I thought I’d put down some of the stuff from my holiday in Pakistan recently. While this will probably not go under the technology and gadgets umbrella OxGadgets normally focuses on, it does go under the promote local people.
I was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, and last month I went there after a period of 5 years on holiday. Things have changed, improved, gone bizarre, grown, gone worse, and it has impressed me, annoyed me, destroyed me and thrilled me at the same time. In this series of articles I will be posting some observations I made while I was there.
Airport – entry
One of the first things you get to experience as soon as you land in Pakistan is the airport. This normally coincides with a weird behaviour from your fellow passengers. The same people who queued with you at whatever airport you started off from are now suddenly restless. They will normally ignore the seat belt signs and walk around in a plane in mid flight, as well as do the same as soon as the plane lands and grab their stuff. Mostly the cries of a slightly scared air-stewardess does not achieve much.
This then leads to having to face the ‘Official’ process of exiting the airport. Having lived in, and done most of my travelling via UK, which provides you a very relaxed environment, the tight security control at Pakistani (and Lahore airport) is somewhat of a surprise.
You start off by going through to an immigration officer who checks your documents and stamps your passport. You walk off and another officer will then check that the stamp indeed exists on your passport, and you haven’t somehow escaped the earlier guy.
This leads you to the baggage claim area. As you are in this area, you notice how most people, and probably you too, have immense amounts of luggage with them. A suitcase carrying 40kg is poor show. Two is okay. Anything more is impressive. While you are waiting in the chaos, you keep getting people wearing official uniforms offering to help you. This is staff hired by the airport who will help you pick up your heavy suitcase, put it on a trolley and then help you via the security procedures that follow (yes, there are more). These guys charge you (as of January 2013) a sum of Pakistani Rupees 200. This equates to about £1.40 and $2.00.
Once you find your bag, you make your way out, but before then, you have to pass your bags through another security procedure. This is where it gets interesting and the hired help becomes handy. Everyone who has exited a plane, any plane, at the airport, have to pass their baggage through this one tunnel. Needless to say, you either hire them, or as I was, be brutal, remember your roots, pick up your suitcase, and lob it in. Remember, your suitcase has already had its fair share of being lobbed and this will not harm it any further.
Once you are through this, you have to show that magical tag they put on your boarding pass when you check in your baggage to another security personal. They match it to the tag on your suitcase. Similarly, if you have any hand luggage, it is supposed to have your airline’s official tag on it.
After this, you may be hassled by Customs. Luckily I wasn’t.
While all this sounds dramatic, the experience does hit you because you are so used to the other airports around the world.
You may wonder why the chaos and all the extra security features? Personally, I do not know. The airports in Pakistan have been much secure than the rest of the world for as long as I can remember. The extra checks probably help keep them safe, and also tell the rest of the world that the Pakistanis are trying as hard as they can to ensure your safety. It is hard being someone who is bullied around by every nation on the planet for being unsafe, and yet probably provides you the hardest entry process after immigration.