Everything you need to know about travelling to Afghanistan: Essential travel information (Q&A with our tour leaders and local guides)

Everything you need to know about travelling to Afghanistan: Essential travel information (Q&A with our tour leaders and local guides)
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Traveling to Afghanistan in 2024 is an adventure like no other. Despite its rocky past and current political situation, more tourists are starting to explore the country, thanks in part to the Taliban's push for tourism. Penguin Travel is leading the way, having successfully organized a few trips in the last year. Must-see spots include the stunning Bamyan Valley, the gorgeous Band-e-Amir National Park, and the bustling city of Kabul. You can also check out historic cities like Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. Be ready to deal with some challenges like limited infrastructure, conservative customs, and lots of security checkpoints. Staying updated on the latest rules and traveling with experienced local guides is key. With the right prep, including getting the necessary visas and permits, you’re in for a unique and memorable journey.
In this blog post, we've gathered the most popular questions we've received from travellers regarding Afghanistan and had our guides and tour leaders answer them. We hope this will help you with planning your trip or inspire you to consider visiting Afghanistan. 

What to expect on a trip to Afghanistan in 2024?
Traveling to Afghanistan in 2024 presents a unique and intriguing experience. Despite its tumultuous past and complicated political situation, the country is seeing a surprising boom in tourism as the Taliban, who took over in 2021, have expressed a desire to encourage visitors. While the number of tourists is still relatively small compared to other destinations, this surge marks a significant change from previous years. However, infrastructure in Afghanistan remains limited, with basic accommodations and challenging transportation. Afghanistan is deeply conservative, but its people are known for their friendliness and hospitality. You should dress modestly on the trip and respect local customs to ensure a positive experience. You can expect numerous checkpoints manned by both Afghan security forces and Taliban members. Patience and cooperation are key to navigating these smoothly. Since their takeover in 2021, interactions with Taliban members, especially at checkpoints, have been common. Respecting their rules and carrying identification will help ensure smooth encounters.

- Lyuben Sinadinski, Penguin Travel Tour Leader

Is it safe to visit Afghanistan?
While it's still advised to avoid certain areas, travelers can explore popular sites like Bamyan Valley, where the Buddhas of Bamiyan once stood, the breathtaking Band-e-Amir National Park, Afghanistan's first national park with its series of turquoise lakes, and the vibrant capital city of Kabul. Herat, with its stunning Islamic architecture, including the Herat Citadel and the Great Mosque, is another ancient city worth visiting. In Mazar-i-Sharif, the Blue Mosque, renowned for its stunning blue tiles and historical significance, is a must-see. These locations have been open to tourists for a while, but it's crucial to note that the situation in the country is dynamic, and rules and regulations change frequently. Staying informed about all regulations and changes and maintaining contact with trusted local guides is of utmost importance for a safe and enjoyable trip.
For a secure and well-guided experience, we strongly recommend traveling with a group on an organized trip led by trusted local partners who are well-versed in the country's dynamics and can ensure your safety and comfort.

- Lyuben Sinadinski, Penguin Travel Tour Leader

How to travel to Afghanistan?
As more airlines are starting to operate to and from Kabul, it is getting easier to fly to the country. Kam Air, the national airline, offers daily flights to Kabul from Dubai and Islamabad. You can also fly to Kabul with Emirates, Fly Dubai, and Turkish Airlines with a connection in the region. 

- Lyuben Sinadinski, Penguin Travel Tour Leader

How to get a visa for Afghanistan?
There are now a few embassies in Europe where you can get a tourist visa. We recommend checking with the nearest embassy to see if they can assist you. Some travelers also opt to secure their visas at Afghan embassies in Islamabad, Dubai, Doha, or Peshawar. If you are traveling on our group tour, we, as a travel agency, will assist with the required documents, like a letter of invitation, trip vouchers, and others. The visa fee cost and processing time may vary depending on the embassy - from 24 hours to a few weeks, and costs might be between 80-200 USD, depending on the embassy.
To travel in Afghanistan, you also need a special permit issued by the Taliban. If you are traveling on an organized tour, it will be arranged by the travel agency.

- Lyuben Sinadinski, Penguin Travel Tour Leader

Will you interact with the Taliban?
Traveling in Afghanistan during Taliban rule involves frequent interactions with Taliban members, who fulfill roles in the government, police, military, and security services. On the trip, we encounter Taliban officers mostly at checkpoints and when entering certain sites. They may also stop the group on the street to check passports and permits or at the hotels. They are usually kind to travellers and the interactions go smoothly.

-Penguin Travel's Local guide in Afghanistan


Is there a dress code in Afghanistan?
There is a dress code in Afghanistan, particularly for foreigners who wish to blend in and attract less attention. Both men and women should wear local clothing. Women should wear a dark abaya and a headscarf. It’s recommended to avoid wearing colorful abayas. Although many women wear a burqa, it is not compulsory. Local Men typically wear a traditional 2-piece set, shalwar kameez, and often a turban on their heads. As a male tourist, you can wear these clothes or choose modest Western clothes. However, they should cover the arms and legs to avoid standing out too much.

- Lyuben Sinadinski, Penguin Travel Tour Leader

Will I have an internet connection when traveling in Afghanistan?
While there is Wi-fi in most hotels, it is not very strong and reliable. A few companies in Kabul and other big cities offer SIM cards with 3G. Their coverage, however, might be limited in some parts of the country.

--Penguin Travel's Local guide in Afghanistan

Can you use credit cards or ATMs in Afghanistan?
It’s surprising to know that there are actually ATMs in Afghanistan, primarily in larger cities such as Kabul, which occasionally can accept international cards. They are however generally unreliable, so it's wise to carry enough cash for the whole trip. The local restaurants and shops do not accept cards.

-Penguin Travel's Local guide in Afghanistan

Is Afghanistan cheap to visit?
Even though tourism is growing in the country, the tourism infrastructure is still very limited. That means there are few options for decent accommodation, guidance, and private transportation services. Here, there is less competition, which usually means higher prices for these services. All these are usually included in the travel package, so booking an organized tour will be the most significant part of your budget. Meals are relatively cheap in the country, you can expect to pay about 5-7 USD per meal. Other personal expenses, like SIM cards, clothing, etc, are quite cheap, too. 

- Lyuben Sinadinski, Penguin Travel Tour Leader

Are there any other things you should know when traveling to Afghanistan?
When participating in the trip, it is crucial to adhere to several guidelines to ensure respect and safety. Posting on social media and sharing your location and travel plans with locals is discouraged. You can post on social media when you return home. You should always ask for permission before taking pictures of the locals. You should maintain a low profile, respect local customs, and avoid engaging in political or religious discussions. Finally, do not walk on the streets alone, particularly at night, to ensure your safety. 

- Lyuben Sinadinski, Penguin Travel Tour Leader

Learn more about our trips to Afghanistan here.

Check our photo diary from our last trips to Afghanistan here.

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