Backpackers’ Hostel Islamabad: A Cozy Place to Stay

On my way back from the European soil in late September last year, I arrived in Islamabad and stayed only for a day before I made another journey to Peshawar to reunite with my family. After hardly a week, I felt the urge to get back to the capital. After visits to my friends I started looking for temporary places to stay in Islamabad. It was hard to find something decent and affordable as I was particular about not staying in a girls’ hostel where you have to compromise unreasonably on your space. After searching for a while on the internet, I came across the Backpackers’ Hostel Islamabad. Initially I wasn’t sure how I would find it but that only lasted until I visited them. On my first visit, I found out that the Backpackers’ Hostel, located in E-11 Islamabad, offers a fine boarding for travellers and tourists from all over the world.

Backpackers’ Hostel Islamabad, Traveller, Tourism, travelling, northern areas, Pakistan, Gilgit, Swat, Kaghan, Naran, Hunza Diran Peak (PC Florian Kisling from Switzerland)

Affordable Guest House in Islamabad

Two young fellows from Islamabad, Harris Ali Shah and Elisha Hassan Ghauri, who own the place came up with the idea of running such facility when Harris who also owns a tour operator agency realised that each year he takes several foreigners up North, he always finds it hard to locate decent and affordable guest houses in Islamabad, as their first point of entry into Pakistan. This was the start of their journey to provide a safe, affordable and home-like environment in the beautiful capital. It’s been more than a year since they have been running the facility which includes bunks for those who are on a budget and a private room facility for those who can afford otherwise.

Backpackers’ Hostel Islamabad Hosting Travellers From All Over the World

In the last year, they have hosted almost 100 travellers from all over the world including local families, some of whom have visited them more than once.

Our Very Favourite Alex from ‘Lost with Purpose’

I finally decided to stay there for a couple of days. During my stay, I interacted with people from various nationalities, one of whom was our favourite Alex from ‘Lost with Purpose’. Alex has been touring Pakistan on her bike and despite the hardships she faced as a female foreigner, she loves to spend time here.

Backpackers’ Hostel Islamabad, Traveller, Tourism, travelling, northern areas, Pakistan, Gilgit, Swat, Kaghan, travel Pakistan JJ Aneyota and Peter Johang in the pic (PC Haris Ali Shah)
JJ Aneyota: Another Traveller From France

Another traveller from France, JJ Aneyota, was also touring Pakistan on his bike, had visited more than 80 countries worldwide and was on a mission to tour more than 100 countries on his bike. He took his inspiration from the Omidvar brothers from Iran, who made a 10 years’ journey around the world on their motorbike and passed through places that included Congo, the Arctic Circle and the entire length of the Andes. During his stay in Pakistan while he waited to get his Pakistani visa renewed, JJ happened to meet Prince Malik Ata through a friend, who hosted him at his village. JJ tells of Malik’s more than generous hospitality. While JJ was Malik’s guest, his hosts at the Backpackers’ hostel almost thought he was lost, however, a few days later he showed up and then went on amusing us with stories of his most adventurous and unexpected stay at Malik’s place.

Peter Johang From Belgium

After having met these strangers once, my number of visits started growing as I became curious to meet new travellers and exchange experiences with them. I met another man from Belgium, Peter Johang, who was visiting Pakistan for the second time and wanted to tour up North on his bicycle. Peter stayed in Islamabad for almost a month and a half before he crossed the Wagha border with India from Lahore. I always found Peter spending most of his time reading, writing and helping his hosts. We would have long conversations about the Pakistani history, our culture, women rights and food. On occasions we even tossed a pancake or two together.

What really intrigued me about these travellers was their changing perception about Pakistan. Most of them who were visiting for the first time said they were slightly anxious and unsure of travelling to Pakistan and even if they weren’t their families were. But as soon as they arrived and experienced the hospitable culture that is deeply rooted within us, they felt at home. Although just as Alex mentioned in her vlog, Pakistan is a hard country to travel alone especially for a foreign female; that reality exists too.

Neomi: The Truck Girl

Just a few days ago I learnt that another guest at the Backpackers’ Hostel, Neomi A., a 25 years old young woman from France, hitchhiked on trucks her entire tour of Pakistan from down South to up North. In her unique adventure she was stopped multiple times by the police and on most of the occasions was escorted by them to a safe place, and at times they even drove her to her next destination. She says that the police always warned her of the dangers she can encounter as a foreigner, however Neomi recalls that she felt safer as her journey progressed from south to the north of Pakistan. One of the cities that she loved travelling to was Peshawar and she spoke highly of the Pakhtun hospitality. For me it was incredible to learn that it was never too difficult for her to grab a ride. Her maximum waiting time was 15 minutes and most of the truck drivers were nice to her. Barring a few occasions where she felt annoyed and uneasy because of the difficulties one faces as a traveller, she says that her entire trip through Pakistan was every bit worth it. That I believe is a truly amazing and inspirational story for Pakistani women who have never imagined hitchhiking with total strangers.

Backpackers’ Hostel Islamabad, Traveller, Tourism, travelling, northern areas, Pakistan, Gilgit, Swat, Kaghan, Naran, Hunza Tourists at the hostel (PC Elisha Hassan Ghauri)

Travelling Across Pakistan

Most of these travellers cross borders from India to Pakistan and sometimes vice versa. While they are in Pakistan, they try to draw comparisons between Pakistan and India. And while it is not easy for Pakistanis to get an Indian visa it is all the more worth to learn from their experiences of the foreigners about our neighbours. Most of the travellers compare the treatment they get in India with how we treat them here in Pakistan. They say while Indians are really warm and nice, they do not give them their due space and sometimes it feels they are too up close which is quite taxing. Nevertheless, in Pakistan they like the fact that people keep a distance and the travellers feel rather safe here.

These travellers learn about our culture by experiencing it first-hand. Some of them like wearing shalwar kameez to blend in, while others make an effort to learn Urdu to be able to better communicate. Some of these travellers have also experienced Couchsurfing in Pakistan which is now increasing by the day: many people like to host foreigners at their place without a charge which allows them to experience our widely known hospitality.

During my frequent stays here in the past six months, I have heard numerous interesting and insightful stories about my own country from these travellers. Unlike what you hear from the paid vloggers, I heard hardcore true experiences including the bad ones which I feel is also important for us to know as that will help us Pakistanis to make sure we are doing our part in providing a better stay. In the last one year or so, our tourism industry has opened gates as sources of revenue generation. Due to decreased terrorist activities, Pakistan is yet again becoming a safe place to travel. Not only the number of foreign travellers has increased but also the number of local tourists has grown in the past few years thanks to our enhanced transport services and the growing sense of security.

travel, travelling, tourist, Pakistan, Gilgit, Swat, Kaghan, Naran, Hunza Nanga Parbat (PC Florian Kisling from Switzerland)

We need more places like the Backpackers’ Hostel Islamabad to host hundreds of travellers visiting Pakistan each year to ensure their safety and comfort. With the growing tourism industry, there are several opportunities for young entrepreneurs to make their way up and strengthen the industry.

What’s worth mentioning here is that these travellers come to Pakistan with not many to almost no expectations, but experience the opposite: the richness of our culture and they take back amazing relationships and memories to cherish forever.