Asia and Oceania

Afghanistan Flag of Afghanistan

Still current at: 10 June 2008
Updated: 30 April 2008


This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Terrorism/Security (in Kabul) section.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country


Travel Summary

  • We strongly advise against all travel to the provinces of Balkh (Northern Afghanistan); Ghazni, Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Panjsher and Paktya (Eastern Afghanistan); Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan, and Zabul (Southern Afghanistan); and Farah (Western Afghanistan).  This is because of ongoing military activity and lawlessness.  See the Terrorism/Security (Outside Kabul) section of this advice for more details.

  • We strongly advise against all but essential travel to Kabul because of ongoing terrorist activity and the continuing high threat of kidnap. You should maintain a high level of vigilance at all times, observe the strictest of security measures, and defer any unnecessary travel around the city.  Since 25 July 2007, the Afghan Ministry of the Interior has imposed a restriction on onward travel from Kabul.  Foreign citizens leaving Kabul by road must be accompanied by an armed escort.  See the Terrorism/Security (Kabul) section of this advice for more details.

  • You should only consider travelling to other provinces if you have a strong reason to do so but if you do believe that your visit is essential we strongly recommend that you seek local advice before undertaking your journey.  You should review your security arrangements in-country and you should seek professional advice on whether they are adequate.  You should also be aware of the widespread danger from mines and unexploded ordnance throughout Afghanistan.

  • There is a high threat of terrorism in Afghanistan.  Specific methods of attack are evolving and increasing in sophistication.  There continues to be a high threat from suicide bombers in Kabul and other urban areas.  See the Terrorism/Security section of this advice for more details.

  • There is a continuing high threat of kidnap against British nationals, including journalists and those working for NGOs, in Afghanistan, particularly in the south and east.  The security situation remains serious and the threat to Westerners from terrorist or criminal violence remains high.  Numerous foreign nationals have been kidnapped across the country and some victims have been killed.

  • Information on specific and urgent threats is circulated via the Warden network within Afghanistan.  It is therefore important that you register with the British Embassy in Kabul on arrival.  See the Contact Details of this advice for more details.

  • We strongly recommend that comprehensive travel and medical insurance is obtained before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance for more details.

Safety and security

Terrorism/Security

There is a high threat from terrorism within Afghanistan.  Threats, specific or otherwise, are reported on an almost daily basis and may, in some cases, lead the Embassy to limit staff movement to essential travel only.

We continue to receive reports which indicate specific terrorist threats against visibly British and Western institutions, organisations and individuals. Threats also apply to those involved in work with the United Nations as well as those working in the humanitarian and reconstruction fields. Future attacks throughout Afghanistan might include bombs, suicide bombs (either on foot or by vehicle), kidnapping and violent crime. On 26 July 2007, one Taliban commander (Mansur Dadollah) is reported to have urged Taliban fighters to continue the tactic of kidnapping foreign nationals. You should be aware that the long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage-takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking. You should also remain constantly aware of the risks posed by the large amounts of unexploded ordnance and land mines throughout the country.

If you remain in Afghanistan, particularly outside Kabul, you should continue to reassess your situation.  You should exercise the utmost care and vary your routines. You should always ensure car doors are locked and windows closed, and if possible maintain radio or telephone communications to report your movements. We strongly advise you to avoid any protests, demonstrations and large gatherings.

You should avoid regular visits to public places frequented by foreigners, including hotels, restaurants, shops and market places, especially at times of day when they are particularly busy and congested.  The British Embassy has currently placed certain less well protected restaurants off limits to staff.  We strongly recommend you to consult the warden network via the British Embassy for further information on the security of venues across Kabul and elsewhere before undertaking any travel.

If, despite this advice, you travel outside Kabul, you should only do so with reputable local guides and only to fully protected workplaces.  You should consider permanent armed protection.  Since 25 July 2007 the Afghan Ministry of the Interior has imposed a restriction on onward travel from Kabul.  Foreign citizens leaving Kabul by road must be accompanied by an armed escort.  You should be aware that even these precautions cannot guarantee your safety.  The threat from kidnapping throughout Afghanistan remains.

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets including places frequented by foreigners.   For further information see Terrorism Abroad

Afghanistan NGO Security Offices (ANSO) issues regular security updates, which can be obtained from: data@afgnso.org.

In Kabul
 
We advise against all but essential travel to Kabul.  Recent significant attacks include:
 
  • On 27 April 2008, terrorists carried out an attack on a parade commemorating Victory Day killing three people and injuring twelve others.  The Aftghan President, Hamid Karzai, was attending the parade and was the most likely target of the attack.
  • On 14 January 2008, terrorists carried out an attack at the Serena Hotel.  Reporting indicates that at least six people were killed and many more wounded.  Foreign nationals were amongst the dead and the wounded.
  • On 27 November 2007, a suicide bomber in a vehicle killed himself and one civilian in an attack targeting a foreign military convoy in central Kabul. Several people were also wounded in the blast.
  • On 2 October 2007, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb on a bus carrying Afghan police.  Reporting indicates that at least eleven were killed and many more wounded.
  • On 29 September 2007, a man boarded an Afghan army bus and detonated a suicide vest killing some thirty people and injuring more than twenty others.
  • On 15 August 2007, three German police officers deployed to Afghanistan in order to protect the German Embassy were killed, east of Kabul.  A UK national was shot dead in the centre of Kabul in a separate incident, also on 15 August 2007.
  • On 27 February 2007 a suicide bomb attack took place outside the US military base at Bagram, 50km north of Kabul.  Reports indicate that approximately 19 people were killed in the blast.
 
There is a continuing high threat of kidnap to foreign nationals in Kabul.  We strongly advise you to maintain a high level of vigilance and to seek professional security advice on adequate security arrangements.
 
We strongly recommend you avoid protests, demonstrations and large gatherings in the city, which can quickly become hostile.

There are regular, indiscriminate rocket and bomb attacks and targeted attacks against NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) patrols.  Reports continue to indicate that further attacks are likely, possibly by suicide bombers, against Western targets in central Kabul, along the Jalalabad Road and in the vicinity of Kabul airport.  Hotels and other guest-houses where foreigners might stay will continue to be likely targets.  There have been a number of attacks against Kabul International Airport and further attacks cannot be ruled out.  You should exercise extreme caution if you intend to use the Jalalabad Road and you should avoid travelling at night if at all possible.

Outside Kabul

We strongly advise against all travel to the provinces of Balkh (Northern Afghanistan); Ghazni.  Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Panjsher and Paktya (Eastern Afghanistan); Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan, and Zabul (Southern Afghanistan); and Farah (Western Afghanistan). You should only consider travelling to other provinces if you have a reason to do so.

There have been a number of serious attacks on both Western and Afghan NGOs and on vehicles belonging to them, in which a number of people have been killed or injured.  Most attacks continue to occur in the south and east of Afghanistan, but there have been sporadic but serious incidents in other regions such as Badghis (Western Afghanistan), Kunduz and Jowzjan (Northern Afghanistan) that have otherwise been considered comparatively secure.  A high threat from kidnapping to employees of NGOs and foreign companies throughout Afghanistan remains.

Northern Afghanistan

Provinces covered in this section are Badakshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Faryab, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Samangan, Sari Pul, and Takhar.  We advise against all travel to Balkh province.

There have been a number of attacks against aid workers and military vehicles in Jawzjan, Kunduz, Mazar-e Sharif and Baghlan provinces resulting in fatalities and injuries. On 8 March 2007 a German aid worker was murdered in Sari Pul province.  In early October 2006, two German journalists were killed by unidentified attackers in Baghlan province.  You are advised to exercise extreme caution and to remain vigilant at all times, as Western civilians remain targets for insurgents and kidnapping gangs.

Eastern Afghanistan

Provinces covered in this section are Bamiyan, Ghazni, Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Panjsher, Parwan, Paktya and Wardak.  We advise against all travel to these provinces.

There are ongoing military operations in this region. There have been a number of reported attacks against the Afghan National Army and US-led coalition forces in the East of Afghanistan.  There are also regular reports of Improvised Explosive Device (IED), suicide and rocket attacks.  On 26 September 2007, four International Red Cross staff - two foreign and two Afghan - were abducted in Wardak province.  They have subsequently been released.  On 19 July 2007, twenty-three Korean missionaries (including eighteen women) were kidnapped in Ghazni Province whilst travelling to Kabul.  This was the highest single abduction of foreigners since the Taliban fell in 2001.  On 18 July 2007 two German aid workers and five Afghan colleagues were kidnapped in Wardak Province. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confirmed that one of the German hostages died but had not been murdered. The second hostage was released on 10 October 2007. Press reports indicate that his Afghan colleagues were also released.

On 20 February 2007, a suicide attack in Khost province injured three US soldiers.  On 6 June 2006, two US soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Nangahar.
 
Paktika has seen a number of missile, mortar and bomb attacks throughout the province as well as small arms attacks against Government compounds.

Southern Afghanistan

Provinces covered in this section are Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan, and Zabul.  We advise against all travel to these provinces.
 
Southern Afghanistan is unpredictable and volatile.  There are ongoing military operations across the region and there have been a significant increase in the number of incidents, ranging from shootings to suicide bombings that have been targeted against both civilians and the military.  Suicide attacks in Lashkar Gah and Kandahar continue.
 
  • On 18 February 2008 a bomb blast occurred in Spin Boldak town in Kandahar province. Early reports state that over 35 people have been killed and many more injured.
  • On 17 February 2008 a suicide bomber struck a crowd at a dog-fighting event in Arghandab district, north of Kandahar city. Early reports state that over 100 people have been killed and many more injured.
  • On 20 June 2007, three Canadian soldiers were killed when their vehicle was blown up by an IED in southern Kandahar.
  • On 15 June 2007, three Afghan National Army soldiers were killed and three injured by a landmine south of Sangin.
  • On 9 April 2007 six Canadian soldiers were killed in Kandahar when the vehicle they were travelling in hit an explosive device.
  • On 17 April 2007 a roadside bomb in Kandahar killed five people including four Nepalese United Nations employees.  There has also been a series of attacks on the Kabul-Kandahar road in Zabul province.

There remains a continuing high threat from kidnapping in Southern Afghanistan.

 
  • On 6 March 2007, an Italian journalist was kidnapped in Helmand province.  He was subsequently released on 19 March.
  • On 3 April 2007 two French aid workers were kidnapped in Nimroz province.  Both were subsequently released.

Western Afghanistan

Provinces covered in this section are Badghis, Dai Kundy, Farah, Ghor and Herat. We advise against all travel to Farah province.
 
There have been incidents of car bomb attacks, rocket attacks and kidnapping throughout these provinces.

Crime

Crime is a serious concern.  Foreigners have been the victims of violent attacks, including armed robbery and rape.  You should not display any obvious signs of affluence or carry large sums of money.  You should exercise caution, particularly after dark.

For more general information see: Victims of Crime Abroad.

Political Situation

Country Profile: Afghanistan

Road Travel

Road travel remains dangerous.  If travelling by road you should only travel in secure transport with close protection, using reputable local drivers and guides.  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 a confrontation and threatening behaviour.
For further information see Driving Abroad.

Air Travel

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has not assessed whether safety standards on Ariana Airlines comply with international aviation standards because there is no direct commercial air service between the UK and Afghanistan. However, the Technical Co-operation Bureau of the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an assessment in 2003, which highlighted a number of safety concerns about Ariana Airlines. British Government employees are advised not to use Ariana Airlines.

In February 2005, a Kam Air Boeing 727-200 flying from Herat to Kabul crashed in snowstorms 17 miles out of Kabul. All 96 passengers and eight crew on board were killed in the incident.

The European Commission has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Union. You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm.

Local laws and customs

Local laws reflect the fact that Afghanistan is a Muslim country.  You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
 
Homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan.  You may not seek to convert Muslims to other faiths.  The importation and use of narcotics, alcohol and pork products are forbidden.
 
Photography of government buildings, military installations and palaces is not allowed.  You should avoid photographing local people without their agreement.
 
For more general information for different types of travellers see Travel Advice Relevant to You.

Entry requirements

Visas
 
British nationals intending to visit Afghanistan must obtain a visa before travelling.  Visas are not issued on arrival in the country.  For further informtaion on visas contact the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in London.   Website: http://www.afghanembassyuk.org/
 
Travelling with children
 
Women travelling alone with children should be aware that documentary evidence of parental responsibility may be required in order to enter Afghanistan or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  

Health

Only very limited medical facilities are available in Afghanistan.  You should ensure that you have all the prescription medication you require during your visit, as supplies are unlikely to be available locally.
 
Diarrhoeal diseases and other gastrointestinal infections are common causes of ill health, becoming worse in the hotter months.  The dry dusty conditions in both summer and winter can cause irritation to eyes, throat, nose and skin. Respiratory tuberculosis is common in the Afghan population.
 
Malaria is a potential hazard except in the high mountainous regions of the country and in winter.
 
You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see HIV and AIDS.
 
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Afghanistan and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
 
For more general health information see Travel Health.
 
Avian Influenza
 
On 20 March 2006 the World Organisation for Animal Health confirmed reports of 13 outbreaks of HN51 Avian Influenza (bird flu) across five provinces of Afghanistan (Nangahar, Kabul, Laghman, Vardak and Kunar.)  The authorities are taking measures to control the disease, including restricting livestock movement in affected areas.  No human infections have been reported.

The risk from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low, provided you avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds.  You should also ensure that poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
 
You should read this advice in conjunction with Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which gives more detailed advice and information.

NATURAL DISASTERS

Afghanistan is in an active earthquake zone.  More information on natural disasters can be obtained from: http://www.hewsweb.org/home_page/default.asp.  If a natural disaster occurs you should follow the advice of local authorities.  You should know the address and telephone number of the British Embassy in Kabul in the event of an emergency.

General

Insurance
 
In the event of a serious accident or illness an evacuation by air ambulance may be required.  It is therefore essential that you take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See Travel Insurance.
 
If things do go wrong when you are overseas then this is how we can help.

Money

You should ensure that you carry sufficient cash, in US Dollars, for your visit because credit cards are not accepted.  There are a number of ATMs in Kabul that dispense dollars as well as Afghanis.  Banks are closed on Fridays, but there are ATMs at the Intercontinental Hotel, Supreme supermarket ATMS are located at military camps, however unless you have an ISAF pass, you will not be able to gain access.  Travellers' cheques are not widely accepted and where they are, it can take up to two weeks for them to clear.
 
Consular Registration
 
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.  More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.
 
Consular Assistance
 
You should be aware that the British Embassy in Kabul is able to provide only limited consular assistance.
 
The Embassy in Kabul does not issue passports, though in an emergency, a single page/single journey travel document can be provided.  You should make sure you have plenty of spare pages in your passport, as it will fill up with visas and entry stamps very quickly.  Replacement passports can be issued either by the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in the UK, or the British High Commission in Islamabad.  The application process will take at least three and a half weeks.
 
The Embassy in Kabul does not issue visas.  Visa applications should be made through our missions in Dubai, New Delhi or through Gerry’s/Fedex bureaux in Pakistan.  Before applying please contact the Embassy in Kabul for information on restrictions affecting visa applications made in these countries.

Travel advice for this country

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contacts

Afghanistan, Kabul, British Embassy

Address:

British Embassy
15th Street, Roundabout Wazir Akbar Khan
PO Box 334
Kabul
Afghanistan

Telephone:

00 873 762 854 939 Satphone

Fax:

+93 (0) 700 102 250 (Management)
+93 (0) 700 102 274 (Political Section)

Email: mailto:britishembassy.kabul@fco.gov.uk

Office hours:

 

Website: http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1079976688531