Wagah Border Parade : Times Tickets And How To Visit

Created by Colleen Sims | Updated : 4 January 2024 |

Our Journey to the Wagah Border began in the vibrant city of Amritsar. 

I had seen footage of the Wagah Border Ceremony many years earlier, watching Michael Palin’s travels through the Himalayan countries and I knew that if we ever visited Amritsar then this unique ceremony would be a must.

Nothing could have prepared us for this joyous spectacle. Although, you must prepare to ensure you sail through the security checks and take your seats in time.

Indian Soldiers performing ceremonial marches at the Wagah Border parade and Beating Retreat Ceremony

Wagah Border : Beating The Retreat Ceremony

I had no idea what to expect, I remember that there had been tensions at the border over the years and honestly wasn’t sure that it would be safe to visit the Wagah Border.  However, what we learned was :

  • Yes it is currently safe
  • It’s a must see ceremony for anyone visiting the Punjab regions in Pakistan or India
  • It’s easy to visit from Amritsar

Read on and we’ll share with you what we learned and help you work this trip into your Amritsar Itinerary because it’s a unique experience that you will not wish to miss. 

high kicks from the border force soldiers of Pakistan and India during the Wagah Border ceremony

Where Is The Attari-Wagah Border?

The Attari-Wagah Border is a land border crossing between India and Pakistan, located near the towns of Attari on the Indian side and Wagah on the Pakistani side.

The crossing is 30 kilometres from the Golden Temple and the centre of Amritsar and 27 kilometres from Lahore. It is the only road border crossing between the two nations. 

Known as the Radcliffe Line, the border was decided by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British lawyer, in 1947. It was an arbitrary line that divided the Punjab province and the Indian subcontinent into two independent nations; India and Pakistan.

The actual Attari-Wagah Border wasn’t created until 1948, after India and Pakistan separated and gained independence. When we visited the Partition Museum in Amritsar there was a display which suggested that two soldiers arrived at the designated border and determined where the actual line would exist.  They drew a line in the earth and marked it with two oil barrels (which apparently still exist, although we didn’t see them).

Colleen and Gerry at the Wagah Border Ceremony, in the Stadium on the India Side of the Wagah Border

What Is The Wagah Border Parade?

The Attari-Wagah Border Parade is a must-see spectacle if you are visiting near either Amritsar in India or Lahore in Pakistan.

Relations between the two countries are oft times tense but the daily Beating the Retreat ceremony has been in practice by the army since 1959 and has grown to symbolise the complex but nonetheless important relationship between the two countries.

The Wagah Border Parade is a daily military ceremony with colourful and energetic displays of patriotism and national pride and offers a fabulous opportunity to witness both the unique camaraderie and rivalry between these two neighbouring nations.

As the sun sets over the border, an elaborate display of power much like peacocks displaying their feathers, the ceremony includes much singing, children waving national flags, women dancing to patriotic songs, soldiers marching and spectators cheering with calls of Jai Hind (long live India) and Vande Mataram (praise you motherland).

You’ll witness much posturing, fast paced walks and high kicks.  It’s like nothing we’d ever seen, sometimes a little camp, other times akin to John Cleese and his ministry of silly walks.  However, don’t be fooled. This ceremony is far from silly.

Behind the show, the soldiers are specially trained and they treat their role with absolute seriousness.  Their movements are highly choreographed for maximum effect and precision.  This is not a pantomime, regardless of the atmosphere, the soldiers themselves take great pride in their performance.  The Attari-Wagah Border Ceremony has huge cultural significance on both sides of the border and an energy that defines this patriotic spectacle.

Girls and Women dancing to popular songs before the Beating Retreat Ceremony starts at the Wagah Border

Attari-Wagah Border Ceremony Times

The Wagah Border ceremony is a daily military exercise that the Border Security Forces of both India (Border Security Force) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have followed since 1959.

Whilst you can visit Wagah Border daily between 10:00am and 16:00pm, the Beating Retreat Ceremony takes place just before sunset.  The times of the Border Ceremony change depending on the season :

  • 4:15 PM in Winter
  • 5:15 PM in Summer

Your hotel or tour guide will tell you the timing of the ceremony and what time you need to arrive to ensure you get your seat.  During peak season it’s very busy and you will need to arrive early, so do make allowances for this in your schedule.

How To Get To The Wagah Border From Amritsar?

We visited the Wagah Border from Amritsar, we’ve been told that there are tours and taxis offering similar transport options on the Pakistan side of the border but we can’t personally confirm this.

There are several transport options for visiting the Wagah Border, depending on your budget.  We initially booked a tour but our hotel offered us a driver and the cost was 1500 Rps.

The Attari-Wagah border is just 30 kilometres from Amritsar but with city traffic the journey can take a while.  Your driver will know the best time to leave the city, so make sure you follow his advice and arrive at the pick-up point on time.

Amritsar To Wagah Border Bus

There is a hop-on hop-off bus that you can take from the centre of Amritsar.  It’s a very affordable option and the bus also can take you to other destinations within the city.  But the bus does get very crowded and a seat isn’t guaranteed.  If you wish to use this option then make sure you arrive early to grab your place.

Amritsar To Wagah Border Taxi

As you walk around Amritsar there are many many taxis and tuk-tuks offering rides to the airport and the Border.  Personally we found them expensive and I would suggest that you ask your hotel for their recommended taxi.

You can use UBER but you will want to be sure that your driver is waiting for you at the end of the ceremony.  For this reason we recommend either an organised tour or a taxi booked through your hotel.  The cost for a one-way taxi should be around 750 RPS.

This journey is hugely popular so taxis are very used to making this journey; probably every day.

Amritsar To Attari-Wagah Train

Whilst there has historically been a train running between India and Pakistan, the Samjhauta Express was suspended in 2019 following increased tensions and security concerns at the border.

Today the closest train station is Amritsar. 

Amritsar To Wagah Border Tuk-Tuk

It is possible to book a tuk tuk to take you to the border and this is a great option if your budget is tight; especially if you can share with others.  You will need to allow plenty of time to reach the border and make plans to ensure a driver is waiting or available for you when the ceremony is over. 

A tuk-tuk will cost around 400 RPS for a one way trip. 

tuk tuk outside the partition museum in amritsar

Wagah Border Ceremony Guided Tours

Before leaving home we booked this tour to the Attari-Wagah Border.  I knew that the Border Ceremony was a must-see attraction for us, I’d read that these tours sell very quickly and I wanted to be absolutely sure that we had a driver booked.

The cost for this tour is very reasonable and you have the advantage of arriving with a driver who acts as your guide.  They will walk you through the security area and lead you to the entrance where foreign nationals can enter without queueing.  The driver/guide makes the entire process so easy that I do recommend this option.

As a bonus you also get to visit Khalsa College and the original Attari Village. And you’ll be collected and returned to your hotel in the same vehicle so you can safely leave bags in the car.

★★★★★

Wagah Border Tour with Guide

  • Hotel pick-up with door to door service
  • Includes visit to Khalsa College and Attari Village
  • Guided through security and to your seats

Best Time To Visit The Wagah Border?

There is no best time to visit to the Attari-Wagah Border.  The flags are lowered every day but of course, sometimes the ceremony is busier than others and sometimes the weather will be a factor.

We visited in November and the weather was just about perfect.  Not to hot and not too cold.  Winter starts around November and lasts until March,  The temperature is comfortable throughout the day and cooler in the evenings.

The Punjab is hot in the summer and the stadium is quite exposed so if you go in warmer days make sure you take sun hats and sunscreen (and plenty of water).  The rainy season is July and August and as umbrellas will not be allowed in the stadium, we recommend taking a waterproof coat or poncho.

plan your two day amritsar itinerary to ensure you make the most of the best weather using this weather chart

Do You Need Tickets For The Wagah Border Parade?

You do not need tickets; it’s first come first serve and no seats are allocated. However, foreign visitors are given the VIP treatment and you skip the queue and are escorted to a special area closer the border gates. 

I recommend that within this VIP area, if possible, you choose to sit further away from the border gates. You’ll get a better view of both sides of the border, although there is a big screen to ensures you don’t miss the action.

How Much Does The Wagah Border Ceremony Cost?

The entrance is free.  You pay for the guide or transport only.

There are opportunities to buy Indian flags, hats, snacks and drinks before you enter the stadium.  We bought a small flag and it was great to be able to wave along with everyone else.

India Flag on a cap.  These are available for sale at the Wagah Border Ceremony

Security For The Wagah Border Parade

When we visited it was safe.  It felt safe.  However there have been times when this is not the case.  There has been a terrorist attack and security is always taken very seriously. 

In 2014, 60 people were killed and another 110 injured in a suicide attack on the Pakistan side of border.  In 2016, following military confrontation between the two nations, whilst the border closing ceremony continued, members of the public where not allowed to attend. 

Following the terrorist attack security was increased and you should expect strict screening before you are allowed to enter the area.

Is It Safe To Visit The Wagah Border In India?

This is a question that can only be answered at the time of your visit. But for us, we felt very safe.  Indeed, safety was not a concern at all.  It felt like a carnival. 

The Attari Wagah Border parade is a huge tourist attraction and on the Indian side there is a 25,000 seat stadium.   If there is any doubt on security, your hotel or guide will know in advance.  But safety concerns are extremely rare and safety was not an issue for us when we visited.

However, I do suggest that you keep an eye on your belongings as pick-pockets are not unheard of.

School children join in the parade at the Wagah Border Ceremony

What To Take To The Wagah Border Ceremony 

No Bags

Bags are not allowed.  Security is taken very seriously and you cannot enter with a bag.  Instead, carry a few personal items in your pocket or your hands.  You will go through screening before you enter but we had sunscreen, water, passports, money, our phones and a camera.

Passports

You will need to show your passport at the security check-point and again as you enter the stadium.  Make sure you take them as you will not be allowed to enter without. Gerry kept ours in his money belt for security and ease of carrying.

Money

There are opportunities to buy inexpensive souvenirs and items like flags and hats.  There are also street food stalls, popcorn and soft drink stands.  We took water with us and we bought popcorn, and a flag, which came in handy during the celebrations.

If you wish to make any of purchases it will be much easier if you carry smaller notes, as no-one ever has change; indeed this is true throughout India!

Cameras and Smartphones

It is ok to take a camera and a phone. I took my camara and had no issues. 

There seemed to be no restriction on the photos that you could take, although at the very end of the show as we were leaving, one of the security staff moved me along saying ‘no photos’.  I can’t even remember what the photo was and I think he was more intent in moving us on, than the photo I was taking. 

It was also ok use your smartphone although don’t expect a phone signal as they are blocked at the border.

Pakistan Border Soldiers during the Beating Retreat Border Ceremony at Wagah

Prohibited Items : What NOT To Take To The Wagah Border Ceremony

Security at the border is taken very seriously.  You will go through a security check-point before you are allowed into the stadium and your passport will be checked.  There are some items that are never permitted and they will be taken from you or you will be turned away if you are carrying them.

  • Bags : Bags are not allowed and are restricted to help make crowd movement more manageable and for security concerns.  Take what you need in your hand.  We carried a camera, phone, a bottle of water and sunscreen.  Leave your bag in the car or in your hotel.
  • Alcohol, Cigarettes, Drugs, Matches or Lighters : None of these items are allowed and the consumption of alcohol is prohibited.
  • Knives, Scissors or any Sharp Object : It goes without saying that these are not allowed.  In the unlikely event that you’d have something like this in your pocket be aware that you’ll lose it or be turned away. 
  • Power Bank/Charging Wires/Electrical Items :  It’s generally a good idea to leave all electronic gadgets behind; they may be picked up during the security checks and not allowed.  Smartphones and a Camera is ok but nothing more.
  • Outside Food and Drinks: We took water and you can buy food within the complex.  We were advised to take nothing else. 
  • Cameras with Large Lenses :  For security reasons  professional-grade lenses may be prohibited, along with tripods.  This is partly for security and partly to assist with crowd control and safety.  I had a small zoom lens on my camera; it was visible at all times (around my neck) and I had no issues.   
  • Fireworks or Firecrackers : The use of fireworks or firecrackers is not allowed.
  • Flags or Banners :  I have read that flags may be restricted although we did buy an India flag once inside the security area.  It has been suggested that large flags could obstruct viewing of others which is why they are not allowed, but I suspect it is also to prevent any unwanted or inappropriate messages during this joyous parade.
  • Laser Pointers : For obvious reasons these are not allowed and will be confiscated.
  • Drones :  The use of drones or other aerial devices is prohibited for both security and safety concerns.
  • Political or Controversial Materials :  The Border Ceremony reflects both the tensions and the Camaraderie between Pakistan and India.  For obvious reasons, political or controversial materials will be prohibited.  
  • Large objects : Items such as umbrellas, sticks, or other large objects which could cause a disturbance maybe prohibited. If you need a walking stick this would be acceptable but taking an umbrella may not be.
  • Hazardous materials : Any items considered hazardous, such as explosives, flammable substances, or sharp objects, are strictly prohibited.

This may seems like a large list but security and safety is at the forefront of the authorities concerns; it should be seen as a positive move that safety is taken so seriously.

My advice would be keep things simple.  Take your phone or camera.  Take some water and sunscreen.  Take a hat if it’s very sunny, a coat if it’s chilly.  We had no issues going through security and if you stick with the rules you’ll be fine too.

Pakistan side of the Attari Wagah Border during the Wagah Border Ceremony

How Do You Find Your Seats At The Wagah Border?

There are no allocated seats.  Once we passed through security our driver walked us to the main entrance; he didn’t go in with us but we didn’t need him at this stage.  We showed our passports again and we were directed to the VIP area.  We’re not VIPs but all foreign visitors are directed to a separate seating area. 

Don’t worry.  The stadium is large but you’ll be directed to the place you need to be.  Inside the stadium there are soldiers and security staff directing; it is impossible to go to the wrong area. 

Once at the VIP area you will be directed to your seats.  It is hard to get this wrong as there are so many folks there to assist.

Top Tip : Once in the VIP area, choose a seat furthest away from the border gates.  You may not have a choice (we didn’t) and in reality it doesn’t make a huge difference but if you can choose, don’t opt to be right beside the border.  Sitting further away makes it easier to see what happens on the Pakistan side of the border.  However, don’t worry, there are huge screens around the stadium, so you won’t miss anything.

The Wagah Border Stadium is huge, with flags flying at the entrance and the entrance topped with a gold dome

What To Expect At The Wagah Border Ceremony

I wasn’t sure how much to include here; I don’t wish to spoil the surprise.  So instead, here are a few things you should expect :

  • Expect crowds and expect to arrive early and wait in your seat. 
  • Don’t expect to pick up a mobile phone signal.
  • Expect food and drinks to be available within the complex and expect Indian memorabilia like small flags and hats for sale.
  • Expect music, ceremonial uniforms, and much dancing. 
  • Expect an opportunity for ladies to join the throng and go sing and dance with the crowd. 
  • Expect a Master of Ceremony, who will encourage cheers and singing and shouts.
  • Expect elaborate dance-like manoeuvres with high kicks, patriotic music and cheering crowds with  considerable pomp on both sides of the border.
  • Expect a joyful camaraderie and festive atmosphere with considerable national pride and flag waving!
  • Expect to be asked to remain seated. If you’re standing you’ll be asked you to sit down.
  • Expect a huge crowd as you leave. Make sure you arrange in advance where you will meet your driver. 

It’s no secret that we absolutely loved this event.  It was such a surprise.  I had some idea of what to expect but Gerry had none.  It was joyous and fun and should be a must for anyone visiting the area.

Soldiers make extravagant moves and almost perform a new zealand haka at the border

How Long Does The Wagah Border Ceremony Last?

We left our hotel in Amritsar at 3pm sharp and we returned around 7:30pm.  In summer the sunset is later and the crowds are bigger so you should expect timings to adjust to reflect this.

The actual parade lasts for around 45 minutes, but the singing starts much earlier and the entire show lasts for well over an hour. 

After The Wagah Border Parade Finishes

When the parade is over, and flags have been lowered and borders closed, people will rapidly start to leave their seats.  The solders and security staff do an excellent job of keeping people moving little by little, without causing a rush.  Follow their lead.

When we visited in November, I would guess the stadium was only 70% full but it is often 100% full with folks being turned away. There is a slow and steady stream of people leaving the stadium and the exit is very orderly. 

We agreed a spot with our driver and he was there waiting.  Do make sure that you are very clear where you’ll meet as there aren’t too many defining features on the walk back to the car park.

We bought popcorn and a drink on the way back to the car.  Just as with the exit from the stadium, the car exit was also well managed although there was some inevitable waiting.

We arrived back in Amritsar at around 7:30pm in time for dinner. (We even had time to return to the Golden Temple to watch the Book Closing Ceremony).

Pakistani and Indian flags lowered at the Wagah Border at Sunset

The History And Significance of the Wagah Border Parade And Spectacular Ceremony

The Attari-Wagah Border is an historic demarcation that witnessed heart-wrenching events during the partition in 1947.  Its story is deeply intertwined with the tumultuous partition of India in 1947 and the enduring political complexities between these two nations.  Whilst today, this border is known for is dazzling Wagah Border Ceremony, its history is much darker.

The arbitrary drawing of borders led to mass migrations and it is estimated that 18 million people were displaced. Attari and Wagah, two neighbouring villages on either side of the line, became separated into different conflicting nations when the Punjab was split in two. 

In five short weeks citizens had to move to or from their homes to their new countries; Muslims to Pakistan and Hindu and Sikh communities to India. There was appalling and widespread violence with over a million people losing their lives. Wagah, once a sleepy village, became a symbol of the painful division that left an indelible mark on this subcontinent.

The Attari-Wagah Border is more than a geographic boundary.  It serves as a poignant reminder of the shared history and conflict between the people of both nations and also carries a message of peace and reconciliation.

There has always been a lowering of the flags ceremony at the border.  We were told that it was once a simple lowering of flags at sunset, much like any military barracks around the world.  Over time, people came and sat on the grassy banks around the border and watched; the crowds and the ceremony grew.

Now, and almost every day since 1959, the Beating Retreat Ceremony has been performed and grown into the elaborate display we can see today.

Given the history of this border, the ceremony is a symbolic gesture of two nations’ need for a peaceful coexistence.   Tensions often run high and there have been times when the ceremony has been suspended.  Flags may still be lowered at sunset, without the pomp and the public are not allowed to watch.

Despite the underlying tensions, the Wagah Border Ceremony offers a chance to witness the unique camaraderie among spectators from on both sides along with their military. Cheers, applause, and good-natured banter creates a wonderful lively atmosphere.

Pakistani and Indian Soldiers shake hands at the Wagah Border Ceremony

Fun Fact : The flagpoles on the border are amongst the tallest in the world.  The Indian flagpole in Attari is currently 18 feet taller than its Pakistan counterpart in neighbouring Wagah. While the Pakistani flagpole reaches a height of 400 feet, the Indian flagpole is 418 feet in height.  My guess is that the Pakistan Flagpole will soon be made taller to match its ‘twin’ on the Indian side of the border.

Our Tips For Visiting The Wagah Border

I hope my enthusiasm for this event shines through.  Despite the serious political nature of the border between India and Pakistan, this ceremony is wonderful and at all times we felt safe.  If you are visiting the Punjab then I thoroughly recommend a visit.  And if you’re in Amritsar then it’s so easy to work this into your itinerary.

Our top tips for visiting the Wagah Border Ceremony include :

  • Book a taxi or a tour in advance; it’s not expensive and the extra hand-holding from the guide is worth it
  • Arrive at least 1 hour before the ceremony to get a good seat although foreign visitors are given their own VIP area.
  • Carry your passport.
  • Do not bring a bag and keep what you carry to bare essentials, camera or phone, sunscreen and water.
  • Be respectful of the soldiers and the national flags and people of both countries.
  • Join in the fun; dance and sing and just relax and watch the event unfold.

Discover More About Amritsar And India

If you’re visiting Amritsar or India and you’ve found this useful then you may be interested to read my other posts :

Road sign at the Wagah Border : 30 Kilometres to Amritsar

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel, you should have a great travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve ended up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland! Every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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Colleen in Salamanca on the Via de la Plata

Hey I’m Colleen. I’m married to Gerry, we’ve three fabulous kids and been living in France for almost two decades. I fell in love with Spain in the 1980s and I’ve walked 1000s of miles along the Camino de Santiago. Now we’re exploring and walking the world and I can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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