats to restrict their movements in the city and to avoid major shopping malls. This advice was reinforced in October, highlighting threats to both foreigners and diplomats.

Karakoram Highway

The Karakoram Highway runs from Hasan Abdal in north Punjab towards Gilgit and the Chinese border. The FCO advise against travel on the Highway between Islamabad and Gilgit. You should avoid travelling on the Highway at night - the road can be narrow with sudden steep drops. All sections of the Highway north of Batagram up to the Chinese border have experienced landslides.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

There is regular military or militant activity in the districts of Swat, Buner, Malakand, Nowshera, Swabi and Lower Dir. Localised curfews may be imposed at short notice.

The Kalesh Valley, Bamoboret Valley and Arandu District to the south and west of Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have seen an increase in militant activity, which has included abductions, violent armed robbery and murder.

Pakistan Administered Kashmir

Make sure you have the necessary permissions to travel. Specific requirements can change and you should check the latest requirements before travelling. A No Objection Certificate is always required for foreign nationals to travel within 10 miles of the Line of Control or to enter Kashmir via Muzaffarabad.

Punjab

If you travel to southern Punjab take advice about the local security situation in advance. There are frequent reports of criminality and public order incidents.

Sindh

There is a very high risk from crime and kidnapping in Interior Sindh. There are reports of increased criminality in Hyderabad.

Air travel

Security has been tightened at Pakistan’s airports following a number of terrorist attacks on key airports/aircraft in 2014. In Karachi vehicles aren’t allowed access to pick-up and drop-off areas. Security at Karachi (Jinnah) International Airport was further enhanced in early January 2015. Allow yourself enough time to get through enhanced security checks, but don’t linger unnecessarily at airports. Be vigilant, follow instructions from security and airport personnel, and contact your airline in the event of any disruption.

Rail travel

Avoid using the railway network, which has been subject to frequent attacks and derailments. There have been attacks on railway stations in Punjab, and militants have planted bombs on the rail network in Balochistan and Sindh.

Road travel

Take particular care on long road journeys and when travelling cross-country. Local driving standards are erratic, especially at night. Road conditions are poor and there is a risk of carjacking.

Lock all doors and keep the windows up. Use well-travelled, well-lit routes where possible. Don’t buy anything from street vendors or make contact with beggars while travelling by car.

Sea travel

The threat from piracy within 12 nautical miles of the Pakistani coastline is low, but you should be aware of the significant threat piracy poses in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Terrorism

There is a high threat from terrorism and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan. The main terrorist threat comes from Tehrik-e Taleban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella organisation of groups primarily based in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), who have a mainly anti-state focus but also maintain, and have stated an intent to launch attacks on western interests. TTP conducts attacks throughout Pakistan. Their attacks mostly involve using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), including suicide attacks.

Further attacks could be indiscriminate including in places frequented by foreigners. Previous methods of attack have included grenades, shootings, bombings and suicide bombs. Militants can launch complex and deadly attacks. Be vigilant, keep a low profile and vary your routes and timings if you make any regular journeys. Public places and public gatherings are often targeted, including courts and government buildings, hotels, airports, markets, shopping malls, restaurants, educational institutions and religious shrines. Take care if you’re planning to attend sporting events or live music venues. Attacks have previously targeted places that could be considered by militants to be un-Islamic. You should avoid ‘western’ fast-food outlets. CD/DVD shops and barber shops have previously been targeted.

Pakistani government personnel and institutions, and the security forces are prime targets for attacks, especially given the ongoing Pakistan military action in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which may lead to retaliatory attacks. You should avoid key government installations and gatherings of uniformed personnel. Places of worship, including churches, religious sites, minority religious sects and shrines are often targeted. You should avoid religious events or gatherings and limit movements on Friday afternoons. You should also be vigilant in areas around diplomatic premises throughout Pakistan; in August 2013 the US closed its consulate in Lahore following a specific threat.

Areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, especially Peshawar, suffer particularly frequent terrorist attacks with a high rate of casualties. There are threats of attacks in Karachi and almost daily violence.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Kidnapping

You should be alert to the threat of kidnapping throughout Pakistan. The number of kidnappings for ransom of westerners has increased over the last 2 years. The most recent cases have been in the Punjab and Balochistan. Kidnappings can be for financial or political gain. British nationals of Pakistani origin are at particular risk of kidnap for ransom. British and other foreign national kidnap victims have faced extended periods of detention. While some were ultimately released by their captors, others have been killed.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.

Local laws and customs

Local laws reflect the fact that Pakistan is a Muslim country. You should respect local customs and sensitivities at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

In 2015, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 18 June and finish on 18 July. See Travelling during Ramadan

You should dress modestly at all times. Men and women should cover their shoulders and legs when in public. Women should cover their heads when entering mosques or other holy places, and when travelling in rural areas.

Importing alcohol and pork products is illegal. Homosexuality and co-habitation by an unmarried couple is illegal.

If you or your father were born in Pakistan, you might be considered a Pakistani national by the local authorities even if you don’t hold a Pakistani passport, and the British government may be prevented from providing the full range of consular assistance.

You should carry some form of photo ID at all times.

Possession of even small quantities of illegal drugs can lead to imprisonment. A number of British nationals have recently been arrested on drug trafficking charges and face long periods in detention on remand as their cases make their way through the Pakistan legal system. Drug trafficking can attract the death penalty.

The death penalty can and has been imposed for crimes including blasphemy, murder, rape and unlawful assembly.

Don’t take photographs at military establishments, airports or any infrastructure, including bridges and dams including from aircraft. In the past British nationals have been arrested on suspicion of ‘spying’. Seek permission from any official, especially in border areas.

Entry requirements

Visas

If you are travelling to Pakistan on a British passport, you will need to get a visa before you travel. Visa violations can be treated as a criminal offence and could result in a fine or detention.

Journalists’ visas often have additional travel restrictions, which you should observe. For further information consult the High Commission for Pakistan in London.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months at the time of your visa application.

The Pakistani authorities have confirmed they will accept British passports extended by 12 months by British Embassies and Consulates under additional measures put in place in mid-2014.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are valid for entry into Pakistan. Holders of an ETD entering Pakistan will need to have either a valid visa or an identity card issued by the Pakistan government (either an NIC - National Identity Card - or an NICOP - National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis).

Yellow fever

Yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Travelling with children

A single parent or other adult who is not the child’s parent may need to provide documentary evidence of parental responsibility, particularly if the child is of Pakistani origin, before the immigration authorities will allow the child to leave the country.

Exit requirements

All passengers leaving Pakistan must have a valid visa, a Pakistani national identity card or a valid Pakistani passport. If you are travelling on a British passport and your visa has expired you may not be allowed to board your flight. In these circumstances you should contact the Ministry of Interior to get an exit visa. A fine may also be payable.

Health

Contact your GP around 8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.

Dengue occurs in Pakistan, especially during and just after the monsoon season.

Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 15 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Take care when purchasing bottled water. A recent government report found a number of bottled water brands to be contaminated.

Natural disasters

The monsoon season in Pakistan is from late June to early October. Heavy rains can cause severe flooding, particularly in Sindh and Punjab Provinces.

Check local forecasts and news reports and be aware of the risk of landslides and road blockages, particularly in hilly and mountainous regions. Take extreme care crossing swollen rivers.

Earth tremors are common and mountainous areas regularly experience floods and landslides. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Contact FCO Travel Advice Team

This email service only offers information and advice for British nationals planning to travel abroad.

If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the consular assistance team on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

If you’re abroad and need emergency help, please contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

If you have a question about this travel advice, you can email us at TravelAdvicePublicEnquiries@fco.gov.uk

Before you send an email, make sure you have read the travel advice for the country you’re travelling to, and the guidance on how the FCO puts travel advice together.

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  • British High Commission Islamabad

    Title:British High Commission Islamabad
    Email:Islamabad-general.enquiries@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5, P O Box 1122, Islamabad
    Islamabad
    Pakistan

    Contact: General telephone: +92 51 201 2000
    Visiting:GMT: Mon-Thurs: 0300-1115; Fri: 0300-0800. Local Time: Mon-Thurs: 0800-1615; Fri: 0800-1300
    Services:Emergency Travel Documents service (Assistance Services)
    Transferring funds for prisoners / for financial assistance service (Assistance Services)
    Lost or Stolen Passports (Assistance Services)
    Births and Deaths registration service (Documentary Services)
    Citizenship Ceremony service (Documentary Services)
    Overseas Passports Service (Other Services)
  • UK Trade & Investment Pakistan

    Title:UK Trade & Investment Karachi
    Email:ukti.pakistan@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

    British Deputy High Commission
    Shahrah e Iran
    Clifton
    Karachi
    75600
    Pakistan

    Contact: General enquiries: +9221 35827000
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • DFID Pakistan

    Title:DFID Pakistan
    Email:enquiry@dfid.gov.uk
    Address:

    British High Commission
    Diplomatic Enclave
    Ramana 5
    PO Box 1122
    Islamabad
    Pakistan

    Contact: Tel.: +92 51 201 2000
    Fax: +92 51 201 2048
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • British Deputy High Commission Karachi

    Title:British Deputy High Commission Karachi
    Email:
    Address:

    Shahrah-e-Iran
    Clifton
    Karachi 75600
    Karachi
    Pakistan

    Contact: General telephone: +92 (21) 35827000
    Passport enquiries telephone: 00 44 208 082 4744
    General fax: +92 (21) 35827005
    Consular fax: +92 (21) 35827012
    Visiting:GMT:
    Mon-Thurs: 0330-1100
    Fri: 0330-0730
    Services:

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