What is driving in Afghanistan like? Here is a great article about the road between Kabul and Ghazni.
Read it? That’s what it is like.
Below is a distilled version of what Daniel Sprague wrote back in 2010 when he drove around the country and across the Khyber pass. Although the security situation is always changing, many of the things he wrote back then are still valid today. Joao Leitao was driving around Afghanistan in 2012 and ZendaCCC has added some pointers, he cycled around Afghanistan in 2014. If you have more updates, please let me know.
Disclaimer: your deeds are entirely your own, I take no responsibility for your actions based on what is written here. Do your research.
Daniel Sprague: My views on safety are my own, qualified only by experience and local opinion. I take no responsibility whatsoever for any adverse outcome to you following my advice. The term ‘safe’ must be considered in a relative sense, nowhere in this country is truly safe by normal measures. Foreigners are regularly killed in Afghanistan, though the overwhelming majority of these are in the south, which is totally off limits for any sane person without a military escort.
Security is complicated, but generally good in the north. As a casual traveller passing by, you’re unlikely to be kidnapped in my opinion, as a kidnap needs a bit of advance planning, and is easier and potentially more profitable when directed at a ‘high value’ target such as foregin military / NCO staff, expats and local politicians. But bombs and general violence make no such discrimination.
Of course, you are taking a risk coming here, but there are risks involved travelling in parts of Pakistan / India which don’t seem to have been given the same pariah status. I never felt really unsafe, though there were two incidents where the army suddenly deployed in the road and ran out with guns drawn. If you demand full control and peace of mind, this is obviously not the country for you. The risk which you feel when in the country is down to YOU and your own feelings – if you don’t think you’re going to feel safe there, then don’t go, as you won’t enjoy it.
Roads and traffic
ZendaCCC: Armed checkpoints are everywhere, they are super nice and kind and provided me with free food and bed. Taliban activity changes rapidly every week, please do not trust the information from outside of the region, please confirm the info with local police everyday, and their info is only correct up to 50km away.
Daniel Sprague: Very generally, security is good during the day in cities and along good paved roads. The main exceptions to this are the whole of the south (good road from Kabul to Herat via Ghazni, Kandahar, Farah) which is definitely NOT safe, and the horrendous track into Bamiyan Province, which IS safe, as far as the border with Ghor Province (i.e. it’s safe to visit Bamiyan and the Lakes at Band-e Amir). The road from Herat to Chaghcharan to Yakolang is super awful.
The good, safe road runs from Kabul to Maimana. After Maimana, the road stops at the edge of Faryab Province and after this is NOT safe as it enters restive Badghis Province. Roads from Herat to the Iranian Border and Mazar-e Sharif to the Uzbek Border are good and safe.
The road from Torkham to Kabul and the road from Torghundi to Herat are not completely safe, but are good, so you should be OK as long as you keep moving and travel before dark.
The hazard to your safety is linked to how conspicuous you are. If you drive anything other than a Toyota (preferably a Corolla or Surf) then you will be driving an unusual car. But in safe areas it’s probably not much of an issue.
A major security risk is the standard of driving. An Afghan friend of mine was killed in a crash whilst I was in the country. If you’ve ever seen the Afghan sport of Bozkashi, you’ll understand how they drive. Be very, very careful.
Visas / Permits
Crossing the Khyber Pass requires a permit from the FATA Secretariate in Peshawar. The rule seems to be that pedestrian travellers are refused point blank, but if you can prove that you have a vehicle, they will consider your application, and issue a permit depending on the prevailing security situation. Peshawar to Torkham was probably more dangerous than any road I travelled in Afghanistan.
Make sure you get your carnet stamped at the Customs House in Torkham (Pakistan side).
2013: Anita Yusof drove with her motorcycle through Afghanistan. Coming in and exiting with the vehicle was free of charge.
From 2010: Afghanistan does not recognise the Carnet, and Afghan Customs demand a ‘route pass’ which is like an Afghan Carnet. These are theoretically available at embassies / consulate for $100, though I was refused in Islamabad. Nevertheless, all three times I entered with my car, I managed to talk my way in without one. No problem at Torkham, difficult at Heyratan (nasty border), pretty easy at Torghundi.