Afghanistan trip report: Kunduz, Mazar, Kabul, Bamiyan, Herat

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Afghanistan trip report: Kunduz, Mazar, Kabul, Bamiyan, Herat

Post by will1980 »

Having recently travelled to Afghanistan I’d like to post some notes for other travellers and hope they may be of help to some.

I crossed the border from Tajikistan at Nizhniy Panj south of Dusti, from Dushanbe I took a share taxi- 75 Tajik Somoni/3 hours
In Dusti I stayed at a biggish hotel/45 Somoni, a few blocks from the market (I don’t remember the name but people should be able to direct you) so I could get an early start to the border.
From the market where all the taxies wait it cost 40 Somoni in a private taxi to the border 27 kilometres away.

On the Tajik side I passed through 4 Check points, at the last they had a quick poke in my bag but no issues, a few officials asked for money but just say no. I walked the short distance across the bridge to the Afghan side where I had my passport stamped and then another quick check of my bag in another office. The bag check guy was friendly and spoke some English; he helped negotiate a private taxi with the drivers who wait outside his office to Kunduz for 1000 Afghani ($20USD/70 kilometres).

I only stopped briefly in Kunduz to get some cash as I’d been told it wasn’t a safe town, at the bank they told me there were no ATM’s in town but it’s easy to change money at the bank or on the street.
Multiple people told me the town is not safe while I was there.
My taxi driver from the border waited while I got cash then dropped me at the station for Mazar-e-Shirif and got a share taxi for 600 Afghani/3 hours.
There were a lot of military and police on the roads as well as checkpoints; I had no issues getting from the Tajik border to Mazar.
The drive to Mazar was really cool-desert landscape, mountains, mud built villages and the sight of daily life along the roads was very interesting.

In Mazar I stayed at the Barat hotel, Chowke-e Mukharabat (a 6 story cream building with the name across the top on the north east side of the shrine complex)
1500 Afghani for a standard single room with shared bathroom. An armed guard stands on the front door and there is wifi.

The shrine of Hazrat Ali is amazing and the park around it is very interesting to sit and people watch.
I visited the markets around the north and west sides of the shrine complex which were very interesting. I walked all around town without problems.
There are ATM’s that except master card and visa at Ghazanfar bank and AIB bank on the south side of the shrine and plenty of money changers.
I wanted to take a trip to Balkh to the west of Mazar but was told by people the area is not safe to visit so I decided against it.

Transport to Kabul.
From the intersection at the East gate of the shrine complex share taxies 30 Afghani per seat go to the station for Kabul, it’s a big station 15 minutes east from the centre.
There are share taxies and coaches from the station; I took a share taxi for 1500 Afghani/9 hours.
Buses are probably cheaper but slower; taxi drivers can be crazy and dangerous as are other drivers on the road.
Amazing country of mud built villages, desert and a mountain pass.
There were a lot of military and police convoys on the road, no issues.

In Kabul the taxis stop short of town at a station of sorts, I paid 200 Afghani for a private taxi into town and had him drop me at my hotel.
I first stayed at the Mustafa Hotel on Charahi Sadarat for 1000 Afghani which to be honest is not the greatest place I’ve ever stayed, it takes on the appearance of a housing estate rather than a hotel, both showers on my floor were out of order and no security.

I moved to the Baharestan Guest house (opposite the United Afghan Bank) on Jad-e Torabaz Khan which is a much better option, also 1000 Afghani, it is very clean and well run, there is breakfast, cable TV/wifi/security.
It’s adjoined to a restaurant of the same name, go into the restaurant and there is a door inside to the right. Also a handful of other hotel/guest houses on this street (prices are higher), plenty of banks and money changers on the street.

The Kabul museum is worth a visit and also the markets, there are a few hills a short distance from the centre with great views of the city, two of them have ruined forts on the top. I walked to all of the hills and through the markets.

Flying to Herat ($190USD return Kabul) as I was advised by everyone I spoke to not to drive I stayed at the Marco Polo Hotel on Jad-e Badmurghan, 1500 Afghani single room with bathroom/breakfast/wifi/security. There is a young guy who works there who speaks good English and is will to guide you around town if you wish.

I spent a few days walking around town, lots to see- the old city, citadel, Friday Mosque, Gazar Gar, Muslla complex and minarets.

Bamiyan and the lakes of Band-e Amir.
There are flights 3 times a week but you need to book ahead (the first flight available to me was a week wait).
Everyone I spoke to told me the north road was safe to drive but the south road is dangerous.
I went to the taxi station and agreed a price with a driver along the north road; he then changed his mind and said he didn’t want to take me because having a foreigner in the taxi may cause him problems.
All the taxi drivers at the station knew I was going and I was told some of them may call people who live along the way and tell them there is a foreigner coming, they may be bandits who rob me or worse?.
The front seat passenger suggested I leave letting all the drivers think I changed my mind and then get picked up further along the road but I wasn’t comfortable with the whole situation deciding it best not to go and didn’t take the trip.

Leaving Afghanistan I took a share taxi from Kabul to Kunduz 1500 Afghani/6 hours and arranged for the driver to continue onto the border at Shir Khan/Nizhniy Panj for an extra 1000 Afghani.
Crossing back into Tajikistan was no issue; both sides had a quick look in my bag, 4 out of the 7 officials I dealt with asked for money but just say no.

I found Afghanistan an amazing place and really enjoyed it, the sights and culture are great, there is plenty to see and the people are very friendly and helpful but it is not a beach holiday, bad things happen and there are serious security concerns in many areas.

While I was in Kabul 4 bombs exploded- many people were injured and killed, while I was in Herat a bomb was found not far from my hotel, on some of my road journeys the drivers would ask people about security further along the road.
I didn’t venture to far from my hotel after dark, I was always aware of my surroundings and I spoke to anyone I could about the security situation of places I wanted to go and the roads getting there.
Apart from Kunduz which I had to pass through if I wanted to travel overland if even one person out of 10 told me a place was dangerous and not to go I didn’t go.
I had a safe trip with no issues but Afghanistan is not a place where safety and security can be guaranteed.

My advice is to ask as many locals and people in the know about the current situations, safety and security and talk to them about places you want to go.

If anyone wants anymore info feel free to contact me
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Afghanistan trip report: Herat, Kabul, Bamiyan, Mazar

Post by tatterdemalion »

I do not recommend this to travellers that are not aware of the situation and security risk. Just being a foreigner is enough to get you killed or kidnapped. The security situation can change on a daily basis.

Visa in Tehran report: ... 157#p13157

From Mashad there are shared taxis to Herat waiting in the car park (NE) of Emam Reza bus terminal. 600,000 rials, which leave when full - four passengers. Six hours including border crossings.
There is also a bus which leaves at 7am, I'm unsure of the cost.
Iranian border took around 45 minutes and only about 2 for the Aghan.

Visited Herat, Kabul, Bamyan province and Mazar. It's necessary to fly between cities as it's extremely dangerous to go by road.
Kam-Air is the domestic carrier and prices are set. Herat-Kabul $90, Kabul-Bamyan $106, Kabul-Mazar $81.

ITINERARY (two weeks)
Herat itself is safe, although was warned not to be out at night. Beautiful (restored) citadel, minarets that are still being de-mined and Friday mosque (and workshop).
Three locals and a travel agency stated that it was too dangerous to travel to the Minaret of Jam. They wouldn't even make the trip themselves.
Kabul, best just to stopover here unless you know someone. If you do visit you will see from the amazing amount of security and four metre high defensive concrete walls that it's not a place for sightseeing. Have some trustworthy contacts arranged to meet you before going to Kabul.
Bamyan, still safe as of October but may be worsening soon, most of the province is safe to drive and the city of Bamyan itself is stunning - one of greatest parts of the world I've visited.
Mazar, desert city, the Blue Mosque (Hazrat Ali shrine) is the main site and doesn't need much time. Balkh is 20kms away but I was told not to visit.

My couchsurfing host in Mazar scored me a lift to the border with one of his friends but apparently shared taxis are available for a few dollars in the east of the city.
Exiting Afghanistan took about 20 minutes, most time coming from a trucker in front of me and their inability to turn on the baggage scanner.
Entering Uzbekistan I received the full treatment, signed in with a medical worker, offered a pastry, had my bag checked by security for about twenty minutes whilst my passport was checked.
You have to fill in two declaration forms with all of your foreign currency listed - no more than three. As usual at this crossing, every inch of my bag was checked. Computer, flash drives, phones, ebook reader all manually browsed. Sleeping bag opened, tent pegs and poles checked, so make sure you're not carrying anything suspicious. I have a number of emergency meds and with the small prescription lables cut off the boxes they weren't a problem. After repacking your bag and finally getting the passport stamped you're in. Two hours total, less than average from what I've read.
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Re: Afghanistan (from Iran, to Uzbekistan)

Post by tatterdemalion »

Also, one more tip.

For the Kabul<=>Bamyan flights.
If it's fully booked (which often is at least six days in advance), book the next available and turn up on the morning of the flight you want. Chances are you'll get on and there will still be another three to six seats empty. Worked no problem Bamyan to Kabul this month and is definitely a method used by locals.
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