Transportation - Get In
Kabul International Airport , +93 9251-61001, is a short drive east of the city centre. The new international terminal is now fully open, whilst the old terminal is now used for domestic flights. The airport is a hub for Ariana Afghan Airways, Kam Air, Safi Airways, & Pamir Airways. Airport facilities include banks, restaurants, post office and car parking (all very basic).
Foreigners will need to get a foreigner registration card - after immigration go to the desk adjacent to the baggage carousel and complete the form - if you have 2 passport photos with you then you can complete the registration there. Otherwise you'll have to finish your registration at the Ministry of Interior later (a major hassle - best to make sure you have those photos).
When arriving taxis are available to the city centre (AFN400), but it is safer to meet someone whom you know. Alternatively, Afghan Logistics (+93-777 443311, see below in Get Around) and the other taxi firms offer an airport pick-up for about USD25.
The Foreigner Registration card is sometimes required and taken from you when you exit Afghanistan, and a big fine / bribe is in some cases required if you haven't got it when you fly out, though sometimes arguing that no one was at the desk to issue the Foreigner Registration card will work. The registration card is free. Some people feel it necessary to 'tip' everyone at the airport when flying out, but tip one guy for putting your bag through the x-ray scanner and everyone will be on you for their share. A polite 'no thank you' usually suffices.
When flying out you will probably end up in Car Park C - and will have to get the shuttle bus to the terminal building. When flying out expect long queues and multiple ticket / passport / baggage checks, although things are now much better with the new terminal, principally because there is much more space.
International carriers and destinations include include:
- Ariana Afghan Airlines – to Ankara, Baku, Delhi, Dubai, Dushanbe, Frankfurt, Islamabad, Istanbul-Atatürk, Jeddah, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Riyadh, Sharjah, Tehran-Imam Khomeini, & Ürümqi.
- Safi Airways – flies to Dubai, Frankfurt, & Kuwait City.
- Kam Air – to Almaty, Delhi, Dubai, Dushanbe, Islamabad, Mashhad, Peshawar, & Urumqi.
- Pamir Airways – to Delhi & Dubai.
- Air India to Delhi.
- Pakistan International Airways – to Islamabad & Peshawar.
- Fly Dubai – to Dubai
- Air Arabia – to Sharjah
- Gulf Air-to Bahrain
- Turkish Airlines- Daily flights to Istanbul and most convenient connections to Europe.
While Kabul International Airport is not bad for a third world country, expect very basic conditions at other Afghan airports. As of November 2009:
- Ariana Afghan Airlines to Herat, Kandahar, & Mazar-e-Sharif.
- Kam Air to Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, & Tarin Kowt.
- Pamir Airways to Faizabad & Herat.
- Safi Airways to Herat,Kandahar, & Mazar-e-Sharif.
Private operators serve most destinations in fairly comfortable Mercedes buses. Safety can be a problem, with frequent accidents. Most drivers smoke hashish before driving, so bus trips are very dangerous.
- The highway from Kandahar has been rebuilt, but travelling on it is very dangerous because of the Taliban.
- The highway from Mazar-e Sharif and the North via the Salang Pass is open, although one has to be careful travelling on it during the winter months.
- The newly rebuilt highway from Jalalabad is open which has reduced the journey time to 2-3 hours, however since 2008 the security on this road has deteriorated considerably.
- From Bamiyan it is advisable to take the longer northern route, as the southern route (through Wardak province) is of questionable safety.
Transportation - Get Around
Maps of Kabul are available from Afghanistan Information Management Services who can print out custom wall maps of the city.
There is the Millie Bus which operates many routes around Kabul, but it is faster and more comfortable to use taxis. Some buses are relatively new, but many are old as one might expect in a 3rd world country.
Taxis are plentiful and to hire the whole car should cost around AFN30-50 depending on destination and bargaining skills. Some drivers have learned basic English, but such drivers may try to charge a slightly higher price and are most likely to be found loitering near Westerner-friendly locations (airport, major hotels). While the city is fairly safe, it isn't a bad idea to be proactive and avoid catching a taxi near any sensitive location (embassy, military facilities, 5-star hotels). It is customary for women to always sit in the back seat. After dark local yellow taxis become a rarity, so keep a few taxi numbers in your phone as a backup.
There are only a couple places to rent a car in Kabul, one of which is:
- Afghan Logistics & Tours 700 277 408, 700 288 668, 700 479 435, 799 391 462. Rents new-ish Toyota cars, SUVs, trucks & minivans along with a driver who doubles as a mechanic (very important on Afghanistan's harsh roads).
Downtown Kabul is relatively compact and walkable - a good option in the spring and fall - summers bring intolerable heat and dust, whilst winters bring snow and mud. Pavements are few, and you need to keep your wits about you when crossing roads.
If you are nervous about your safety walking around areas such as Wazar Akbar Khan and Taimani (to a restaurant, etc.), it is fine day or night. Central Kabul at night is walkable but be sure you know where you are going, and how to get back to your guesthouse. Given the volatile security situation always be aware of any demonstrations, gathering crowds, etc., which could spiral out of control quickly. Keep a low profile, wearing simple clothes and (for women) covering your hair with a scarf or shawl. It is also wise to vary your routes frequently to reduce the threat of kidnapping. People are generally helpful and polite if you ask for directions.
Be wary walking around traditional residential areas (e.g., near the city wall). Conservative Afghans are suspicious of anyone snooping around their house, and children may start throwing stones or setting their dog on you.
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