Official advice:
Do not travel

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Afghanistan overall, do not travel ↓

We advise against all travel here due to the very high risk. If you do travel, you should typically seek professional security advice. Be aware that regular travel insurance policies will be void and that the Australian Government is unlikely to be able to provide consular assistance.

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Latest advice, 23 May 2016

This advice has been updated with minor editorial amendments. The overall level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Afghanistan.

Summary

  • We strongly advise you not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation and the very high threat of terrorist attack. If you are in Afghanistan, you should consider leaving.
  • If, despite our strong advice, you do decide to travel to or remain in Afghanistan, you should ensure you have secure transport and accommodation, and appropriate personal security protection measures in place.
  • You should consider dedicated armed protection, though even these precautions cannot guarantee personal safety. Monitor local information sources on a daily basis for information about the safety and security environment as it can change rapidly. You should have contingency plans in case you need to depart at short notice.
  • No region in Afghanistan is immune from violence. The potential for either opportunistic or targeted hostile acts exists throughout the country. Kidnapping of Westerners is a serious threat throughout Afghanistan.
  • Serious large-scale terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and attacks using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, occur regularly throughout Afghanistan. Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere, anytime and are particularly common in Kabul, and the southern and eastern provinces.
  • The frequency of attacks in Kabul has increased significantly. There are credible reports of imminent attacks. We also continue to see credible reports that terrorists have plans to target venues frequented by foreigners, including diplomatic missions, airports, hotels, shopping centres, military facilities and government buildings. The Kabul international airport and roads leading to it are often subject to attack.
  • Unexploded landmines and other ordnance remain a danger throughout Afghanistan.
  • The provision of consular services to Australians in Afghanistan may be severely restricted due to the safety and security environment. Consular assistance should be arranged through the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305. See Where to get help.
  • Because of the dangerous security situation, we strongly recommend you register your travel and contact details with us so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued
    • follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the Embassy of Afghanistan for the most up-to-date information.

If you are planning to travel to and from Afghanistan via Pakistan, ensure you have a multiple entry visa for Pakistan. Ensure you obtain the necessary exit and entry stamps in your passport at the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to avoid difficulties when exiting Afghanistan.

It is difficult to obtain visas or renew passports from within Afghanistan. If you are in Afghanistan and require a new passport, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and security

Australians who decide to remain in Afghanistan should consult a reputable security company and ensure they have appropriate personal security protection measures in place, including for residential accommodation. You should monitor local information sources for information about the safety and security environment as it can change quickly.

Terrorism

The security situation in Afghanistan is extremely dangerous and there is a very consistent high threat of terrorist attack. Attacks can occur anywhere, anytime, particularly in Kabul, and the southern and eastern provinces.

Serious and large-scale terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and vehicle-borne improvised explosive attacks, occur regularly in Afghanistan. Terrorists tend to target areas and venues with a high concentration of Afghan security forces, such as checkpoints and government ministries. There have been several recent major attacks in Kabul, including in the most heavily fortified areas of the capital.

Attacks have targeted hotels and residential compounds used by westerners, embassies, government buildings, NATO bases and facilities of international humanitarian groups. There have also been attacks on supermarkets and restaurants frequented by foreigners, police stations, schools and medical facilities. Partly constructed and high rise buildings in Kabul, have been used by militants as staging points for a number of attacks in the past.

There are credible reports of imminent attacks in Kabul city. There are also ongoing threats against the Kabul International Airport and aircraft. There have been rocket attacks on the airport, and bomb attacks at the airport entrance and on roads leading to the airport.

Many terrorist attacks have targeted international convoys, including foreign military and security forces. There have also been insider attacks (where individuals wearing Afghan National Defence and Security Forces uniforms attack members of foreign security forces) throughout Afghanistan

Advice to Australian Embassy staff: Security arrangements for Australian Embassy staff in Kabul are at a high level at all times.

An Afghan government-controlled security force, the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), was scheduled to take over the provision of most commercial security services in Afghanistan from private security companies in March 2013. To date this has not occurred. Afghan Government approved private security companies continue to operate throughout Afghanistan. For businesses and other organisations, we recommend you contact the Afghan Government for the latest requirements.

Attacks on roads in Kabul: We continue to receive a stream of credible reporting indicating that terrorists are planning attacks on vehicles travelling along roads in and around Kabul. You should avoid travelling on Jalalabad, Airport (Great Massoud) and Darulaman Roads due to the very high threat of terrorist attack. You are strongly advised not to travel at night.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin.

Kidnapping: Kidnapping is a serious and ongoing threat. Due to the high number of incidents, Afghanistan was among the top three countries identified as global kidnapping hotspots in 2015. We continue to see reports that terrorists are planning to kidnap Westerners throughout Afghanistan, including in Kabul and surrounding districts. Journalists and those working for NGOs and foreign companies could be kidnap targets. Foreign aid workers and journalists have been kidnapped and killed in the past.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians.

For more information, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

Civil unrest/political tension

Domestic and international events and political developments in the region may trigger demonstrations in Afghanistan. Violent demonstrations have occurred in areas frequented by foreigners, including the diplomatic quarter and NATO bases. There is the potential for attacks on perceived Western interests in all parts of Afghanistan.

You should avoid demonstrations, political rallies, public gatherings and minor disputes as they could escalate and become violent, resulting in deaths and injuries. If you are in an area affected by demonstrations, you should find a safe location, remain indoors, monitor local information sources and heed the advice of authorities or your security provider.

Crime

There is a high level of serious crime in Afghanistan, including in the capital, Kabul. Armed robbery, rape and carjacking occur. The level of weapon ownership is high.

Lawlessness exists in rural areas. Banditry and kidnapping by armed groups is common.

You should stay indoors after dark, and always have functioning communications equipment.

Money and valuables

There is a small number of ATMs in Kabul. Credit cards and travellers' cheques are not widely accepted. Currencies used are Afghanis and US dollars.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

If travelling by road, you should only travel in secure transport, using reputable local drivers and guides, and have contingency plans for evacuation. Unexploded ordnance (UXO), including landmines, is a danger on roads and adjacent lands throughout Afghanistan. Do not travel off of sealed roads where possible, and avoid locations marked as minefields or with UXO markings.

Kabul International Airport may close at short notice. You should check with your airline before going to the airport. Security and Government officials at the airport have in the past attempted to obtain illicit payments from travellers, including by withholding passports.

Airline safety

Due to safety concerns, Australian officials do not use services provided by Ariana Airlines or Kam Air. All Afghan owned airlines are currently banned from flying in EU airspace due to safety concerns. You should conduct research on the aviation provider in Afghanistan before choosing to sign up to their services.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Afghanistan.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Afghanistan including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

The death sentence is imposed for murder and other serious offences.

Close contact between unmarried men and women (particularly non-Muslims and Muslims) and de facto relationships are illegal. The penalties for breaching these laws are severe.

Homosexuality is illegal. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Non-Islamic preaching, infidelity and abandoning religion (Islam) are considered serious crimes. Penalties are severe.

You can be detained and your equipment could be seized for photographing any checkpoints, security or military installations (regardless of which nation operates it), government buildings and palaces. Signs prohibiting photography should be strictly obeyed. You should ask permission before photographing local people.

Regulations governing the import and use of prohibited items, including alcohol and pork products, are strictly enforced.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australians may commit serious criminal offences by fighting in a foreign state, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in early June 2016. During Ramadan, you should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, if you are not fasting you are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Afghanistan and you should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice. Public displays of affection may cause offence.

You should dress modestly in public and ensure your legs are covered. Women should also cover their arms, while men may wear short-sleeved shirts. Local women and girls usually cover their hair in public, and women visitors should use their judgement in deciding whether to do likewise.

Health

Before you depart we strongly recommend you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any medical costs, including medical evacuation, for the whole time you'll be away. Also seek confirmation of what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses or medical evacuation costs while you are overseas.

We strongly encourage you to consider vaccinations before you travel to Afghanistan. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities are limited throughout Afghanistan, including Kabul. The standard of training for medical staff is low, while sanitation and hygiene are poor. Several private medical clinics in Kabul may be used for routine health issues. Clinics will request up-front payment for all medical treatment. In the event of a serious accident or illness, a medical evacuation will be necessary. The cost of medical evacuation, if it can be arranged, would be considerable.

Except in areas above 2000 metres, malaria is prevalent in Afghanistan, particularly between April and September, Chloroquine-resistant strains are prevalent in some areas. Other insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis) are common. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito-proof.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis, leptospirosis, pertussis and rabies) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Poliovirus (Poliomyelitis) remains endemic in Afghanistan. In May 2015 the WHO reiterated its 2014 assessment that wild poliovirus was a “public health emergency of international concern” and has extended its temporary recommendations. These recommendations may affect your travel to Afghanistan. You should ensure you are up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook, prior to departure.

If you are staying for periods greater than four weeks you are required to carry documented evidence of having received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from Afghanistan. If you do not have documented evidence of polio vaccination within this 12 month period, you may be required to be vaccinated prior to departure from Afghanistan.

Please see your doctor to discuss your vaccination requirements. Further information is available from the Australian Department of Health.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas.

Australians seeking consular assistance while in Afghanistan should call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305. The Consular Emergency Centre can be contacted on 1300 555 135 from within Australia. The provision of consular services may be severely restricted due to the security environment.

The working week is Sunday to Thursday, in accordance with local practice. See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Afghanistan is in an active earthquake zone.

Flooding and landslides can occur with little warning between March and June. Some mountainous areas are subject to deadly winter avalanches. Approximately 300 people have been killed and 9,000 families affected by floods, rain, heavy snow and avalanches in Afghanistan in 2015.

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

Additional Resources

Warnings by area

Map of Afghanistan