Is it currently dangerous to travel in Pakistan?
No, it is not dangerous to trek or tour with Concordia Expeditions
in Pakistan. We use only local guides who always have a thumb
on the pulse of the society. Our routes are chosen to avoid
troubled regions altogether. We keep our itineraries flexible
to handle things like land slides over the road or illness of
a client. This flexibility also means that the group would be
ready and able to go around a trouble spot if one should ever
The company owners, Masood and Nafisa Ahmad, live in
Alamosa Colorado and keep a close watch on conditions as well. Please
remember that the news media tends to emphasize the few troubled
spots because these make more sensational news. We are always
happy to address your concerns on these issues - contact
us today if you have more questions.
Do any of the treks go into the troubled areas in Kashmir?
No, our treks do not go into the disputed areas of Kashmir.
If any dispute ever shifts into one of our trekking areas, we
will reroute to avoid it.
Are the Pakistani people friendly to westerners?
Yes, extremely so! Allowing for cultural differences, Pakistani
people are very welcoming. They seem able to completely separate
the individual westerner from his western government. Thus,
they do not hold an American responsible for some of the policies
of the United States government.
We were in Pakistan before, during, and after September 11th,
2001. It seemed like every Pakistani who had even two words
of English came up to us afterward to express his or her condolences
and sorrow at the events of 911. There was never a hint of anger
toward us, even when the news casts were showing unrestful reports.
I want to go on the Silk Road Tour. Will the border with China
Pakistan has had an excellent partnership with China for decades.
The pass closure related to the war in Afghanistan should be
of short duration. Silk Road participants should know that the
pass is occasionally closed due to late-spring or early-fall
My tour mentions the Khyber pass. Is this safe?
In any given recent year, the Khyber pass has been opened and
closed several times due to changing conditions. If it is closed
when our tour reaches that valley, we just skip that one-day
side trip and choose another activity.
If I am a single woman, are there any specific concerns?
No, no more than there would be for a single woman traveling
anywhere. Use your common sense, dress and act appropriately,
and ask the guide if anything concerns you. The guide is accustomed
to western women and is there to help you have an excellent
experience in Pakistan. Prepare yourself to enjoy the large
differences between your culture and that of the locals. Some
of the people you meet will have never seen a western woman
in person, so you are likely to be an object of interest. TOP
How Do I get to Pakistan?
Several airlines have direct flights to the sister cities of
Islamabad/Rawalpindi. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)
has flights two days a week from JFK Airport in New York and
many flights originating in other countries. British Airways
books flights into Islamabad direct from New York and several
other international locations. Singapore Airlines also has several
flights per week into Pakistan. In general, PIA is the least
expensive carrier from the United States. We have a proven consolidator
in the US who can help you with tickets on PIA.
What is the latest date I can arrive in Islamabad before the
You may arrive as late as the morning of the first day of the
trek, but it is best to arrive at least the evening before.
Lodging is inexpensive, and we suggest an even earlier arrival
date so that you may start the tour feeling refreshed. It would
be easy to fill a couple extra days with rest and shopping.
What is the earliest date I may depart after the tour?
You may depart as early as the evening of the last day of the
tour. Again, we suggest adding a day or two to the end of your
tour if you can for leisurely shopping and walking about colorful
Rawalpindi.. We can guarantee that you will be reluctant to
leave this lovely place.
Will someone meet me at the airport?
The guide or one of his coworkers will meet you at the airport.
If you are arriving several days early and don't care to be
met, be sure to let us know. The Shalimar hotel (where our clients
usually stay in Rawalpindi) has a taxi office in the airport
directly to the right in the main concourse after leaving customs. TOP
Are there any dressing prohibitions?
Yes, if you wish to respect the local culture (and we hope
that you will), there are a few things you should avoid. Leave
home Lycra, tight fitting pants of any kind, shorts, any skirt
shorter than ankle length, and any low-cut or tight-fitting
blouse. Women should choose garments that de-emphasize the curves
(esp. waist and bosom) - think baggy! The savvy traveler would
also avoid things with blatant western slogans.
How shall I dress on road tours and in towns?
We strongly recommend dressing as the Pakistani people do,
in the loose garment called the shalwar kameez. It is very comfortable
and the locals love it when visitors dress like this - we received
so many compliments! Even better, you will really feel like
you are in a foreign country when wearing it. The shalwar kameez
is worn by men and women, young and old, and consists of very
loose pants, a knee length tunic, and (for the women) a matching
head scarf called a dupatta. This virtually eliminates any concerns
Western clothing is acceptable, especially for men and in the
large cities, but keep it loose. Women will feel most comfortable
in this conservative society with a loose top that falls below
the hips, baggy trousers, and a large scarf to drape over the
bosom Women must cover their hair with a scarf before entering
any mosque. Long sleeves are generally more acceptable than
short, although this is changing. Most Pakistanis wear sandals,
but you may prefer more protective shoes for the sometimes treacherous
conditions underfoot in urban areas.
How shall I dress while trekking?
The guides and porters who will be with you on the trek are
more accustomed to western dress than locals you may encounter
elsewhere. Thus, you may feel free to slip into a slightly more
western mode without offending anyone. You will still want to
avoid shorts, Lycra, and tights. An easy compromise for women
is to wear a loose long-sleeved button shirt with long tails
- leave the tails out. Shalwar kameez tend to be a bit cumbersome
when trekking anyway, though the porters all wear them. It is
often possible to leave your SK at the last hotel and have it
waiting (and clean!) when you return from the trek.
If I wish to buy a shalwar kameez, will this be possible?
Certainly! Your guide or the hotel staff can direct you to
a local market nearby. Men's ready made shalwar kameez are easily
available for about $15US; women's ready-mades are slightly
less common (at about $30US) but the hunt itself is fun. Expect
the pants top to be ridiculously huge, this is normal, and remember
to get the string/naga for the waist - it is often sold separately.
Men, this is your chance to wear a pastel color you wouldn't
touch at home - check out those lilacs and mint greens! Ladies,
your choices are bound to be even more eye-popping (be sure
to get an outfit that comes with a dupatta). The dupatta is
worn draped over the bosom in the cities, and over hair and
bosom in more rural areas. Have fun with it!
What type of trekking boots do you recommend?
All treks in Pakistan cover rough ground, often with snow,
ice, multiple stream-crossings, and loose rocks. A typical trek
will also have some very warm days. The most important thing
is that your boots are comfortable : make sure that they are
well broken-in and that your feet are still accustomed to them.
The best boots will be waterproof and have a stiff sole and stable upper. We found Soloman's X-Adventure series with
the rocker sole to be lightweight and absolutely exemplary over
all terrain and weather combinations. They also work well with
crampons for the Gondogoro La trek. Plastic boots are not necessary
for any of our treks.
What type of camp shoe is best?
The best camp shoes have multiple personalities. They are good
for hot days in Islamabad, stream-crossings on the trek, and
day's end in camp. They are lightweight (remember, you will
often carry them), easy to put on, comfortable on tired feet,
and quick to dry. Running shoes and Teva river sandals are both
popular choices. Some folks bring one of each, but with the
trekking weight limit this can be impractical. An old pair of
shoes or sandals can be an excellent tip for a porter at trek's
What is the arrangement for meals on a trek?
In camp, you will eat in a dining tent with table, stools and
a lantern. Lunches along the trail are served picnic style on
the ground, with table cloth and dishes, and generally include
a hot drink and soup in addition to more usual picnic fare.
The timing of meals may vary according to the route and the
length of time you take to cover each segment. The snacks you
carry in your pack will help if you grow hungry between meals.
There are three meals every day, plus tea.
Will I be able to eat everything that is served?
Our cooks and cook assistants are familiar with the difficulties
westerners may face with food in Pakistan and use extreme care
when preparing meals for you. Dishes and utensils are washed
as carefully as trail conditions allow and then rinsed with
boiled water. You may freely eat anything that is presented
to you. We do recommend moderation : a frequent cause of upset
is simple overeating. It is also important to drink plenty of
fluids, as dehydration is easy in these dry climates and high
What are meals like on road tours or before/after treks?
In larger restaurants and hotels, menus usually include a variety
of western and Pakistani dishes and some vegetables, boxed juices,
and fruits. Smaller cafes offer lentil-based dishes (dal) with
meat. Tea, bottled water and soft drinks are available in all
cafes and restaurants. Coffee is almost always "instant,"
but the teas are excellent.
What types of foods are likely to be served on a trek?
As with any backpacking trip, fresh items will be more common
in early days. A typical breakfast will consist of one of more
of the following : omelets, hard-boiled eggs, chapati (flat-bread),
cold or hot cereal, and tea. Lunches vary, but usually include
dried fruit and nuts, tea, hot soup, biscuits, and a main dish
(hot or cold). Dinners typically include hot soup, rice or lentils
or noodles, meat (chicken or goat), chapati, vegetables, desert,
I am a vegetarian, is this a problem?
We will do our best to accommodate any dietary requirement,
and have done so successfully for clients in the past. Please
let us know about any special requests well in advance. A very
strict vegetarian may wish to carry extra high-calorie snacks.
How do I get potable drinking water for each day?
While on the road, bottled water is for sale at all hotels
and cafes. Your guide can help you locate and buy water if needed.
While trekking, the cook staff will boil water for you and keep
a group drinking water container full for your use. Most water
preparation happens in the evening, so it is wise to fill the
water bottles you will need the next day each night. Some clients
take a water filter or treatment preparation in their day pack
so they may refill their bottles during the day. You will need
at least two, perhaps three or four, quart-sized water bottles. TOP
What kind of sleeping pad should I bring?
Two types of sleeping pad are valid choices for trekking :
Closed-cell foam pads (like ensolite) and specialty inflatable
pads (like Thermarest). Many people find Thermarest pads to
be more comfortable than Ensolite pads. However, Thermarest
pads are much heavier and more expensive and may be prone to
leaks which can render them useless. If you bring an inflatable
pad, you may wish to bring a patch kit. Ensolite pads are tougher,
lighter (allowing you more leeway with the weight limit for
treks), and less expensive. Also, a closed-cell pad would be
an excellent tip for a favorite porter at the end of the trek.
Do I need a four-season tent?
No, a three-season tent is enough. Weather conditions should
not be severe- or prolonged-enough to warrant the extra weight
of a four-season tent.
Do I need to bring my own tent?
Yes, you will need your own tent on all of our treks. You will
be happiest with a tent with a small footprint (larger choice
of sites) and a lower profile (better in high wind). We also
suggest tying loops of cord to the places where tent stakes
would go. This gives you the option of wrapping the cords around
rocks when tent stakes won't work. The bottom of the tent should
be waterproof and a ground cloth is a good idea.
May I rent a tent from Concordia Expeditions?
In an emergency, we can likely find a tent for you to use,
but the quality of gear available in Pakistan is frequently
poor, and availability is not guaranteed. We strongly recommend
that you rent, borrow, or buy a tent in your home country and
familiarize yourself with it before arriving in Pakistan. Our
porters will set it up for you if you wish during the trek,
but you will need to assist them the first couple times.
Do I need to bring crampons and ice axe?
You will need crampons and ice axe only for the Gondogoro La
trek. Please be sure you have at least basic proficiency with
both before getting to Pakistan. This means you should know
how to put on your crampons, should have them adjusted to your
trekking boots, and be comfortable walking in them. You should
have a safety strap on your ice axe, know how to hold and use
it for snow walking, and be good at the self-arrest. We can
recommend some mountain courses if you need to learn these basics.
Vertical ice technique is not needed.
What if I simply cannot get my gear weight down to the limit?
If you've sawed off your toothbrush handle, left out your change
of clean underwear, and your duffle is still overweight ...
worry not! Sometimes it just isn't possible to keep your duffle
weight under the limit. If this happens to you, just tell us
approximate weight ahead of time. We will inform the guide.
Your duffle will be weighed at the trailhead and you will be
assessed an "overweight" charge, which is payable
to the guide on the spot. Most duffles loose a little weight
over the trek as you eat your snack supply, but this does not
change the charge. Partial loads of food are shifted around
from porter to porter each day to keep load weights constant.
Unnecessary porters are sent back every few days as food is
What is the weight limit for gear on a trek? What container
Please keep the total weight for the gear and personal belongings
to be carried by a porter to 15 kg or 33 pounds. This gear should
be stored in a single tough duffle bag, which will be lashed
to a porter's back frame. Your duffle will depart in the morning
with your personal porter and you will not see it or him again
until the evening camp.
Use a waterproof duffle, have a rain cover, or have the contents
in waterproof bags. These duffles have a bit of a hard life
- be sure to bring a tough one with a good zipper. Typically,
the same porter (your personal porter) will carry your bag every
day and set up your tent (if you want). As he is personally
responsible for it, you do not need to worry that anything will
go missing. He will appreciate it if you pack it so the bottom,
which rests against his back, is without any sharp protuberances.
Would the porters be interested in old gear at the end of
Yes! If you wish to supplement regular tips with gear, this
would be a popular decision. We suggest not handing out any
gear until the last day or two. Items much in demand are leftover
AA batteries, camp shoes, and anything at all made out of fleece.
We purposely selected old clothing so that we could give away
much of it at the end. This had the dual benefit of reducing
our load for the homeward trip.
The rural people of Pakistan are VERY poor and are happy with
anything you wish to give, even if it is odoriferous! Most porters
are very small men, so extra large western sizes will be too
large. Not to worry - they can sell what they cannot use, for
an even greater end benefit. TOP
What can I do to prepare for high altitude before leaving
Physical conditioning is important for all of our treks. Being
in good physical condition may help you acclimatize more easily,
and it will certainly help you enjoy trekking more. If you are
lucky enough to live in the mountains, spend as much time at
high altitude as you can in the four weeks prior to your trek.
Any exercise that strengthens your lungs will be helpful no
matter where you live..
How do you handle acclimatization for high altitude on the
All of our treks and tours are laid out to allow adequate time
for acclimatization to the altitude. You will ascend gradually
over a number of days and will sleep at the lowest practical
spot on each part of the route. There are some strategically
placed rest days to aid the acclimatization process. You can
help by drinking lots of water and tea to prevent dehydration.
What if I am unable to adjust to the altitude?
Our guides are familiar with the symptoms of high altitude
ailments and watch the clients carefully. It is also your responsibility
to inform the guide if you feel ill. In most cases, hike lengths
or rest days can be rearranged until you are feeling better.
If you do not show improvement or the guide determines that
you will be unable to continue safely, you will need to return
to a lower elevation. This generally means that you will walk
back out with an assistant guide, your personal porter, and
a couple additional porters. TOP
How physically difficult is trekking in Pakistan?
Our long treks, like K-2, Gondogoro La, and Snow Lake, are
strenuous. You need to be an accomplished hiker : fit and strong,
with good lungs. The routes do not always follow trails, and
the terrain is frequently rough, with loose rocks, hills, exposed
edges, and stream crossings. You will need to be able to walk
strongly at a brisk pace for 4-8 hours per day (not every day!)
while carrying your day pack. Sometimes, as during a snowstorm,
you may be required to walk under even more taxing conditions.
Before leaving home, be sure you are comfortable with basic
boulder-hopping, scrambling, stream-crossing, and ice-walking.
I have a bit of a bum knee. Will I be able to trek?
Yes, you will be able to trek. However, you need to carefully
and objectively consider your condition and limitations. The
long treks can be pretty hard on knees and hips. You may wish
to choose one of our shorter treks, like Rush Lake or Hunza
Adventure, or arrange a custom trek where your ability to keep
up with the group will not be a concern. Another option is a
jeep tour : some of our tours cover lots of wild mountainous
What if I get sick or am hurt while trekking?
Prior to arriving in Pakistan, you will have acquired the correct
vaccinations and medications. It is your responsibility to monitor
your own health and fitness and contact the guide if a problem
becomes evident. In most cases, hike lengths or rest days can
be rearranged until you are feeling better. If you do not show
improvement or the guide determines that you will be unable
to continue safely, you will need to return to the nearest town.
This generally means that you will walk back out with an assistant
guide, your personal porter, and a couple additional porters.
If you are unable to walk, you will be carried. Helicopter rescues are possible depending upon location, weather and altitude if you place a cash bond with the aviation company. Please call for details
Am I likely to get a "bad tummy" while in Pakistan?
A slight upset (one day) is fairly likely, though many travelers
never have a minute of trouble. We didn't have any trouble until
we returned to the United States and gorged on fresh foods!
There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of serious
1. Eat a chewable Pepto-Bismal after every meal (doctor recommended).
This will stop you up for a day or so at the start, but then
everything will be fine.
2. Use only bottled or boiled water for drinking and teeth-brushing.
3. Wash hands with soap before every meal and at every rest
4. Eat everything in moderation. Many upsets are caused by overeating.
5. Drink a lot of water and tea.
6. Carry medications like Cipro to help with serious problems.
7. Use care when eating in markets and regular restaurants. TOP
What type of weather may I expect?
In the plains south of the mountains (Islamabad, Lahore) it
is frequently hot and humid in the summer. Temperatures may
be above 100 F and heavy rains are possible. Temperatures and
humidity will drop as you head north into the mountains. Here,
as in all mountains, the weather changes frequently and you
need to be prepared for a wide range of conditions. The Karakorum
range is quite dry, but you will certainly have a day or two
of rain. The other ranges are less dry. Snow is possible, though
extended storms aren't that common during the trekking season.
It may be very warm (90's F) in the valleys below the glaciers.
What kind of transportation will we use in Pakistan?
The vehicle used depends on the size of the group and the quality
of the roads. When on major roads in the south, as for the Grand
Trunk Road Odyssey, we use medium size buses or minivans. These
are very comfortable and usually have air-conditioning. On smaller
roads in the north, groups typically switch to smaller vehicles
like jeeps. For most of the treks, the last leg of travel to
the trailhead is in a Jeep or Toyota Landcruiser. These have
extended back seats, and provide a fairly comfortable ride on
very exciting and interesting roads. All of the drivers we employ
are trusted professionals.
What are washing facilities like?
In the tourist class hotels along the main routes, you will
almost always have hot shower and tub in your room. (One time
the water was cold - this is part of adventure travel). In smaller
hotels, the facilities may be slightly less western - perhaps
a handheld spray. On the trail, the cook staff will deliver
a bowl of hot water to your tent each morning with bed tea.
The timing can be poor for a real wash, but this is excellent
for shaving, face and hands. There will also be hot water for
hand washing at each meal. On rest days you may request an extra
basin of wash water or find a private place along the river.
Handi-wipes are basically ineffective.
I'm embarrassed to ask, but what are the restroom facilities
In large tourist-class hotels, you will find western-style
toilets. Smaller cafes and gas stations have the squat-type
toilet. Some of the most popular camps on the trekking routes
now have concrete latrines, which are multi-cubicle, open-air
squat toilets. The porters are getting the idea about using
them, but there is still room for improvement. At other camps,
the staff will erect a toilet tent for the clients, which is
an outhouse-sized tent over a dugout hole. Carry your own toilet
How do tips work?
The guide can help you determine appropriate amounts to tip,
and when and whom to tip. You will generally tip each driver
when the drive is completed. Porters and other trek staff are
tipped from a client pool. It is a good idea to carry some 100
Rps notes with you for this purpose. Tips are accompanied by
a hand shake and a heartfelt "Thank you" from each
client. Plan to tip core staff and your personal porter at a
Will the guide speak English?
The guides all speak good English, and the core staff (cook,
cook assistants, assistant guides) speak some English. The drivers
usually speak some English. Most porters know a few words :
Hello, Good Morning, Good, and OK. We suggest learning a similar
few words in Urdu because it is nice to have something to say
What are sleeping accommodations like on tours?
Concordia Expeditions uses only nice, tourist-class hotels.
We aim for double occupancy, though triple occupancy is sometimes
necessary. Most beds are a rather large, extra-long single-sized.
The Shalimar and some of the other big hotels in the large cities
have the same standard full-size beds that are common in the
United States. The beds are firm, with a mattress. Most hotel
rooms have some kind of cooling system and an in-room bathroom
with shower. Not all rooms have heating systems.
How long is a typical driving day?
For jeep and culture tours, we try to keep driving hours consistent
and as short as possible. A 4-6 hour driving day is somewhat
typical. Sometimes, however, villages are a long way apart and
we must lengthen the day to reach a suitable hotel. Many of
the treks involve a flight or drive to the start of the trek.
If the flight is canceled due to poor weather, the drive becomes
necessary. These drives can be as long as 10 or 11 hours in
a single day.
Will the guide accompany us in the markets?
The guide will usually be with you in the markets and other
populated areas. In a few places, he may give you a place and
time to meet back and you will be able to explore on your own.
Most early mornings and evenings are yours to use as you wish.
If you arrive in Pakistan early or delay departure, these days
are your own. The hotel staff can help you with directions,
taxis, or anything else you might need.
How may I learn some Urdu?
Good for you! Check out our Urdu
page for some basic words and general information on the
languages in Pakistan. The gratitude you receive with the use
of each word will make it worthwhile. Do not worry about being
embarrassed - it will give you great pleasure to be able to
thank your drivers and porters in their own language. Shukria!
The excellent book "Trekking in the Karakoram & Hindukush"
by John Mock and Kimberley O'Neil has a great section with vocabulary
in Urdu and some local languages.
Can you recommend some reading material?
Certainly! Here is a list of suggested
books. We find that the more you learn in advance, the more
you will enjoy your time in Pakistan. TOP
Are there any restrictions for photographers?
Yes, and we ask that you follow them carefully. Photos are
not allowed of these subjects : airports, airplanes, bridges
on roads, anything military, and adult women. It is okay to
take photos of young girls, but do ask first. With crowd photos,
take them when there aren't any nearby women facing the camera.
You may have people coming up to you just to have their photos
taken - it is still a real novelty in Pakistan.
What is the best film? How much should I bring?
Markets and historic buildings tend to be very dark, so you
will want a fast film like 200 ASA for low light. Chances to
use a tripod are rare. For trekking, the mountains are at high
altitude and many of the scenes will have snow, ice or reflective
rock in them. Slower films such as 50 ASA are fine here, and
a small tripod can be very useful for those glorious evening
shots. Bring several rolls of film more than you think you could
possibly use: it may not be possible to purchase fresh film
of the correct type if you run out. Pakistan and it's people
are extremely photogenic.
Cameras and lenses are heavy? What is the best combination?
As long as you are ready to carry it all in your day pack every
day, bring as much camera gear as you'd like. A standard 35mm
camera, wide-angle lens, and zoom lens will cover almost every
circumstance, but this is a heavy setup. Many folks are happy
with the modern pocket cameras with the built in zoom lens.
These are small, light, and versatile. A tiny tripod is a fine
idea. Be sure to bring plenty of batteries!! TOP
What will I carry on a typical trekking day?
Think of a trekking day as an extended day hike in the mountains.
You will want to carry a day pack with rain gear, extra jacket,
sunscreen, sun hat, moleskin, camera, films, snacks, and lots
of water. The guide will tell you which days you will need to
carry your stream-crossing shoes. Many trekkers also like to
carry a hiking stick.
How long is the typical trekking day?
A typical trekking day involves 3-7 hours of brisk walking.
Rest days are just as they sound, with all walking optional.
Weather or route conditions or other concerns may sometimes
lengthen days. A faster walker will have more time to loaf or
explore around each camp.
What are the stream-crossings like?
With the passing of each year, more stream crossings are improved
along the major trekking routes. Most major crossings now have
a sturdy cable and wood footbridge. On the Baltoro glacier,
many of the minor crossings have a rough bridge for the pony
pack trains used to stock the military camps. Much of the season,
most other streams can be crossed with dry feet by leaping from
stone to stone. During high water or on less-traveled routes,
you will have more wet crossings.
Will the guide walk with us throughout the trek?
The guide stays with the clients in general, but may not walk
with you individually. He needs to keep an eye on the whole
group, especially any stragglers. Where the trail is easy, you
may walk alone for long periods - this is a wonderful way to
enjoy the solitude of these stupendous mountains. Where the
trail is more difficult, the guide will be with you or will
assign an assistant or porter to stay with you. The group of
porters is large enough that at least one is usually in sight
at all times. TOP