When I started planning my trip to Pakistan, I have asked some locals what to wear in the country. Most of them told me to wear something normal! They also told me not to stress out about it. They were indeed kind and wanted me to feel welcome, but that was not the answer I was looking for.
If you are reading this post, I assume you are planning to travel to Pakistan. Before continuing, I should let you know that you will have a great adventure in Pakistan and an unforgettable trip. This post is going to help you plan your clothing for your trip and it will give you a better idea of how you should dress up to feel more comfortable as a tourist in Pakistan.
You can also read: A travel guide to Islamabad
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What to wear in Pakistan as a female tourist
I can’t tell you what you “must” wear, because based on the Pakistan laws you are free to wear whatever you like, but I would not recommend you to do so.
Pakistan is a traditional and conservative Islamic country and most Pakistanis are religious. As a person who grew up in an Islamic country, I can tell you that covering your body as a female is a big part of the Islamic culture.
You might think that since you are not a Muslim you have the freedom to choose what to wear and you are not constrained to follow some unwritten rules. Although, it is important to be respectful to other cultures wherever you travel, and secondly, dressing up appropriately can protect you against unnecessary and unwanted attention.
So let’s start with what not to wear in Pakistan. You should avoid wearing shorts, tight tops, trousers, leggings and short or even midi skirts. Basically, you should not wear tight clothes that reveal your curves or your bare skin.
I have seen women wearing loose t-shirts in Islamabad and at malls but not in other parts of the country. In some areas, you will see women wearing the hijab covering their hair, while in some area, like Dir, you will see them covering every single part of their bodies including their faces and their eyes.
Ideas of clothing for women
Pakistani women wear a traditional costume called Shalwar Kameez, which is basically a long shirt with trousers. The items are usually colourful and fashionable. I highly recommend you to try the outfit, it helps you cover your body and its lightweight material helps you cope with the hot weather. You can purchase Shalwar Kameez on Amazon by clicking on the links below, or you can buy it directly at the local shops in Islamabad.
Alternatively, you can wear a long full-sleeve shirt covering your bottom with loose trousers or an ankle-length skirt or dress. It is wise to carry a shawl with you al all times, so you can cover your hair when necessary.
If your trip is during the summer make sure you choose hot weather-friendly fabrics and breathable materials similar to cotton and linen which are easy to wash on the go and will dry up quickly.
Note: During my trip, I was always with Bruno, my husband, and a male local guide, but if you are a solo female traveller, I would recommend you to try to cover your body and hair when you are visiting some conservative areas. This can prevent a lot of unwanted staring.
What to wear in Pakistan as a male tourist
As a male tourist in Pakistan, you have fewer restrictions in regards to clothing, but you still need to dress up modesty.
You can wear jeans and a shirt or a t-shirt almost everywhere in the country. It is common to see Pakistani men in cities like Islamabad and Karachi with jeans and a t-shirt. In some modern areas, I have seen men with shorts, but shorts are not commonly worn around the country.
Men have a list of what not to wear in Pakistan too. You should avoid wearing sleeveless tops, shorts, especially when you are travelling around the country and visiting conservative regions.
The southern and central regions of Pakistan can be very hot during the summers so it is a good idea to try to avoid wearing heavy jeans. Instead, you can wear cotton trousers or try out the local costume.
Men in Pakistan wear a traditional outfit, which is a long shirt with a grandad style collar and loose trousers. Unlike colourful female Pakistani costume, Shalwar Kameez for men comes in plain colours including black, white, grey or different shades of blue.
Dressing like the locals will prevent you from standing out and the lightweight fabric will make you more comfortable in the hot weather.