Attari Wagah border retreat ceremony

Attari-Wagah Border Retreat Ceremony: A Visitor’s Guide

With the spirit of the nation soaring high and the cries of patriotism ringing in the air, the Attari Wagah Beating Retreat Ceremony is a moving event. The marching and flag ceremony by the army personnel is conducted every evening. A daily military practice, the marching ceremony at the Attari- Wagah Border has been followed by the security forces of India (Border Security Force, BSF) and Pakistan Rangers jointly since 1959.

With stamping and gesturing taking us back to the time of warriors, they perform the ritual of the Beating Retreat Ceremony, lowering the flag on their respective sides of the border and closing the gates.

This blog elaborates on the ceremony events, the spots for the best views, and other vital information.

Attari-Wagah Border Retreat Ceremony

What Is Attari-Wagah?

Indian Gallery or stadium at Attari-Wagah border, Punjab
Indian Gallery or stadium at Attari-Wagah border

A village about 600 m from the border in Pakistan is Wahgah or Wagah. Attari is the village closest to the Indian side of the border. The Wagah-Attari Border is named after the two places on either side of the international border. It is located 24 Km from Lahore and 32 Km from Amritsar.

How To Reach The Wagah Border?

Electric-Rickshaws

About 10 people can squeeze into the electrical auto-rikshaws, despite its 4-5 occupancy to commute to the Wagah border from Amritsar.

Shared Taxis

On the road, next to Jallian Walla Bagh Memorial and Golden Temple, agencies and brokers sell tickets for shared taxis at a fixed price. It is better to pay beforehand to confirm the spot since we are not sure how reliable they are. However, locals choose to pay INR 150 to 200 for a round trip.

Be sure to note the driver’s name, contact details, the car numbers, and the pick-up drop points. Also, confirm the timings previously.  

Hop On Hop Off Bus (HOHO Bus)

Run by a private company, Hop On Hop Off bus tours are organized for the Wagah border at INR 350 per person for a round trip. You can choose your seats based on your preference for the lower or upper deck. With singular pick-up and drop-off points, these air-conditioned buses operate daily. The buses can be booked online, or you can go to the pickup point of the Maharaja Ranjith Singh statue near the Golden Temple to book them offline. 

Public Buses

Public buses commute daily from Amritsar to Attari, 3 Km from the border. From there, you can hop on a pedal autorickshaw or electric rickshaw to reach the Attari-Wagah Border to see the retreat ceremony.

Private Vehicles

Private cars and buses are allowed inside the premises. A free large parking space is available near the border. Vehicle numbers are noted down, and checking is done for all the vehicles upon entry. People are not allowed to enter the premises on foot due to security reasons. 

About 2 Km before the venue, you will find lorry drivers redirecting you to park your vehicles on the side of the road, which is unsafe. We advise that you park your vehicle in the parking lot inside the premises. 

Timings

The ceremony commences precisely at 5 PM during the summer or 4 PM in winter, aligning with the sunset on all days. It lasts for about 45 minutes on the whole. The entry opens up at 3 PM during summer and 2 PM during the winter. An Indian Army coordinator engages the visitors for an hour before the ceremony. Visitors are not allowed to watch the border ceremony sometimes when the relations between the two countries are cold.

Ticket Booking

Booking tickets to watch the Attari-Wagah border retreat ceremony is not mandatory. You can walk in directly, although there is a provision to book your tickets online (for both Indians and foreigners). Your personal details, such as mobile number, email address, and official ID card details (PAN card, voter ID, passport, or Aadhar card), must be shared. 

Cost

Anybody can watch the ceremony free of cost. This is inclusive of both Indian and foreign nationals.

Seating Arrangements

Attari-Wagah border aerial view from India

The seating depends on a first-come, first-served basis, even if you hold an online ticket. Although the seat numbers are mentioned in the stone benches in the viewing deck for the public, it is not strictly followed. It can hold about 20,000 – 25,000 visitors. Foreign tourists are given first preference for the seats in the VIP deck.

Unlike the stone benches, the VIP deck (free) has separate chairs for everyone. There are two floors from where the ceremony can be seen. Once the lower deck is full, the upper deck is open to let people in. Two large TV screens are placed on either side for the visitors to get close-up shots of the events.

Where To Sit For Best Views?

Most of the action happens close to the India-Pakistan Gate. So, try to occupy the seats close to the VIP deck for the best views. People come in early to occupy the best seats. The second best view can be seen from the upper deck, straight to the gate. The biggest advantage of being seated here is that you can see what happens on either side of the border of India and Pakistan.

Be there at least a couple of hours early, especially during weekends and public holidays, because it takes at least 40 minutes to 1 hour from the parking to the main gate to pass all the security checks, sightsee the planes, click pictures, and grab some snacks and souvenirs, etc.

Photography

Photography is allowed. You can bring your camera and take pictures and videos. We are not sure about the tripods being allowed, though.

Significant Spots In The Premises

India gate at LOC Punjab
  • Handshake Statue
  • National Emblem Statue Circle
  • I Love India photo corner
  • The 418 feet tricolored Indian Flag, the largest in India
  • The airplane and war tanks
  • BSF Museum Attari
    • Entry fee: INR 10 per person

Locals at the parking gate offer to paint the Indian flag on your cheeks or on hand to express patriotism for INR 20 on each side.

Shops & Restaurants

Shahi Quila restaurant

Shahi Qila is the first and last restaurant close to the Attari-Wagah Border. It is a Punjabi fine-dining vegetarian restaurant with a kid’s zone and live music on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The food served here is good for the price.

Many small vendors sell snacks in front of Shahi Qila. You can find them before and after the retreat ceremony. You can also find portable shops near the first line of defense building and at the parking lot selling bottled water, popcorn, sweet corn, soda, ground nuts, and other quick bites.

Eatables are allowed inside the stadium, but make sure to dispose of the waste in the dustbins kept around.

A fixed price is set for the souvenirs and food sold at the premises. The prices are as follows.

Disposable mask – INR 10
Cloth mask – INR 20
Small flag – INR 20
Medium flag – INR 50
Big flag – INR 100
Tricolor Cap – INR 50
Bisleri water bottle – INR 20
Popcorn – INR 20
Chips – INR 30
Juice bottle – INR 40

You can find the souvenir shop close to the BSF Museum. It is run by the BSF Wife Welfare Association (BWWA), and all the profits will be contributed to the wives of the late border security officials.

Important Things To Note

  • Mobile services are unavailable close to the border and at the stadium.
  • Carry light. Huge bags are not allowed. Locker facilities are available for INR 100.
  • You are under surveillance at all times.
  • Have an ID card with you. You should cooperate when asked by the officials to display the ID card.
  • Bring at least 1 L of water per person as you will be inside the stadium for a good 2 hours, especially if you reach early.
  • Take care of your valuables like mobile phones, purses, etc.
  • Weapons, alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, power banks, chargers, wire, and sharp items like knives are strictly prohibited. All visitors must go through the security check, and the bags are also checked thoroughly before entering the stadium.

Our Personal Experience

We arrived around 4 PM and got ourselves a seat among the school kids. The stadium was jam-packed since we went during the weekend. The “josh” was super high, and the patriotic shout of the Indians was heard loud, with high energy and great excitement. 

women and children dancing at the border retreat ceremony

To delight the assembled audience, women and children were invited to sway the national flag and dance to patriotic tunes. The slogans of “Hindustan Zindabad” (long live the land of Hindus), “Vande Mataram” (I praise thee, the motherland of India), and “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” filled the stadium.

India's first line of defence at Attari-Wagah border

The ceremony started at 5 PM with the soldiers marching forward, clad in their uniforms and assembling in the stadium’s center.

Indian BSF and Pakistan Rangers in action

Firstly, two women march towards the Wagah border gate and halt, raising their feet high up to their heads, followed by 10 soldiers who march forth in pairs. It was a show of national pride, power, friendship, and unity.

Attari Wagah border - bringing the flags down

The gates of both nations were opened, flags brought down in unison, followed by the gated closure. The flag at the top of the stadium was also brought down during this time. The soldiers dispersed once the gates were closed, followed by the crowds. Few people at the VIP desk got a chance to take pictures with the border security force. 

We had goosebumps. It was a really good experience watching the retreat ceremony with the full crowd and energy. While visiting North India, do not miss this experience. 

Official BSF Social Handles

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Similar Ceremonies

The retreat ceremonies also happen every day at the Hussainiwala Indo-Pak border and the JCP Sadqi Indo-Pak border in Punjab.

Crossing The International Border

While Indians and Pakistanis are strictly not allowed to cross the Attari-Wagah border, foreign nationals can cross it. Alex Reynolds (aka lostwithpurpose) has crossed the border multiple times and has written a guide on the same.

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