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Afghanistan - AVOID ALL TRAVEL
Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel to Afghanistan due to the unstable security situation, ongoing insurgency, terrorist attacks, the risk of kidnapping and a high crime rate. If you choose to travel to Afghanistan despite this warning, you are 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 are already in Afghanistan, you should leave. The Embassy of Canada to Afghanistan’s ability to provide consular and other support throughout the country is very limited.
Safety and security
Safety and security
Afghanistan is not a safe environment for personal travel. The security situation remains extremely volatile and unpredictable. Attempting any form of travel, including adventure or recreational, in this very hazardous security environment would place you and others at grave risk of injury, death or abduction. Insurgents continue to attempt to destabilize the current political system through acts of terrorism and kidnapping. Foreigners whose country of origin has contributed to the International Security Assistance Force, 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. The Embassy of Canada to Afghanistan’s ability to provide consular and other support throughout the country is very limited.
Terrorist and criminal violence
The threat of terrorist and criminal violence is extremely high and continuous. Terrorists and criminals carry out attacks in reputable public areas as well as against Afghan and international institutions. Attacks in Kabul occur often and are completely unpredictable. Targets include hotels, embassies, government buildings, popular landmarks and streets, and locations known to employ or be frequented by Westerners. No location in Afghanistan can be considered safe or exempt from the threat of attack. Be particularly vigilant in the lead-up to and on days of national significance.
Tactics used by terrorists include body- and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, as well as the firing of rockets. Armed assaults and ambushes are also common.
Other types of violent attack against Afghans and foreigners also occur, including armed robbery, sexual and gender-based violence and harassment, and carjacking. Throughout the country, weapons are readily available and the number of civilian causalities due to armed attacks is high.
Exercise extreme caution at all times, particularly in public areas frequented by foreigners—such as hotels, restaurants, shops and marketplaces—and near public buildings, embassies and foreign headquarters.
Do not show signs of affluence or carry large sums of money, and ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.
Kidnapping for ransom has become a very lucrative market in Afghanistan. There is an extreme risk of kidnapping of foreign nationals throughout Afghanistan. Numerous Westerners, including tourists, journalists and non-government organization workers, have been kidnapped and, in some cases, killed. Journalists may be lured to Afghanistan with offers of interviews, when the real purpose is to kidnap them. Several organizations, including terrorist groups and criminal gangs, are behind these kidnappings.
Demonstrations, including anti-Western demonstrations and civil unrest, sometimes occur throughout Afghanistan. Some demonstrations have become violent and have been targeted by terrorist attacks, causing deaths and injuries. Political and socio-economic issues, population displacement, returning refugees and upcoming parliamentary elections may cause further unrest.
Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings.
Millions of landmines throughout the countryside pose a threat. No area can be considered safe.
Driving conditions are poor. Traffic is chaotic because traffic laws are not enforced.
Overland travel outside of Kabul is extremely dangerous and should be restricted to those who have armed security. Terrorist and criminal groups may set up fake checkpoints with the intention of committing attacks.
Plan any road travel very carefully, and always travel in groups. Military and police forces are limited in rural areas. Banditry by armed groups is common.
The Government of Canada does not assess foreign domestic airlines’ compliance with international aviation safety standards. See Foreign domestic airlines for more information.
Confirm your flight with your airline before going to the airport, as the airport can close on short notice.
Women should travel in groups and avoid travelling alone at night. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information for Canadian women.
Women have been detained when reporting sexual assault. Women must prove that the sex was not consensual to avoid being charged under extramarital sex statutes (see Laws and culture).
General safety information
Basic infrastructure services such as electricity and telephones are minimal, even in urban areas.
Food and water shortages are common.
Travelers should not travel at night.
Areas outside Kabul may not have strong police coverage.
It is the sole prerogative of every country or territory to determine who is allowed to enter or exit. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry or exit requirements. The following information has been obtained from the authorities of Afghanistan and is subject to change at any time. The country- or territory-specific entry/exit requirements are provided on this page for information purposes only. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, information contained here is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada assumes no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of Afghanistan for up-to-date information.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Afghanistan, which must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of expected departure from that country. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
Temporary passport holders may be subject to different entry requirements. Check with diplomatic representatives for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must possess a visa to visit Afghanistan.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
If your emergency contingency plan involves an evacuation to a third country by air or road, maintain a valid visa for that country.
You may be denied entry into Afghanistan if your passport contains an Israeli visa or an Israeli border stamp. You may also be denied entry if your passport contains an Egyptian or Jordanian border stamp issued by an office bordering Israel, which would indicate that you have travelled to Israel.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider 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.
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.
- Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up to date. Polio is part of the routine vaccine schedule for children in Canada.
- 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.
- Receive a dose of the polio vaccine 1 to 12 months before you leave this 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 (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Travellers to countries in South Asia should speak to a health care provider 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 provider.
- 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.
* 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 provider 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 for children, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider 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.
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 provider 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.
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 provider.
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 services and medical facilities are substandard. Facilities are not appropriately sanitized. Patients requiring medical treatment for incisions or wounds run a significant risk of infection. Private clinics, which offer a higher standard of service, are available in Kabul. Immediate cash payment is required for any medical service.
Medical evacuation is rarely possible due to a lack of companies willing to service Afghanistan. Evacuation on military flights is impossible.
Prescription medicine is not available. Bring a sufficient supply of medicine for the duration of your stay.
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
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention for more information.
The work week is from Saturday to Wednesday.
Displaying physical affection between men and women in public is considered offensive.
Illegal or restricted activities
Extramarital sexual relations are also illegal. Convicted offenders will be severely punished.
Photographing government buildings, military installations and palaces is prohibited. Ask permission from locals before taking their photograph.
The laws of Afghanistan prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. LGBTQ2 travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Afghanistan.
See Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit Canadians abroad for more information.
Dual citizenship is not legally recognized in Afghanistan. If local authorities consider you an Afghani citizen, they may refuse to grant you access to Canadian consular services, thereby preventing Canadian consular officials from providing you with those services. You should always travel using your valid Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times to minimize this risk. You may also need to carry and present an Afghani passport for legal reasons, for example to enter and exit the country (see Entry/exit requirements to determine passport requirements). Citizenship is determined solely by national laws, and the decision to recognize dual citizenship rests completely with the country in which you are located when seeking consular assistance. See Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.
Dress and behaviour
Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in the country’s customs, laws and regulations. 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 2018, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around May 15.
Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.
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
Natural disasters & climate
Afghanistan is in an active seismic zone. An earthquake may cause landslides in affected areas. Strong aftershocks are possible up to one week after the initial quake.
Avalanches, floods and landslides occur, which could result in a high number of casualties and serious property damage.
In February 2017, heavy snows and avalanches caused over a hundred deaths and led to food shortages
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 119 or 100
- medical assistance: 102
- firefighters: 93 (0) 202 101 333
Kabul - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada 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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