Your Guide to Moving to Islamabad

Islamabad at a glance:

  • Islamabad is the capital city of Pakistan, chosen by a commission in 1959 after Karachi was found unsuitable as the capital. 
  • It is the ninth-largest city in Pakistan, while the larger Islamabad–Rawalpindi metropolitan area is the country’s fourth-largest
  • It is a compact city (area 25 square miles [65 square km]), lying at elevations ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 feet (450 to 600 metres). It is home to the Secretariat, Pakistan House, President’s House, National Assembly Building and Grand National Mosque (Faisal Mosque). 
  • Pakistan welcomed around 2 million tourists into the country in 2018, many of whom visited Islamabad for its cosmopolitan vibe and urban-countryside lifestyle.

Moving to Islamabad: The basics

What’s the population of Islamabad?

The population of Islamabad is 1,014,825 according to the 2017 census. The expat community of the city is estimated to be just under 400,000. Most of these migrants (just under a quarter of a million) are believed to be from the Punjab. Almost 80,000 are from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, just over 75,000 from Sindh, 25,000 from Azad Kashmir, and more than 20,000 from other countries. Other expats hail from Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan. Islamabad is a very youthful city, and the majority of the population is between 15 and 64 years old – almost 60%. Less than 3% of the population is over 65. Islamabad’s labor force has been estimated at around 185,000. The unemployment rate is over 15%.

What’s the cost of living in Islamabad?

The Islamabad cost of living ranks in the higher few when compared to the national average. Whilst having only 0.8% of the country’s population, it contributes 1% to the country’s GDP. Ranked in the top 77% in the list of best places to live in the world and 1st best city to live in Pakistan through several sources. 

To give you an idea of the real estate situation, plot prices in Islamabad have risen from Rs. 1,130/ Sq. Ft. to Rs. 3,756/Sq. Ft., over the period February 2011-2 November 2019, making it a 232% increase.

You’ll also see the lower cost of living reflected in goods and services, like groceries. When strolling down the supermarket aisle, expect to pay Rs51 for a loaf of bread, Rs76 for a litre of milk, and Rs84 for a carton of eggs.

The average monthly salary in Islamabad is Rs 76,400 (Pkr).

But to get a true gauge of the cost of living in Islamabad, compare it to other Pakistani cities. Here’s how it stacks up:

CityCost Of Living (Compared To The National Average)Average Yearly SalaryFamily Of Four Estimated Monthly Costs W/O Rent
Islamabad9% AboveRs 1,340,956 (Pkr) Rs 182,800 (Pkr)
Lahore5% AboveRs 1,184,612 (Pkr) Rs 176,400 (Pkr)
Karachi6% AboveRs 1,250,758 (Pkr) Rs 177,950 (Pkr)

How’s the Islamabad job market?

The labour force of Islamabad is 185,213 and the unemployment rate is 15.70%. Islamabad’s unemployment rate has risen along with the rest of the country due to the economic impact of COVID-19. The youth unemployment rate is quite high as compared to the average national unemployment rate. The highest overall unemployment rate (11.56pc) is prevalent among the age group of 20-24 years.

What do I need to know about education in Islamabad?

Islamabad is a city of literate people; it has a literacy rate of 87% which makes it the highest amongst all the other cities of Pakistan. A large number of public and private sector educational institutes are present here. 

There are a number of options to choose from. They include the prestigious International School of Islamabad. The coeducational, college-preparatory day school is set over 23 acres of land on Islamabad’s outskirts. Other options include Froebel’s International School, which is also popular with Pakistani nationals and adheres to the International Primary Curriculum from Early Years to A levels. A similar institution is Islamabad’s Roots International School, which teaches pupils with a view to taking British education system exams.

In addition to school systems, there are plenty of undergraduate and postgraduate options with 10 medical colleges & 5 dental colleges, 22 engineering universities and 20+ general category universities in the city.

How safe is it to live in Islamabad?

They say that once you start living in Islamabad, you do not have to worry about your safety and security as it is considered to be the safest city in Pakistan because of its high-end security system. There are over 1500 surveillance cameras installed across the city. The rate of theft and robbery is also very low as compared to other cities of Pakistan. 

As Islamabad is the seat of government in Pakistan, the city by default is a focal point of excellent security and law and order facilities. The capital’s physical size (around 906 sq km) makes it easier to monitor and regulate safety for citizens and tourists alike.The city is continuously monitored by surveillance cameras and the police force. Moreover, according to ‘The News’, Islamabad is the safest city in the country. With the presence of military headquarters in such close proximity to the city, you can go out at any time of the day without feeling unsafe. There is also hardly any need to think twice before venturing out for a midnight stroll or driving on even the quietest roads.

DHA and Bahria Enclave are some housing societies that we believe have taken sufficient measures to optimise safety for their residents.

How do I get around Islamabad?

A good transportation facility is essential for everyone, especially for the people who have to go to educational institutes and offices daily. Luckily, Islamabad is blessed with good transport facilities. You can travel by metro bus service that has stations at almost all public spots including hospitals, markets, and universities. You can also avail the services of ride-hailing apps like Careem and Uber. Moreover, ezBike is a convenient, and sustainable way to move through the city; Through the app you can have access to electric bikes throughout the city.

What’s the weather like in Islamabad?

Islamabad features an atypical version of a humid subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers accompanied by a monsoon season followed by cool winters.

Seasons   Avg. HighAvg. Low
Winter (Oct-Mar) 16.6 oC3.4 oC
Summer (Apr-Sept) 34.2 oC24.4 oC
Year Average 28.5 oC14.1 oC

What are Islamabad’s well known housing societies?

Bahria Town Islamabad

  • Being one of the few residential projects that generate their own power. As such, the housing community has its own grid stations, supplying uninterrupted electricity 24/7. Do you know what that means? No power-cuts! 
  • Bahria Town offers a safe and secure neighbourhood to its residents, ensuring that they enjoy a relaxed lifestyle. All entry and exit points, along with areas of strategic importance within the community, are monitored via wireless cameras. What’s more, well-trained security personnel patrol the area from time to time, keeping an eye on the safety of the residents.
  • Facilities in Bahria Town Islamabad also include a range of entertainment options for adults, kids, as well as families. Every sector boasts a dedicated park and a playground. Cricket grounds, basketball courts, tennis courts, golf course, restaurants serving delicious cuisines, and ice cream parlours can also be found at short distances.

DHA Islamabad

  • DHA utilises the latest technology of Fiber Optic (HFC) and Fiber Nodes to amplify the Cable experience of its residents, providing a 24-hour customer service with a complete Genset backup for Digital HD, Internet and Telephone services.
  • Spread over 20 acres, Jacaranda Family Club offers the residents of DHA an array of hospitality amenities and services. These include restaurants, banquet halls, guest rooms, gym, pool and squash facilities, Cineplex and a bowling alley. 
  • Avicenna Medical Centre is located in Phase One where emergency surgical and medical first aid is provided round the clock to employees and local residents. Lectures/Awareness programs are planned here as well. 
  • Sports and recreation have become indispensable when it comes to living a disciplined and healthy lifestyle. There is a Sports Complex in Sector E DHA for residents to enjoy outdoor sports and a Playground in Phase 2 DHA that makes for an ideal playtime for kids.

Gulberg Greens Islamabad

  • It’s modern city infrastructure includes an underground electricity distribution network, sewerage treatment plants, underground water supply network and overhead water storage facilities, water filtration lands and underground telecommunication networks.
  • Gulberg Greens offers its residents a range of civic and recreational facilities to enhance their quality of living. These include an auditorium, public library, amusement park, restaurants, hotels and resorts, theatre and Cinepax. 
  • The sports and cultural complex in Gulberg Greens has the means to facilitate all popular outdoor sports. A golf club is also available for the residents, along with jogging tracks, walkways and a gymnasium. 
  • Gulberg Islamabad, being a fully walled and gated society, provides its residents the best security system. A security staff of hundreds of professionals are dedicated to provide security within the society. The entire society is monitored 24/7 by security cameras, security mobiles and high alert security staff.

Living in Islamabad: The fun part

For the sports fan

Islamabad has a multi-purpose Sports Complex opposite Aabpara. The complex includes Liaquat Gymnasium for indoor games, Mushaf Squash Complex and Jinnah Stadium for outdoor games, which is a venue for regular national and international events. Islamabad has very talented and skilled players; people here follow international football teams religiously. 

For the culture seeker

For culture lovers, the city boasts of some important museums and cultural venues, such as the Lok Virsa Museum and the Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage in Shakarparian Park. From boasting life-size displays of extinct animals to promoting exhibits preserving our cultural heritage, these museums are not just popular among students and researchers but are also considered some of the major tourist attractions in Islamabad.

Moreover, there are theatre plays and concerts that take place at the Pakistan National Council of Arts which pull a large cross section of society towards them. There are literature festivals and handicraft festivals in Islamabad which keep the small population of the city entertained and engaged.

For the foodie

Islamabad is a city that does not exactly spring up from a province like Lahore does from Punjab, Karachi from Sindh or Peshawar from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It does not represent a provincial majority – and that’s the beauty of it because it truly represents the federation of Pakistan. Assimilating flavours from all over Pakistan, Islamabad prides itself in offering some of the best dishes for you to indulge in. 

For the traveler

The new Islamabad Airport is equipped with state of the art facilities, making it a major hub for domestic and international destinations. From Islamabad, you can drive a few hours in almost any direction and be in a different city and geographical region. Running 375 kilometres through the forested greenery of Punjab, the M2 Islamabad-Lahore Motorway was the first-ever motorway constructed in South Asia. If you are planning to travel to Pakistan, there is a likely chance that you will be passing through Islamabad, the city is a stopping point for tourists who desire to proceed to the Northern Areas of the country for trekking, hiking, adventure sports and mountaineering.

For the outdoor explorer

Due to its breathtaking natural beauty and stunning tourist attractions, the capital city of Pakistan has become the perfect spot for thrill seekers who crave the adrenaline rush that comes with hiking with friends or zip lining through the trees. From paragliding to scuba diving and from cave exploration to adventure camping, there is a long list of fun things you can do in Islamabad. Moreover, Margalla Hills has several spots for rock climbers to test out their skills. A few cliffs have actually been developed to accommodate the sport. The hiking trails are designed to take you through the best spots during your hike, including small springs and scenic viewing points.

What you probably didn’t know about Islamabad…

  • Despite being founded as a city a mere 56 years ago, Islamabad is actually one of the earliest known human settlements in Asia and boasts some of the earliest stone age artefacts in the world, dating back more than 500,000 years!
  • Since the city has been growing into a major business and commerce centre, it has attracted a large highly skilled workforce from other major cities including Karachi, Lahore and Quetta.
  • All of the country’s diplomatic ties are maintained and exercised from Islamabad, as all major embassies, consulates and missions are operating from the city, as is the Foreign Office.
  • Islamabad is also home to the Faisal Mosque, the world’s fourth-largest mosque and the biggest religious building of its type in South Asia.
  • The languages spoken in Islamabad include English, Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Balochi and Pahari.
  • The residents of Islamabad are often referred to as “Islamabadis”.
  • For someone who has driven in Islamabad all their life, traffic in Multan, Lahore, Karachi or for that matter anywhere else in the country is just unbearable. 

The bottom line

This guide is meant as a jumping-off point, but it only scratches the surface in uncovering the scope of what Islamabad has to offer. For more in-depth information and news about the city, be sure to check out local sources such as DAWN – Islamabad, Tribune – Islamabad, and The Nation – Islamabad. Islamabad is a fairly large city, but it’s the kind of place that rewards exploration. If you decide on living in Islamabad, Assalamu alaikum, and welcome!

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