International travellers spend billions of dollars on visiting exotic destinations across South East Asia. Most travellers are shocked to find their experience quite contrary to what they see in the videos and travel brochures.
The weather in tropical countries is humid throughout the year and travellers from colder climates find it absolutely unbearable. The only refuge seems to be the lavish air-conditioned resorts.
Pakistan, on the contrary, offers great weather over eight months of the years. The picture-perfect landscapes of the north are almost unreal experience and places are named by fiction writers as Shangrila (heaven on earth) and Fairy Meadows because of the magical atmosphere in these unique destinations.
PAKISTAN A HEAVEN FOR BACKPACKERS
Pakistan is comparable to any destination in Southeast Asia when it comes to the cost of accommodation, eating out or travelling by public transport. Backpackers can easily survive under $15 a day enjoying nice meals and separate rooms.
With increased security after peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan is rediscovering its lost charms and finding its place in the list of "must-see" destinations in a travel magazine and news clips across the world. With high growth rates and tremendous improvements in road networks, Central Asia will be the next frontier for adventure travellers and people seeking unique travel experiences.
Hitchhiking is not the safest way to travel in the country. The transport is quite cheap. For instance, a 24-hour bus trip from Karachi to Kaghan will cost around $25. Local transport within the cities is also very cheap. However, you will need to get used to jumping the queue and forcing your way into an already packed van or bus. The introduction of Metro buses across the country is a new addition to transport in the cities. The buses, however, can be packed during peak traffic times.
TRAVELLING BY BUSES
Every city has a major bus stand with buses running round the clock between major cities of the country. Daewoo so far offers the most efficient and reliable bus transport network in the country. You can check for bus timings and ticket costs online at Daewoo. Smaller cities have their own modes of transports ranging from minibuses and coasters.
Most car rental companies can provide you with brand new cars along with the drivers for approximately $50/day. This can be a comfortable alternative if you plan to travel off the beaten path and follow your own travel schedule.
It is advisable to get your travel insurance before travelling in Pakistan to cover yourself against unwanted situations. This would include cancellation of bookings due to overbooking of hotels in tourist season. The best option for hassle-free travel in the country is to book through a reputable travel operator.
DISCOUNTS ON TRAINS FOR FOREIGNERS
Surprisingly, Pakistani Railways offers a 25% discount to foreigners if proper documentation is provided and the form is filled with due requirements. Students are eligible for a further 25% discount by providing a valid Student ID. More information can be obtained from the station masters office or booking terminals in major cities.
PAKISTAN IS RICH IN CULTURAL HISTORY
With thousands of years of rich cultural history and invasions from Asia, Pakistan is a home to exotic tribal culture, rich architectural wonders and beautiful people. Worlds oldest romances are written in Punjabi spoken in most parts of the country. The food of Pakistan takes influences from Indians, Turkish and Arab influences. The national language of Pakistan "Urdu" means troops and was the language spoken by troops of Alexander the great who collected mercenaries from all the areas he conquered from conquest from Macedonia to Northern Afghanistan where he died.
You will be surprised to find the people of Northern Pakistan have sharp cut European features and fair complexion indicating their genetic roots in European invaders who came with Alexander. Pushto the language spoken in the Northern parts of Pakistan has German and Scandinavian words.
AMAZING FOOD OF PAKISTAN
The kind of food people cook across the country varies from region to region in Pakistan. Being a Muslim country, meat is an essential part of the diet. Lahore and surrounding areas in Punjab are popular for a large range of dishes including Nehari (slow-cooked beef in gravy), Haleem (minced meat and lentils cooked in gravy), Meat Palau (rice cooked in meat stock) and Kebabs. You will be shocked by a number of different styles in which meat is cooked. For instance, you can order Chicken Jalfrezi, Chicken Tikka, Chicken Roat, Chargha, Tandoori Chicken or Chicken Karahi, just to mention a few.
Northern Pakistan is popular for beef and lamb dishes. Grain is a main part of the diet and people prefer to eat the food with roti (bread) baked in an oven. Rice dishes are also popular, but rice is not a part of everyday diet. The most popular type of rice is Basmati which is an aromatic variety of long-grained rice. Basmati rice is used for Biryani (spicy meat rice), Palau ( rice cooked in stock and meat) or Zarda ( Sweet-coloured rice).
Seafood is popular in Karachi and coastal areas. In Punjab, people like to eat fish from rivers and dams. In Lahore, however, deep-sea fish is popular in winters. The fish is deep-fried and eaten with chilli sauce. Bashir Darul Mahi is a popular outlet in the Mazang area in Lahore.