- Population: 35.5 million (2017)
- Official languages: Dari, Pashto
- Regional languages include Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi Nuristani and Wakhi.
- Major religion: Islam
- More than 99% of the population are Muslim, with the majority following Sunni Islam (90%).
- Life expectancy: 59 years (men), 62 years (women)
- Currency: Afghani (AFN)
- 1 Afghani (AFN) = 100 pulse
- Electricity: 220 volts; longer-lasting power cuts
- Area: 652,864 sq km (251,827 sq miles)
- Landlocked and mountainous
- Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan in the south and east; Iran in the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north; and in the far northeast, China.
- Afghanistan has cool, dry winters and hot summers. In the mountainous central areas the winters are harsh and snowy. In the summer it can get chilly at altitude, especially at night.
- Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain was an inescapable part of the Silk Road
- About 2.6 million people from Afghanistan are living as refugees, representing the second-largest refugee population in the world today after Syria. Pakistan hosts nearly 1.4 million of these refugees, including some second- or third-generation Afghan refugees who have never lived in their home country.
- Afghanistan has been a crossroads of civilizations for centuries. Darius the Great, Alexander the Great, and Marco Polo have all been there. It has been and still is a place of world interest, of legendary hospitality to guests, and legendary hostility to invaders.
- Expect occasional outages of the electrical supplying.
- Internet facilities are available in the larger cities but also suffer from a lack of a constant power supply.
- Alcohol is officially banned.
- Food in rural Afghanistan is basic.
- During Ramadan Muslims fast during daylight hours. Be mindful there will be a lack of shops and restaurants open during those hours.
- Dress conservative: Respect the local traditions and customs and at minimum wear loose fitting long sleeve tops and loose trousers or long skirts.
- Especially when travelling in an area governed by Sharia law, respect local religious traditions and avoid offending local sensitivities. Penalties under Sharia law can be very severe, particularly for offences such as theft and adultery.
- Homosexuality is illegal in Afghanistan.
- It is illegal to import and use narcotics, alcohol and pork products.
- Photography of government buildings, military installations and palaces is not permitted. Avoid photographing local people without their consent.
- Visa requirements vary depending on your passport.
- Letters of introduction and any other visa support you may be required.
Safety & Security
- Afghanistan is considered one of the world’s most dangerous destinations for travellers. (2019)
- The security situation in Afghanistan remains serious and the threat to westerners is high.
- Most western governments advise against all travel to Afghanistan.
- The threat from terrorism in Afghanistan is also extremely high. Attacks are often indiscriminate and may include civilian targets.
- Another risk not to be ignored is the drivers and poor road conditions. The overall standard of driving is poor and most local drivers are uninsured.
- Afghanistan has a history of suffering invasions and insurgencies. It is best to inquire about current conditions while planning and again prior to visiting.
- Seek advice from governments, local tribal chiefs when travelling in country, and speak with other travellers who have recently visited the area before you begin any trip.
- When travelling between cities, when possible, travel with more than one vehicle so that you are not left stranded in the case of a break down.
- Note: As I write this on December 12, 2018, every official government advisory (linked below) is not to travel to Afghanistan due to a heightened threat of terrorist attack.