Lunar like landscapes, Afghanistan
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Lunar like landscapes, Afghanistan

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Afghanistan Travel Guide

Key Facts
Official state name

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (declared by the Taliban)

Area

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

Population

33,369,945 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

49.9 per sq km.

Capital

Kabul.

Government

Emirate.

Head of government

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

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Supplies may be seriously affected and powercuts frequent. European-style plugs with two round pins are most commonly used.

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.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

If you plan to travel, check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Afghanistan on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel and travel in Afghanistan

See the Safety and security section for information on air and road travel.

Returning to the UK

Travelling from and returning to the UK

Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.

Be prepared for your plans to change.

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice.

Healthcare in Afghanistan

Healthcare in Afghanistan is very limited.There are areas which have no medical facilities with ICU beds and ventilators.

If you choose to travel to or stay in Afghanistan against FCDO advice, you should 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 after travelling to the country since August 2021.

There is a heightened risk of British nationals being detained in Afghanistan. If you’re a British national and you are detained in Afghanistan, the FCDO’s ability to provide consular support is extremely limited. The FCDO’s ability to secure information from the authorities could also be severely limited and communications with next of kin may not be guaranteed.

There are no formal rule of law structures or processes in place in Afghanistan, and foreign nationals have been detained without due process. Detention can be lengthy, damaging to health and welfare, and of uncertain outcome. You should avoid any activity which could be interpreted as seeking to achieve political change through violence, or any activity inciting violence. Photographing Taliban buildings or military installations is not allowed and may lead to detention. Pay close attention to local information and ways of doing things.

Human trafficking is illegal. Under the UK Bribery Act 2010 it is an offence to offer, promise or give bribes anywhere in the world.

You should monitor media reporting and make sure you have robust contingency plans in place. Be vigilant at all times, keep others informed including family and friends of your travel plans and consider your necessary routes in advance.

Political situation

Afghanistan is now under Taliban control.

People have been detained for involvement in demonstrations and for activities perceived as dissent. Foreigners’ activities are often viewed with suspicion. You should not do anything which could be interpreted as seeking to achieve political change through violence, or any activity inciting violence.

The political situation remains uncertain and could change rapidly. Keep up to date with developments in the security situation, including through monitoring local media.

Road travel

Road travel is highly dangerous.

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

We advise against all travel to and around Afghanistan.

Air travel

Commercial flight operations have restarted at a small number of airports in Afghanistan. We advise UK nationals travelling overseas to take account of any safety notices published by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) when considering whether to use an air carrier.

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

Al Qaida (AQ), Daesh 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 Khorasan Province (ISKP) continues to be a serious threat and is fiercely hostile to the UK, other western countries and some religious minority communities. Daesh and other groups also target NGOs and humanitarian organisations.

If you choose to travel to Afghanistan against FCDO advice, you should be aware terrorists have a strong desire to target public places frequented by foreigners. An attack on Kabul International Airport on 26 August 2021 killed at least 183 people. Further attacks against aviation and/or airports are very likely. In trying to target foreigners, restaurants and hotels (such as the Serena in Kabul) could be targeted.

ISKP have claimed attacks against the Taliban in a variety of locations such as hospitals, military and security establishments. Historically, government ministries (official buildings and agencies such as passport offices) have been targeted. Diplomatic premises may be attacked to undermine Taliban claims of security.

It is likely that terrorists will continue with their tactic of planning attacks at busy and congested times of day, potentially coinciding with local or religious festivals. In the past this has included attacks against schools, market places, religious minorities - including targeting Shia sites, communities and districts.

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) as well as kidnappings and violent crime. Further attacks are very likely.

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. You are strongly encouraged to avoid setting regular patterns of travel and behaviour making yourself the target of an attack.

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 more about the global threat from terrorism.

Kidnap

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

British nationals are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid and some other development work, journalism or business sectors are viewed as legitimate targets. NGO workers have been kidnapped near their places of work. The International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO) issues regular security updates for NGOs. If you are kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

Over 100 westerners were kidnapped in Afghanistan since 2001; a number of them have been British nationals. Some foreign nationals remain in captivity.

The motivation and desire to undertake kidnapping in Afghanistan is likely to continue. If you chose to go to Afghanistan against FCDO advice, you should take the utmost care, vary routines and avoid setting regular patterns of movement. You should take professional security advice.

The long-standing policy of the UK government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The UK 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.

There are no formal rule of law structures or processes in place in Afghanistan, and foreign nationals, including British nationals, have been detained without due process – see Safety and Security section above. Afghanistan is an Islamic country and you should respect local traditions, customs, and religions at all times. Be particularly careful during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. See our guidance on travelling during Ramadan.

The Taliban have decreed codes of behaviour and dress for both men and women and these codes can be strictly enforced including for dual nationals. In public places women are expected to be fully covered, including their faces. Their bodies, arms and legs must be concealed by loose clothing, their hair covered with a headscarf and a veil must cover their face. Men are expected to dress modestly and should remain sensitive to Islamic culture. This includes not wearing clothing items such as sleeveless shirts or shorts.

The Taliban have also decreed that women are not permitted to move around Afghanistan or travel without being accompanied by a mahram, (a husband, father or brother). This could also affect a dual national woman’s ability to depart from Afghanistan unless escorted by a mahram.

Homosexuality is strictly prohibited under the Taliban and has historically always been illegal in Afghanistan. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel. It is forbidden to seek to convert Muslims to other faiths.

You are not allowed to use, or bring into the country narcotics, alcohol or pork products.

Photographing government or Taliban buildings, military installations and palaces is not allowed and may lead to detention. Avoid photographing local people without their agreement.

You should not buy or export historical antiquities without a receipt from an authorised supplier or dealer. When you leave Afghanistan you may be asked for proof that you bought the item. If you do not have a receipt, you could be detained and you may face a fine or prison sentence.

This page has information on travelling to Afghanistan. Check what you must do to return to the UK.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Afghanistan set and enforce entry rules.

All travellers

The FCDO advises against all travel to Afghanistan. All travellers are strongly advised to check current entry requirements with their travel operator, airline or their local Afghani diplomatic mission before embarking on a visit.

COVID-19 entry requirements may change at short notice. The most recent advice from the IATA COVID-19 Information hub describes that all COVID-19 entry requirements for Afghanistan were lifted on 10 May 2022. Again, travellers to Afghanistan are strongly advised to check with any travel operator or airline on requirements.

Proof of vaccination status

Many airlines require proof of vaccination to allow passengers to board and you are advised to check the requirements of your operator in advance.

If you’re transiting through the United Arab Emirates

Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination. Transiting through the United Arab Emirates is normally permitted for travellers who subject to their requirements such as vaccination status.

Further information about transiting through the United Arab Emirate can be found on the Travel Advice pages for the UAE.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

If you are visiting Afghanistan, we advise that your passport should be valid for six months from the date you arrive. Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Returning to the UK

Check what you must do to return to the UK.

Other health risks

Diarrhoeal diseases and other gastrointestinal infections are common causes of ill health, becoming worse in the hotter months. Outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea, measles and other viral infections regularly occur around the year.

The dry dusty conditions in summer and winter can cause irritation to the eyes, throat, nose and skin.

Respiratory tuberculosis is common in the Afghan population.

Malaria is present except in the high mountainous regions of the country and in winter.

Local medical care

We advise against all travel to Afghanistan. Only very limited medical facilities are available in Afghanistan and there is no guarantee that any local health care will be available.

At present there is no public ambulance service offered in Kabul or the rest of the country. If you are in need of urgent attention you are advised to speak directly with a local medical practitioner and consider alternative transport options to hospital where safe to do so. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment. Ambulance services may request payment or evidence of insurance before providing assistance.

There was a severe earthquake of magnitude 5.9 in the Gyan district and surrounding areas of Paktika in the early hours local time, 22 June. If you are a British national in the area you should follow the instructions of the local authorities.  The UK Government is unable to provide any consular assistance from within Afghanistan

Afghanistan is in an active earthquake zone. You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake. Read more information about your risks in the event of an earthquake, especially around buildings, from the International Rescue Corps. Consider signing up to the US Geological Survey (USGS) 24/7 global monitoring agency. USGS provide a newsfeed or @USGSted twitter feed that distributes alerts for earthquakes with magnitudes over 5.5 or of significant impact.

During heavy rains and winter periods, significant flooding can occur, particularly outside the capital. During winter and spring, heavy snowfall often leads to avalanches in mountainous regions. Afghanistan lacks the infrastructure to respond comprehensively to these events so you should be prepared for every eventuality.

On 2 November 2021, there was an announcement banning the use of foreign currency in Afghanistan. This stated that payments need to be settled in the Afghan currency (the Afghani – AFN).

There are frequent shortages of local currency. Credit cards are not widely accepted for payment. You should check with the supplier before goods and services are received.

Some ATMs and many banks continue to function, with restrictions on the levels of cash withdrawals. Customers should check with local branches. Some ATMs will accept foreign issued bank cards.

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

Banks are closed on Fridays and queues at other times may be lengthy, with infrequent opening hours.

For information on financial support you can access while abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

The Embassy has suspended in-country services and in-person consular services are not available in Afghanistan. If you need assistance, you should call +44 1908 516 666 (or 01908 516 666 in the UK) and select the option “Consular services for British nationals”.

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

We advise against all travel to Afghanistan.

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change travel arrangements that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or cannot offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel travel arrangements, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

If you are a British national still in Afghanistan, you are strongly encouraged to register your presence with the FCDO using this form. If you register, you will receive important updates on available consular services.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you cannot find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you need assistance, you should call +44 1908 516 666 (or 01908 516 666 in the UK) and select the option “Consular services for British nationals”.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.