Sorry Lahore. You’re beautiful, but…
My recent trip to Lahore had many different hiccups that I want to talk about.
Even though I'm well aware of our country, I was well aware of the condition of the places that I wanted to visit with my family, and the local people that I had to deal with.
However, Lahore was on a whole different level from what I initially prepared myself for.
Just to be clear though, I loved everything about the places there. But every time I had to deal with a person, it just disappointed me.
And I would have ignored the issues if I had been disappointed once or twice. But no, all the places that I visited during my two-day trip, I had a bad experience.
And the only reason I planned to write this is to make everyone aware of the issues they might face when traveling to Lahore so they can be well prepared.
So here are my short disappointing stories from everywhere I went during that weekend, along with some pro tips so you can have a better idea of how to deal with those situations.
A general pro tip: Be very vigilant when touring any major city in Pakistan. People will try all kinds of scams just to take money out of your pocket.
Now, let's discuss the events that occurred during my two-day trip:
I, along with my siblings and nephews, tried to visit the mosque twice.
On our first day, we reached the gate just 30-45 minutes before Isha. We were stopped at the gate and told that the mosque was now closing, so we couldn't enter. We didn't argue since we were already tired from our trip from Islamabad.
But the next morning, when we visited again, we asked a guard inside the mosque why we weren't allowed in before Isha. He said they usually do that to encourage people to bribe their way into the mosque, which is just sad to even think about as a Muslim.
Anyway, Badshahi Masjid was a must-visit for us. As we attempted to enter the gate surrounding the park around Badshahi Masjid, we were met with an unwelcoming sight of two guards with loud voices and sticks, unnecessarily asserting their power over people.
Apparently, there was a political gathering near Minar-e-Pakistan (which is located in the same area with the same entrance), so extra security was in place.
I had a bag with a camera in it, which they asked to check. When they saw the camera, they refused to let me go inside. I asked why, and they cited the political gathering as the reason. I insisted and clarified that we weren't planning to go to Minar-e-Pakistan, but to Badshahi Mosque. However, he insisted that I keep my camera in the car and leave. Sarcastically, I said, "Do you really think I can leave this camera in my car without someone stealing it?" Finally, he agreed and let me in.
As familiar as I am with how things usually work here, people only do this so you can bribe your way in and gain access.
We managed to make it happen, but these unnecessary inconveniences and disappointments just added to the overall experience naturally.
Since Lahore Fort is right next to Badshahi Masjid, we decided to visit it after we were done at Badshahi Masjid on the same morning.
When we reached the ticketing counter, there was nobody in the queue.
I clearly saw a banner that stated the ticket price was 50 PKR per person. I asked for a ticket for four people, to which the person replied, "That would be 400 PKR." I got confused and said, "I said four people, not eight." He responded, "Yes, it's 100 PKR per person." I told him that I could clearly read the banner stating it was 50 PKR per person. He replied, "That's for the school trip." I pointed out that there was no mention of a school trip on the banner. He then said, "It's an old banner, they will put up a new one with the updated price in two days." I firmly stated that I would only pay the amount written on the banner. He simply said, "Don't argue with me." I already knew what he was up to, but this made it even more evident that he was attempting to scam me.
However, during this heated argument, I noticed that other people had started queuing behind me. As soon as the ticketing guy realized he now had a queue, he quietly handed me four tickets, and the tickets themselves had 50 PKR written on them. I gave him 200 PKR for four persons. I also announced to the queue behind me that nobody should pay more than 50 PKR, even if the guy tries to scam them.
Once again, we managed to make it happen, but these unnecessary inconveniences and disappointments added to the overall bad experience naturally.
Protip: Never quickly agree to any prices someone asks for. There's a chance they will always add extra to scam you without you realizing, taking advantage of your trust.
Badshahi Masjid Parking
Two incidents happened to me in the Badshahi Masjid Parking, which I have decided to create a separate section for.
First, I observed a couple of instances where random people in regular clothes acted as if they were in charge. When we reached and parked our car in the morning during our mosque visit, I noticed a guy following the car. He came near the car as we were getting out, greeted us, and said he would take care of the car or something along those lines.
Upon returning, the guy was nowhere to be seen but suddenly reappeared quickly as I was starting the car, greeting us again.
Having lived in Pakistan for some time now, I know that their only intention in doing this is to get some money from you.
I did not comply.
Now, here's the second event:
We parked our car early in the morning around 6:30 am when there were barely any other cars parked.
On our way back around 10:30 am, as I was exiting the parking area, I noticed a guy with a boom barrier blocking the way.
When we reached the guy, he asked us for the parking token. I explained that we didn't have one because there was no one present early in the morning to provide us with a parking token. Then he simply asked for 50 PKR as the token price. I questioned why I should pay when I didn't have the token in the first place. Additionally, I informed him that I didn't have any 50 PKR notes on me as I had spent them all on tickets inside Lahore Fort.
During the argument, I saw another guy approaching, claiming that he had my car number written on a note from when I arrived in the morning. I expressed doubt, stating that he could have written it just recently.
Amidst this heated argument, a bus was trying to enter the parking lot, and eventually, the guy had to open the barrier for me to leave.
Once again, we managed to make it happen, but I couldn't help but have a bad experience due to these situations.
My sister wanted to do some jewelry shopping in Lahore, so we stopped at Liberty Market.
She selected 4-5 different pieces of jewelry to buy. I wasn't involved in the negotiation, but my sister asked her husband to give the vendor the money he asked for.
On our way back, my sister realized that the individual prices of the jewelry did not add up to the total amount the vendor asked for, and we had given the vendor 500 PKR extra.
Protip: Be actively involved when exchanging money and receiving change. Ensure that everything is calculated accurately before you leave. The vendors are quite cunning in their actions; they will try to quickly calculate the money they receive from you and the change they give you, making you feel rushed. If you attempt to check the calculations, they may give you a condescending look, as if you're foolish for not understanding the math and imply that you don't trust them.
Wagah Border was also one of the must-visit places for us.
Unfortunately, we couldn't make it in time for the daily parade that takes place at both the Pakistani and Indian borders.
We made several attempts to gather information about the timings and when to arrive by searching online. However, we mostly found results regarding the Indian side of Wagah from Amritsar, and there was little to no information available about the Pakistani side.
Nevertheless, we had a rough idea that the parade starts in the late afternoon.
So, we decided to reach there at 4 PM, which was about an hour's drive from the city.
As we got closer, we noticed some security personnel simply instructing us to make a U-turn without providing any further explanation. This left us confused.
I turned the car around and observed that only big, expensive cars were allowed to enter, while the rest of the cars were being turned away. It seemed like the rules did not apply to them.
I asked one of the security personnel why this was the case, and he informed me that the seating was already full and the cars entering had prior bookings.
If this was the situation, I expected at least two things from the entire event:
- There should have been clear online information stating that one needs a booking to enter and have a fulfilling experience.
- The security personnel should have informed cars from a distance that the seating was already full or that only cars with bookings were allowed to enter.
The disappointment wouldn't have been as intense if we hadn't been informed last minute after driving for an hour, and the situation wouldn't have been as frustrating if the security personnel had shown some courtesy and communicated properly with the people.
We stayed one night at a budget hotel belonging to Pearl Continental.
Considering it was a Pearl Continental property, I had expected it to be decent. However, I found it to be untidy instead. Since we only needed it for one night, we decided to go ahead and stay there.
We booked two rooms.
In one of the rooms, I noticed there were no complimentary water bottles. I called the reception to request them. The receptionist initially responded by suggesting that I double-check because they offer complimentary water bottles with every room. I insisted that I was certain there were no complimentary water bottles. Eventually, he agreed with me.
I also asked for extra bedding in one of the rooms. The receptionist informed me that there would be an additional charge of 500 PKR for the bedding. I declined the offer.
However, after a while, I noticed that they had brought both the water bottles and the extra bedding to our rooms.
Unfortunately, we couldn't make use of the extra bedding because it had a strong unpleasant odor.
During check-out, I anticipated being charged for the extra bedding, even though I had initially refused it. Fortunately, this was the only instance where they did not ask me to pay for it.
This was my experience as a tourist during my two-day stay in Lahore.
As an avid traveler, the only other place where I have felt unsafe and needed to take extra precautions was in Istanbul, Turkey. Perhaps I should consider writing a blog about it to raise awareness among people.
However, it deeply disappoints me that we have such beautiful places to offer, yet our people are ruining the overall experience. It's not just about paying an extra 50 or 100 PKR to individuals, but it's the dishonesty, scams, and mistreatment that accumulates and taints the entire experience.
Despite being aware of the daily occurrences and the state of tourism in Pakistan, I still visited with the intention of enjoying myself. I understand that our people are patriotic and care about promoting a positive image of Pakistan. However, here's the harsh reality: it doesn't cost anything to create a good experience by simply treating others with basic decency.
In fact, even if we had infrastructure comparable to that of a first-world country, it would still fall short due to our poor public interactions. Ultimately, it's the people who shape both the positive and negative experiences.
From now on, I feel it would require extra persuasion for me to explore more of Pakistan.
As a fellow traveler, I hope you can learn something from these pro tips and adequately prepare for your own tourism experiences in Pakistan.
If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram:
Happy (and safe) travels! ✈️