Are people from Pakistan generally friendly
Iran versus Pakistan: which country offers the more unforgettable experiences?
Iran and Pakistan are high on the list of countries with a bad reputation. Guest author Annika finds it wrong in her country comparison. Nowhere else is hospitality so important. Time to take a closer look.
Guest contribution: Annika Wehrle from Sunsets and Summits
When Iran or Pakistan is mentioned in our news, it is mostly frightening things that are told. However, it looks very different when I talk about Iran or Pakistan. I then go into raptures.
I remember meeting people. You met me with an openness, warmth and hospitality that almost blew me away and that exceeded everything I have experienced so far.
I think of the breathtaking landscapes and the diversity that I found in both countries. I remember how I stood in amazement in front of the highest mountains in the world, wandered through endless deserts or explored oriental cities. How I immersed myself in foreign cultures and glimpsed insights into normally hidden worlds.
As a woman, I traveled through both countries without any problems. I made friends, had adventures, tried foreign foods - and always felt safe. Because the locals of both countries love the few foreigners who find their way to their country. They do everything in their power to ensure that we visitors feel comfortable, that we are treated well and, above all, that we are protected.
Despite all these similarities, a trip to Iran differs from a trip to Pakistan in a few ways. Where I liked it better in the end and which country suits you better, you can find out in my country comparison in 9 disciplines.
Discipline 1: Sights
Iran has a lot to offer, especially architecturally: beautiful mosques, impressive structures such as the bridges in Isfahan or the historic ruins of Persepolis. Tehran also offers many museums and palaces.
Although cities like Islamabad, Lahore or Karachi also have beautiful mosques and impressive fortresses, Pakistan is particularly convincing with its nature - even if some places worth seeing, such as Mahdundan Lake in the Swat Valley, are completely littered.
Overall, Pakistan is a lot more untouched. Those who love solitude and wild nature will feel more comfortable here. If, on the other hand, many sights and historical architecture are important to you, Iran is the right place for you.
Iran: 5/6, Pakistan: 4/6
Discipline 2: Security
If you believe the western media, bloodthirsty terrorists are hiding around every corner in both countries. But the opposite is the case. A visit is generally very safe - even for women traveling alone. The crime rate is so low that I haven't had any problems or safety concerns in either country. Even after dark, I didn't feel uncomfortable alone on the streets.
Although I felt about equally safe in both countries, there are a few restrictions in Pakistan. In the province of Balochistan in the south or in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, for example, conflicts are still rising, so that these areas cannot be (safely) traveled.
Police escorts are sometimes required in Pakistan. In Iran, on the other hand, you can move freely around the country without hesitation. As a tourist, there is no need to fear the drastic penalties that locals have to expect for “offenses” such as possession of alcohol or disregard for the headscarf.
The situation can change quickly in either country. There are protests again and again. Therefore, one should keep an eye on the situation and act accordingly. However, unrest is mostly limited to individual parts of the country and as a foreigner you will not be allowed near the events in such a case.
Iran: 5/6, Pakistan: 4/6
Also interesting: why I am not afraid of terrorism
Discipline 3: culture
Both countries are strongly Muslim. Compared to Pakistan, the people in Iran are much more modern and western-oriented. The younger generation in particular has a great thirst for freedom and does not think much of the prohibitions imposed on them by the state. You like to celebrate and a lot. Alcohol is consumed and western clothing is the norm.
Pakistan does not have such laws and yet the people are much more religious. There are very conservative areas where you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a world that we don't know at all. In Pakistan's Swat Valley, I saw dusty cities, men with long robes and beards, as well as heavily veiled women - what we usually think of as Pakistan.
For cosmopolitan travelers, Pakistan is definitely the bigger and more impressive adventure. Iran, on the other hand, is perfect for entering the Islamic world.
Iran: 5/6, Pakistan: 6/6
Discipline 4: nature
Both countries are big and offer an infinite variety. Endless deserts, the sea and high mountains can be found in them alike. Nature is also lonely and untouched in both countries.
Still, I was more impressed by Pakistan overall. That's probably because I love mountains above all else, and the north of the country is home to the highest mountains on earth. To stand in front of the Nanga Parbat once has always been a dream of mine.
The base camps of 7000ers and 8000ers are comparatively easy to reach from the Karakoram Highway. These hikes, often lasting only a few days, offer trekking experiences that are second to none. In general, it is an incredible experience to drive on the Karakoram Highway: the mountains stretch up on both sides, with green fields, forests and picturesque villages at their feet.
In Iran, I spent more time in cities and deserts, which I also loved, especially the landscape in and around Yazd and the mountains in Tehran's north. Nevertheless, Pakistan has more to offer for those who love wild, rugged nature.
Iran: 3/6, Pakistan: 6/6
Also interesting: Annika's journey to the incomparable Swat Valley
Discipline 5: Encounters
The hospitality is second to none in both countries. I got invited all the time, drank countless cups of tea with locals, and had interesting conversations. People in Iran and Pakistan love foreign tourists alike and you are treated almost like a celebrity.
When I got sick in Iran, my new Iranian friends cared for me touchingly. In Pakistan I hitchhiked a lot, among other things, I was invited to go jet skiing on a lake and, naturally, I was provided with food and drink along the way.
In both countries, at the end of the day, I had ten new cell phone numbers and the request that I should contact me at any time if I needed help. In Iran, the younger generation in particular speaks good English, in Pakistan almost everyone speaks English, which makes traveling there extremely easy.
Iran: 5/6, Pakistan: 6/6
Discipline 6: Eating & Drinking
I am probably a little biased. Since my grandpa was an Iranian, Iranian food always played a role in my childhood and I absolutely love the kitchen. But also objectively, the food in Iran is better, more varied and impresses with a great variety of spices.
The food in Pakistan is also good and mostly very fresh, but rather simple. Both kitchens are relatively meat-heavy, although Pakistan kills the bird here - if one speaks of chicken, even in the true sense of the word. There are restaurants where nothing other than meat is served.
Traditionally, a lot of tea is drunk in both countries. Alcohol is forbidden by law in Iran, in Pakistan alcohol is legally available in 5-star hotels and “clubs” in large cities.
I had stomach problems in both countries, although this is apparently more common among travelers in Pakistan. The hygienic conditions here are still below those in Iran, and far below what we are used to in our western world.
Iran: 5/6, Pakistan: 4/6
Also interesting: All articles on Iran on the world travel forum
Discipline 7: Travel Expenses
Both countries are very attractively priced for backpackers. You can couch surf, hitchhike, and eat your fill of street food. Public transport and domestic flights are also cheap. In general, Pakistan is a little cheaper than Iran.
This is due to the expensive accommodation in Iran, some of which are almost of a western standard. There are no hostels. In Pakistan, on the other hand, you can stay overnight almost anywhere for less than 10 euros. With the exception of Islamabad and Lahore, there are no classic hostels either, but many of the simpler hotels offer dorms, which conveniently usually only consist of two to four beds.
In restaurants in Iran you can eat for less than 5 euros, in rural areas of Pakistan you can often get full for less than 2 euros.
Excursions are also a lot cheaper in Pakistan. In Iran I paid 95 euros for a two-day trip to the desert at Yazd, but just 20 euros for a two-day trek to the base camp of a 7000er in Pakistan. Both tours included food and accommodation.
Iran: 4/6, Pakistan: 6/6
Discipline 8: Travel Comfort
Traveling in Iran is very comfortable. Large, modern buses run between the cities, the roads are very well developed and the train network is excellent. There is a modern subway in Tehran, including a compartment for women only.
Pakistan is lagging a little behind here. There are indeed large coaches on the connections between the metropolises, but otherwise there are old, rickety minibuses that only drive when they are squeezed down to the last millimeter. You shouldn't be afraid of physical contact here. In the cities, rickshaws are the main way of getting around.
The traffic is pretty wild in the big cities of both countries.
Iran: 5/6, Pakistan: 3/6
Discipline 9: Travel as a woman
The biggest restriction is probably the dress code. In Iran headscarves are also compulsory for tourists, in Pakistan this is at your own discretion. There are no legal regulations here. Nevertheless, I tended to wear a little more clothes. On hikes, however, it was not a problem to wear a T-shirt.
There are a few men who try their luck with a Western woman in both countries. Nevertheless, apart from these individual cases, I was treated with the utmost respect everywhere and never felt uncomfortable.
Generally speaking, women in Iran are more independent and stronger. Lots of women work. I've been able to talk to many of them and have made friends. It's more difficult in Pakistan. The women are often shy, they also usually do not work and are therefore mainly at home.
In Pakistan there are cities in which one sees no women at all or only heavily veiled women on the streets. Accordingly, I was noticed there as a western tourist and was sometimes extremely stared at. Especially when I was out alone, I was asked countless times to take selfies. Overall, society is very male-dominated. You have to deal with that.
Iran: 5/6, Pakistan: 4/6
Also interesting: Annika's experiences as a woman traveling alone in Pakistan
The warmth, warmth and hospitality of the people I have seen in both countries left me speechless. Most Iranians and Pakistanis do not deserve the bad image that we have in our heads of them and their countries.
Encounters with people clearly make up a very large part of the journey through these countries. I talked for hours, I made friends, I was almost ashamed of the generosity and helpfulness of the locals.
I fell in love with both countries, both Iran and Pakistan. My rating is correspondingly tight. For me, Pakistan is only just ahead of the game because I was even more impressed by the landscape.
You will surely have an unforgettable time in both, fascinated by the culture, the people and the very special experiences and adventures that you will undoubtedly experience.
Iran: 42/54, Pakistan: 43/54
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