Volunteer in Pakistan
What to Know Before Volunteering in Pakistan?
From the highest peaks of Karakoram Mountains in North to the vast soil deposits of River Indus in South. Pakistan is the land of scenic beauty with lush meadows, ancient historical places, diverse culture, and rich cuisine. Pakistan is situated in Southern Asia. Pakistan shares borders in the north with China, in the south with the Arabian Sea, in the west with Afghanistan and Iran, and east with India. Mountaineering, trekking, water rafting, desert safaris (in Jeep, camel or oak), and trout fishing, are few of the activities which allure the nature admirers and adventure lovers to Pakistan. Volunteer in Pakistan is full of beautiful adventures.
The alpine meadows and snowy peaked mountains in Himalayas, Hindukush and Karakoram ranges, coniferous forests in the valleys, the alluvial Indus plain projecting into the great desert, the wetlands, and coastal areas, all offer a very lavish flora with associated wildlife. Pakistan is the most hospitable country with very friendly and welcoming people. From the past few years, tourism has increased. You probably should create an itinerary before planning your visit and volunteer in Pakistan journey. Check the services of Pakistan Travel Limited or take the help of some local tour guides like TripMate. A NOC (No Objection Certificate) is required for foreigners to visit a few places, so keep in mind to obtain one. Volunteer in Pakistan is easy as many foreigners would love joining Pakistan’s Charity Foundations.
Volunteering in Pakistan
Many charitable Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) are working independently in Pakistan for various causes. Edhi foundation is the largest non-profit social welfare foundation in the World. It covers from food to shelter and health. It has the largest ambulance fleet in the world. Shahid Afridi Foundation helps with health needs and educating underprivileged children. Dar ul Sakoon is the home for mentally challenged kids/adults left behind by their loved ones. Kaylani welfare international trust is Pakistan’s most famous NGO that feeds poor for free all day and daily. The citizen’s foundation has established a chain of schools to educate underprivileged, in teacher training and curriculum development. There are many other foundations like Bilqees Sarwar Foundation, Akhuwat Foundation, Alkhidmat foundation, and Agha Khan Foundation. There are various international organizations like VSO international that are welcoming volunteers with skills in primary education, Disaster risk reduction, women empowerment, youth engagement, and secure livelihoods.
If you are thinking of Volunteer in Pakistan. There are several things which you should consider while planning your trip to Pakistan. It’s important to know about the norms and traditions of a place before visiting it. Let’s have a look at various traditions and customs to better understand Pakistan. I hope it will help you decide to book a flight to Pakistan. It makes your Volunteer in Pakistan journey more interesting and memorable.
Pakistan has a myriad of languages. Spoken languages vary from region to region. Urdu is a national language and also used officially along with English. Though Urdu is the national language, dozens of other regional languages are spoken throughout the country like Pashto, Gowri, and Hindku which are somewhat similar to Urdu.
The majority of people here understand and converse in English. As it’s taught in local universities and colleges. It is rare to find any region where no one speaks English. I will suggest taking an Urdu-English phonetics dictionary for translating Urdu phrases into English. Volunteer in Pakistan will be more fun by mixing in the language of Pakistanis. It is always good to learn a few phrases in Urdu while moving around in the country like,
Hello: Asalam o alaikum
Hello! (in response): Wa alaikum salaam
How are you? : Kia haal hai?
I am fine: Mai theek hu.
What is your name?: Apka kia naam hai?
My name is Masooma: Mera naam Masooma hai.
Where is ….? : Kahan hai?
How much?: Kitnay paisay?
I don’t need it: Nahin chahiye
Go away: Jao
Let’s go: Chalo
Do you know English?: English ati hai?
Pakistani uses the Pakistani rupees (PKR). Banknotes comes in variations of 20, 50, 100, 500, 5000 Rs. There are also coins.
Pakistan is a cash country. You can use ATMs in metropolitan cities but it is usually a struggle to get money from ATM using your Visa or Debit card especially in North. Islamic banks do not accept foreign cards. In the mountains, often ATMs ran out of cash. But for the fact, Pakistan has World’s Highest ATM Machine. GuinnessWorldRecords mentioned it has placed on 4693 m height.
Note: It is always handy to have some cash with you all the time because many local vendors don’t accept debit cards, but be sure not to take large amounts with you.
It is difficult to find accommodation in Pakistan. Websites and online bookings can be useful if you are staying at high budget hotels but most hotels prefer direct call for room reservation, especially up in North where there are mountain ranges and valleys. Airbnb and Booking.com are growing in Pakistan but they still have mid-range hotels to luxury hotels.
To find low budget accommodation you have to broaden your search horizon and look for social media such as Facebook, where you can find many groups and contacts to ensure your reservation in time. There are several groups like Backpacking Pakistan who give enough information about travel guides and accommodation facilities. For women, Female Pakistan Travelers is a famous group to get information about lodging facilities and clothing, etc. Volunteer in Pakistan isn’t hard but need some research to make it perfect.
Do- Enough research regarding accommodation before booking your flight.
There is a variety of transport from airplanes to cars, buses, and trains. Car, trains, and buses are cheaper than airplanes. You can book your tickets for buses at bookme.pk or websites like daewoo.com.pk. To book a train ticket using pakrail.gov.pk.
The train is the cheapest of all but is slow and consumes much time. For intracity travel, you can use the Uber app or Careem app to book a taxi for you at an economical rate.
Do- Keep multiple copies of your passport while traveling, though you might not always need it especially if you are traveling in local transport, it is always better to have them than not.
Plan for your medical needs during your visit to Pakitan. Medical is not expensive so usually, people don’t buy medical insurances. Keep medicines that you require regularly like pain killers, vitamins, or anti-allergies. Do necessary precautions to tackle malaria, like mosquito repellant lotion.
Do- Find out whether your organization provides medical insurance and with whom.
Pakistan is not dangerous but visitors are advised to be vigilant as in most developing countries. There are some areas in Pakistan for which you need NOC to visit like the Afghan border or in Neelam valley in Azad Kashmir, where the heavy military is deployed.
It is usually safe to travel solo or in public transportation.
Don’t- travel solo in dark as usually advisable for every region
Police and military are deployed in few regions of Pakistan and don’t get intimidated if they interrogate you. It is for your safety. In some areas, you get a personal armed guard for security purposes. You don’t have to pay him, but you can pay for his meals occasionally if you want to.
Do- Keep copies of your passport.
You need to register at the army and police check posts. It is handy to keep copies of your passports with you all the time to avoid any unpleasant delays.
Markets and Bargaining
Don’t– Forget to bargain
With many upscale shopping centers, and vendors always ready to bargain over prices, Pakistan is the haven for bargain shopping. Do check prices from two to three shops and hover over prices to score a reduced price before purchasing goods.
A local guide or friend can be helpful in such a shopping hunt. Handicrafts, traditional clothes and jewelry, shawls, and dry fruits and are the most popular takeaways from these markets.
Food, water, and alcohol
Pakistani food is loaded with flavors and spices. It is best to consume bottled drinking water. Alcohol is not easily available here as it is an Islamic republic. However, many restaurants feature milder options but it is hard to find in remote areas. You can enjoy many flavorful dishes and some of the world’s best fruits in Pakistan. Make sure to enjoy these delicacies while you stay here.
If you are planning to visit Pakistan, pack your bag according to the time of year and the region to visit. Pakistan is bestowed with four seasons i.e., Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Summers are usually hot throughout the region but cold winds start welcoming you as you move up to North. On a single trip, you can face two extremes of weather so pack up wisely.
There is no specific dress code in Pakistan but I recommend you dress with modesty. If you want to wear western clothes, go ahead and wear a t-shirt and jeans. As Pakistan is an Islamic country and conservative about few things, women should wear such clothes which cover them modestly, like a loose pair of pants and a shirt. Females here usually are covered fully and cover their heads with stalls. You don’t need to wear headscarves except when visiting mosques.
I recommend you to buy shalwar kameez, a local dress, easily available and extremely comfortable. You can buy one ready-made from the market or purchase the fabric of your choice and get it sewn from a tailor. The majority of people wear shalwar kameez and locals will appreciate it if you wear it too.
Timings and Weekend
The standard time of Pakistan is abbreviated as PKT. (PKT= GMT/UTC + 05:00)
Pakistan’s standard time is 5 hours ahead of Greenwich Meridian Time or Coordinated Universal Time.
In Pakistan, there is a two day weekend (Saturday and Sunday) for institutions of the federal government. Provincial governments give one day off on Sunday and a half-day off on Friday.
Religious and Cultural Diversity
In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 98% of people are Muslims and they live in harmony with Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus. According to the constitution of Pakistan, religious minorities are independent to practice their religion. You can find churches and Temples here along with mosques.
Do- Respect the religious values of Pakistani’s and don’t do things to hurt their sentiments.
The diverse culture of Pakistan is a very exciting prospect for travelers. From Pashtuns to Punjabi’s, you will get to learn a lot about people from the subcontinent in Pakistan.
Final Tid Bits
Pakistan is an Islamic country with diverse culture and delicious food. You can volunteer for any organization I have mentioned above. Respect the cultural and societal norms. Before leaving for Pakistan, search about the best SIM card option you will be using here to avoid roaming charges.
Please make sure to consider all the above factors before planning your visit to Pakistan. Pakistan is the most hospitable nation in the world and they will welcome you with open hands, open minds, and above all with open hearts.
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