Monday, October 21, 2013

Karachi on a budget

Certainly Karachi is consistently ranked as the world's most cheapest city for expatriates but it doesn't mean that everything here is cheap. There are also luxurious hotels and shopping malls here including high Debenhams and Crab tree & Evelyn. So if you are planning your stay here, you should know money saving tips to enjoy the city on a budget. Here are some of the tips which might help you out:

1- Buy Pakistani Currency
Once you arrive here at the city buy Pakistani rupee rather relying upon ATMs and Credit cards as banks charge 3% as the foreign currency conversion fee on each transaction you make with the card. So it is advisable to convert your currency from kiosks of several reputed money exchange companies located immediately outside the arrivals area of Jinnah International Airport. There might be some distinction in rates by some companies for arriving and departing passengers, so to get a better rate, you can also go to Level II of the airport which is the departure area and convert currency notes there.

2- Don't use Metro Cab
There are kiosks of several metro cab companies in arrivals area of Jinnah International Airport but these metro cabs are bit expensive than black & yellow taxis which you can easily find outside the main terminal building so it is preferrable to reach the downtown area by black & yellow taxis rather.

3- Go for Budget Accomodation
Most of the budget hotels in the city are located inside Saddar district which is the central business district of the city as well as the city's old shopping area. Karachi cantonment station is also located here and is a walk away from majority of the hotels. It is recommended to book hotel around Atrium Mall but reservation should be made in advance. Some of the popular midrange budget hotels in the district includes Hotel Al Harmain, Hotel Sarawan, Paradise hotel, Gulf hotel etc. YMCA is a women-only budget lodging located in Mama Parsi girls’ school compound. Your purpose of visit to the city is also more important when deciding on the accomodation. If you are in the city for transit only than it is recommended to book hotel/ guest houses near the airport in Gulshan district or at Shahrah-e-Faisal.

4- Use public buses for transit (*)
Saddar has excellent network of public buses and here you can find buses that goes to almost everywhere around the city as well as to intercity bus terminals. However caution is advised as most of these buses are cramped in condition and drivers are reckless nor do they stop at most of the bus stops. There is also no public transport card system in these buses as in other countries and they accept only petty cash i.e. 10 Rupee notes. You can check Karachi bus routes here.

5- Use Rickshaws for shorter trips
Well, if you cannot travel in Karachi buses than another budget way to get around Karachi is by rickshaw. Rickshaws also called three-wheeled scooters, tuk-tuks or simply autos are good for shorter trips. You can find rickshaws everywhere across the city. Set prices beforehand and haggle. They don't usually follow traffic guidelines, so some might think it's dangerous, but they're perfectly safe and a cheap way to get around.

6- Eat food from food stalls
There are plenty of hawkers and Pathan tea cafes around Saddar so you can have your food there. Burns road is pretty famous and is often called Mini Delhi for a variety of North Indian food available here. If you are a westerner than of course hawker or burns road food won't suit your stomache. In this case you can head to Atrium Mall where you can find fast food outlets as well as traditional food outlets selling food at budget prices. Alternatively, you can make sandwiches by buying sandwich bread and chicken spread from any nearby bakery.

7- Enjoy the Parks
Yes, most of Karachi public parks are free so you can have your leisure time in one of many public parks. Some famous free public parks include Frere Hall, Bagh-e-Ibn-e-Qasim and Hilal Park. Entry fee of other paid parks is also very little, as low as Rs 10 or 20, so you can also go there.

8- Take advantage of freebies
You can also pass your leisure time in one of many Karachi shopping malls. If you are staying in Saddar than Atrium Mall is a good fit. You can also visit State Bank Museum on II Chundrigar Road which is free. It is also worth mentioning that most of Karachi Museums have a very low entry fee. For instance PAF Museum and Pakistan Maritime Museum have entry fee of Rs 30 and Mohatta Palace has entry fee of Rs 20 only.

9- Shop at the right places
There are several mini marts and big shopping malls in Karachi but items in most of these marts are ridiculously expensive compared to its wholesale price. You should purchase your snacks, drinks, and toiletries from big hypermarkets located under many of the big malls rather than in minimarts. Hyperstar inside Dolmen mall is particularly famous. If you happen to be in Saddar district than you should go to Makro for shopping. If you want to shop clothes and leather shoes, than Saddar market is the best place to buy them but you should bargain more than 50% for the right price.

10- Checkout deals on Facebook
Before buying from any retail shop, make sure to checkout that retail outlet's facebook page for any deals and offers.

If you have been to Karachi than we request you to please add your review about the city on tripadvisor. Thanks!


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There are several places where you can have really cheap and quality food. Burns Road, Student Biryani, Shahi Haleem to name a few. Avoid going to fancy restaurants as they charge ridiculous prices for the same things you can find elsewhere

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