This 24-year old American woman chose Lahore as her digital nomad base
I’m glad you had fun in Mexico and that you are not thinking to move on. What a bold move! I love Pakistan (especially Lahore) but I am not currently updated – I haven’t been there in years!
Though this blog is mostly read by Americans, bear in mind that I am not American. With this, I invited a fellow digital nomad, Samantha from Intentional Detours. Like you, she is an American and have lots of experience traveling Pakistan. She is very young and I guarantee that you will learn a lot from her!
If you have any questions that weren’t answered in this post, feel free to leave a comment below or contact me (or Samantha) via Instagram. Good luck and I hope you make your way to Pakistan – you are going to love this country!
Now I give the floor to Samantha!
While I usually don’t find myself to be a fan of cities, I unexpectedly found myself living, working online and subsequently falling in love as a digital nomad in Lahore, Pakistan in the Fall of 2019. So much so that I have plans to return soon!
After spending almost two months in Lahore and nearly four in Pakistan in general, I can easily say that Lahore is now my favorite city in the world and one of the most underrated (and virtually unknown) digital nomad cities in Asia.
Who am I? My name is Samantha and I’m a full-time backpacker from the US. My work primarily involves my travel blog which focuses on my backpacking adventures, along with freelance writing, copywriting, and occasionally social media management.
Is Pakistan open?
Once you arrive in Pakistan, you need to download PassTrack app, Pakistan’s COVID-19 mobile app. This app will provide you insights into what’s required for entry into Pakistan. It will also be more convenient for you to have this to avoid long lines. Through the app, you will need to provide them voluntary updates about your state of health after 14 days of being in the country.
You will also undergo a health screening at the airport and it is mandatory to submit/fill out a health declaration form. From October 2020, Pakistan requires a mandatory negative COVID-19 PCR test valid within 72 hours from your arrival. This is not a requirement for all – Pakistan has a list of countries exempted from a mandatory PCR test. You can see the list here.
Samantha's personal experience in Lahore as a digital nomad
I never planned on staying in Lahore so long, it was one of those things that just kind of happened. When my boyfriend and I (who I travel with) first crossed into Pakistan from India, Lahore was just across the border and thus our first introduction to the country.
As I mentioned, I don’t like cities. But this one was different from day one. It was big but not TOO big, filled with dozens of fascinating historical sites, shrines, frequent and unique cultural events, and most important: incredibly welcoming and hospitable people.
Though we only originally planned to stay in Lahore for a few days, a month soon passed as we came to adore the city. After eating at some of the best restaurants in Lahore, the foodie in me knew I was hooked. So much delicious cuisine is literally everywhere in this city.
See also: How to become a digital nomad in 2021
Despite being a busy metropolis, another thing I loved about Lahore was how green it was. From tree-lined streets to beautiful parks like Bagh e Jinnah and Model Park, I loved knowing that there was always somewhere I could go to escape the chaos.
Though the capital Islamabad might be slightly greener and significantly quieter, I would choose Lahore a thousand times over. The city is like a dozen cities in one. It has neighborhoods that are hundreds of years old as well as modern shopping malls and extremely Western locales. It’s truly the best of both worlds for travelers that want to feel totally immersed in a new and vibrant culture while still having all kinds of amenities at hand.
As far as upload speeds and connectivity goes, I was surprised and amazed that working from Lahore was no different from working back home in the US. 4G data with carrier Zong was fast enough for everything I needed to do (including hotspot use), and I found WiFi in the cafes and coworking spaces I frequented to be great.
I spent most of my time in Lahore in both Gulberg and Cavalry Ground neighborhoods. Both of these are relatively quiet and modern, yet still, a quick rickshaw rides away from any bazaar, park, or restaurant I wanted to go to.
Lahore Digital Nomad: quick facts
🌍 Region: Asia
🚩 Country: Pakistan
📡 Internet speed (avg) 5 Mbps
🔌 Outlet: European type C, British type G, South Africa type M
🚑 Travel medical insurance: Safetywing Digital Nomad coverage
📱 Best wireless carrier: Zong
🏧 Suggested ATM takes out: PKR 100,000 = USD 547
💳 Cashless society: no, cash only
💻 Best coworking space: Daftarkhwan
🚰 Safe tap water: No, not drinkable
👨👩👧👦 Population: 11,000,000 people
🏞 Foreign land ownership allowed: Yes
✈️ Where to find cheap flights: Kiwi.com
💵 Cost of living for local: $135 USD per month
🏠 1br studio rent in center: $100 per month
🏢 Coworking: $58 USD per month
🏨 Hotel: $436 per month
🍛 Meals (restaurants): $1.29 USD
🍺 Beer (bars): $0.65
☕️ Coffee: $0.43
✅ Very cheap to live
✅ Warm weather all year round
✅ Good hospitals
✅ People can speak basic English
❌ Pretty slow internet
❌ Not much to do
❌ Too hot in the summer
❌ Bad air quality year-round
❌ Feels crowded
❌ Roads can be dangerous
❌ Freedom of speech is weak
❌ Hostile towards LGBTQ+
Not sure if this is a pro or con for you but alcohol is legal for foreigners to drink and relatively easy to obtain but it’s not sold everywhere. You can go to a 5-star-hotel to buy it (even without staying there) and there are also tons of bootleggers that deliver. Ironically, Pakistan does in fact have its own brewery–Murree Brewery.
The digital nomad scene in Lahore
As both Lahore and Pakistan are still up-and-coming on digital nomads and traveler’s radars, the foreign DN scene here is certainly not as thriving as in other Asian cities.
Nevertheless, Pakistanis are unbelievably friendly and you will have no problem at all connecting with them in cafes and coworking spaces. Another great way to connect and meet young, like-minded Pakistanis is through Couchsurfing. While this might not be ideal for all digital nomads, we met some incredible people through this app including one amazing host (and now friend) that we spent quite some time staying with.
Related: Best Asian cities for digital nomads
While there might not be a lot of digital nomads in Lahore, that does not mean there are none. Many travelers in Pakistan are digital nomads, and there are luckily plenty of ways to connect with them. The best way to connect with others in Lahore is through the Backpacking Pakistan Facebook Group. Though “backpacking” is in the title, the group caters to any and all travelers and is the best place to strike up connections and conversation.
Internet speed in Lahore
It’s totally understandable if you wouldn’t have expected Pakistan to have great internet access- I didn’t either! But the reality on the ground was amazing. Though WiFi is not as common as it is in the West, all major cafes I worked from had it, and I never had any problems uploading large numbers of media files, video chatting, or doing any other task required for my blog and other work. Hotels I stayed in (which also happened to be cheap) also had good, reliable WiFi.
Even so, SIM cards are king in Lahore and when traveling through Pakistan in general, and luckily, they’re incredibly cheap and reliable. The best provider in the city is ZONG, a company that has numerous locations all throughout the city. Foreigners are supposed to avail their cards at a franchise location, which you can find denoted as such on Google Maps. Make sure you bring your passport along as well!
You might also like: Countries with digital nomad visas
There are multiple plans available at ZONG, though the best one offers 60 GB for the equivalent of $13 USD. This awesome deal makes being a digital nomad in Lahore super easy. Keep in mind that this package is prepaid and you will need to refill it monthly at a franchise location, as you can only pay online if you have a local debit card.
This allowed me to use my phone as a hotspot to work from anywhere, regardless of whether or not there was WiFi.
There are other operators in Pakistan as well, which include Telenor, Jazz, and in the mountains: SCOM. Telenor and Jazz also work in Lahore, though I still recommend ZONG.
ZONG is also the best provider for Islamabad and Karachi as well, which are two other major cities in Pakistan. If you plan to take short trips from your Lahore base, keep in mind that Telenor is the best provider in the KPK province and SCOM is the best provider in Gilgit Baltistan.
Cost of living in Lahore
Lahore is an extremely affordable city for foreigners, especially if you’re traveling with a partner. We each spent no more than $10-$15 a day, with some days amounting to much less than that. While you can certainly get fancier, it would be difficult to spend more than $30 a day unless you’re intentionally choosing to stay in an expensive hotel.
The hotel we stayed in the longest- Rose Palace Hotel in Gulberg- was absolutely perfect for us and was about $18/ night and included fast WiFi, hot water, air conditioning, a comfortable bed and spacious rooms. The hotel was in a very quiet area of the city and surrounded by various cheap restaurants, including a tikka place and a smoothie shop. I cannot recommend this hotel enough.
If you’re looking for something cheaper but lower quality as a digital nomad in Lahore, Lahore Backpackers is the city’s most well-known hostel. While a great place to meet other travelers, I would only recommend staying here if you want to stay in the cheapest place possible. Hostel beds are about $10 a night but the building is very old and cannot really compare to Rose Palace.
Air BnB does exist in Lahore, though listings are not as plentiful as in other cities. If you know for sure that you want to stay in Lahore long term, renting one or renting a non-Air BnB associated apartment could be your best bet, with rates of $200 or even less very possible. See You in Pakistan and The Karakoram Club Facebook groups may be good places to connect with locals who can advise you further in your search.
As for food, this is the best part of the city as you can literally eat as much as you want for very little if you stick to street food and local shops. You can easily spend as little as $3 a day to be full as a digital nomad in Lahore.
Transportation is very cheap thanks to Uber, and as of late 2020 Lahore has now opened up a metro line that connects much of the city.
Uber fares tend to be about $1-$3 per day depending on where you’re going, though I’ve taken an hour-long trip in an Uber there for less than $10. Make sure you download Careem too, as it is Pakistan’s version of Uber and has similar rates, though keep in mind that you must pay in cash as a foreigner. (Unlike Uber which can charge your card)
The new orange line metro rail is approximately $0.25 for a one-way trip, and appears to be even more affordable than the already cheap Uber.
As for miscellaneous expenses, I visited a doctor in a private hospital Lahore and had an amazing experience. I found her by simply Googling the specialty I was looking for and “Lahore” and made an appointment online. For the visit and the medication I needed, I ended up paying $25 which, while definitely more expensive than anything else in the city, was truly amazing coming from a country where healthcare is insanely unaffordable.
Visa to Pakistan
As of early 2019, it’s been easy to acquire a Pakistan visa. All foreigners can apply for an e-Visa through the portal. Most nationalities can avail of a 90-day visa, which can be extended online or in-person in Lahore or Islamabad.
See also: Mexico’s digital nomad visa, explained
Americans can receive up to a 5-year multi-entry visa, with an average duration of stay being 90 days. The cost for a single entry visa is $60 USD, while the cost for a 1-year-multi-entry visa is $90 USD, and a multi-year-multi-entry visa is $120 USD.
Official instructions state that you need to have a hotel booking or Letter of Invitation to apply. Hotel bookings can be made at no cost upfront on Booking.com, Letter of Invitations can be written by any registered tour company in the country. Keep in mind that this DOES NOT mean that you need to be on a tour. The letter is simply a formality.
Lahore Wifi Cafes
I personally enjoyed working at all these cafes as a digital nomad in Lahore. Though they all offer free WiFi with any purchase, any cafe in Lahore can be a workable space since your phone can effortlessly be used as a hotspot anywhere in the city.
Gloria Jeans Coffees Hali Road
There are many Gloria Jean’s in Lahore but this location was my favorite! The seating was super comfy and spacious, it was very quiet, and the WiFi was strong and reliable. This was the cafe I spent the most time in. To stick to my backpacker budget, I usually would order a small dessert here like a brownie which is a bit less than $2. Coffees and teas start at $2.37. And on the electrical front, there were numerous seats with plugs here.
You cannot be a digital nomad in Lahore without visiting Mocca, as the trendy spot is quite famous amongst young people in the city. This location offers free Wifi which was quite good when I was there, as well as rooftop seating. As for plugs, some but not all seats have access to them. The atmosphere is sophisticated, and also can be a hangout depending upon when you go. I recommend coming here during the day to avoid the post 9-5 rush. Smoothies here cost about $3 and food items are between $7-$10 which is VERY expensive for Lahore. Nevertheless, this is a perfect place for nomads to go if they’re missing Western foods and vibes!
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
This spacious cafe has tons of tasty options and good WiFi. I always got a lot done here and met some people as well. Some seats have access to plugs while others do not, so check out the scene before setting up your things. Prices here are similar to the aforementioned cafes, and I definitely splurged on the delicious oreo shake, which costs just under $3 USD.
Coworking spaces in Lahore
This beautifully designed coworking space is located on a quiet street in Gulberg, right next to the Gloria Jean’s Coffee Shop that I mentioned above. The space offers unlimited tea or coffee and is a bit expensive for budget travelers like myself, but worth it if you’re looking for a pristine work environment. A desk here costs about $10 USD per day and a nicely discounted ~$100 USD per month. I also found it great that this company has a “per day” option as some other spaces require a month commitment. Daftarkhwan is available from 9AM-6PM with the regular packages, but also has “nocturnal” options as well. There are three locations in Lahore: One, Central and Vogue.
Kickstart is another popular and well-known coworking space that digital nomads in Lahore should know about. Aside from unlimited tea/coffee and free high-speed WiFi, this location also comes complete with a fitness studio which you might find appealing. At the 62-C2 office, there’s also a terrace which is perfect for work breaks. The “Hot Desk” is the best option here for $81/month, which gives you 24 hour access Monday-Friday.
Colabs is a coworking space in Lahore that features a modern design and flexible membership options. A day pass costs 1500 PKR ($9.36 USD) while a month costs about 15,000 PKR ($100 USD). The space also has private offices available for rent for around 20,000 PKR (~$125). Like the other coworking spaces in the city, coffee, tea and WiFi are free and unlimited.
How to find long-term rent in Lahore
The best way to find a long-term place to stay in Lahore is AirBnB. While there might not be as many rentals as other cities, more are added all the time and there are some fabulous options available. Long-term rentals (one or more months) are extremely cheap: $200-$300 a month is a good budget for a nice apartment in one of Lahore’s more upscale neighborhoods.
If AirBnB isn’t your thing, you can rent the traditional way as well. Zameen is a great resource for finding a flat, and it allows you to easily browse by neighborhood. More upscale neighborhoods where other expats tend to live include Gulberg, DHA, Cavalry Ground, Modeltown, and Bahria Town. Keep in mind that as a foreigner, you will not be allowed to stay or enter anywhere within the “Cantt” as it is under the control of the military.
I highly recommend that female travelers should utilize the Facebook group Female Pakistan Travelers for housing needs. Many of the group’s members are Pakistan women who will be happy to help you in your search if all else fails! Other active Facebook groups that can be useful are Rent A Property in Lahore and See You In Pakistan.
If you just arrived in Lahore with no plans, contacts, or prior research, below are some of the best accommodation options just to ease you in. You can stay here short-term first and then when you are more comfortable in going around Lahore, then decide to rent long-term. Chat with locals!
2-bedroom luxury apartment for $48 USD per night
Yep, you read that right! Your $50 USD will go far in Lahore! This apartment is massive and has lots of common areas for you to enjoy and work in. It’s also has a fully-equipped kitchen, internet, airconditioning, hot tub, and many more. Plus, is super close to the city center.
Lahore hotels from $35 USD per night
If you fancy hotels, Lahore hotel accommodations are super affordable. The luxurious one like Indigo Heights is only at $65 per night for 2 people, breakfast included! The best way to find great hotel deals like this is via Booking.com. They also offer a pay at the property option so if you change your booking, you will not be charged anything! Also, try Agoda as it is more widely used in Asia.