The history of Pakistan traces back to the beginnings of human life in South Asia. Pakistan is home to the Indus Valley civilization, which is amongst the oldest in the world. Prior to the 1900's the area of Pakistan was the area from which the Muslims ruled over Central and Southern Asia for over 300 years.Today Pakistan is made up of people from various races including Arabs from after the Islamic expeditions, Persians from Bukhara and Samarkand, Turks from Central Asia and the Hindus who were converted to Islam.
The official name of Pakistan was used after the partition of (British) India into the 2 states of India and Pakistan in 1947. The once Mughal Empire was divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (with two sections West and East) and largely Hindu, abeit secular India. A third war between these countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan seceding and becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. A dispute over the state of Jammu and Kashmir is ongoing between India and Pakistan.
The Pakistan is one of those few countries in world which has every kind of geological structure. It has sea, desert (Sindh & Punjab), green mountains (North West Provice), dry mountains (Balochistan), the mountains covered with Ice, rivers, rich land to cultivate (Punjab & Sindh), water resources, water falls, forest etc. The North West Frontier Province and the Northern Area contain the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush. (Pakistan's highest point is K2, at 8,611 meters, the second highest peak in the world.) Punjab province is a flat, alluvial plain whose rivers eventually join the Indus River and flow south to the Arabian Sea. Sindh lies between the Thar Desert the Rann of Kutch to the east, and the Kirthar range to the west. The Balochistan Plateau is arid and surrounded by dry mountains. Pakistan experiences frequent earthquakes, occasionally severe, especially in north and west.
Mostly hot, dry desert; temperate in northwest; arctic in north. Flooding along the Indus after heavy rains (July and August). Fertile and sub humid heat in the Punjab region.
See also: Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent
Almost all nationalities require visas. These are usually easier to obtain in your home country, though recently the individual missions around the world have been given more authority to issue visas without checking in with Islamabad, which should help in getting applications turned around quicker.
Recently a list of 24 "Tourist Friendly Countries" (TFC) was announced that are eligible for one month visas on arrival if they travel through a designated/authorized  tour operator who will assume responsibility for them while in the country. Any extensions on this type of visa must also be done through the tour operator. They include: Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the UK and the USA.
Nationals of most other countries (and those not wanting to travel with a tour operator and group) need to apply in advance for a visa, which are usually issued for 30-90 days depending on nationality and where you apply. Double-entries are sometimes given, but be clear and persistent when applying that you need this.
A handful of countries are issued visas on arrival: Iceland, Maldives and Zambia for 3 months, Hong Kong, Nepal and Western Samoa for 1 month, while Tonga and Trinidad and Tobago nationals can stay for an unlimited amount of time.
Nationals of Israel are not allowed entry as it is not recognized as a nation by Pakistan (and most other Muslim countries), but there is not any restriction on Jews holding passports from other nations. Despite much online information to the contrary, Israeli stamps and visas would usually pose no problems for entry into Pakistan, though you may be subject to more stringent questioning by immigration officers.
Indian nationals can apply for 30 day tourist visas but must travel in a group through an authorized tour operator. Visitor visas to meet relatives or friends are more easy to obtain, and come with some restrictions. Religious visas are granted for groups of 10 or more for 15 days.
Nationals of Afghanistan are refused entry if their passports or tickets show evidence of transit or boarding in India.
Holders of Taiwan passports are refused entry except in airport transit.
Business visas are now being issued for up to 5 years, multiple entry, as soon as 24 hours before arrival.
The High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi issues visas with a few days needed to process the application. Applications are only accepted in the mornings from around 8-11AM. Arrive early and expect the process to take a few hours. Window 4 is for foreign tourist and business visas.
People of Pakistani origin living overseas are granted 5 year multiple entry visas (along with their spouses), good for single stays of up to 1 year. Visas aren't required at all if they are holding a Pakistan Origin Card (POC) or a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).
Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad are the main gateways to Pakistan by air. However, there are 134 airfields in Pakistan. Six other international airports are in Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Multan and Gawadar.
Pakistan has train links with India and Iran, though none of these trains are the fastest or most practical way to enter Pakistan. Should speed be a priority it is better to take the bus, or if you are really in a hurry, to fly, however the trains are sights in their own right.
India has two links: The Samjhauta Express is the more common, running on Tuesdays and Fridays between Delhi and Lahore via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. Tourists should be aware that after recent terrorist attacks on the train, which caused many a casualty and strained relationships between the two neighbors, it is strongly advised that you take taxis or buses to and from the border instead. The Thar Express restarted in February 2006 after 40 years out of service. It runs from Munabao in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Khokrapar in Pakistan's Sindh province, but is not open to foreign tourists.
From ancient times people have been travelling through Pakistan using the Grand Trunk Road and the Silk Road that run through Pakistan and into the Indian subcontinent. It's a rewarding but time consuming way to see this part of the world. New highways have been developed and the country is due for an expansion in its highway network. Currently, a world-class motorway connects the cities of Lahore, Islamabad and Faisalabad, with extension up to Peshawar due to be completed soon.
Pakistan is connected to China through the Karakoram Highway, a modern feat of engineering that traverses a remarkably scenic route through the Karakoram and Himalayan mountains. Which is about to be expanded from current 10m wide to 30m because of the increase in trade traffic due to Gwader port opening.
There are two routes between Pakistan and Afghanistan:
From India: While there is international service running from Delhi to Lahore it is just as fast, much more flexible, and much cheaper to take the journey by stringing together local transport and crossing the border on foot.
From Iran: One comes to Pakistan from Iran via the Mijva border in Iran which is half an hours drive from Zahedan. The Pakistani border town is called Taftan and has facilities of immigration, customs, hotels etc.
A trial ferry service was run from Dubai to Karachi, but this service has been discontinued.
In the past, getting around was a very hectic task, but nowadays it's very easy because of the advent of motorways and many private airlines.
PIA serves numerous domestic destinations and is the only airline to serve the three airports in the north of interest to trekkers or climbers: Chitral, Gilgit, and Skardu. There are usually two flights from Islamabad to these cities daily, but they are often canceled due to bad weather. The flights are often over-booked, show up early to guarantee your seat.
Pakistan Railway  provides passenger rail service. The stations tend not to have their timetables in English, but sales agents can usually explain everything to you. There are several different classes of fares depending on amenities. Foreign tourists and students with an ISIC card can get 25% and 50% discounts, respectively, by first visiting the PTDC (Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation) office, getting q verification certificate there, and bringing it with them to the train's commercial ticket office (which is different from the regular ticket office, but usually close by).
A large portion of travel between cities in Pakistan is carried out by bus. Travelling between Karachi and any of the country's other major cities by bus may take days, and is usually advised against, because of highway robbery, known locally as 'dacoitry'. With that exception, however, travel by bus is often the cheapest and most convenient alternative. The Dae-Woo company runs a regular bus service between several major cities, with air-conditioned buses and seats booked one day ahead. While rather unexpensive, they are still almost five times as expensive as the cheap and uncomplicated rides offered by minibuses or larger buses between the major bus stations of the cities. Fares are often (though not always) paid directly on the bus, there is no aircondition, and sometimes very little knee space, but you get where you are going all the same, and I have never met with anything but kind interest and friendly conversation on my many rides. Buses leave almost incessantly from the major bus stations for all the major cities, and many smaller locations, so booking ahead is neither possible nor necessary on the simpler buses. When travelling between major cities, smaller buses are to be preferred over the larger ones, as these tend to take up passagers along the way, and therefore travel more slowly.
The situation is similar for local transport. While the organization of local transport may look a little different between cities, there is usually an active bus service running through the city, with varying levels of government control.
For local transport within cities, auto rickshaws are a cheap and flexible alternative. A development of the bicycle rickshaw, the auto rickshaw is a small vehicle powered by a two-stroke engine, constantly emitting a stuttering noise and foul blue-black smoke. Blue-and-yellow auto rickshaws take passengers, other colours tend to be privately owned. The inexperienced traveller should negotiate prices before entering the rickshaw.In Lahore 2 Stroke engine Rikshaws are replaced with Gas Powered 4 Strock engines.
Rickshaws are banned in the capital Islamabad.
Urdu is the national language and is spoken throughout Pakistan as lingua franca. In addition to Urdu most Pakistanis speak their regional languages or dialects such as Punjabi, Pothohari, Sindhi, Pashto (Pushtun), Balochi, Saraiki, Shina, Burushaski, Khowar, Wakhi, Hindko etc.
English is the official language used in all government and most educational and business entities, and is also understood and spoken at varying levels of competence by many people around Pakistan, especially the upper classes and people who have gone through higher levels of education, and those residing in the larger cities.
Pakistan is excellent for buying carpets, garments, leather goods, sports goods, gem & jewelry, glassware, marble products, crystal works, paintings, surgical instruments, musical instruments, biscuits, pashminas (woolen scarves), and carved wood, including furniture and various handicrafts. In Karachi, be sure to visit Tariq Road, Zamzama Avenue, Zainab Market and major shopping malls such as Forum, Park towers, Millennium mall, Dmart and Naheed super market for best deals and a taste of Pakistan's rich antiquity past. Peshawar's Old City is as rich in ambience and arabian-nights-bazaar feeling as in cheap brassware, jewellery, handicrafts and semi-precious stones, and stand in stark contrast to Islamabad's square shopping centres with modern manufacture and old crafts, notably Supermarket and Jinnah market. Almost everything is commercially available in Pakistan.
In Lahore, you must visit Hafeez Centre (Gulberg,Lahore) and Hall Road if you are looking to buy Computer and Mobile accessories or any type of electronics. You can expect to see almost anything here at very low prices.
If you are a sports fan or a sportsman yourself, don't forget to buy sports equipment. Pakistan produces world class sports equipment which are available across the country at very cheap rates. You will not find such high quality equipments at such low cost anywhere. Sialkot is the city in Punjab which has this industry. Better visit the city to buy Cricket Bats, Balls , Kits, Footballs, Hockeys and almost anything related to sports you can imagine. To mention, Pakistan was the provider of footballs to be used in FIFA world Cup 99, every world cup, Pakistan is the largest provider of sports equipment to FIFA. If you don't get a chance to visit Sialkot, visit good sports shops in Lahore like Zaidi Sports and others at Choburgi, Lahore.
If you are looking to buy something related to garments or any textile product, you must visit Faisalabad, a city in Central Punjab which has got the one of the largest textile industries of the world. You will notice textile factories all your way across the raod to Faisalabad. YOu can buy very cheap garments, bed sheets, shirts, T-shirts, cloth for shalwar kameez/kurta over there. It is to be mentioned that many world reknown brands like Levis, Slazenger, HangTen etc get their products prepared from Faisalabad. You can find cheap products of these brands at local stores.You can get a pair of Levis jeans (or any other good brand for that matter) for just 300 PKR (5 USD).
Pakistan produces cheap and high quality musical instruments as well. If you can not afford to spend much time, just visit the Red Light area in Lahore (called 'Heera Mandi' in Lahore, Pakistan) and you will find plenty of shops selling all musical instruments at very cheap prices. You can even get an acoustic guitar for as low as 2000 PKR (34 USD). Traditional instruments like Tabla, Dhool, Bansri are also available. It should be noted that "Heera Mandi" is a prostitution market in Lahore.
Shoes of various kinds is also a specialty of Pakistan. You can get very high quality, fine leather shoes in different styles in the country at very low rates. In Lahore (Liberty Market) you can find a very nice variety of Khussa (a local shoe type) which you can get for as low as 300 (5 USD). The red light area in Lahore (Heera Mandi) offers a very nice variety of shoes especially the Kohlapuri Chappals (open sandals to be worn with an type of dress especially jeans and shalwar kurta) for a price just around 5 USD. In Peshawar (or anywhere in NWFP province) you can find Peshawri Chappal and Kheeri which look good and come in the same price. You can find almost all variety of shoes in the city of Lahore alone at various places.
Pakistani food mainly consists of various kinds of kababs eaten with either flatbread or rice. Food tends to be either mild or very spicy depending on where you are. So state your preference before beginning to eat. In general, most of the same food you can find in the highest quality restaurants/hotels there is available commonly in the markets (but European-style food is generally reserved for the former).
As you might have noticed, Nan is usually used to pick up liquid and soft foods like shorba and beans. Utensils are not commonly used during meals in Pakistan except to serve dishes (unless someone is eating rice and would like to be polite or is unpracticed eating it by hand). Attempting to cut a naan with a knife and drink shorba with a spoon may elicit some amusement around you. Watching others may help.
There are too many shorbas, or sauces, to enumerate. However, you should know of the most common ones.
Chaman Ice Cream, Beaden Road adjacent to Hall Road, Aside Mall Road, Lahore - Serves a vast variety of various flavours of cie creams, ice cream shakes, juices ans stuff. Don't miss it ! Its worth it.
Food Street In Lahore Gawalmandi - A 200/300 meter long street with historically preserved 2/3 storey old houses on both side which are ligthen up in a very special way giving a very historical and magnificent look. The envoirnment is a real creatio nof culutre of Lahore, the mughla era. You will find around a hundred restaurants in this street which mouth watering menus. Do try Chappal Kababas, Saag with Makai ki roti, Golas of Ice, Sardar ki Machli and anything you like.
Basheer-dar-ul-Mahi at Mazang Chok Lahore - Fried Fish is served in 2/3 forms. You will see people queued up in lines to get their order here. Din't got if you don't have much time. But this fish is worth waiting this much.
Parathas and Lassi at Mazang Lahore - Near the Baheer-dal-ul-Mahi is this very cheap and small scale restaurant. Serves paraths of potatoes, minced chicken, egg and others with Tea or delicious Lassi. Don't miss this at breakfast or anytime you want to have something energetic.
Phajjay Ke Paye (Red Light Area - Heera Mandi Lahore) - Very famous and highly energetic. For those having physical weakness, sexual weakness or any similar problem must try this dish.
Muhammadi Nihari - They have a chain of restaurants in Lahore. They serve a very special dish made up of Chicken or Mutton. This is something which will make you never forget Pakistani food.
All the places above are cheap ones. You can get rid of your hunger at these places in quite less than 100 PKR ( less than 2 USD ).
For some good restaurnats, here is a list:
A part from local restaurants, there are also international food chain having their outlets throughout in Pakistan. They include, KFC, Pizzahut, McDonalds, Subway, Nandos, Mr.Cod, and Domino
Tap water is generally not safe for drinking. However, some establishments have water filters/purifiers installed, in which case the water is safe to drink. Packed drinking water (normally called mineral water in Pakistan) is a better choice.
The taste of the water is said to be very good in the north-eastern side of Pakistan, especially in the district of Sialkot. Ask for bottled water wherever possible, and avoid anything cold that might have water in it.
In the warmer southern region, sweet drinks are readily available throughout the day. Look for street vendors that have fruits (real or decorations) hanging from their roofs. Also, some milk/yogurt shops serve lassi. Ask for meethi lassi for a sweet yogurt drink and you can also get a salty lassi which tastes good if you are having "bhindi" in food or some other rich dish. There is also a sweet drink called Mango Lassi which is very rich and thick, made with yogurt, mango pulp, and pieces of mango.
Alcohol (both imported and local) is available to non-Muslim foreigners at off licenses and bars in most top end hotels. The local alcoholic beer is called 'Murree Beer. It is illegal for Muslims to buy, possess or consume alcohol in Pakistan. There is a huge black market across the country and the police tend to turn a blind eye to what is going on in private.
Hotels are usually found around busy transportation hubs like bus and train stations. Don't be fooled by an impressive lobby - ask to see the room and check the beds, toilets, lights, etc before checking in. If you have a big enough wallet you may want to try the reputable luxury hotels such as the Pearl Continental , Holiday Inn and others located in all major cities as well as many tourist destinations. With the exception of these upper-end hotels, the term "hotel" in Pakistan is reserved for simpler establishments, with "Guest House" referring to medium-sized establishments where the standard is typically higher. Also note that restaurants are also called "hotels", creating a fun potential for confusion.
Learn various dances. Taking some traditional cooking classes can also be very helpful later.
Many Pakistani companies are looking for Sales representatives and usually all manner of companies will be happy to speak to a well-dressed Westerner about business.
Many tourists are known to buy leather goods and other curios in Pakistan sell them in Goa India or somehow get them shipped back to the West.
Otherwise your best way of working is contact the numerous Aid agencies that work out of Peshawar, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Pakistan is a fairly welcoming country, however you should be cautious of recent social violence and always seek advice about off-limits areas before coming.
It is strongly advised not to participate in any conversation against Islam.
Stay away from tribal areas and the sensitive Afghan border regions as the Pakistan government has little to no authority in these areas and cannot aid you in an emergency. If traveling in the south of the country seek advice from tourist offices and embassies about which areas are safe.
Visitors are strongly advised to refrain from drinking tap water; many Pakistani locals themselves drink boiled or purified water. Take every precaution to drink only boiled, filtered or bottled water. Tap water is known to contain many impurities. Ice is usually made from regular tap-water, and may be even harder to avoid. Fresh milk from the carrier should be boiled and cooled before consumption. Non-pasteurized dairy can spread tuberculosis. Be careful of the people with a hacking cough. Nestle Milk Pak, Haleeb Milk, and others are trusted brands and are available at most grocery stores.
Take precautions against malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes. The first and most effective way is to avoid getting bitten, but if you plan to stay in a place where malaria is common, you may need to eat prophylactic medicine as well. The risk of getting Malaria decreases with higher altitudes.
In the summer it gets very hot. Be careful to stay hydrated.
Do not eat food that has been lying out for some time, as high temperatures speed up deterioration. Avoid posh but unfrequented restaurants.
Some Pakistani dishes can be very spicy! Always notify your host, cook or waiter if you can not take very spicy food.
Pakistanis pride themselves on their tradition of hospitality to guests (mehmanawazi in Urdu, milmastia in Pashtu, puranadari in Punjabi). Just a greeting of Salam Alaykum will get you far in endearing yourself to people. If you are travelling outside the big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad it is advisable to learn some basic Urdu or a regional language.
Just respect and observe. Pakistan is a conservative country and it is advisable for women to wear long skirts or pants in public (Pakistani women wear the traditional shalwar kameez). Dress codes for men are more lax, though shorts are uncommon. Never shake hands with a woman you don't know very well.
Never point the soles of your feet or shoes at anyone, as this is considered disrespecful. As with most of South Asia you should use your right hand for eating, shaking hands and giving or receiving everything (including money), and reserve your left hand for handling shoes and assisting in toilet duties.
PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Ltd.)  was a government-run phone company providing communications services such as land-line phones, mobile phones, Internet, and VoIP services. Now the company is privatized and is run by UAE's Phone company etisalat. Major providers of mobile phone service (GSM) are: