Afghanistan

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 16 July 2015.   There is a heightened threat to westerners when travelling in Afghanistan during Eid. Australians residing in Kabul should avoid road movement throughout the city during this period (see Safety and Security). The overall level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation and the very high threat of terrorist attack.

Afghanistan overall

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. Australians who decide to remain in Afghanistan should ensure that they have appropriate personal security protection measures in place, including for residential accommodation. You should monitor local information sources for details about the safety and security environment.
  • Due to the dangerous security situation, you should only travel in secure transport. You should consider dedicated armed protection, though even these precautions cannot guarantee personal safety. Australian officials use heightened security measures when travelling.
  • There is a heightened threat to westerners when travelling in Afghanistan during Eid. Australians residing in Kabul should avoid road movement throughout the city during this period. See Safety and security.
  • Serious terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and other bomb attacks, occur regularly in Afghanistan, including in Kabul. On 22 June 2015 insurgents attacked the Afghan Parliament causing several deaths and injuries. Militants continue to plan and carry out attacks in major cities throughout Afghanistan. Specific methods of attack are evolving and increasing in sophistication. There have been a number of attacks on embassies, government buildings and facilities of international humanitarian groups. Insider attacks continue to occur, most recently in Jalalabad on 8 April 2015. Further such attacks are likely. See Safety and security.
  • Hotels and restaurants in Kabul continue to be attractive targets for terrorists. There have been a number of attacks targeting guesthouses accommodating foreigners in Kabul in recent weeks. Threat reporting against hotels, including the Serena and Intercontinental Hotels, is ongoing. Attacks against hotels, guest houses and restaurants frequented by foreigners remain likely. Australians are strongly advised to continue to avoid hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners and those with poor visible security.
  • There are ongoing threats against Kabul International Airport and aircraft. There have been rocket attacks on the airport, some landing on the runway apron. Australians are strongly advised to consider the dangers of flying into and out of Kabul before undertaking travel.
  • We continue to receive a stream of reporting indicating that terrorists are planning attacks against any venues frequented by foreigners. Targets include airports, restaurants, cafes, places of accommodation including hotels and guesthouses, shopping centres, local markets and supermarkets, media centres, international and political conferences, election-related facilities, military installations and Afghan government buildings. Recent reporting suggests the premises of diplomatic missions and international organisations including some non-government organisations (NGOs), may be particular targets.
  • Kidnapping is a serious threat and we continue to see reports that militants are planning to kidnap Westerners throughout Afghanistan, including in Kabul and surrounding districts. An Afghan-Australian dual national was abducted and killed on 20 September 2014 in Ghazni province.
  • Unexploded landmines and other ordnance remain a danger throughout Afghanistan.
  • Poliovirus (Poliomyelitis) remains endemic in Afghanistan and travellers are at risk of infection. See Health.
  • 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, which can be contacted on +61 2 6261 3305. See Where to get help.
  • Because of the dangerous security situation, we strongly recommend that 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.
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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, otherwise you will need to get another entry visa from the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul which could delay your travel plans.

If you travel to Afghanistan by land from Pakistan, and intend to leave Afghanistan for a third country, ensure you obtain the necessary exit and entry stamps in your travel document at the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

It is difficult to renew passports from Afghanistan. If you are in Afghanistan and require a new passport, be sure to contact the Australian Embassy in Kabul via the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 well in advance of your passport expiring or running out of pages.

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

Safety and security

Terrorism

We strongly advise you not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation and the very high threat of terrorist attack. Attacks can occur anywhere, any time. If you are in Afghanistan, you should consider leaving.

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 also have contingency plans in case you need to depart at short notice. You should monitor local information sources for details about the safety and security environment as it can change quickly.

There is a heightened threat to westerners when travelling in Afghanistan during Eid. Australians residing in Kabul should avoid road movement throughout the city during this period.

Between October 2001 and December 2014 an international coalition conducted a military campaign to restore stability to Afghanistan. A non-combat ‘train, advise and assist’ mission commenced in January 2015. The security situation throughout Afghanistan, particularly in the south and east of the country, remains extremely dangerous.

Serious terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and other bomb attacks, occur regularly in Afghanistan. There have been a number of 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 and 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 have been a number of terrorist attacks targeting guesthouses accommodating foreigners in Kabul in recent weeks. Further terrorist attacks, including on venues frequented by foreigners, are expected in the lead up to Ramadan (likely to commence on 18 June).

There are ongoing threats against the Kabul International Airport and aircraft. Militants have carried out rocket attacks on the airport in 2014 which landed on the runway apron. Aircraft at the airport may be targeted by militants.

Foreigners, and those working for international organisations, continue to be deliberately targeted. Some attacks have involved multiple, consecutive explosions. A large number of people, including civilian foreign nationals, have been killed. The following incidents underscore the ongoing very high threat of terrorist attack against Western interests in Afghanistan, including in locations with protective security measures in place:

  • On 22 June 2015, insurgents attacked the Afghan Parliament causing several deaths and injuries.
  • On 13 May 2015, five people, including foreigners, were killed in an attack on the Park Palace guesthouse in Kabul.
  • On 4 May 2015, a suicide bomb attack on government shuttle bus in Kabul killed one and injured 14.
  • On 9 April 2015, an attack on a courthouse in Mazar-e-Sharif killed 12 and wounded 50.
  • On 8 April 2014, an Afghan soldier killed a US soldier and wounded seven others in Jalalabad City.
  • On 25 March 2015, a car bomb attack near the Ministry of Finance in Kabul killed eight and wounded 37.
  • On 26 February 2015, a car bomb attack killed a member of NATO mission and wounded another.
  • On 29 January 2015, an Afghan soldier killed three foreign contractors and injured another at a maintenance hanger inside Kabul airport.
  • On 25 January 2015, a truck bomb on the Russian Road north of Kabul airport killed two.
  • On 5 January 2015, a car bomb attack on an EU convoy on Jalalabad Road killed two and injured many more.

Advice to Embassy staff: Security arrangements for Australian Embassy staff in Kabul are at a high level at all times. Following the attack on La Taverna du Liban restaurant in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul in 2014 additional security measures were put in place for staff.

Suicide bombers have frequently targeted Afghan and foreign military and security forces throughout the country. Checkpoints are a particular vulnerability. There have also been insider attacks (where individuals wearing Afghan National Security Forces uniforms attack members of foreign security forces) throughout Afghanistan. Many terrorist attacks have targeted international convoys.

No province can be considered immune from violence. In the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh province, the prosecutor’s office was attacked in April 2015. There have also been a number of recent attacks in Jalalabad City and a road-side bombing in Ghazni province.

Foreigners, including foreign aid and humanitarian workers, have been killed and injured. In May 2013 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Jalalabad was attacked, killing four. This was the first direct attack on the Red Cross in Afghanistan.

The United Nations continues to operate in Afghanistan, but, on occasion, can withdraw or relocate international staff from some areas in response to security incidents.

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 by 20 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.

Terrorist targets: Terrorists tend to target areas and venues with a high concentration of Afghan security forces, such as checkpoints and government ministries. Venues frequented by foreigners, western embassies and non-government organisations have also been targeted.

The Afghan Government has named a number of potential terrorist targets. These include but are not limited to: embassies and aid agencies run by foreign governments; the Serena, Intercontinental and Safi Landmark hotels; the Defence Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the National Directorate of Security; girls’ hostels at Kabul University and Medical University.

In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. In addition to those listed above, possible terrorist targets include commercial and public areas such as clubs, shops, places of worship, landmarks, Kabul International Airport, regional airports, transport infrastructure, and the premises of embassies and NGOs. Military premises, multinational forces, multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations, and Afghan Government buildings and political figures are also targets for attack.

Attacks on roads: 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. Suicide bombers in vehicles have attacked convoys near Kabul International Airport.

Overland travel is dangerous. Militant groups are active in many parts of the country and present a significant security risk. Fake checkpoints have been used to launch attacks. See Local travel.

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

Kidnapping: Kidnapping is a serious and ongoing threat. We continue to see reports that militants 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. Kidnappings of foreign nationals for political and criminal reasons are common in Afghanistan, including in Kabul.

Be aware that terrorists may have different national backgrounds, including from Western countries.

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. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. For more information, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

Civil unrest/political tension

International events and political developments in the region may trigger demonstrations in Afghanistan. Events outside of Afghanistan have, in the past, provoked violent demonstrations or attacks. Violent demonstrations have occurred in areas frequented by foreigners, including the diplomatic quarter and ISAF bases. There is the potential for attacks on perceived Western interests in all parts of Afghanistan.

On 31 January 2015 two locals were killed when an anti-French demonstration in eastern Kabul City turned violent .

Demonstrations, political violence and insurgent attacks may occur in response to political developments. People, places and events associated with the political process could be attractive terrorist targets. Anti-government groups have undertaken terrorist acts against members of the Afghanistan Government. Government officials have been assassinated.

Australians 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 are 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. Australian officials use heightened security measures when travelling, including dedicated armed protection. However, even these precautions cannot guarantee personal safety.

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.

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

Unexploded ordnance, including landmines, are a danger throughout Afghanistan.

Airline safety

Due to safety concerns, Australian officials do not travel on domestic and international services provided by Ariana Airlines or Kam Air. All Afghan airlines are currently banned from flying in EU airspace due to safety concerns. Whether helicopter or plane, 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 mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, Australians travelling to countries with significant Muslim communities should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting 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.

Foreign men and women should dress modestly in public and ensure their 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 when deciding whether to do likewise.

Public displays of affection may cause offence.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check 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 a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. 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 would be necessary. The cost of medical evacuation, if it can be arranged, would be considerable.

Malaria is prevalent in Afghanistan, particularly between April and September, except in areas above 2000 metres. 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 with travellers at risk of infection. In May 2014 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the recent international spread of wild poliovirus a “public health emergency of international concern” and has issued temporary recommendations that may affect your travel to Afghanistan.

Should you choose to ignore our advice not to travel to Afghanistan at the current time, we recommend that you are up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook, prior to departure.

Australian travellers staying for periods greater than four weeks 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.

The Australian Embassy operates from the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul.

The working week is Sunday to Thursday, in accordance with local practice.

Australians seeking consular assistance 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 to Australians in Afghanistan may be severely restricted due to the security environment.

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Afghanistan, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

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. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.