TRAVELBOOK: How safe are trips to Pakistan?

TRAVELBOOK Article from October 18, 2019

British Royals Kate and William are traveling to Pakistan. But how safe is the country – can I go there as a „normal“ tourist without worries? A travel safety expert gives a clear answer.

Duchess Kate and Prince William are currently travelling through Pakistan – visiting the capital Islamabad, the Hindu Kush Mountains and Lahore on the Indian border. The reason for the five-day royal trip was to improve relations between the Asian state and Great Britain. So the official announcement of Buckingham Palace. And indeed, the couple generates beautiful pictures, shows themselves in traditional costumes, plays cricket or celebrates their birthday with Pakistani children. The trip is so far the most risky of William and Kate’s, their route remained secret because of security concerns in advance.

So how safe are trips to Pakistan? TRAVELBOOK asked someone who needs to know. Travel safety expert Sven Leidel, author of the Travel Safety Handbook. Leidel on TRAVELBOOK: „I would rate the overall risk rating for Pakistan as ‚5 – very high‘.“ The risk rating scale ranges from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high).

„Threat for foreign travellers“.

Leidel continues: „Since 2015, the country has seen a significant decrease in the number of terrorist incidents and attacks after Pakistan’s military conducted a sustained operation against terrorist bases in northwestern Pakistan. Nevertheless, there was a brief increase in violence in early 2017, with militant groups continuing to attack throughout the country and posing a constant threat. In addition to terrorism, civil unrest, xenophobic violence and crime also affect security conditions and pose a threat to foreign travellers.“

There is a long list of risk factors:

Terrorism and Islamist militancy

petty crime

Protests that often escalate into violence and clashes with the police and the military

Violence against foreign tourists and expats (and their family members)

Religious and ethnic tensions

Tense relationship with India, which is traditionally poor, but primarily concentrated on the border area

Balochistan uprisings, often aimed at state institutions and economic interests, affecting the overall security situation in Balochistan province

natural disasters

sometimes catastrophic health and hygiene conditions

What travellers should be aware of

Leidel therefore clearly advises against travelling to Pakistan – but anyone who still has to or wants to go there should consider the following: In Pakistan illegal drugs, alcohol, sexually explicit material and pork products are forbidden. Leidel continues: „Pakistani laws include the death penalty for anyone convicted of insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammed. In practice, the death penalty is rarely carried out, but people suspected of blasphemy have been killed by mobs in the past. For this reason, foreigners should avoid any testimony or action that might be construed as an insult to the Koran, Mohammed, or Islam in general.“

In addition, kidnappers have targeted foreigners in the past. Kidnappings have occurred mainly in the western provinces of Pakistan, such as Balochistan. „As a precaution, travelers should vary their routines and keep them private and confidential to reduce the risk of kidnapping,“ Leidel advises.

Women should take even more precautions:

Do not use public transport

Do not accept journeys from strangers or persons who do not know them well.

Keeping a close eye on drinks

Do not walk alone or visit public areas (especially early in the morning and at night).

When they are in their hotel, women should not open their room door to strangers and try not to be alone in a room with male hotel staff.

What else you should keep in mind

In addition, „photographing women in general is unwise and strictly forbidden in conservative and tribal areas,“ Leidel knows. Which should also not be photographed: Military installations, bridges and airports.

Also, all water sources outside the major Western hotel chains should be considered potentially contaminated. Food served in large hotels and well-known restaurants should be safe. Nevertheless, holidaymakers should only accept water in previously sealed bottles.

The bottom line

Leidel’s conclusion: „In my opinion, Pakistan is not a suitable holiday destination for families. For business trips, it is advisable to take extensive precautions (driving service with armoured vehicles).

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator