INFORMATION Getting to Pakistan
Direct llights into Islamabad can only be booked Irom Pakistan Airlines. and cost lrom £450 return (ex-London). Bucket shopllights can be purchased to Karachi Irom £290 return. Student llights to Islamabad (£499 return) are available from Campus Travel. Glasgow (Hillhead Street. 041 357 0608 and 90 John Street. 041 5522867): and lrom the Edinburgh Travel Centre (Bristo Square. 031 668 2162). From Karachi to Islamabad internal llights operate: £50 single by day. £30 by night. The train takes 28 hours. but costs only £8 and is a real experience.
Getting to the Mountains
Internal llighls to both Gilgit and Skardu lrom Islamabad are very cheap: £20 return. They can only be booked in advance ilyour international llight is with PIA. In high seasonthe waiting list in Islamabad is usually six weeks Iora tlight. The alternative is by bus along the Karakoram Highway. Gilgit is an
18-hour ioumey costing £3; Skardu is a Iurther8 hours
.' and costs £2. The level at
comlort at this alternative is stunningly low.
Visa UK residents need a visa. which costs £30 Iromthe
l Pakistan'scolonialhistory meansthat most otits
institutions are based upon old British models. and English is spoken widely in
the towns. Urdu isthe national language.
although each region has its ,:
own historic language. and there are many local dialects.
; The exchange rate lorthe
Pakistan rupee is currently around 300ps to the pound.
Changing cash ortravellers' l
cheques outside cities can be a problem. It is bestto travel with all your money requirements in cash (UK or US).
In summerthe southern cities can be very hot and humid. Islamabad is
supposed to be cooler. Istill :
lind it extremely hot. although not as humid. The climate in the mountains is much more pleasant.
Daytimetemperatures are similar to southern Europe. the nights being a bit cold it you travel above 3000 metres.
It is worth notingthat unlike Nepal and India. there is no signilicant monsoon season in Pakistan. The summer months at Mayto October are the best time to visitthe mountains.
The Tourist lnlormation Service is limited. and not at much use.
Where to Stay
Most 01 the cities and towns have cheap hotels. and you can expect to pay upwards at £1 per night Iora bed.
The load is generally good in the towns and cities.
where spicy curries abound.
' ""1", ., “é a ' ,., H t I ‘ ~
.555: . ,J, '~ '41:; y In the country it is otten very basic and quite poor. and may need supplementing.
What to do In the Cities
Most people will only spend a law days in the cities en route to the mountains. There are a numberol moderately interesting sights in each 01 the large cities detailed in the tourist guide books.
The Karakoram islorthe adventurous. not lorthe tourist. No permits or guides are required bylaw (except lorthe Concordia trip). However. the remote nature at the mountain valleys means thattrekkers must be sell-sufﬁcient in lood and Iuel lorthe duration oltheirstay.
Maps are generally poor and hard to come by.
a lot and the libraries olthe Royal Geographical Society ‘ and Alpine Club (bothin London) have good resources.
The best source 01 inlormation is other travellers you meet along the way. Transport into the mountain areas is byjeep and is notusually expensive.
Pakistan is an Islamic country(some would saya lanatical one). The position of women is severely restricted. despite the recent election olalemale Prime Minister. The reaction to western women can be ambivalent. It is not as easy tor a single western woman to travel as itwould belora man.
Women who are ‘streetwise‘ and have experience ottravelling in third world countries should be ableto read the situation and behave in a way which will minimise potential problems. Pretty. blonde. naive women wandering around wearing western clothes will attracttrouble. Mixed couples should get along okay. as long asthey contorm to Asian stereotypes. iethe man does all thetalking. acts
very protective andtells i
Do not be put olt going to Pakistan. but go with your eyes open.
An airporttax 01 £10 is charged upon departure by air. An interesting alternative is to buy a PIA return ticket which takes you into Islamabad and returnslrom Peking. leaving you tree to make the land journey along the Karakoram Highwaylrom Pakistanto China. Allow Iourweeksto makethe journey worthwhile.
The only real guidebookto the area is ‘PakistanzA travel survival kit' (Lonely Planet £5.95). This shows the history 01 Pakistan and its cities. butthe section on trekking isdreadlul and dangerously misleading.
‘A Trekkers Guidetothe Himalayas and Karakoram' by H. Swift. has some interesting sections. but is badly outoldate and also out olprint.
There are several new trekking guides currentlyin preparation. Check on availability belore leaving. ortry the English language bookshops in Islamabad on yourarrival.
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