People are genuinely concerned about what they'll need for Afghanistan, more so we find than people travelling to most of our other destinations. I suppose it’s part of stepping in to one of the world’s last unknowns, and is quite natural when you’re going somewhere that is so different to anywhere else. As a traveller you want to feel like you're preparing yourself, so a lot of people contact us before trips to make sure they’re taking everything they might need, and nothing they shouldn’t have. Don’t worry though, it’s probably not as daunting as you’re expecting.
Here's the definitive guide.
Afghanistan has such a varying climate that it really depends when you're going and exactly which places inside Afghanistan you’re visiting. You can expect anything from minus temperatures and snow, to +40 degrees Celsius and harsh unforgiving sun.
You'll need to check on the specific temperatures for when you're travelling, but when it’s hot, make sure your clothes are light, but still very conservative and respectful. Long sleeves for men and always trousers. Long dresses/skirts covering everything for women and a light scarf to cover your head.
In winter make sure you've got warm socks and a really warm jacket.
For around the hotels
For our guests to Afghanistan, there are really two sets of rules for what you can wear. What you'll be wearing when we're out and about, seeing the sights and experiencing the culture, and what you'll be wearing when we're in the safety and comfort of our accommodation. This is especially relevant to any females who have had to wear very conservative and often quite hot clothes with their heads covered all day.
Once again it depends on the climate, however in most situations it will be acceptable for men and women alike to wear shorts, t-shirts, etc. around the hotel. Obviously one still wouldn't parade around in a bikini, and you do need to listen to the specific instruction or advice from your guide for each specific situation, but it's generally a very relaxed atmosphere and usually a space where women can take their headscarves off and relax.
There will be lots of different surfaces and possible conditions you'll be walking in, whether exploring some abandoned Buddhist caves, kicking a football with some local kids, riding a motorbike or riding a horse. Good, sensible and sturdy walking shoes are generally recommended, though it’s really up to you, whatever you’re comfortable in. It really won't be a fashion contest given the rest of the clothes you'll be wearing anyway! Also, it’s a good idea to make sure your shoes are easy to take off and put back on. You'll be doing that quite a lot!
Any suitcases/bags are fine. Any sensible traveller to Afghanistan is travelling via private transport and thus having a suitcase or any other type of luggage makes no difference to your experience. In most cases, whichever places you're based in you'll also be based at the same hotel for several nights.
As far as a day pack/backpack goes, it's best to move around as lightly and inconspicuously as possible and therefore a backpack or large handbag isn't probably the best idea. All you really need is your camera/phone and some cash when you're exploring the markets, going to museums or visiting a mosque. Once again you'll of course have a car and guide with you to travel around and thus anything else can be left in the vehicle.
Very few countries are going to have you reaching for your camera quicker than Afghanistan. Bring the biggest, best camera that you have! But also make sure that you bring a good phone or small point and shoot camera as well. There will be times such as the small winding alleys of the markets where you need to be able to take a photo quickly and keep moving without drawing attention, and big cameras will be a no-no. There will also be those other times that you can take your time setting up your tripod to get the next National Geographic front cover.
Drones are best left at home unless you're travelling to really rural areas and away from any people.
Afghanistan doesn't have the most amazing access to medicine and it is a serious issue for the local people, however any regular issues you're likely to have are easily resolved. The pharmacies will still have all the basics you're used to, whether it’s pain killers, anti-inflammatories, something to help block you up or something to unblock you. However, if you have some serious conditions that require medicine make sure you bring extras and the relevant scripts as well.
What you don't need but can still bring anyway
A lot of people bring lots of books, music, games etc, thinking there will be lots of opportunities to use them, whether it be long drives or early nights. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's unlikely you'll want to take your eyes off your surroundings for a moment longer than you have to. Of course still bring the things you love doing, but it's unlikely you'll get that many opportunities.
Torch: The power often goes out at hotels and while it might only be for 10 minutes, sometimes it can be a couple of hours, so a torch usually comes in handy if you don't have a phone. Of course, everyone has a phone so you probably don't need a torch, but those with torches are usually well admired for their resourcefulness.
Sunscreen: If you’re travelling in summer, sunscreen will stop you turning in to a tomato. That Afghan sun can sure be harsh. Even if you’re well covered you might not want your nose to start peeling.
If you’d like to speak to us about any of this or you’ve got a question about what you should take to Afghanistan or not, please contact us .