To travel around Afghanistan is not easy due to the security restrictions. Is better to get information abour the security situation prior to your departure.
However you can have a liitle of freedom in Kabul and take a private car. But is not easy because almost all of the drivers are not English speakers, and Dari, the official language is not easy. Don't do these aotside Kabul.
Avoid to drive, you could have tons of surprises everywhere.... even "goat" jam....Related to:
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The road going down south towards the Pakistan border.
Check on the situation on the highways before you head out. Some years ago, the Kabul-Kandahar highway was notorious for trouble, not just with the taleban, but also with robbers around... People used to travel with a sizable security contingent. We ended up chartering an aircraft for our trip to Kandahar in 2002.
It seems much more stable from the reports i heard on the last trip- 2006. The road is better to drive on, security was much improved, and for the entire stretch of the highway, you have mobile connectivity. At least thats what the adverts claimed...Related to:
- Road Trip
- Business Travel
coming in to land...
While you`re peering out of your airplanes window and trying to make a first impression of Afghanistan, The view of Kabul airport at first sight was a shocker. The sight of completely destroyed aircraft and helicopters just lying to the side, is quite bizarre...
On the way back though, it was just a bizarre sight...
I`m talking about the years 2002-03 here. The rubble has been subsequently removed and on the latest trip, there were few signs of it remaining.Related to:
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AEROPLANEAriana Airlines is...
Ariana Airlines is running daily flights to Delhi, the cost is $50. They also fly to Abu Dhabi. There are also Here are contact details for Ariana in Delhi:
Flat 409, Fourth Floor
19 Kasturba Gandhi Marg
New Delhi 110001
Tel.: (+91-11) 3311432
Tel.: (+91-11) 3755163/4 reservation
Tel.: (+91-11) 5452173 airport handling agent
Tel.: (+91-11) 5481152 cargo
Fax: (+91-11) 3755162
UNHAS flights from Islamabad go three times every day to Kabul, and also to other main Afghan cities. Seats cost costs $600 one-way and $1,000 return for non-UN personnel. For NGO people there will be absolutely no problem in getting a seat, most UNs turn up and fly so there must always be plenty of free seats. If its overbooked I think they just use their bigger plane. To get a flight you have to go to the UNHAS (UN Humanitarian Air Services) office in Islamabad, address F8/3 Street #4, House #5. There you fill out a form which needs to be approved by the UNHAS Flight Coordinator. I cannot say what is the likelhood of getting approval, however on the form you are supposed to name your organisation, and it specifically says in the form's small print that the flights are not to be regarded as a transportation service for the general public. However you can always give it a try.
For those intending to enter Afghanistan from Iran, please be informed that the road Khandahar - Ghazni - Kabul is still considered very risky from bandit attacks, although it is indicated as cleared by the UN. A bunch of journalists was robbed in this region last week by a bunch of children with Kalashnjikovs. Therefore if you are heading for Kabul I would recommend instead taking the northern route via Maimana and Mazar-e-Sharif.
First, the good news: it's possible to get from Peshawar/ Pakistan to Kabul by land, and the safety appears just about adequate. The bad news is that it will not necessarily be cheap. Also it's a tricky and rough ride, but of course you like a challenge. Anyway this is Afghanistan and nobody said it was going to be easy. Below is the report from my journey, which describes what you can expect to encounter. Likely you will be able to take the same route differently, and most of all I don't want to take away the fun for you in finding your way yourself. At least though I hope you will find the information useful to refer to, and helpful especially in making the trip without unnecessary waste of time, effort and expense.
When you arrive in Peshawar, I suggest you stay at the Rose Hotel (Rs300/ US$5) which is relatively decent and is very close to the Home and Tribal Affairs Department ('Home Department'). The Home Department is where you will want to be early on the morning you will to leave for Afghanistan, in order to get your permit to travel to the border. Also in the centre of Peshawar (Saddar) there are some good bookshops with a great selection of literature on Afghanistan. It's worthwhile stocking up on something interesting to read because in Afghanistan you won't want to be wandering around too much after dark, so you'll probably spend most evenings in your hotel. Also I recommend that before leaving Peshawar you change quite a lot of your dollars into Pakistani rupees, which are readily accepted all over Afghanistan and is more stable than the wildly fluctuating Afghani, and takes up less room in your wallet (a couple of dollar's worth of Afghanis is about 1cm thick).
To get to the Home Department from the Rose, cross the bridge and continue straight crossing to the left side of the main road. The entrance for the Home Department is around the left corner of the building directly ahead, but ask anybody for directions and they will point you the way. I think it opens about 9am, and as I have been informed it is only possible to get a valid Tribal Areas permit on the day that you depart. No matter what Lonelyplanet Pakistan says, for the permit all the way to Torkham on the Afghanistan border, you will have to go first to the Home Department, not the Khyber Political Agent's Office. At the Home Department you will be interviewed concerning your reasons for going to Afghanistan by the friendly Section Officer (I believe it was). You may judge it necessary from this point onwards to have prepared some sort of cover story concerning your reasons for visiting Afghanistan, at least I got the impression at various stages that I would have just been quickly turned away if I had claimed just to be a tourist. For example, the Section Officer said to me, 'It's a good thing you already have a Afghanistan visa, overwise I would refuse you a permit because you don't appear to have any real reason to go to Afghanistan'. I suggest that in Peshawar get a business card ('visit card') printed which will establish your journalistic credentials as a reporter for your local daily. If asked for a press card claim to be freelancing.
Here is the first piece of bad news. To get to the border you are officially going to need to take a taxi and security guard. Maybe it is possible you can find a bus or a ride that will go to the border, but it will be difficult. Furthermore, even if all your papers are in order, at certain security checkpoints bribery will be necessary, and in all it is going to be advisable that you take your trip with someone who knows what he's doing. The Tribal Areas are probably more lawless than even Afghanistan at this time, so really it's better to get someone who's definately reliable. You can try and find your own taxi to the border, Lonelyplanet suggests that this would be possible for Rs1,000 (US$15) but since the Afghanistan bombardment as you can imagine the market has been spoilt by the passage of journalists on expense accounts, and expectations are now considerably higher. I preferred to take the recommendation of the Section Officer, a guy called Zahir Shah (not to be confused with the former Afghan king). His fare was $40 dollars, though you could probably argue down a little less. You can contact him on Mobile 0300 9599696/ House 2566829, but the Section Officer will call him straight to the office as you like (I believe Zahir is his brother-in-law).
With Zahir or your alternatively-arranged transportation, you then need to go to the Khyber Political Agent's Office on Stadium Road to pick up your armed guard- he'll sit up front. He will expect Rs500 baksheesh + extra bonus baksheesh (US$10 total) for his services, unfortunately not just the Rs100 as indicated in LP. Then you proceed up the Khyber. You might as well stop at the scenic points (Landi Kotal particularly) in order to get your money's worth out of the spectacular ride, but ask your escort's approval on what you photograph. You have plenty of time because you won't be able to reach Kabul this same day anyway. Your escort will see you smoothly through the checkpoints, just give him your passport and permit papers as requested. Basically by the time you reach to the border you will have paid over US$50 - before even getting into Afghanistan! Let me know how if you can arrange it more cheaply so I know for next time. It will be chaotic once you leave the taxi but just keep a cool head and one eye on your belongings. Your escort will take you through the Pakistan exit procedures, and here expect another demand for an explanation of why exactly you're going to Afghanistan. After that it's a good idea to recruit one of the kids with 'wheelboards' for your bags, who can lead you through the gateway into Afghanistan after you bid farewell to your guard and driver (and the person you were before you experienced Afghanistan). The kid should know which places after gate you need to stop at for entry formalities, but don't worry too much because if you walk straight past (it's not so obvious where to go) someone will shout at you or the kid. Notice the message on the large board on the right, and take it to heart.
Now, the devastatingly bad news. After the entry procedures formalities are over and you have the stamp in your passport that you'll be showing your grandchildren, then you have to confront a frenzied mob of taxidrivers and try work out how you are going to get to Jalalabad. Unfortunately, this is probably going to be decided for you. As I was trying to get some idea of prices, a soldier / armed guy in uniform approached, shooed away the crowd and indicated that I should sit down and wait. Before too long another meaner-looking soldier who spoke English arrived, who didn't give me a positive impression, in short he was quite a bastard. He quickly outlined the situation for me: all foreigners arriving at the border and heading to Jalalabad were required to take an armed guard. He told me the cost of the guard would be US$150, and then he made clear if I didn't want to accept this arrangement then he would just send me straight back over the border, and could I please make my decision quickly because he wanted to get back to his lunch. He definately seemed serious in this ultimatum, but you could try to call his bluff and if he starts going through with his threat of ejecting you from Afghanistan, just produce the money anyway. It is difficult to argue with a mujaheddin with a gun, and also I had developed some sort of 'flu in Peshawar and was feverish and feeling rather nauseous at this time. Not exactly what a fellow needs while attempting to enter Afghanistan for the first time. Nonetheless I managed to argue him down to $100 for guard and taxi ride to Jalalabad. Perhaps you can do better, or if you are lucky you will miss the chance to meet him. Indeed I didn't pay any attention to the message on the sign, and without 'strong decision' I was dithering and wasting time trying to get sense out of the taxi drivers, and if I'd been two minutes quicker in leaving the bastard wouldn't have been informed in time while at his lunch. Maybe if you jump into a taxi as soon as you get out of the passport office and take off then you'll miss him. There didn't seem any actual need for a guard at all, though there were several checkpoints on the route to Jalabad where you might get hassled. The staff at the hotel in Jalabad told me from other journalist guests, all foreigners passing the border were being made to pay this $100. Journalists I met in Kabul all also had this experience when crossing at Torkham. I guess you just have to try and think about it positively, consider it as some extra entrance tax with a free ride to Jalalabad thrown in as extra. Alternatively you might want to contemplate entering Afghanistan from Quetta.
Try not to let your border experiences stop you enjoying the ride to Jalalabad. The landscape is as exotic as it is varied. Some of the harshest rock-strewn mountainous and desert scenes suddenly blend into fertile plains. Can't recall ever seeing such luxurious hues of green. Keep a look out to your left about halfway into the journey, you'll see an absolutely enormous refugee camp, tents and more tents across the desert as far as the eye can see. A whole new city named Misery.
When you get to Jalalabad your guard will see you safely to a hotel, so safely in fact that he will carry your bags up to your room. He wanted also baksheesh, I was still too annoyed to give him anything even though it is difficult to refuse a mujaheddin with a gun- but to be honest I don't think he is going to get much for himself out of the $100. The only hotel I knew of in Jalalabad was the Hotel Afghani, so I asked to be taken there. It's nice enough to wonder if you actually are really in Afghanistan, the price per night is US$40 but by looking dejected I got the manager to agree to let me stay for $35. Whatever you do, make sure to stay at Hotel Afghani though because a journalist told me that the other hotel ('Spinzer'?) in Jalalabad is run by some warlord or other who is also making it a practice to arrange obligatory and very expensive armed escorts for foreigners going to Kabul or elsewhere. To be on the safe side even at Hotel Afghani just tell the staff if they ask that you'll be getting a ride from a friend in the morning.
Although the Afghani might not be so cheap, but don't make the mistake of looking at your map to compare the relative distances of Torkham-Jalalabad and Jalalabad-Kabul and coming to a favorable conclusion. The road to Jalalabad from the border is a good road but the road to Kabul, to be blunt, is not. In fact it's the worst road I have ever experienced in my life, and I have travelled extensively off-road in Africa, Asia, northern England (it's grim) and Kosovo. Therefore you don't have a chance to get to Kabul before quite late into the evening. I did check at the bus departure point after I arrived in Jalalabad and had finally shook off my guard, and there was a minivan just departing. It's really not a good idea though, it's not the safest route even in daytime, and it's worth it to pay the extra hotel charge just to be able to see by the light of day the quite extraordinary scenery you'll be passing through. If you have a camera you should consider taking a taxi rather than going by bus. It'll cost far more of course (apparently about $50) but the photographs you'll be able to take will be worth far, far more.
If you opt for the bus ride, psych yourself up for 6-7 hours of being bounced to the ceiling, squashed in with at least a dozen jovial Afghans. Don't worry, Afghans must be the friendliest people in the world (even to Brits, reassuringly). I was suprised that just about half of my fellow passengers could speak at least some English. For a while I was getting quite nervous because one fierce looking Afghan seemed to be staring at me from the front of the bus, and I was starting to imagine how quickly he might like to brutally kill me if he should ever have the opportunity. But when the bus FINALLY stopped for a lunch break, he came over and introduced himself. In fact he was very nice and friendly guy and speaking good English, and brought for me my lunch because he said I was a guest in Afghanistan.
Overland from Iran to Afghanistan
The only way to travel from Iran to Afghanistan is through Taybad from Iran to Herat at Afghanistan. From Iran, direct bus from Mashhad leaves Mashhad terminal at 7:30am daily. Get the ticket a day earlier, there is only one company operating the route, the counter is at salon 1, counter 4. The price during beginning of october was 70,000 rials one way (around 7 dollar).
The journey from Mashhad to Taybad takes 3-5 hours, and it will be around 4-5pm when one reached Herat. The bus terminal of Herat is in the town itself, the driver will usually charge you for one dollar around the town but it it is like 2 minutes drive if you are going to stay at Jam Hotel.Related to:
- Budget Travel
The transportsystem in...
The transportsystem in Afghanistan has been a mysterium recently. As far as I know no international airlines fly there and I am not sure if any buses goes there. But what I know is that a letter sent to me from Kabul on 1 november 2001, during the middle of the bombing campaign against the city, arrived here in my postbox on 12 november 2001 ! So even in the worst of times there were some sort of transport system working !!!!
LATEST NEWS: A new letter arrived from Kabul on 31 january 2002. It took only one week to reach Norway.
My friend in Kabul says things are getting better and better and ARIANA AFGHAN AIRLINES has started flying.
Maby other airlines will start flying as well and so it will be easier to get in and out of Afghanistan.
If your in Kabul for the first time, and planning to leave on a civil airline(Kamair, Ariana ect). When you walk airside to get on the plane, prior to mounting the plane steps. You should identify your hold luggage, which will be on the tarmac next to the plane, to the baggage handlers. They will then load it into the planes cargo hold. This is to help prevent accusations of theft being raised against the Kabul baggage staff. You should then board the aircraft.
Note: You will not be briefed on this procedure, it just happens!!
rocked in the packed toyota hiaces.
the only asphalt rd is the desert highway from kabul to herat via qandahar.
i strongly recommend to use motorbikes rather than the shared toyota hiace taxis (latter cost roughly 50 afghanis or 1 dollar per hour of driving).
you could buy a second hand Honda bike 125 cc in kabul for 500 dollars and sell it for 400 in herat.
fuel's on the way in bigger villages. that rocks much less than the cars, with all these ruts on the mud tracks. you'd get fresh air and your freedom to stop for a picture or so.
but make sure the passes are freed of snow (april-oct for the central route).
local flights cost 50 dollars, from kabul to herat, qandahar or mazar. flights every day. lovely sight from up there!
Its like a formula one race....with dumptrucks
I pretty much stuck to the military air transportation for any trips that would take over a couple hours to complete.
The roads are pretty bad, and some are not frequently traveld by friendly people, so be careful. Avoid driving routine routes and flashy cars (that means anything newer than 1986). I'd suggest watering down your vehicle then kicking a bunch of dirt on it to blend in. Oh yeah, make at least 4 dents on the outside body and kick out at least one taillight. :)
Watch out for the large, dumptruck like vehicles. Although they are usually colorful and decorated, they go about 3 mph and are usually loaded to the brim with heavy things that easily topple out. Remember, nobody has a licence or insurance over there, so driving is kinda like a scene from Mad Max.Related to:
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- Work Abroad
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Bad Road between Kabul and Jalal Abad
The road is OK until Jalal Abad which is the capital city of bordering province of Nangerhar and almost 2 hours from border but after that there is no road in between just sand and stone nevertheless of tunnels.Related to:
Bus from Kabul to Bamiyan
There are several minibuses ( TownAce 4WD ) departing from Kabul to Bamiyan daily. The trip takes 8 hours for 180 km, and costs about $ 5. Only the first 20 km are paved.
Buses to Bamiyan depart from Pol-e Sokhta bus terminal.Related to:
Getting to Afghanistan by air
There are few flights from Europe to Kabul. Ariana Afghan Airlines has flights from Frankfurt to Kabul via Istanbul. Azerbaijan Airlines operates 3 flights a week to Kabul from the major european capitals, with a stopover in Baku.
In spring 2003 a return ticket Paris Kabul on AZAL ( Azerbaijan Airlines ) was about 600 €Related to:
Off the beaten paths
Roads are extremely bad in Afghanistan. Most of them are unpaved or haven't been repaired for years. Some places are reachable only with 4WD's. You can hire a 4WD with driver but it's very expensive: expect paying around $100 / dayRelated to:
General notes about transportation in Afghanistan
International flights fly from Kabul to Dubai and Islamabad, a flight to Urumqi is coming soon in 2003. Domestic flight from Kabul to Herat costs $130 (or $34 for local). There are some flights operated by the United Nations but extremely expensive, e.g. flight from Kabul to Herat costs $650! The land transportation, options are otobus, Hi-Ace, TownAce and shared coralla taxi. The bus is usually cheaper but takes longer time, some bus can be quite nice inside. Hi-Ace and TownAce are basically the same, but Hi-Ace is cheaper but more crowded. TownAce (pronounced as TUUN-NACE) is around Af30 more expensive but takes only 7 people inside. There are AT LEAST 3 land-crossing borders in Afghanistan open for foreigners, one from Herat to Iran, and one from Quetta to Kandahar, the most popular one seems to be the one from Peshawar to Kabul via Jalalabad. I've used the last one only, check the section below for more information. You may have difficulties to find a car in the end of Ramazan (Eid festival), or it tends to be more expensive.Related to:
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- Road Trip
Flights and Taxi
There are now two choices for you to arrive in Kabul by air. One is by UN flight, which gets to Kabul from Islamabad and Dubai twice a week. The other is by Afghan Arianna , which runs flights to Kabul from Islamabad, Dheli, Dubai and Tehran. The former is more expensive, but costs more than Arianna flights. As for the transportation in Kabul, taxi is the only choice unless you work in foreign agencies
After almost 4 years in Afghanistan, for a change, I thought of spending some nights in the most...more
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I stayed in Park Palace Guest House in Oct 2010. There is no proper shop near the guest house. The...more
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