- 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 information 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.
- Serious large-scale terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and attacks using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, occur regularly throughout Afghanistan, and particularly in Kabul. The frequency of attacks in Kabul, including in the most heavily fortified areas of the capital, has increased significantly in 2015 and further attacks should be expected. Insider attacks continue to occur. See Safety and security.
- We continue to receive a stream of credible reporting that terrorists are planning attacks against any venues frequented by foreigners. Targets include diplomatic missions, international organisations, NGOs, 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.
- There are ongoing threats against 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. Australians are strongly advised to consider the dangers of flying into and out of Kabul before undertaking travel.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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
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 information about the safety and security environment as it can change quickly.
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.
The United Nations has reported that the number of civilian causalities due to armed conflict in Afghanistan is at record levels, with 4921 civilians killed or injured in the first half of 2015.
Serious and large-scale terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and vehicle-borne improvised explosive attacks, occur regularly in Afghanistan. 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 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 are 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. Australians are strongly advised to consider the dangers of flying into and out of Kabul before undertaking travel.
Foreigners, and those working for international organisations, continue to be deliberately targeted. Attacks have involved multiple, consecutive explosions. A large number of people, including civilian foreign nationals, have been killed.
On 14 August 2015, the U.S. embassy issued the following warning to its citizens: “As of mid-August 2015, Afghan Taliban insurgents are planning to carry out an attack against a compound possibly located in the Taimani are of Police District 4 in Kabul City. Additionally, the insurgents may be planning attacks against several targets frequented by foreigners, including Hamid Karzai International Airport, vehicle repair and fueling facilities, and a barber shop along the Bagram road. No further information was available regarding the target, timing, method of any planned attack. The U.S. Embassy is taking these threats seriously and advises U.S. citizens to avoid these areas.
Advice to Australian Embassy staff: Security arrangements for Australian Embassy staff in Kabul are at a high level at all times.
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. The prosecutor’s office was attacked in April 2015. There have also been a number of recent attacks in Jalalabad, Ghazni province and Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province. 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in early June 2016. 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.
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.
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.