Traveling in Afghanistan November 2018

Traveling safely in Afghanistan is all about having the most up to date information. Things here can change quickly, but as of November 2018 these were my observations:

Areas Covered: Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh, Samangan, Kabul, Panjshir Valley and the Hindu Kush/Salang Pass from Mazar to Kabul.

Additional places considered safe: The Wakhan Corridor, Bamyan and Herat.

Company used: Lets Be Friends Afghanistan for the most part. Independently afterwards.

How it was arranged: Noor from LBFA set me up with a Dutch traveler coming from the Heiratan border and picked me up from Mazar airport. He tailormade a trip for us with a program in Northern Afghanistan and dropped us off in Kabul afterwards.

Transport used: Noor traveled with us to Mazar, Samangan, Balkh and down to Kabul, having his cousin driving a regular afghani taxi. By using a more fancy car we would have drawn a lot more attention and with buses/shared taxis there is always the possibility that there is someone from the Taliban onboard who can turn you in. For people who want to be extra cautious, flying between the cities is reccommended.

Clothing: Wear local dresses. LBFA can buy this for you to have it ready upon arrival. Local leather shoes, a vest, scarf and traditional hat together with a Shalwar Kameez dress is the way to go for men. Hijab for women is a must and if you want to be extra cautious there are lots of places selling burqas.

Being interviewed by the Agence France Presse about how it is to travel in Afghanistan

Accommodation: The hotels used were clean, simple and low profile. I will not list the names of the hotels for the security of future travelers, but feel to send me a message and I can give them to you. Using couchsurfing is also a good way to stay safe and have locals to take you around. Just make sure to check their references first!

Trip summary: We stayed three nights in Mazar-e Sharif and drove to Kabul to stay four nights there. Mazar was used as a base to explore Balkh and Samangan and from Kabul we drove up to the Panjshir Valley. I was positively surprised that it was no problem for us to walk through streets and bazaars, relaxing in parks and eating out in restaurants every day. As long as you are with a local who knows the places and speak the language, Afghanistan can be a safe place to visit as a tourist in 2018.

The outcome of the AFP interview was not what I had expected.

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