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Getting There & Away

Entering Afghanistan



Air 212 Land 215 Tours 217

Getting Around


Air 218 Bus & Minibus


Car 219 Hitching 220


There are few direct flights to Afghanistan from outside the immediate region. The most popular route from Europe or North America is to fly to Dubai, from where there are plenty of connections to Kabul. Coming from the east, the most convenient hubs to catch flights from are Delhi and Islamabad. Entering by land, Afghanistan maintains open border crossings with all its neigh- bours except China.


When entering the country by air, formali- ties are fairly simple, but be prepared for long queues. You’ll have to fill in an entry form stating the purpose of your visit and your profession. Baggage reclaim can some- times be something of a scrum, but at least the carousel normally has electricity these days. Customs checks on arrival are fairly cursory. Crossing land borders is also usually

straightforward, but customs checks on leav- ing Afghanistan to neighbouring countries, particularly the Central Asian republics and Iran, can often be exceedingly thorough. There is no currency declaration un- less you’re carrying cash worth more than 1,000,000Afg (US$20,000), in which case you need a Currency and Negotiable Bearer Instrument Report. In practice, this is only

checked on exiting Afghanistan, and can be obtained before leaving at Da Afghanistan Bank in Kabul or at the airport.


Airports & Airlines

Currently only Kabul International Airport (KBL;

x020 2300 016) receives commercial flights into Afghanistan. There is an ATM and cur- rency exchange at the airport. At the time of research, Ariana had announced a direct Kandahar–Dubai service. There’s a restricted choice of airlines fly- ing to Kabul. Since the fall of the Taliban, plenty of airlines have announced services – including Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines – only to cancel them abruptly, either due to security concerns, or (it’s rumoured) pressure from vested Af- ghan interests.


Air Arabia (G9; x079 9700 095;; hub Sharjah International Airport) Flights suspended at the time of research. Ariana Afghan Airlines (FG; x020 2100 271; www; hub Kabul International Airport) Azerbaijan Airlines (J2; x070 296 914;; hub Heydar Aliyev Airport, Baku) Indian Airlines (IC; x079 9308 303; www.indian-air; hub Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi) Kam Air (RQ; x020 2301 753;; hub Kabul International Airport)

Pakistan International Airlines (PK; x020 2203

500;; hub Islamabad International Airport)


The information in this chapter is particu- larly vulnerable to change. Check directly with your airline or travel agent to make sure you understand how a fare (and ticket you may buy) works and be aware of the security requirements for international travel. Shop carefully. The details given in this chapter should be regarded as point- ers and are not a substitute for your own careful, up-to-date research.


Climate change is a serious threat to the ecosystems that humans rely upon, and air travel is the fastest-growing contributor to the problem. Lonely Planet regards travel, overall, as a global ben- efit, but believes we all have a responsibility to limit our personal impact on global warming.

Flying & Climate Change

Pretty much every form of motorised travel generates carbon dioxide (the main cause of human- induced climate change) but planes are far and away the worst offenders, not just because of the sheer distances they allow us to travel, but because they release greenhouse gases high into the atmosphere. The statistics are frightening: two people taking a return flight between Europe and the US will contribute as much to climate change as an average household’s gas and electricity consumption over a whole year.

Carbon Offset Schemes and other websites use ‘carbon calculators’ that allow travellers to offset the level of greenhouse gases they are responsible for with financial contributions to sustainable travel schemes that reduce global warming – including projects in India, Honduras, Kazakhstan and Uganda.

Lonely Planet, together with Rough Guides and other concerned partners in the travel in- dustry, support the carbon offset scheme run by Lonely Planet offsets all of its staff and author travel. For more information check out our website:

In addition to the international carriers, there are also three carriers serving the in- ternational community: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Pactec and the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS). While primarily operating do- mestic flights, they do offer some interna- tional connections to Islamabad (Pactec and UNHAS), Dubai and Dushanbe (UNHAS only). ICRC flights all originate in Peshawar. Flights are only open to accredited NGO workers. For more information see p218 .


Not many travel agencies (traditional or online) outside Afghanistan will issue tick- ets for Ariana or Kam Air – see individual regions in this chapter for more informa- tion. It’s now possible to book online with Ariana, with Kam Air about to follow suit as this book was being researched. Note that when booking return flights, both Ariana and Kam Air frequently issue open returns by default so it’s essential to check this when booking, and always reconfirm your tickets in Kabul. There is very little seasonal variation in pricing for flights to Afghanistan, but de- mand can be heavy in the run-up to the Nauroz and Eid al-Adha holidays.

Airline Safety

Flying into Kabul has always been a bit of an adventure. In the 1980s and ’90s, ap- proaching planes had to steeply corkscrew when approaching the airport as an anti- missile defence, while as recently as 2006, new arrivals were greeted by the sight of the ‘Ariana Graveyard’, a twisted and shattered junkpile of destroyed airliners. The same year also finally saw the installation of a radar system at the airport. Poor maintenance has been a worry for Ariana flights, and the UN and many em- bassies ban their staff from flying with the airline, which has also been barred from EU airspace. Much of the fleet are second-hand planes from Indian Airlines, but these are slowly being replaced. Kam Air uses newer planes and is generally regarded as being better run, but it has Afghanistan’s one re- cent fatal crash to its name: a flight between Herat and Kabul crashed in February 2005 with the loss of 104 lives. Snowy conditions were blamed. Winter can cause severe problems at the 1800m-high Kabul airport, and flights are frequently cancelled due to snow and poor visibility. Factor in extra travel time if visit- ing Afghanistan during the winter, as delays can last several days.



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