How to travel to Afghanistan during Taliban rule (2024)

By Joan Torres 75 Comments Last updated on May 23, 2024

Afghanistan travel guide

Wanna travel to Taliban Afghanistan with Against the Compass?

We have one tour scheduled next September, an overland adventure through the Central Highlands with Minaret of Jam

September 5th to 14th, 2024

The first time I traveled in Afghanistan was in June 2021, just when the US Army had begun to withdraw from the country, and shortly before the Taliban took it over.

With the new change of government, I decided to go back to see what it was like to travel in Afghanistan under new Taliban rule.

From a traveling perspective, a lot has changed in this country.

After visiting Afghanistan 5 times, traveling all across the country, during the 4 seasons, from Kandahar to the Wakhan Corridor, here’s the most updated and complete travel guide to Afghanistan, containing everything you need to know relating to safety, visas, permits, budget, top experiences, cultural facts, and more.

Check: 50 Photos that will show you the beauty of Afghanistan

travel to Afghanistan

IATI Insurance is one of the very few that covers travel in Afghanistan.

Can you travel to Afghanistan now?

Yes, today, anyone can go to Afghanistan.

In fact, Afghanistan has always been open for tourism, and visas have always been issued at the respective embassies.

When the Taliban came into power, only 2 or 3 embassies could issue you a tourist visa but today, the number of embassies increased significantly – more on that on the visa section.

Moreover, either because they want to whitewash their image, or because they need foreign currency, the new Taliban Government is welcoming foreign tourists, the only barrier being the ethical issues that such a trip may trigger on certain travelers.

Can you travel to Afghanistan?
Somewhere in the Panjshir Valley

Introduction: What’s going on in Afghanistan?

More than 40 years of conflict have turned Afghanistan into an actual war-torn country, starting in 1979, when tribal people rebelled against the Communist party, starting a war between the Soviet Union and the Mujahideen, which lasted until 1989.

The Soviets were defeated but then, Mujahideen warlords began to fight each other over power, impoverishing the country even more.

Fed up with all that warlordism and disappointed that Islamic law had not been enforced after the communists were kicked out, a former Mujahid founded a movement named Taliban in the city of Kandahar.

That man was Mullah Omar, the historical leader of the Taliban.

The Taliban quickly took over the whole Kandahar province and, by 1996, they controlled 90% of Afghanistan’s territory, including Kabul, ruling until 2001.

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

Afghanistan under Taliban rule is the situation you will witness if you travel today in Afghanistan.

Taliban in Afghanistan
Some Talib boys

🪪 How to get a visa for Taliban Afghanistan

Before the Taliban took over in 2021, you could get an Afghanistan visa at pretty much any embassy around the world but things have changed now, since there’s only a handful of embassies and consulates that can issue you with a valid visa:

The easiest embassies where to get an Afghan visa are:

Furthermore, travel reports suggest that the following embassies are also issuing tourist visas for Afghanistan but I don’t have any personal experience with it – reports are welcome in the comments section:

And last, some embassies in Europe have also started issuing them in:

The easiest is to get your visa in your home country but if there is no active embassy in the country you reside, Dubai and Islamabad are the most convenient places, for the simple reason that you find there are daily flight connections with Kabul.

Visa on arrival (VOA) for Afghanistan

There is a way to get a VOA for Afghanistan and that is by crossing from Tajikistan at the Shir Khan border – this is the border that is closer to the Afghan city of Kunduz.

The visa on arrival has a cost of 150 USD and the whole paperwork takes a few hours.

From Kunduz, you can easily get to Mazar. This border however, is the most convenient one for those traveling to the Wakhan Corridor. In fact, this is the route we’ll take on our upcoming Wakhan Corridor Expedition.

Travel requirements for the Afghanistan visa

I’ve personally got my Afghan visa in Islamabad, Dubai and Madrid and generally speaking, these are always their requirements:

Read: How to travel to Pakistan

Travel requirements Afghanistan
This is the passport photo I used for my Afghan visa, as you can see in the visa image below. I knew they’d like it, and they certainly loved it. When the respective authority saw the photo, he said: Nice, I like it 🙂

My personal experience applying for the Afghanistan visa

Islamabad: Showed up without an appointment. A visa costs 80 USD, but you can also pay an additional 50 USD to get your visa in less than 24 hours. In my case, I went to the embassy at 3:30pm and got it the next day around 2pm. If I had applied early in the morning, I could have got it on the same day in the afternoon. No LOI was needed.

Madrid: Showed up without an appointment. Paid €200 and got my visa in 1 hour. The non-urgent service takes 1 week and costs €120. You may mail them your docs as well. No LOI was needed.

Dubai: Showed up without an appointment. Paid 130 USD and got my visa in 3 hours. Travel reports suggest that sometimes, they do ask for the LOI.

The other embassies and consulates have similar rules, but visa fees may vary. Your reports on this matter are welcome in the comments section.

How long is the visa valid for?

The visa is single entry and it’s valid for 30 days within a 90-day period.

Which nationalities can go to Afghanistan?

All nationalities are eligible to apply for an Afghan visa at any of the previously shared embassies.

Can Americans travel to Afghanistan?

Yes, US citizens can also travel to Afghanistan without any sort of restriction.

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

Upon applying for your Afghan visa, they might ask who will be your sponsor in Afghanistan, but you can say that you don’t need one, that you are traveling alone, and it should be fine.

This rule applies in Islamabad and sometimes in Dubai as well, but in Dubai, some travel reports suggest that this hasn’t always been the case.

At the end of the day, in Afghanistan, rules aren’t written and more often than not, they depend on the respective authority’s mood.

Visa for Afghanistan
My visa for traveling in Afghanistan

🚑 Travel Insurance for Afghanistan

Most travel insurance companies don’t cover for travel in Afghanistan.

The one which does, however, is IATI Insurance.

  • They have loads of different plans for all types of travelers
  • Covers senior citizens too
  • Readers of this blog can get an exclusive 5% discount.

⚠️ Is it safe to travel in Afghanistan with the Taliban?

From a safety perspective, there hasn’t been a better time to visit Afghanistan.

Let me explain why.

Visiting Afghanistan before the Taliban took over in 2021

Up to summer 2021, any trip to Afghanistan was potentially dangerous.

The country was ruled by a “democratic’” Government, but they were in an ongoing war with the Taliban, who controlled a significant part of Afghanistan.

Traveling in the Government-controlled areas was relatively OK but suicide bombings occurred every other day and violent crime in cities like Kabul were kind of a big deal.

On the other hand, Taliban-controlled areas were physically possible to visit but the chance of getting kidnapped was extremely high.

In summary, visiting Afghanistan was possible but you had to travel with an extra degree of caution and accept a certain amount of risk.

Read: Is Pakistan safe?

Can I go to Afghanistan as a tourist
Afghanistan used to be dangerous, yes, but it all depended on where you go. Some areas were peaceful, especially rural areas controlled by the Government. These people are nomads living somewhere in Bamyan

Traveling in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over in 2021

Despite the humanitarian and economic crisis, the war is finally over in Afghanistan and the new rulers are trying to build a peaceful and legitimate Government – or pretending to at least – aiming at being recognized by the entire international community.

Taliban are not carrying out terrorist attacks any longer, kidnappings are a thing from the past, and violent crime seems to have disappeared from Kabul.

Is this thanks to the Taliban?

Well, that’s what they want you to believe but not really, it’s just that they are the ones in charge now, they aren’t fighting anymore and just wish to be a normal country, while attracting foreign investment.

Afghanistan is very safe today, one can really feel it because all the provinces are fully open and also because the Afghans you will meet along the way will keep repeating all the time, that Afghanistan is finally safe.

Independent travel Afghanistan
Before the Taliban over, the Minaret of Jam was within a no-go zone, and the reason was that it belonged to a region taken by the Taliban. Today, it’s completely accessible, even for independent travelers

Warning: What about IS Khorasan?

You might find it hard to believe that the Islamic State is still alive and that they have become the number 1 enemy of the Taliban, claiming that Taliban are too soft and mere puppets of the West.

This branch of IS in Central Asia is called IS Khorasan and the Taliban are currently in a violent counterinsurgency struggle against them.

IS Khorasan has carried out several terrorist attacks under Taliban rule but it’s all been at a small scale and, as I mentioned several times, the likelihood of being caught in the middle of a suicide bombing is extremely low.

Nonetheless, remember that this isn’t Thailand, and that traveling in Afghanistan never comes without risk.

Permits for traveling in Afghanistan

For traveling around Afghanistan, you will need special permission from the Taliban.

If you are traveling on an organized tour, you don’t need to worry about anything because your local fixer will take care of that but independent travelers will have to get it for themselves which, in our experience, isn’t an easy thing to do.

By the way, remember that Against the Compass has several Afghanistan expeditions scheduled all year long.

Need to know about your permit for traveling around Afghanistan

Your travel permit must mention all the provinces you will visit in Afghanistan.

However, it should only mention those provinces you are planning to stay in, not those you are just passing through.

For example, if you want to visit Bamyan from Kabul, you will inevitably pass through Wardak province, but you don’t necessarily need a permit for that, because you’ll just be driving through.

You will have to pay 1000 AFN for each province you visit, which is around 12 USD.

This permit is absolutely needed, and many Taliban will ask for it at checkpoints.

Note: They will usually make you pay 1000 AFN per province you visit but sometimes, depending on the traveler, they don’t charge it. From what I heard, they usually don’t charge anything to female travelers.

Permit for traveling in Afghanistan
This is what the permit looks like

How to get your travel permit for Afghanistan, a step-by-step guide

Warning: The following steps look pretty straightforward but, in our experience, rules keep changing and everyone seemed to give us different information. Getting inside the different offices and ministries was also pretty challenging, since the Taliban guarding the gates don’t speak a single word of English, and they never seemed to understand the purpose of our visit.

Why did we go to Afghanistan
Here we were at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the first place they told us to go to get our permits, but they weren’t issuing them there anymore.

Step 1 – Go to the Ministry of Culture & Information

Location is here.

Here, you’ll need to get 2 signatures from 2 different authorities, which will take around 2 hours.

Once you get your 2 signatures, they will give you an address and a phone number.

In our case, each of the 2 authorities gave us completely different addresses, phone numbers and contact persons but only one of them picked up the phone.

Step 2 – Go to the Tourism Directory, aka Afghan Tour

Location is here.

This building was difficult to find, since there wasn’t any sign but only concrete walls around it.

Once you get in the building, you’ll be interviewed by a person, who will probably ask why you aren’t traveling with a guide or a translator.

For this conversation, it’s important to wear local clothes, be extremely polite and pretend that you know your way around the country.

We said we had good friends in Bamyan and Herat, that they would be our translators, which seemed to satisfy him.

He’ll also ask for the provinces you plan to visit and after the interview, you’ll speak to the highest authority from this department, the person responsible for signing your travel permit and giving the final OK.

Good luck.

Afghanistan travel tip: Remember that on Friday, the offices are closed.

How to register at the regional office

Once you get your general travel permit, you will also have to register at the regional Information & Culture Department of every province you visit.

For example, if you visit Kandahar, the first thing you should do before sightseeing is just showing up at the respective office to get the local permit, which you will get only if you show them the general travel permit you got in Kabul.

This local permit will allow you to visit freely all the sites within the province.

Where are these offices located?

Friendly Talib
Taliban checking our permit.

How to deal with the Taliban when you’re in Afghanistan

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

Here’s what you need to know about it.

Taliban are generally kind with foreigners

Believe it or not, most Taliban I spoke with were particularly nice and helpful.

They are mostly Pashtun, a group of people living across Pakistan and Afghanistan, known for being the most hospitable people on Earth, ruled by a code of conduct that dictates that guests should be protected with their own life if needed.

I personally believe that, on most occasions, their kindness is genuine but you also need to remember that Taliban wish to be recognized as a legit Government and that their extreme kindness could be part of that strategy.

Selfie with Taliban
Selfie with a bunch of Taliban at a checkpoint.

Taking photos with Talib boys

Taliban are usually very keen to be photographed or to be in selfies, and they seem to enjoy it a lot, so don’t be shy and just ask.

Taliban Afghanistan
With 2 Taliban, somewhere in Ghor

Remember that you don’t need to like them, but at least pretend that you do

Look, I have no particular sympathy for the Taliban.

At the end of the day, we all know that their aim is imposing and forcing all Afghans to follow their fundamentalist Orthodox ideas of Islam.

However, if you want to travel around the country independently, you will need to play along with their game and if you are not willing to do that, perhaps you should travel in Afghanistan with a local guide, so your interactions with them will be minimum.

I am at a stage where I don’t really care to be judged by other travelers – or people reading this blog – so know that in Kabul, I did buy a Taliban flag, which I showed and waved at checkpoints when I found it convenient, just to make our journey a smooth one.

What’s the general opinion on Taliban?

It’s important to remember that Afghanistan is the most conservative country in the world (along with Yemen and way more than Saudi Arabia) and whether we like it or not, many Afghans – and that includes many women too – haven’t seen their lives changed with the new Taliban rule and that reason is that they were already following those rules.

This is the reason why Taliban are supported by a massive part of the total population.

Moreover, there’s another significant segment of Afghans who, while they don’t necessarily agree with the Taliban agenda, accept them because they have brought stability and safety across the country.

Nonetheless, remember that not everyone supports them, especially Hazara people – a Shia minority – and that there are many Afghans who, while still conservative, are not happy with their extremist ideas, like banning women from higher education, for example.

💃 How to travel to Afghanistan as a women

What is the situation like for female travelers in Afghanistan?

If you are traveling with a man, it should be fine but solo female travelers will certainly have a different experience.

My friend and fellow traveler Emma Witters has traveled solo extensively across Afghanistan, including in provinces such as Helmand.

You can reach her at @emmawitters_

🛫 How to get to Afghanistan

How to travel to Afghanistan by air

Many international airlines that used to fly to Kabul like Turkish Airlines or Fly Emirates, have stopped operating in Afghanistan.

Today, you may fly to Kabul only with the Afghan-run airline of Kam Air and Fly Dubai.

Fly Dubai departs from Terminal 2 in DXB and Kam Air flights from both Islamabad and Dubai, but also occasional flights from Istanbul, Dushanbe, Taskent or Doha.

Just check flight schedules on their website.

How to travel to Afghanistan by land

Afghanistan shares a border with:

Pakistan: The Khyber Pass at Torkham is finally open but this is the most chaotic border I have ever crossed.

Iran: It’s fully operational. From the Iranian city of Mashhad, you can get into Herat. Many travelers have used this border in the past.

Turkmenistan: The border is open as long as you have valid visas but this is truly unexplored territory. I contacted a Turkmen fixer who told me that Turkmen visas are often denied if your idea is to enter or exit Afghanistan from Turkmenistan, but there’s a chance to get in.

Uzbekistan: You can get into Afghanistan from the city of Termez. Mazar-i-Sharif is the closest big city. Here you have the border crossing report.

China: Very deep into the Wakhan Corridor, at 4,923m above sea level, the Wakhir pass connects Afghanistan with China. The border is closed for foreigners and in any case, it’s just too remote to go.

Tajikistan: There are a few border crossings. Ishkashim used to be the most popular one but that one is closed now. Shir Khan, near Kunduz, is the one that is now open to foreign adventures.

travel to Afghanistan from Pakistan
This is the legendary Khyber Pass

👨 Independent travel in Afghanistan

Is independent travel allowed in Afghanistan?

Yes, it is, as long as you have a valid travel permit. Check the permit section of this post.

Is backpacking in Afghanistan difficult?

Well, it depends on your previous backpacking experience and where you want to go within Afghanistan but, to be honest, I didn’t find it more difficult than backpacking in Pakistan.

If you are planning to visit Mazar, Herat, Kabul or Bamyan, it shouldn’t be very difficult. There is plenty of local transportation or you can easily take a domestic flight.

My recommendation would be however, to save the name and location of your hotel because for security purposes, some hotels in Afghanistan have no signs, so they can be difficult to find.

Visiting rural areas, Kandahar province or traveling beyond Bamyan in Ghor province is a different story. Nobody speaks English, hotels are scarce (if any) and there’s little public transportation.

We did travel from Kabul to Herat through the Hindu Kush by public transportation. It was difficult but worth the adventure. Check the travel report.

🗺️ Tours for Afghanistan

Do you wish to join a tour in Afghanistan?

No problem.

In Against the Compass, we have several tours scheduled per year:

Our Afghanistan tours sell out extremely quickly, so do book them in advance.

Logo ATC expeditions

⛅ Best time to visit Afghanistan

With different geographical areas, Afghanistan can be a year-round destination.

Traveling in Afghanistan season by season:

Traveling to Afghanistan in winter

In winter, many parts of Afghanistan are covered in snow, with temperatures reaching -20ºC in places like Bamyan or the Wakhan.

In my opinion, this is the prettiest season to visit Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, remember that winter doesn’t come with its own issues, and that roads and certain things may be blocked.

We did run one expedition during the heart of winter in Afghanistan, and it was great. Check our upcoming Afghan expeditions here.

Traveling to Afghanistan in spring & autumn

From a tourism perspective, spring and autumn are the best seasons for visiting Afghanistan, when the weather is pleasant across the whole country.

Nevertheless, it can be too early/late for trekking in the Wakhan Corridor.

In late spring or early autumn, it might already be too hot for Mazar or Kandahar. In fact, I visited them in May and the temperature was already at nearly 40ºC.

Traveling to Afghanistan in summer

In summer, cities like Herat, Mazar and Kandahar are hell ovens, with temperatures averaging over 40ºC.

Kabul is hot too but, because of the high altitude, it can be bearable for some.

Summer, nonetheless, is the best season for trekking along the Wakhan Corridor.

best time to visit Afghanistan
Spring is a great season to visit Bamyan

🛖 Top 5 experiences in Afghanistan

Some of the best things to do in Afghanistan are:

1. Strolling the streets of Old Kabul

The old city of Kabul is one of those places where there is always something to look at.

It’s chaotic, lively, bustling and its different bazaars are composed of labyrinthic lanes which are perfect for random rambling.

The bird market is perhaps the most acclaimed spot among travelers.

how to travel to Kabul
Kah Faroshi, the bird market of Kabul

2. Trekking in Bamyan

Few places in Afghanistan feel as peaceful as Bamyan, a mountainous, remote region in central Afghanistan, home to a large ancient Buddhist heritage and some of the most epic, unspoiled mountains in the country.

If you like nature, it doesn’t get better than Bamyan.

trekking in Afghanistan
A shepherd we bumped into during a trek in Afghanistan

3. Learning about the Taliban legacy in Kandahar

Kandahar is the former Taliban capital, where the Taliban movement started and also Mullah Omar’s home city.

It’s also the heartland of the Pashtun, a world apart from the rest of Afghanistan.

Kandahar, Afghanistan
Sra Jama, or Red Mosque, popularly known for being Mullah Omar’s favorite mosque, and the place where he used to invite characters to pray, like Osama Bin Laden. The mosque recently underwent a massive restoration.

4. Visiting the Blue Mosque of Mazar-i-Sharif

This is one of the most imposingly beautiful mosques I have ever seen, dating from the 15th century, a reason by itself to travel all the way to Mazar.

Visit Afghanistan
The Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif during prayer time

5. Getting off the beaten track in rural Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s countryside offers some of the most unspoiled and authentic areas in the world, regions that have received very little exposure from the outside world, and are home to mesmerizing, lush valleys dotted with adobe-made villages and curious locals.

Rural Afghanistan
A village, somewhere in Ghor province

💰 Budget, money, and costs in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, their currency is called the Afghani (AFN) and approximately:

$1 = 72 AFN

Afghani or Afghan?
Some people commit the funny mistake (including myself in the past) of referring to the people of Afghanistan as Afghani. It’s wrong. Afghani is their currency and the people are Afghans.

Exchanging money in Afghanistan

I always change money at one of the many stalls in Shahr-e Naw, in Kabul.

They accept both Euros and USD. They even accept Pakistani rupees, in case you have any left from your trip to Pakistan.

ATMs in Afghanistan

Surprisingly, ATMs in Afghanistan do accept international credit and debit cards.

Just look for Afghan International Bank. There are quite a few of them in Kabul, especially in Shahr-e Naw area.

Paying by card in Afghanistan

You might be able to withdraw money from an ATM but you can’t pay by card anywhere in Afghanistan, so do have cash for your trip.

How much does it cost to travel to Afghanistan?

Everyday life in Afghanistan is cheap but domestic flights and accommodation add up.

Here’s an overview of the most typical costs.

How much do food and drinks cost in Afghanistan?

How much does transportation cost in Afghanistan?

How much does accommodation cost in Afghanistan?

Here’s the thing.

Good, decent accommodation can get pricey.

Expect to pay anything between 30 USD and 50 USD for a room, a relatively basic one but clean and with security.

You can definitely find cheaper hotels but there won’t be any kind of security.

How much does it cost to travel in Afghanistan
The Blue Mosque of Mazar is a first-league piece of architecture but it’s free of charge, like most places in Afghanistan

🛺 Getting around in Afghanistan: transportation

How to travel around Afghanistan by public transportation

Afghanistan has a good network of buses, minibuses and local shared taxis connecting towns and cities.

Experienced budget backpackers won’t find it difficult to move around the country.

Read: Overlanding from Kabul to Herat via Minaret of Jam by local transportation

public transportation in Afghanistan
These are the type of minivans you can travel with in Afghanistan

How to travel around Afghanistan by plane

Taking a domestic flight is also a good option for traveling around Afghanistan.

You can book your tickets online on Kam Air.

There’s another local airline named Ariana. That’s the one I use for flying from Kandahar to Kabul.

Note that airlines in Afghanistan aren’t very reliable. They get delayed all the time, especially Ariana.

Note that all domestic flights go through Kabul, and that there’s no direct flight from Herat to Mazar, for example, or from Herat to Kandahar, but you need to go through Kabul.

Typically, all flights cost $60-$120 and, if you are already in Afghanistan, I strongly recommend booking it through a physical Kam Air office.

It happened to me once that after booking a flight with Kam Air online, the booking never went through, even though they did charge it from my card. Eventually, I had to go to an actual office to sort it out.

Airport security
The level of security in all Afghanistan airports is absolutely insane, consisting of several security layers with body searches and bag scans. That’s why it’s recommended to be at the airport at least two hours before your departure time.

roads in Afghanistan
These are the sort of roads you will find in the mountain regions of Afghanistan

Facts about the country, the Afghans and their culture

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

Something interesting to mention is that when the Taliban took over, the country officially changed its name from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

They also removed any sign of the official flag – the one with black, green, and red stripes and replaced it with the Talib-friendly white flag, today visible everywhere.

Afghanistan is multi-ethnic

Afghanistan is composed of several ethnicities, including Pashtuns (42%), Tajik (27%) and Hazara (9%).

Hazara are the Shia minority who have Mongolian features, Bamyan being their heartland.

There’s also a significant population of Uzbeks in Mazer-i-Sharif and around, who mostly came from Uzbekistan escaping the terror from former dictator Islam Karimov.

Dari is the main language, but Pashto is official too

Dari is a variation from Farsi, the language spoken in Iran.

Afghans and Iranians can understand each other without a problem.

Dari is the language used by the administration and it’s spoken by nearly 80% of the population.

Pashto is an official language too but it’s usually spoken only by the Pashtuns, who are the dominant ethnicity.

people in Afghanistan
A Hazara man and the local shared taxi driver that took us from Kabul to Bamyan

Language barrier can be a problem sometimes

When traveling in rural Afghanistan across the Hindu Kush, I found communicating with people to be extremely difficult, not only because of the language barrier but even sign language didn’t work, probably because they have had so little Western exposure, that their way of communication is just completely different.

Afghanistan travel blog
Beautiful Band-e Amir National Park

Women in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is the most patriarchal country in the world, with or without the Taliban but, since the latter returned to power, women have lost even more freedom.

It’s not mandatory for women to wear the burqa, they can wear a hijab and they can walk alone in the streets but the Taliban have banned them from accessing higher education.

I actually discussed this particular topic with a Taliban sympathizer and he said that according to Prophet Mohammed, schools must be segregated by gender so there’s no actual room for women now but the new Government is doing their best to figure it out.

What I found truly unreal is that he was actually believing all that shit.

women in Afghanistan
A woman wearing burqa in Herat, Afghanistan

🍲 Afghan cuisine

Located at the heart of Central Asia, Afghan food is a mixture of flavors from Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

It’s heavily meat-based to the extent that it can be a struggle for vegetarians venturing into more rural areas.

Afghan cuisine
This is chainaki, a traditional lamb dish cooked in a clay pot, and only found in Kabul, the most famous place being in Bacha Broot, one of the oldest restaurants in Kabul.

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

Afghanistan also has their own dumplings named mantu, typically filled with mutton and covered with yogurt and yellow lentils.

Ashak is the only vegetarian dish in Afghan cuisine, consisting of dumplings filled with leeks and other vegetables.

Afghan food
This is ashak, the most popular vegetarian dish in Afghanistan

Is there any alcohol in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is a dry country, as it was before the Taliban.

📚 Best books for traveling in Afghanistan

Kite runner – Khaled Hosseini

An American bestseller in 2003, Kite runner narrates the story of two Afghan kids in Kabul, a rich boy and the son of his parent’s servants.

The book also gives endless insights of what life in Kabul and Afghanistan is like.

The kite runner

My Life with the Taliban – Abdul Salam Zaeef

This is the mind-blowing biography of a senior former member of the Taliban.

From growing up in conservative, rural Afghanistan to the years he spent in Guantanamo, this amazing book gives priceless insights into the Taliban movement from the inside.

My life with the Taliban

Afghanistan Essential Guide to Customs & Culture – Culture Smart!

Cultural Smart! is a series of guidebooks that focus on the country’s culture, giving loads of information about local customs, cultural etiquette and stuff like that. The one on Afghanistan is great, with deep explanations of why Afghans are so hospitable.

Culture Smart Afghanistan

Afghanistan travel guide – Lonely Planet

The travel guide to Afghanistan from Lonely Planet is outdated (2007) but still, is a great source of information on the country. It can be difficult to find a copy.

Afghanistan travel guide Lonely Planet

💻 Internet in Afghanistan

Is there Wi-Fi in Afghanistan?

There’s kind of unreliable Wi-Fi in big cities but if you need it for work, it won’t be good enough.

Getting a SIM card in Afghanistan

To buy a SIM, you’ll have to go to one of the official branches, which tend to open from 8am to 4pm.

There are many mobile companies in Afghanistan, including: Afghan Telecom, Afghan Wirless, Etisalat, MTN, Roshan, and Salaam.

Apparently, each company is only good for certain provinces but everyone was telling us different things.

In the end, I bought MTN because they said it was the best one for all Afghanistan but it only worked in the big cities.

Note that there’s no 4G but only 3G or not even that.

Get a VPN for traveling in Afghanistan

You should always use a VPN when you travel, especially when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks.

Your connection will be much safer. Moreover, you will be able to access content which is typically censored in Afghanistan.

I recommend ExpressVPN – Extremely easy to use, fast and cheap. 

❗ More Information

📢 In my Travel Resources Page you can find the list of all the sites and services I use to book hotels, tours, travel insurance and more.

All guides and articles for traveling in Afghanistan

Travel guides to other countries in Central Asia

You might also like our Haiti travel guide.

Afghanistan travel tips


Excelente tu guía como lo es usualmente. Hay otro blog de un argentino que dice que se puede sacar la visa también en Ankara por 30 dólares.
Habrá que confirmarlo.

Thank you Joan for the clear information about Afghanistan. We also have visited Afghanistan before covid independantly. Ever since my partner wants to visit the minaret of Jam without any guide, just our two as you did.

Thanks for the great article, now I am planning to go there in march next year and now have a question because I want to well plan before go. If I get my visa in Islamabad and go to Afghanistan through Pakistan land border how could I get through taliban checkpoints to Kabul with no permit? Considering that I can only get the permits for the places I want to visit in Kabul? And is there reliable transportation if I just pop up in one of the land borders?

Hi Pedro, the Taliban permit is only needed for those provinces you’re actually stayihg, jot if you’re just going through.

There’s plenty of transportation from the border to Kabul.

Hi Pedro, the Taliban permit is only needed for those provinces you’re actually staying, jot if you’re just going through.

There’s plenty of transportation from the border to Kabul.

Hi, I have a question regarding visa. You are listing here the embassies in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but in the other places of the internet I see that in these both countries there are actually only embassies of the previous Afghan government. Do you have more informations or experiences on that matter? Greetings

Thank you, Joan! This is the most useful guide on the web right now. I’ve shared it widely. Great work.
I say the following, not to judge you Joan, but so that future readers can avoid misunderstanding:
The article does have one major drawback. The claim that “TLB are supported by a massive part of the total population” is not true. TLB is an oppressive, dictatorial, awful government that is systematically harassing minorities; further crippling the economy of a desperately poor country; and simply destroying the futures of the 50% of citizens unlucky enough to be women. Afghans recognize this; while there is some support among ethnic Pashtuns, people are not happy being oppressed, like this article makes it sound.
As a traveler community, it is important for us to avoid contributing to propaganda and legitimacy of oppressive regimes. Since Joan is running trips here, he likely can’t publish negativity about the TLB, and that is fine. As travelers let’s avoid getting believing the story TLB are trying to tell.

I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this article! Reliable and updated information about traveling is really difficult to find.
I’m originally from Afghanistan but I have a German passport- both my dad and I would like to come to Afghanistan with one of your tours. We both have Afghan names and my dad’s passport mentions he is born in Kabul. Would that be a problem? I’m a bit nervous they will treat us like locals, and not really with the privileges of being a ‘foreigner”. Have you ever had travelers in the same situation? Thanks a lot for your answer!

Hi there! It won’t be an issue, there are Afghan-Americans traveling to Afghanistan nowadays, and we’d be thrilled to have you guys. Our next expedition with available spots is in February 2024.

Wow that is so interesting! I am really interested in Central Asia. Kind regards from a german travel blogger, Meike

Dear, Joan,
really great website! Thanks!
You mentioned, that you can get to Afghanistan from Iran, but can you get the visa in Iran?
Take care!

I would like to visit Afghanistan, but… is it morally fair? Does tourism legitimate the Taliban government?

This article is really informative. I’m a bit unclear about your trip to afghanistan in current times, as I heard it’s not open for tourists. Could you share more details about holidays, the visa process, etc.? It would greatly help me.

I don’t know. Sincerely I don’t. I ask myself the same question, and many other questions, every time I travel. But the situation in Afghanistan is unique in the world.

Hi Joan, this is a great article and I’m so happy to have found it. I last visited Afghanistan in 2012 but as you mentioned travel by land was barely possible then. I will be going back next year to travel solo. Do you know how the permit system works crossing from Uzbekistan? I will spend time in Mazar and Balkh but will not have been to Kabul to collect a permit, are permits available at all in Mazar?


Hi Shaun, this is a question for which there’s no possible answer… If you are within Mazar, there shouldn’t be an issue but after Mazar, I’d head back to Kabul to get my permit. If you say you’re on your way to Kabul, it should be fine.

Hiya thanks for the clear explanation really appreciate it. Anyway i am a revert Muslims for 10 years, i was wondering how i can go about in actually moving to Afghanistan for good? Would really really appreciate a reply thanks. Peace

Hello Joan Torres, what an awesomely informative post you wrote! I wonder, how frequent are intercity buses? Do they have buses from Kandahar to Herat? Thanks!

Hello, this is all really helpful but I find a few things confusing about this guide.

– What is meant by “1 passport photo”? As in I bring one original photograph that has been used in my passport? I just don’t get this one, especially if I give my passport copy anyway(which has the photo in it).

– The guide says that the Pakistan border crossing is the most chaotic one while the Iran one is really good. But Iran doesn’t issue visas for Afghanistan, so how is this information relevant, unless you apply for both Pakistan and Iran visa, go to Pakistan, take the Afghanistan visa, then go to Iran to cross into Afghanistan?

– It means that they require you to bring one printed passport photo. The one from your visa copy doesn’t work.
– You can get your visa in other countries, not only in Islamabad. Maybe some people get it in Dubai and then fly to Iran, who knows.

This is an amazing article! If I were to travel with a 14 year old son, would it be frowned on by the Taliban? Would it be just as safe? Do you often have kids/adolescents on your tours?

Very intersting information,you share. Thank you.

I consider overlanding Afghanistan by own car from Iran either to Pakistan or Usbekistan in June 2024.

Can you recommend a trustworthy company to assist me?


Hey I’m very interested in going to Afghanistan. I’ve seen a number of YouTubers visiting Afghanistan recently. One thing I noticed, is that none of them are American. Are there U.S. citizens (non Afghan-American) who have successfully toured Afghanistan under the recent Taliban control?

Hey there!
Great article!
I’m doing a bicycle trip actually and thinking about going trough Afghanistan. With wild camping and so on…
Is it possible to get a Visa for AFG in Theran?
What about permits? Is it possible to get them in Herat or do I have to go to Kabul for them first?

Hi Sebastian, you should be able to get an Afghan visa in Tehran nowadays.

As per general permits, rules are not written in Afghanistan, so this is a tough question to answer. What I’d do is going to the respective office in Herat as first step, and try to get your permits from other provinces from there, while explaining that you can’t go to Kabul.

Keep us posted!

Hello, I’m sorry if this question has already been asked. Do you or anybody else know of any American women that have traveled to Afghanistan? I know many other “Western” women have but how about a woman traveling with a USA passport? Thank you very much.

Hi, thanks for your great work!
But I’m a bit confused: Why are you saying Afghani Visa can only be taken from those 6 cities? What about the others?

Here one guy tells that he got his Visa at the Afghani Embassy in Teheran in October 2023:

And if I look at the Website of the Afghani Embassy in Berlin they also give instruction how to get the Afghanistan Visa by them. Are they wrong?

I can’t seem to reply to a comment! This is a question for Joan and Shaun Metcalfe:

Shaun – did you manage to cross over the Uzbek-Afghan border? If so – did you obtain your travel permit in Mazar, or were you able to stay and continue travelling to Kabul by saying you were on your way there?

Joan – do you know if the embassy in Bishkek is issuing visas to non-residents? Their website specifies residents only, but I wondered if you or anyone else had any luck there!

Hi Joan, have you had any experience of travelling to the US and China with an Afghan visa and stamp in your passport? Do you get sent to secondary inspection or denied entry?

China is not a problem. For Afghanistan, with a EU passport, you won’t get your ETSA approved if you’ve been to Afghanistan. If you already have a USA visa, then it’s not an issue.

Hi! Was wondering whether my student visa application to the US will be denied if I have an afghanistan visa in my passport. Or, if I will get denied when I land into the US or UK with the afghan visa. I am a Malaysian citizen.

Thank you for making this blog post, really!
This is literally the only accurate updated information you can find all in one place on the internet for Afghanistan.
Excellent job making this and us in the travel community really appreciate this.
You cannot find information like this that is easily readable anywhere else.

Thank you!!

does anybody know, how is it with getting double entry visa to Pakistan for getting Afghan visa in Peshawar and go to Kabul and back to Peshawar via Torkham.

Good article, thank you for the information. The Taliban consists of 99.9% pashtuns because their tribal code pashtunwali is pretty much the same as extreme, hard-line Islam. Hazara people being slaughtered and murdered by pashtuns for 150years since the English armed their pashtun puppet king Adbur Rahman Khan who to return the favour killed 60% of the Hazara population. Genocide that continues into modern days. No coincidence that most bomb blasts happen in Hazara areas.
A quick glimpse into traditional persian/afghan culture will show you it’s colourful, artistic, poetic and full of music. Quite the opposite what the murderous regime called Taliban is enforcing at the moment. Most people go on with their every day life because finding enough food and feeding your family is a more immediate issue than who is on government.
Anyway, the article has some great information thank you.

The way you express your anger is extremely unprofessional. You not agreeing with their culture/religion or how they run things around would definitely not justify the way you give such comments about them! I feel sorry for them for being too kind to you.

thank you for all useful articles. Please, do you have valid information about getting visa in Dubai or Abu Dhabi? Or is anyone here with the process of obtaining visa in these embassies? And I one more question, visa fee in Islamabad is still 80 USD? I got information about price 170 USD. Now little bit confused. Thank you for a reply. David

Hey David!

Visa in Islamabad is now 130 USD for most passports but could be up to 200 USD for Americans for example.

In Dubai, we just got it last week. You show up at the embassy and waiting time is around 1-2 hours. Things you need are:
– 2 passport photos
– passport copies
– LOI + ID of your sponor
– 130 USD for most passports, 210 USD for Americans. Price keeps changing though…

Thank you very much for your reply. Any recomendation how to get LOI? is it possible normally for example via coachsurfing or official travel agency neede?
Thank you and good luck

For those of you, that are concerned about legitimizing the Taliban government by traveling to Afghanistan, I would offer this. I asked myself the same question, but if there is one thing I have learned being a travel 1%er, what we bring to the world cannot be accomplished by any government policy, or any boycott of the special brand of love and acceptance we bring. Whatever money we spend and “accreditation” we give to a government our governments shun, is far offset by the mission. I’m bringing understanding, kindness, and a pure human experience.

Did you take the land border to return to Pakistan? And did you need the permit to cross the border?
Thank you

Hi again. So LOI + ID of your sponsor is not mandatory? Because you mentioned (things you need) when getting visa in Dubai…So please, how is it?

Hi David, in Afghanistan, things are not written by the book, including in their embassies abroad, where different travelers have different experiences, especially when it comes to $ and the need for the LOI. Usually, LOI is not required but there’s been cases where they did. I am sorry that I can’t be more accurate, but this is how it works there.

it is OK, no worries. In the end I decided to obtain visa in Dubai. As you described, it takes a few hrs, doesn’t it? It is not necessary to make appointment in advance? Just come in the morning with all needed documents and later for collecting visa and passport? Again thanks for your useful advice…

Hi Joan
I don’t think it’s correct that you are painting the Taliban as peaceful leaders and they are trying to be positive because that is just not true. Yes the kidnappings are virtually inexistent, but violence against their people is increasing daily.
They have just announced public stoning for women (not men) and have already been carrying out public floggings and executions. Women whose husbands have died have no way of being able to earn an income and are having to resort to measures such as drugging their children so they are sleepy and don’t cry out for food.
Most people who will say they support the new regime will do so publicly because they are fearful of the repercussions of speaking out.
Everyone has to make their own choice about where they travel but I would strongly encourage you to reconsider your wording about putting the Taliban in such a positive light.
Certainly posing for photos with the Taliban should be strongly discouraged as this directly feeds into their propaganda.
While it is true that there are many nations where is ethically questionable to go there surely one line that should not be crossed in the name of a good travel story is a nation announcing the public stoning of women?

Good guide with detailed information, however your opinions on the way they want to rule their country is irrelevant. If the population wants women and men to go to separate schools and universities, then let them do it. Much better than western schools where young people intermix and lose virginity before marriage.

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