Islamabad; perhaps Pakistan’s most beautiful city and 2nd most beautiful capital in the world. Located in the heart of the Pothohar Plateau, in the northeastern part of the country, Islamabad acts as the historical gateway between the regions of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (old name: North-West Frontier Province). Being built as a planned city in the 1960s to replace Karachi as the federal capital of the country, Islamabad stands out when one compares it with all the other cities of Pakistan. With carefully planned eight separate zones, which include residential, administrative and commercial areas, the city is far from being a mess. It offers not only a beautiful sight, with lush greenery, parks and forests, and distant mountains, but also many tourist spots to those who come to visit it. Since Islamabad is mainly home to middle and upper-middle class, working households, the Human Development Index is quite high for it, standing proudly at a 0.875. Moreover, there are 20 functioning universities in the city, which are internationally recognized for the quality education that they provide to their pupils. Therefore, if one wishes to interact with highly competent locals, Islamabad’s streets are where you should be.
As highlighted above, there are many reasons why one should definitely consider adding Islamabad to their list if they were travelling to Pakistan. However, since it is going to be a foreign place nevertheless, there are few tips that you might want to consider before setting foot there. Go through the article below to find some useful tips to make your trip enjoyable and memorable:
Best Time to Visit
Since Pakistan is a seasonal country whose climate heavily depends on the summer monsoons, it is always a great idea to check what time of the year is it suitable to make a visit.
Even though Pakistan is typically regarded as a hot country, with average temperatures, in most of the cities, climbing well above 40 degree Centigrade, Islamabad is relatively cooler and much more pleasant. This is owed to its altitude, which is 540 meters, making average temperatures considerably lower.
May, June and July are the hottest months of the year, with average mean temperatures falling in the range between 29 degrees to 35 degrees. The coolest months are January and December, when the temperature does not fall below 10 degrees and does not climb higher than 11 degrees. The rest of the months are typically pleasantly warm. So, depending on the sort of climate that suits you best, you can plan your trip.
Coming to the precipitation levels, Islamabad has two major rain spells, one in summers and the other during the winters and early spring. In the months of February, March and April, average chance of precipitation on a random day falls between 18-21 %. The chance falls in the later months, and creeps back up to 17-31% in the months starting June till September, which is when Islamabad gets its share of the monsoons. Again, depending on your tolerance of precipitation, you can plan your trip accordingly.
According to a consensus, as it may seem, tourists typically regard the months March through May as the best months to visit the city. September till November are also ideal months especially if you want to enjoy the fall season.
Visiting with Family
Islamabad is a great place to visit if you are planning to come with your family on a vacation. There are many interesting activities to keep you busy, and the experience proves to be very wholesome. Families can go around the city, shop, visit important landmarks, and appreciate the aura of the place. Following are a few destinations you would perhaps like to go to:
The Pakistan Monument
Located in the Shakarparian forest covered hills, the Pakistan Monument stands beautifully, representing the unity of Pakistan. It consists of four major petal like structures, and three smaller petals, all of them converging upward. The larger petals are representative of the main provinces of Pakistan, namely Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and Khyber PakhtunKhwa. The smaller ones stand for the territories Pakistan controls, i.e. Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and tribal areas. The converging pattern symbolizes unity of the Pakistani people residing in different parts of the country. It is an amazing sight to behold and one must visit this place.
Working in collaboration with UNESCO, the LokVirsa museum withholds within it the unique culture of Pakistan, both present and the past. Some of the artefacts on display are various pieces of pottery, musical instruments, religious statues, etc. Moreover, you also get to walk through galleries of ancient Buddhist and Sufi shrines.
Located in the foothills of the Margalla range, the Faisal mosque stands proudly as the marriage between traditional Islamic architecture and contemporary art and thought. It is regarded as one of the planet’s largest mosques, with a whopping capacity of 74000 individuals.
The shape of the structure resembles a Bedouin tent and has four minarets propped at its edges. The typical dome that is the landmark of most of the mosques is missing. Yet, the mosque provides one spectacular sight to behold.
If you wish to witness how authentic village life would be, nestled in a contemporary city, Saidpur village is where you have to go. The village is an aesthetic, peaceful getaway, where you can freely roam the streets and watch locals play sitar, and children play in the gravelly streets. You can also visit a Hindu temple and a Sikh gurdwara, which are located in this village.
Daman-e-Koh is one spectacular point where you get the experience to see the most picturesque view of Islamabad from a point. Walking up there to the destination, you can see the abundant wildlife that is a characteristic of the area.
You can also enjoy trekking in Islamabad. There are many trails that let you get to the top of Margalla Hills and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city. Get into trekking with your kids while you are here.
There are many other destinations that you must drop to see, for they are amazing in their own senses. These places include Rawal lake, Monal, Itwaar bazaar, Jinnah supermarket and the Islamabad club.
Money Saving Tips
Islamabad is little expensive as compared to other cities in Lahore especially food and accommodation. You’ll also find less options of public transport here but that doesn’t mean there is none at all. If you are traveling to Islamabad in budget, then you can follow a few main tips to save money:
Eat local food
While there is an abundance of restaurants in Islamabad, and the number of local eating points may be fewer as compared to older cities like Lahore and Karachi, there, nevertheless, are places where you can enjoy the desi experience, and that too at very low costs.
Travel on public transport
There is an abundance of public transport in the city. You can choose to travel in anything that suits you, such as taxis and uber service. These are very cheap options and usually cost less than 2 dollars depending on where you want to go within the city.
Negotiate Price when you shop
Negotiation is part of the Pakistani culture. Though you cannot do this at major brand outlets, but you can surely advantage off this at local shops. Local shops are also a little expensive in Islamabad but negotiating the costs can save you a lot of money.
Islamabad is perhaps the safest city in whole of Pakistan, with over 1900 surveillance cameras. You do not have to care much about street crimesand roam around anywhere in the city. However, there are still a few things that you might want to note. These would show how you respect the local culture, and hence would help you get more warmth from the locals.
Dressing modestly would entail wearing shalwar kameez, jeans with a top, or anything that covers the majority of your skin. Even though the people of Islamabad are very less particular about how an individual dresses, as compared to the residents of other cities, it is always a good idea to not wander off wearing anything too revealing.
Don’t Carry Illegal Items
Carrying illegal items, such as drugs or unlicensed weaponry, while strolling through the streets is definitely not a good idea. If you get caught, the consequences would not be favorable.
Reach Out to the Police
If you find yourself in any trouble, make sure you reach out to the local police. They will be very happy to assist you in your predicament.
Learn a few local words
Even though English is commonly understood in the city, it is a good idea to learn a few basic words and phrases in Urdu. Urdu is the national language of the country, and is also known as the dialect which has elements of a lot of different languages. Therefore, it is the language that is spoken by the locals. There is a list of words/phrases that you might want to practice below:
Important Words to Learn
This is how Pakistanis greet each other. It literally translates to “may peace be upon you”, which is a sweet way of beginning conversation.
Shukriya means ‘thank you’ in Urdu. Whenever someone helps you around, you can thank them using this word, which will help warm the heart of the one who assisted you.
Men Theek Hun
It translates to ‘I am fine’. Whenever someone asks you about your wellbeing, this is what you say to answer them.
Aap English Boltey Hain?
This is one way of knowing if the person you are interacting with knows how to speak English. Since most of the people in Islamabad speak English, you’re likely to get yes as an answer.
Aap Se Mil Kar Khushi Hui
Whenever you are parting with a local, instead of saying ‘it was nice meeting you’, you say the aforementioned phrase, which will delight the other person.
So here it is, your complete guide for your trip to Islamabad! I hope that you will find this helpful and will enjoy your trip to this wonderful city.