Afghanistan Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Afghanistan
Threat level: High
All but essential travel to Afghanistan is advised against, however the current travel safety advice is to be extremely cautious and vigilant especially if you are a western based visitor. Although some stabilisation has occurred in recent times, many of the bordering areas of Afghanistan with its neighbouring countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and Tajikistan are advised against. The threat of kidnap and violent acts is high in the region and as such travel only in official capacity with full security and local briefed knowledge is advised.
Recent Security Risk Events
On the 28th of November 2018, Tabilan gunmen detonated a car bomb outside the G4S compound in Kabul before entering the site, killing 10 people and injuring 35 others.
On the 21st March 2018, at least 26 people were killed in a suspected suicide bomb attack near a shrine in Kabul as hundreds of people were celebrating the start of Nowruz, the New Year Festival.
At around lunch-time on Saturday the 27th of January 2018 a suicide bomb exploded in the Afghan capital, Kabul. An explosives-packed ambulance detonated in a busy street near an interior ministry building, killing almost 100 and injuring more than 150 people; the third major terrorist attack in seven days. The Afgan Taliban have since claimed responsibility.
On the morning of the 24th of January 2018, the Save The Children office in Jalalabad was attacked by gunmen immediately following a car bomb outside the offices. Local Afghan security forces are said to be involved in a gun battle with the attackers. Reports so far are two people have been killed and 12 people are said to be injured in the attack. More to follow. No group has yet claimed responsibility, but given recent attacks it is likely to be the work of the Afgan Talaban.
On Saturday 20th of January 2018 at around 2100hrs the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul came under attack by 3-4 terrorists how started shooting at guests. According to local police sources, several people were taken hostage and 22 killed, including 14 foreign nationals. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin has since tweeted that six Ukrainians had been reported killed in the attack. It is thought that the death toll will rise.
Security services responded to the crisis while parts of the hotel were on fire. Explosions and gunfire were reported as Special Forces worked their way through the hotel clearing room by room, floor by floor. The Afgan Taliban have claimed responsibility, as they did for the 2011 attack on the same hotel.
The attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel came just days after US intelligence warned ofsucha an attack.
"We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul," the embassy wrote in a public security alert published Thursday, though it highlighted another hotel near the international airport as a possible target.
"These groups may also be targeting public gatherings/demonstrations, government facilities, transportation, markets, and places where foreigners are known to congregate."
On 31st May 2017 there was a massive truck bomb blast in the highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul during the rush hour, near to the German embassy and Afghan presidential palace. It is understood that the vehicle was a water tanker, containing more than 1,500 Kilogrammes of explosives.
At least 80 people have been killed, including a BBC driver and over 300 people are wounded with the casualties expected to rise.
Many vehicles were either destroyed or damaged and damage to buildngs hundreds of metres away, with doors and windows blown off their hinges.
There have been many recent attacks involving vehicle based explosions which have resulted in a large number of casualties and fatalities.
In September 2016 suicide bombings carried out by members of the Taliban killed nearly 50 people. This was a twin bombing plot that took place outside the Afghan defence ministry. The attacks then led to a siege of a charity building by members of the Taliban where they took multiple hostages.
Destinations where current travel advisories in place and are advised against are:
- Surobi, Paghman, Musayhi, Khak-e Jabbar
- Kabul especially Chahar Asyab Districts of Kabul
- Balkh, Kunduz, Badakhshan
- The Baghlan-e Jadid District of Baghlan
- Ghazni, Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Logar
- Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Wardak and Paktya
- Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul
- Badghis and Farah
- The Shindand and Gozarah Districts of Herat province
Please note the country is unstable and many regions can become unstable quickly without notice.
There is a strong anti-western presence within Afghanistan and there have been numerous attacks on visitors, this can be in the form of road side attacks, ambushes, targeted suicide bombs, violent crime resulting in kidnapping. If at all possible, seek professional security advice and consider close protection services for Afghanistan with a western based organisation and/or with the assistance of your country of origin governments’ advice.
The northern region is considered slightly safer area to visit however the country as a whole can change for the worse quickly due to ongoing Taliban activity.
Local allegiances and tribal groups within the country can make it a very diverse but complex area to visit. As it is a Muslim country respectfulness towards customs and laws is paramount. There are language differences in the region with Pashto speakers mostly in the South and East, Persian in North, West and central Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has had unsettled relationship with the western world since the first armed occupation in the 1800s through to its recent civil wars. The country was mainly peaceful until 1979 when the USSR (Russia) invaded the country and remained there until 1989. Subsequently, the Taliban regime took hold, who still operate within the area today.
It has been somewhat of a tactical ground for interested governments due to its location and surrounding countries near to China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan. In recent years such countries along with the European Union, Japan, the Middle East region and African nations have assisted Afghanistan through its turbulent times, rebuilding infrastructure and stabilising the economy in the region.
There are anti-tank, anti-personnel unexploded land mines and military arms throughout the country. It is advised you do not veer from main roads.
Afghanistan is in a live earthquake zone, these can be powerful and due to the response, terrain and infrastructure can make this country dangerous in terms of natural disasters. There is risk from flooding, landslides and extreme weather especially during the winter to spring months when rainfall is at its highest. Snowfall in mountainous regions can lead to avalanches.
The main supply of energy for Afghanistan is through hydropower, however the power grid has been damaged due to conflict in the country. As a result of this, it is thought that only around 1/3 of the population has access to electricity, with 70% of Kabul receiving reliable 24 hour electricity.
Time now in Kabul:
Visas are required to enter Afghanistan. If you are working within Afghanistan and do not hold a diplomatic or official passport you will need a work permit along with a medical certificate. Further information on requirements for Afghanistan can be found at: Visa Check Afghanistan
It is advised that visitors to Afghanistan are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations.
If you are travelling to an area of poor sanitation (e.g. a refugee camp) or be in contact with those who may have it such as healthcare workers, you should get a Polio booster vaccine. If your stay to the country is longer than 4 weeks you may have to present evidence of a Polio vaccination received at least 4 weeks prior to departure.
Although there is no risk of Yellow Fever in Afghanistan, if you are coming from a country where there is a risk of Yellow Fever you will be required to provide a vaccination certificate. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
There are limited medical facilities in the country, please make sure that you have sufficient insurance to cover your costs of repatriation and transfers to destinations outside of Afghanistan for emergency medical procedures.
Dusty conditions can cause aggravation within the lungs, nose and throat and as such respiratory tuberculosis is common. Gastrointestinal diseases and infection are common, which is prominent in warmer months, Malaria is present in all areas of the country bar the more mountainous regions.
Personal hygiene must be paramount and the local water supply avoided at all costs. Drink only bottled water and ensure that the bottle is sealed prior to consumption. It is advised if possible to provide your own medical support when visiting Afghanistan, as the countries medical facilities are under strain from the ongoing conflicts.
U.S. Embassy Kabul
Great Massoud Road,
Wazir Akbar Khan (neighborhood),
Telephone: +93 0700 108 001
British Embassy Kabul
Roundabout Wazir Akbar Khan
PO Box 334,
Telephone: +93 0700 102 000
Canadian Embassy Kabul
Street No. 15,
House No. 256,
Telephone: +93 7011 088 00
Embassy of Sweden Kabul
Opposite the MoI,
Telephone: +93 2021 049 12
Other useful info
Police emergency: 119
Medical emergency: 112
Fire emergency: 119