General Pakistan Information
Traffic Conditions and Road Surfaces:
Traffic in Pakistan moves on the left side.
Overland travel in Pakistan on motorcycle has a variety of risks. Big trucks and buses, speeding cars, motorcycles and bicycles coming suddenly from anywhere, donkeys, cattle, horse carts, street dogs, skittish baby goats and Tuk tuk’s that never signal before turning to name just a few. You need to be incredibly patient, open minded and ready for anything.
Roads including major highways are suffering from poor maintenance with numerous potholes, broken barriers and minimal sign postage. In recent years there has been some major works on highways with excellent new roads being constructed however these major links between cities such as the M2 between Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar are not open to motorcycle travel. Most importantly nobody follows the traffic rules. You have to be careful, calm and focused while riding in Pakistan. Major link roads connect big cities such as Lahore to Peshawar via Rawalpindi Grand trunk road (N5), Lahore to Karachi via Multan National Highway (N5), Peshawar to Karachi Indus Highway (N55). All these highways are dual carriage way. In the mountains almost every single highway is single road for both sides of traffic such as the Karakoram Highway (N35), Skardu road (S1), Mardan to Chitral (N45), Mardan to Swat (N95), Manshera to Chilas via Babusar Pass (N15).
One of the most common roads riders might take on their loop around the north other than the Karakoram Highway is the Skardu road (S1) following the Indus and connecting the Karakoram Highway to Skardu from just south of Gilgit city. This road is currently undergoing heavy construction for major improvements. Some patches of the road are already finsihed and provide an excellent smooth surface but there are many areas where there will be periods of long delays. These works are due to be finished by 2022. The charm of the Skardu road is the twists and turns as it follows the Indus under rocky overhangings. It may be that some of this charm is lost in coming years as the road is being widened, however the joy of following the Indus on its tumultuous path will always remain.
The main Karakoram Highway is an excelent paved surface from Khunjerab Pass to Gilgit, however the areas aroudn Chilas and Dassu often suffers from landslides and seems to be under an endless cycle of construction. Expect rough, sandy and narrow sections. The good road starts again after Dassu and the area around Besham is bakc to a beautiful meandering fun ride following the Indus river.
When riding side valleys and lesser known routes expect extreme rough conditions and limtied facitlies. We are currently writing a series of specific areas and routes that will cover more out of the way areas in greater detail.
Pakistan has four clear seasons: Winter is December to February, Spring is March and April, Summer is May to September, Autumn is October and November. Rainy season or southwest monsoon period is between June through September and the retreating monsoon period of October and November.
Important information regarding weather:
Travelling in mountains can be critical in the rainy season due to landslides, check weather conditions of your route, and make sure there are no landslides. If there has been landslides these are mostly cleared by authorities within 24 hours.
In Winters, mountain areas can get a lot of snowfall and roads may be slippery due to ice from snow melts. Punjab and Sindh region will often get a lot of fog which makes riding difficult in low visibility.
In Summers, some days are more than 40 degree celsius. Spending long days riding in such conditons can make you sick from heat stroke and dehydration, pelase make sure you have adeqaute drinking water.
Pakistan has fancy hotel chains in big cities, like Pearl continental, Serena and Marriott Hotel. Most of the places have average hotels, but still you can compare these hotels with Thailand average hotels.
In Pakistan finding fuel is pretty much easy, In case, there is no strike going on those days. Mainly its Petrol and Diesel are available at fuel stations. Some of the fuel station have high octane petrol, which is bit expensive then normal standard petrol. Note!! Be careful and try to refill you tank with Original petrol and diesel providers like PSO, Shell, Total, Byco, Hascol and Attock petroleum.
Note: Its very easy to find petrol stations in Pakistan, We never saw any overland motorcycle traveller carrying or using filters in Pakistan and never heard anything went wrong because of using doggy petrol.
Pakistan have lot of variety of food, traditional style of cooking according to region. Punjabi and Sindhi food are characterised as "highly seasoned" and "spicy", which is characteristic of flavours of the East. KPK, Balochistan, Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan have flavours of the Central Asian region. As per Islam forbidden to eat Pork, so its impossible to find Pork in Pakistan. Other types of meat, such as beef, chicken and fish, with vegetables, as well as traditional fruit and dairy are also easily available.
Using Alcohol is ban in Pakistan but still you can find some from big fancy hotels like Pearl continental. Pakistan also have its own brewery called Murree Brewery. Foreigner travellers are allowed to carry alcohol with them, you don’t need to worry about it and just carry it with you if you want to.
In breakfast (Nashata), Moat commonly Hotels offers eggs with paratha and jam, butter and toast with Pakistani Chai (Tea). If you want to experience real Pakistani Breakfast you have to go out and find some breakfast restaurants. Pakistani traditional breakfast dishes are Siri-Payay (the head and feet of lamb or cow), Nihari (a dish which is cooked overnight to get the meat extremely tender), Naan Chanay (Naan is tandoori Bread and Chana is chickpeas with spices), Halwa poori (a deep fried bread with Sweet dish).
Dishes for Lunch and Dinner are pretty much similar. Rice, Chicken, Beef and Mutton dishes, Vegetables and Daals. Pakistani people all the time use bread called Roti to eat with these dishes. Lets we share some of the famous dishes to try when you are Pakistan. Rice Dishes: Biryani, Pulao, Daal chawal and Sajji chawal, Vegetable fried Rice. Meat Dishes: Chicken/Mutton Karahi, Chicken/Mutton Handi (Boneless) , Nihari, Qeema, Korma. Barbecue: Chicken Tikka, Malai Boti, Chicken/Beef kababs. Snacks: Dahi Bhala, Aloo tikki, Chana Chaat, Fruit Chaat, Samosas, Pakora, Masala Chips, Seafood: Mostly its Fish, some of the famous ones are Trout, Rohu, Salmon. Drinks: Lassi, Lemonade (Lemu pani), Sardai - Mixture of different nuts and kishmish, Sugarcane Juice, Milkshakes,. Types of Tea: Pakistani Tea (Strong), Doud Patti (Milky), Kahwah (Green Tea), Kashmiri Chai (a pink, milky tea with pistachios and cardamom), Sulaimani chai (black tea served with lemon). If you don’t like sugar in tea let them know, otherwise will be extremely sweet. NO Chini, Sugar free, NO sugar Please.
Note: Don’t drink water from Tap or water stream its not healthy for you and might be make you sick.
Money exchange and ATM:
Firstly, Inform your bank about your travel in Pakistan, so they don’t block your card while you use it in Pakistan. Money Exchange services are available at all airports and border crossing but the exchange rate is pretty low. So its good to exchange when you are in big cities. Western Union, Pakistan Currency exchange company, Dollar East are the reliable service providers. Secondly, if you want to withdraw with your VISA or MasterCard. With Visa cards we recommend you Allied Bank they don’t charge any fee for transaction. Alfalah and MCB charges 250PKR and Standard Chartered Bank charges 500PKR per transaction. In one transaction maximum amount you can withdraw is 20,000PKR. MasterCard mostly didn't work at Allied bank so use MCB, Al-falah and Standard Chartered Bank if you have Master-card.
Navigation is not a big issue if you are riding in Pakistan specially on highways. Mostly you need navigations when you are riding into or exiting big cities like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar. Googles maps and maps.me have voice guide turn by turn navigation for Pakistan.
Safety and security:
The do's and dont's: