- We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Pakistan at this time due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, sectarian violence and the unpredictable security situation.
- If you do decide to travel to Pakistan, you should exercise extreme caution. If you are in Pakistan and concerned for your safety, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so.
- Australians in all parts of Pakistan should avoid any large gatherings and demonstrations as they may turn violent and could be targeted at perceived western interests. As a precaution, you should also avoid areas where people congregate after Friday prayers.
- There has been an increase in security incidents in the lead-up to the 11 May general election. Australians should be particularly vigilant at this time as further violence is expected in the period surrounding the election and formation of a new government. Australians should avoid political rallies and other election-related gatherings as they could turn violent without warning.
- There is a very high threat of kidnapping across the whole of Pakistan, but particularly in Baluchistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Australians in Pakistan should be aware that nine foreigners have been kidnapped in various parts of Pakistan since July 2011. Australians should ensure that they have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.
- There is a very high threat of terrorist attack against places in Pakistan that are frequented by Australians and other Westerners. For a list of possible targets, see Safety and Security: Terrorism.
- Many attacks over the last year have focused on Pakistani Government targets, particularly security and military personnel and institutions, as well as places of worship and religious sites.
- Political and sectarian violence continues in Karachi. Hundreds of people have been killed this year as a result of escalating violence in the city. We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Karachi.
- We strongly advise you not to travel to FATA, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (including the Swat Valley and Peshawar), and Baluchistan due to the extremely dangerous security environment. If you are in these areas, you should consider leaving.
- Security at the Australian High Commission in Islamabad has been strengthened and remains under constant review. Staff are advised to minimise their use of restaurants and international hotels and exercise increased vigilance and security awareness. They have also been advised to minimise their travel on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad due to the high concentration of potential terrorist targets.
- Given the unpredictable security situation and very high threat of terrorist activity and communal violence, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us so we can contact you in an emergency. The Australian High Commission operates a text message alert system for registered Australians.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy, High Commission or Consulate of Pakistan for the most up-to-date information.
Foreign passport holders who do not comply with their visa conditions may face heavy penalties. This applies to people travelling on Australian passports, including dual nationals. You should take care not to overstay the limit of your visa.
If you are arriving from or have transited a country infected with yellow fever, you may be required to present a valid yellow fever certificate to be granted entry into Pakistan.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Pakistan at this time due to the very high threat of terrorist attack and volatile and unpredictable security situation. Ask yourself whether, given your own personal circumstances, you are comfortable travelling to Pakistan knowing that you may be caught up in a terrorist attack. Ask yourself whether travel could be deferred or an alternative destination chosen. If, having considered these issues, you do decide to travel to Pakistan, you should exercise extreme caution. If you are in Pakistan and concerned for your safety, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so.
Attacks on places frequented by Westerners
A number of terrorist groups hostile to Western interests operate in Pakistan. Attacks could occur at anytime, anywhere in Pakistan. There have been regular terrorist attacks in Pakistan in the past few years. The Pakistani authorities have increased security throughout the country due to the high threat of terrorist attack. Further terrorist attacks are highly likely. On 23 October 2012, the US Embassy in Islamabad issued a security message regarding the Serena and Marriott hotels in Islamabad. The Australian High Commission in Islamabad placed similar restrictions on its employees from visiting these hotels; these restrictions were lifted on 11 December 2012.
There is a very high threat of terrorist attack against places in Pakistan that are frequented by Australians and other Westerners. Targets for terrorist attack could include diplomatic missions and other premises in the diplomatic enclave, NGO interests, media outlets, hotels (particularly hotels catering to Westerners), aviation interests, clubs, religious sites and places of worship, shopping centres or shopping areas, banks, or educational facilities including universities, international schools and school buses. These attacks could include Western and Australian interests and individuals. You should be aware that terrorists may have different national backgrounds, and may be citizens of Western countries.
In October 2012, a terrorist group issued threats against media outlets across Pakistan. In the past year, there have been a number of reported threats to locations in Islamabad, including hotels catering to Westerners, as well as Pakistani Government facilities.
Attacks on humanitarian workers
Humanitarian workers and foreign aid agencies have been targeted by militants in the past. A foreign humanitarian worker kidnapped in Quetta, Baluchistan, in January 2012 was murdered in late April. On 10 March 2010, the office of an international aid agency in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was attacked. On 5 October 2009, the office of a UN humanitarian agency was bombed. A number of humanitarian workers were killed in these attacks. In addition, on 12 November 2008, a US aid worker was killed by militants in Peshawar. Further attacks on humanitarian workers and aid agencies are possible. Five foreign humanitarian workers have been kidnapped in Pakistan since July 2011, including in Lahore and Multan in Punjab and Naushahro Feroz in Sindh. See under Safety and Security: Terrorism: Kidnapping for details.
Attacks on Pakistani Government sites
Many recent attacks have focused on Pakistani Government targets, particularly security and military personnel and institutions. Credible reports indicate terrorists continue to plan retaliatory attacks in response to ongoing Pakistan military operations and Western support for Pakistan.
Attacks on religious sites
A number of recent attacks against religious sites in Lahore have resulted in large-scale civilian casualties. These attacks demonstrate the willingness of militants to inflict indiscriminate civilian casualties in public locations. Attacks against religious sites could occur in any part of Pakistan.
Recent mass casualty attacks
Recent mass casualty incidents include:
- On 4 March 2013, a suicide bombing at a Shia mosque in Abbass Town in Karachi killed 50 and injured 150 others.
- On 16 February 2013, a bombing in a principally Shia district of Quetta killed 89 people and injured many others.
- On 10 January 2013, a bombing in Quetta killed 81 people and injured 120 others.
- On 21 November 2012, a suicide bomber attacked a Shia procession in Rawalpindi, killing 17 people and injuring 35 others.
- On 18 November 2012, a bombing at a Shia mosque in Karachi killed three people and injured 15 others.
- On 31 August 2012, a car bomb killed 11 people at a market place in Mattani on the outskirts of Peshawar.
- On 24 April 2012, a bombing at a train station in Lahore killed four people.
- On 5 April 2012, a suicide bomber attacked a police vehicle in the Malir area of Karachi, not far from the airport, causing a number of deaths.
- On 10 December 2011, militants killed an employee of a German NGO in Karachi.
- On 13 June 2011, there was a bomb attack in a commercial area of Islamabad.
These attacks underscore the very high threat of terrorism in Pakistan. Further such attacks are highly likely.
In 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested that diplomatic missions in Islamabad take “extra precautionary measures”, and advised that Pakistani security agencies had been instructed to step up security measures. This has resulted in an increased number of checkpoints and security personnel in Islamabad. The Pakistani Government has issued similar warnings periodically since 2008.
Many terrorist attacks in Pakistan have involved multiple, consecutive explosions.
Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere at any time in Pakistan. Cities, including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera, and Quetta have recently been targeted. Potential targets include Pakistani government and foreign interests throughout the country.
In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided at venues. Possible targets include crowded locations likely to result in a large number of casualties, places frequented by foreigners, clubs, restaurants, fast food outlets, embassies, high commissions and other diplomatic interests, educational facilities including universities, and international schools, international hotels, expatriate housing compounds, places of worship, such as mosques and churches, shopping centres, banks, markets, bazaars and supermarkets, airports and aviation interests (including foreign flagged airliners), compact disc and video shops, convention centres, outdoor recreation events, tourist areas and other crowded places, identifiably Western interests, premises and symbols, including businesses and non-government organisations (NGOs).
Premises and symbols associated with the Pakistani Government and security forces are frequent targets for attacks. Judicial buildings, such as courts, public transport and transport infrastructure, including trains and airports have been attacked, along with military and police personnel and interests, including police stations and checkpoints. Further attacks are likely.
Militants may mount attacks in the lead-up to and on occasions of national or commemorative significance, such as Pakistan National Day (23 March), the storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad by government troops (which occurred in July 2007) and Independence Day (14 August).
There is a very high threat of kidnapping across the whole of Pakistan, but particularly in Baluchistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
A spate of recent incidents involving foreign nationals underscores the very high threat of kidnapping in all parts of Pakistan. Two Western tourists were reportedly kidnapped in the Chaghi district of Balochistan on 13 March 2013.
A foreign humanitarian worker kidnapped in Quetta, Baluchistan, in January 2012 was found murdered three months later. Another foreign humanitarian worker was kidnapped in Naushahro Feroz, Sindh, on 22 January 2012. Two foreign humanitarian workers were also kidnapped in Multan, Punjab, on 19 January 2012. An American aid worker was kidnapped in Lahore, Punjab, in August 2011. All remain in captivity. Two Swiss tourists were also kidnapped in Baluchistan in July 2011 and held until March 2012.
Australians in Pakistan should be aware of these kidnappings involving foreign nationals and our assessment that a very high threat of kidnapping exists across Pakistan. Australians should ensure that they have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.
The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians.
For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping Threat travel bulletin.
Advice to High Commission staff
Due to the very high threat of terrorist attack in Pakistan, security at the Australian High Commission in Islamabad is at a high level. The Australian Government has a “no children at post” policy for Islamabad.
Security at the High Commission has been strengthened and remains under constant review.
Staff at the High Commission have also been advised to minimise their use of restaurants and international hotels, to minimise visits to shopping areas and avoid walking in Islamabad.
You should be aware that staff at the Australian High Commission have also been advised to minimise their travel on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad due to the high concentration of potential terrorist targets. You should do the same.
The Australian Consulates in Karachi and Lahore have been closed until further notice for security reasons.
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General Advice to Australian Travellers.
Civil unrest/political tension
The security situation in Pakistan remains volatile, unpredictable and could deteriorate at short notice. Australians could be caught up in violent unrest. You are responsible for ensuring you are able to depart Pakistan and that your travel documentation remains up-to-date.
General elections on 11 May:
There has been an increase in security incidents in the lead-up to the 11 May general election. Australians should be particularly vigilant at this time as further violence is expected in the period surrounding the election and formation of a new government. A number of election-related events have been attacked by militants. Further such attacks could occur.
Large political rallies are expected across the country during this period. Australians should avoid political rallies and other election-related gatherings as they could turn violent without warning.
International events and political developments in the region or elsewhere may prompt demonstrations or violent protests in any part of Pakistan. Perceived Western interests may become targets of such violence.
A number of anti-Western demonstrations occurred in Pakistan in mid-September 2012. On Friday 21 September 2012, violent protests (against the making of an anti-Islamic video in the US) in major cities across Pakistan resulted in around 29 people being killed and hundreds more injured. Further anti-Western demonstrations are possible.
You should avoid any large gatherings and demonstrations as they may turn violent and could be targeted at perceived western interests. As a precaution, you should also avoid areas where people congregate after Friday prayers in all parts of Pakistan.
Political and sectarian violence in Karachi
Political, sectarian and gang violence continues in Karachi. Hundreds of people have been killed in 2012 as a result of the violence. While the attacks typically occur in Baldia Town, Orangi Town, Lyari, PIB Colony, Saddar and Qasba areas, reprisal attacks or operations by security forces may occur anywhere. Further violent clashes are likely. We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Karachi.
Regular demonstrations, rallies and large public gatherings should be expected and may turn violent. We strongly urge you to avoid all such events as you could be caught up in violence or attacks directed at others. If you are in an area affected by demonstrations, you should find a safe location, remain indoors and heed local advice. You should closely monitor local information sources for details about possible safety and security risks.
Sectarian violence is increasingly common in many parts of Pakistan, especially in Karachi, Kurram Agency, Sindh and Baluchistan.
Religious processions and other events of religious significance, including ceremonies held during the Islamic month of Muharram, have previously been marred by violence. Large gatherings and places of worship, including mosques,churches and other places of worship, may be targeted. Retaliation is common and has resulted in further deaths. We strongly recommend you stay away from these events and locations at these times.
The city of Gilgit in northern Pakistan has been the scene of sectarian violence on several occasions in recent years. This violence can break out unexpectedly at any time, sometimes resulting in the imposition of a curfew and deployment of additional security forces. Tourists can be stranded in such circumstances. Australians finding themselves in that situation are advised to follow the instructions of security officials and remain in a safe location until the situation has calmed down or you are able to safely depart from Gilgit.
Border regions with Afghanistan
Federally-Administered Tribal Areas: We advise you not to travel to the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas due to security concerns and ongoing Pakistani military operations in border areas with Afghanistan. If you are in these areas, you should consider leaving. With the exception of the official border crossings, which all are currently open, foreigners are prohibited from travelling within 50 kilometres of the border with Afghanistan in Gilgit Baltistan.
Baluchistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North-West Frontier Province): We advise you not to travel to Baluchistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa due to the volatile and unpredictable security environment. If you are in Baluchistan or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (including Swat), you should consider leaving. Attacks against government, security and military interests in Baluchistan are likely, as are attacks against oil, natural gas, power and communications infrastructure and transport, including the railway network.
Border regions with India
We advise you not to travel to border areas with India (except for Lahore, Kasur and Narowal) due to the volatile and unpredictable security situation and heightened security arrangements along the border. If you are in an area close to the Pakistan-India border, you should consider leaving. You should be aware that foreigners are prohibited from travelling within 15 kilometres of the Kashmir Line of Control and the entire border with India, except for official border crossings.
Violent crime, including armed robbery, carjacking and kidnapping, occurs in many parts of Pakistan, particularly in Karachi. You should drive with the doors locked and windows up.
Pick-pocketing and petty theft is common.
Money and valuables
Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers' cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Pakistan. Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Severe flooding in mid-2010 has caused widespread damage to transport infrastructure across Pakistan. You should carefully consider your need to enter areas that have been affected by flooding. You should seek advice from local authorities on travelling conditions before attempting to do so. See under Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate for further information.
The security situation in Pakistan is uncertain and could deteriorate at any time. Contact your travel agent and airline regarding temporary disruptions or suspension of transport services.
Road accidents are a common cause of death and injury. Road conditions and driving standards are poor, requiring extreme caution to be exercised all times. For further advice, see our road travel page.
Avoid the use of public transport, including buses, trains and taxis, due to the security risk and avoid travelling after dark where possible. You should use transport services provided by accredited tour operators and hotels.
Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.
When you are in Pakistan, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
Penalties for drug offences are severe in Pakistan and include the death penalty. Possession of even small quantities of "soft drugs" for recreational purposes can result in lengthy jail sentences, large fines and deportation.
The death penalty may be imposed for crimes including murder, rape, blasphemy and unlawful assembly.
Homosexuality is illegal. The act of sodomy is illegal in Pakistan and penalties include life imprisonment.
It is illegal for unmarried heterosexual couples to live together.
Although rare, corporal punishment may be imposed for some offences including robbery, public drunkenness and consumption of alcohol by a Muslim.
Importing alcohol and pork products is illegal in Pakistan.
You are advised not to take photographs of airports or military and government buildings and installations.
Attempting to convert a Muslim or encouraging a Muslim to abandon their religion is illegal.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money, laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Pakistan. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.
Wearing short-sleeved garments and shorts should be avoided, as should physical contact between men and women in public. Women may be targets of harassment, particularly if they are unaccompanied.
During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.
Information for dual nationals
Pakistan does not recognise dual nationality. If you or your father were born in Pakistan, you may be considered by authorities to be a Pakistani national even if you do not hold a Pakistani passport. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide you with consular assistance if you are arrested or detained.
Our Dual Nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our ’Travelling Well’ page also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.
The standard of medical facilities and care in Pakistan is generally limited, with the exception of a select number of clinics and hospitals in major cities which approach Western standards. In most towns, as well as rural and remote areas, medical facilities are extremely limited. Hospitals in Pakistan usually require up-front payment, confirmation of insurance cover or guarantee of payment prior to admission. In the case of a serious illness or accident, a medical evacuation to Australia or a similar destination would be considered necessary. Depending on the immediacy, severity and circumstances of the case, a medivac could cost $A100,000.
Malaria is common in Pakistan, except in areas above 2000m. Chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistant strains are reported. An outbreak of dengue fever killed more than 500 people in Lahore and surrounding areas of the Punjab in the period September to December 2011. Other insect-borne diseases (including Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and Japanese encephalitis) are present in Pakistan with outbreaks occurring from time to time. There is no vaccination or specific treatment available for dengue. We encourage you to: consider having vaccinations before travelling; take prophylaxis against malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases where necessary; ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof; and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent at all times and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing.
Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, measles and polio) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and uncooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Cases of cholera have been reported periodically in Sindh. Reports of malaria, skin infections, acute watery diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections usually increase following flooding.
Poliomyelitis remains endemic in Pakistan with travellers at risk of infection. All travellers to polio infected countries should ensure they have completed a primary course of polio vaccinations and a booster dose prior to travel. If you are unsure of your polio vaccination status, check with your doctor or travel clinic, at least 8 weeks before you depart.
Avoid temporary 'black henna' tattoos as they often contain a dye which can cause serious skin reactions. For further information see the Australasian College of Dermatologists' website.
Avian influenza: The WHO has confirmed a human death from avian influenza in Pakistan. Australians in Pakistan should monitor the travel advice and bulletin for updated information and advice, and ensure that their travel documents, including passports and visas for any non-Australian family members, are up to date in case they need to depart at short notice.
Where to get help
The Australian High Commission in Islamabad may close temporarily to the public at short notice should concerns arise about security in the vicinity of the High Commission. You should telephone ahead before going to the High Commission. If you require emergency consular assistance, you should first telephone the High Commission or the Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra.
Access to the diplomatic zone in Islamabad, where the High Commission is located, has been restricted by the Pakistani Government for security reasons. Access to the High Commission is on foot from the UN Boulevard entrance to the enclave on Constitution Avenue, or via bus from the National Convention Centre at the corner of Constitution Avenue and Shahrah-E-Kashmir Road. An office in the car park of the Convention Centre has been set up to sell tickets and direct customers to the bus.
You can obtain consular assistance from the:
Australian High Commission
Constitution Avenue and Ispahani Road
Diplomatic Enclave No. 1
If you are travelling to Pakistan, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High or Consulate.
The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the High Commission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
During the monsoon season (July to September), flooding and landslides can occur with little warning throughout the country. In the past, floods have affected millions of people, resulting in many deaths. During these periods, fresh drinking water and food can be in short supply. The high risk of contracting a water-borne disease continues after the floods recede. Services and transport are often affected.
Cyclones can occur in coastal areas of Pakistan. For further information, see our severe weather page.
Pakistan is in an active seismic zone and is subject to earthquakes.
All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.
Some mountainous areas of Pakistan are subject to winter avalanches.
Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
Australians are advised to respect wildlife laws and to maintain a safe and legal distance when observing wildlife, including marine animals and birds. You should only use reputable and professional guides or tour operators and closely follow park regulations and wardens' advice.
For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with Children brochure.