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We get asked this question a lot and let me tell you the one line simple answer is “respect the culture, be modest and do as others are doing around you”.
Capital or bigger cites in Pakistan are fairly flexible in terms of clothing. I have read many posts and seen many foreigners in jeans and modest tops living and passing through these cities.
The general population wears Shalwar Kameez which is a traditional dress worn by men and women in South Asia and Afghanistan. Shalwar is loose pyjama-like trousers which are wide at the top and narrow at the ankle. The Kameez on the other hand is a long shirt or tunic, left open below the waist-line which gives a greater freedom of movement for legs. Traditionally a ‘Dupata’ or a ‘Head Scarf’ is worn by the ladies around their neck which is to cover their body parts.
Wearing a Shalwar Kameez is not a must, it really depends on you. Generally a foreginer in local clothing is appreciated by locals and also shows the respect towards the culture of the Country.
– Men generally can get away with Jeans and T-shirts but if you are traveling from or via a suburban down local dress (Shalwar Kamez) is advised.
–For Females: My safest recommendation is wear a Shalwar Kameez despite the city you are in although in bigger cities you can get away wearing Jeans and tops. Traditional clothes are a must if you are travelling onside of the bigger cities like Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad more specifically to a religious place or gathering. Peshawar is considered a religious city and thus wearing Shalwar Kameez while going to or traveling from there is highly advised.
–In terms of tops avoid low-cut shirts and if you are wearing jeans wear something which it at-least hip length.
–Use a headscarf at all times, specially when going to religion shrines or mosques.
++Where to get Local Dresses++
– The price of a Shalwar Kameez varies depending upon where you buy it and what type of quality are you looking to get. A pair can be anywhere from a 500PKR to 10,000PKR.
– Second hand markets are established in almost all big cities thus buying one which is used is the easiest and cheapest bet. A used set can be bought from 20PKR to a 100PKR. The second hand clothing market in Lahore is called “Landa Bazar” which is in walking distance from the central Train Station.
Please do share your experiences and let us know if there is anything that we should add in the above post.