Getting to see the Wagah Border Ceremony

Travel Journal Overview: No one seemed that excited about the Wagah border when I mentioned it. Few actually knew what it was. For me I knew a little of the history between Pakistan and India. And, I think more than anything else for an overland traveler it is one of the greatest spectacles on earth when it comes to borders. At least for me. Check out the video link at the bottom of the page.

Waving a Pakistani flag at the Wagah border ceremony in Pakistan
The Wagah Border Ceremony in Pakistan

Wagha Border Ceremony in Pakistan / India

Needing to get to infamous Wagah Border Ceremony that afternoon I took the fastest of looks at the Badshahi mosque in the morning and was blown away by its awesome size and beauty. I needed to extend by a day.

How to get to the Wagah Border Ceremony?

At the hotel the Serb’s had changed their mind about going to the Wagah border ceremony as did a new comer German youngster. There went my idea of taking a shared taxi!  Malik, the hostel owner had told be it would only cost 25 rupees to take a local bus. I cringed at the idea.

First I would have to take another rickshaw across the city = 60 rupees. Then battle endless questions on where on how to find the actual bus to Wagah. And, the same for the way back. The whole thing would end up costing 200-300 rupee plus a lot of time. Instead I headed to a taxi rank and one of the guys who had been bugging me for a ride since I had arrived in Lahore. It would cost me 700 for a drive there and back plus 2 hours waiting time. I weighed up the options and I took it.

Arriving at the Wagah border to see the ceremony

Segregated seating at the Wagah Border Ceremony
Segregated seating at the Wagah Border Ceremony

I arrived at the border about 30 minutes before the daily ceremony was about to begin. This is where each evening both Pakistani and Indian sides gear up for a ceremonial border extravaganza with full military and civilian honors for the ‘lowering of the flags’.

I looked at the long green and white border gate ahead, in full few from football like stadium seats a little back on either side and exclusive VIP seats just in front. I was motioned to the VIP section, but managed to take a little detour up into the stadium section. I was lucky I took the one on the right as they were segregated on this side of the border. So turning left would have led me to the “women only” section!

Witnessing the great atmosphere at the ceremony

Almost immediately a selection of speakers boomed on some generic Pakistani pop music, and the small crowed that gathered erupted into cheers. Already I could feel this was something very special in the world. I have crossed many many overland borders, and this was for sure the most unique.

Lowering of the Pakistani and Indian Flags
Lowering of the Pakistani and Indian Flags

From my vantage point I could see clearly the small gathering at the Pakistani side of the border, and the bus loads of Indians getting off on the other side of the double gates. Below a man dressed in a Pakistani flag t-shirt began waving a his flag on a pole then came running over to the grassy area below us.

Pakistan and India for head to head at the Wagah Border ceremony
Pakistan and India for head to head at the Wagah Border ceremony

He began to shout up encouragement to our small crowd. They responded with passion.

Cheers of ‘Pakistan’ and ‘Allah is great, Pakistan is great’ rose up and with friendly fists and smiles directed at their Indian counterparts.

Pakistani Passion at the Wagah Border
Pakistani Passion at the Wagah Border

What happens at the Wagah Border Ceremony?

Officers in full dress uniform came marching down, as late comers flocked into the VIP seats. Soldiers kicked their legs high in the air as if in a slapstick comedy. Spurred on by shouts from the crowd. Chants and cheers rose up as selected people ran towards the border gates waving the Pakistani flag. On the other side the Indian’s cheered on their own ceremony but were drowned out by the passion of the Pakistani crowd.

The flag ceremony commenced and we watched on as flag bearers lowered the two flags at the same time before exchanging the most brief of handshakes and salutes. The gates were slammed shut, and the music was turned up.

The Pakistani Flag gets taken home, at the Wagah Border Ceremony
The Pakistani Flag gets taken home, at the Wagah Border Ceremony

The Wagah Border is the best overland border in the world!

This was all purely theatrical and more.  The once and sometimes still warring nations, basically try to out do each others performances. And, it was fantastic. The noise. the pompous over acting, the passion from the crowd all made it quite a skeptical. Both sides trying to out do each other. I might be a little bias, but it did seem the Pakistani soldiers kicked their legs higher into the air.

Video of : The Wagah Border Ceremony

Wagah Border ceremony information
(Pakistan side):

You can see the ceremony from either the Pakistani side or Indian side so long as you’ve already officially crossed the border on the respective side.

  • A taxi from Lahore to the border costs between 700-800 rupees
  • The border crossing  is closed at about 16.00
  • The ‘lowering of the flags’ ceremony starts at approx 16.15 (Pakistan) everyday
  • Getting there early is a good idea to avoid the crowds and get a good seat (generally it’s not that difficult for foreigners to find seating)
  • There is no charge to attend the Wagah border ceremony
  • There is a special VIP section but you need a pass (ask at the Lahore tourist office for information – bot really needed for foreigners)
  • Foreign tourists have their own up front seating area where men and women can sit together (you’ll need to show your passport)
  • For everyone else there’s a seating area that wholes about 2000 people but it’s strictly segregated into women on the left and men on the right (same rules apply to tourists if you want to sit in this section)
  • Bringing bags (backpacks, day bags) is often restricted due to security. It’s best to come without. Handbags and camera bags are allowed but may be searched
  • The ceremony only takes about 15-20 minutes but the pomp and pageantry usually means it goes for up to 40 mins
  • Traffic leaving the ceremony can be heavy. It’s often best to just let the crowd go before getting in your taxi

Wagah Border ceremony information
(Indian side):

Much like the above although there is no segregation

  • A taxi from Amritsar to Wagah takes about 45 mins and costs approx 800-900 rupees
  • Do take note that India is 30 minutes a head of time than Pakistan. So 16.00 India time is 15.30 Pakistani time
  • There is no charge to attend the ceremony
  • Traffic is an issue on the Indian side so get there early!
  • The sun hits the Indian side more than the Pakistani side. There is no shelter in the stands so take sunscreen
  • No bags are allowed inside the ceremonial area for security reasons
  • Again traffic is heavy so you might want to hang back and let the crowds disperse before leaving

Security note: in November 2014 a suicide bomber detonated an explosion killing 55 people at the border. The border and ceremony are still open. There is now tighter security checks though. With both India and Pakistan vowing not to allow terrorism to break them.

Some related links from this website that  you might like: (including a lot more photographs and video from Pakistan)

Stories about: The Pakistani Truck Painters

Stories from: The Last Khyber Pass Journey

Pakistan Travel Guide

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