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TRANSPOR T

Chaghcheran Bamiyan

Jalalabad Herat Ghanzi Faizabad

Torkham Shiberghan Pul-e Khumri Mazar-e Sharif Maimana Lashkar Gah Kunduz Kandahar Kabul

218 GETTING AROUND •• Air

The two Afghan airlines, Ariana (x020 2100 271;

www.flyariana.com) and Kam Air (x020 2301 753; www

.flykamair.com) both operate domestic schedules, linking Kabul with daily flights to Herat and Mazar-e Sharif, and Kandahar several times a week. There’s also a weekly Ariana Kanda- har–Herat flight. For other destinations, the schedule is an extremely moveable feast. In theory, Ariana also operates a twice-weekly flight to Faizabad, and weekly flights to Kun- duz, Maimana and Shiberghan. In practice, these services can be cancelled for months at a time. Contact Ariana in Kabul, as the provincial offices are usually shut except on days immediately preceding a rare flight. Neither airlines’ websites are much help for domestic flights. Kam Air operates a reliable twice-weekly

GETTING AROUND

AIR

flight between Herat and Mazar-e Sharif. It has toyed with a Kabul–Faizabad service but has only operated a few flights and has yet to open an office in the town. Kanda- har and Maimana flights are also apparently planned.

Demand is high for flights, so book as far in advance as you can. Ariana’s Kabul office can be chaotic but is surprisingly ef- ficient. Kam Air run a slightly tighter ship. Elsewhere, things are more disorganised so you might need to be persistent to get your name on the list. You’ll need your passport when you book your ticket. Always recheck the time of departure the day before you fly. Schedule changes are both common and unexplained. If you’re in the provinces you’ll probably depart late anyway, as you wait for the plane to arrive from Kabul.

Humanitarian Airlines in Afghanistan

Three airlines serve the humanitarian com- munity within Afghanistan, with flights only open to those working for accredited NGOs and nonprofit organisations. Most of the flights are operated with small Beech- craft planes, and for certain routes stricter than normal baggage limits may be applied due to flying conditions.

ICRC Air Operations (International Committee of the Red Cross; x070 285948; kabul.kab@icrc.org; Charahi Haji Yaqub) Scheduled flights to Jalalabad, Mazar-e Sharif,

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Herat, Kunduz, Faizabad and Kandahar. Flights originate in Peshawar and are via Kabul. No flights on Fridays. Pactec (x070 282679/079 9300 837; bookingkbl@pactec.net; Street 15, Right Lane 1, House 12, Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul) Scheduled flights to Bamiyan, Chaghcheran, Faizabad, Farah, Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz, Lashkar Gah, Maimana, Qala-e Nau, Taloqan and Yawkaw- lang. Can also arrange charter flights.

United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS;

x070 284070/282559; kabul.unhas@wfp.org; WFP Com- pound, btwn Charahi Zambak & Charahi Ariana, Shahr-e Nau, Kabul) Scheduled flights to Bamiyan, Faizabad, Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Kunduz, Maimana and Mazar-e Sharif.

BUS & MINIBUS

Getting around by bus and minibus isn’t al- ways terrifically comfortable, but it’s undeni- ably cheap and services run to most places you’ll want to get to. The road distances chart (opposite) shows approximate road distances between major towns and cities. Afghanistan is held together by the mini- bus. Toyota HiAces are the most favoured, and are seemingly indestructible in the face of terrible road conditions. They’re known locally as falang, a corruption of ‘flying coach’. Also popular are the slightly smaller TownAces. Passengers are squeezed in four to a row, or three in a TownAce. If you’re male, don’t be surprised if your arrival forces a change in seating arrangements, to stop you sitting next to an Afghan woman. There are no timetables, vehicles just leave when they’ve collected enough passengers. The smaller TownAces tend to fill up and depart quicker, and are also slightly faster, so there’s a slight increase in the fare. A fare that costs 450Afg in a HiAce would be about 100Afg more in a TownAce. Prices also fluctuate according to demand – a trip to Kabul would normally be cheaper than a journey to Faizabad of the same length. Unless you’ve got particularly huge bags, there shouldn’t be a luggage charge. Transport generally leaves from motor parks on the edges of towns. They’re lively places, with touts barking out their destina- tions, beggars and kids hawking snacks and goods. Most places will have some sort of chaikhana where you can get a cup of tea while waiting for your vehicle to fill. Shared taxis can also be found here. The comfort factor of your trip depends on the destination as much as the size of the passengers you’re squeezed next to. Simple

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journeys along sealed roads are usually fine but anywhere else can be bumpy and pain- ful, particularly over long distances. It can sometimes be a good idea to buy an extra seat to give yourself some extra room, a tac- tic we highly recommend if tackling the cen- tral route or northwest Afghanistan. Drivers tend to stop every three or four hours for prayers and at chaikhanas for food. On long trips you might end up staying the night at one, so ensure you have a blanket or sleep- ing bag easily accessible (for more informa- tion see p199 ). Clunky old German buses also ply Af-

ghanistan’s roads. Painfully slow and over- crowded, they’re only used by the poorest locals and those unconcerned about time or comfort. On a slightly higher level, there are coaches running along the Ring Rd from Mazar-e Sharif to Kabul and on to Herat. Cheaper than a HiAce, tickets can normally be bought a day in advance from a bus of- fice. As the Kabul-Herat leg passes through Kandahar and the restive south, we strongly advise against foreigners taking this route in the current climate.

ROAD DISTANCES (KM)

CAR

Roads are generally of a poor quality in Kabul. The Ring Rd from Herat to Kan- dahar, Kabul and up to Mazar-e Sharif is paved, along with link highways from the Pakistan border to Kabul, and from Iran to Herat. Elsewhere, roads are gravel or worse, and road reconstruction continues to be depressingly slow. Road rules are extremely lax, but most

vehicles at least aspire to drive on the right. Wherever tarmac allows drivers to get some speed up, accidents are common. The Kabul–Mazar-e Sharif highway is par- ticularly bad in this respect, where drivers seem to view the road more as a venue for a game of motorised buzkashi rather than a conduit for getting from A to B. Watch out for the very Afghan practice of turning old tank tracks into speed bumps. Beware of driving off-road due to the risk

of landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs). In areas of instability, high-visibil- ity white NGO vehicles have sometimes been deliberately targeted by criminals and insur- gents. Travel at night is not recommended.

GET TING AROUND •• Car 219

Chaghcheran Bamiyan

Jalalabad Herat Ghanzi Faizabad

Torkham Shiberghan Pul-e Khumri Mazar-e Sharif Maimana Lashkar Gah Kunduz Kandahar Kabul

382 780 742 692 1090 --- ---

398 ---

725 1200 1085 350 565 638 488 237 635 597 145 1053 150 --- 387 785 747 195 1203 --- ---

892 492 1329 915 ---

432 830 260 482

---

1352 952 869 877 460 880 773 1025 609 895 ---

862 1337 1222 487 435 775 625 137 962 ---

1390 487 337 825 ---

325 723 110 373 1000 378 228 716 107 853 502 200 ---

525 923 567 657 1055 699 573

462 860 822 370 1280 75 225 713 562 850 955 653 455 785 ---

705 630 710 560 1048 439 1185 170 132 332 --- 800 578 428 916 307 1053 302 ---

Road Distances

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