5 beautiful destinations Pakistanis can travel to on a budget

Published: July 29, 2019
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PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/GIRL WITH THE GREEN PASSPORT/ESLIMAH/AYESHA OMAR

PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/GIRL WITH THE GREEN PASSPORT/ESLIMAH/AYESHA OMAR

KARACHI: The global travel industry is growing and it’s growing fast. Not only that, more people are travelling now than ever before, thanks to cheaper flights and the ease of planning and booking a trip.

Add to this the new batch of travel bloggers on Instagram and you’ve got hundreds of people jetting off to places they had never heard of before. After all, it’s a most human thing to explore new horizons.

And statistics don’t lie. The travel and tourism sector grew more in 2018 than all other economic sectors, adding a record $8.8 trillion to the world’s combined Gross Domestic Product – up from $8.3 trillion in 2017. It created some 319 million new jobs as well, according to Forbes.

While Pakistan is expected get higher numbers of tourists thanks to the government’s support, what about Pakistanis wanting to go abroad? Everyone is surely feeling the rupee’s present standing against the dollar and this can make travel for Pakistanis at home very expensive.

But don’t worry, we have you covered. Here are our recommendations for some pretty lust-worthy destinations across the globe that will allow you to indulge your wanderlust without draining your pockets. Bon voyage!

Istanbul, the transcontinental escape

Turkey really offers the best of both worlds. Straddling Europe and Asia, its capital Istanbul is hailed as one of the greatest cities in the world with lots of history, heritage, culture and beauty to offer. Not to mention, the Turkish and Pakistanis love each other!

A single entry visa will cost you around Rs8,500 and flight tickets will be roughly Rs80,000 return during peak holiday seasons. Decent 3-star hotels are abundant, right next to the exquisite Sultan Ahmet Mosque. And then, there is the AirBnB option.

Best places to go: Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Taksim Square…need we go on?

Maldives – the water wonderland 

This island nation is the picture of paradise. Think bungalows hovering over turquoise waters, golden beaches and lots of scuba diving. Oh, and seriously Insta-worthy sunsets! How could you not want to travel to the Maldives?

The best thing is that this dream can be a reality because it’s surprisingly reasonable and also Muslim-friendly.

Located in the Arabian Sea, the capital Malé has a busy fish market, restaurants and shops on the main road, Majeedhee Magu, and 17th-century Hukuru Miskiy (also known as Friday Mosque) made of carved white coral. No wonder it’s a honeymoon staple.

Cheapest flight: Around Rs60,000.

Eastern Europe – the new it place 

You may not think Eastern Europe is cheap area but it actually is! If you want a unique travel experience that truly captivates, this entire region is the place for you.

Take Romania for example. Whatever you think this country is, it probably isn’t. The Transylvanian region, in particular, defies expectations with its quaint medieval towns and spectacular Carpathian mountain range. Many travel bloggers reiterate that it’s a beautiful country with great food and friendly people. The cheapest flight is around Rs60,000 (not to mention once you’re there, eating and sleeping is great value!), making it one of the most inexpensive countries to travel to for Pakistanis.

And, can we please talk about Ukraine. It’s on every traveller’s bucket list as of late and there are raving reviews about it. With flights starting from around Rs50,000, Ukraine is possibly one of the cheapest options for Pakistanis wanting to go beyond the Middle East.

Hotspots: The coastal city of Odessa on the Black Sea is a favourite, while the beautiful city of Lviv (close to the Polish border) is widely tipped as offering some of the best values for money in Europe.

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Azerbaijan and Georgia – easy on the eyes and the wallets

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I burnt my hand in Georgia. . I was rushing to catch the 10 am Mashrukta (intercity mini-bus) from Tbilisi to Signagi. When I reached the bus stop, there was a 10-minute window. I bought some bananas for breakfast & coffee in a flimsy, small cup from a tiny window in a kiosk. I got into the minibus with low roof, my back bent, backpack on, bananas, wallet & phone in one hand and coffee cup in another. As I sat amongst two strangers, and tried to adjust my butt, I shook the coffee cup, it spilled a bit on my hand, it was so hot that in within a second, my instincts had me drop the entire thing, and then it spilled it on my right palm all the way to my right thigh, splashes on left hand; and couple splashes on the stranger sitting next to me. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I was first embarrassed on my clumsiness, then guilty for being late & rushing in the first place and then in pain. I had burnt my right palm and it was BURNING. The bus had started. It was a 2-hour ride to this small city, Signagni, reputed to be the city of love. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ And in burning pain I thought, holy mother of shits I need to see a doctor and finding a doctor in a small city I'm heading to for the first time! I was sure I'm gonna get huge blisters all over my palm and then I won't be able to touch or hold anything and then the rest of the trip will be a waste. All thoughts crossed my head in the next 15 minutes. I felt like crying. The only thing that comforted me was the reminder that I was medically insured for such accidents, courtesy @jgi.pk (not an ad). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Anyway, I kept a bundle of tissue paper soaked in water, between the palm of my hands, the entire journey. Suggested by the stranger next to me. And that did relieve me to some extent. I reached Signagi, the burning had calmed & I didnt feel the need to see a doctor. I looked at my coffee-stained dress, felt sad; but then I looked at the terra cotta roofs, amidst lush green hills and cobblestone streets of Signagi and I forgot the incident. I headed ahead to explore this tiny quaint town & make the most of my day! Ever spilled coffee & burnt yourself? Outfit courtesy: @qnhstore #Signagi #Georgia

A post shared by ANAM HAKEEM ♦ Travel Lifestyle (@girlwithgreenpassport) on

Speaking of Eastern Europe, take Georgia for example. Where is it? Right next to the latest Pakistani travellers favourite, Azerbaijan. So  consider going to both countries together and explore this stunning region.

Georgia small country in the Caucasus – one you’ll probably be hearing more about it in the years to come. It all starts in the eccentric capital of Tbilisi. From there, be sure to explore the stunning Caucasian Mountain range, dip your feet in the Black Sea, and visit ancient hilltop monasteries (a few of them are inside caves!) all over the country.

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Welcome to Georgia. Sitting at the crossroads of Asia & Europe, but unfairly, the less talked about country, compared to its neighbouring Turkey. It swept me off my feet with its expansive sights, sounds, experiences and tastes. All of which, I had a heart full of in my 10 days. Tbilisi, the beating heart of the country sits in the lap of lush green hills. It is dotted with old Eurasian architecture on the slopes and decorated with modern and artistic glass shaped buildings and bridges in the centre. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Three hours north of the capital & I was in the midst of the Caucasus mountain. The tapestry changed. The little town of Kazbegi welcomed me first with its chilly mountain air & then warmed me with the hospitality. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ When I drove 2 hours east of Tbilisi, I was in Kaheti, the wine region of the country. Ask a local and they show you with pride, their traditional winemaking methods. With a curious set of eyes and ears, I learnt all I could about 8000-year-old Georgian winemaking tradition. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Three hours west of Tbilisi, I reached one of the oldest cities in Europe, Kutaisi. The highlight was the locals I met; they were even more friendly and had all the time in the world for conversations. They enjoyed learning about Pakistan from me as I did about Georgia from them. Nature swayed me even more, as I visited the canyons nearby Kutaisi. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The only thought I had throughout my visit, is that this country deserves more limelight than it has! There is so much I want to pour out, but I gotta save some for upcoming posts. Are you guys with me? Pls let me know what do you want me to tell about the country? . : Old town Tbilisi (picture taken via self timer & remote)

A post shared by ANAM HAKEEM ♦ Travel Lifestyle (@girlwithgreenpassport) on

As for Azerbaijan, the capital Baku is an obvious must.  There’s so much you can pack in a few days, including the ultra-modern Heydar Aliyev Center.

Flights: Cheapest air-tickets to either or of these countries are around Rs45,000, usually with one stop somewhere in the Middle East.

Vietnam – a different kind of South East Asia

Forget Thailand and Sri Lanka right now because Vietnam is all that it’s about these days. And for good reason too. From the beautiful chaos of Hanoi’s Old Quarter to the serene Hoi An riverfront adorned with coloured lanterns, this is truly a country full of contrasts.

But Vietnam is not for the faint-hearted. If adventure is what you’re about, be prepared for crazy weather cycles and off-beat exotic scenery. Alas, it’s also among the cheapest places in Asia: eat local and you’ll struggle to spend more than a few hundred rupees per meal. A round trip ticket is around Rs87,000.

What to do: There are a myriad of pristine beaches, such as Mango Bay and Halong Bay. Don’t forget to explore rice-farming mountains where you can go caving. Adventure sports on the beaches are also a must.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Sikander
    Jul 29, 2019 - 11:31AM

    This is such an informative piece! Thank you Sarah & ET for putting up this eloquent and well-researched article. Recommend

  • Zain
    Jul 29, 2019 - 12:34PM

    It would be very useful if in the future you could provide visa details for Pakistanis that wish to visit these places.Recommend

  • Muhammad Zeeshan
    Jul 30, 2019 - 1:56PM

    Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey.Recommend

  • Ali
    Jul 30, 2019 - 2:56PM

    Great article, little correction Ankara is the capital of Turkey.Recommend

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