Lahore is the historic cultural center of the Punjab province of Pakistan. The city is full of beautiful architectures from back during the colonial time, with interesting museums for you to get yourself acquainted with the country's past and plenty of things to do for backpackers. If you are planning to visit Pakistan, Lahore must be one of the city on your list.
Pakistan is not your usual travel destination. The country is one of the least traveled countries out there and you can go for weeks without seeing a single foreign tourist. That said, the country is opening up more and more and with such beautiful mountains, authentic culture and friendly people, there is no better time to visit the country than now.
If you are visiting Lahore for the first time, you will need to read this guide to prepare yourself for an adventure of a lifetime. Below you will find all the information you need on what to expect, awesome things to do and much essential information to help plan your trip to Lahore. Let's begin shall we?
Lahore Itinerary Map
When to Go to Lahore
The best time to go to Lahore is from September to October as the weather becomes a little cooler than the mid-summer. The hiking trails in North Pakistan are still open also so you will still have a chance to go up north and hike around Gilgit Baltistan province after.
Where to Stay in Lahore
Lahore Backpackers - 7.00 USD/Night (Dorm)
The only hostel in Pakistan for foreigners. This is the meeting point for most backpackers that go through Lahore and the best place to find people to travel with. The place is also walkable (40 minutes walk to the Fort) to most of the attractions in Old Lahore. That said, the place is really run down, and their dorm doesn't include aircon which is not fun to sleep in under the scorching heat of Lahore. You have to pay double if you want to turn on the aircon in their dorms which I think is unfair. You can also opt for a private room for 10 USD which I think is a much better experience. To be honest, do not expect much from the place.
Right by the merge of Temple and Lawrence roads near Lahore Backpackers, you will find a local breakfast place that opens at 7 AM and you can have a nice omlette, parathas (flatbread) and a chai for only 70 PKR. The location is shown below:
Rose Palace Hotel - 19 USD/Night (Double Room)
For a better experience, I would recommend staying here instead. The hotel is located in a more modern part of the city (Gulberg) which is much quieter, cleaner and have many cool restaurants to indulge yourself in. You will also be able to see both sides of the city, a down-to-earth style in Old Lahore and a more modern-style here. You can get a cheap Uber ride or a rickshaw for around 200 PKR to the city center and do your sightseeing from there.
If you decided to stay in Gulberg, be sure to drop by Jade's Cafe and eat some of their delicious dishes. They have excellent Pakistani fusion food for you to pick if you are in need of great quality food.
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
Reliable wifi is hard to come by in Pakistan especially if you are heading up north so I would recommend getting a sim card instead.
Due to security reasons, as a foreigner, getting a local sim card requires you to go to the main carrier franchise office to register before you can use their sim cards. DO NOT get your sim card at the airport no matter what the guy selling them says. It's a scam and you will waste your money on a sim card that will work for one day.
The process may seem like a hassle but once you know where to go, it only takes 5 minutes to get your sim activated. I would recommend you get a ZONG sim card from the Zong franchise customer care shown in the map below:
Get an Uber or a rickshaw to take you there (tell them to take you to the "Liberty Market" and do not pay more than 200 PKR for it if you are coming from Lahore Backpackers) and make sure you have your passport with you. Once you are there, you can choose whether you want a data sim card only (1,500 PKR for 12 GB) or the one with calls (~2500 PKR). I would recommend the one with calls if you are planning to go up north as the data connection becomes unreliable up there and you might need to call some places to book. The entire process took me less than 5 minutes.
Zong's reception is pretty good with LTE available in big cities like Islamabad and Lahore while you will still have signals (unreliable EDGE speed though) in the cities around the mountains of north Pakistan. For more information about local sim cards in Pakistan, you can read more here.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Pakistan, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
How to Get to Lahore
Several major airlines do fly directly to Lahore from abroad and so you should have no problem finding cheap flights through Skyscanner or Momondo. Try searching on Skyscanner or Momondo for a flight to Allama Iqbal Internationl Airport (LHE) from where you are and the sites will find the chepeast and fastest route for you.
If you are coming from other cities within Pakistan, you can either fly domestically via Pakistan International Airline or you can get a Daewoo Express bus that should connect most major cities to Lahore like Islamabad and Karachi.
I personally took Daewoo express bus from Lahore to Islamabad (Rawalpindi) for 1250 PKR and it took me only 4 hours to get there. The bus was comfortable with great comfy seats, air-con, and water serves the entire trip.
How to Get Around Lahore
Uber is my preferred mode of transportation as it is cheaper than a regular taxi, and you do not have to haggle for it. You can also flag down any rickshaw passing by but never accept the first price they offer. Always remember to negotiate before you get in the rickshaw, and make sure you both agree on the price before the journey.
Here are some general prices to keep in mind when negotiating with rickshaws, from Old Lahore to Gulberg should be no more than 250 PKR, Lahore Backpackers to the fort should be no more than 150 PKR, and from Lahore to Wagah border is 1200 - 2000 PKR roundtrip.
7 Awesome Things to Do in Lahore
1. Visit the Badshahi Mosque in the Morning
The Badshahi mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Pakistan. The architecture resembles the Jama Masjid in New Delhi but at a much bigger scale and you can have a more peaceful walk around it instead of going through hundreds of people. The best time to visit the Badshahi Mosque is at 9 AM when the gate is open and the lights are at its best. In the morning, the sun should be shining towards the mosque instead of being behind the shadow in the evening. There will also be fewer people in the morning and you will be able to enjoy the mosque in solitude.
If you arrive early enough, at the parking lot of the mosque, you might be able to see several young men practicing crickets together. It is fun to watch but keep an eye out of the ball and be ready to dodge when a ball is coming your way. I really feel sorry for those people who parked their cars here at the parking lot.
2. Explore Lahore Fort
Near the entrance of the Badshahi Mosque, you will find a security line that will lead you to the Lahore Fort. Lahore Fort is a Mughal-era fortress with several stunning palaces, gardens, and museums all behind the fortress wall.
The fort has stood the test of time for many generations, housing several rulers from different areas, and you can see that through the diverse styles of architectural design that are present in the fort. From the Persian style audience hall to the Hindu style of the elephant-shaped column brackets.
The fort is massive so be sure to spend a few hours walking around the area and check out all the buildings inside the wall.
3. Admire the Craftsmanship of Sheesh Mahal
At the northwest corner of the fort, you will find a beautiful structure called the Sheesh Mahal, or the Palace of Mirrors. The palace was built under the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan during the 16th century and has since been maintained quite well until today. What is unique about this place is the ornate white marble pavilion's walls that are decorated with complex mirror-work unlike anything in the fort. It has become the most important structure in the fort, and can easily be missed if you don't know where it is in the fort.
4. Find Solitude at the Wazir Khan Mosque
After spending a few hours at the fort, take a rickshaw to the Wazir Khan Mosque, one of my favorite places in Lahore. This mosque doesn't get as many local tourists as places like the Badshahi mosque and you can walk around the mosque at your own leisure.
The mosque is considered the be the most ornately decorated mosque in Lahore and you can see it through the many intricate details works around the mosque, from the beautiful tilework at the gate all the way through the pattern on the ceiling. Apparently, you can also go up one of the towers during the praying time but it was locked when I was there.
5. Walk around the Market at Delhi Gate
Only a few steps away east from the Wazir Khan mosque, you will find a path through a market that will lead you to the Delhi Gate, a beautiful historic gate, one of the six left around the walled city of Lahore. The gate is nice but the market is the highlight as you will meet so many friendly locals welcoming you into their shops, a great chance to experience Pakistani hospitality.
Do not hesitate to accept a random greeting from a stranger if they come up to you when you walk around the market. Pakistan hasn't been plagued by mass-tourism yet and people are genuinely nice and often just curious about you.
I have had many great times with the most random people here in Pakistan. Hospitality in Pakistan is next-level and you will see acts of kindness in the most random way you could imagine here, except when dealing with taxi drivers. They are the worst, no matter where you are in the world. 😂
6. Learn the History at the Lahore Museum
The Lahore museum was built during the British colonial time with a Mughal-Gothic architectural style, depicting the Indian architecture through the westerners' eyes. The museum is built with stunning red bricks that are quite common in Lahore structures that were built during the British Raj reign.
The museum displays archaeological materials from pre-historic times and houses many artifacts and relics from the Indus valley. It is a great place to hide from the heat in the afternoon, and enjoy a little bit of history of Pakistan.
7. Witness the Border Ceremony at the Wahga Gate
Photos by Gargisharma13
The Wagah border ceremony is a daily military practice happening at the border of Pakistan and India, 24 km away from Lahore where soldiers from both countries participate in a rapid dance-like parade to symbolize the rivalry, brotherhood, and cooperation the 2 countries share. If you have an evening free, be sure to grab a taxi to the border and witness this once-in-a-lifetime ceremony before you leave the city.
And there you have it, a guide on cool things to do in Lahore. Lahore is a nice city to start your trip to Pakistan and I hope this guide will help you lay the groundwork for your trip to other areas of Pakistan. If you have any questions about traveling in Lahore, Pakistan, do not hesitate to ask me in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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