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Afghanistan - AVOID ALL TRAVEL
Avoid all travel to Afghanistan due to the unstable security situation, ongoing insurgency, terrorist attacks, risk of kidnapping and high crime rate. If you choose to travel to Afghanistan despite this warning, you’re taking a serious risk. We strongly recommend that Canadians register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service and include personal and professional contact details. If you’re already in Afghanistan, you should leave. The ability of the Embassy of Canada to Afghanistan to provide consular and other support is very limited throughout the country.
Safety and security
Afghanistan is not a safe environment for travel. The security situation is extremely volatile and unpredictable. Attempting any travel, including adventure or recreational, in this hazardous security environment places you and others at grave risk of abduction, injury or death.
Insurgents are engaged in a coordinated campaign to destabilize the Government of Afghanistan through acts of terrorism and kidnapping. Foreigners whose country of origin has supported the U.S.-led coalition forces, including Canadians, are preferred targets for terrorist attacks and kidnapping.
Criminals taking advantage of the unstable security situation are also committing violent attacks and kidnapping travellers.
Terrorism and criminal violence
There’s an extremely high and continuous threat of terrorism and criminal violence. Terrorists and criminals carry out attacks in reputable public areas and against Afghan and international institutions. Attacks in Kabul occur often, against Afghan citizens and foreigners alike.
Afghan insurgents have signalled their intention to continue targeting foreign nationals in future attacks. Attacks are completely unpredictable. Future targets could include:
- government buildings, including schools
- security and defence personnel
- places of worship
- airports and other transportation hubs and networks
- public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels and other sites frequented by foreigners
No location in Afghanistan can be considered safe or exempt from the threat of attack.
- Always be aware of your surroundings when in public places
- Exercise extreme caution at all times
- Be particularly vigilant during and prior to days of national significance
Types of violent attacks
Tactics used by insurgents include body- and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and firing rockets. Armed assaults and ambushes are also common.
Other types of violent attack also occur, including armed robbery, carjacking and sexual and gender-based violence and harassment. Weapons are readily available throughout the country and the number of civilian causalities is high.
- Avoid showing signs of affluence or carrying large sums of money
- Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times
Kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative practice. There’s an extreme risk of kidnapping of foreign nationals. Criminals have kidnapped and sometimes killed Westerners, including tourists, journalists, teachers, doctors and non-government organization workers. Journalists may be lured with offers of interviews, when the real purpose is to kidnap them.
Several organizations, including terrorist groups and criminal gangs, are responsible for these kidnappings. These groups will target anyone perceived to have money for kidnapping or extortion purposes. Kidnap-for-ransom groups may also sell their captives to terrorist groups, with victims potentially facing years in captivity.
Demonstrations, including anti-Western demonstrations and civil unrest, may occur throughout Afghanistan. Some demonstrations have become violent and have suffered terrorist attacks, causing death and injury. Demonstrations can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Millions of landmines pose a severe threat throughout the countryside. No area is safe.
Road conditions and road safety are poor throughout the country. Drivers often drive at excessive speeds. Drivers are aggressive and reckless. Drivers do not respect traffic laws, and Afghan police do not enforce them.
Accidents causing fatalities are common.
Overland travel outside of Kabul is extremely dangerous. Banditry by armed groups is common. Terrorist and criminal groups may set up fake checkpoints and road-blacks with the intent of robbery, kidnapping or other violent attacks. Military and police forces are inadequate in rural areas.
- Avoid undertaking overland travel unless you’re accompanied by armed security guards
- Plan any road travel very carefully
- Always travel in groups
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
Confirm your flight with your airline before flying to Afghanistan, as Afghan airports can close on short notice. For this same reason, if you’re departing from Afghanistan, contact your airline to confirm your flight.
Women may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Women should:
- travel in groups
- not travel alone at night
Afghan authorities have detained women who have reported a sexual assault. Women must prove that the sex was not consensual to avoid criminal charges under extramarital sex statutes.
Safe travel guide for women
Forced marriage affecting foreigners occur. It sometimes occurs without the affected person’s prior knowledge or consent.
General information and advice about forced marriage
Safe travel guide for women
General safety information
Be aware that:
- basic infrastructure services such as electricity and telephones are minimal, even in urban areas
- food and water shortages are common
- foreigners should avoid travelling at night
- areas outside Kabul may not have adequate police coverage
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from Afghan authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave from Afghanistan.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
You must obtain a visa to visit Afghanistan.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
If your emergency contingency plan involves a possible evacuation to a third country by air or road, be sure to maintain a valid visa for that country.
Afghan authorities fingerprint all foreigners upon arrival in Afghanistan. You must also register with a representative of the Ministry of Interior’s Foreigners’ Registration Office. This can be done at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul or the Ministry of Interior’s Kabul Statistics Office, located at Kart-e-Parwan Square.
You must surrender your registration card when departing Afghanistan.
Afghan authorities may deny you entry if your passport contains an Israeli visa or border stamp.
They may also deny you entry if your passport contains an Egyptian or Jordanian border stamp issued by an office bordering Israel, which would indicate that you’ve travelled to Israel.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
- Polio: vaccine advice - June 28, 2019
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Cases of measles have been reported in this country.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Polio *Proof of vaccination*
Polio is present in this country. Polio can be prevented by vaccination, which is part of the routine vaccines for children in Canada.
- Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up to date.
- One booster dose of the polio vaccine is recommended as an adult.
Proof of vaccination:
If you are staying more than 4 weeks in this country, you may have to show proof of polio vaccination when you leave the country.
Make sure that the polio vaccination is documented on the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. This is the only document accepted as proof of vaccination. They are provided at Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres.
Carry the certificate as proof of vaccination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Travellers going to countries in South Asia should speak to a health care professional about getting vaccinated.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- There is currently a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine in Canada. It is important for travellers to contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of their trip to ensure that the vaccine is available.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in South Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in South Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
Cholera is a risk in parts of this country. Most travellers are at very low risk.
For protection of cholera
All travellers should practise safe food and water precautions.
Travellers at higher risk should discuss with a health care professional the benefits of getting vaccinated.
Travellers at higher risk include those:
- visiting, working or living in areas with limited access to safe food, water and proper sanitation
- visiting areas where outbreaks are occurring.
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in South Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis and malaria.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that typically causes fever, bleeding under the skin, and pain. Risk is generally low for most travellers. It is spread to humans though contact with infected animal blood or bodily fluids, or from a tick bite. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.
Leishmaniasis, cutaneous and mucosal
Cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis causes skin sores and ulcers. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine or medication to protect against leishmaniasis.
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Southern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Health care is inadequate. It may be completely unavailable in rural areas. Where available, health-care facilities are not appropriately sanitized. Patients requiring medical treatment for incisions or wounds run a significant risk of infection. Private clinics are available in Kabul. These clinics offer a higher standard of service. Immediate cash payment is required for any medical service.
Medical evacuation can be very expensive and you may need it in case of serious illness or injury. Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays. However, medical evacuation is rarely possible due to a lack of companies willing to service Afghanistan. Evacuation on military flights is impossible.
Prescription medications are not available. Bring a sufficient supply of medications for the duration of your stay.
Travel health and safety
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
The work week is from Saturday to Wednesday.
Public displays of physical affection between men and women are considered offensive.
Illegal or restricted activities
Extramarital relations, including sexual relations are illegal. Punishment for convicted offenders is severe.
Committing a blasphemous act or producing or distributing material deemed critical of Islam is illegal. Such acts are punishable by long-term incarceration or, in severe cases, the death sentence.
It’s illegal to photograph government buildings, military installations and palaces. Seek permission from locals before taking their photograph.
Afghan law doesn’t prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. Although the laws of Afghanistan don’t prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex, homosexuality isn’t socially tolerated.
Members of the LGBTQ2 community could face arrest under other charges, such as sodomy and illegal extramarital sexual relations.
LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Afghanistan.
General safety information and advice for LGBTQ2 travellers abroad
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Afghanistan.
If local authorities consider you a citizen of Afghanistan, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services. This will prevent us from providing you with those services.
General information for travellers with dual citizenship
Dress and behaviour
Afghan customs, laws and regulations closely adhere to Islamic practices and beliefs. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.
During the lunar month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim calendar), refrain from drinking, eating, and smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. In 2020, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around April 23.
You must carry an international driving permit.
More about the International Driving Permit
The currency is the afghani (AFN). The economy operates on a cash-only basis. Credit cards are not widely accepted. U.S. dollars are accepted but should be recent issue and in good condition. Automated banking machines are beginning to appear in Kabul, but they are unreliable.
Natural disasters and climate
Afghanistan is located in an active seismic zone. Earthquakes may cause landslides in affected areas. Strong aftershocks are possible up to one week after the initial quake.
Avalanches, floods and landslides occur. These could result in a high number of casualties and serious property damage.
In February 2017, heavy snows and avalanches caused more than 100 deaths and led to food shortages.
Avoid the affected areas, keep informed of regional weather forecasts and follow the instructions of local authorities.
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 119 or 100
- medical assistance: 102
- firefighters: 112
Kabul - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Afghanistan in Kabul and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad. In the event of a large-scale emergency, every effort will be made to provide assistance. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
See Large-scale emergencies abroad for more information.
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