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Afghanistan travel guide

About Afghanistan

An essential stop on the hippie trail in the 1960s, beautiful Afghanistan has been devastated by years of war. Renowned for its epic countryside and rugged mountains, travellers came to interact with local communities, breathe clear mountain air and explore ancient sites such as the giant Buddha statues of Bamiyan. They were happy times.

Sadly, those days are gone. The Taliban destroyed most of the country’s monuments, while the US and its allies ruined what was left of Afghanistan’s creaking infrastructure. With thousands of peacekeeping troops still operating in the country and pockets of fighting continuing, it will be some time before Afghanistan is restored to its former glory.

Consequently, travellers are advised against visiting Afghanistan. Nevertheless, some adventurous tour companies are offering trips to the country, and there have been reports in some quarters of increased bookings and interest. Afghan authorities put tourist numbers at less than 20,000, though they claim it is slowly increasing.

Tending to take in the historic but war-ravaged city of Kabul, mountain villages, ancient fortifications and some surviving Buddhist sites, tours are generally conducted in small groups and tend to be expensive.

Guides make the point that for many ordinary Afghans, life has continued much the same as it has for centuries. Indeed of the few travellers that do make it to the country, they tell of the surprising normality of Kabul, with little signs of the instability reported by international media. The country also remains a fascinating melting pot of ethnic and tribal groups.

Despite hopes that tourism could return to this historic country, almost every area of Afghanistan remains dangerous as insurgents continue to threaten the fragile democracy. If you do decide to travel to Afghanistan, personal security is recommended, as is a reputable tour company and full travel insurance. Always check foreign office advice before travelling.

Key facts


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


33,369,945 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

49.9 per sq km.





Head of government:

Head of government: Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, since September 2021.

Travel Advice

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). 

FCDO advises against all travel to Afghanistan

You should not travel to Afghanistan. The security situation is volatile. Travel throughout Afghanistan is extremely dangerous and border crossings may not be open.  

There is a heightened risk of British nationals being detained in Afghanistan. If you are a British national and you are detained in Afghanistan, you could face months or years of imprisonment. FCDO’s ability to help you is extremely limited and support in person is not possible in Afghanistan.

For more details about the risks in Afghanistan, see Safety and security.

UK government support

Support for British nationals is severely limited in Afghanistan. There is no British Embassy in Afghanistan and we cannot give help in person in Afghanistan. If you are detained, the British government may not be informed.

FCDO cannot offer advice on the safety of travelling to any departure point within Afghanistan.

If you are a British national in Afghanistan and need help from the UK government, you can:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel against FCDO advice, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency. 

About FCDO travel advice

FCDO provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

You can sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK who choose to travel against FCDO advice. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Afghanistan set and enforce entry rules. The services provided to British nationals by the Afghan Embassy in the UK may not be valid in Afghanistan. The authorities in Afghanistan may not accept visas provided by the embassy.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Afghanistan.

The British government may not be informed if the Taliban change COVID-19 rules.

Passport validity requirements

If you decide to travel to Afghanistan against FCDO advice, check with your travel provider whether your passport and other travel documents meet requirements.

Vaccine requirements

On your departure, the Afghan authorities may ask for a certificate to prove you’ve had a polio vaccine.

For full details about medical entry and departure requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Afghanistan guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Afghanistan. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Taking money into Afghanistan

It is illegal to bring any foreign currency into Afghanistan.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.   

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.   

Terrorism in Afghanistan

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.

On 17 May 2024, foreign national tourists were reportedly shot dead and others wounded in a market in Bamiyan in Central Afghanistan.

Al-Qaida (AQ), a Daesh branch known as Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) and other militant groups have an active presence in Afghanistan. These groups hold strong anti-western views, which could make any British interest or person a target. Daesh (ISKP) continues to be a serious threat and is fiercely hostile to the UK, other western countries and some religious minority communities. Daesh (ISKP) and other groups also target NGOs and humanitarian organisations.

If you choose to travel to or stay in Afghanistan against FCDO advice, be aware that terrorists have a strong desire to target public places frequented by foreign nationals. This could include restaurants and hotels used by foreigners, such as the Serena in Kabul.

An attack on Kabul International Airport in August 2021 killed at least 183 people. Further attacks against aviation and airports are very likely.

ISKP have claimed responsibility for attacks in many types of location, including:

  • hospitals
  • schools
  • places of worship
  • government, military and security establishments

Diplomatic premises may be attacked to undermine Taliban claims of security.

It is likely that terrorists will conduct attacks at busy times of day, potentially coinciding with local or religious events or celebrations. In the past this has included attacks against:

  • schools
  • marketplaces
  • sites, communities and districts where the majority population is Shia Muslim

Attacks in Afghanistan include roadside and suicide bombs either on foot or by vehicle, indirect rocket and mortar fire, direct fire, including shootings and rocket propelled grenades.

If you are in Afghanistan, make sure your accommodation is secure and review your security measures regularly. Keep others, including family and friends, informed of your travel plans. Any regular patterns of travel and behaviour could make you the target of an attack.

Terrorist kidnap

There is a very high threat of being kidnapped in Afghanistan.       

British nationals are seen as legitimate targets, including tourists, humanitarian aid workers, journalists and business travellers. If you are kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to protect you or secure your safe release.

The long-standing policy of the British government policy is to not make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Tour operators in Afghanistan   

There are tour operators that offer travel and guided tours to Afghanistan. FCDO continues to advise against all travel to Afghanistan, even if you are part of an organised tour group. On 17 May, three Spanish tourists were killed in a terrorist attack while on a guided tour in Bamiyan, Central Afghanistan.  

The risks of detention, kidnap and other security threats to British nationals remain high.

Political situation

Afghanistan is under Taliban control. 

The Taliban has a very low tolerance for demonstrations and for activities perceived as dissent. Foreign nationals’ activities are viewed with suspicion. Do not do anything which could be interpreted as seeking to achieve political change through violence, or any activity inciting violence.

You may come under suspicion if you go near sensitive sites or contact people who are of interest to the authorities for any reason.

The British government will have very limited ability to help you if you get into difficulty in Afghanistan. If you are a British national already resident in Afghanistan, you should carefully consider the risk to your safety.

The political situation remains uncertain and could change rapidly. Keep up to date with developments about the security situation and monitor local media.

Do not rely on previous experience of travelling in Afghanistan or previous understanding of rules, laws and society. British nationals with previous experience of operating in Afghanistan have been detained in the country since August 2021.


The current conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories has led to protests in Afghanistan. Avoid demonstrations as they may turn violent and you may be arrested.  

Detention and possible charges

There is a significant risk the Taliban could detain British nationals.

The Taliban are suspicious of foreign nationals working or travelling in Afghanistan, including humanitarian workers and journalists, and it’s likely your work and movements will be closely monitored.

If you are detained in Afghanistan, you could face months or years in prison without clarity about the charges.

The Taliban are likely to suspect you of spying and may detain you if you are found in possession of:

  • weapons or explosives
  • tracking devices
  • large amounts of money
  • items considered unusual

The risk of detention is especially high if you have worked in the military or have connections to previously detained British nationals.

If you are found guilty of spying or working to undermine Afghanistan’s national security, the punishment may be execution.

UK government support for detainees

The British government may not be notified if you are detained. There are considerable challenges in setting up contact or access. FCDO’s ability to get any information from the authorities could be severely limited, and you may not be able to contact your next of kin.


There is a risk of violent street crime and home invasion including armed robbery in Afghan cities. Make sure your accommodation is secure and review your security measures regularly.

Criminal Kidnaps

There is a significant risk of kidnapping of foreign nationals for ransom.

Potential targets for kidnap include British tourists, British nationals working for international organisations, and British nationals of Afghan origin visiting friends and relatives.

Criminal groups will target anyone perceived to have money for extortion purposes. Victims can be targeted or selected at random. Criminal groups may kidnap victims by stopping cars on busy roads or targeting people who are withdrawing money from banks and ATMs. Kidnap victims are held while criminals empty their bank accounts using their cash cards. Recent incidents include a British dual national being kidnapped at gunpoint and a British national kidnapped while withdrawing money from a bank.

Laws and cultural differences

There are no formal internationally recognised structures or processes of law in Afghanistan and foreign nationals, including British nationals, have been detained without due process.

Afghanistan is an Islamic country. The country’s laws and customs are very different to those in the UK. It is illegal to try to convert Muslims to other faiths.

Laws on dress

The Taliban have set codes of dress for men and women and strictly enforce them.  

Women, including foreign nationals, must fully cover themselves in public. A woman must wear:

  • loose-fitting clothing to conceal her body, arms and legs
  • a headscarf to cover her hair
  • a veil to cover her face

Men must dress modestly and avoid wearing clothing such as sleeveless shirts or shorts.

Lack of women’s rights

The Taliban have made it illegal for women to travel for more than 75km (46 miles) without being accompanied by their husband, father or brother (a ‘mahram’). This could affect a woman’s ability to leave Afghanistan.  


Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The dates vary by year and country.

During this time, do not:

  • eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public in the daytime, including in a vehicle
  • play loud music or dance
  • swear in public

Illegal food, drugs and alcohol    

You are not allowed to use or bring into the country narcotics, alcohol or pork products. If you do, you could be arrested.

Using cameras in secure areas

It may not be immediately clear whether taking photos could cause offence or suspicion. Avoid photographing local people without their agreement and pay close attention to local information and ways of doing things. Photographing certain buildings in Afghanistan is not allowed and may lead to detention, including:

  • government buildings
  • military installations
  • palaces
  • Taliban checkpoints

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal under the Taliban and has historically always been forbidden in Afghanistan.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Buying antiquities

Do not buy or try to export antiquities without getting a receipt from an authorised dealer. When you leave Afghanistan the authorities may ask for proof you bought the item. If you do not have a receipt, they could detain you, and you may get a fine or prison sentence.


If you travel to Afghanistan against FCDO advice, you are likely to encounter problems with money. It is illegal to bring any foreign currency into Afghanistan, but you may not be able to use foreign-issued bank cards at ATMs and local banks.

Some ATMs and many banks accept foreign-issued bank cards, with restrictions on the amount of cash you can withdraw. Check with local branches.

Some international money transfer services continue to operate in Afghanistan. However, payouts will be in local currency, even when the payee has requested foreign exchange.

Transport risks

Road travel

Road travel is highly dangerous. FCDO advises against all travel around Afghanistan.

The situation at Afghanistan’s border crossings remains volatile. A number of borders remain closed and if opened, can close at short notice. There have been clashes between Afghan and neighbouring forces at some border crossings. 

Air travel

Kabul International Airport does not meet international aviation safety standards.  

The UK Air Safety List (ASL) lists all known airlines in Afghanistan that do not meet international safety standards and are banned from operating commercial air services to and from the UK. Check the UK Air Safety List when considering which airlines to fly with. The list is maintained by the Department for Transport, based on advice from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.


Afghanistan is in an active earthquake zone. Consider signing up to the US Geological Survey global monitoring agency. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Floods and avalanches

Heavy rain and winter snowfall can cause significant floods, particularly outside the capital. Heavy snowfall often causes avalanches in the mountains during the winter and spring. Afghanistan lacks emergency response infrastructure, so be prepared for any situation.

Only very limited medical facilities are available in Afghanistan. There is no guarantee local health practitioners will be available.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have valid and appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical treatment

There is no public ambulance service in Afghanistan, including Kabul. If you need urgent attention, speak directly with a local medical practitioner and use local transport to get to hospital when safe to do so. Ambulances sent by hospitals may require payment or evidence of insurance before they treat you.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in Afghanistan, including:

  • diarrhoeal diseases and other gastrointestinal infections
  • measles and other viral infections
  • respiratory tuberculosis
  • malaria

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Afghanistan. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. There are serious shortages of some medicines in Afghanistan.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Afghanistan

Telephone: 119 (police)

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do. 

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO 

There is no British Embassy in Afghanistan and our ability to provide help to British nationals is severely limited and cannot be delivered in person.

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

For information about applying for a British passport, or to check on your passport application, see overseas British passport applications or call the Passport Adviceline.

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Afghanistan and you need emergency help from the UK government, see Support for British and non-British nationals in Afghanistan.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

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