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Latest travel advice for Afghanistan including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2016-09-20T11:16:24.170+01:00: Latest update: editorial amendments throughout

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all or all but essential travel to different parts of the country according to provincial region:

Kabul

Northern Afghanistan

Eastern Afghanistan

Southern Afghanistan

Western Afghanistan

The level of consular assistance available to travellers in Afghanistan extremely limited.

Hotels and guesthouses used by foreign nationals and the government of Afghanistan are subject to regular threats. The British Embassy doesn’t allow official visitors to stay in hotels overnight and has placed restaurants and other venues off limits to staff. Make sure your accommodation is secure and review your security measures regularly.

There is a high threat from terrorism and specific methods of attack are evolving and increasing in sophistication. There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout the country. Travel by road throughout the country, but particularly outside the capital Kabul, is extremely dangerous. Seek professional security advice for all travel and consider using armoured vehicles. See Terrorism

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. Make sure your policy covers you for travel in Afghanistan, noting any requirements for security and armoured vehicles. It may be difficult to get insurance.

Afghanistan is in a major earthquake zone and remains at risk from powerful earthquakes, aftershocks, landslides and flooding. The British Embassy can provide limited consular assistance in Afghanistan, particularly outside the capital Kabul. See Natural Disasters

Safety and security

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.

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.

Public transport is dangerous. Taxis and long distance buses are often poorly maintained, uninsured and driven by unqualified drivers. Privately hired transport is often driven by uninsured, unqualified drivers. You should carry out long distance journeys by air where possible.

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. You should consider strongly 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. NGO workers have been kidnapped near their places of work. 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 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. FCO staff are advised to use carriers which aren’t subject to the EU operating ban.

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network. The FCO 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 doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.

Transiting UAE

Flying to Dubai and then transferring is the most common route into Afghanistan. It’s 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 licences. Persons found carrying any such items without a licence 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.

Local travel

If you’re travelling around Afghanistan, including Kabul, you should seek professional security advice and continually reassess your personal security. The British Embassy in Kabul operates under strict security protocols and always uses armoured vehicles; staff receive regular security briefings to enable them to carry out their work in as safe an environment as possible.

Hotels and guesthouses used by foreign nationals and the government of Afghanistan are subject to regular threats. The British Embassy doesn’t allow official visitors to stay in a hotel overnight and has placed restaurants and other venues off limits to staff. Make sure your accommodation is secure and review your security measures regularly.

Only travel with reputable local guides and to fully protected workplaces. Take the greatest possible care and vary your routines. Don’t publicise your travel, including on social media. If possible, maintain radio or telephone communications to report your movements. Avoid any protests, demonstrations or large gatherings.

Regions

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all or all but essential travel to different parts of the country according to provincial region: Kabul

If you’re travelling in Kabul, take particular care on Airport road, Jalalabad road and Darulaman road. Avoid travelling on Jalalabad and Darulaman roads during commuter or other busy times (around 6am to 8am, 9am to 11am and 3pm to 4pm local time), when traffic can be heaviest and the risk of an attack against government and western people or interests is most likely. Avoid travel between cities at night time. Avoid travelling along Airport road except for essential movements as attacks are likely throughout the day.

There’s an ongoing threat from high-profile, large-scale attacks in Kabul. In recent months there have been a number of significant attacks in the capital, including:

5-6 September 2016 – a complex attack which began with a vehicle borne explosive in the centre of Kabul and a subsequent 11-hour siege of a building used by an international NGO before security forces cleared the building

5 September 2016 – co-ordinated explosions killed over 30 outside the Afghan Ministry of Defence with staggered detonations including the targeting of first responders to the initial blast

24 August 2016 – a vehicle bomb was detonated outside the American University of Afghanistan campus in Kabul, gunmen then entered the campus; several people were killed and many more injured

8 August 2016 - two foreign nationals were kidnapped in Kabul

23 July 2016 – at least 1 suicide bomber detonated among a crowd of Shia protestors in central Kabul, killing an estimated 81 in the largest single incident in the city since 2001

21 July 2016 - a foreign national was kidnapped in Kabul

20 June 2016 – a suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying Nepalese guards as they travelled through Kabul to work at the Canadian Embassy, killing 14 people

25 May 2016 – a minibus carrying members of the judiciary in the west of Kabul city was targeted by a suicide bomber, killing 10 people

18 April 2016 – a large truck bomb detonated in a car park belonging to an NDS department in central Kabul, killing over 20 people; 2 gunmen then entered and shot dead dozens more, leaving an eventual death toll of 64

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.

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

Western Afghanistan

The security situation throughout Afghanistan remains uncertain, and could change rapidly. You should monitor media reporting and make sure you have robust contingency plans in place. Be vigilant at all times, keep others informed of your travel plans and vary your routines. On 4 August 2016 there was an attack on a convoy of vehicles carrying tourists in Herat.

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.

Terrorism

There is a high threat from terrorism. Multiple threats are issued daily. Terrorists and insurgents conduct frequent and widespread lethal attacks against Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), domestic and international political and civilian targets, and those working in the humanitarian and reconstruction fields. There is a threat from high-profile, large-scale attacks in Kabul.

Afghanistan-focused insurgents seek the full withdrawal of foreign forces in Afghanistan and the fall of the elected Afghan government. Other groups involved in the insurgency include the Haqqani Network, an Islamist insurgent group whose main goal is to re-establish sharia law in Afghanistan, and are allied with the Taliban. Separate to this, an affiliate of Daesh (formerly known as ISIL) has been active in Afghanistan. The group has conducted several attacks, mainly in the east of Afghanistan. The group also claimed responsibility for a high profile attack in Kabul in July 2016.

The insurgency has a strong anti-Western focus; this could make any UK interest or person a target. Attacks include bombs (roadside and other), suicide bombs (either on foot or by vehicle), indirect fire (rockets and mortars), direct fire (shootings and rocket propelled grenades), kidnappings and violent crime. Daesh is also fiercely hostile to the UK and other western countries.

There are large amounts of unexploded bombs and land mines (both anti-tank and anti-personnel) throughout the country.

You should be particularly vigilant in and around landmark locations and places where large public crowds can gather. Hotels used by the government of Afghanistan and western nationals, ministries, military establishments and religious sites have been attacked and further attacks are possible. 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 does not allow official visitors to stay in any hotel overnight, and has placed restaurants off limits to staff.

Kidnap

The risk of being kidnapped throughout Afghanistan remains a very high and constant threat. Over 100 westerners have been kidnapped in Afghanistan since 2001, a number of them have been British nationals. The motivation and desire to undertake kidnapping in Afghanistan is likely to continue. You should take the utmost care, vary routines and avoid setting regular patterns of movement. You should take professional security advice while in the country.

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.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

Afghanistan is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. Be particularly careful during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

Homosexuality is illegal.

It is forbidden to seek to convert Muslims to other faiths.

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

Photographing government buildings, military installations and palaces is not allowed. Avoid photographing local people without their agreement.

It’s illegal to buy or export historical antiquities without a receipt from an authorised supplier or dealer. When you leave Afghanistan you may be asked for proof of purchase. If you don’t have a receipt, you could be detained and you may face a fine or prison sentence.

Entry requirements

Visas

British nationals must get a visa before travelling to Afghanistan. You can’t get a visa on arrival. If you are intending to work in Afghanistan and do not hold a Diplomatic or Official passport you will need a work permit which in turn requires a medical certificate. For further information contact the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in London.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Afghanistan.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into Afghanistan. However, ETDs are accepted for exit from Afghanistan.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

Travelling with children

If you are travelling alone with a child you may need to produce documentary evidence of parental responsibility. The FCO does not allow staff based in Afghanistan to travel with their partners or children. For further information on exactly what is required at immigration contact the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in London.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

In response to the World Health Organisation’s emergency recommendations about the spread of polio virus, the government of Afghanistan now requires all departing travellers who have spent more than 4 weeks in Afghanistan to produce a valid vaccination certificate at the time of their departure. This certificate should show that either oral polio vaccine or inactivated polio vaccine has been administered between 4 weeks and 12 months before departure from Afghanistan. See this advice issued by the National Travel Health Network and Centre.

Only very limited medical facilities are available in Afghanistan. Make sure you have all the prescription medication you need during your visit. Supplies are unlikely to be available locally.  Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Diarrhoeal diseases and other gastrointestinal infections are common causes of ill health, becoming worse in the hotter months.  

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. 

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 or 020 112 from mobile (in Kabul only) and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

Afghanistan is in an active earthquake zone. You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake. More information about your risks in the event of an earthquake, especially around buildings, can be found at 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.

If a natural disaster occurs you should follow the advice of local authorities.

Money

Carry sufficient cash in US Dollars for your visit. Credit cards are not accepted. Some ATMs in Kabul dispense dollars as well as the local currency, Afghanis. Banks are closed on Fridays, but there are ATMs in various locations in Wazir Akbar Khan and elsewhere. ATMs are located at military camps, but unless you have an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) pass you will not be able to enter. Travellers’ cheques are not widely accepted and it can take a fortnight for them to clear.

Contact FCO Travel Advice Team

This email service only offers information and advice for British nationals planning to travel abroad.

If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the consular assistance team on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

If you’re abroad and need emergency help, please contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

If you have a question about this travel advice, you can email us at TravelAdvicePublicEnquiries@fco.gov.uk

Before you send an email, make sure you have read the travel advice for the country you’re travelling to, and the guidance on how the FCO puts travel advice together.

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  • British Embassy Kabul

    Title:British Embassy Kabul
    Email:britishembassy.kabul@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

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

    Contact: General telephone: +93 (0) 700 102 000
    Management fax: +93 (0) 700 102 250
    Political section fax: +93 (0) 700 102 274
    Visiting:8.30 am to 4.30 pm ( Sunday to Thursday)
    Passport applications are only accepted on Mondays and Tuesdays (8.30 am to 11.30 am)
    Consular Email: Cons.Kabul@fco.gov.uk
    Services:
  • Department for International Trade Afghanistan

    Title:Department for International Trade Afghanistan
    Email:Paul.Grey@fco.gov.uk
    Address:

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

    Contact: Telephone: +971 4309 4310 or + 93 (0) 70010 2292
    Visiting:
    Services:

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