Afghanistan or officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is a state in the south-west Asia. It borders Pakistan, Iran, China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and India. The capital city is Kabul.
The climate in the country is continental subtropical with significant changes in temperature between the seasons. The most comfortable weather for spending holidays in Afghanistan is the period between seasons. Winter is a good time for active sports and skiing.
The official languages in Afghanistan are Pashto and Dari. The majority of the population are the followers of Islam.
Afghanistan attracts the tourists, mainly, with its ancient monuments which survived even after the war. The tourists will see the sights of one of the most ancient cities in the world Balkh and have excursions to Jalalabad, Kandahar, and Kabul.
In the capital city, the tourists can play golf, go the Zoo and the cinema, go fishing on the lakes and rivers near the city.
For extreme tourism, head to the ski resorts in the Bamyan province, which is in the Hindu Kush Mountains. The Badakhshan province is the main destination for hiking and climbing.
Go shopping to the markets Herat and Ghazni.
The lovers of nature and ecological tourism should visit the lakes and rivers of Mazar-i-Sharif. When the dry season is over, anyone can witness how the water fills the Basham intermittent lake in the Helmand province.
Ariana and Kam Air offer direct flights from Baku and Dushanbe to Kabul. There are no direct flights from other CIS and EU countries to Afghanistan.
The tourists from the European Union should take a transit flight with a transfer in Dubai, Islamabad, Istanbul or New Delhi. Pakistan, Emirates, Air France, Turkish Airlines, and Air India offer transit flights to Afghanistan.
Ariana, Transaero, and Turkish Airlines offer transit flights from Russia.
From Ukraine, one can take a transit flight offered by IUA, Emirates, and Pakistan.
One can get to Afghanistan from Tajikistan across the bridge over the Panj river. It is necessary to find out beforehand which one of six bridges works. There are also regular routes from Mashhad in Iran to Herat. Due to rather a tense situation in the country, international buses may be unavailable.
The residents of all countries need a visa to spend their holidays in Afghanistan. The exception is the people who were born there or the children of the Afghan people.
One must submit the documents for a visa to the Embassy of Afghanistan or the Consulate.
The usual time for processing the documents is 1-7 working days.
A visitor visa is valid for a month.
The tourists can get a visa immediately before their visit to Afghanistan at the Consulate in Tajikistan. The citizens of any countries can submit the documents. One will get a visa within 1-4 days or on the same day at extra cost.
Be aware that due to military activities within the country, the Consulate can be closed.
The local Customs legislation does not restrict the import of foreign currency, but any money must be declared. The export of foreign currency is limited to the sum indicated on the declaration form. The travellers can import and export the national currency to the limit of 500 afghanis (AFN).
The tourists are allowed to bring in the following goods duty-free:
- tobacco and alcohol within reasonable amounts;
- clothes, accessories, shoes and perfume for personal use.
The total cost of the imported things must not exceed 500 US dollars.
It is strictly prohibited to import:
- video tapes and other media with movies;
- video games and play stations;
- photo cameras and films without a special license;
- certain drugs;
- pets without an international vet certificate.
The tourists are not allowed to export:
- carpets and furs;
- crafts without a license issued by a seller.
The cuisine of Afghanistan is one of the most ancient in the world and this fact attracts many foodies to this country. The staple food is rice, grains, milk and dairy products, mutton, beef, vegetables, dried fruits, and nuts. Pork is almost never used due to religious restrictions.
The most popular dishes are Shish kebab with lard and vegetables, Kefta kebab from minced meat with onion, Shami kebab from minced meat with mashed vegetables and egg, chicken Murghi kebab, and beef Tas kebab.
If you stay in Afghanistan, you should try mutton stew with spinach Korma Sabzi, beef stew with peas Korma, meatballs Kefta, roasted bird meat with tomatoes Kurma, and mutton with rice and raisins Kabuli.
The locals love pilafs which are in great variety in Afghanistan: Kabuli Pilaw with lamb and Shahi Palau with nuts, raisins, and tail fat.
Fish dishes are not frequently cooked here, but the tourists can try fish in milk Shir Mahi.
Do not leave Afghanistan without trying the local soups such as Shorba (meat soup with vegetables), Mushawa (beans and yoghurt soup) or tomato noodle soup Aush Goshti.
Grains or beans are traditionally served as side dishes. We also recommend trying a mix pickled vegetables Toshi.
At the end of the meal treat yourself to sweet halva, creamy and pistachio pudding Firni, sugared fruits, and cookies Gosh fil.
The local people drink various herbal teas.
Alcohol is not spreading in the country, but in some regions, the tourists will have a chance to try a local low-alcohol milk drink.
The official currency is the Afghani (AFN) which is equal to 100 pul. The Central Bank of Afghanistan (Da Afghanistan Bank) issues the banknotes from 1 to 1.000 afghani, the coins from 1 to5 afghani, and 25 and 50 pul coins.
The stores in large cities accept US dollars. In Jalalabad and Kandahar, Pakistani rupees are accepted and in Herat, one can pay with Iranian rials. Outside the city, only afghani is accepted.
One can exchange the currency at banks or take the advantage of the services of the locals. If you exchange the currency with the locals, pay attention to the date of the issued of bank notes, otherwise you may receive the banknotes out of use. The US dollars are more willingly exchanged.
In Kabul, in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, there is one ATM which accepts VISA cards. Cashless payments are not accepted.
One can cash traveller’s checks in US dollars and sterling pounds at some banks in Kabul. Due to the unstable political-military situation, we do not recommend you going out of the city alone.
Details of interest
Sightseeing in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, you will see two sites which have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Both sites are in danger of destruction.
- The Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam are the cultural and historical monument depicting the life of the capital city during the era of the Ghurid dynasty. The Minaret was built in the 12th century and there is an inscription confirming this fact. The building is over 60 metres high and it is made of burnt brick and decorated with ornaments and writings. The entrance to the Minaret is underground and inside the building, there is a winding stairs.
- The tourists should visit the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley. Here, there are a lot of Buddhist Monasteries and fortifications of the Islamic period that date back to the 1st - 13th centuries. In Monasteries, a statue of the lying Buddha has been preserved. In 2004, the excavations began.
In Afghanistan, there are also four UNESCO candidate sites.
- The tourists can visit the Bagh-E-Babur gardens in Kabul. This natural and architectural complex was founded in the 16th century. You will see cascade terraces in the traditional Mongolian style. On the territory of the garden, there is the Babur Tomb, the tomb of the Emperor who founded the Mughal Empire.
- Band-E-Amir is a chain of six mountain lakes. The water in the lakes has a turquoise colour because of the carbon dioxide falling into the water from the rocks. In 2009 this complex was recognised as the national park.
- The city of Herat is a must-visit place. The scientists say that the first settlement appeared in this area in the 5th century B.C. The main sights in the city are the Juma mosque and the Musalla Complex & Minarets.
- Balkh also has a strong cultural value. In the ancient period, it was the centre of the Zoroastrian religion. In the city, you will see the ruins of the Madrasa of Sayed Subhan Quli Khan, the Mosque of Khwaja Nasr Parsa, the ruins of Bala-Hissar, and the Nine Domes Mosque.
Souvenirs in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, the tourists can buy:
- commemorative coins;
- jewellery made of precious metals;
- national costumes;
- glass and pottery;
- Pashtun traditional headwear;