I think this was the most dangerose place i have been. Kids looking 12 years old had Kalashnikovs and demanded (and got) money from the bus drivers, at the road from Kabul to Masar i Sharif sometimes every 10 to 30 km... On that road with some unexpeted snowfall the bus got stuck and we hod to sleep in subzero temperaturs in bus. The bus from Kabul to Kandahar got stuck by some fighting with bullets hornig the ground a few meters from the bus. On the same bus journey someone threatend me if not accepting Allah, arriving in Kandahar we where instantly interogated by the lokal man in power.
I went there after the Soviets left, before the Taliban took power. On my way back from India in Peshawar i meet friend who allready had the Afgan visa, the months before i haven't heard any negative reports about Afganistan so i joined him.
Today it might be different but i don't think it is much safer.Related to:
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Defintely not ready for tourism
Unfortunately, the current situation in Afghanistan is not stable enough to allow tourism for Western persons. Even in Kabul, the constant threat of kidnapping, bombings, and random acts of violence makes travel here unworth the risk.
Once the security situation improves though, visitors can expect to see mountain vistas that rival the Canadian Rockies, people that are some of the friendliest in the world, and culinary delights that will rival those of many other Asian countries.
Kabul itself is a massive collection of mud walled buildings, with a small core of medium sized office buildings. Those expecting high rise towers and apartments will be disappointed, which is one of the most interesting parts of the capital.
There are some large markets in the centre of town, beautiful mosques, monuments to the many wars, mountains right in the centre of traffic, and a zoo which contains the only pig in all of Afghanistan. Once there is a higher level of stability, this will be a great place to visit, but sadly, it just isnt ready yet.Related to:
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Just how dangerous is Afghanistan?
Travel + Leisure magazine recently rated the most dangerous countries in the world and they placed Afghanistan 11th. This list came even after the recent increase in hostilities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When we were there just under two years ago, there was usually a sense that you could be in danger but not a sense of foreboding. I met a couple dozen Afghans who were not employees of any government nor hospitality industry outlet. Many were students. We saw many of them nearly every day that we were there. We ate in their homes. We ate with them in public places. We shopped with them in their bazaars. We walked the streets by day or night, although never alone. Never have I begun to develop so many genuine relationships during such a short trip. I was aware that there was danger around but I did not have any inordinate sense of fear. The only concessions that I think we really made to the realities of war was that we received daily security updates from the UN team which had offices near where we stayed and we reminded ourselves from time to time that there are people in that area who seriously dislike what we stand for and might, if the circumstances came together in the wrong way, be more than willing and able to do us serious damage.
This is what Travel + Leisure magazine said about Afghanistan on 12 August:
The Allure: Tombs, historic teahouses, ancient market towns, and the country’s first national park are all worth your time. Afghanistan’s director of tourism (yes, that’s right) says many of the country’s old castles and archaeological sites will one day be repaired and open to visitors.
The Warning: Americans are strongly warned against travel to Afghanistan. Much of the nation is a war zone. Foreigners are key targets for kidnappings and terrorist attacks. “Carjackings, robberies, and violent crime remain a problem,” says the State Department travel warning.
Go or No? When peace comes, Afghanistan’s director of tourism may find himself busy. But not yet. In the meantime, hard-core adventurers can contact Pamir Travel in Fremont, CA.
The photo with this Tip was taken by Ahmad Masood of Reuters, although this was a relatively common sight when we were in Afghanistan.Related to:
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With almost all countries that have had or currently wars within the last century will have a problem with unexploded ordnances (UXOs) and Afghanistan is no different. A lot of the minefields from the Soviet days are marked and lots of stuff has been cleaned up. But there is a new war going on especially in the south which is making more UXOs. Leave them alone as they are designed to kill and maim and just because it didn't go off does not mean that they won't. I have heard stories that sometimes at sunset UXOs will go off just because of the sudden change in temperature. That's how sensitive some of this stuff can be.
The Taliban which means "student" in Pashto ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. They were well known for their strict interpretation of Islam. Women effectively had no rights. They could not work or go to school, be seen out in public without a man and without being covered from head to toe and be touched by another man which meant they couldn't even see a doctor (all doctors were men because women could not work). Kids were not allowed to fly kites and music was forbidden. Beware if you broke any of these rules because they really liked their public executions. The leader of the Taliban is Mullah Mohammed Omar who allowed Osama Bin Laden to live in Afghanistan and train Al-Qaida. The Taliban was only recognised by 3 official states of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. Maybe the only positive thing they done was to halt almost all of the opium production in Afghanistan. In March 2001 they recieved criticism from all around the world when they destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan. In late 2001 they were ousted from power by the Northern Alliance and USA air power for not handing over Osama Bin Laden.
Today now they are an insurgent group that conducts guerilla operations against coalition forces, especially in the south. They seem to get members from all over the Islamic world but a lot of them are from Pakistan. They also target civilians that work with coalition nations even if it is as simple as building roads funded by coalition nations. They are a very serious threat and areas with active Taliban should be avoided.
Anyone who has travelled a bit in developing countries would be used to this. Afghanistan is no different with Police Checkpoints. With all the action still happening in Afghanistan there are a lot of these checks going on especially with the insurgents. The Afghan National Police are still new with this but for the most part seem uncorrupt but I have heard of lunch money going missing. Currently they are often supported with coalition forces which you should have nothing to worry about then. The real reason I did this tip is because I wanted to show off a picture of a police checkpoint in a developing nation. How often can you get away with that.
Kabul, Pakistan embassy doesnt issue tourist visa
The Pakistan embassy in Kabul refuses to give transit or tourist visas for onward travel to Pakistan.
A visa for travel onward to Pakistan must be issued before you enter Afghanistan.
Otherwise it will cost you an expensive flight to Delhi.
As with Pakistan embassies in India and Afghanistan, they are unhelpful, due to the under staffing issues.
The counters only open for a very short time, and extreme pushing and shoving is required to get to the counter before the windows shut at unannounced times
These extreme problems occurred during June, July 2006Related to:
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all these cassandra warnings!
u'll find plenty of westerners telling you not to do this or not to go there.
that's full rubbish by those who know nothing and just want to impress you.
the country's perfectly safe. there are less landmines than you think, and only in areas well known by locals and usually marked by regularly-spaced heaps of colored stones. just walk where all others walk.
at time of writing, it's pretty safe to take the desert highway via kandahar, but i wouldn't step out there.
talibans only mess out in provinces bordering pakistan.
the central route is perfectly safe. so is the north.
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Opium and Narcotics
Opium production in Afghanistan is on the rise and its now the world's leading producer of opium. Drug lords exist with little threat to their operations.
We met Mirwais Yasini, the head of the anti-narcotics dept in Kabul, and he was a concerned man too. A small task force he leads, compared to the size of the problem. Production has gone up many-fold over the past few years, and there is reason to believe that some of the proceeds go in to funding the Al Quaida etc.
The main problem however is that the lure for the farmer to grow opium is really high...In a country where annual incomes barely reach $170, farmers can earn up to $6,500 a year from opium production, they can make up to 38 times as much growing opium as they can from wheat. Opium has long been used as a traditional medicine in Afghanistan, but now its illegal to grow poppy.The Karzai government has often come up with schemes to get opium farmers to shift away from poppy cultivation, but its never really worked very effectively compared to the opportunity cost...
The police and narcotics dept will put you thru a pretty thorough search on your way out of the country at the airport... your suitcase may go thru some rough moments. So pack with care...Related to:
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At times in your trip people may try to kill you. Killing them first is the only way to rest assure that youll live to fight another day. Luckily all the attempts on my life were so amateurish I often never saw the people who had tried to harm me, and i never had to kill another human being. My friends werent always so lucky and two good buddies ended up losing a hand and a leg before it was all over.Related to:
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Harsh Road Conditions
Road conditions are also improving, but be on the lookout for frequent deep pot holes as well as speed bumps. Be prepared to share the road with terrible drivers, horse drawn carriages and very large, colorful trucks. There is a risk of mines and IEDs. Overall the road conditions are very poor, and there does not seem to be any traffic laws.
There are many health considerations when visiting Afghanistan. Water pollution is a huge problem, and sewage contaminates ground/well water in many districts. Food may have fecal contamination and may be prepared in unsanitary conditions. For those with asthma, sometimes the air can be filled with dust and sand.
Afghanistan is also home to many venomous snakes, scorpions, and spiders!
The malaria season is roughly April through November and is at most risk at altitudes below 2000m. Sand flies can give leishmaniasis, mostly from April through October.
Currently, there is inadequate pubic health in Afghanistan. This country also has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the world.
Beware of Mines
Afghanistan was heavily mined during the Soviet occupation years, 1980-1992. Most were placed around cities and airports. While the country is making progress with the removal, it is still one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. With that said, Kabul is the most heavily mined city.
Keep an eye out for rocks painted red and white. The white rocks indicate cleared areas, and the red side of the rock will be facing the dangerous, mined area. Some markings may be removed, so avoid leaving the road.
There are still risks of Improvised Explosive Devices (can be made out of a wide range of materials), remote controlled explosives placed in vehicles, kindappings, and suicide bombers.
Traveling by Road
Its 7 hours total journey from border to Kabul .It is 5 hours journey after Jalal Abad, mostly the track runs on verge of Kabul river, however UN are making it near the Kabul but nothing in between. And in this pic I was standing when the road was blocked at two places due to land sliding, and UN staff was busy in cleaning it. And fortunately they done it swiftly. Land sliding is quite common in winter, so it can also hurdle and delayed you and you will be forced to return back to Jalal Abad. to try next morning again.
Dangers: region after Jalal Abad upto Kabul is not controlled either by alliance forces nor by taliban but few of the other tribal groups are fighting in between and they also hijack vehicles and specially foreigners and than ask for money, and various tribal groups kept on fighting (light artellery and machine guns etc. in the evening for the possession of land) so it is essential to arrive at border as early as possible in the morning to get done with immigration process quickly and get into the vehicle to cross and arrive in Kabul in day-light or else they bring you to Jalal Abad for overnight stay and than next morning for Kabul due to the fighting in the night they do not travel onward.
Do not have any experience of staying but have heard that it is also very dangerous and once you are in afghanistan, you will be highly shocked by both the condition (very bad) and rates (very high).Related to:
Do your research and stay up to date
Do as much research as possible before going.
A good place to start is Kabul Caravan
Also look at The Survival Guide to Kabul
I came to rely on Radio Free Liberty/Radio Europe's daily news updates to keep me up to date before and during my trip. Follow the link and subscribe to any of the three branches you're interested in.Related to:
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After almost 4 years in Afghanistan, for a change, I thought of spending some nights in the most...more
Good for: Solo
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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