- We strongly advise you not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation and the very high threat of terrorist attack.
- If you are in Afghanistan, you should consider leaving. Australians who decide to remain in Afghanistan should ensure that they have personal security measures in place. You should monitor local information sources for details about the safety and security environment.
- Serious terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and other bomb attacks, occur regularly in Afghanistan, including in Kabul. Militants continue to plan and carry out attacks in major cities throughout Afghanistan. Specific methods of attack are evolving and increasing in sophistication. In 2012, there were a number of attacks on hotels and housing compounds used by Westerners, embassies, government buildings and NATO bases, facilities of international humanitarian groups and an increase in insider attacks and incidents. Further such attacks are highly likely. For further details see the Safety and Security: Terrorism section.
- All major hotels in Kabul continue to be attractive targets for terrorists and recent reporting indicates renewed and ongoing terrorist threats to the Serena and Intercontinental Hotels. Australians are strongly advised to continue to avoid these and other international hotels and their surrounds at this time.
- We continue to receive a stream of reporting indicating that terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets, including places frequented by foreigners, airports, hotels, guesthouses, media centres, military installations and Afghan government buildings. Recent reporting suggests diplomatic premises may be particular targets.
- Due to the dangerous security situation in the provinces surrounding Kabul, you should only travel in secure transport, using reputable local drivers and guides. Australian officials use heightened security measures when travelling. You should consider dedicated armed protection, though even these precautions cannot guarantee personal safety.
- There is a continuing high threat of kidnapping against Westerners, including journalists and those working for non-government organisations (NGOs) and international organisations.
- Protests occurred in major centres such as Kabul and Bagram in February 2012 over the improper disposal of a number of Islamic religious materials at Bagram air base. The potential remains for attacks on perceived Western interests in all parts of Afghanistan. See under Civil unrest/political tension for more information.
- Unexploded landmines and other ordnance remain a danger throughout Afghanistan.
- The provision of consular services to Australians in Afghanistan may be severely restricted due to the safety and security environment. Consular assistance should be arranged through the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre, which can be contacted on +61 2 6261 3305. See Where to get help for further information.
- Because of the dangerous security situation, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us so we can contact you in an emergency.
- Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
Entry and exit
Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Afghanistan for the most up-to-date information.
If you are planning to travel to and from Afghanistan via Pakistan ensure you have a multiple entry visa for Pakistan, otherwise you will need to get another entry visa from the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul, which could delay your travel plans.
It is difficult to renew passports from Afghanistan. If you are in Afghanistan and require a new passport, be sure to contact the Australian Embassy in Kabul via the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 well in advance of your passport expiring or running out of pages.
Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.
Safety and security
We strongly advise you not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation and the very high threat of terrorist attack. If you are in Afghanistan, you should consider leaving. Australians who decide to remain in Afghanistan should ensure that they have personal security measures in place and have contingency plans ready in case they need to suddenly leave the country. You should monitor local information sources for details about the safety and security environment.
An international coalition has been conducting a military campaign to restore stability to Afghanistan since October 2001. The security situation throughout Afghanistan, particularly in the south and east of the country, remains extremely dangerous.
Militants continue to plan and carry out significant attacks in major cities.
Serious terrorist incidents, including suicide bombings and other bomb attacks, occur regularly in Afghanistan, including in Kabul. Some attacks have involved multiple, consecutive explosions. A large number of people, including civilian foreign nationals, have been killed. Many attacks have targeted international convoys. Australian soldiers have been killed and injured in roadside bomb attacks in Uruzgan Province. An Australian official was injured in a suicide attack in March 2012. Insurgent attacks, including suicide attacks, should be expected throughout the country. Attacks could occur anywhere, anytime.
The security environment in Afghanistan is extremely dangerous. No part of the country can be considered immune from violence. In 2012, there were a number of major attacks in Kabul, including in the most heavily fortified areas of the capital. Attacks have targeted hotels and residential compounds used by Westerners, embassies, government buildings and NATO bases and facilities of international humanitarian groups. There has been an increase in insider attacks and incidents (where individuals wearing Afghan National Security Forces uniforms attack International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) members) throughout Afghanistan.
Recent attacks include:
- On 21 January 2013, insurgents attacked the Afghan Traffic Police Headquarters. The attack lasted about 8 hours. Three members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) were killed and four ANSF and ten civilians were injured.
- On 16 January 2013, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) exploded near Sederate Circle in Kabul and insurgents attempted to forcibly enter the National Directorate of Security (NDS) detention facility. Up to eight Afghans were killed in this attack and more than 50 injured.
- On 24 December 2012, a female Afghan National Police (ANP) officer shot an ISAF mentor. The mentor died en route to the hospital.
- On 17 December 2012, insurgents attacked the Contrack International Compound on Jalalabad Road injuring a number of expat and Afghan security personnel.
- On 6 December 2012, a VBIED attack inside a NDS gatehouse injured the NDS Chief Khalid. Five Afghans were killed and up to ten others were injured.
- On 21 November 2012, insurgents conducted a suicide attack using explosives within the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul. Several local security guards were killed.
- On 13 November 2012, insurgents fired a number of rockets into Kabul resulting in a number of casualties.
- On 18 September 2012, insurgents attacked a minibus in Kabul, killing 12 people, including nine foreign nationals.
- On 28 August 2012, insurgents launched a suicide attack in Kandahar City, which reportedly killed four civilians and wounded 20 others, including the provincial police chief.
- On 14 August 2012, suicide bombings in Nimroz province reportedly killed at least 20 people and injured more than 50.
- On 22 June 2012, terrorists attacked the Spozhmai Hotel, located in the Lake Qargha area on the outskirts of Kabul, killing a number of people and injuring others.
- On 2 May 2012, insurgents attacked a residential compound used by expatriates in Kabul.
- On 15 April 2012, a series of coordinated attacks occurred in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan targeting embassies, government buildings and NATO bases.
Other recent incidents in Kabul include attacks against supermarkets, including an establishment frequented by foreigners, police stations, schools and medical facilities. Suicide bombers have frequently targeted Afghan and foreign military and security forces throughout the country. These attacks show that there is no room for complacency regarding personal security in any part of Afghanistan, including well-defended international facilities, and in the most heavily protected areas of the city.
Incomplete buildings, including in Kabul, have been used by militants as staging points for a number of attacks in the past. Incomplete buildings may be used in future attacks.
On 28 July 2011, an attack on the compound of the Uruzgan Governor and a private security contractor in Tarin Kowt reportedly killed 22 people. In August 2010, ten members of a medical team from the Christian aid group International Assistance Mission were killed in Badakhshan province. Eight foreigners were among those killed in the attack. In September 2010, a British aid worker was also kidnapped and subsequently killed in the rescue attempt. These incidents underscore the risks associated with working and travelling in Afghanistan.
The United Nations continues to operate in Afghanistan, but, on occasion, can withdraw or relocate international staff from some areas in response to security incidents.
You are advised to consult a reputable security company about appropriate security arrangements, including at home and at work and for all travel. Fully implementing security advice will help to mitigate, but not eliminate, the very high threat of attack.
President Karzai’s Presidential Decree 62 of August 2010 ordered the disbandment of private security companies in Afghanistan. An Afghan government-controlled security force, the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), was scheduled to take over provision of most commercial security service in Afghanistan from private security companies by 20 March 2013.
Terrorist targets: We continue to receive a stream of reporting indicating that terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets including places frequented by foreigners, airports, hotels, media centres, military installations and Afghan Government buildings. Recent reporting suggests diplomatic premises and convoys may be particular targets. Reports include threats against identifiably Western institutions, organisations and individuals and information about a potentially heightened threat of attack on days of national significance, such as Victory Day (28 April).
All major hotels in Kabul continue to be attractive targets for terrorists. Recent reporting indicates there are ongoing threats to the Serena and Intercontinental Hotels, both of which have been attacked in the past. Australians are strongly advised to avoid these and other international hotels and their surroundings. A building next to the Star Hotel was used as a staging point for attacks in Kabul on 15 April 2012.
The Afghan Government has named a number of potential terrorist targets. These include but are not limited to: embassies and aid agencies run by foreign governments; the Serena, Intercontinental and Safi Landmark hotels; the Defence Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the National Directorate of Security; girls’ hostels at Kabul University and Medical University.
Credible reports suggest terrorists may be targeting journalists, including Australians, in Afghanistan. Australian journalists and NGO workers should review personal security arrangements.
In planning your activities, consider the kind of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. Possible terrorist targets also include commercial and public areas such as restaurants, clubs, markets, shops, hotels and guesthouses, places of worship, landmarks, Kabul International Airport, regional airports, transport infrastructure, embassies and NGO premises. Military premises, multinational forces, multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations, and Afghan Government buildings and political figures are also targets for attack.
Attacks on roads: We continue to receive a stream of credible reporting indicating that terrorists are planning attacks on vehicles travelling along roads in and around Kabul.
You should avoid travelling on Jalalabad and Airport (Great Massoud) Roads due to the very high threat of terrorist attack. You are strongly advised not to travel at night. Suicide bombers in vehicles have attacked convoys near Kabul International Airport.
Overland travel is dangerous. Taliban and al-Qa'ida members are active in many parts of the country thereby creating a significant security risk. Fake checkpoints have been used to launch attacks. See also the Local Travel section below.
Kidnapping: There is a continuing high threat of kidnapping against Westerners, including journalists and those working for NGOs and foreign companies. On 22 May 2012, two foreigners were kidnapped in Badakhshan province. Kidnappings of foreign nationals for political and criminal reasons are common in Afghanistan, including in Kabul. Foreign aid workers and journalists have been kidnapped and killed. Westerners, including employees of NGOs and international organisations, continue to be targeted.
Be aware that terrorists may have different national backgrounds, including from Western countries.
For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.
The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.
Advice to Embassy staff: Security arrangements for Australian Embassy staff in Kabul are at a high level at all times
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.
Civil unrest/political tension
On 21 February 2012, ISAF publicly apologised for the improper disposal of a number of Islamic religious materials at Bagram air base on 20 February. Protests occurred in major centres such as Kabul and Bagram.
On 1 April 2011, a large violent protest erupted in Mazar e-Sharif and the UNAMA office in Balkh province was attacked, resulting in a number of casualties. This incident followed reports of desecration of religious materials outside Afghanistan. Similar events outside of Afghanistan may provoke further violent demonstrations or attacks in Afghanistan. There is the potential for attacks on perceived Western interests in all parts of Afghanistan.
Demonstrations, political violence and insurgent attacks may occur in response to political developments. People, places and events associated with the political process could be attractive terrorist targets. Anti-government groups have undertaken terrorist acts against members of the Afghanistan Government. Government officials have been assassinated.
Australians should avoid demonstrations, political rallies, public gatherings and minor disputes as they could escalate and become violent, resulting in deaths and injuries. If you are in an area affected by demonstrations, you should find a safe location, remain indoors, monitor local information sources and heed the advice of authorities.
In the past, violent demonstrations have occurred in areas frequented by foreigners, including the diplomatic quarter and ISAF bases.
International events and political developments in the region may trigger demonstrations in Afghanistan.
There is a high level of serious crime in Afghanistan, including in the capital, Kabul.
Armed robbery, rape and carjacking occur and the level of weapon ownership is high.
Lawlessness exists in rural areas. Banditry and kidnapping by armed groups is common.
You should stay indoors after dark.
Money and valuables
You should consult with your bank about whether your ATM card will work in Afghanistan. There are a small number of ATMs in Kabul. Credit cards and travellers' cheques are not widely accepted. The most common currency in use is $US cash.
Make two photocopies of valuables such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.
While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.
As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering and theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.
Travel outside Kabul should only be to properly secured workplaces. If travelling by road, you should only travel in secure transport, using reputable local drivers and guides. Australian officials use heightened security measures when travelling. You should consider dedicated armed protection, though even these precautions cannot guarantee personal safety.
Kabul International Airport may close at short notice. You should check with your airline before going to the airport.
Banditry in rural areas by armed groups is common.
Unexploded ordnance, including landmines, are a danger throughout Afghanistan.
Due to safety concerns, Australian officials do not travel on domestic and international services provided by Ariana Airlines. Australian officials also avoid any travel with Kam Air. All Afghan airlines were banned from flying in EU airspace in 2010 due to safety concerns.
For further information, see our air travel page.
When you are in Afghanistan, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.
The death sentence is imposed for murder and other serious offences.
Close contact between unmarried men and women (particularly non-Muslims and Muslims) and de facto relationships are illegal. The penalties for breaching these laws are severe.
Homosexuality is illegal.
Preaching (non-Islamic), infidelity and abandoning religion (Islam) are considered serious crimes. Penalties are severe.
You can be detained and your equipment could be seized for photographing any checkpoints, security or military installations (regardless of which nation operates it), government buildings and palaces. Signs prohibiting photography should be strictly obeyed. You should ask permission before photographing local people.
Regulations governing the import and use of prohibited items, including alcohol and pork products, are strictly enforced.
Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australian overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.
There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Afghanistan and you should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.
Foreign men and women should dress modestly in public and ensure their legs are covered. Women should also cover their arms, while men may wear short-sleeved shirts. Local women and girls usually cover their hair in public. Female visitors should use their judgement when deciding whether to do likewise.
During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.
Public displays of affection may cause offence.
We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.
Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Travelling Well brochure also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.
Medical facilities are limited throughout Afghanistan, including Kabul. The standard of training for medical staff is low, while sanitation and hygiene are poor. Several private medical clinics in Kabul may be used for routine health issues. Clinics will request up-front payment for all medical treatment. In the event of a serious accident or illness, a medical evacuation would be necessary. The cost of medical evacuation, if it can be arranged, would be considerable.
Malaria is prevalent in Afghanistan, particularly between April and September, except in areas above 2000 metres. Chloroquine-resistant strains are prevalent in some areas. Other insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis) are common. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using an insect repellent, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.
Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis, leptospirosis, polio, pertussis and rabies) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We encourage you to discuss the need for vaccinations with your doctor before travelling. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.
Poliomyelitis remains endemic in Afghanistan with travellers at risk of infection. All travellers to polio infected countries should ensure they have completed a primary course of polio vaccinations and a booster dose prior to travel. If you are unsure of your polio vaccination status, check with your doctor or travel clinic at least eight weeks before you depart.
Where to get help
The Australian Embassy operates from the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul. Australians seeking consular assistance should call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305. The Consular Emergency Centre can be contacted on 1300 555 135 from within Australia. The provision of consular services to Australians in Afghanistan may be severely restricted due to the security environment.
The Australian High Commission in Pakistan should be contacted regarding all Australian visa matters. The address is:
Australian High Commission
Constitution Avenue and Ispahani Road
Diplomatic Enclave No. 1
Telephone: (92 51) 282 4345
Facsimile: (92 51) 282 0112
If you are travelling to Afghanistan, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.
In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.
Natural disasters, severe weather and climate
Afghanistan is in an active earthquake zone. Flooding and landslides can occur with little warning between March and May. Some mountainous areas are subject to deadly winter avalanches. In March 2012, an avalanche in Badakhshan province reportedly killed at least 45 people. Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.