Is Lahore safe? Is Pakistan safe? How did you get from India to Lahore? Where’s the best place to stay in Lahore?
Now that people know we’ve visited Lahore and the northern parts of Pakistan, seen our pictures, and read our Facebook posts, the questions are coming thick and fast.
Rather than answer everyone individually, we’ve put together the answers in this post. Bear in mind; this is our opinion and not official guidance. What’s good for us (two (upper) middle-aged Aussies) might not be the same for you. Please do your due diligence before deciding to visit (That goes for EVERY country in the world.) Check with your travel insurance company and YOUR government’s travel advisories before your book your ticket.
Note: Political protests occurred nationwide at the time of writing (May 2023). The protesters were not targeting tourists, and we had no issues, especially while traveling in the north. However, the situation is a timely reminder to stay aware of the changing environment in any country. Several governments have since updated their official travel advice for Pakistan, which may affect travel insurance coverage for some policies. Once we learned of the protests, we:
- Contacted the Australian High Commission in Islamabad so they knew we were in the city,
- We kept all our gear ready so we could move immediately if necessary,
- Added time buffers around our travel arrangements to allow for road closures and delays, and
- Stayed clear of government buildings and areas where the protests occurred.
With that out of the way, here we go:
Is Lahore Safe?
Or, to be specific – Is Lahore safe for tourists?
In our experience, Lahore is safe. We arrived nearing the end of Ramadan in 2023 and stayed for five days. We :
- Caught auto rickshaws (day and night) using the local ride-sharing app
- Walked around the maze, which is the Old City, and in Gulburg (where we stayed) during the day and night.
- Accepted invites to enter people’s homes and share refreshments.
- Accepted directions and guidance and (a boxed) juice from random people in the street when we were unsure of our route.
- Visited the many famous and historic sites by ourselves.
At no time did we feel in danger in Lahore. In fact, we felt safer there than in many ‘Western’ locations, including our hometown in country Australia.
Lahori people are polite, friendly, helpful, kind, and hospitable. They are incredibly proud of their city and concerned about how Pakistan is portrayed in Western media, especially if WE think Lahore is safe. Perhaps that’s why they go out of their way to ensure you are safe and comfortable.
Auto rickshaw drivers were way less hassle than their compatriots in India. We never had to haggle over the official app price, and when we tipped them, they were genuinely surprised and appreciative.
In saying that, we did exercise our normal travel precautions:
- Money and important documents stay concealed
- I (Sharyn) wouldn’t walk alone in some places we did at night. But that’s the same in most cities.
- We used Careem, a ride-sharing app, to book auto-rickshaws.
- We were polite but firm with ‘guides’ and ‘touts’ around the major tourist attractions.
- We took care when crossing roads because, as with many other countries, pedestrian crossings are systematically disregarded.
Is Lahore Worth Visiting?
A BIG resounding YES, to this one.
Lahore is one of the most historically significant cities in the world. It has:
- A fascinating history
- A UNESCO World Heritage Site (the Fort and Shalimar Gardens),
- An excellent food scene,
- Bustling markets within the old city walls are some of the best we’ve seen in a while,
- Quite a bit of green space in the new city, and
- Many excellent but cheap hotels (relative to the same standard in India and other Asian countries.)
If you pair those highlights with Lahore being safe to visit, then there are ample reasons to come and see for yourself.
There is an old Lahori proverb that translates something like this:
If you haven’t seen Lahore, you haven’t been born!
I’m not sure we’d go that far, but it is now one of our favorite cities.
You can check out our two Walking Tours of Lahore, HERE and HERE
How do you get to Lahore from India?
The easiest way to get to Lahore from India is from Amritsar, crossing the Attari – Wagha border. From the border, it’s around 23km to Lahore.
- Ensure you have your Pakistani visa (You can see our recommendations on how to do that HERE.
- From Amritsar, the border is around 30km away. You can catch a bus to Attari and then an auto rickshaw to the border or do as we did … catch a taxi all the way. It cost 1500 INR (~18 USD at the time of writing.)
- You will be hassled by porters as soon as you arrive. We are used to carrying our own packs/bags as we travel light, so we politely refused. From memory, they cost around 200 INR (Official notice in immigration). It’s only about 200 to 300m to walk in total.
- You are not meant to leave India with INR. There is an office on the Indian side where you can change your leftover cash. It was closed for ‘lunch??’ so the guy at customs let us through. We changed it with an ‘unofficial’ money changer outside the exit at a terrible rate (~80%). However, it was only about 20 USD, so it wasn’t that consequential, and it meant we had enough Pakistani Rupees to get to Lahore.
- Indian Immigration wanted to see our Pakistani visa before they would stamp us out.
- Once stamped through, you wait with others for a bus to take you to the Pakistani side. Big bags go in a trailer at the back. If you haven’t hired a porter, then they won’t lift a finger to help you load your bags. That is understandable, I guess. We ensured ours went on top so they didn’t get squashed, and we didn’t have to wait for them to unload the other side.
- The bus then drives you to the border gate and Pakistani Immigration. You can see the stadium on the Indian side, where you watch the crazy flag-lowering ceremony as you walk through.
- Getting stamped through takes a little while as the immigration staff are so friendly and want to have a chat. It also took some time for them to replace our Electronic Travel Authorizations (ETA’s) with our Visas On Arrival (VOA). The people in front of us didn’t have that issue, so I’m guessing they had the visas, not the ETA.
- Once through Immigration, you’ll have one more ‘conversation’ with an official about your planned movements before heading out the door. Honestly, I think they just wanted to chat. After a few queries, they began showing us pictures of places we had on our itinerary.
- After exiting, there’s about a 500-meter walk to the Wagha Market, where you’ll find cafes and taxi touts (sigh!) Have patience, grasshopper. The taxi touts here are no different from everywhere else. Our advice is to either:
- Sit and wait patiently. The closer it gets to the flag-lowering ceremony at 5 pm (ish), the lower the price will get. Ours went from 4500 PKR to 2500 PKR (See warning below). There are cafes, cold drinks, and seats to bide your time.
- Keep walking. If your luggage is light enough, keep walking until you find an autorickshaw to take you. Maybe a 10-minute walk will see you clear of the border area.
- If you have a Pakistani SIM (or eSIM), download the CAREEM app before you head to the border and try using that to book a ride. You may have to walk a little way to get reception.
- Negotiate with your hotel for a pickup. You might pay the same or maybe more (I doubt it!) But it will save you the hassle.
WARNING: Clarify with the driver that the price is in Pakistani Rupees, NOT Indian Rupees. Even though taking INR out of India is illegal, the drivers might try and pull a swifty on arrival at your accommodation. At the time of writing, INR is more than 3x the PKR!
What are the Best Things to Do In Lahore?
We’ve added a couple of self-guided walking tours HERE and HERE. But some of the highlights include:
- Lahore Fort
- Shalimar Gardens
- Bagdashi Mosque
- The myriad streets of the Walled Old City
- the old Havelis converted into restaurants on Food Street
- The Wagha Border Ceremony.
Viator has quite a few guided tours around the city and surrounds if you prefer to take a tour.
Where is the Best Place to Stay in Lahore?
Lahore has many excellent hotels and guesthouses, so it’s difficult to say what’s the best place to stay in Lahore. The ‘best’ will also depend on your budget, desired comfort levels, and ability to navigate a foreign city to see the sites.
Lahore is a large city! However, many tourists (including us) stay in Gulburg, which is around 12 km south of the old town and main tourist sites. However, getting to the old city in an autorickshaw only takes around 30 minutes and ~ 3 USD. Gulburg has many cafes and restaurants serving local and international cuisine and some nice shopping. Weighing up cost, comfort, and convenience, we thought the excellent deal we got on accommodation in Gulburg was worth the travel time.
We used our Booking.com via our WayAway Plus account to book the Rose Palace Hotel – Gulburg (They also have other branches.) It was extremely comfortable, well-appointed, and included breakfast for less than 20 USD (and we got cashback as well.)
The Ramada was right across the road if you like a bit more ‘luxury’.
If you’ve stayed somewhere you think is the best place to stay in Lahore, let us know in the comments. We’ll then take a look and add it to the list if we think our readers will like it.
So there we go. Hopefully, we’ve answered the question of whether ‘Is Lahore safe to visit‘, along with many of the other questions we’ve been asked.
If you want to know anything else, ask us in the comments, and we’ll answer if we can (and then add it to this page.)