Rawalpindi is in Pakistan. It is a bustling town strategically located between the Punjab and Azad Kashmir. It has a strong colonial influence and possesses a large military cantonment with the headquarters of the Pakistan Army. It is the sister city of Islamabad, and is essentially the older sister of Islamabad. To locals, it is simply known as "Pindi".
For the visitor Pindi offers a slice of real Pakistan (in contrast to Islamabad) - however there are few tourist attractions of note in the city. Bahria Town, a wealthy suburb to the south of Pindi, offers a couple of attractions that warrant an excursion.
Islamabad International Airport is located within the city of Rawalpindi. Daily flights to and from various international and local destinations are available. A new airport to the west of the city is under construction but several years from completion.
Rawalpindi has its own central railway station, with regular sevices to many destinations within Pakistan.
Rawalpindi has extensive road networks, linking it directly to various major cities such as Lahore, Peshawar and Taxila to the north. Apart from that the twin city, which Rawalpindi is otherwise called, has a complete structure of traveling around in the city through local buses. However, this is not a recommended mode of transport to tourists. Taxis are cheap, and you'll be looking at around Rs600 or so for a trip from Ghakar Plaza to the outer sectors of Islamabad, so travel within Rawalpindi will be around Rs200 per trip - very affordable for a foreign tourist. Make sure you agree the price before getting into the taxi.
Skyways and Daewoo are 2 of the nicer long-haul operators. Skyways offer some direct services to/from Islamabad and Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi. Daewoo has its own terminal on the road from Islamabad just outside Rawalpindi. You can call the Daewoo Station in advance for booking. They shall confirm a seat for you. The number is 051 111 007 008. You can travel to Peshawar, Lahore, D I Khan, Murree, Sialkot, Abottabad, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Multan, and recently they have started service between Karachi and Hyderabad [cited from Islamabad page]
Coach is a very comfortable way to travel in Pakistan, and is very popular for travellers between Rawalpindi and Lahore. You will receive a small meal on the coach, and a first class ticket is between Rs1000-Rs3000.
Rawalpindi is a large sprawling city, however the centre (focused on Raja Bazaar) is walkable but easy to get lost, so a GPS or compass isn't a bad idea. There are many auto shops for repairing vehicles of tourists. To travel (eg. Raja Bazaar to Saddar) its best to hop in a tuk-tuk. Buses are an option for going up or down Murree Road, but working out how to get a bus to more far flung parts will require some Urdu. A trip to Bahria Town is best done in your own car or a taxi (and armed with a map).
Rawalpindi is not blessed with an extensive architectural history. However the city is an interesting place to wander, especially if you are based in Islamabad and are looking for some hustle and bustle.
There are various things you can do in Rawalpindi. A few of them are:
Saddar Bazar is the most versatile, modern and easily approachable market place of Rawalpindi. Its connected to Mall Road on one side, city to the other, and railway station on the 3rd side. Saddar Bazar has certain good looking plazas, banks, fun houses for children and has a few recreational parks for children and elderly
Gakkahr Plaza is one of the most renowned shopping markets in Saddar Rawalpindi. You can buy leather jackets, trousers, all sorts of garments, kameez salwar, khussas, sandals and all gents garments from Gakharr Plaza. Unfortunately, on 20 December 2008, Gakhar Plaza was completely gutted down by a huge fire.
Close to Gakhhar plaza, you will find Jabbar Tailors which is one of the oldest tailors in Rawalpindi. Mostly busy with military uniform stitching.
Computer and Mobil Phone: Plazas at 6th Road, and Sadar are the major markets, where one can find many computer items and other electronic items.
College Road near Liaqat Bagh sells electronic components for electronic enthusiates.
Most economical market in Rawalpindi is Raja Bazaar where you can find most of the things at very economical rates.
A visit to Rawalpindi makes a pleasant change from Islamabad's restaurant scene. As you might expect Pindi offers some excellent places for top-notch Pakistani food, and offers better value than you find in Islamabad. You'll almost certainly be the only non-Pakistani customer, and you can expect the staff to go out of their way to be hospitable.
In Pakistan there is a big fascination with these large fast-food chains, particularly Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC, and Subway. As a tourist, it is recommended to try the local food, as these fast food chains do not live up to their hype, and are in ways cleaner establishments than local restaurants. They are also quite overpriced, with combo meals costing around Rs 300, (whilst this is still a mere £2.50 or $5 (very competitive with any branch of these restaurants found in the Western world) it compares poorly with the Rs 7 (6p or 11 cents) you could expect to pay for a naan bread at the local market.
The first McDonalds opened in Rawalpindi at Jinnah Park. It is huge with a lot of parking spaces and it is open late. KFC is the best place for getting international-style fast food, and it is situated just in the cantonment area of the city and also has a big parking area.
Eating in these chains is more of a statement of status in Pakistan than anything else, and you will notice that there is usually quite a fashion parade in many of these establishments!
In Rawalpindi, do as the Pindites do! Grab a bag of the most yummy and juicy local sweet called "jalebee" from Gratto on Murree road, or the luxuriously garnished icecream from Chaman at Saddar, or the famous 'samosas' from Karim hotel, or 'fresh from the pan' halwa poori from Satelitown, or 'rabri' (milky drink) from 'nirala' in Saddar ... Its a never-ending list!
Alcohol in Pakistan is forbidden but one can find drinks at many modern hotels like Pearl Continental(PC), Shalimar Hotel and Flashman Hotel. There are no bars and night clubs in Rawalpindi, but all the big markets are open late. Drinking culture in Pakistan is essentially soft-drink culture, where Pepsi is traditionally the drink of choice. It is impossible to avoid Pepsi advertising throughout Pakistan. Be warned as a traveller about the cleanliness of bottles - always drink from a straw, and always request that bottles be opened in front of you, as a cleanliness measure. Drinking culture also revolves around tea, called 'chai' in Urdu, and this is available everywhere and anywhere. Coffee is not impossible to come by, however iced coffee tends to be the popular coffee drink of choice.
The locally available drinks are
Do not drink from places with flies.
Rawalpindi has one hotel 5 star hotel. It is called Pearl Continental or more famously known by its acronym PC. Other that this one can go to Hotel Shalimar, Flashman, de mall.
Rawalpindi is not necessarily as safe as it's sister, Islamabad. Islamabad has higher foreign tourist traffic, and thus has become accustomed to it, however foreign tourists are somewhat rare in Rawalpindi. Pakistan on the whole is not recommended to lone young female travellers, however Pindi is relatively safe for larger groups of females, or mixed gender paired-travellers. For female travellers, it is highly recommended to purchase a shawl upon arrival in Pakistan (even better to bring one over on your flight, for airport arrival purposes). It is not necessary or expected for you to wear this on your head at all times, however to avoid unwanted attention, and gain local respect, cover your chest with this shawl (i.e. drape it across your neck). Also attempt to purchase/wear a long shirt/top, that covers your backside region - this again, will draw away unwanted attention.
Avoid flashing large amounts of cash around - Rs 1000 notes are commonplace, however the haggling process is often easier when you show the limited cash you have (e.g. "I only have Rs 200 on me"). Keep your larger notes on the inside, and only allow small notes to be seen, for example, when paying taxi drivers, purchasing items, etc.
Do not feel compelled to give money to all beggars, not matter how young or needy. Of course exercise discretion, and it not unacceptable to give them money, however, the beggars are regulars in Pindi, and have their regular locations, and are known to beg in the same place, everyday - with a new outfit each day.