How to travel Afganistan and be safe during Taliban regime (2024)

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How to travel Afganistan and be safe during Taliban regime (2024)

My first visit to Afghanistan was in December 2022. The American troops were long gone. The country was in a state of uncertainty about what was going to happen next.

I entered the country by land, through the Torkham border, to see for myself what’s really going on in the country.
It was actually very easy to get a visa, and it’s still a very straightforward process, especially in Peshawar, where I applied. There was just one glitch, which the consul told me – no photos, no videos, and we won’t take any responsibility for you.

Today, however, the situation is (thankfully) very different.

Tourists are welcome in the country as long as they respect local traditions, or at least they pretend to.

Taking pictures of people, even Taliban, is allowed. Many people will even pose for you or take a selfie with you.

At Taliban checkpoints, the soldiers already understand the concept of traveling, so you shouldn’t be mistaken for a spy (as they used to be – given your outfit, your interest in their country, and the photographic equipment you’re carrying).

Having said all that, Afghanistan is still a very unstable country and should only be left to experienced travelers, especially if they are backpacking alone.

How to do this, whether on your own or as part of a group with a local, is what I’m going to tell you in this article.

Can anyone travel Afganistan right now ?

Getting a visa is a very straightforward process, but it only needs to be done at the specific embassy. Most popular are the embassies in Peshawar, Islamabad, Dubai, Mashad, but there have been reports of getting visas in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and even Kyrgyzstan’s Bishkek. Your report is welcome in the comments section!

travel afganistan children taxi kabul
Children in Afghanistan are very curious. This photo was taken during a regular taxi ride in Kabul

History: What’s happening in Afghanistan?

Over 43 years of conflict have turned Afghanistan into a war-torn country, starting in 1979 when tribesmen rebelled against the Communist Party, sparking a Soviet-Mujahideen war that lasted until 1989.

The Soviets left, but then the mujahedeen started fighting each other for power, which left the country even poorer.

Tired of all the conflict and disappointed that Islamic law was still being imposed after the Communists left, a former mujahideen founded a movement called the Taliban in the city of Kandahar.

The Taliban quickly took over the whole of Kandahar Province. By 1996 they controlled 90% of Afghanistan, including Kabul, and ruled until 2001.

Then came the American invasion, starting a war that ended with their withdrawal in 2021, an event the Taliban used to take over the country.

Afghanistan under Taliban rule is what you see when you travel there today.

travel afganistan restaurant eating afgan vegetarian food together
Eating vegetarian food at a random Afghan restaurant on our way from the Torkham border to Kabul

🛂 How to get a visa for Taliban Afghanistan

Before the Taliban took over the country in 2021, you could get an Afghan visa at just about any embassy in the world. Now, only a handful of embassies and consulates can issue you a valid visa that the Taliban will recognise:

  • Islamabad (Pakistan) / $100 / same day visa – $80 if you wait longer
  • Peshawar (Pakistan) / $80 / took me 15 minutes to get them
  • Dubai (United Arab Emirates) / $?
  • Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) / $?
  • Dushanbe (Tajikistan) / $?
  • Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) / $?

Afghanistan visa travel requirements

I got my Afghan visa at the embassy in Peshawar, and these were the requirements:

  • 1x passport size photo
  • 1x passport copy
  • 1x copy of Pakistan visa
  • $80 – banknotes only in good condition

Frankly, in Peshawar, at the time I was there (Dec ’22), they didn’t have any requirements. My friend got the visa without any photo or passport copy, but as I had everything ready, they just took a photo and passport copy from me.

You can generally get a single entry visa. They are valid for 30 days within a 90-day period.

Other embassies and consulates have similar rules. However, visa fees may vary.

Please share your experiences in the comments area.

afganistan street in kabul people walking
Busy bazar street in Kabul

What nationalities are eligible to go to Afghanistan?

All nationalities can apply for an Afghan visa at any of the previously shared embassies.

Can American (US) citizens travel to Afghanistan?

Yes, without any restrictions

Do you need a Letter of Invitation for your Afghan visa application?

No. When you apply for your Afghan visa, you may be asked who will be your sponsor in Afghanistan, but you can just say that you don’t need one, that you are travelling alone, and it will be fine.

afganistan visa passport photo
This is what an Afghan visa looks like. Notice that I got it without a photo attached

⚡️ With the Taliban in power, is it safe to travel in Afghanistan now?

In terms of security, it’s never been better time to visit Afghanistan.

Traveling Afghanistan before the Taliban took over in 2021

Until the summer of 2021, any trip to Afghanistan was potentially dangerous.

I personally didn’t visit Afghanistan during that time, but based on the information I have, there were areas that were relatively easy to visit, and then the rest of the country – controlled by the Taliban – was a no-go area.

Suicide bombings were almost a daily thing and kidnappings, especially of tourists, were very common.

It was still possible to go and travel pretty much anywhere, but the risk was just too high for most of the adventurous travelers to take.

afganistan bandeamir smile pedalo lake
You can find these colorful pedalos in the Band-e-amir National Park in Afghanistan.

Traveling in Afghanistan after the Taliban take over in 2021

After U.S. troops left the country, Afghanistan itself appeared to be in deep humanitarian and economic crisis. Most things do not work anymore and life there is very hard. On the other hand, the country is relatively safe now. New rulers are trying to put together a legitimate government – or at least pretend to do so – with a goal to be recognized by the entire international community.

The Taliban don’t carry out terrorist attacks anymore and kidnappings seem to be a thing of the past.

So, is it really safe ?

Now that the Taliban are ruling and there is nobody else left to fight with, we can say that Afghanistan is finally safe. Most Afghans will agree and add that peace has finally come to Afghanistan.

afganistan bird bazar in kabul
Kabul’s bird bazaar has a long history. That’s why it’s usually visited by tourists in Kabul.

Permits for traveling in Afghanistan

You need special permission from the Taliban to travel in Afghanistan.

These permits can be obtained in Kabul and are unfortunately not easy to obtain for independent travelers, but that is part of the experience.

Once you have a permit, you’re free to go. If you don’t have one, you can spend a lot of time (even nights) at Taliban checkpoints, so I highly recommend getting one.

Need to know about Afghanistan travel permits

Your travel permit must include all of the provinces you intend to visit in Afghanistan.

Fortunately, if you’re crossing a province but not staying overnight (or it’s not your final destination), you don’t have to have it on your permit.

You can expect to pay about 1000 AFG for each province that you visit, which will be about 12 USD.

Afganistan taliban permit
Taliban permit for visiting provinces in Afganistan

Step-by-step guide on how to get your travel permit for Afghanistan

Step 1 – Go to the Ministry of Culture & Information

There you’ll need 2 signatures from 2 different authorities. People there speak English, so it can be quite straightforward, but also time consuming, so be prepared for that.

They will also tell you what to do next, which is to go to the tourism department for an interview.

They’ll give you the phone number and address of that place.

Afganistan ministry of culture and information department kabul interview
Being interviewed at the Ministry of Culture and Information in Kabul, Afghanistan

Step 2 – Going to the Tourism Department

The building has only a concrete wall around it and no navigation signs, but ask people around and they should be able to navigate you pretty quickly.

Once inside, you will be interviewed by a person who will ask you several questions about Afghanistan. It is extremely important to be polite and to give the impression that you know what you are doing, especially if you are traveling alone or without a guide.

It may also help if you tell them that you have friends in the places you are asking for permits.

Dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan

The Taliban are now everywhere, and as an independent traveler you will have to deal with them at checkpoints or when trying to get your permits.

Fortunately, it’s not that difficult.

afganistan talib flag sale point kabul
A Talib selling a Taliban flag in front of the American embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Taliban are generally friendly to foreigners

It may be hard to believe, but most of the Talib people I’ve met are very friendly, nice, and helpful.

They are Pashtuns, a nomadic group of people with origins in Iran who now live mostly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are among the most hospitable people in the world, and if necessary they will protect their guests with their lives.

You don’t need to like them

Taliban, with all that said, it’s still a fundamental group of people who impose their orthodox ideas of Islam. This, of course, still causes a lot of difficulties for many local people, and many tourists will not come here because of this.

You don’t have to agree with them, but as an independent traveler you have to deal with them anyway.

If you don’t want to, you should consider traveling with a local guide, which will minimize your interaction with the Taliban.

How are the Taliban viewed by the public?

We have to understand one thing – Afghanistan is the most conservative country in the world. Before the country was completely taken over by the Taliban, there were many people who followed the rules and traditions that the Taliban are now imposing on everyone.

This is also one of the reasons why Taliban has so much support among Afghan people.

The other group of people simply support them because they have brought stability and security to the country.

But remember that not everyone supports them. There are many Afgans who are still conservative but are not happy with their extremist ideas, like banning women from certain places, higher education and so on.

afganistan women bazar kabul
People walking in the bazaar streets of Kabul, Afghanistan

How to travel to Afghanistan if you are a woman 👩‍🦰

Of course, as a man, I can not give any trustworthy advice on such a topic, but since this is a very popular question, I will share what I know.

Try to blend in. This means wearing a hijab and covering your body as the local women do.

If possible, travel with a male partner, whether your boyfriend, (fake) husband, or a trusted local.

Remember that most men in Afghanistan have never seen a foreign girl, so they will be curious. This can range from annoying stares to making you wait longer just to have you around.

I personally believe that most men in Afganistan are honorable and would never do anything bad in this regard, however, a few bad apples can ruin the whole experience (and much more).

✈️ How to get to Afghanistan

Except for the crazy amount of security and no proper wifi, Kabul's airport looks like any other airport.
Except for the crazy amount of security and no proper wifi, Kabul’s airport looks like any other airport.

How to travel to Afghanistan by air

International airlines have stopped their service to Afghanistan, but you can use the Afghan airline called Kam Air.

Kam-Air has daily flights from Dubai and at fixed prices. You can also fly in from Islamabad, Tehran, Istanbul and even Dushanbe.

Note that the flights are not cheap and the airline does not have the best safety reputation, but it’s the only one you get.

How to travel to Afghanistan by land

Afghanistan has open borders with the following countries:

Pakistan – The Khyber Pass at Torkham is open. However, the crossing is very chaotic and tiring, but it’s also the most used one, as the easiest visa for Afghanistan you can get in nearby Peshawar.

Iran – Open and very popular. You can enter Herat from the Iranian city of Mashhad. Many travelers have used this border in the past.

Turkmenistan – It is possible to go if you have a valid visa, but there are not many reported stories from there. If you have an experience, please share it in the comments.

Uzbekistan – It is possible to get to Afghanistan from the city of Termez. The nearest large city is Mazar-i-Sharif.

Tajikistan – The most popular border crossing is called Ishkashim, it is also the most crossed border crossing among foreigners in Afghanistan, as it leads to the Wakhan Valley.

China – Deep in the Wakhan Corridor, at 4,923 meters above sea level, the Wakhir Pass is the border between Afghanistan and China. Unfortunately, the border is closed to foreigners.

Afganistan snow roads bamyan
Some roads in Afghanistan can be full of snow in the winter, especially in Bamyan

🎒 Independent travel in Afghanistan

Is independent travel allowed in Afghanistan?

Yes, but you need to have a certain amount of experience and have valid permits.

Is it difficult to backpack in Afghanistan?

No, but again, a certain amount of experience is required. If you have done countries like Egypt, Iraq or Pakistan independently, you can be ready for today’s Afghanistan.

Afganistan bamyan market
Local market in the village of Bamyan

If you’re planning to visit Mazar, Herat, Kabul, Bamyan or Band-e-Amir, it shouldn’t be too difficult. These are all tourist destinations, so there is plenty of local transportation, or you can even easily take a domestic flight.

Hotels and guesthouses are also very common in these areas. Eating in local restaurants and visiting bazaars are the things that foreigners usually do, so even locals will be happy to point you in the right direction if you get lost.

The language barrier is a problem, and – unless you speak Dari, Pashto or at least Urdu – you will have to use your hands, legs and translator to communicate.

⛅ Best time to visit Afghanistan

Because of the different geographical areas, Afghanistan can be a year-round travel destination.

Travel in Afghanistan by the seasons:

How to travel to Afghanistan in the winter

During the winter, many parts of Afghanistan are covered in snow, with temperatures reaching -25ºC in places like Bamyan, Band-e-Amir, or the Wakhan. I was there in December and enjoyed the time, but I have to say it’s not for everyone.
Still, many people can find interesting southern provinces, including Kandahar and Helmand.

Kabul is cold in the winter, but during the sunny days it’s not a problem. Fortunately, hotels have good heating and hot showers are available.

Afganistan Band-e-Amir lake
Yes, this is Afghanistan. Cold, full of snow and ice. The picture was taken near the lake in Band-e-Amir National Park.

Travel to Afghanistan in Spring & Fall

If Afghanistan had a tourist season, it would start in spring and fall, as the weather is pleasant most of the time.

However, it can be too early/late for trekking in some provinces (Wakhan Corridor).

In late spring or early fall, it may be too hot for Mazar or Kandahar provinces and you can expect temperatures to reach 40ºC.

Summer trip to Afghanistan

In the summer, cities like Herat, Mazar, and Kandahar are hellishly hot, with temperatures averaging over 40ºC.

Kabul is also hot, but the altitude makes it bearable for some.

However, summer is the best season for trekking along the Wakhan Corridor.

My Top 3 experiences in Afghanistan

There are many things to experience in Afghanistan, and especially now that the country is fully open, the possibilities seem endless.

However, if time is of the essence for you, here are my top three must-see experiences.

1. Wander the streets of Old Kabul

afganistan people old town bazar
A crowded old town in Kabul

Kabul is one of those places where there is always something to see, especially in the Old City.

Bird Market is probably the most visited place for many tourists because of its unique atmosphere and long history.

2. Bamyan mountain trekking

Afganistan band-e-amir view
For those who love nature, it can’t get better than visiting Bamyan or Band-e-amir National Park.

If you’re a nature lover, this is a must stop for you. The peace, tranquility and beautiful natural scenery of Bamyan and Band-e-Amir National Parks will make you see Afghanistan from a whole new perspective.

3. Explore the rural areas of Afghanistan

Considering the most conservative and yet very preserved culture, there is nothing that can beat the experience of simply visiting the rural areas of Afghanistan.

It can be as little as going to some unknown village to watch people and life or going deeper by interacting with locals in small restaurants or over tea.

Afganistan got very little exposure to the western world, which means that many things they still do their own way, which is fascinating to watch or even be a part of!

Afganistan bamyan buddha
While exploring Afghanistan, you may come across such views. This one is in the village of Bamyan, a famous Buddhas are unfortunately destroyed, but the view and the vibe is worth a visit

💵 Prices, budget and costs in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s currency is called the Afghani (AFN).

$1 is approximately 85 AFN

Where to exchange money

I found it very convenient to change money at street vendors. They usually sit behind a small desk in a group at the intersection of busy streets.

If you find this too risky, you can go to Shahr-e Naw, which is one of the richest streets in Kabul, and change your money there.

You can exchange dollars, euros, Pakistani rupees and, if you’re near the border, a neighboring country’s currency.

ATMs in Afghanistan

Before the Taliban took over Afghanistan, you could withdraw money from ATMs with any international card.

Now the situation is different, but since I was able to pay for my plane ticket with my debit card at the Kam-Air office in Kabul, I believe the ATMs should work as well.

Paying by card in Afghanistan

Although I was able to pay for my plane ticket with my debit card in Kabul, I have not found another way to pay with my card elsewhere.

Bring and use cash

How much does it cost to travel around Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is a cheap country. Accommodation, food and transportation are at the same price level as surrounding countries, so going there as a budget traveler will not hurt your wallet.

There is only one thing that adds extra cost and that is flights. Whether international or domestic, flights are expensive. I’ve paid around $480 for a one-way flight to Dubai, and considering the length of the flight and the services, I consider it expensive.

afganistan traveling on donkey
Roads in Afghanistan always have some surprises along the way. The donkey is a very popular form of transportation.

Still, there are ways around it, and luckily you’re not required to fly into or around the country, so if you’re on a tight budget, you can still definitely get around there well.

Here are some typical costs to give you an idea:

How much does it cost to eat and drink in Afghanistan?

  • Breakfast in small local restaurant (usually eggs, bread and tea) – 120 AFS
  • Local meal at a restaurant (usually palaw rice, kebab, etc.) – 250-350 AFS
  • Dining in a mid-range restaurant – 500-800 AFS

What is the cost of transportation in Afghanistan?

  • One-way domestic flight – 60 -150 USD
  • One-way international flight (Dubai) – 480 USD
  • Taxi within cities – 60 AFN for short taxi rides. Up to 250-300 AFN for longer ones.
  • Taxi from the airport to city center – 600 AFN in Kabul
  • One-way taxi to Bamyan – 50 USD
  • Local bus within the city – 5 AFN

What is the cost of accommodation in Afghanistan?

Accommodation prices may vary. I paid $25 for a nice hotel in the center of Kabul (Hotel Khyber). It was a double room and there were 2 of us. It was December, cold outside, but nice and warm inside with a hot shower, breakfast included.
There was an armed guard, but I have the impression that every hotel in this price range has one.
I dont really recommend going cheaper unless you really know what youre doing. Also be aware that couchsurfing is illegal in Afghanistan, so doing so may get your hospitable host in trouble with a Taliban.

🚌 Getting around in Afghanistan: transportation

You can use several transportation options to travel around Afghanistan to suit every budget and comfort. I prefer classic minibuses for their local vibe, but traveling by taxi is also very popular for a foreigner. Please note that hitchhiking is not recommended in Afghanistan at this time.

afganistan bamyan kids on the motornike without a helmet
Bamyan kids on motorbike

How to get around Afghanistan using public transportation

Afghanistan has a good network of buses, minibuses and local shared taxis that connect cities and towns.
It’s similar to that in neighboring countries, so experienced travelers will have no problem understanding it and getting a ride.

How to travel around Afghanistan by plane

Taking a domestic flight used to be the only safe way to travel across the country. Now, it’s more of a fast and convenient alternative that is still very popular among travelers.

You can book your tickets online on Kam Air. There’s another local airline named Ariana, but I never used it.

Typically, all flights cost between 60 USD and 150 USD. If you are already in Afghanistan, I strongly recommend that you book your flight through a physical office of Kam Air. There you can also pay with your debit card.

Hitchhiking in Afganistan

I used to travel a lot by hitchhiking. Now I just do it for fun or when I want to interact with locals in a whole new level. Still, after doing some research, I skipped hitchhiking adventure in Afghanistan.

Not that it’s dangerous. I don’t think so. I can be more unpleasant as the country has too little western exposure that your way of transportation can often be misunderstood and considering the state where the country is now, your actions as a tourist, visitor, should be more clean, legible.

ℹ Information about the country, the Afghans and their culture

Here you will find some interesting information about the culture of Afghanistan and the current situation there.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

When the Taliban took over the country, it changed its name to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

All signs of the official flag (black, green with red stripes) were also erased and replaced with a Taliban-friendly white flag.

afganistan flag taliban big
The largest flag in Afghanistan is now flying on top of the Bibi Mahro hill in Kabul

Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country

Afghanistan is made up of several ethnic groups, including Pashtuns (42%), Tajiks (27%), and Hazaras (9%)

The Hazara are a Shia minority with Mongolian features, Bamyan being their homeland.

There are also other nationalities living along the borders of the respective countries.

Dari is the main language, but Pashto is official too

Dari is related to Farsi, the language spoken in Iran.

Afghans and Iranians have a good understanding of each other.

Dari is the language of the administration. It’s spoken by nearly 80% of the population.

Pashto is also an official language. However, it’s usually only spoken by the Pashtuns, who are the dominant ethnic group.

Closer to the Pakistani border, people also speak more Urdu.

Afganistan russian infrastructure in kabul
In Kabul, many streets and neighborhoods look the same as in the former USSR republic due to the Russian influence in the past.

Possible language problems

Similar to China, people in Afghanistan have had so little contact with the Western world that even sign language – communicating with bare hands and legs – can be a problem.

Also, some jokes and gestures may be interpreted differently than they would be elsewhere, so be aware of this fact. The best corrector of misinterpreted words and gestures is always a smile.

Afghanistan Women

Afghanistan is the most patriarchal country in the world, with or without the Taliban, but now women have lost even more of their freedom.

They are not obliged to wear the burqa, wearing the hijab and even walking alone in the street is fine.

However, they are barred from higher education.

The official explanation is that they must go to segregated schools, and the Taliban intend to build them, but when that happens..

🍲 Afghan Kitchen

afganistan food vegetarian
Vegetarian Afghan dish at local restaurant

Located in the heart of Central Asia, Afghan cuisine is influenced by Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

As is typical of the region, Afghan cuisine is heavily based on meat, which can be a challenge for a vegetarian. Still, it’s possible to survive quite well.

Their national dish is kabuli palaw, which consists of rice fried in meat fat, typically topped with carrots and raisins, and is essentially the same as plov in Uzbekistan.

Is there any alcohol in Afghanistan?

No, Afghanistan is a dry country

💻 Internet in Afghanistan

Internet in Afghanistan is quite tricky. Don’t expect anything higher than a 3G connection, and even wifi speeds aren’t fast enough to work comfortably.

Is there Wi-Fi in Afghanistan?

Yes, hotels and some cafes have wifi, but it’s unreliable and definitely not usable for data-dependent work.

SIM card in Afghanistan

You can only buy a SIM card in official stores. It’s a fairly straightforward process, but make sure your internet is working before you leave the store and don’t expect anything faster than 3G.

travel afganistan bamyan family peace buddhas
A peaceful atmosphere of Bamyan Buddhas

Learn more 💬

Visit Countries page for more information about each country.

All my travel guides and articles for Afghanistan

My travel guides for other countries in Central Asia







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