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

2014-12-05T17:44:34+00:00: Latest update: Summary - increase in number of attacks in Afghanistan during 2014

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

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. See Terrorism

2014 has seen an increase in the number of attacks in Kabul. While the majority of the attacks have been against Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF, insurgents have stepped up their attacks against western civilian targets. These include:

29 November 2014 – insurgents attacked the compound of the Partners in Academic Development, an NGO, killing 3 foreign nationals.

27 November 2014 – insurgents attacked a British Embassy vehicle, killing a British national and a local national. A guest house was also attacked in the Wazir Akbar Khan area, resulting in the death of a foreign national.

19 November 2014 – a suicide attack on Green Village resulted in the death of a foreign national and injured a further 2 people.

13 October 2014 – an attack on NATO contractors near Jalalabad Road in Kabul. There were no fatalities.

22 July 2014 – an insurgent attack on Camp Gibson killed 7 foreign nationals

24 Apr 2014 – 3 foreign nationals were killed during shooting incident at the CURE hospital.

20 March 2014 – an attack on the Serena hotel in Kabul resulted in 4 foreign nationals being killed, along with 6 local nationals.

11 March 2014 – a foreign national was killed in motorcycle attack in the Wazir Akbar Khan area.

17 January 2014 – an attack on La Taverna Restaurant in the Wazir Akhbar Khan area resulted in the death of 13 foreign nationals.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Local travel

If you are travelling around Afghanistan, particularly outside Kabul, you should seek professional security advice and continually reassess your personal security. The British Embassy in Kabul operates under strict security protocols and staff receive regular security briefings to enable them to carry out their work in as safe an environment as possible.

Only travel with reputable local guides and to fully protected workplaces. Take the utmost care and vary your routines. If possible maintain radio or telephone communications to report your movements. Avoid any protests, demonstrations or large gatherings.

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. This is due to the significant security risks in the region and the Wakhan Corridor’s geographical isolation.

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

The southern region is unpredictable and extremely volatile. There are regular military operations throughout the region and there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents ranging from shootings and roadside bombs to suicide bombings that have targeted civilians and the military. Suicide and roadside bomb attacks in Helmand, Kandahar and Nimroz continue.

There has been a series of attacks on the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat road in Zabul, Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz (and Farah) provinces and in Uruzgan province. Nimroz has seen an increasing number of suicide attacks.

Western Afghanistan

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.

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.

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. In many areas you should consider 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. 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 two 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.

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network. We 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 does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

You should avoid flying with airlines subject to the EU operating ban. FCO staff are advised to use carriers which are not subject to the EU operating ban.

Transiting UAE

Flying to Dubai and then transferring is the most common route into Afghanistan. It is 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 licenses. Persons found carrying any such items without a license 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.

Political situation

Afghanistan is undergoing a major transition in terms of politics, economy and security. There have been a number of demonstrations in Kabul and other cities recently related to the ongoing election process. It is possible there will be more demonstrations in the coming weeks. 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.

Terrorism

There is a high threat from terrorism. Threats are issued on an almost daily basis. Terrorists and insurgents conduct frequent and widespread lethal attacks against British and coalition armed forces, 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 insurgent groups are fighting against the Afghan government and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The main insurgent group is the Afghan Taliban whose goal is full withdrawal of foreign forces in Afghanistan and the fall of the Afghan central government. Other groups involved in the insurgency include the Haqqani Network. They are an Islamist insurgent group whose main goal is to re-establish sharia law in Afghanistan, and are allied with the Taliban.

The insurgency has a strong anti-Western focus; this could make any UK interest a target. On 27 November 2014, an attack on a British Embassy vehicle resulted in a number of deaths and injuries to civilians and security personnel. The British Embassy in Kabul was damaged in an attack in April 2012, and the British Council was attacked in 2011.

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.

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.

Further attacks are likely along the Jalalabad Road, the airport road, the Wardak road and near to Kabul airport. Take great care if you intend to use the Jalalabad and airport roads. Avoid travelling at night and between the hours of 7am and 9am if possible.

Kidnap

The risk of being kidnapped throughout Afghanistan remains a very high and constant threat. Over 100 westerners have been kidnapped in Afghanistan in the last 10 years, a number of them have been British nationals in Badakhshan, Bamyan, Kunar, Kunduz and near the border with Pakistan but the kidnap threat is not isolated to these areas. 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. Outside Kabul you should consider the use of permanent armed protection and armoured vehicles.

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.

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.

In 2015, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 18 June and finish on 18 July. See Travelling during Ramadan

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.

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

Yellow Fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.

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

Contact your GP around 8 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, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.

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. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency. See also Tropical cyclones.

More information on natural disasters is available from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. 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.

See also

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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

    Consular Section will be closed to walk-in customers on Thursday 15 May. We will reopen on Sunday 18 May. Customers requiring urgent consular assistance should call the British Embassy general telephone number.
    Services:

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