As far as the media portrays Pakistan, your family and friends might probably think you’re crazy for wanting to travel there. But you are not the only one. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Over the past few years, more and more foreigners from all over the world have become intrigued and curious about Pakistan and discovered there’s much more to the country than what’s in the news.
As a local, let me tell you that you will have an adventurous and unforgettable trip to Pakistan.
In terms of clothing, you can wear anything you like within the boundaries of modesty. Avoid tight clothes that may reveal your curves or bare skin to prevent unwanted attention.
In short, you don’t have to wear Islamic clothing in Pakistan. In fact, no one has to wear a hijab when visiting Pakistan.
Millions of Pakistani girls and women don’t wear a hijab, a dupatta, or any other type of Islamic clothing.
Therefore, locals don’t expect tourists to wear a headscarf either.
Yet, Pakistan is an Islamic country that values modesty and tradition. A simple headscarf is highly appreciated and most welcomed if observed anyway.
Pakistan is a country that I love. Click to check my other articles on Pakistan. I also linked them all at the end of this article.
In this post, I will help you plan your clothing for your trip and give you a better idea of how to dress as a tourist in Pakistan to make you feel more comfortable throughout your stay.
Do you have to wear a hijab as a tourist in Pakistan?
Pakistan is an Islamic country, but wearing the hijab is not mandatory like in Afghanistan or Iran.
As a tourist in Pakistan, you do not have to wear a hijab unless you’re entering a mosque or Islamic shrine.
However, I advise you to carry a headscarf in your bag to cover your hair when necessary.
You can also try Pakistan’s traditional dress, which is loose, comfortable, and breathable and helps you to blend in with the locals.
Even though no official law requires specific attire, there are a few things to remember.
You can wear anything you like as long as it harmonizes with the local customs where people tend to cover up more.
Try to stick to more loose-fitted clothes that are not revealing.
Since you’re a tourist, I’m assuming you might want to explore some of Pakistan’s cultural and historical sights, including mosques and Islamic shrines.
In that case, a headscarf is a must.
Religious clothing is seen as a sign of respect. For this reason, taking your shoes off before entering a mosque and wearing a simple head scarf is a community rule.
Pakistani Fashion has breathtaking designs and a lot more than you will expect. Check my 40 Pakistani Fashion Brands guide to learn more.
What should you wear or not wear in Pakistan?
Based on Pakistani law, you are free to wear whatever you like. However, I recommend not taking this literally because there are traditional limits.
Let me explain why.
Pakistan is a traditional and conservative country, with most of its population being religious.
As someone living in a Muslim country, I can tell you that covering up, especially as a female, is a big thing in Islamic culture.
Whether you’re Muslim or not, it’s important to respect other cultures no matter where you travel. Plus, dressing up appropriately helps to avoid unnecessary attention and looks.
So, let’s begin with what not to wear in Pakistan.
As a female, you should avoid shorts, mini and midi skirts, tight tops, sleeveless shirts, deep necklines, or leggings.
Basically, try to avoid tight clothing that reveals your curves or bare skin.
That doesn’t mean that western clothing is taboo. In fact, loads of Pakistani women wear western clothes on a daily basis, with some covering their hair and some not.
At some private events or award shows, people also wear sleeveless and even show some legs.
You have fewer restrictions as a male tourist, yet you should still dress up modestly.
You can wear jeans, trousers, and t-shirts like you normally wear.
It’s okay to wear knee-length shorts for men, but if you’re traveling through more conservative regions like Pakistan’s rural areas, it’s better to avoid them.
It’s also uncommon for men to casually wear sleeveless shirts.
Now that you know the custom, let’s look at what you can wear in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, western clothes are totally fine. You can wear jeans, trousers, loose-fitted shirts, ankle-length skirts, and dresses.
If you’re traveling during the summer, make sure to pack weather-friendly clothes and choose breathable fabrics because Pakistani summers are on another level.
It’s not a good idea to wear “heavy jeans” during that hot, humid weather. Try to go for cotton trousers instead.
I also highly recommend trying out the traditional Pakistani dress called “Shalwar Kameez”.
Shalwar Kameez consists of a loose tunic and trousers. It’s comfortable, very fashionable, and comes in all sorts of styles and colors.
Shalwar Kameez’s lightweight material and breathable fabric not only help you to cope with the hot weather but also help cover your body and make you feel much more comfortable.
You can easily purchase them on Amazon before coming or buy them from local stores in Pakistan.
Suggested Reading: A Local’s Guide to Many Languages of Pakistan
Dress Codes in Pakistan
Pakistan is diverse and rich in culture and differs from province to province and city to city.
Likewise, Pakistan can be conservative, moderate, and modern depending on the area you are visiting or the social and religious backgrounds of the people themselves.
From my point of view, Pakistan is a country stuck between religion and tradition and western modernism.
That’s why it’s difficult to pinpoint a dress code in Pakistan.
In most major cities like Lahore, Islamabad, or Karachi, people tend to be more liberal.
In restaurants, malls, parks, tourist attractions, or universities, you can see people wearing jeans and shirts, shalwar kameez, and Islamic clothing all at the same time.
Some cover themselves, and some not at all.
In more conservative areas like simple neighborhoods, local streets, bazaars, and rural areas, I highly recommend dressing modestly by focusing on loose cuts.
If you don’t want to stand out as a foreigner and want to avoid unnecessary staring, try out some traditional clothing and carry a scarf if you’re a female.
If you are attending a Pakistani wedding, please check my guides on Pakistani Wedding Celebrations – Explained with Videos and Attending a Pakistani Wedding? What to Wear and Must-Knows
What is the Pakistani hijab style?
Hijab styles differ from country to country. In Pakistan, we refer to this as “Purdah” meaning “veil”, “curtain”, or “screen” in Urdu.
Looking at Pakistan’s media, including the movie, drama, and fashion industry, you will hardly find a hijabi woman.
But that’s the media. The majority of Pakistan’s population does cover their hair.
Due to Pakistan’s rich cultural diversity and social backgrounds, there are different ways Pakistani women observe purdah.
Purdah has different styles like the traditional dupatta or chadar, the hijab, abaya, niqab, and the burka, which can be seen worn throughout the country.
The most common and traditional one is the “dupatta” which is often seen in South Asia.
The dupatta is a large-sized headscarf that is simply wrapped around loosely covering the head and bust.
It comes with the traditional Pakistani dress called “Shalwar Kameez”: loose trousers paired with a loose tunic.
Another very common style is the “Chadar” meaning “shawl”, “sheet”, or “tent” in Urdu and other Persian languages.
Chadar is a large shawl mostly seen in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq.
These chadars can be plain, printed, beautifully embroidered, and come in light and dark colors.
Next up, we have the hijab itself.
A hijab is wrapped more tightly and covers all of the hair, the neck, and sometimes the chest area as well.
Moreover, the hijab is much smaller in length and width than the dupatta.
In Pakistan, girls wear hijab with other traditional clothing, on top of their abaya, or with their western clothes.
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In Pakistan, you will see lots of abayas worn by women of all ages.
An abaya is a loose-fitted, floor-length robe worn by Muslim women all around the globe.
Abaya appears much like a dress that is worn on top of your clothes before heading out of your home.
Abaya conceals all of your body except the face, hands, and feet and is paired with a scarf or niqab.
A niqab is a form of veil specifically made for the face, which conceals everything except the eyes.
I have seen some women wearing it, but not as much as I’ve seen the “Pakistani version” of the niqab.
Here, women have mastered the art of mixing a chadar with the hijab and niqab.
I always get stunned at how they manage to take a huge chadar and throw it around, covering everything except the eyes without using any pins!
Another style worn in Pakistan is the Afghani Burka.
Burka is not often seen in the East and South of Pakistan.
Wearing Burka is more common in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, where people tend to be more conservative.
The Afghani Burka is a loose garment covering you from head to toe, including the whole face. These burkas are commonly sold in shades of blue, brown, white, and grey.
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This article is
written by Asma Schleicher and edited by Efe Genit. Asma is a creative writer with German and Pakistani roots. She is an analytical writer with a degree in business administration.
She mostly writes about cultural, travel, and fashion-related topics reflecting her real-life experiences. You can also check Asma’s profile on Upwork.