Getting there & away
Islamabad doesn’t have a long-distance bus station, and although there are buses to Taxila and Peshawar, the best deals and the best buses are found in Rawalpindi. Long-distance buses leave from and arrive at the chaotic Pir Wadhai bus station or near Pir Wadhai Chowk. Both are northwest of Saddar Bazaar. To reach Pir Wadhai bus station from Saddar, catch a passenger Suzuki to Fowara Chowk in Rajah Bazaar and catch another Suzuki or motorcycle rickshaw to the bus station (Rs 10). The cheapest way to Pir Wadhai from Islamabad is by minibus 121, or by bus with a change at Faizabad. Pir Wadhai Chowk is on the Grand Trunk Rd, and is Rs 10 by Suzuki from Saddar or Rs 200 by taxi from Saddar/Islamabad.
For short-haul trips there are numerous private companies (book through travel agencies or the PTDC) running a variety of buses and minibuses from Pir Wadhai bus station to Taxila (Rs 25, 40 minutes), Murree (Rs 100, two hours), Mansehra (Rs 150, three hours), Chakwal (Salt Range; Rs 60, 1½ hours), Jhelum (for Rotas Fort; Rs 150, two hours) and Peshawar (Rs 100, 3½ hours).
Reputable companies offering comfortable air-con buses on long-haul trips usually run to a timetable and take reservations. Skyways (4455242; Skyways Hotel, Murree Rd, Faizabad) has buses leaving for Lahore (from Rs 170, 4½ hours, half-hourly) from behind the hotel. The best long-haul service is that provided by Daewoo (111007008; Grand Trunk Rd, Pir Wadhai Chowk, Rawalpindi), which has modern vehicles and a light meal included in the fare. To Lahore, there are daily departures every 30 minutes from 5am to around 10pm; normal class is Rs 470 and VIP (with larger seats) is Rs 550. The journey takes 4½ hours. Other destinations include Peshawar (Rs 210, 2½ hours), with the first bus at 6am and others leaving every hour until late; Multan (Rs 600, nine hours), from 8.30am and every hour until late; and also Murree (minibus, Rs 120, 1¾ hours), with the first bus at 7am and every hour until 7pm.
Northern Areas Transport Company (Natco; 9278441; Pir Wadhai bus station) has several Gilgit-bound services a day starting at 7am, including the VIP service (Rs 750). There are 5pm and 7pm air-con deluxe buses (Rs 750), 2pm and 10pm deluxe buses (Rs 700) and a 4pm, 7pm and 8pm coaster (Rs 700).
Another popular northbound operator from Pir Wadhai is Silk Route Transport Company (5479375), which runs several buses north to Gilgit (Rs 700) and Hunza (Rs 800). The trip to Gilgit takes between 14 and 17 hours. Be aware that departure times and fares may vary with the season. Sit on the right for the overall best views but perhaps not if you’re subject to vertigo!
There’s a Pakistan Railways reservation & information office (9270895, for inquiries 117; 8am-11pm) 300m south of the train station in Saddar Bazaar in Rawalpindi. For a concession, go first to the Commercial Department opposite the main station. There’s a reservation & information office (9207474; Civic Centre, Melody Market, G-6; 9am-1pm & 2-5pm Sat-Thu, 9am-1pm & 2.30-5pm Fri) in Islamabad, as well as another office (5542221; Committee Chowk) in Rawalpindi.
For long-distance rail services see the table, above. For a listing of other options, grab a copy of Pakistan Railways’ Time & Fare Table (Rs 25) from the station or click on Pakistan Railways (117; www.pakrail.com). Note that several daily trains go to Peshawar, and some stop in Taxila en route. It’s also worth noting that long-distance trains from the east may arrive late in Rawalpindi.
Islamabad International Airport (9280300) has domestic and international terminals. Airport facilities include moneychangers and a restaurant, tourist information centre (9280563), duty-free shop and post office. Check-in for domestic flights is one hour prior to departure (three hours for international flights) and many of the domestic carriers offer discounted night-coach services between major centres.
Aero Asia (111515151; Block 12-D, SNC Centre, Fazal-ul-Haq Rd, Blue Area, Islamabad) Flies only to Karachi (Rs 4850, one hour and 55 minutes).
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Airport (9024000); Islamabad (9209911; PIA Bldg, Blue Area; 8am-8pm); Rawalpindi (9272211; The Mall; 8am-8pm) Has domestic services from Islamabad to Gilgit (Rs 3920, one hour and 10 minutes), Karachi (Rs 7380, one hour and 55 minutes), Lahore (Rs 4460, 50 minutes), Multan (Rs 4460, 2½ hours), Peshawar (Rs 2530, 45 minutes), Quetta (Rs 6880, one hour and 25 minutes), Skardu (Rs 4550, one hour) and Sukkur (Rs 6400, two hours and 50 minutes).
Shaheen Air International Airport (9281001); Islamabad (111808080; 52 Beverly Centre, Blue Area) Flies only to Karachi (Rs 8400, one hour and 55 minutes).
Some of the many international airline offices found in the capital include the following:
Air France (2824096; Rehmat Plaza, Blue Area, Islamabad)
British Airways (2871026; Serena Hotel, Khayaban-e-Suhrawardy Rd, G-5, Islamabad)
Emirates (2279999; 1-C Muhammadi Plaza, Blue Area, Islamabad)
Gulf Air (2810041; Rehmat Plaza, Blue Area, Islamabad)
Singapore Airlines (2827907; Holiday Inn, Municipal Rd, Melody Market G-6, Islamabad)
Thai Airways (2272140; Holiday Inn, Municipal Rd, Melody Market G-6, Islamabad)
Xinjiang Airways (2273447; Saeed Plaza, Blue Area, Islamabad)