Got a Question? - Find the answer here!
This is a list of the most frequently asked questions relating to our set Pakistan motorbike tours. What is written here is useful information for visiting Pakistan that is helpful to all travellers not just those on our set tours. We hope to cover as much as possible but inevitably travellers will still have another question that may not be answered here, feel free to message us if you cannot find the answer below :)
Frequently Asked Questions
*Also check out our general information page in the Support for Overlanders section on our website, there you can find some more in depth answers on sepcific questions for independent travellers.
What types of bikes do we ride
On our tours we use Suzuki 150 motorbikes. These are the best for riding in Northern Pakistan, locally made and quite straightforward to repair. They are a very versatile and robust bike, light enough to cope with the off roading and still enough power for the highways and alitude. We have customised the Suzuki bikes to have safety guards and they are serviced routinely. They have a very classic look and are fun to ride. All our bikes have insurance for theft, damage and third party.
Some people request big engine bikes or more interstingly, Royal Enfield. We are not India and there are no Royal Enfield in Pakistan despite being neighbours, (long history blog post for another day.) Bigger engine bikes are incredibly difficult to service or maintain in Pakistan and they are far more readily to get stuck or bogged or have issues on our tours. Not to mention the insanely high taxes on imports if we chose to do so. We are a very practical company and stick to the locally made and well loved Suzuki and Honda bikes.
Do I need a drivers licence to ride in Pakistan
It is a legal requirement to have an international drivers licence to ride a motorbike in Pakistan. HOWEVER the local officials do not seem to care or enforce this rule. Most locals do not have a valid licence at all. BUT we recommend you arrange an internaional drivers licence for the reason of your travel insurance. You may not be able to claim travel insurance on any incident that may arise while riding a motorbike if you do not have a legal licence to do so. If you do not have a legal licence to ride a motorbike in your own country then your insurance would also not cover you in Pakistan. Please check with your insurance providor their requirements.
What level of riding skills do I need and what are the road conditions like.
Some of our trips involve a significant amount of off road riding on un-paved, rough, dusty and rocky surfaces and at times may require ice/snow and creek crossings. We assume that riders taking our tours or using our bikes are skilled bikers who are able to cope with such conditions. You should have a couple of years riding experience and be confident to handle extreme conditions. This is adventure touring at its best. We are here to guide you and make it fun, not teach you how to ride a motorcycle. The easist itinerary we offer is the Classic Karakoram Ride, it is mostly on quality paved roads with a couple of options for some fun side adventures. Our Pure Pakistan ride covers many rougher areas and fun off roading.
What can we expect from the weather.
Weather will be a big mixture - depending on the time of year we can get everything from extremely hot to mild and warm and very cold! You will need to bring all types of weather clothes. The major cities Lahore and Islamabad will likely be very hot (up to 40 degrees celsius in summer), often around 32 degrees. Where as in Skardu areas and upper Hunza it could be very cold especially at night but also pleasant to warm days in the valleys. Riding to Khunjerab and across Skardu can even have a chance of snow. Gilgit Baltistan is in an arid zone and does not get affected in the same way by the monsoons further south in Punjab around July August however there can be very heavy rains at the beginning of Spring which combined with the winter snow melts this can cause flash flooding and landslides. There can be rains at any time, sometimes heavy. Snow can be expected in the higher altitudes at anytime but especially in March/April and October/November at Khunjerab Pass and Deosai National Park. There can also be localised weather - changing and unpredictable - when amongst the highest mountians and narrow valleys such as at Fairy Meadows in the shadows of Nanga Parbat.
- March - May - 20 to 30 degress celcius in the day and 10 to 15 at night.
- June - September - 30 to 35 celcius in day amd 18-25 at night.
- October - November - 15 to 25 degress celcius in the day and 5 to 15 at night.
How do I pay my tour deposit.
To secure your spot on the tour you will need to pay a deposit. This shows us you are genuinely wanting to ride and confirms your participation. You can pay this by clicking the book now button on the tour you're interested in. The deposit amount is $530 AUD on all our set Pakistan motorbike tours. This payment option accepts credit card via Paypal and Stripe.
How do I pay my remaining tour fee.
Once your deposit is paid and spot confirmed on the tour you will need to pay the remaining tour fee. This has to be done no later than 1 month prior to the tour start date. Once your deposit is paid we will send you a confirmation email detailing specifics of the trip and then a final invoice with payment options including any add on services we may have discussed. Payment options are via a Paypal invoice using credit card, (you do not need a Paypal account) or for Austrailan travellers there is the option for direct bank transfer.
What happens to my deposit or full fee if I need to cancel or change dates.
The deposit is refundable in full minus a $130 AUD admin fee (this fee covers our support and the documents that we wil issue to you for your visa application) Within 1 month of the tour start dates the full fee is refundable minus $400 (this fee covers the dometsic airfares and accommodation downpayment as well as the documents we will send you for the visa application) You can at any time choose to roll over the deposit or full payment to diffent tour dates subject to availabilty.
Why is your currency listed in Australian Dollars.
We are a registered company in both Pakistan and Australia. It is by far simpler to manage internatioanal transactions via Australia as there are many restrictions on business banking and making payments to Pakistan. Pakistan does not have access to use Paypal or Stripe which our website platform offers as options. So we use Australian dollars as that is where the website is managed from.
ATMS, currency and accessing money
At an ATM you can usually withdraw 20000 pkr in one transaction, but you can make multiple transactions one after the other, each transaction may have a small fee of around 500 rupees. There are ATMs in Islamabad, Gilgit, Danyor, Aliabad, Sost, Skardu, Astor, Khaplu. The best banks to use are Allied, Alfalah, and Standard Chartered as their ATMs seem to work best. Occasionally a machine may run out of money or not work if there is no power. Most businesses will not acept credit card transactions and majority of Pakistani businesses use cash only. It is not easy for businesses to convert foreign curreny and the preferred method of payment is in Pakistani rupees. Major centres such as Islamabad, Lahore are the best options for converting USD or EURO etc for ease and best rates. You should have the newest notes not old ones as they are valued higher. It is not recommended to exchange in small areas or in Gilgit Baltistan generally as the rates will be lower, likewise rates at airport and border crossings will be terrible. It is best to withdraw cash in Rupees from ATMs.
How much money will I need to carry on the tour.
You shouldn’t need much money at all as all the meals and accommodation, fuel are included in the trip. Money would be for any extra snacks, drinks etc and souvenirs. Some smaller but fancier souvenirs or rugs could be around 2000pkr to 10000pkr or nice clothes around 3000pkr to 5000pkr. Things like drinks, snacks are very small amounts, 100 rupees, 200 rupees. At an ATM you can get out 20000 pkr in one transaction, this could be enough to last you a week or more while on the tour.
What about tipping and gifts.
Pakitsan does not have a sepcific tipping culture or any set expectations about amounts. We do commonly tip service people that we interact with on our tours and day to day life and it certainly helps a lot as life is hard for many and is greatly appreciated. You may tip our staff and guides of course they will also appreciate it but there is no set polite amount, it is up to you and your personal level of affordabilty. It is not usually expected and there is no obligation to tip but it is nice :)
For gifts - some travllers like to give soemthing back to the places they visit and locals they meet on the tours. It is difficult to say what is best here, but most likely something small and symbolic from your home country is nice. Again, no obligation or expectation at all.
What size groups do we travel with.
We like to keep our groups small. The maximum group size we travel with is 10 people, commonly we have around 6 people but we will also ride with just one person. No minimum number.
What should I wear for respecting culture.
Pakistan is a quite conservative country. While Gilgit areas are very open minded and welcoming its still nice to cover up. It's fine for men to wear t-shirts. Girls can carry a scarf and easily wrap it around head or shoulders where appropriate. Long pants are recommended, long length shorts are also fine, light loose cotton is best for the warmer weather. Singlet tops or any clothes which fully expose upper arms and thighs should not be worn at all. It is fine to wear western clothes, just be mindful that this is not a typical singlet top, bikini wearing, bum shorts, backpackers destination. For entering mosques females should carry a sacrf to cover hair (no need to cover face) and both men and women need to have long pants.
What clothes / gear should I wear for the ride.
We will provide you with gloves and helmet, however if you would rather use your own that's great too! It's up to you what other bike gear you bring and what you are most comfortable wearing. We would rather you didn't ride in shorts and t-shirt however! This isn't summer scooter riding round a tropical island. You should pack for all weathers, hot to very cold and also include wet weather gear as rain can happen at any time. Layering is the best option for the days at Khunjerab Pass. A neck cover is recommended for the colder months tours as well as thermals. Riding boots are not nessecarliy recommended as there can be some walking to scenic view points, such as at Hussaini Bridge, Attabad Lake, Skardu fort ruins, so good quality hiking boots with ankle protection are best.
Some people prefer to bring their own helmets and that is great. If you do bring your own helmet please pack it into hold luggage on flights to avoid having it taken by security... personal experience :(
Do you provide a separate packing list.
We don't provide a specific packing list. Several of the what to bring questions are answered here in this FAQ. Otherwise you will need to bring your usual travel items. We recommend, a charging pack, torch, replacement batteries, all weather gear, sun protection, long sleeves and long pants, head scarf for women, flip flops and hiking boots or good quality walking shoes, small day pack for personal items carried on the bike, reusable water bottle.
Drinking water and food / Bali Bug, Delhi Belly, Potty Poo
I am very surprised that there is not a universal word in Pakistan for the classic travellers upset stomach. It is extermely common to get sick at least once... however we have actually had pretty good luck at avoiding this type of sickness on our set tours. We always try to use fresh and quality food and can advise about what to pruchase or not to purchase in the streets/markets. DO NOT drink any tap water anywhere in Pakistan even for brushing teeth. Many restaurants will offer a jug of water, do not accept it. We always use bottled water and check the seal / lid is unopened (some places might give you a mineral water bottle but it is actually just refilled from tap). In our support car we carry a large replacement bottle and refill smaller personal bottles from that as we go to reduce using a million plastic bottles. Tap water in Pakistan can carry Typhoid, we recommend having Typhoid immunisation before travel.
Do I need to bring a sleeping bag or sleeping mat.
This is not required on our motorbike tours. All the places we stay at have good blankets and bedding. If you are booked into our Rakaposhi or Nanga Parbat basecamp treks then it is a good idea to bring your own high quality negative rated sleeping bags (to -8 or -10 celcius should be fine) if you have one. Extra blankets can usually be reqested if required.
What type of luggage should I bring, how is it transported for the ride.
We take a support car with us on our rides so the main bulk of the luggage will go in the support car. Therefore any type of luggage is ok. You should bring a small day pack that we can easily attach to the back of the bikes. There are a couple of exceptional circumstances that can affect the luggage choice - if we have just one or two riders then we do not take the support car, in that scenario it is best to bring a soft backpack type luggage so we can strap it to the bike more easily. The other scenario that can and has occured is if there is a landslide blocking the road where cars or even bikes cannot cross we may need to walk across the landslide in which case we must carry the luggage with us. While it is usually okay to bring a hard wheeled bag we do recommend a soft style backpack if you have one.
If the Domestic flight is cancelled what do we do.
Unfortunately the domestic flight route between Islamabad and Gilgit sees many cancellations. This is one reason why on our Classic Karakoram and Pure Pakistan rides we travel by road from Islamabad for the first couple of days of the tours. And all our tours have an extra day at the end that acts as a buffer day in the event that we need to go by road. So if the flight is cancelled we will travel by road with a night stop in either Nran or Besham, usually reaching Islamabad mid afternoon on the final day.
What time can we expect to return to Islamabad.
There are two main scenarios that can play out affecting the return time to Islamabad.
Scenario 1 - the flight is on schedule and we reach Islamabad usually by late morning, midday or early afternoon on the second last day of the tour. In which case we have an afternoon free to relax or explore followed by the next day with some local Islamabad sight seeing.
Scenario 2 - the flight is cancelled and we must go by road. In this event we reach Islamabad around mid afternoon on the final day of the tour and there is no allowance for Islamabad sightseeing. We must always be ready for this scenario as flights are often cancelled.
Departure international flights should not be booked any earleir than late evening on the final day of the tour or better the following day after the tour.
Domestic flight - baggage allowance.
The baggage allowance on the domestic flights is 20kg, however it is pretty straightforward to add excess baggage at a fee of 5000 pkr per piece. If you bring yoru own motorbike helmet this will need to be added to checked hold luggage, it cannot be carried with you as carry on.
How many hours per day do we ride.
We will spend up to 8 hours per day on the road. This is not continuous riding but is including plenty of time for scenery breaks and chai stops. We want you to take it all in, not rush by. Timing can change depending on the weather or any conditions such as rising creek crossings, landslides, livestock using the road.
1) Gilgit to Astore - 100km - 3-4hours
2) Astore to Skardu - 150km - 8-10hours
3) Skardu to Shigar - 50km - 1-2hours
4) Shigar to Khaplu - 110km - 4hours
5) Khaplu to Hushe - 60km - 2-3hours
6) Hushe to Manthoka - 140km - 4hours
7) Manthoka to Kachura - 90km - 2 hours
8) Kachura to Gilgit - 180km - 4-5 hours
9) Gilgit to Karimabad - 100km- 3-4hours
10) Karimabad to Hoper Valley and return - 50km - 2-3hours
11) Karimabad to Passu - 60km - 1-2hours
12) Passu to Khunjerab and Return - 250km - 8-9 hours
13) Passu to Gilgit - 150km - 5-6hours
14) Skardu to Gilgit - 200km - 4-5hours
Can I bring a friend on the same bike as me.
Yes you can bring a friend, we'd love that and love you to share the ride. You do however have to be experienced in pillion riding over tough conditions and the buddy may need to get off and walk through certain "tricky" spots. The pillion buddy also has the option to travel in the support vehicle. There is a slightly cheaper tour fee for the pillion or support car spot.
I'm riding overland on my own bike, can I still join the tour, what are my options.
Yes absolutely. We can arrange for you to join the tour in Sost if you are arriving from China border crossing or connect in Islamabad if you are arriving from the south. We would adjust the fee accordingly and discuss options in relation to each overlander riders specific situation. If this is you please email us and we can come up with a plan :)
When and what do I need to do to get my Pakistan Visa. Letter of Invitation.
You should apply for the visa to Pakistan no later than 1 month before the trip starts if possible and also no earlier than 3 months before the tour start date. The tourist visa is most commonly issued for a stay of 30 days in a 3 month travel window from date of issue (this does vary, sometimes it is a 6 month travel window or a 60 day stay or other variation, but one cannot predict what you will actually be given) The visa can be processed sometimes as fast as 24 hours other times it may take several weeks. We recommend allowing a month just in case there is a request for further documents.
For our tour travellers will provide you with an invitation letter to visit Pakistan as well as a full itinerary, also our tourism licence and directors natioanl ID card. All these documents you will then upload to your visa application using the Nadra online portal. https://visa.nadra.gov.pk/
Where do we meet for the start of the tour.
We start our set tours from Islamabad and currently we use Best Regency Guesthouse in F8-3 as a base prior to the start of the tour. For the Classic Karakoram and Pure Pakistan tours we depart from here by road. Most travellers stay at least the night befor at this guesthouse, our guide will be there for one or two days before the trip ready to assist travallers as they arrive to Islamabad. For the Indus Shyok we also depart from here for the Islamabad airport and the morning flight to Skardu. It is of course ok if you decide to stay somehwere else but we will meet at our designated guesthouse on the morning of the tour start. Some travellers have a tight internatioanl flight schedule and we can arrange for pick up and direct departure from the airport (but this is not advised as it does not allow for flight delays, which seem to be far too common these days)
When should I arrive to Pakistan prior to the tour start and when should I depart.
Ideally you will arrive to Islamabad no later than the night before the tour start date and depart no earlier than the following day from the tour end date.
I am interested in seeing more of Pakistan, can I add on tour extras for other
Absolutely we would love to assist you with add on exploring. We can discuss and arrange add on trekking or cultural exploring or extension to the motorbike travel. Common add on options that we have supported travellers with in the past are things like, Lahore or Peshawar city exploring, historical buddhist sites, Shandour top, Yasin, Kalash loop. Rakaposhi and Nanga Parbat trekking, Naltar lakes and many more. Just share your ideas and interests with us and we can provide some good options :)
Do you recommend accommodation in Islamabad for before and after the tour.
As mentioned under the "where do we meet for the tour" question - we most commonly use Best Regency Guesthouse in F8-3 area. This guesthouse is a middle level traditonal style Islamabad guesthouse. Our guide will be based there at the start of every tour. This guesthouse is close to the Jinnah Market, which has a good variety of shops and restaurants, it is also in easy access to Faisal Mosque, Margala Hill trails and Centaurus Mall. We can book nights at this guesthouse for you upon your request.
If the return Gilgit flight goes as per schedule, what do we do on the last day in Islamabad.
We will use this day to either relax or explore the local area, options for exploring can be old city Rawlapindi, Margala Hills sunset at Monal and trails or local markets.
Do you recommend any travel insurance.
We don't have any specific recommendation for travel insurance. Some facts to keep in mind - we use 150 cc motorbikes and visit a maximum height of 4693mtrs. You may not find cover for the transfer by road between Islamabad and Gilgit border, all other areas are covered by most insurance companies where we spend 90% of our visit.
What about safety, first aid, altitude and security.
Your safety is of the utmost importance to us. All our tour leaders are professionaly trained and acredited with a certificate in first aid. A comprehensive medical kit is available and our guides are experts in local cultures and the resolution of any issues that may arise on our journey. It's our duty to you to make the ride as stress free and awesome as possible! Leaving you to relax and enjoy the ride. We also carry oxygen cannisters just in case for our time at Babusar Pass (4173mtrs) Khunjerab Pass (4693mtrs) and Deosai National Park (4114 mtrs)
If I am unable to ride for a day or two, can I travel in the support car.
There are a couple of options if you become unwell and need a days rest from riding. Sometimes we will have a mechanic travelling in the support car with the driver, if for some reason you cannot ride then the mechanic can ride the motorbike and you can travel in the support car. There is also the option to put one bike in the support if required and to travel in the car. We are very good at adapting to all sort of unexpected scenarios and will do our best to resolve any situations :).
What about a SIM card and data/wifi connectivity.
Most of the accommodation that we use has wifi. Wifi is not availabe in Hushe (we visit on our Pure Pakistan tour) Our guides will also be carrying working connections that you may hotspot off in an emergency.
Pakistan has differnt phone networks for different regions. For Punjab and the south (this includes Lahore and Islamabad) the best network SIMs sre Telenor, Zong, Ufone and Jazz. These usually should be purchaed from the head office in the city that you are in and you will need passport and visa copies. For Chitral and Kalash Telenor is the best. HOWEVER these providers DO NOT work in Gilgit Baltistan, Hunza and Skardu regions (small coverage for calling only not data) The SIm for the northern areas is SCOM sim and this should be purchased at the main office in Gilgit city (also possible to purchase in Aliabad and Skardu) - we can assist with getting the Gilgit Sim before departing Gilgit.
Will there be options to charge my devices at each location.
Sometimes there is no electricity as load shedding is very common, it is good to carry a charging pack if you have one. Most accommodation will have power at night and you can charge in your room. Some places have a generator for when the power is out. Our guide will also have a battery pack for charging if required.
What is the humanitarian connection.
Every trip you take with us, every bike hired, every item bought, is giving directly to communities in need. We work closely with local people in places we visit to find best practices for sustainable tourism, returning to local economy and maintaining pure environments. A purchase through Karakoram Bikers goes to directly help these communities.
I love your tours but cannot make the dates work, what other options are there.
We will always look at everyone's situation and try to come up with altenative options, please feel free to message us to discuss alternative dates or custom tour plans.
Do you recommend any international flight carriers to get to Pakistan.
The tour starts from Islamabad and there are many international airlines that fly into Islamabad, many form the Middle East region, such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar. Turkish Airlines is also commonly used as well as Thai Airways.
Do you offer airport pickup/hotel transfer in Islamabad pre/post the tour.
Yes we can arrange airport pick up for an additional fee for those who will be staying at our recommended guesthouse in Islamabad. Just message us to discuss yoru arrival.
I am an independent traveller, can you still help me.
Yes we can! For visa support and the letter of invitation to visit Pakistan you can read through our visa info page. We often support independent travellers who would like to travel at their own pace or are on a budget. You might like to hire our motorbikes or stay at our guesthouses or do some short tours/treks but not have time for the full multi week tours. We are more than ready to disucss options and help with as little or much as you need in your planning. Contact us via email if you have questions about independet travel but still with our support
Do you recommend any travel books that have useful information about travel in Pakistan
Currently the best and most comprehensively up to date travel book covering Pakistan is Tim Blight's Pakistan Traveller https://urbanduniya.com/pakistantraveller/