Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.
In major Pakistani cities, men and women are not segregated in offices. Most executives working for international corporation’s wear business attire (business suits in winter and shirt and tie in summer) and in some cases local dress, and women dress conservatively often in local dress. Western women traveling to Pakistan for business should dress conservatively, in pants suits or below the knee skirts, dresses with sleeves and conservative necklines. Pakistan is a male-dominated society; however, women are increasingly entering the job market. In factories and other similar facilities, it is not uncommon for men and women to work in segregated premises.
In most parts of the country, meetings generally run late and last-minute changes are not unusual. It is important to promptly respond to all communications. During a meeting, it is customary for the host to offer tea to business visitors. Most meetings will start with an exchange of pleasantries and very often the host will engage the U.S. visitor in small talk for several minutes; personal connections and relationships are important in Pakistan’s business environment. Business cards are usually exchanged at the beginning of meetings.
For business visits, U.S. citizens are required to obtain a visa for Pakistan before arrival in the country and are advised to apply for their visas well ahead of their anticipated travel. Further information on obtaining a Pakistani visa in the U.S. may be obtained from this website.
U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should familiarize themselves with the visa process by going to the following links:
State Department Visa Website
U.S. Embassy, Islamabad
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should reference: State Department Visa Website
The official currency of Pakistan is the rupee (sign: Rs; Code: PKR). The State Bank of Pakistan is officially responsible for the issuance, circulation, and control of currency in the country. The local currency denomination comprises coins (Rs.1, Rs.2, Rs.5, and Rs.10) and banknotes (Rs.10, Rs.20, Rs.50, Rs.100, Rs.500, Rs.1,000, Rs.5,000). Foreign visitors can utilize the services of local commercial banks and authorized foreign exchange dealers for change of currency. In addition, Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards are widely acceptable. For customers’ convenience, all local commercial banks operate a wide network of branches and ATMs in all cities.
The telecommunication sector in Pakistan has grown tremendously over the last five years. The privatized Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) is the sole provider of landline services; however, there are now four cellular companies (Jazz, Telenor, Ufone, and Zong) operating in the market. In addition, there are sixteen operators offering Wireless Local Loop (WLL) service. In addition to these services, there are several card payphone services, which offer highly competitive international calling rates, especially to the United States and United Kingdom.
Pakistan offers one of the lowest telecom rate structures in the region. The average tariff for the United States, using a pre-paid calling card, is currently Rs. 2.5 per minute (approximately 2.5cents per minute). Internet is widely available throughout the country, and there are several companies that offer fairly good Fiber Optic, DSL and Broadband connections. Most upscale hotels have business centers that offer a complete range of telecommunication facilities; most hotels now offer Wi-Fi networks for their guests.
In all large Pakistani cities, taxis are readily available, and fares are quite reasonable, although in most case the fare has to be negotiated in advance. Recently Uber and Careem, the leading car-hailing services, also started their operations in Pakistan. Due to security reasons, U.S. travelers are advised not to use taxis.
Instead, it is recommended that travelers rent a car, preferably from the hotel or guesthouse where they are staying or make use of radio cab services, which are available in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Most hotels and guesthouses in Pakistan provide complimentary airport pick-up service if they are informed in advance. When renting a car, either from the hotel or a rental agency, it is recommended that services of a chauffeur are also acquired along with the car. All the major airports in Pakistan offer radio cab service at a fixed, non-negotiable rate.
No U.S. air carriers fly to Pakistan; however, there are several connecting flights from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Istanbul, and European and Asian cities to many Pakistani cities, including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Multan, and Peshawar. Other than PIA, Etihad, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and British Airways (service to start in 2019) provide convenient connections to New York, Chicago, Houston and Washington, DC via Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Istanbul, London, and Doha. PIA offers the largest network of domestic and international destinations. In addition to PIA, there are three other private airlines - Airblue, Shaheen Air International and the Serene Air, which started its operations in 2017. There are also private air charter services including Princely Jets.
Shaheen Air International (SAI):
SAI was previously managed by Shaheen Foundation (a subsidiary of the Pakistani Air Force). In July 2004 it was taken over by the Canadian group TAWA International. Shaheen Air got its start as Pakistan’s second national carrier. Shaheen Air International (SAI) has eight Airbus A319-100s, nine A320-200s, seven A330-200s and twenty nine Boeing 737 aircrafts in its fleet. SAI operates to a total of 14 destinations of which 8 are domestic and 13 international and plans to operate new flights to the UK and Canada in 2019. The airline carries around 650,000 passengers annually.
This private airline commenced operations in June 2004; its fleet is comprised of four Airbus 319s, fourteen Airbus A320s twelve Airbus A321, three Airbus 330-200, and two Airbus 340-300aircrafts. Airblue operates domestic flights between Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Gawadar, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, and Sialkot.
Airblue also operates international flights to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Jeddah, and Riyadh, Airblue has a 30 percent share of the domestic market and its revenue base is over $150 million. It employs cutting-edge IT systems and is the first airline in the region to operate completely by e-tickets.
Serene Air is another private airline in Pakistan with its headquarters based out of Karachi. Launched in January 2017, the airline operates three Boeing B737-800 aircrafts. With a very small fleet, airline links all major cities in Pakistan.
Akbar Group of Pakistan launched Princely Jets, a charter service, in 2006. Currently their fleet consists of a Bombardier- Challenger 604 and Citation Bravo. In addition, the company operates a fleet of five Eurocopter helicopters.
PIA, Airblue, Shaheen Air, and Serene Air offer online reservation services. Travelers on these four carriers can now make reservations and obtain e-tickets through the Internet. The relevant websites are as follows:
Pakistan International Airlines
Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, but English remains an official language and is widely spoken and understood in most cities and urban areas. In rural areas, an interpreter may be required. All business correspondence is in English.
U.S. visitors seeking medical care in Pakistan will be expected to pay in cash at the time of service or on discharge from a hospital. Travelers to Pakistan are strongly recommended to verify that their insurance company will honor overseas claims. Also, business travelers are advised that the U.S. Government will not arrange or pay for medical evacuations of unofficial U.S. citizens (private American citizens) overseas.
Polio Vaccination: Effective from June 1, 2014, passengers traveling outside of Pakistan will be required to provide proof of polio vaccination at the time of departing the country. This requirement has been mandated by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Food- and water-borne illnesses: Tap water and drinks with ice in Pakistan are generally not considered safe. Travelers should drink only bottled water or other bottled beverages. If thoroughly cooked hot foods are eaten, most food-borne infections can be avoided. Raw fruits should only be eaten if they have unbroken skin and can be peeled, or if they have been soaked in bleach. Travelers should avoid foods that may have been un-refrigerated for over two hours, particularly those containing poultry, eggs, meat and dairy products.
Healthcare facilities: Most of the major cities in Pakistan have fairly good hospitals and healthcare facilities. The Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi, Doctor’s Hospital in Lahore and the Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad have several foreign-trained doctors.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Most private offices in Pakistan work from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with the week starting on Mondays and ending on Fridays. Some private-sector offices observe a six-day week and are open on Saturdays, but banks are generally closed on Saturdays. Government offices are usually open from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
On Fridays, most government offices close at 12:30 p.m. for weekly Friday prayers. Business visitors planning a trip to Pakistan should take into account the following local holidays before finalizing their travel itinerary:
2019 Pakistani Holidays:
• *Eid-ul-Fitr: June 5, 6, and 7
• Pakistan Independence Day: August 14
• *Eid ul Azha: August 12 and 13
• *9th and 10th of Muharram: September 10 and 11
• Iqbal Day: Nov. 9
• Birthday of Quaid-i-Azam: December 25
* (Based on the Islamic lunar calendar and may differ by one or two days from the expected dates – please check before travel or making appointments)
During the Islamic month of Ramadan, observant Muslims do not eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset. During this month, travel is more difficult, the pace of business activity slows (many offices close by mid-day), and it is more difficult to accomplish business objectives. Ramadan begins 29 or 30 days before the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings>
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings: Current information regarding temporary entry of materials and personal belongings is available on the website.
Travel-Related Web Resources
Pakistan Embassy, Washington, DC