Saturday, October 9, 2010





A relatively quiet city, Islamabad consists of mainly Federal Government offices, Parliment House, the official residences of the President and Prime Minister along with the Diplomatic Enclave, an area next to the Parliament House dedicated to foreign embassies and missions appointed in Pakistan.
Although the majority of the population in Islamabad traditionally have been employees of the Federal Government, the wealth of the Musharraf years fuelled a boom in Islamabad and it is becoming an important financial and business city. In the last decade there have been vast changes in the city's traditional reputation. From it being a typical 9 to 5 city, Islamabad has become more lively with many new restaurants and hotels springing up to service this new wealth. A lot of international food chains have opened, and generally a great improvement in night life with increasing shopping areas opening till late. However during winter season streets are considerably quiet after dark.
Even now, Islamabad remains a city where people come from all over the country to enjoy its peaceful, noise-free atmosphere with a lot of greenery and nice surrounding scenery. It also serves as a base camp for people from the south and coastal areas like Karachi visiting valleys like Swat and Kaghan and northern areas like Gilgit, Hunza, Skardu & Chitral located in the Himalayas mountains.

Get in

By plane

§ Benazir Bhutto International Airport (IATA: ISB) receives flights from a variety of international destinations, including London, Dubai (both via Etihad or Pakistan International Airlines, and other Asian cities such as Urumqi (China Eastern Airlines) and Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan Airlines).

By bus

§ Niazi express,Skyways and Daewoo Sammi (+92 51 111 007 008) are 2 of the nicer long-haul operators. Skyways offer some direct services to/from Islamabad and Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi. Daewoo has its own terminal on the road from Islamabad just outside Rawalpindi. The majority of buses arrive and depart from Rawalpindi, a few kilometers and a 45 minute taxi ride from Islamabad. It's best to book Daewoo by phone in advance if possible. At the moment they serve Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore,Murree, Sialkot, Abottabad, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad and Multan.

By train

Since First Class travel with Pakistan Railway is good, it's worth knowing that Rawalpindi, the neighbourhood city, has railway connections with various major cities including Karachi, Lahore & Peshawar

Get around

Taxis in Islamabad are abundant, popular and generally safe. Cost is around Rs35 - Rs45 per sector traveled, depending on your bargaining skills. Prices will be higher at night, especially departing from places like Jinnah Super (F-7). It is always advisable to agree the fare before traveling.
Car Hire is also a good way of getting around. Although road signs and directions are only available on main roads, the city's grid and numbering system make it relatively easy to find your way around. There are various car hire companies in Blue Area F-6 and also in G-8 Markaz where cars can be hired with drivers. Most major hotels have their own car hire services and are relatively cheap. A tip to the driver at the end of the booking period is appreciated but not mandatory.


§ Lok Virsa Museum, Shakarparian Park (next to H7 & G8) US$5 for foreigners. Recently renovated, a delight. Definitely worth a visit. Islamabad's premier museum featuring more than 25 large galleries in four blocks linked through passages depicting cultural linkages with Iran, Central Asia and China. There are large halls dedicated to architecture, musical heritage, textiles, romances, Sufi shrines and several other cultural themes. It has a large collection of embroidered costumes, jewellery, woodwork, metalwork, block printing, ivory and bone work on display. The Heritage Reference Library of Museum has a great collection of data on art, music, history and crafts of all regions of Pakistan. Books on culture, heritage, audio and video cassettes of folk and classical vocal and instrumental music are sold at the Lok Virsa's Sales Centre. Lok Virsa celebrates the national events in a befitting manner with musical concerts, exhibitions and public film shows on cultural heritage.
§ National Art gallery (F5/1) Opened in 2007, the gallery is a modern, light filled, air conditioned edifice that would not be out of place in many european cities. A diverting collection of almost 450 art pieces, purchased or gifted by the artists for National Art Gallery. Covers a surprising diversity of contemporary and classical paintings, sculpture and other installations. The Gallery is also home to an indoor and outdoor theatre (word-of-mouth and local press for schedules). Open 7 days a week - from 11am-1pm (free) and 2pm-7pm (Rs. 500) - hence it is empty in the afternoons and you may find yourself trailed by gallery staff turning the lights on and off for you! Located in F5/1, on the corner of Jinnah & Constitution avenues, opposite the Parliament building.
§ Blue Area, is Islamabad's financial center and is the main arterial road which leads up to the main government buildings at the Constitution Avenue.
§ Daman-e-Koh, a lookout point in the hills above E-6 with great views of the city on a clear day/night. Its beauty is enhanced by the greenery and flowers at different sites. High quality restaurants, good food, live music, hiking trails and lush green hillsides make it a favorite place for local and foreign tourist alike.
§ Japanese Park, is a children's park located near Islamabad Zoo. It is popular among children, families and to those visiting Islamabad from other cities due to its park facilities and children swing facilities.
§ Islamabad Zoo is located at the foot of Daman-e-Koh view point. It has more than 300 animals including 200 birds of different kinds were also there for visitors, besides tigers, lions and other animals.
§ Pir Sohawa. Birds eye view of Islamabad. There are now two eateries at Pir Sohawa and both worth visiting. A walk up from Trail 3, from F-6/3 will get you to the hill top in around 2 hours with the perfect appetite, but you can reach Pir Sohawa by road in around 35-40 minutes.
§ Faisal Masjid, Islamabad's most recognizable landmark, a very large mosque gifted by King Faisal ofSaudi Arabia. Beautiful in the day or night, definitely worth the short taxi ride. Dress and act respectfully, this is much more a place of serious worship than a tourist site.
§ Shakarparian is another wonderful place. Consist of beautiful hilly area for a nice evening walk in a green natural atmosphere.
§ National Monument near Shakarparian, represents Pakistan's four provinces and three territories. From air the monument looks like a star (center) and a crescent moon (formed by walls forming the petals), these represent the star and crescent on Pakistan's flag.
§ Lake View Park is a beautiful laid out park with gardens, picnic spots, and secluded paths. The terraced garden and the lake are used for fishing and boating purposes. The highest point in the garden offers a panoramic view of Islamabad. Boating, sailing, water skating and diving facilities are organized by private clubs. To the west of the lake is the Islamabad Club, which offers different sporting facilities.
§ Fatima Jinnah Park; also known as the F-9 park is considered one of the largest in South East Asia. The park also has an indoor facility with a nice bowling alley.
§ The Saidpur Village used to be a sleepy little village lying in the foothills of the Margallas with a mystic past and breathtaking natural beauty. It has now been remodeled. The resort has now become popular with the citizens of Islamabad who want an occasional break from the frenzy of urban life. Surrounded with lush, tranquil wilderness, the centuries old village is furnished with rustic fittings and offers amenities like a wide range of local food outlets. Exhibitions are held regularly to show case the traditional arts, crafts and the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan.
§ Attend open-air theater or just sit by the Lotus lake and relax. Check to see if there are is anything happening. The schedules are entirely calendar and weather dependant.
§ Caravan Park is at a little distance away from the Shakarparian Hills. This park is open and accessible only for foreigners, making it exclusive and safe. Adequate facilities are provided to make visitors to the area comfortable and at home.
§ Rose & Jasmine Garden is located near Islamabad sports complex & Jinnah Stadium. South of Shahrah-e-Kashmir road and east of Islamabad Highway. Not too far from Rawal Lake.
§ Margalla Hills. Take a nice nature walk in the hills surrounding Islamabad.
§ Pakistan Museum of Natural history
§ Islamabad Museum
§ China town is one of the best restaurants in Islamabad. It offers Sichuan Cuisine with Firepot as one of it's specialities coupled with the modern blend where the waiters use PDAs to take orders. China Town enjoys a very loyal patronage from its customers. The restaurant is being re-located to a beautiful 8,000 sq ft building on Street 55, F-8/4. It features a professional kitchen in the basement, a beautiful lounge on ground floor, a fine dining hall on the first floor, and a roof top sitting with a fantastic view of Margallas.
§ Chattar bagh is a small park in the hills, around 25 minutes away from Islamabad. A water park with a few amusement rides, but will not offer much excitement for those who have seen other amusement parks or water parks.
§ Imam Barri Shrine Historical shrine of a Sufi saint located in the beautiful valley of NurPur Shahan (Islamic religious site).
§ Golra Sharif Shrine of Pir Mehr Ali Shah(RA), a Sufi Saint located in a village of Golra (Islamic religious site).
§ Taxila, World's oldest university. Taxilla is also home to one of the oldest civilizations, and has a museum that boasts plenty of interesting pieces. Worth a visit and a picnic. Should you be interested further in the subject, guided tours can be arranged for sites around the museum.
§ Murree, One hour scenic journey through beautiful mountains to the hill resort of Murree which is a nice place to visit especially during summers. A small place has a weather entirely different to that of Islamabad and much similar to most cities of Northern Europe. High class educational institues such as Lawrence College, Convent of Jesus and Mary,and the Presentation Convent are the hallmark of Murree. Chairlifts of Murree and Patriata, Kashmir point are attractions for tourists. A two kilometer "Mall" is the center of gravity of Murree where all the shops and hotels are located. A place worth visiting during your stay in Islamabad.


§ Trekking & Hiking – Margalla Hills. The Margall Hills attract a number of trekkers throughout the year and there are many trails to choose from. Some of the more popular ones are Trail 3, Trail 5 and the Zoo Trail. Trail 3 begins from the end of Margalla Road, F-6/3 (the junction between Margalla Road & Ataturk Avenue). It is a little steep and strenous in the first leg, which goes upto the Viewpoint and is about a 30 - 50 min. trek. After the Viewpoint you can continue on for another easy-going 45 - 60 mins and reach the Pir Sohawa, where you can choose from 3 restaurants for food, The Monal, Treehouse and Capital View Restaurant. Trail 5 also begins from Margalla Road in F-5 (about 500m down from Trail 3 - opposite Judge's Enclave) and is an easier trail to climb with a small pond near the end. Trail 5 eventually connects with Trail 3 beyond Trail 3's Viewpoint. Both Trail 3 & Trail 5 have large maps and guidance boards placed at the entrance. The Zoo Trail is a mini-trail and is located next to the entrance of the Islamabad Zoo. A 30 - 40 trek takes you to Daman-e-Koh, which is a popular hillpoint overlooking Islamabad. Daman-e-Koh has 2-3 restaurants for dining, a small playground for children and operates a golf cart between the parking and viewpoint.
§ Fishing – Rawal lake
§ Para Gliding – at Margalla Hills. The Pakistan Adventure Foundation is the place to call, reservations are recommended.
§ Cycling – Mountain biking is fast becoming a much-loved activity because of the weather and the terrain. If you're in the mood for some adventurous cycling down one of Islamabad's beautifully scenic bike trails, get your bike ready and head down. Information can again be had from the ASG's hiking publication.
§ Night Life – it exists, but it's not easy to find. Try befriending some hip locals, and see if you can tag along.
§ Potohari - Art & Craft Village (Starting soon), Shakarparian - Near Rose and Jasmine Garden (Just across the Kashmir Highway on 7th Avenue). 11am to 7pm. A craft bazaar with a food court serving 5 regional cuisines plus 3 Chai Khanas serving assorted teas and snacks. Built by the local Capital Development Authority but conceptualised and supervised by the Indus Heritage Trust. edit


Islamabad is divided into sectors, each sector having its own central shopping area (or markaz) where all local amenities are located. Some of the more popular markazes are the F6 Markaz (aka Supermarket) F7 Markaz (aka Jinnah Super Market), F8 Markaz (aka Ayub Market), G6 Markaz (aka Melody Park), G9 Markaz (aka Karachi Company) and so on. Each markaz has its own peculiarities and each one is worth visiting individually. However most things are catered for in each markaz i.e. clothing, shoes, fast food etc. There’s always a real buzz in the evenings when all the shoppers come out, particularly in the run up to Eid.
§ 7th Avenue, located at Jinnah Super Market (F7 Markaz), has large selection of western food products.
§ Best Price, located at Super Market (F6 Markaz), also sells western food products.
§ Handicrafts, The Capital Development Authority, has recently established a handicrafts village near super market, where small stalls with handicrafts from around the country are available. You should be able to walk from there to Mahraja (next to united Bakery) and find plenty of other stores much larger and with a much better collection of handicrafts and traditional items. This is a MUST visit for all first time visitors and a useful stop for quick gift items for people back home. A good present for the ladies is Pashmina shawls or wraps, which can cost anywhere between $15 to as much as $700. Remember to bargain, you will be charged Gora price.
§ Art For art lovers, I suggest that you get in touch with some local to take you around. There are three or four art gallaries that are worth visiting and each will offer a completely different range of art work, style and pricing. All the facilities should be visited if you are art lovers. Some of the places to visit are, Khaas, The National Art Gallery and Nomad Art Gallery.
§ Music Peak Shop 4, Amant Plaza, Main Double Road, F10 markaz. Small modern music shop, with guitars and other instruments.
Foreign Currency Exchange is easily available from F-6 Blue Area where there are 100's of money changer privately owned shops. It is advised to check the rate with a few of them before going ahead with it.


At first glance the visitor may feel that Islamabad offers little to excite the taste-buds, however beneath the surface there is a thriving restaurant scene. with many of the better restaurants away from the main markets in F6 and F7. For ease of use restaurants are organised by sector;


§ Majlis, Hill Road (northern end, on the F6-3 side), a trendy, upperclass, big pocket place for Lebanese food. A place where you will find the the movers and shakers of the city and a large portion of the Arabic diplomatic community. The food is pretty good (although some would argue that the Lebanese Cafe in F10 is more authentic), and the setting just right. Though those visiting on a tight budget can choose to avoid it, it sure is worth a stop.
§ Chopsticks, F6 Super market (opposite the end of Park Road), 051-2829944. The swish modern Asian decor, and the comparatively hefty prices, put this place near the top of Islamabad's east Asian restaurants - menu covers Thai and Chinese dishes, and does a pretty good job of both. Rs. 600 for mains.
§ Khiva offers a Central Asia Cuisine. It has in-door and out door seating both. Address: House no.64, Main Margalla Road, F-6/3, Islamabad
§ Cafe Khaas, Cafe Khaas, is an extension of Khaas Art Gallery. A lunch only place that is normally packed, though expensive has great food. They also boast some of the finest art collection in Islamabad. Look for "Mouse" or the manager, and you will be given personal attention. Make sure you get a suggestion for what is best, and work your way through the limited, but exquisite menu. At the lunch hour, this place is filled with yet more, movers and shakers of Islamabad, from the business men, to politicians, models and expats. The place is always kicking for the sophisticated lunch.
§ Luna Caprese, 34 School Road, F-6/3 (look for a house with L C on the gates), +92-51-2825061,[5]. Famous for being the site of a bomb attack in 2008 Luna Caprese offers acceptable Italian dining with an extensive menu covering, pastas, seafood and meat. Wine and beer available at a price (Rs. 600 for a glass of red). Nice garden out back. pricey. edit


§ Upper Deck, F-7 Markaz (Jinnah Super), above Gourmet Bakery, near north-west corner of Markaz. A very nice, up-market restaurant specializing in seafood. Popular with expats and well-off locals. Nice ambiance, a variety of well-prepared fish, fish & chips and a fish burger. Decent cheesecake and chocolate cake for dessert. Main courses Rs300 - Rs800.
§ Namak Mandi, F-7 (Opposite to Telenor Head Office). Only for dinner, exclusive taste of Namak Mandi along with other Pakistani cuisines. A must must go place in Islamabad If you really love to dine out in a traditional yet modern way.Really good one.
§ Papa Sallis, F-7 Markaz (Jinnah Super)(Ph: 2650550-3), Very well known place (Please ask any local shop for directions) for steaks and pizzas since 1991. Prices are quite high for Pakistani standards, but from a Western perspective still very cheap.
§ Kitchen Cuisine, F-7 markaz (Jinnah Super), At the back of main shopping area, This is quite a popular bakery with really fresh and tasty bakery products including chocolate fudge cakes, cheese cakes and low cholesterol items. Made to Order services are also available.
§ Ye Olde Hangout, F-7 Markaz (Jinnah Super), behind Shell petrol station. A wonderful little coffee shop/sheesha bar. They serve a small selection of global and local food, and play sexy Bollywood and Egyptian videos. Posters of Jimi Hendrix, 50 Cent, Marilyn Manson and Angus Young are on the walls. One room is all men. Another for mixed couples and ladies only. No alcohol of course, but lots of cigarettes and a good tea selection.
§ Civil Junction, F-7/3 markaz (Gol Market) offers good coffee and an interesting array of drinks and 'mocktails'. Light snacks are also offered along with coffee and drinks. The place offers occasional live music from upcoming local bands, making it a popular hangout with the youth of the city.
§ Hot Spot, One of the few places that Islamabad can claim as theirs first. F-7/3 (Gol Market) also offers a great ice-cream place. Though the menu has now increased from just ice-cream to milkshakes, pies, sandwiches and plenty more, the place still has the feel of an ice-cream joint. With a unique, rather artistic decor, Hot Spot is a must visit for any first time traveler to Islamabad.
§ Pizza Hut, F7 Markaz (near Saeed Book Bank), 051 111 241 241, Not the same as worldwide, but still better than a few.
§ Kabul Restaurant, F-7 Markaz (Jinnah Super), +91 51 265 0953. 11AM-10PM. This large restaurant just off the markaz serves up tasty kebabs and Afghani specialties, and is usually very crowded with locals and expats at dinner time. Mains Rs 75-200.
§ Seoul Club Korean Restaurant, House 21a, Street 55, F7/4, 03015063354. 7-11pm. Hidden away in F7's back streets is this house-converted-to-restaurant run by a Korean women. Most other diners are Korean expats craving a taste of home. Most Korean favourites available, including dolsot bibimbap, and piles of Kimchi. No 'cook at your table' bulgolgi however. Moderately expensive. Alcohol available, but ask the price before ordering. edit


§ China Town Restaurant, Street 55, F-8/4. A large and popular Chinese restaurant, known for it's hot pots. The new location hosts a lounge on the ground floor, a fine dining hall on the first floor, and a roof top sitting area with a fantastic view of Margallas.
§ Brabus, Margella Road, F8/3. 0518314560. Associated with the Mercedes garage of the same name, Brabus is a new try-hard restaurant-cafe in a converted house. Modern decor, big pictures of cars on the walls, pricey alcohol, and an ambitious menu, makes this place worth visiting. However the food is patchy. Time will tell if the chef can get some consistency, and hence if Brabus can stay open for more than a couple of months.


§ McDonalds is situated in the south-west corner of the F-9 Park. It also has a drive thru service.


§ Italian Kitchen, F10 Markaz, facing the Park. Pleasant, locally orientated Italian restaurant - extensive menu covering pizzas, pasta, meat and seafood - and all done pretty well. Nice views of the F9 park from the upstairs seating area.
§ Lebanese Cafe, Tariq market f10/2 (just off street 14). Run by a Lebanese family, the cafe restaurant is the perfect excuse to delve in to the back streets of F10 - the setting is nothing fancy, but the food is excellent, and very good value. No sheesha however.
§ MJ's Specialities, MJ Plaza, Street 14, Tariq Market, F10/2 (from F10 Markaz take double road towards F11, last traffic lights turn right, then first right to street 14 and you are there), 051 2210371, 8AM-midnight. Specialist European style bakery, pizzeria and BBQ. Excellent food, speciality breads, cheesecakes, gelato ices. Outside lawn for BBQ.


§ Masoom's Cafe, Shop 6-9, Hassan Arcade, F11 Markaz, 051 2228300, [8]. 8AM-midnight.Restaurant, cafe, patisserie - modern decor, plasma screens, surprisingly good food and service - has a nice outdoor area for sheesha and snacks also. mains Rs.400- Rs.700. edit


§ Melody Food Street In Melody G-6 Markaz is a newly opened food area with variety of food to choose from with some nationally famous restaurant names having outlets there. Plenty of BBQ and traditional Pakistani food with a variety of fresh fruit juices to choose from. Unfortunately, due to Pakistan's security problems, Melody Market was closed after the siege of the Red Mosque, in the summer of 2007. Melody Market is located very near to the Red Mosque.
§ Rakaposhi, pastry shop at the Serena, has some of the best coffee and pastries in Pakistan. Worth a visit if you just want to relax or get some work done. The Serena also offers wireless internet, so, it is an ideal place to sit and get some work done if you like.
§ Kamran Restaurant In Aabpara, G-6/1 is also a famous place for traditional Pakistani cuisine.

Blue Area

§ Red Onion Chain of Restaurants Blue Area, opposite the Saudi Park Tower building stands one of the oldest restaurants in Islamabad. Established in 1991, pioneer to 'Buy one Pizza & Get the second one Absolutely FREE' this restaurant offers a wide range of cuisines i.e Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Pakistani & Continental. Prices are very moderate, ambiance is modern & customer service is very friendly!
§ Lasania Restaurant, 66 West Junaid Plaza, Blue Area (Ph: 227-3200, 287-2200). This place is very nicely decorated and is also situated in a very nice location. They have a huge selection of BBQ, Pakistani and Chinese food items on the menu. Their food is not extremely spicy like most other places.
§ Cinnamon, Beverely center, Blue Area is one of the hippest places to eat. They serve an adequate range of carefully selected international delicacies, including authentic gourmet meals, popular salads and refreshing mocktails. The décor is absolutely superb, with clashing black and white motifs and photographs, and the service and quality of food equally brilliant. The perfect place to have a quiet albeit slightly expensive family dinner.
§ Rahat Bakers, F-6 Blue Area, Driving along the main road in blue area, this place can not be missed. Eatables like Pizzas, Bakery products, Rich creamy milk ice creams etc are available. A big range to choose from. Although it is a fairly big store, due to the variety of food they do, there are no eat-in arrangements. Right next to Rahat Bakers is a place called Safilo, which offers a wide range of ice-creams, milkshakes and juices. They pride themselves in their cleanliness, so, always a great health drink next to Rahat.
§ Subway is a franchise of the International Subway and has two branches, one in Blue Area, and the other one in F11-Markaz. It offers subs and salad.
§ Domino's Pizza, Block H, Blue Area, 051 111 366 466, . Take away, dine in and free home delivery.
§ Usmania Restaurant In Blue Area is also a famous place for traditional Pakistani cuisine.
§ Jahangir's, Masco Plaza, Blue Area is one of the most popular local restaurant chains. Its delicious local or 'desi' items and barbecue are a treat, garnering it lots of appreciation from food lovers. Known for their mastery of Pakistani and Indian specialties, Jahangir is definitely a must-visit restaurant.
§ Bar-B-Q Tonight (Bar-B-Q Tonight), Shorab Palaza,Block 32, FazlL-e-haq Road Islamabad., 051-8317131, 051-8317132, . 12-24. Popular new BBQ restaurant, same owners as the branch in Karachi. Big rush on dinner timings. Price ranges from 300-700 per person. 300+.

Up in the Margella hills

§ Des Pardes, (In Saidpur village off the Margella Road), +92-51-2825151,. lunch & dinner. A great choice for top notch Pakistani food - evenings are best when Saidpur is illuminated with subtle floodlighting, and you can relax on the terrace and admire the architecture. Can be very busy on weekends so reserving a table is recommended - the parking can be chaotic also. Mains Rs.400.
§ Monal, Pir Sohawa (Road to Pir Sohawa starts from 7th Avenue at junction of F6 and F7), +92-51-7165915,. Set at an altitude of 3900 ft on Margalla Hills, Monal offers a spectacular view of the city. It is the largest restaurant in Pakistan in terms of seating capacity


Drinking Alcohol in public is nominally banned although most of the top end hotels have their own bars. Try local brands like Murree Brewery, in addition to that there are other brands such as Budweiser and Bavaria with non-alchoholic beer. Non-Muslim visitors can obtain from the local police a so called 'non-Muslim declaration'. This permit gives you the right to legally buy a limited amount of alcoholic drinks like bottles of wine or beer. For instance, Pakistan's small Christian minority is by law allowed to consume alcohol because the consumation of alcohol (wine) appears in some biblical stories. Most Pakistani's though would find it extremely rude and offensive if you show or drink alcohol in public.
In soft drinks, try local limca cola which makes "pop" sound when opened. you can also try Pakola; Pakistan’s premier soft drink brand which is available in different flavors like Ice cream soda, Lychee, Orange, Raspberry, Apple sidra, Vino, Double cola, Bubble up etc.
In other drinks try Strawberry milk shakes and dhamaka soda (dhamaka means bang - the bang that happens when one opens the bottle) from Jinnah super market.
If you happen to be there in winter then in Karachi company G9,there is a place that serves excellent soup... Just ask someone and they will happily show you. This particular place is on left hand side of famous Prince Bakers.
§ Gelato Affairs (Gelato Affairs), F-7/3 (Gole Market), 0512610919.
§ Mocca Coffee, Shop #1, Kohsar Market, F-6/3 (Main Kohsar Market),. Expensive coffee shop with exclusive decor, display and sale of World-renowned contemporary Nordic design, such as Georg Jensen, Arne Jacobsen, Stelton, Eva-trio and Rosendahl.
§ Jia's Deli, Beverly Centre, 0512814110. This café has a certain cosy charm. The low ceiling has photographs of their regular customers on display, and a few bright abstract oil paintings to brighten up its plain wooden walls. Bread is home made, and came in four varieties. Coffee is of extremely good quality, served with chocolates that appear to be hand-made: salted caramel, walnut and tiramisu, mocha java cake flavours all works real well. The service is spot on, with even minor details such as the topping up of bread faultless. There is an array of desserts and some great cakes.



Budget accommodation in Islamabad is fairly lackluster and questionably clean. There are many guesthouses around the city that make a nice alternative to a hotel.
§ The Boys Hostel (TBH), G-8 (campus), F-10 (Campus) & G-10 (Campus). Phone: 2102352, 2256705, 2224012
§ Hotel Blue Sky, Sitara Market, G-7 Markaz. Double rooms from Rs300, with cable tv from Rs400.
§ Hotel Friends Inn, Aabpara Market, G-6 Markaz. Double rooms from Rs1000, single room from Rs600
§ Hotel Meraj Next to National Bank of Pakistan, G-9 Markaz, Karachi Company. Tel: +92 (0)51 2282587, 2255056-7 Double rooms from Rs600
§ Tourist Camping Site Opposite Aabpara Market in the Rose Graden G-6 Markaz. Rs50 per person, Rs100 per vehicle (bicycles free). Popular with overlanders.
§ Sohawa Heights Hotel, Pir Sohawa Up in the Margella hills about 5km past the Monal restaurant. An alternative to staying in Islamabad proper is to stay up in the hills overlooking the city. Rooms are en suite, have satellite TV, and great views over the city (from the roof terrace) and view to the north over the picturesque valley behind from your bedroom. Only really an option if you have your own transport, as its a 30 minute drive from town up the hill. There is a popular restaurant (The Khokha) and some shops / restaurants nearby. Rs. 1,200 per room.


§ Cape Grace(New) Guest House, H 8, Justice Abdul Rasheed Road, F-6/1, +92 (300) 5252232(,. 3-star range GuestHouse with 3MB WiFi@FiberOptic, Airconditioning & Heating, Powerbackup & more. Starting from 2,500PKR per night.
§ Continental House, 94-A Nazimuddin Road, F-8/4 (Near Centaurus), +92 (51) 2256670(, starting around Rs 3,000/night.
§ Chez Soi, 6 Kohsar Rd, F-7/3 (Nearby to Jinnah Super Market), +92 (51) 265-1451( Same owner as Upper Deck restaurant. Starting around Rs3500/night..
§ Continental Inn, 94-B Nazimuddin Road, F-8/4 (Opposite Centaurus and Blue Area), +92 (51) 2854093-94 (, fax: +92 (51) 2256-INN(466)). Starting around Pak Rs 3,000/night.
§ Crown Plaza, 99-E Jinnah Avenue, Blue Area (near Citibank and Zero-poin), +92 (51) 227-7890(, 4-star range hotel, around Rs3500/night.
§ Envoy Continental Hotel, 111-F Fazal-e-Haq Road, Blue Area (near Clinc Chowk), +92 (51) 227391-7(, 3-star range hotel, nice rooftop restaurant, internet center and phone center, around Rs3,500/night.
§ Paramid International Guest House, House # 248, Street # 31,G-8/2, +92-300-8525521(, 3-star range guesthouse with WiFi,Aircondition and heated rooms.Starting around Rs. 1800-2800/night.
§ Sabipak Travelers Home (Savanna Inn), House No. 14-A, Street No. 28, 7th Avenue, Sector F-6/1, +92 (0)300-5192413 (, . affordable rooms, for families, Single Female, seniors, Tourist and business travelers. around PKR 2200/night.


§ Serena Hotel, Khayaban-e-Suhrawardy, F-6. +92 (0) 51 111-133133, This 5-star hotel is the nicest in the city, with great restaurants and a gym. Rooms and suites $300-700. Presidential suite $2000.
§ Number Three, 3 College Road, F-7/3. +92 (0) 51 2822070 -71, A luxury boutique hotel in a posh residential area, with private terraces and stunning views of the Margalla Hills.
§ Number Three Lush, House 27-A, Street 18, F-7/2. +92 (0) 51 2651070 – 72, [23]. A luxury boutique hotel in a posh residential area, with a restaurant and business center.
§ PC Bhurban, in Bhurban is a holiday resort located just 100kms from Islamabad in the surroundings of beautiful hills. Very close to Murree, so a great place to stop and see as well.
§ Marriott Hotel, Agha Khan Road, Shalimar 5. +92 (0) 51 111-223344, Once one of the top hotels in the city, it was ravaged by a truck bomb in September 2008. Rebuilt in just 3 months, it's once again open for business. But now the security is improved.
§ Embassy Lodge, Club Road (close to Rawal Lake). A comfortable and safe place with good service.


The area code for Islamabad is 51. To dial from within pakistan, dial 051-xxx-xxxx
The Police emergency number is 15. There are various Police stations in the city with staff available 24/7.

Stay safe

Islamabad is generally a safe and calm city. It's unlikely that you would be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and it's rare that they penetrate deep into their targets. However, there has been an increase in attacks by radical extremist groups. Capital police has setup various check posts to cope with any unwanted situation. Anti Terrorist squads patrol across city to keep it safe and provide security wherever it is needed. While travelling in city, you should keep your national identity card, passport, or driving license with you to prove your identity.

Stay healthy

Bottled water is a good idea. Although water in Islamabad is generally clean, it is mainly gained from mountain water and tube wells and may contain minerals your system is not used to, and may not be stored and carried in the cleanest of ways.
Most locals do not drink tap water, but may get water from Govt. istalled filteration plans. Tap water is normally boiled and it is strongly suggested that you carry bottled water and request it at all food places. If you are unsure about the hygine of a particular place, try to avoid ice in all your drinks.
There are 3 major hospitals in Islamabad. Pakistan Institute of medical sciences also known as PIMS next to G-8 Markaz, Shifa International Hospital in H-8/4 and Poly Clinic in sector G-6.
Also, there are various private hospitals in every sector in Islamabad providing extensive health care with different price ranges. Ali Medical Centre in F-8 Markaz is one of them.
Blue Area and Super Market (F-6) both have the two most trustable names in drug stores, Shaheen Chemists and D. Watson. Both the stores are reliable and will be able to offer sound advice for minor ailments. They also carry a wide variety of European and American foods, albeit at a high price. They may even have a doctor at the facility, should a quick suggestion be required.


Although Islamabad may look relatively modern, superficially hinting at a Western lifestyle, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind given the cutural values of Pakistan's society:
§ People are very friendly and indeed very good hosts. Many of Islamabad's citizens are well-educated and speak English very well, working for the government and in the private sector. Be gracious in accepting invitations to people's houses for lunch, tea or dinner: it will reflect well on you if you verbally ensure that you are causing them no inconvenience.
§ Generally, women do not shake hands with men, though this varies greatly by social class, social setting, age and personal upbringing. A good rule of thumb for both men and women: do not shake hands with members of the opposite sex unless they extend their hands first (in which case it would be rude of you not to shake hands). The best way to greet someone is to nod and say "Assalam-u-alaikum:" smiling always helps!
§ Don't consume alcohol in public.
§ It's a good idea to avoid taking photographs of military establishments, police stations and anyone in uniform (army officers wear khaki, naval officers wear white, and the Islamabad police wear navy blue trousers with a light blue shirt). If in doubt, permission can be requested from the officers concerned.
§ Islamabad is relatively safe, compared to other Pakistani cities, or indeed most other capital cities: violent crime is very rare, but use precautions as you would in any other city.



English Local Newspaper The Dawn, The News, The Nation & The Daily Times are national newspapers in English supplemented with local news sections.
Business Recorder is the only newpaper providing national and international business news. However, newspapers like International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Khaleej Times, Gulf News, Sunday Times and etc., are also available. These international newspapers usually arrive in Islamabad a day after publishing.
All newspapers (international, national and local) are available at book stores in leading hotels like Serena & Marriott. They can also be purchased from leading book stores such as London Book House (Kohsar Market in sector F-6/3), Saeed Book Bank (Jinnah Super Market in sector F-7), and Mr. Books (Super Market in sector F-6).

Get out

§ Murree — a cool hill station north of the capitol
§ Taxila — fascinating ancient ruins await you here
§ Simly Dam It is situated at a distance of about 30 km north east of Islamabad. The lake is spread over an area of 28,750 acre. There is complete facilities for all kinds of water sports.
§ You can visit India through the Wagah border. Usually, visiting Delhi should take you half a day by car, however you will need a visa. On the way, it is advisable to see the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and many other inspiring sights.
§ Khewra Salt mines
§ Bishkek via Kyrgyzstan Air. Was on Friday nights around 7:00 pm for around 340 USD one way, but this was before the Kyrg revolution. The travel agent in Islamabad, as of October 2009, is GSA Vital World Travel 9251 2274648-9 or 03125128227. He accepts credit cards and is off Kulsum Plaza, Blue Area, Islamabad


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