Wagah border: Straddling the line between Pakistan and India...
Wagah border: Straddling the line between Pakistan and India...

Wagah is a border town straddling the line between Pakistan and India, 29 km from the city of Lahore. This is the only crossing point between Pakistan and India that is regularly open to foreigners. Travelling from Lahore Station, one can take a taxi or bus. A minibus leaves from outside Lahore Railway Station every 15 minutes. The trip takes around half an hour. Most tourists can take a taxi through their hotels for a round trip, which includes the waiting time at Wagah.

If you're planning to cross the border, you should aim to get there as early as possible. The border is open every day from 08:30 to 14:30. Border formalities can take from 30 minutes to over two hours, and you will need to arrange a visa before you arrive. Regular buses or taxis are not allowed into the no-man's land between the countries, so unless you are on one of the few deluxe international buses, you will have to walk across the 500m between the border posts yourself. Porters are available to carry your belongings, if you want to hire one.

There is daily flag raising and lowering ceremony at Wagah Border, which is done with pomp and ceremony. It involves some of the tallest members of the Rangers marching and closing the gates. It has become a tradition for people from both sides of the border gather and see this. Both sides synchronise their parade and the entire event is meant to create a feel-good/patriotic fervour amongst the crowd. It is called the beating re-treat ceremony.

The flag lowering ceremony which happens around 16:15 every day has become the main event for tourists. In addition, there is now a short cultural programme also done by local folk dancers (Bhangra) for the waiting crowd before the flag lowering. The crowd consists of both tourists & locals. The noise and atmosphere of the assembled crowds on both sides of the border is similar to that of a sporting match and very entertaining.

The border gates have a visitor gallery on each side, basically concrete steps created around the border main road. This allows most people in the crowd to get a seat but it is not uncommon to see up to 500-1,000 people standing at the periphery. There are metal fences to help direct and control the crowds in and out of the seating areas. Ideally, one should reach the border gates by 15:30 to get seating if you're going on a busy day but there is no need to be there before on a normal day.

There is an official tourist centre, called 'Aman Umeed' at the entry gate. It is a nice clean facility with toilets etc. and has comfortable seating, although food options are very limited inside. However, there are 2-3 large local food stalls outside the gate opposite the tourist centre which serve food, offer packaged snacks and soft drinks. You can take these inside when you watch the ceremony. Water bottles are not allowed after the checking point of entry to Wagah border. So don't carry them from the car/coaches. If necessary, buy them at the stalls just near the gate.

Mobile phones, cameras and men's wallets are allowed. Do not bring any bags. Bags of all sizes are not allowed in and there are no cloak rooms. Cameras are OK, but leave the camera bag. Be prepared for minor traffic jams when the ceremony has finished as up to 200-300 vehicles try and exit around the same time.