Lake Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan
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Lake Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan

© Creative Commons / Carl Montgomery

Afghanistan Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

652,225 sq km (251,773 sq miles).

Population

31.1 million (2013).

Population density

48 per sq km.

Capital

Kabul.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Ashraf Ghani since 2014.

Head of government

President Ashraf Ghani since 2014.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Supplies may be seriously affected and powercuts frequent.

Once an essential part of the hippy trail, friendly, beautiful Afghanistan has sadly been destroyed by years of war and neglect. Home to plentiful countryside and the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range, travellers came for the clear mountain air and to see attractions like the giant Buddha statues of Bamiyan. However, the statues and many other monuments were destroyed under the catastrophic reign of the Taliban, a party of Islamic militants.

After 9/11, Afghanistan was accused of harbouring Osama Bin Laden and faced a heavy bombardment from the US which destroyed much of the country's infrastructure. With thousands of peace-keeping troops still occupying Kabul and pockets of fighting continuing in the south, it seems it will be some time before Afghanistan is restored to its former glory. Travellers are strongly advised against all travel to Afghanistan, as the threat from terrorist or criminal violence is extremely high. There is also widespread danger from mines throughout the country.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 18 April 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Local travel

If you are travelling around Afghanistan, particularly outside Kabul, you should seek professional security advice and continually reassess your personal security. The British Embassy in Kabul operates under strict security protocols and staff receive regular security briefings to enable them to carry out their work in as safe an environment as possible.

Only travel with reputable local guides and to fully protected workplaces. Take the utmost care and vary your routines. If possible maintain radio or telephone communications to report your movements. Avoid any protests, demonstrations or large gatherings.

Northern Afghanistan

There have been a number of attacks against aid workers and military vehicles resulting in deaths and injuries, and there are ongoing military operations throughout the north. The FCO advice against all travel to Badakhshan includes travel to or climbing and trekking within the Wakhan Corridor. This is due to the significant security risks in the region and the Wakhan Corridor’s geographical isolation.

Eastern Afghanistan

The eastern region has been extremely volatile for some time, with almost daily suicide and roadside bomb attacks, shootings and rocket attacks. The region close to the Pakistani border is extremely dangerous with a high number of insurgents operating freely.

There are regular, large military operations in this region. There have been numerous daily attacks against the Security Forces and US-led coalition forces. There are also daily incidents of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), suicide and rocket attacks, and direct fire attacks on security forces patrols, checkpoints and bases as well as on the local population.

Southern Afghanistan

The southern region is unpredictable and extremely volatile. There are regular military operations throughout the region and there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents ranging from shootings and roadside bombs to suicide bombings that have targeted civilians and the military. Suicide and roadside bomb attacks in Helmand, Kandahar and Nimroz continue.

There has been a series of attacks on the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat road in Zabul, Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz (and Farah) provinces and in Uruzgan province. Nimroz has seen an increasing number of suicide attacks.

Western Afghanistan

There have been roadside bombs, suicide attacks, rocket attacks and criminal kidnappings throughout the western provinces and increased lawlessness in Western Ghor. There is little security infrastructure in Dai Kundi and westerners have been kidnapped there.

Road travel

Road travel is highly dangerous. Insurgents have set up false vehicle checkpoints from which violent attacks have been launched. In addition to the threat from terrorism and kidnapping, there is also a continuing criminal threat from car-jacking and robbery.

If you travel by road you should only travel in secure transport with close protection, using reputable local drivers and guides. Make sure doors are locked and windows closed. In many areas you should consider the use of armoured vehicles. Most road surfaces are in a very poor condition. The overall standard of driving is poor and most local drivers are uninsured. Accidents may lead to confrontation and threatening behaviour.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

There have been a number of serious attacks on both western and Afghan NGOs and vehicles belonging to them, in which people have been killed or injured. Most attacks continue to occur in the east and south of Afghanistan with a recent increase in activity in the central areas. The International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO) www.ngosafety.org issues regular security updates for NGOs.

There have been two recent reports of sexual assault against females from EU countries working for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Kabul.

Air travel

All airlines from Afghanistan have been refused permission to operate services to the EU because Afghanistan is unable to ensure that its airlines meet international safety standards.

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network. We can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

You should avoid flying with airlines subject to the EU operating ban. FCO staff are advised to use carriers which are not subject to the EU operating ban.

Transiting UAE

Flying to Dubai and then transferring is the most common route into Afghanistan. It is illegal to transit the United Arab Emirates carrying unlicensed personal protection equipment. This includes, but is not limited to, body armour (including ballistic vests), weapon holsters and handcuffs. Other specialist technical equipment such as satellite phones, listening and recording devices, powerful cameras and binoculars, while freely available in the UK, may also require licenses. Persons found carrying any such items without a license may be subject to conviction resulting in imprisonment and substantial monetary fines in accordance with Emirati law.

Crime

Crime is a serious concern, particularly in rural areas. Foreigners have been the victims of violent attacks, including armed robbery and rape.  Don’t display any obvious signs of wealth, or carry large sums of money. Don’t travel alone, especially on foot. Take particular care after dark.

Political situation

Afghanistan is undergoing a major transition in terms of politics, economy and security. Avoid large public gatherings and follow the local media for information on the security situation. It is difficult to categorise the country as a whole due to its diverse geography, ethnic, tribal and religious differences, and the ongoing insurgency. Large parts of the east, south east and south of the country are affected by conflict. Other areas have seen steady improvements in security, but are still prone to terrorist attacks and a high crime rate.

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