What you've always wanted to know about travelling to Afghanistan...
Is it Safe to travel to Afghanistan?
The short answer is yes, we believe it is safe to travel to Afghanistan, providing you're travelling with those who know where it is safe to travel and are constantly informed of the situation on the ground. Obviously there are risks involved that exist in few other places and this is definitely not a destination for everyone.
We blend in with locals as much as possible when travelling around and use invaluable local knowledge to ensure our safety while seeing Afghanistan. In a country full of risks, minimising and removing those risks is something we've been doing for years.
Is it ethical to travel to Afghanistan?
This is a very difficult question to answer and there will be a lot of individuals concerned about dark tourism or conflict tourism. We believe we are helping locals develop their businesses as well as showing guests what the real Afghanistan looks like, not just the conflict on the news. It’s not that the conflict doesn’t exist, but just because a country is at war or going through turmoil, doesn’t mean there isn’t still life going on and regular people trying to get on with their regular lives.
It's really an amazing experience being so genuinely welcomed by locals who are so pleased to know they haven't been forgotten. This is a phenomenon which happens in a lot of these types of countries where locals begin to think the world has completely forgotten about them and genuinely doesn't care. This is easily understandable when you realise that their only interaction with foreigners is usually at the end of a gun barrel or receiving a World Food Program delivery. We are always careful to be respectful and show the Afghan people we genuinely care.
However ultimately, the decision is yours, and it’s up to you in the end to make your own call. If you’d like to read more about what we think about this question, you can visit our Ethical Travel page .
Can I travel by myself around Afghanistan?
We do not recommend travelling around Afghanistan by yourself. The simple fact is it dramatically increases the chances of something going wrong both to yourself and locals, and drastically changes the answer to the question “is it safe?”.
To many this will sound like we are saying you need to book a tour with us and we want to make money from this advice, however we would always prefer you to join any tour with any other company to ensure your safety, or have local friends who know the situation on the ground intimately and take care of you the entire time you're in the country. Safety is always our number one priority.
I heard getting a visa is hard, is that true?
Getting a visa for Afghanistan is difficult in that you can’t get one in many places anymore. However, if you are able to make it to a diplomatic mission which issues tourist visas for Afghanistan you shouldn’t have too many problems. Dubai for example issues visas in 1 day.
It is possible to get a visa by yourself, however if you decide to join a group tour we'll give you documents showing you're going to be travelling with reputable people who know the security situation on the ground and will ensure your safety, thus making getting a visa easier.
To find out more about the current visa situation, visit our Visa page .
Do I have to go in a group tour to Afghanistan if I choose SAIGA tours?
Although most people choose to go on a group tour to Afghanistan, you do not need to. Like with all our destinations, we can organise a private tour for you and your travel friends. This of course is more expensive but does have the benefit of sometimes having more intimate experiences with locals and going to places where going in a group isn't practical. Essentially you can tell us where you want to go, what you want to see, or your budget/time frame, and we can organise a trip for you.
However, it’s also important for you to note that our group tours are only a maximum of 7 people, so it’s not like you’ll be running around in a coach with a huge group anyway.
When is the best time to go to Afghanistan?
The best time of year to go is spring or autumn. Summer can be really hot in Afghanistan, while in winter they experience extreme cold and snow. Of course if you plan on going skiing in Afghanistan, you'll want to go in winter, however the middle of summer is only for those who wish to brave the 40deg+ heat.
Are they Muslims?
The Afghani people take their religion very seriously and are generally amongst the most conservative Muslims in the world. That being said, there are parallels with their neighbours in Iran, with a middle class who is 'relatively' open and may even enjoy an alcoholic beverage every now and then. With that in mind you need to be willing to respect Islam and those practising it if you travel to Afghanistan, and this is by no means an excuse or an invitation to go out seeking these people or these situations.
Is it really backward in Afghanistan?
So many of the questions we get are along the lines of “Do they have internet?”, “Do they have television?”, “Do they live in houses?”. This is a really difficult question to answer. Quite often we'll be eating dinner in a nice restaurant surrounded by middle class Afghanis using their iPhones and talking about global developments, then at other times we'll be sitting in a mud hut on the ground being served tea by someone who has never used the internet before.
This is one of the things that makes travel to Afghanistan so extremely interesting. You as a traveller will be unaffected. At night in your hotel you'll be able to stream your favourite television series and keep up to date with all the world news, while during the day you'll see and experience places and people who have not yet made it to the 21 st century technology-wise. Or even in some cases barely the 20 th century!
Do I need to take cash to Afghanistan?
You should definitely take enough spending money in cash to Afghanistan as Paywave and EFTPOS have not yet made it. Read more about money in Afghanistan here .
How do I change money in Afghanistan?
Afghanistan uses the Afghani (AGN). Currency exchange offices that exchange Euros and US dollars are very common in cities, and the exchange rate is usually very fair. If you're on a tour we'll take you to a local exchange shop.
One thing unique in Afghanistan is the exchange rate varies depending on the size and quality of the note. The larger the denomination, the better the exchange rate. Likewise notes with rips and marks on them will get a lower rate.
ATMs are not very common and should not be relied upon. They do exist but often don't have money or even more likely your foreign card won't work. It's always best to bring cash for your spending money.
Find out more about the money situation in Afghanistan on our Money page .
What power outlets are used in Afghanistan?
The electrical voltage in Afghanistan is the same as the EU standard. In Afghanistan the power plugs and sockets are of type C and F. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Is it safe to drink the tap water in Afghanistan?
No, it is not safe to drink tap water in Afghanistan. Bottled water is very cheap and readily available, so there’s really no need to risk it with the tap water.
What’s the Internet like in Afghanistan?
All guest houses/hotels have internet, and data plans for mobile phones are extremely cheap and have a reasonable speed.
If you don't want to get a local SIM card with mobile internet, then you'll have to wait until you’re back in your hotel as restaurants/cafes and other public places do not usually have WiFi.
Of course, like in any developing country, there are frequent services outages and the speed seems to slow down for no reason, but rest assured you'll be back to streaming youtube videos, you just might need to wait 30 minutes.