The Ultimate Guide to Travel in Afghanistan

Written in 2016, this is the most complete and up-to-date Afghanistan travel guide available online. Brace yourself!

Important notice: travel in Afghanistan is dangerous. All sensible governments advise against it. Think twice before you go, and don’t leave home without proper travel insurance. We recommend First Allied.

Am I crazy to want to travel to Afghanistan? is probably hanging in your mind right now. It was the same for us… until we started to do a bit of digging on the interwebs. Slowly but surely we learned of more crazy folk that had already done it, and found others wanting to do so. You aren’t alone!

But hold your horses—there aren’t that many people traveling to Afghanistan these days. And so the problem arose: there wasn’t much information on travel in Afghanistan aside from “DON’T DO IT YOU F*CKING MADMAN/WOMAN/BEAST.”

… until now.

Grab yourself a cup of tea (you’ll be drinking a lot of chai in Afghanistan), get comfortable, and prepare to read, ’cause this is a long one. Everything we learned during three weeks of independent backpacking in October 2016 is right here in our Afghanistan travel guide.

 

Many a daring traveler wants to travel to Afghanistan, but it's difficult when there's hardly any up-to-date information on the country! Well, look no more: here's the most comprehensive Afghanistan travel guide available on the internet.

 

The Lost With Purpose Afghanistan Travel Guide

Index

 

Before you go

 

Realize this

Afghanistan is a gorgeous country. It’s housed many religions, and been the heart of many empires. Hospitality flows in Afghans’ blood, and the food is a mouthwatering mix of Persian, Central Asian, and South Asian influences. It’s easy to see why one would want to travel there.

Boys walking in the Jame (Friday) Mosque in Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

But Afghanistan is a dangerous country for travel. All governments strongly advise against travel to Afghanistan.

It has been for decades, and unfortunately it probably will be for decades to come. If you choose to travel to Afghanistan, you choose to put yourself at risk.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go—just be aware of what you’re getting into. Afghanistan is not just some place to cross off your bucket list. It’s not the next step after your month of backpacking in Bali. It’s not a good place to take your first solo trip, regardless of gender.

We recommend that only experienced travelers head to Afghanistan, and even then, be careful.

 

Safety in Afghanistan can be dubious at best - Lost With Purpose

Where is “safe” to travel in Afghanistan?

“Safety” is relative in Afghanistan. Everything can change at the drop of a hat.

While we were there, Kunduz was captured by Taliban… then recaptured by the government, all in the span of a few days. Be sure to research the current state of things when planning your trip—see the Safety section for more details.

The only officially “safe” place in Afghanistan is the Wakhan Corridor in the Pamirs, and even then, Taliban control is moving in that direction.

But in terms of relatively safe places in Afghanistan, at the time of writing (October 2016) the following cities and neighboring areas are safe enough to travel to:

  • Herat
  • Mazar-i-Sharif
    • Old Balkh
    • Samangan
  • Kabul
    • Panjshir Valley
  • Bamiyan
    • Band-e-Amir
  • Wakhan Corridor

We were also told the city of Kandahar is safe to travel to. However, the areas surrounding it are extremely dangerous. We don’t recommend going here unless you have contacts that speak Pashto who can accompany you while out and about.

 

A sign in Dari in Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Given Herat’s close proximity to Iran, Dari (Afghan Farsi) is the language of choice.

Language in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has two official languages: Dari (Afghan Farsi) and Pashto.

People will generally call Dari “Farsi”, though it’s slightly different from its Iranian counterpart. Dari is more commonly spoken in the north and west, while Pashto, the language of the Pashtun people, is spoken in the south and in the regions close to the Pakistan border. However, many Pashtuns also speak Dari.

English is not commonly spoken in Afghanistan outside of Kabul, and even there, it’s limited. It would behoove you to learn to read and prounounce Persian numerals, and ask basic questions in Farsi/Dari such as “How much?” and “Where is…?”

 

Religion in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, and Islam is practiced by 99% of its population. The majority of people follow Sunni Islam. A notable exception is the Hazara population, whom are Shia. There are sectarian tensions between the two groups, and Hazara’s are often the target of attacks. It’s advised to steer clear of any religious gatherings, especially when large groups of Shia Muslims congregate (such as the Ashura commemorations).

Most Afghans are very conservative, so make sure to dress and behave appropriately.

 

Currency in Afghanistan

Afghanistan operates in Afghanis. At the time of writing, USD$1 = 65 Afs.

There are ATMs in the major cities, some of which dispense US dollars. However, they do occasionally run out of money.

It’s a good idea to bring in some large denomination US dollars. You can use them for large expenses such as guesthouses and hotels, and they’re easily changed wherever you go.

 

Where to find more travel information

You mean you want to find resources other than our Afghanistan travel guide? You traitor!

Nah, we kid. You should read as much as possible before you go, not just our Afghanistan travel guide! (Though ours is the bestest.)

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is a gold mine of connects. Search for hosts in the cities you plan on visiting, and send the more reputable ones (those with the most reviews from foreigners) a message. Plenty of them are happy to provide you with advice—they encounter travelers with questions more often than you think!

A Couchsurfing host in Mazar-i-sharif, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

A friend we met via Couchsurfing in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Don’t restrict yourself to messaging hosts, though. Look through hosts’ references to find other travelers that have recently passed through. Why not send them a message asking for advice as well?

Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forums

A one-stop-shop when it comes to destination-specific questions, the Thorn Tree forums are a great place to ask questions and find recent information. Though the crowd is small in the Afghanistan section, there are some helpful souls amongst the naysayers, including some tour guides for the country.

Facebook groups

We joined two Facebook groups before leaving: Kabulians and Kabul Security Now. They’re filled with expats and locals that can answer some of the questions you might have. Don’t publicly post actual dates of your travels—instead, ask a vague question, or pick someone seemingly reputable and send them a message asking for advice.

Remember, however, that many expats live a vastly different life from travelers. Most foreign aid workers live with constant security, and their perspective might be biased or limited as a result.

Wikitravel

Just when you think you’ll never find anything useful, Wikitravel springs up in your Google search with all the answers! They have mostly-complete guides to all of the “safe” cities mentioned.

 

Alex getting an IV drip at a clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

We had a little battle with Afghan bacteria and ended up having to pay the clinic fees out of pocket. Don’t make the same mistake!

Travel insurance for Afghanistan

As you could’ve guessed, it’s not easy to find insurance companies willing to cover travel in Afghanistan. Despite the difficulty, it’s not a bad idea to get travel insurance when traveling through a third world war zone. Just sayin’.

There’s an incredibly thorough guide to insurance options for Afghanistan (and other totally fucked war zone areas) on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree travel forums. But if you’re in a rush or too lazy to read through the million options, we recommend First Allied Travel Insurance, which specializes in providing coverage in high risk areas.

 

Guide to travel in Afghanistan - Getting into Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Our first taxi ride in Afghanistan, coming from the Uzbek border.

Getting to Afghanistan

Visas & permits

It’s notoriously difficult to get an Afghanistan visa in many countries. Some don’t even issue visas anymore, others demand a lot of waiting time.

Applying for an Afghanistan visa - Lost With Purpose

We applied for our Afghanistan visa in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, known to be the easiest place to get an Afghan visa in Central Asia. The standard waiting time is 9 days, but we paid an extra $50 to pick it up the next day.

For reports from other embassies around the world, check out Caravanistan’s Afghan visa guide.

Permits for the Wakhan corridor

A permit is necessary for trekking in the Wakhan corridor, which can be obtained in Ishkashim, Afghanistan. More information can be found in Caravanistan’s Afghan visa guide.

 

A border guard at the Uzbek-Afghan border crossing trying to wrap his head around a GoPro - Lost With Purpose

A border guard at the Uzbek-Afghan border crossing trying to wrap his head around a GoPro.

Border crossings

If coming in by land, you have a limited number of options. At the time of writing, the only border crossings open to foreigners are:

 

The Ultimate Afghanistan Travel Guide - A plane flying over Kabul - Lost With Purpose

By plane

If you prefer to fly into Afghanistan, there are multiple international carriers (of varying quality) that operate flights into Afghanistan.

  • Turkish Airlines operates flights from Istanbul to Kabul.
  • Kam Air operates flights from several international destinations. These include Delhi (India), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), and Dushanbe (Tajikistan).
  • Ariana Afghan Airlines operates flights from several international destinations, including Ankara (Turkey), Delhi (India), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Istanbul (Turkey), Moscow (Russia), and Urumqi (China).

 

We don’t usually ask, but this Afghanistan travel guide did take us a f*cking long time to write. If you’ve found this guide helpful, feel free to buy us a coffee (donate via Paypal) for our efforts 🙂

 

While in Afghanistan

 

Where to go in Afghanistan

A Shia shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

The Sakhi shrine in Kabul, where dozens of Shias were killed in an attack on the holiday of Ashura in 2016.

Kabul

The most common starting point for tourists in Afghanistan, Kabul is an intense introduction to the country. Expect concrete walls, barbed wire, police galore, and a tense atmosphere in many places. The center city is more like a big fortress than a city.

Barbed wire and concrete in Kabul, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Concrete-chic.

But that’s not to put you off your appetite! You can just as easily find places filled with happy families picnicking, or groups of teens relaxing and smoking some hashish. The city is ringed by beautiful mountains blanketed by stepped houses, and offers plenty of excellent panoramic views. Kabul has something for everyone, from old shrines and cramped bazaars to chic hotels and secret bars where you can find a rare drink (or three).

Where to stay in Kabul

 

Ka Faroshi Bird Market in Kabul, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Ka Faroshi bird market.

Things to do in Kabul

  • Shrine of Sakhi
  • Gardens of Babur
  • Bibi Mahro Hill (behind Wazir Akbar Khan) – views over the center city
  • View from the T.V. tower hill
  • Ka Feroshi bird market and surrounding bazaar
  • Kabul Museum
  • Landmine Museum
  • Chicken Street – old tourist giftshops from the Hippy Trail days
  • Shah-do-Shamshira Mosque
  • Panjshir Valley (day trip) – Nature, destroyed tanks, Massoud’s tomb

Note: The destroyed Darulaman palace, once a popular tourist stop, is now being renovated and is no longer visible nor accessible.

 

A military helicopter patrolling the skies of Kabul, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

A military helicopter patrolling the skies.

Safety in Kabul

Kabul is probably the least safe city of the places you’ll visit. Though that wasn’t always the case, in recent months Kabul has seen regular violence and a slurry of large attacks, most notably the attack on the American University.

Your biggest concern in Kabul is the high prevalence of kidnapping. Not necessarily by the Taliban, but by impoverished people looking for ransom money. To be safe, don’t tell people where you’re staying, be careful who you trust, and try not to roam too much after dark.

Being caught in some crossfire, though less likely, is another concern. To reduce your chances of the worst happening, avoid:

  • Spending time near important governmental places such as embassies and ministries
  • Getting stuck in traffic jams on main roads
  • Large gatherings of people on the street, especially with lots of police
  • Religious events, especially events held by minorities such as Shias

For constant updates on activities in Kabul (and to get a sense of how much really goes on there), join the Kabul Security Now Facebook group.

 

A tank in the Panjshir Valley, only 2 hours away from Kabul, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

A tank in the Panjshir Valley, only 2 hours away from Kabul by taxi.

Transportation in/out of Kabul

  • Taxi to the Panjshir Valley: We paid about $45 (3000 Afs) for a taxi to and from the Panjshir Valley, but we’ve heard it can be done for $40… or less. It’s about 100 km to the valley, and the drive takes 2-3 hours with checkpoint stops once you’re in the valley.
  • Bus to Mazar-i-Sharif: There is a bus between Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul for around 600 Afs/person. However, at the time of writing, civilian traffic was stopped on this route due to increased Taliban activity in the area. Ask around to see if the route is safe before buying a ticket, and make sure to leave early so the bus arrives before dark. If you opt for this route, dress local and keep a low profile. The fewer people know there is a foreigner on the bus, the better!
  • Bus to Herat: We highly recommend you do not take this route. It passes through regions controlled by Taliban, and even Afghans prefer to fly. A Couchsurfing host said he does know foreigners who successfully made the trip, but he suspects they only made it because they could pass as Afghans. If you do take the bus, stay silent.
  • Flights to Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, or Bamiyan: Ariana Afghan Airways flies to Kandahar and Herat. Kam Air flies to Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat and Bamiyan. Note that not all destinations are listed on the airlines respective websites. It’s best to go to a ticket office for domestic bookings. One-way tickets are between $50 and $110, depending on the destination. 

 

The Ultimate Afghanistan Travel Guide - The shrine of Hazrat Ali in Mazar-i-Sharif - Lost With Purpose

The Shrine of Hazrat Ali, also known as the Blue Mosque.

Mazar-i-Sharif

One of Afghanistan’s most liberal cities, you’ll see plenty of people walking around in modern, colorful clothes, and plenty of girls in only hijab, not burqa. Aside from the stunning Shrine of Ali and the bazaars, there’s not so much to see in Mazar’s city limits itself, but there are a couple of day trips throughout Balkh province that will definitely be worth your while.

Where to stay in Mazar-i-Sharif

 

A boy standing in a colorful clothing bazaar in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

One of the many colorful shops in the bazaars around the shrine.

Things to do in Mazar-i-Sharif

  • Shrine of Hazrat Ali, AKA the Blue Mosque
  • Old Balkh (day trip)
  • Samangan (day trip)
  • Bazaars around the shrine
  • Mausoleum of Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari

 

Young boys playing on a swing set in the walls of Old Balkh, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Kids playing on a swingset in Old Balkh.

Safety in Mazar-i-Sharif

Mazar-i-Sharif is Afghanistan’s safest major city. There are less problems with kidnapping here than anywhere else, and the Taliban doesn’t operate here often. That being said, there was recently an attack on the German consulate in the center of Mazar, proving that even the “safest” places in Afghanistan are risky.

Blasts aside, it’s safe to walk around until about 8 or 9 at night, especially in the bazaar area where there are lots of police, but try not to stray too far from your guesthouse at night unless with a local.

 

The inside of a taxi in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Transportation in/out of Mazar-i-Sharif

  • Taxi to Old Balkh: A taxi for a day trip around the sights of Old Balkh cost us $20. We stopped at 7 or 8 different places, and the guide didn’t speak English (but was kind and patient despite the fact that we were stoned for half of it). We organized the taxi with the help of Barg-e-Sabz Guesthouse.
  • Bus to Kabul: There is a bus between Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul for around 600 Afs/person. However, at the time of writing, civilian traffic was stopped on this route due to increased Taliban activity in the area. Ask around to see if the route is safe before buying a ticket, and make sure to leave early so the bus arrives before dark.
  • Flights to Herat or Kabul: Kam Air offers flights to Herat and Kabul. To save a bit of money on agency fees, you can head to their office on Martyr Masood Boulevard, which leads away from Ali’s shrine. Walk down the road for 15 minutes or so, and the agency will be on your right. If that’s too much effort, there are plenty of other air ticketing agencies on that road closer to the shrine. All prices mentioned are one-way.
    • Ticket to Herat: 8,000 Afs/person ($120) – Mondays and Thursdays
    • Ticket to Kabul: 6,000 Afs/person ($90) – daily
    • Prices may vary depending on the oil price and the safety situation in Afghanistan
  • Taxi to Hairatan (Uzbekistan border crossing): A taxi to the border was $15. See our Uzbekistan – Afghanistan border crossing post for more details.

 

The Jome mosque of Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Herat’s Jama Masjid, or Friday Mosque.

Herat

Walking around in Herat is almost like walking around in Iran… one of the more conservative cities in Iran, that is. You’ll be hard pressed to find a woman not wearing chador or burqa. But despite the dark dress, people in Herat are some of the friendliest you’ll meet, and the city is far from dull. Filled with colorful Persian mosques, ancient houses and caravanserais, and surrounding an epic, recently restored citadel, Herat is one of Afghanistan’s prettiest cities.

Where to stay in Herat

  • Budget: Mowafaq Guest House – $20 for double with shared bathroom
    • Northeast corner of Chawk-e-Golha, next to the Bank Milli. It’s famous, taxi drivers will know it.
  • Mid-range: Marco Polo Hotel – $40 – 50 a night for single with bathroom
    • Badmurghan street, +93 (40) 221 946 or (40) 221 947, mobile +93 (0) 799 206 192 or +93 0700 436 622, marcopolo_hotel@yahoo.com
  • High end: Nazary 4 Star Hotel – Rooms for less than $150 a night, Herat’s most luxurious hotel

 

The recently restored Herat Citadel - Lost With Purpose

The recently restored Herat Citadel.

Things to do in Herat

  • Jame Mosque (Friday Mosque)
  • Herat Citadel
  • Wander around the old city
  • Mausoleum of Gowhar Shad – Ask to be let inside!
  • Shrine of Gazar Gah
  • Musalla Complex and minarets
  • Pul-e-Malan arched bridge

 

The last of the minarets in the Musalla complex in Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

The last standing minarets of the Musalla complex.

Safety in Herat

There is a lot poverty in Herat, and drug use runs rampant. Herat is growing increasingly dangerous due to poverty, to the point that the police felt the need to let us know that we were not safe and needed to leave certain areas.

Kidnapping is your biggest concern here, so be cautious: don’t wander too late at night, try not to walk the same route every day, and don’t tell people where you’re staying unless you trust them. Try to blend in by wearing local dress, though female travelers will inevitably get stares if they aren’t in chador or burqa.

If you need help with anything in Herat, the men working in the offices of the citadel are extremely friendly and have a good command of English. Meeting them on one of your first days in Herat can be very helpful.

 

Boys biking in Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Transportation in/out of Herat

  • Bus to Kabul: There is a bus to Kabul from Herat, but we highly recommend you do not take this route. It passes through regions controlled by Taliban, and even Afghans prefer to fly over these regions. A Couchsurfing host said he does know foreigners that have successfully made the trip, but he suspects they only made it because they could pass as Afghans. If you do take the bus, stay silent so no one knows you’re foreign!
  • Flights to Mazar-i-Sharif or Kabul: Kam Air offers flights to Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul. All prices mentioned are one-way.
    • Ticket to Mazar-i-Sharif: 8,000 Afs/person ($120), Mondays and Thursdays
    • Ticket to Kabul: 4,000 Afs/person with Kam Air ($60), 3,500 Afs/person with Ariana Afghan Airlines ($55), daily
    • Prices may vary depending on the oil price and the safety situation in Afghanistan

 

The buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

The caves around the buddhas of Bamiyan.

Bamiyan

After the tense, concrete jungle of Kabul, Bamiyan is literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air. A stunningly colorful town in the mountains near Kabul, Bamiyan was once home to thousands of Buddhist monks, and a critical point along several Silk Road trade routes. These days, it’s a haven for history buffs and hikers, and it’s even possible to ski or board during the winter!

It’s easy to spend several days in Bamiyan exploring all of its caves, fortresses, and natural areas. You can do so with ease, as Bamiyan is the safest place for foreigners to visit in “mainland” Afghanistan, and its Hazara population is one of the most hospitable in Afghanistan. Thanks to their growing tourism efforts, there are a decent number of people that can speak English, too.

Where to stay in Bamiyan

  • Budget: There are several “hostels” along the main bazaar street. This means sleeping on the floor in a room with… whoever else shows up! If a couple, this likely means sharing a room with big Afghan families. A spot in a room is 400 – 500 Afs/person.
  • Mid-range: Caravanserai Hotel – $30 a night for double with private bathroom (bargained down from $60/night).
    • Across the street from the base of the large buddha
    • They’ll assume you want breakfast and dinner here too, for $10 per day/2 people. If you don’t want this, make sure to tell them.
  • High end: Highland Hotel – $70 – 90 for a standard room

 

The red stone interior of the Shahr-e-Zohak citadel near Bamiyan, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

The red walls of the Shahr-e-Zohak fortress.

Things to do in Bamiyan

Note that a ticket is required to visit certain sights in Bamiyan, which we have marked with an asterisk (*) below. A ticket is 300 Afs, and is only valid for one day. The first 3 on the list can be seen in one day. If you ask, the ticketing office has a very informative pamphlet on Bamiyan and its sights.

  • * Buddha enclaves
  • * Shahr-e-Zohak fortress
  • * Shahr-e-Gholghola fortress
  • * Chehel Situn caves
  • Dara-e-Azhdahar (Dragon Valley)
  • Watch sunset from over the big buddha or Shahr-e-Gholghola
  • Go skiing or boarding (winter)
  • Visit Band-e-Amir (see below)
  • Foladi ice caves

Shrine to Ali in Dara-e-Azdahar, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

A shrine to Ali in Dara-e-Azdahar, the Dragon Valley.

Safety in Bamiyan

You can walk around in the evenings, stroll to nearby villages, and generally relax. Just be cautious when walking around in nature—the areas around Bamiyan were once heavily mined. Though most mines have since been removed, those that value their legs and/or lives would do good to stick to beaten paths.

 

Woman driving on the surprisingly good roads near Bamiyan, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Straight cruising on the surprisingly good roads near Bamiyan.

Transportation in/out of Bamiyan

  • Flights to Kabul: At the time of writing, flying from Kabul is the only safe way to get to Bamiyan, as the mountains between the two are Taliban infested. Plane tickets are a set 7,500 Afs/person ($110) one-way, regardless of when you buy them. Be sure to buy them a few days in advance, as there’s only one flight each day on a 30-passenger plane.
    • Flight days: Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday
    • Kabul – Bamiyan: 7AM, arrives 7:30
    • Bamiyan – Kabul: 8 AM, arrives 8:30
  • Taxi to Shahr-e-Zohak: The fortress is about 18 kilometers from Bamiyan. A taxi there and back should be around 400 – 500 Afs. Official taxis can be found on the main bazaar street.
  • Taxi to Dara-e-Azdahar: About 7 kilometers away from Bamiyan, you can either walk (2-3 hours) or take a taxi. If you’re willing to walk a bit out of Bamiyan, you’ll eventually encounter unofficial shuttle/shared taxis driving up and down the road between Bamiyan and the village in Dara-e-Azdahar. We were picked up by one on our way back, and the several kilometer ride was only 20 Afs/person.
  • Taxi to Band-e-Amir: The lakes are about an hour’s drive away. We paid 1,500 Afs for a taxi for the day, and he took us to 3 of the 6 lakes (the third required a bit of persuasion).

 

Stunning reflections in a lake at Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Oh hello gorgeous.

Band-e-Amir

Quite possibly the bluest waters in the world, the 6 lakes of Band-e-Amir are absolutely stunning. The site of Afghanistan’s first—and only—National Park, they’re a popular summertime destination for Afghan tourists.

Services run around the lakes from March to mid-November. If you visit outside of summer, be sure to bring some extra layers—it gets chilly, especially at night! There was ice on the ground when we visited in October.

Where to stay in Band-e-Amir

  • Camping: There’s a free public camping space, and public toilets are available throughout the village
  • Budget: The Dir Hotel/chaikhana near Band-e-Haibat, the most popular lake, offers a mat on the floor for 100 Afs.
  • Mid-range: National Park Guest House
    • Sign for the property is on the left of the main road through the Band-e-Amir village

 

The famous swan paddle boats of Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

The famous swan paddle boats in Band-e-Haibat lake.

Things to do in Band-e-Amir

Sights are free, but you need to pay a 200 Afs park entrance fee when approaching the town.

  • Walk around the lakes (… duh)
  • Take a ride in the tacky swan paddle boats in Band-e-Haibat
  • Bathe in the waters, which supposedly have healing powers; women can bathe in the small hut near the Band-e-Haibat waterfall
  • Visit the shrine to Hazrat Ali

 

One of the six lakes of Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Safety in Band-e-Amir

Band-e-Amir, like Bamiyan, is safe. However, the mine issue still applies—stick to paths and marked areas.

 

Goats blocking the road near Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

A rather furry road block near Band-e-Amir.

Transportation in/out of Band-e-Amir

  • Bus to Bamiyan: According to Wikitravel, a minibus from Bamiyan to Band-e-Amir runs on Thursday afternoon and Friday mornings in the high season. Ask a local to verify this (and let us know if you find it!).
  • Taxi to Bamiyan: It’s best to arrange a taxi to take you from Bamiyan to Band-e-Amir and back. Ours was 1,500 Afs for a day trip (organized by the friendly owner of Caravanserai), but the price could go as high to 2,000 – 3,000 Afs.

 

 

Wakhan Corridor

The stunning Wakhan corridor is the only certifiably safe place in Afghanistan, and also the country’s most visited when it comes to foreign tourism. Far removed from the rest of the country, the little panhandle is filled with Kyrgyz and Wakhi people, who are different from the “mainland” Afghans.

It’s an incredibly remote area, to the point that some people in the region don’t even know that the Taliban exist. If it’s hiking and camping that you’re interested in, the Wakhan is the place for you. Note that it can only be accessed by crossing over from Tajikistan, unless you’re interested in traveling through Taliban-controlled areas. (Hint: don’t.)

We didn’t go to the Wakhan ourselves, but since it’s a (relatively) popular destination, there are plenty of other resources about it on the internet! For more information, check out:

 

Getting around Afghanistan

Airline food in Afghanistan: the grossly ubiquitous dried chicken sandwich "food" served on all Kam Air flights - Lost With Purpose

The grossly ubiquitous dried chicken sandwich served on all Kam Air flights.

Planes

Airlines

Kam Air and Ariana Afghan Airlines are Afghanistan’s two main carriers. Ariana is generally a little bit cheaper than Kam Air, but Kam Air has the better reputation.

Where to buy tickets

You’ll most likely be buying your tickets with cash, so stock up! Domestic tickets must be booked in person with your passport at a travel agency or airline office. International tickets can be purchased on whatever websites you normally use, although it pays to see what local operators charge.

Airports in Afghanistan

Airports in the country are layered in defenses, thanks to a history of attacks targeting airports. Be sure to arrive about two hours before flights, allowing time to go through the multiple levels of security. Each airport has several bag scans, body searches, and bomb-sniffing dogs.

Women have to go through a separate area for body searches. The women’s check is usually hidden behind a fluttering curtain off to the side.

 

A bus in Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Buses

Long distance buses

The only known “safe” long distance bus route foreigners can take is the Kabul – Mazar-i-Sharif bus. However, during our visit the road was deemed unsafe for civilian travel. Check with a local to see if the road is safe for transportation while you’re there.

Inner city buses

These buses can get cramped, but at around 5 – 10 Afs per ride, they’re a cheap transport that can’t be beat. They have set bus stops, though you can always try and hop off in-between. Generally, men sit in the front and women in the back, though couples can sit together in the middle.

 

A private taxi in Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Private taxis

Yellow (ish) taxis can be found in all of the major Afghan cities, and a handful outside of the city limits, too. There are no meters, but an inner city ride can start at around 50 Afs, and should never be more than 200 Afs, though you might have to bargain hard at times. Always decide on a price up front! Aim for 2/3 of the quoted price, unless it seems abnormally high.

In practice, any car willing to stop can be a taxi. It’s up to you to decide if you want to take the ride—for security reasons, it’s a bit safer to stick with the yellow cabs if you’re by yourself.

 

The Ultimate Afghanistan Travel Guide - A man calling on a mobile phone in Mazar-i-Sharif - Lost With Purpose

Calling and internet

If you want to stay connected while in Afghanistan, Roshan or Afghan Wireless (AWCC) are your best bet for phone service. MTN and Etisalat are two other options. Wifi can be found in most hotels, though whether or not it works depends on Allah’s mood.

Sim cards can be purchased at any official carrier office. Bring your passport, and prepare to have fingerprints taken. Calling credit top up/scratch cards can be purchased from vendors on the street, or in mobile stores. Note that street vendors only sell top up for calling and SMS; you’ll have to go to a mobile store for data top up.

We used MTN (because lazy, ignorant, and the store was right there), and coverage was decent to good in all of the cities we visited, including Bamiyan. There were, however, moments when service would cut out for a time. When asked about the lack of reception, an MTN agent shrugged and said “my boss told me to say inshallah it will work tomorrow.”

Prices for Roshan service

  • Sim card and 25 Afs credit – 50 Afs
  • 3GB/month data – 350 Afs
  • More prices on the Roshan website

Prices for Afghan Wireless

Prices for MTN

  • 2.5 GB/month data plan + sim card – 500 Afs
  • 1 GB top up – 350 Afs (must be done at an official MTN store)

 

Many a daring traveler wants to travel to Afghanistan, but it's difficult when there's hardly any up-to-date information on the country! Well, look no more: here's the most comprehensive Afghanistan travel guide available on the internet.

 

We don’t usually ask, but this Afghanistan travel guide did take us a f*cking long time to write. If you’ve found this guide helpful, feel free to buy us a coffee (donate via Paypal) for our efforts 🙂

 

Everything else

 

Culture

A road sign in Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Caution: cultural crossing ahead.

What to wear

Dressing in local attire is essential for blending in and reducing the amount of attention you get. It’s also a great ice breaker when talking to Afghans! They’ll be super amused (and pleased) to see you in local garb.

For the boys

Most men in Afghanistan dress in loose, comfortable shalwar kameez, also known as perahan tunban, which consist of a long shirt and baggy pants. The shirt and pants must be the same color, and it’s traditional to wear a vest, sports coat, or Afghan scarf over it.

It’s possible to buy premade shalwar kameez, but for the best effect, pick up some fabric in a store and get one tailored. Fabric should cost around 300 – 800 Afs, and getting an outfit tailored around 300 – 400 Afs.

Getting measured for a new shalwar kameez by a tailor in Bamiyan, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Getting measured for a shiny new shalwar kameez at a tailor in Bamiyan.

For full effect, don a pakol, the round, flat, woolen hats favored by Pashtuns. You can buy one for a couple hundred Afghanis in bazaars.

Tourists wearing Afghan traditional clothes in Bamiyan, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Some other tourists trying to blend in with perehan tunban and pakol hats.

If you’re not interested in being comfortable (… but… why?) some men also wear western clothes, especially in Kabul. Jeans and a shirt are quite a common sight, and short sleeves are acceptable. Avoid shorts.

 

This is what it's like to travel as a woman in Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

For the girls

As you could’ve guessed, clothing options are much more restricted for the ladies.

Women in Afghanistan must dress according to hijab, Islamic modest dress. This means:

  • Long sleeves. 3/4 length sleeves are passable, though not common everywhere.
  • A long shirt/tunic/dress that covers your bum.
  • Long pants or skirts. Skinny jeans are okay. Just don’t wear any shorts or short skirts.
  • A headscarf. Head covering isn’t required by law, but if you don’t wear one, you will be the only woman on the street without a head covering.
  • Open shoes are okay, though your feet will get quite dusty! Know that it’s not very common to see trainers/sneakers on the streets, especially the colorful variety that are popular now. We suggest buying shoes once you get to Afghanistan to help you blend more.

Accessories

Flashy items such as fancy watches and expensive cameras can draw unwanted attention. Your best option is to buy a bag in a bazaar upon arrival, and carry your camera in it.

Fancy hiking packs will also draw attention, but plenty of men carry around simple backpacks. Women usually carry generic leather bags, which can also be purchased in bazaars for a dime a dozen.

 

How to act

If you’ve traveled in Iran, you’ll be familiar with the concept of tarof, a form of politeness. A similar practice often occurs in Afghanistan.

People will often try to reject payment for their services or offer you something for free, whether it be a cup of tea or a taxi ride. Politely insist several times that you can’t accept it for free and want to pay—they’ll usually give in quite quickly.

If not, and you’re uncomfortable with accepting what they’ve provided for you, a handshake with some money in it will often be accepted. Gotta save face!

 

Photography

Be wary when snapping photos in Afghanistan. A small camera can fly under the radar, but a big DSLR can attract (ktoo much) attention! When taking photos, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ask before photographing anyone, especially women. Just as you shouldn’t stare at women in burqa, you shouldn’t take photos of them willy nilly and up close, either.
  • Carry your camera in a bag. A camera advertises the fact that you have money, and that’s not good in a country as poverty-stricken as Afghanistan.
  • Be subtle about taking photos. If people see you taking photos, they might crowd around you and ask to have their photo taken, or a photo with you instead. Crowds attract attention, and that’s the last thing you want as a foreigner.

For a more nuanced explanation, see Chasing the Unexpected’s guide to photographing Afghanistan while staying safe.

 

 

Wearing hijab, Islamic modest dress, in Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Gettin’ scandalous with rolled up pants in Band-e-Amir.

Women travel in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, and as such, traveling as a woman in Afghanistan requires a bit more consideration. We’ve put together a post on what it’s like to travel as a woman in Afghanistan, but for now, some quick tips:

  • Always dress in hijab, Islamic modest dress. See the what to wear section for more information.
  • In restaurants, women and families eat in a separate area. This could be a whole separate seating area, or a small area in the back separated by a curtain. You can sit in the men’s area, but you’ll get a lot of stares and will make people uncomfortable in small restaurants.
  • Accept that if traveling with a guy, you’ll initially be ignored. Men will direct comments and questions to your male companion first, though if you’re persistent or they’re more liberal, they’ll start talking to you eventually.

 

LGBTQ travel in Afghanistan

We’re not gay, so we can’t give firsthand accounts. But, as you might have guessed, being gay is not okay in Afghan society. Men, however, are very intimate and touchy with each other, and you’ll see men holding hands often.

Same-sex couples, just be discreet and say you’re friends. No one will know unless you tell them… or start making out in public (not advised).

 

Getting a straight razor shave in Herat, Afghanistan for less than $1 - Lost With Purpose

Getting a straight razor shave in Herat for less than $1. Not bad!

Financials

Once you’re on the ground, Afghanistan isn’t particularly expensive—it’s on par with the rest of Central Asia. It’s flying that will strain your wallet, as a one-way ticket between cities will be somewhere around $100 despite a short flying time.

To get a more thorough idea of budget, check out our report on how much it costs to travel in Afghanistan.

Average costs for Afghanistan

  • Total per day: 3,858 Afs / €54 / $59
  • Food and drinks per day: 400 – 700 Afs/ €5.55 – 9.70 / $6.15 – 10.80
  • Accommodation per day: 1,300 – 20,00 Afs / €18 – 28/ $20 – 30

Note: Prices for accommodation are per room. A solo traveler will pay the same as a couple.

  • Flight between cities: 3,250 – 7,150 Afs/ €45 – 99/ $50 – 110
  • Taxi for a day trip: 1,300 – 3,250 Afs / €18 – 45 / $20 – 50
  • Taxi around town: 1,00 – 3,00 Afs/ €1.35 – 4.15/ $1.55 – 4.60
  • Entrance to tourist sights: 0 – 800 Afs / €0 – 11.10 / $0 – 12.30

Money saving tips for Afghanistan

  • Haggle at hotels. The price is very often flexible, and it’s not unheard of for hotels to mark up prices for foreigners. Make sure to practice your charming foreigner persona.
  • Use Couchsurfing. It can be tricky to find someone to host you due to security issues, but it’s definitely possible.
  • Aim for 70% of the quoted price for taxis. We found drivers in Afghanistan to be fair (most of the time). A host told us it’s offensive to counter with too low an offer, so don’t halve the price unless the driver is really ripping you off.

 

Getting food after dark in Kabul, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Picking up some noms after dark. Okay because we were with a local… right?

Safety in Afghanistan

Safety is the most essential part of travel in Afghanistan! Like we’ve said already, “safe” is relative, but there are some measures you can take to reduce the risk of anything happening to you.

After dark

Try to avoid walking around much after dark, unless accompanied by a local. More importantly, avoid traveling between cities after dark, as this is when Taliban will set up unofficial checkpoints on the roads.

If you need something after dark and aren’t comfortable going outside, hotel and guesthouse workers will be happy to get things for you (often for a small fee). They’re interested in keeping you safe, too!

Dress like a local

Anything helping you to blend is a good idea. It might seem fruitless, but Afghans are much more diverse in color than you might expect—even blondes can blend in Afghanistan! See the What to wear section for tips on local dress.

Keep quiet

Don’t wander around shouting in your local language—it advertises the fact that you’re foreign! Word travels fast in Afghanistan, and the less people realize there are foreigners wandering around, the better.

This holds especially true on local buses. If someone realizes there’s a foreigner on the bus, they could call ahead to a friend, who could arrange a mishap further down the road. People get money if they turn in others to the Taliban, so beware.

Police

The police in Afghanistan are there to help, so cooperate, and if you need anything or see anything suspicious, let them know.

We had two run-ins with police/the intelligence. They accosted us out of nowhere, didn’t speak any English, and were a bit aggressive at first, so we were on our guard. Turns out they just wanted to let us know that Afghanistan is dangerous and we should be careful!

Know your consulate

It’s always smart to know which embassy or consulate you can turn to in case of an emergency. If your country doesn’t have representation in Kabul, look for a neighbor or ally’s embassy.

List of diplomatic missions in Afghanistan

 

Health in Afghanistan - Lost With Purpsoe

Health

Food and water

Hygiene is important in Afghan culture—you’ll see people washing their hands before and after every meal, and you should do the same!

Kabuli pulao in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

The ever-ubiquitous kabuli pulao. Delicious as it may be, prepare to OD on it!

… but this doesn’t mean everything is squeaky clean. Food-related illnesses are common in Afghanistan, so use your discretion around feeding time. Tap water is a big no-no, and avoid anything made with ice unless eating at higher-end or family establishments.

Vaccinations

No vaccinations are required to enter Afghanistan, but standard travel vaccines are recommended. See this vaccinations list from the UK’s NHS for more details.

Clinics

There are plenty of small clinics to be found around the cities, but if looking for top quality medical treatment and/or someone that speaks English, Westex Medical Solutions in Kabul caters to foreigners. They’re incredibly friendly, speak excellent English, and will give you a discount if you tell them you’re just a traveler, not an aid worker.

Note that their address has changed from what’s listed online—they’re now found on Sherpoor Road, Street 4 in the Wazir Khan district of Kabul.

 

News resources

For the best and most thorough news coverage of what’s going on in Afghanistan, use these sites:

And of course, don’t miss out on other international news sources:

 

A tile maker chipping away at the Jame Mosque in Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

A tile maker chipping away at the Jame Mosque in Herat.

Resources

Tourist information

Read before you go

  • Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg – A deep look into a curious and sad phenomenon in Afghanistan: girls dressing as boys to escape gender restrictions.
  • An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan by Jason Elliot – An engrossing, well-written travelogue of observations by a man who visited Afghanistan in the 70s as a teenager, then 20 years later after learning Farsi.
  • An Historical Guide to Afghanistan by Nancy Dupree – An oldie but a goodie, this is the authoritative guidebook for Afghanistan, with a thorough look at the country’s history.
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – The most famous work of fiction set in Afghanistan. A modern day classic, you won’t be putting this one down until you’ve read it cover-to-cover.

Guidebooks

As you might have guessed, guidebooks for Afghanistan are painfully outdated. Still, things change slowly in Afghanistan, and guidebooks are handy for getting a bit of background and history about the places you’re seeing. If you choose to invest, remember not to take any prices at face value.

Afghanistan travel blogs

The traitor rises again, eh?

Kidding, it’s a free internet, and you’re allowed to prowl around and see what else there is to see! Here are some of our favorite travel blogs on Afghanistan. If you know of any more, send them on over!

 

We don’t usually ask, but this Afghanistan travel guide did take us a f*cking long time to write. If you’ve found this guide helpful, feel free to buy us a coffee (donate via Paypal) for our efforts 🙂

 

Many a daring traveler wants to travel to Afghanistan, but it's difficult when there's hardly any up-to-date information on the country! Well, look no more: here's the most comprehensive Afghanistan travel guide available on the internet.

 

Yay transparency! The book links in this guide are affiliate links. That means if you buy one of those books, we’ll make a small amount of money at no extra cost to you. Think of it as a way of saying thanks and helping us to run the blog!

 

Alex

American by birth, citizen of nowhere in particular by nature. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

41 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Travel in Afghanistan

    Seriously, this is the best Afghanistan guide ever. Thank you so much for the awesome work you did here. So useful, information packed and interesting. Thank you!!

    Cheers! We spent a lot of time on it, so we’re glad it’s useful for you. Safe travels if you decide to go 🙂

    Emanuela Antolini says:

    hello, I have the chance ‘to make some free trip with all expenses paid in Afghanistan, Kabul. Seeking guidance in Kabul own car. You are and you prices? I have been active for a while ‘to compare the prices, but also to have the certainty of not being abandoned in Airport .

    Sorry, but we’re not really sure what you want from us. We’re not a tour company and aren’t in Afghanistan, either.

    isoruku yamamoto says:

    Hi. Many thanks for writing this very helpful guide, great job! May I just make a couple of suggestions? You list two sites as “the best and most thorough news coverage” from inside Afghanistan. But Radio Azadi (Radio Free Europe’s Kabul bureau) is the most popular news outfit in the country, and I would argue is also the best and most trusted. You might also want to include the Silk Road Hotel in your Bamyan section and possibly the Tejarat Hotel for Herat.

    Hi, thanks for the suggestions. We’ll look into them.

    Noriko says:

    I’m a bit confused about how one should act when in the country in regards to interacting with the locals. If one is say a student of Dari/Pashto and wanted to get immersed in the language, would it be safe to interact with the locals to get immersed in the language and improve? Your thoughts?

    Also, it seems you made some local friends. Did you get to party it up in any place during your time there?

    Yeah, it’s totally possible to strike up a conversation with people. Just don’t trust anyone right of the bat. You can meet people through CS, and hone your Dari skills with them.

    Afghanistan isn’t really a party place, as you can imagine. We smoked some hash and had some drinks at someone’s house, but no real parties.

    Noriko says:

    Are you referring to meeting locals via CS? Then, both Dari and Pashto, correct?

    Yes, CS is probably the best way for meeting trustworthy locals. Not everyone speaks both Dari and Pashto, but plenty people do.

    Noriko says:

    I’m getting closer and closer to my visit to Afghanistan. A few more questions if you don’t mind.

    1. I plan on flying in to Kabul then head straight to Mazar i Sharif without leaving he airport. Is that possible? I saw you mentioned the local flights must be booked and paid for in-person but can I do that within the airport for a same day flight? I assume the price would be he same and I’d only have to worry about timing my arrival so I don’t have to leave the airport area.

    2. I didn’t see laundry mentioned in the guide anywhere. How would this work in Mazar i Sharif?

    3. Where can I get a full outfit of traditional local dress and that Pashtun hat (pakol) that you mentioned as soon as I arrive? Or before I arrive? I plan on going super local and having one made the same day if possible since I want to improve my language skills.

    4. In general, I’m worried about attracting attention by practicing Dari and Pasto as a foreigner. Do you have any thoughts on this considering you mentioned keeping a low profile?

    5. After Mazar, I plan on departing the country via the Uzbek border at Hairatan. Is the process as simple as described in the post you wrote going from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan? I assume I just follow the reverse steps, I was just curious if it was dangerous or not or I should say if you recommend it or not.

    6. I plan on following your steps for getting the Uzbek and Afghanistan visa in Kyrgyzstan and since I’m an American I can enter Krygyzstan for free with nothing to do administratively at the airport when I arrive.

    That’s exciting. Make sure to keep an eye out on the news, as spring is here and Taliban activity usually picks up around spring. Mazar should be fine, but it doesn’t hurt to be vigilant. As for your question, we’ll try to answer them as well as we can.

    1. We’re not 100% sure about this. Isn’t it possible to book the tickets online? Even if you can buy tickets at the airport, if the flight is fully booked, you can’t make it. You should try to book the tickets beforehand.

    2. You can ask your hotel about that. They can probably do it for you, and if not, they can provide a bucket for you to do it in.

    3. Before you arrive you could have clothes made at any tailor. A decent tailor should be able to make such an outfit based on some pictures. It’s probably much cheaper to have them made in Afghanistan, though. Mazar has a big and lively bazaar where you can buy fabric and find a tailor. You can find the hats there, too. Just ask the guy from your hotel, he can help you.

    4. Start by practicing with people from the hotel. There’s always guys around, and you can talk to them. You can also try talking to waiters and shop vendors. It makes sense to talk to them, so people will notice you less than when you’re talking to 15 kids in the middle of the street or something.

    5. Yeah, it works in the reverse way. The road towards the border is considered as safe.

    6. Not sure if this is a question 😉

    Hope this helps!
    Cheers -S

    Noriko says:

    1. Just checked the flight schedule and it seems like I could take a flight from Dushanbe to Kabul arriving at 4pm and then take the flight going to Mazar i Sarif which departs at 5:30pm. Based on your experiences with the flight process, do you feel this plan is feasible? I’m not sure if I would have enough time to get my luggage then check-in for the flight to Mazar i Sharif.

    Otherwise, I might have to look into entering and exiting via Uzbekistan. I’m not sure if the visa they issue is single or multiple, I don’t recall your guide mentioning this unless I overlooked it.

    An hour and a half is not that long. Considering there’s always a chance that your plane will be delayed, or that claiming your baggage might take a while, we’re not sure we would recommend that. Why don’t you stay in Kabul for a day or two? There’s plenty to see there.

    Noriko says:

    I’m quite nervous about safety in Kabul. I’ve spoken with two others and they both cheerfully state, as you do, that Mazar i Sharif is safe and a good place to visit. Kabul, on the other hand, is a different story altogether. I’m not after thrills and just want to practice Pashto (and Dari) so I want to avoid Kabul and any other place that is not highly recommended. I guess I’ll give Kam Air a call to see how they feel and if they can offer some insight or insider tips. I don’t assume the plane will be full or in a big rush (or will it..? lol).

    What about the Uzbekistan visa? Is it multiple or single? Or can I choose easily?

    Okay. We understand. Just realize that nowhere in Afghanistan is truly safe. The German consulate in Mazar got attacked not so long ago, for instance. Not trying to fear monger, just making sure you understand what is meant when people call a place in Afghanistan “safe”.

    Uzbekistan normally gives out single entry visas. Their multiple entry visa is basically two back-to-back single entry visas. Quite useless. We wrote a report on getting an Uzbek visa in Kyrgyzstan, and how to cross the border: https://www.lostwithpurpose.com/travel-information/uzbekistan-travel-guide/.

    Noriko says:

    I guess there goes ‘Mazar-i-Sharif is safe’. What a horrible attack that happened yesterday, over 150 dead and over 50 wounded. I think I may skip this area.

    But at the same time, it was a specific targeted attack so it may still be ok. But I assume most incidents go unreported though..

    Honestly, this is what the term “safe” entails in Afghanistan. An attack like this, terrible as it is, could happen anywhere. Having said that, since most attacks target the military (like this one), other government forces and employees, or religious minorities, these things don’t necessarily affect tourists.

    If attacks like these spook you, you might want to rethink visiting the country altogether. Such attacks could happen anywhere, especially now that spring is coming (spring offensive). Not saying this to berate or discourage you, just trying to make sure you understand the situation in the country, and what the term safe means in the context of a country at war.

    If you’re uncomfortable with this constant risk, again, we recommend either skipping Afghanistan, or only visiting Bamiyan, which has been relatively peaceful in recent years. You can practice your language skills there.

    Noriko says:

    I’ll probably still go but just wait a while. I’m hoping the Uzbekistan border route remains unaffected by all this mayhem.

    On another note, since you know Mazar well, how far or close was the attack to areas where tourists would be?

    We’re not sure what the exact location of the army base is, but it’s not near the Shrine to Ali and the bazaar, which is where you’d normally stay as a tourist.

    Noriko says:

    Just realized a potential issue regarding visas. So, I would need two visas but if I get two single entry visas, that is almost $400 dollars! But if I do “multiple entry” route then it’s just an extra $10 charge when I pay the $165 visa fee.

    As I understand it, since the visas would be back-to-back then when I enter Uzbekistan for the first time, I would need to make sure that I depart the country (head to Mazar) BEFORE the commencement of the second visa. Then, I would have to ensure that I return to Uzbekistan during the dates of the second visa. Tricky but I think this is what it translates to:

    When I enter the country, I would need to plan on setting aside the amount of time I plan on staying in Mazar. So, for 4-5 days in Mazar, I would stay 6-7 days in Tashkent then take the night train to Termiz. As soon as I arrive (10am-ish), I take a taxi to the border. Should be finished in an hour (12pm). Now, head to Mazar via taxi, hopefully I should arrive before dark around 3pm. After I’m done in Mazar the first visa should be expired already and the second one should be effective. I take a taxi back to the border at Hairatan and return to Tashkent via the same route. I fly out before the second visa expires.

    Everything sound about right? I’m thinking you did something similar to this to save money.

    We’re not sure about the Uzbek visa situation, that’s something you have to research yourself. A double entry visa is basically just two 15 days single entry visas, that’s all we know. Also, are you sure about the price for your Ubzek visa? It sounds like a lot.

    Also, you need to factor in more time at the border. It can easily take two hours just on the Uzbek side. And why are you staying in Tashkent for that long? It’s not that interesting of a city.

    Noriko says:

    Oh yes, excuse me, I forgot you went all around the country and not just to Mazar and Uzbekistan. I will look into this, thank you. Also, re prices I was just multiplying the $162 single visa cost times two.

    With my plan though and even if I assume more time at the border, I should still make it to Mazar during daylight, yes you think?

    I think Tashkent is the capital so it presumably will have the most budget accommodation options as well as authentic food variety. Should be cheaper too unless I’m misunderstanding the country.

    If you arrive at the border around 12, you should have enough time to get to Mazar before dark, yeah.

    As for Uzbekistan, Tashkent is by far its least interesting city. Samarkand or Bhukara are much more interesting, and accommodation is priced similarly everywhere. In terms of food you’re right, but that’s because, in our opinion, Uzbek food is meh, and Tashkent had loads of not Uzbek options.

    You can find more info on Uzbekistan here: https://www.lostwithpurpose.com/country/uzbekistan/

    Noriko says:

    I’ve just read a post on Thorntree that special registrations and papers are required to even visit the Afghan border. Have you heard anything about this or have friends in-the-know?

    No idea what you’re talking about. You need to show your Uzbek hotel registration slips at immigration, but besides that we know of no papers. Can you send a link to this discussion?

    Om Prakash says:

    Afghanistan looks like a really pretty country with a rich history and culture. I still think its not worth risking our lives to go and visit countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. I’d probably refrain from even visiting Mexico and other central American countries.

    There’s a bit of risk involved every time you walk out your door! Though Afghanistan is an extreme case, we recommend having a bit more faith in the Central Americas and the like 🙂 Things aren’t always as they might seem from afar, especially for a tourist!

    Jim Finnie says:

    Great guide….thanks…..I’m sure it will come in useful as we make plans over the coming weeks.

    We hope so! Good luck with your planning, and if you have any more questions, you’re welcome to reach out to us further.

    Jim Finnie says:

    We will do I’m sure!

    Damiaan Reijnaers says:

    That was an interesting read bro!

    That person wanted to visit the border without a visa, in which case you need special permission. This has been in place for a while. If you have a visa, there’s no problem.

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