Don’t be surprised to see a bright red bus on the streets of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. It’s there to take you around the few popular spots of the capital. So ride on, for a day-long sightseeing tour, starting at Flashman’s Hotel in Rawalpindi to Super Market in Islamabad and back.
An initiative of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), this ‘Islamabad Tour’ was launched on Jan 10, 2018. The objective of the service is to promote tourism; to invite local and foreign tourists to enjoy the culture and scenery of Islamabad.
But weeks after its launch, it still awaits a warm response from tourists. “The response so far has been lukewarm,” confirms Khalid Satti, a senior PTDC officialwho looks after the project. “We are hoping it’ll become a popular route for visitors very soon.”
One bus and one van, decorated in bright colours, take off from the head office of PTDC at Flashman’s Hotel in Rawalpindi at 9am every day. They reach the corporation’s Islamabad office at Super Market F-6 in an hour to pick more tourists. And, then, they embark on the sightseeing tour, stopping at Saidpur Village, Faisal Mosque, Shakar Parian, Lok Virsa, and Lake View Park near Rawal Dam. By late afternoon, the bus drops off tourists at Super Market and returns to Flashman’s Hotel.
At the moment, the PTDC has readied one long coach and three vans for sightseeing purpose. But these days they are running them on demand. Presently, given the slow response, it is running only one bus a day. The fare per person for the tour is Rs500 for students and Rs600 for tourists. The fare includes entry tickets for all the sites. The bus stops at every site from about 30-50 minutes, depending on the interest of tourists.
Satti informs the PTDC will soon replace these buses with double-decker buses to attract tourists. Presently, he adds, “the company is waiting for public response. It will hopefully be positive”.
PTDC plans to expand the list of sites to Rawalpindi’s Ayub National Park and historic museum of Taxila, especially for the weekend tours.
“It is a great service, particularly, for those coming from other cities. And it’s not expensive,” says Amna Khan, a local resident, while calculating the cost of fuel or taxi fare to visit these places.
“No doubt, there’s need for such a service in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. But, it must be efficient and of very high quality to effectively showcase a positive image of the country,” says Irfan Ali, a local tourist. He adds that the service should be of international standard and be equipped with internet facility to allow tourists to post pictures and spread the word around in real time. “The PTDC must make the route even more attractive.”
A double-decker sightseeing bus service is already operating in Lahore, a city known as the heart of Pakistan.