What to be Aware of Before Travelling to Afghanistan

Posted in High Risk Travel Insurance High Risk Voyager Travel Insurance on 1 July 2024

This month we've invited one of our business affiliates, Untamed Borders, to share their expertise on travelling to Afghanistan in a guest blog. You can find out more about Untamed Borders at the end of this article.

Afghanistan is a country that has endured a challenging recent history and for many the name evokes the thought of conflict and danger after so many years of war and violence.

For some the destination is viewed as a place which wouldn’t be safe to visit as an international traveller, but one of our affiliates, Untamed Borders, has been running trips to the nation for foreign visitors since 2008.

Over that time, they have developed a detailed understanding of the country, its culture, its challenges and safety considerations, leading many 100s of trips to Afghanistan over the past 16 years – including multiple annual cultural trips, ski trips and regular trekking trips to the Wakhan Corridor.

The company also organised the first ever Marathon of Afghanistan and many other bespoke adventures, such as a scuba diving trip, the first ever kayak trip to Afghanistan and it frequently arranges logistics for film crews, journalists and documentary makers who want to operate in the country.

In this Afghan travel guide their specialist team has provided their expert on the ground knowledge about organising tours around the country.

What is it like in Afghanistan now?

Since the Taliban retook control of the nation in 2021 things have actually become more stable in Afghanistan for travellers. For many years, the group causing many of the violent incidents, against the Afghan government and allied forces, were the Taliban.

Now they are in power, those incidents have reduced significantly and it’s easier to move around the nation. We can now access areas, which previously were very hard to travel to, including the Southern Pashtun heartlands.

Sadly, there are anti-government groups linked to the Islamic State group, who still have a presence in Afghanistan, and they infrequently target sites.

These incidents are rare, but there are still risks in Afghanistan and there will always be a heightened element of risk in comparison to say somewhere like Italy or France.

What safety precautions should travellers take when planning to visit Afghanistan?

1. Travel with an experienced company

Travelling with an experienced travel company, who have a long history in Afghanistan, is an important way of heightening your level of safety.

Experience and local knowledge can’t be replicated and a company, such as Untamed Borders, has developed strong bonds with expert local teams who keep a very close ear to ground when it comes to the latest developments in the country.

This can help ensure you avoid any developing hotspot areas or if there are planned protests or any local environmental issues or natural disasters. This has been particularly relevant in Afghanistan over the Spring of 2024 where the country suffered from horrendous flooding, killing more than 60 people. Strong local information helped ensure safe route planning and rerouting where necessary.

2. Respect local customs

Respecting local customs, such as wearing modest clothing, including a headscarf for a woman, covered shoulders and long-legged bottoms for both men and women, ensures you don’t offend people, which could be a potential point of issue.

3. Avoid active conflict areas

In all the destinations we travel, we avoid active conflict areas. This is an important way to minimise risk in a challenging country.

We work with our local contacts to ensure we have the most up to date information as possible regarding any developing incidents in the country and we reroute if needed.

4. Avoid protests

Staying well clear of demonstrations and protests is a piece of advice we suggest across all our destinations. These heated and emotive events can be a spark point and the presence of foreigners isn’t always taken kindly or lightly.

There is also the opportunity for indirect issues, such as injuries caused by crushing or people getting hurt by items being thrown or during security service responses.

5. Be cautious of what you photograph and post on social media

Taking photographs of sensitive sites, such as government, police or military buildings can be deemed as unacceptable in some countries – this includes Afghanistan.

Similarly, photos of critical infrastructure, such as dams, power stations and other key locations can also cause problems and heighten the risk of issues with security services or police.

It is best to seek advice from your tour operator before travelling and if in doubt, check with your local guide on the ground in the country.

It is also wise not to post political views on social media or anything about politically sensitive issues while still in the country.

Do I need a visa to visit Afghanistan?

Yes, all foreign nationals must secure an Afghan Tourist Visa before entering the country.

Without a valid visa, entry into Afghanistan is not permitted.

Can you move around freely in Afghanistan?

In addition to an Afghanistan tourist visa, visitors need a letter from the Tourist Office (part of the Ministry of Information and Culture) detailing the provinces they plan to visit.

Your Afghan tour operator, such as Untamed Borders, can help arrange this. Furthermore, this document must be presented to the ministry in the capital of each province you visit and there are regular check points around the country where it may be requested.

Many roads in Afghanistan are basic and in certain areas there are large sections of unpaved roads. Having an appropriate vehicle for the environment and conditions is advised.

Where can you apply for a tourist visa for Afghanistan?

Applying for an Afghanistan visa is limited to a few specific locations worldwide, such as Dubai and Peshawar in Pakistan. Why is this the case? Due to the international non-recognition of the Taliban government, which assumed control in 2022, most Afghan embassies are operated by the previous government, rendering them unable to issue valid travel visas.

Obtaining an Afghanistan visa isn't as straightforward as visiting your local Afghan embassy. Currently, our guests secure their visas while en route to Afghanistan, either in Dubai or Peshawar. There are other locations available in neighbouring countries, but these two destinations we find are the most efficient and reliable.

What sort of travellers visit Afghanistan?

People opt to visit the destinations we offer tours for the same reasons anyone chooses to explore a country with unique culture, landscapes, history, and architecture. It's similar to why tourists might choose to visit India, China, or Peru.

Our guests are typically seasoned travellers. An Afghanistan trip is rarely someone’s first venture toe somewhere more adventurous and we guide clients from various countries, spanning different ages and backgrounds.

For Peace of Mind Even in the Most Unpredictable Places

High Risk Voyager offers Specialist Medical & Travel Insurance to high-risk destinations where the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel and includes cover for:

  • Emergency Medical Evacuation / Repatriation - Up to £1,000,000
  • Emergency Medical Expenses - Up to £1,000,000
  • Cancellation Cover - Up to £1,500
  • Baggage Cover - Up to £1,500
  • Cover for business trips and leisure trips

And much more!

To get a High Risk Voyager Travel Insurance quote, click the “Get A Quote” button below or call our UK Based Call Centre on 01483 806 686.

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To discover exactly what a High Risk Voyager Travel Insurance policy covers, please see our policy wording.

About Untamed Borders

Founded in 2007, adventure travel company Untamed Borders runs bespoke trips and small group adventures to some of the world’s most challenging destinations. The company specialises in trips to the likes of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and many other countries across the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and the Caucasus. Along with many cultural tours, the company also runs adventure sport excursions – including ski trips to Afghanistan (the first company to operate ski tours to the country) and ski trips to Iraq. It also helped organise the first ever marathons in Afghanistan and Somaliland, among many other bespoke sporting trips and special projects for tourists, journalists, film crews, photographers and influencers."

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