Karachi Travel and Tourism Guide
Karachi is one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities in Pakistan, with ethnic Sindhis matched by large numbers of Punjabis, Pashtuns and other nationalities. After Partition, Karachi received significant numbers of Mohajirs, who have since become the key players in Karachi politics under the MQM party that dominates the city. Karachi also has significant Christian and Hindu communities, and is a centre for Zoroastrianism.
This diverse mix doesn’t always rub along well, and has given Karachi an unenviable reputation for civil unrest and communal violence. The 1980s and ’90s were punctuated by regular outbreaks of rioting, and although these are now largely a thing of the past, real tensions still exist. The shadow of 9/11 has also fallen on Karachi, with attacks on Western targets and minority Shiites from Al-Qaeda–inspired extremists.
Few travellers choose to visit Karachi these days, and the insane traffic and frequent power cuts from an overstretched infrastructure can make any stay a challenge, particularly in the stifling heat of summer. But there’s a definite buzz here, and a few days in Karachi can tell you more about life in modern Pakistan than any number of historic mosques or mountain treks.
Getting There & Away
There are plentiful long-distance bus companies, mostly clustered in and around the Blue Lines Bus Station (Dr Daud Pota Rd) near Cantonment Railway Station. These include Blue Lines and Green Lines. Buses run out at all times from here to Karachi, Larkana and Multan, among other destinations. For Quetta go to Lea Market, from where you’ll also find cheaper buses to destinations across Sindh.
The comfortable Daewoo service popular in the north was due to commence operating from Karachi with services to Punjab via Hyderabad as we went to press.
Karachi has two main train stations – City Railway Station and Cantonment Railway Station. About the same number of trains originate from each, but all trains from City also stop at Cantonment soon after. To be sure of a seat, get on at the departure terminus. Train seats fill up quickly so book as far in advance as possible (particularly important for fast trains and the more expensive classes).
Reservations can be made at either the City booking office or the Cantonment booking office but the foreigner/student concessions can only be given at the former (irrespective of which station the train departs from). Go to the superintendent’s office at the Commercial Branch on the 1st floor. You can double-check at the station or direct with Pakistan Railways, or with the Time & Fare Table, which is updated twice yearly and is often sold at stations.
Karachi’s international and domestic air terminals are both located at the Jinnah International Airport, about 10km east of the city centre. You can buy onward domestic air tickets here 24 hours a day outside the arrival terminal. There are money-exchange counters and ATMs in the arrival hall and before you clear customs upon departure. The international departure terminal (after customs) has some overpriced handicraft shops, while the domestic terminal has a good bookshop.