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© 2019 by Karakoram Bikers

Lahore/Gilgit/Pakistan

Melbourne/Australia

info@karakorambikers.com

As a tour company we have to meet certain obligations under the advice of Pakistan government when assisting travellers to Pakistan. We are true and honest in everything we do and believe in utmost transparency. If you are a solo traveller wishing to travel independently and not book a tour with us we cannot ever pretend that you are on a tour with us. An invitation letter can only be issued by us when you are undertaking our tour services. It is our preference that if you are on our LOI and NOT on one of our longer set tours that you book into a Lahore day tour, or short custom trips AND a stay at one of our homestays. We cannot assist travellers who are only visiting the Southern Areas. We can arrange custom trips or city transfers with excellent rates to suit your travel style. 

Visas, Letters of Invitation and NOC...

What do I need and how do I get them??

Karakoram Bikers helps many people from many different countries applying from their own and outside their own countries for the visa to travel to Pakistan and with the letter of invitation, as well as my own personal visa process multiple times. And while the basic requirements are the same, short answer is - the process in one country may not at all match the process in another. It’s important to check on the website of the Embassy or Pakistan High Commission in your country of residence and see the list of requirements. Unfortunately for some the process does seem to be laborious and very stressful. By putting together all the information I have garnered through my experiences I hope to help relieve some of the pain in the process. And of course I will update this page whenever new information comes to hand. Below is a general list of commonly asked questions that can relate to many situations. 

 

Some commonly asked questions… (the list is long ~ people have lots of questions)

UPDATE - Pakistan EVisa and Visa on Arrival.

In March this year 2019, the Ministry of Interior started rolling out the Pakistan Evisa and visa on arrival. This is a brand new process and is still in the early stages with some trouble shooting going on. On the surface the requirements seem to be open with otpions of merely using a hotel booking as evidence of travel but it appears to not always be that easy. We are getting feedback from both our letter of invitation clients and other travellers who have either contacted us or stayed with us in our homestays or that we connect with throug hour broader network. Some travellers have had great success and have received their tourist visa in as little as 48 hours without issues, while others have had refusals without any explanation and others had simple requests for more information or were told to provide an invitation letter and then been approved. Karakoram Bikers have been getting some requests from travellers who have tried to use the new system with just hotel bookings and failed, they were told to provide an invitation letter from a tour company. This has happened via a variety of different countries and does not seem to be restircted to any particular country. The proess is still varying for individuals. 

 

When the annoucenment was first made we were excited to think that maybe now travellers could get their visa while already out on the road travelling. It has been a major hurdle for some long term travellers as the requiremnt was that you must be in your home country or country of residence to apply for the visa. Unfortunately this seems to still be the case as it states on the Nadra website that you must be in your home country to apply in case you are required for an interview. However Karakoram Bikers has had one confirmed successful applciation of a UK citizen livng in spain who was called for interview, when she explained she is living in Spain and had appleid via evisa and was not able to travel back to UK for interview they procedded to grant the visa without interview ( we do not say that this means it will always be the case but its good to know that it can happen) Mostly people are not called for interview but it is always a possibilty.

The following information below is still relevent for evisa or applying directly to embassies. We will update as regularly as possible. This evisa update is current as of June 2019. You can also find information directly from the Ministry of Interior NADRA website https://visa.nadra.gov.pk

 

Do I need a letter of invitation to visit Pakistan?

Yes, 90% of the time. I know of one case where the applicant wrote their own letter explaining their situation and in detailed discussions with the embassy they received their visa. This was a special case I believe with extenuating circumstance. There are also a handful of countries that seem to not always need an LOI such as Italy and Norway (one traveller from Iceland informed me that she didn't even need a visa, great to enter the country but this confused the police at check posts as to why there was no visa in her passport)... however I've heard some countries such as Germany where it depends on the particular city embassy within the country not the country itself, for instance applicants who have applied in Frankfurt have needed the letter but Berlin seemed not to. That said it does seem to depend a lot on who you get to handle your application within the agency or embassy. When in doubt the LOI is certainly not going to hurt.

 

Where can I get the letter of invitation?

This has been a steep learning curve for us over the past year... one that is made more difficult by the constantly changing protocols. Karakoram Bikers can write you a professional, clear, concise letter of Invitation BUT we cannot just issue an LOI only. You must be engaging in travel or other services with us. Contact us and we will discuss your travel plans to Pakistan.

Can I get a friend to write me an invitation letter.

This is possible for a few embassies only. Australians are able to have a Paksitani resident friend invite them. Most embassies that ask for an invitation letter for tourism visa require that letter to come from a tour company. If you are applying for family visit or business obviousy the relations or business partner would do the inviting. HOWEVER please keep in mind that even though it may be tempting to get any "friend" to write a letter for you, there is a very real security responsibity that goes with that. Inter services Intelligence can and do on occasion follow up with interviews and ongoing surveillance of the invitee. The person inviting must be ready to answer all questions regarding your travel and must know who you are and what you are doing and be able to explain their relationship with you.

How much does this letter cost.

We charge $105 Australian Dollars for this service. (roughly $80 USD) Not only do we write your letter but also take the time to discuss with you the best options to make sure your letter is fool proof. We also include ongoing support through the visa application process and assist you when any issues may arise. Hopefully things go smoothly but everynow and then an embassy questions the applicant.

What about my itinerary, do I need exact dates.

 

You need to advise us of the date of entry and how long you are intending on staying. It is best that you have an accurate itinerary and do not stray into areas that are not on the itinerary.

Do I have to stick to the areas on my itinerary.

 

No and yes. Once in Pakistan you can explore other areas... UPDATE - this is becoming an issue for us with some travellers who have shared their itinerary with us and then been found at checkpoints well away from areas they say they are. Yes Pakistan government has access to all data that is submitted at embassies and yes they can and do follow up on foreigner travellers especially if you attempt to go into areas outside of "safe" Zones. If you are travelling through Swat or Peshawar or Chitral areas without a guide then this can potentially cause an issue. UPDATE - we recommend you stick to your itinerary and do not explore randomly or on a whim in Pakistan. Karakoram Bikers prefers you to travel with one of our guides.

Can I easily go anywhere in Pakistan on my visa?

 

Updated - No. Most areas are safe and easy to travel through however keep in mind that yes some areas, mostly in military containment zones, require an NOC as well and if you want to go into restricted zones and some areas of the Karakoram National Park you will need a permit. Also trekking in these areas and above 6000 metres requires a permit. So while yes, technically you can go to different areas it's a good idea to discuss with us where you're interested in and if we need to arrange anything to make it happen. You cannot travel freely in Balochistan, Tribal administered area, Azad Kashmir,and in some cases KPK around Peshawar, Swat and Chitral. We advise having a guide or friend with you if going through Swat and Chitral. UPDATE - some travellers have recently been stopped at Chitral and Kalash and have been told they need an NOC. NOC is not something we can arrange easily. Our main focus is in Northern Areas of Gilgit Baltistan and Lahore in Punjab.

Do I need to send the original copy of the LOI to the embassy or will the emailed scanned version be fine.

Usually you do not have to send in the original. However the request for the original version of the LOI is becoming more common. Usually the emailed version is fine however there are a few embassies that insist on it dsepite us going to further measures of getting the letter attested by Pakistani government officials in the courts. We cannot fake an attested letter but still some embassies request the original. International courier can be expensive but at least it is fast, usually just a few days to reach you. 

 

I’m a lone woman traveller and the visa agency says I should not travel alone and only go on a tour and I should trust no one and it’s like I need a personal bodyguard and I’m scared now and why are they saying this to me. 

 

This has actually happened to one of our applicants. The embassy insisted she not be allowed to enter Pakistan as a solo female traveller. Females are perfectly safe and able to travel in Pakistan without a chaperone. However we can meet you at the airport or border and provide guided trip to satisfy an embassy and their paranoia for their female citizens. Please do not let this reaction put you off if you're a female traveller wanting to eplore Pakistan. This was a very unusal reaction and we always do what we can to help. 

The visa application asks for flights but I’m arriving by road, what do I do.

For some bizarre reason we have had embassies insist that you have flights booked. This is of course daunting if you are not even sure that you will receive your visa(we do everything we can to make sure you do) And even more ridiculous if you're arriving over one of the land borders. There is no requirement to have plane tickets booked. An explanation letter detailing how you are intending to cross the border is enough. 

Do I need a hotel booking to guarantee my visa?

It is a good idea to have the first night hotel booking. You can use a no deposit booking and cancel it later if you don't actually want to stay there. Some Embassies ask for a hotel booking others do not. 

 

Do I have to go on a tour with a tourism company to make sure I get my Visa.

Some Embassies insist on a detailed tour with a registered company others do not. We can arrange a custom tour to suit and have a very low key laid back freedom feel to it. All embassies do seem to ask for an itinerary at the very least so it's a good idea to think in advance about the places you're wanting to visit.

 

I’m just chilling backpacking across the globe and I know I’ll enter Pakistan sometime in summer but I’m not sure when, can I enter at different times to the dates on my letter of invitation.

 

Once the visa is issued they usually allow for a 6 month window. So yes if your timing changes and you cannot or aren't wanting to enter when you originally expected to you can arrive sometime in that 6 months, for example you have a two week visa or 1 month visa for use anytime in a 6 month period from date of issue. Sometimes a visa is issued for exact dates but this is not the standard. Perhaps when you apply you can ask the embassy if it's a standard 6 month window. 

If I have certain areas listed on my letter of invite or itinerary that are in red zone or higher risk travel warning areas will this change my chances of getting a visa?

 

I would advise to not mention the areas in military containment unless you have to. For example if crossing from Iran you will have to cross Balochistan. This is fine to mention but do not suggest you are wanting to travel there as this may raise questions. You are given a police escort to cross this area and where you stay is heavily monitored. You are expected to cross and leave, not explore. You will be issued an NOC on arrival to get through this area. If you are interested in other areas it would be best to discuss these with us and we will do what we can to privide assistance to visit.

How much does the visa cost?

 

The cost of the visa varies from one country to another. Please check with the embassy in your country of residence for exact fees.

How long does it take to get my visa?

 

Visa approval processing can take as little as a couple of days to as long as 1 month and is usually straightforward once submitted at the embassy if all paper work is provided. We advise starting the process at least a month in advance to allow for dealing with any possible questions that may arise. UPDATE - Very occasionally an application is sent to ministry of interior and this can take several months to process. This happens very rarely and is usually due to not having clear paperwork, unclear plans (or some unusual situation like travelling with small children in own vehicle through Balochistan, travelling independently on bicycle without tour company support, travellers of Indian heritage despite being born in different country and having citizenship of the country other than India and longer stay requests greater than 2 months are some examples we have encountered) NOTE - We have no abiltiy to speed up a process once it goes to ministry of interior despite what an embassy may tell you. We can and do follow up with embassies depending on the embassy.

How long does it take for you to send me the Letter of Invitation. 

 

Once we have all the details clear for the letter and payment is recieved we will get the letter to you within 48 hours. Often much sooner. 

I’m rushed and need to enter Pakistan in 3 days time can you help me?

 

No. You need to allow a reasonable amount of time for the letter to be written and for the embassy to process your application. We have had the process completed from point of LOI request to receiving visa done completely within a week. But please allow at least 1 month wherever possible. Karakoram Bikers is not held responsible if you have not allowed enough time to process your application.

I’m not returning to the country from which I’m arriving from, is this a problem?

 

No it's not a problem but you may be asked about this. Obviously many travellers are visiting Pakistan as part of a larger travel itinerary. It might mean you just need to write a short letter detailing how Pakistan fits into your travels. Some embassies will ask, others will not. 

I want to apply for my Pakistan visa while travelling through Iran, is this possible.

Generally no it is much easier to apply in your own country of residence. UPDATE - There has been some success with some travellers getting a 2 week transit visa from Iran. You would then need to extend the visa within Pakistan at Lahore or Islamabad.

 

I want to apply for my Pakistan visa while travelling through India, is this possible.

No they will not allow you to send your passport out of India and you cannot get a Pakistan visa from within India. Please have your Pakistani visa in place before entering India to avoid disappointment.

I want to enter Pakistan from China, can I get visa on arrival at Khunjerab pass?

We have heard that this has been possible for some. It does require a certain amount of living on the edge that I personally would feel awkward about. We cannot guarantee that you will be approved entry this way. If your plans are fluid and you're more than happy to change direction then that's up to you of course. Karakoram Bikers would advise to obtain your Pakistan visa in advance to avoid disappointment. Remember you will probably still have a 6 month window to change timing as need be and maintain your go with the flow traveller vibes.

I want to apply for my visa in Europe but I’m from Australia, is this possible. etc etc in various requests of country combinations…

 

Basically the rule of thumb is, you can only apply for a visa to Pakistan from the country you are a citizen of and also the country you are a resident of. If you are a resident of a country other than the passport you are holding you may apply in that country as well as your country of citizenship. If you are in any other country you must send your passport back to your home country to be processed. This is not possible to do from some countries such as India. So Pakistan is not somewhere you just go to on a whim while travelling around the world. Yes it requries a little bit of forethought.

Can I extend my visa once I’m in Pakistan.

 

Yes. You can extend your visa for 1 month or 3 months at the Ministry of Interior - Immigration and Passports, in both Lahore and Islamabad. UPDATE - It appears that visas are currently not able to be extended at the department in Gilgit. For extension you need to fill out a request for visa extension and provide two current passport sized photos.

 

Can anyone sponsor me to come to Pakistan. Can’t I just get anyone to give me a Letter of Invitation.

No. 90% of the Embassies want the letter of inviation to come from a registered tour company. Some countries allow you to be invited by a friend. We recommend only doing this if you know the person well and they can be completely trusted and that they are capable of supporting you completely and able to write a professional letter. The person writing the letter must be held accountable for you during your time in Pakistan The sponsor will be under surveillance and may be interviewed randomly by secret agency within Pakistan. We have been interviewed at random locations and know that we have been monitored. Others have also reported being interviewed at their homes after having foreign travellers stay with them. This is not something to take lightly and Pakistan views it's security situation with utmost seriousness. For this reason we also take our responsiblity seriously and will ask you questions about your travel in Pakistan. We recommend using a registered travel company and not a random citizen. 

The embassy is saying I need a trekking permit because I'm going to Gilgit. What do I do.

This can be a very frustrating situation. Some embassies seem to think that mentioning the words Gilgit or Skardu implies you need a trekking permit. This is absoluetly not true. There are many many treks that are easy to access without the need for any special permits. You DO need a permit to enter the Karakoram Narional park, which we can organise if you are wanting to do that. Funnily enough we mention Hunza without any issues at all. Many embassies are not aware of the actual areas and the tourism requirements. Hunza and Skardu are in the greater region of Gilgit-Baltistan, a huge area that one can easily visit wthout ever doing a single trek :) Gilgit is a city in the region of Gilgit-Baltistan... there are no treks within Gilgit city!

I want to go to border areas, can I do this?

No not easily. These areas are in remote military containment areas. You must get extra approval, clearance and an NOC to do so and it's likely to be refused. Depending on the area this can take a lot of time and may not be approved. Border crossing points are fine, Khunjerab, Taftan and Wagah. 

Do I need an NOC and what is all this panic about?

Recently there has been a lot of hoohar about NOCs in Pakistan. There was a huge scare for foreign travellers and tour companies when the government decided to try to implement the need for an NOC to travel in Gilgit. There was a huge uproar and this was never instigated. There is no requirement for an NOC to Gilgit (Hunza Skardu)on a standard toruist visa... business or student visas requrie an NOC. Areas closer to Afghanistan, Iran and India borders do require an NOC, Such as Balochistan, Quetta, Azad Kashmir, Chitral and this is sometimes removed and reinstated depending on the changing security situations. It's very difficult to know the current situation in Pakistan with regards to NOC... even local officials dont always know and it can vary as much as from one check post to another. Basically if you know in advance you would like to explore some of the more border line areas then it would be easier to apply for an NOC in advance. Otherwise I'd recommend enjoying all the rest of the glorious country! Areas of Hunza and Skardu do not require an NOC on tourist visa.

Where can I travel using my NOC.

The NOC is specific to the areas that are requested on the form. You cannot use an NOC for one area in a another area somehwere else, it is not universal. 

Should I use an agency to help with my visa process.

We recommend going directly to the embassy wherever possible. In some contries such as the UK you have no choice but to go through a third party agency. We have had unreasonable confusion through VisaHQ and still think Gerry's is a better option. Lesser of two evils in a way. We have also found the smoothness of the application process may depend entirely on the actaul person who is handling the visa application and the depth, or lack thereof, of their knowledge of Pakistan. 

UPDATE - Karakoram Bikers cannot issue Letters of Invitation to independent travellers who have no intention of meeting us. If you are on our invitation we must meet you, this could be by staying at our homestay and soemthing like a Lahore tour. We will discuss with you to arrange the best possible options for your travel in Pakistan.

In the end, the short answer is, if in doubt send Karakoram Bikers a message and we will help however we can.

When contacting us for assistance with your visa application please tell us in your initial enquiry - the embassy at which you will be applying and when you hope to visit.

I want a visa to Pakistan...

HELP what do I do?!!