Difference between revisions of "Wagah"
Revision as of 14:07, 24 November 2012
Wagah (or Wagha) is a border town straddling the line between Pakistan and India, 29 km from the town of Lahore on the Pakistani side and 27 km from Amritsar on the Indian side. This is the only crossing point between Pakistan and India that is regularly open to foreigners.
When driving from Islamabad, it should take at minimum 4.5 hours.
From Lahore Station, take a bus, or taxi. Minibus No.4 leaves from outside Lahore Railway Station every 15 minutes (~US$0.20), while a taxi should cost US$8. The trip takes around half an hour.
From Amritsar, Wagah is about 45 minutes away by car. There are public buses to Attari station, from where you can continue the last 3 km to the border by cyclerickshaw.
Most tourists can take a taxi through their hotels for a round trip, which includes the waiting time at Wagah. As of Jan 09, a typical fare for such a trip from Amritsar is about Rs. 800 (US $17). The fare for auto is Rs.400.
If you're planning on actually crossing the border, you should aim to get there as early as possible. As of 2009, the border is open every day from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM. Border formalities can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over two hours, and you will need to arrange a visa before you arrive.
Regular buses or taxis are not allowed into the no-man's land between the countries, so unless you're on one of the few deluxe international buses, you'll have to walk across the 500m between the border posts yourself. Porters -- blue coats for the Indians, green coats for the Pakistanis -- can carry your belongings for a few dollars.
There is daily flag raising and lowering ceremony at Wagah Border, done with fascinating pomp and ceremony that involves lots of tall soldiers in massive turbans goose-stepping about and slamming gates. Both the Indian and Pakistani border forces do this and it has become a tradition for people from both sides gather and see this. Both sides synchronise their parade and the entire event is meant to create a feel-good/patriotic fervour amongst the crowd. It is called the beating retreat ceremony.
As of Jan 2009, the flag lowering ceremony which happens around 4:15 PM everyday has become the main event for tourists. In addition, there is now a short cultural programme also done by local folk dancers (Bhangra) for the waiting crowd before the flag lowering. Please take note that a peak crowd of upto 2000+ people can assemble on the Indian side on weekends/long weekends/public holidays. The crowd consists of both tourists & locals. The noise and atmosphere of the assembled crowds on both sides of the border is similar to that of a sporting match and very entertaining.
The border gates have a visitor gallery on each side, basically concrete steps created around the border main road. This allows most people in the crowd to get a seat but it is not uncommon to see up to 500-1000 people standing at the periphery. There are metal fences to help direct and control the crowds in and out of the seating areas.
Ideally, one should reach the border gates by 3:30 PM to get some seating if you're going on a rush day.
The seating area is as follows:
Cellphones, Cameras (any kind), men's wallets are allowed. No covered bags (including ladies purses & handbags) are allowed inside the visitor areas. However, border personnel allow carrying of clear plastic bags with few snacks, water, childrens food etc. The restrictions are usually dependent on the crowd and perceived security alertness on that day.
For tourists coming in to see the ceremony, note that the taxis/cars need to be parked about 500m away from the entry gates to the border area. You will need to walk in and reach the visitor gallery. Stay to the left side until you reach the grandstands.
Do not bring any bags! Bags of all sizes are not allowed in and there are no clocking facilities. Cameras are ok, but leave the camera bag at home.
Be prepared for minor traffic jams when the ceremony has finished as up to 200-300 vehicles try and exit around the same time. The main road to Wagah is being widened to a 4 lane one, and should be ready by Jun 09.
Relax at nearby Jallo Park, or enjoy in Suzo Water Park.
There is an official tourist center, called "Aman Umeed" at the entry gate. It is a nice clean facility with bathrooms etc and has comfortable seating, although food options are very limited inside.
However, there are 2-3 large local food stalls outside the gate opposite the tourist center which serve food, offer packaged snacks and soft drinks. You can take these inside when you watch the ceremony.
Water Bottles are not allowed after the checking point of entry to Wagah border. So don't carry them from the car/autos. If necessary, buy them at the stalls just near the gate.
Note that cellphones may not work here, as calls/SMSs are jammed. There are jammers at wagah, so no mobile phone service