Pakistan is starting to open up to tourism

It may not be on many people’s travel list for this year but Pakistan is making changes to make it more attractive to tourists.

Travel News - pakistan tourism news
The Karakoram highway in Pakistan. Photo by travelview/Shutterstock

Earlier this month, the country announced a new, more relaxed visa policy to make it easier for travellers to visit. They have created a new visa system and online portal so potential visitors can find all the information they need in one place.

To start with, five countries are now eligible for an online visa; UK, Malaysia, China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Visitors from 50 nationalities are also eligible to get their visa immediately on arrival. The policy is planned to expand in the future but until then, other countries will have to continue on the old system of applying for a visa prior to travel and waiting 7-10 days.

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Lahore Grand Mosque. Photo by Nadeem Wajahat/500px

Pakistan has also abolished most restrictions of movement within the country. Until this week, tourists had to apply for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to visit some areas. These have mainly been scrapped, opening up many parts of Kashmir, Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan to overseas visitors.

There are still restrictions in six areas. Tourists are still unable to travel within 10 miles of the borders with China and Afghanistan and within five miles of the military control lines in Siachen, Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Fawad Hussain Chaudhry tweeted the update, saying the plan was a leap forward to turn Pakistan into a “a heaven for tourists”. The country also already has its fans among the more adventurous travellers. In 2018 the British Backpacking Society voted the country the top destination for backpackers, saying it is “home to some of the world’s friendliest and most hospitable people, and offers some of the world’s most dramatic mountain scenery.”

Currently the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office have travel warnings against many regions in the country and should be carefully reviewed before planning any trip.