Tickets are booked and you’re super excited to visit Pakistan to meet family. You picked the dates to go, searched online for fares, negotiated with a travel agent and finally bought the ticket (this topic itself deserves a separate post)! Now as you mark off the dates on your calendar to visit the homeland and dream of fresh home made parathas, here are 17 important things to do before you visit Pakistan! Whether you’re going to Pakistan from North America, Europe, Middle East, Australia or the Far East, all these make an important to-do list.
Things to do before you visit Pakistan
1. Check Travel Documents
Make sure that all passports are valid and not expired. If you do not have a Pakistani passport you need either a NICOP card or a Visa to travel on your passport. Make sure you have the valid travel documents for all your transits. VisaHQ is a good website for a quick check. If you’re extra paranoid you can always call the embassies to check transit requirements.
It’s a good idea to keep a copy of your travel documents either on your phone or a photocopy in your hand carry.
2. Get Travel Vaccinations
Travel vaccinations should be at the top of your list of things to do before you visit Pakistan. For travel to Pakistan most travel clinics recommend the hepatitis A and B and typhoid vaccinations. You might need a tetanus booster if your last one was ten years ago. Make a visit to a travel clinic a few months before you travel because some vaccinations like hepatitis require six months for the complete dosage. The travel clinic might also have recommendations for malaria exposure and prescribe medicine to keep on hand for common ailments.
The hepatitis vaccination is only offered to children after 12 months of age and typhoid is for children 2 years and older. Hepatitis vaccination is for life and typhoid is good for two years. These facts are based on my own experience. Please consult with a travel clinic for advice specific to you.
3. buy gifts
No visit from Wilaiyat (abroad) is complete without a suitcase of gifts for family and friends. This topic also deserves a blog post of its own. I do recommend making a list and staying within a set budget.
4. pack for the weather
Everyone knows that the summers in Pakistan are extremely hot however the winters can be more cold than what the temperature shows since the houses are heated differently. Pack sweaters to wear inside the house for yourself and the children.
5. plan for medical needs
Plan for your medical needs during your visit to Pakistan. Most people don’t buy insurance since medical is not expensive and most insurances are not valid if there is a travel advisory against the country (usually true for Pakistan), however there are a few other things to consider:
Keep any medicines you require regularly such as vitamins, pain killers, anti-allergies etc. This is especially important for children.
information on local doctors
If you’re traveling with children, while you’re pregnant, or have any serious medical condition get contact details of local specialist doctors before you leave.
6. Register your travel
Some countries allow their citizens to register their travel outside the country so that they can be informed in case of any emergency abroad or at home.
Canadian citizens can use this website to register their travel.
7. plan logistics for children
Traveling with children requires some special logistical planning and here are a few areas you might want to look into:
If you’re traveling with children without one or both of their parents, you need a consent letter from all people who have legal rights on the children. Here is the recommended format of the letter.
Unless you have a direct flight to Pakistan, you will have layovers at airports and having a stroller for smaller children definitely makes life easier. However do keep in mind that if you’re transiting through Dubai or Doha you do not get your stroller at the gate at these airports. These airports have complimentary strollers available for parents inside the terminal. Do check with your travel agent or the airport staff about when and where you will get your stroller.
Most countries require infants and children till a certain age to use car seats. This is not the case in Pakistan. You may chose to take your car seat because your child is used to it and it’s definitely safer. You might also be worried that your child might fall out their habit of sitting in the car seat if you don’t maintain it in Pakistan.
Airlines allow the car seat to be booked along with the luggage all the way to the destination. Some parents are concerned that the car seat is thrown around with the luggage and might not stay safe. If you have these concerns you can buy a cheaper car seat just for the visit and leave in Pakistan for subsequent travel. You can also ask family in Pakistan to buy or borrow a car seat for your visit.
You can take a car seat on the plane if you have bought a seat for the child. Do always call the airline to check if the plane has seats big enough to accommodate your specific car seat. I have seen parents with travel carts for the car seat at the airport which basically makes the car seat a stroller as you walk through the terminal to the plane. They then secure the car seats to the plane seat as they get on board and the children definitely are better rested on the long-haul flights.
You may choose not to have your child in a car seat while in Pakistan which is fine also, considering most cars don’t travel at high speeds. However it’s strongly recommended not to sit in the front seat with a child and to always have them in the back seat with an adult.
Having a carrier makes travel convenient if you have a baby under 18 months of age with you. I love how I can use both my hands after putting the baby in the carrier which comes super handy when you have to hand over the stroller at the gate and get to your seat. Make sure your carrier has good back support for you.
diapers/baby food etc
You will surprised that most of the brands your child uses are available in Pakistan. Ask family to stock up on diapers before you arrive. Ask mommies in Pakistan about the stores they shop at and about availability of the diapers, wipes, milk, formula etc you’re looking for. It’s always easy to pack powder formula or milk with you. Use good general hygiene and avoid eating raw fruit and vegetables outside. Also use bottled mineral water and avoid dairy products from outside.
The microwave-able bottle sanitizer is a great idea to keep bottles clean and sanitized.
Traveling with children to Pakistan is a topic worth a discussion of many hours. As a general rule use common sense and general precaution. I will be writing separately about things to do before you visit Pakistan with children.
8. get local currency
To avoid looking like a total Wilayat-return, keep some Ruppess on hand for the airport where you might need it to tip or to get the luggage trolley.
9. Voltage and plugs
The voltage in Pakistan is 220-240 Volts (U.S./Canada are 110-120 Volts). Most devices are adaptable to all voltages however some appliances like a hair straightner or hair dryer might not be. To avoid frying any of your appliances do check the voltage on them (this is an oft forgotten one from the list of things to do before you visit Pakistan).
The power outlets in Pakistan might also be different than what your devices need. Carrying a universal pin adapter is generally a good idea if you don’t know what the outlets are like in the house you will stay in Pakistan.
10. book your seat and meals
Make sure you book your seats to ensure everyone traveling together is seated together. You might also have preference for an aisle or a window seat. Most international long haul flights allow you to book your seats till 72 hours before travel (after which you can only request when you check-in and might not have great luck).
Shorter legs might allow booking seats for a fee beforehand. Free seat assignment becomes available 24 hours before the flight leaves when you do online check in.
If a meal is offered on your flight, make sure you give your preference when you book seats since all options might not be available unless you request 3 days in advance. Airlines generally have a good variety available to accommodate dietary preferences such as halal/kosher, child meal, vegetarian etc. if requested earlier.
11. book some spa time
This is probably not on your things to do before you visit Pakistan. Why book Spa time when you’re going to Pakistan, the land of the affordable service industry? This is actually quite important. Firstly, you won’t look quite like yourself after a 30-hour, multiple layover, long-haul flight journey from around the world anyways. That ordeal alone will make you look like a haggard traveler from the middle ages. On top of this you can be sure that your friends and family will come to welcome you within a few hours of your landing, before you have had the time to check out the neighborhood beauty parlor. Witnessing your unruly eyebrows, open pores, rough hands and unsightly feet, will convince them of what they have suspected all along: your life in Waliayat (abroad) looks classy on social media thanks to flattering filters only and is total khawari (a hassle) otherwise.
12. inform your bank
Let your bank know that you will be traveling and will be using your credit card on the way and in Pakistan, lest they close it down due to “suspicious” activity just when you have piled up all your finds at the counter at Khaadi.
13. arrange care for your house/Pets/plants
Most home insurances require someone to check the house every few days when everyone is away. Make sure you check your policy and leave a key with a friend or neighbor. They can also pick any mail or packages that arrive while you are away.
Do shut off the main water line and arrange care for your pets and plants.
14. set an “away” message on your voicemail
You will probably be using for phone on data only while you’re in Pakistan and get a local sim. Set a voicemail message on your phone informing anyone who calls you the dates you will be away and the alternate way to reach you, for example, via email. When I shared this on my list of things to do before you visit Pakistan, some people pointed out that this might be a bad idea since people might know you’re away. Do consider this point also!
15. cook for thy husband
If you’re leaving your husband behind, stock an ample supply of frozen home-cooked meals to avoid any emotional blackmail calls for an early return while you’re partying in Pakistan.
16. empty the fridge/garbage
If the entire family is leaving together, make sure you empty the fridge and garbage so that unpleasant smells don’t welcome you once you come back.
17. Clean the house
This might seem counter intuitive on your list of things to do before you visit Pakistan, but clean your house before you leave. This will ensure that the post-Pakistan-trip blues don’t hit you twice as bad when you face a dirty house and no house help to rescue you on your return!
Hope you enjoyed these tips and things to do before you visit Pakistan. What would you add here? What’s always on your list of things to do before you visit Pakistan?