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Afghanistan

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Summary

  • Do not travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation and the very high threat of terrorist attack. If you are in Afghanistan, consider leaving.
  • Consider hiring dedicated armed personal security protection, though even these precautions cannot guarantee personal safety. The safety and security environment can change rapidly. Monitor local information sources on a daily basis and have contingency plans in case you need to depart at short notice.
  • If, despite our strong advice, you do decide to travel to, or remain in, Afghanistan, ensure you have secure transport and accommodation, and appropriate personal security protection measures in place. 
  • The frequency of attacks in Kabul, and across the country, has increased significantly with many killed and wounded. There are credible reports of imminent attacks. In January 2018, over 100 people were killed and over 200 injured in an attack close to a number of embassies in Kabul. The previous week, foreigners were specifically targeted, and killed, in an attack against the Intercontinental Hotel. In May 2017 at least 150 people were killed and more than 300 injured in an attack next to the semi-secure zone in Kabul. See Safety and security.
  • We continue to see credible reports that terrorists have plans to target venues frequented by foreigners, including diplomatic missions, airports, hotels, military facilities, government buildings and places of mass gathering such as sporting events, shopping centres, monuments and mosques. The Kabul International Airport and roads leading to it are often subject to attack. See Safety and security.

  • 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.
  • No region is immune from violence. Opportunistic and targeted hostile acts can occur throughout the country. Kidnapping of Westerners is a serious threat. Aid workers, journalists, and employees of foreign companies are kidnap targets.
  • Aid workers are not immune from the threat of terrorism. Since the beginning of 2017, 15 aid workers have been killed, 17 injured and 45 abducted.
  • Unexploded landmines and other ordnance remain a danger throughout Afghanistan.
  • The provision of consular services may be severely restricted due to the safety and security environment. If you need consular assistance, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305. See Where to get help.
  • Because of the dangerous security situation, should you travel to, or remain in, Afghanistan, register your travel and contact details online with us so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

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 up-to-date information.

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

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

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Safety and security

If you decide to remain in Afghanistan, despite our strong advice, consult a reputable security company. Ensure you have appropriate personal security protection measures in place, including for residential accommodation. Monitor local sources for information about the safety and security environment, which can change quickly.

Terrorism

The security situation is extremely dangerous. 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 device attacks, occur regularly. On 27 January 2018, over 100 people were killed and over 200 injured in an attack close to a number of embassies in Kabul. The previous week, foreigners were specifically targeted, and killed, in an attack against the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. In May 2017, at least 150 people were killed and more than 300 injured in an attack next to the semi-secure zone in Kabul. These attacks are in addition to numerous attacks across Kabul and around the country, leaving many dead and many more wounded.

Aid workers are not immune from the threat of terrorism. Since the beginning of 2017, 15 aid workers have been killed in attacks, 17 injured and 45 abducted.

Attacks have targeted:

  • venues with a high concentration of security and government personnel
  • hotels and residential compounds used by westerners
  • embassies, government buildings, NATO bases and facilities of international humanitarian groups
  • 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.

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).

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

Afghan Government approved private security companies continue to operate. For businesses and other organisations, contact the Afghan Government for the latest requirements.

Attacks on roads in Kabul: We continue to receive a stream of credible reporting indicating terrorists are planning attacks on vehicles travelling along roads in and around Kabul. Avoid travelling on Jalalabad, Airport (Great Massoud) and Darulaman Roads due to the very high threat of terrorist attack. Do not 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 is a global kidnapping hotspot. Westerners, including Australians, have been kidnapped in recent years.

We continue to see reports terrorists and criminal groups are planning to kidnap Westerners throughout Afghanistan, including in Kabul and surrounding districts. Journalists and those working for NGOs and foreign companies are kidnap targets. Foreign aid workers and journalists have been kidnapped and killed.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is 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 page.

Civil unrest and political tension

Domestic and international events and political developments in the region may trigger demonstrations. Violent demonstrations occur in areas frequented by foreigners, including the diplomatic quarter and NATO bases. Attacks on perceived Western interests could occur anywhere.

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, find a safe location, remain indoors, monitor local information sources and follow the advice of authorities or your security provider.

Crime

There is a high level of serious crime. 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.

Stay indoors after dark, and always have functioning communications equipment.

Money and valuables

There are very few ATMs in Kabul. Credit cards and travellers cheques are not widely accepted. The local currency is the Afghani (AFN). US Dollars are also widely accepted.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Local travel

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

Kabul International Airport may close at short notice. Check with your airline before going to the airport. Security and government officials at the airport have attempted to get illicit payments from travellers, including by withholding passports.

Air safety

Due to safety concerns, Australian officials do not use services provided by Ariana Airlines or Kam Air. Afghan owned airlines are currently banned from flying in EU airspace due to safety concerns. Research your aviation provider 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 the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety.

See our Air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You're subject to the local laws, including those 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 can't 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. Severe penalties apply for breaching these laws.

Homosexuality is illegal. See our LGBTI travellers page.

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

Do not photograph any checkpoints, security or military installations (regardless of which nation operates it), government buildings and palaces. If you do you could be detained and your equipment seized. Obey signs prohibiting photography. 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 apply overseas. You can be prosecuted for them in Australia. These offences include, but are not limited to:

  • child sex offences and child pornography
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • drug trafficking
  • people smuggling and human trafficking
  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • money laundering
  • terrorism and foreign incursions.

More information: Staying within the law

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

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between mid-May and mid-June 2018. During Ramadan, take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. Avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. See our Ramadan travel bulletin.

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

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. Female visitors should use their judgement in deciding whether to do the same.

Health 

Take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any medical costs, including medical evacuation, for the whole time you'll be away. Confirm 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.

Get vaccinated before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up and discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. For more information, see the World Health Organization (WHO) and our Health pages.

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

Malaria outbreaks can occur between April and September, in areas lower than 2000 metres above sea level. There are chloroquine-resistant strains in some areas. Other insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis) are common. 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. Consider taking prophylaxis against malaria.

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

Poliovirus (Poliomyelitis) is widespread. In August 2017 the WHO reiterated its 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. Before departure, ensure you are up to date with vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook.

If you're staying for longer than four weeks, you need 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 this, you may be need to be vaccinated prior to leaving Afghanistan.

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

Natural disasters

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 and heavy snow.

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

Where to get help

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

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For urgent consular assistance, call the 7 day 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 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

Additional resources