Afghanistan – 2024 Independent Travel Guide

Want to go deeper in Afghanistan? See below NothingDeclared individual city guides and specialty resources:

Shir Khan Border with Afghanistan and Tajikistan


ATMs will most likely not work with any foreign debit cards in Afghanistan. Therefore most travelers rely on the old fashioned method – money exchanges. AFN is the currency in Afghanistan and its necessary to change dollars to this currency. This can be done in most major cities near the main market. People will direct you to men in front of small tables or carts where they are able to change money on the spot. I was able to change Dollars and Euro with no problem. However dollars are preferred – in denominations of 100 or 50. Make sure they are new (post 2009) with no creases or tears.

In major cities you may see ATMs but most of them are for locals. Travelers have reported limited success using the Afghanistan International Bank, and the Ghazanfar Bank ATMs in Kabul, however when these do work a 4- 5% commission is charged. I wouldn’t count on them working as the commission and time spent locating one of these banks negates any benefits. But its a good backup plan. I wasn’t able to find any which worked during my time in Afghanistan. If you run out of money its possible to send money to yourself via Western Union. This is easily done online, and once the transfer is complete you will find many Western Union branches where you can pickup your money in local currency.


I stayed at the below places, all of which I recommend and are 1500 – 2500 AFG per night for a double room with bathroom, AC, and breakfast. They are all on google maps

  • Kabul – Serena hotel and Khyber Hotel. Centrally located
  • Bamyan- Bamyan Royal Hotel and Gholghola hotel. Both have views of former Buddhas. 
  • Herat – Amiri Hotel. Nice budget hotel option with large rooms – 2500 with AC, strong wifi. 
  • Mazar i Sharif – Zarafshan Hotel. Good security, AC, WIFI and free bottled water.
Green Mosque, Balkh


Everyone requires a visa for Afghanistan. Required Documentation: 3 visa photos. 2 copies of your passport, EU & US Passports pay $100. Below is a detailed list of frequently used consulates. I entered Afghanistan at the Shir Khan Border with Tajikistan, and exited at the Torkham border with Pakistan. For more information on these border crossings click here

  • Tajikistan – Afghanistan Border – Visa on Arrival (VOA) at the Shir Khan border. When I first entered in mid 2023 I was told that I was the first American to cross the land border here. Exiting Tajikistan was easy but crossing the border into Afghanistan was a 4 hour experience! Because of this it’s very important that you arrive very early. I arrived at noon…don’t do this because it’s near lunch time. Arrive earlier.  Once you cross the bridge you will enter a building to the left where you start the long process. They will need to make your visa which requires walking to another building which resembles a small house where fingerprints are taken using blue ink, and they will ask a bunch of questions while they fill out a paper form for you.  Everyone was kind, and helpful – and very curious. Payment for the visa was $100 and this is where things get interesting because it must be made at a bank, where they will give a showing proof of payment for the visa. The catch?  The bank is in a small village slightly over a mile away (2km) inside Afghanistan. That’s correct, you will be required to enter Afghanistan, go to the bank and pay, and then return to the border with a receipt in order to obtain your visa. I met a very kind taxi driver whom I used to travel to Mazar – Sharif that evening. He gave me a lift to the bank and back, which was super convenient as it would have been a very hot walk. After the visa is completed, they will then do a very thorough bag search. There were some items which they didn’t understand, my gimbal, beef jerky, smartwatch, chapstick…the Taliban searching my bag asked questions about every item. Finally it was too much for him and I was escorted to a nearby police station to speak with more Taliban leaders. They were kind, just very curious with many questions. Once all of this is complete, you will have a visa but you actually need to be stamped in at the town of Kunduz. This is very important because the office closes at 5. We arrived at 6: 20 but fortunately they opened for us.  The location of the Government Ministry in Kunduz where you will receive your entry stamp is Kunduz city GDI
  • Peshawar – I have heard reports that the Consulate issues visas the same day, and many have done this by arriving early enough. Consulate is closed on Saturday and Sunday. Hours are M-Th 9:30 – 4pm, Friday 9:30-12. Location Consulate General of Afghanistan
  • Islamabad – doesn’t do 1 day visa, same day turnaround. Reports are that it usually takes a few days. I had already spent some time in Islamabad in 2012 so I didn’t try Pakistan for my visa. 
  • Iran, and Dubai – issue visas quickly, reportedly on the same day – though more expensive. 
  • Dushanbe – I met a German couple that had obtained their visa in Dushanbe, though there are reports of border issues with this visa, and additional requirements & delays. Not recommended. 
Afghanistan Visa


All travelers need permits to travel around Afghanistan. (1) There are 7 provinces and you will need a specific permit to visit each of them. (2) Everyone is also required to register their permit at the provincial Government Ministry when visiting each province. It’s a bit confusing and will take at least half a day to do all the paperwork to obtain all your provincial permits in Kabul. Fortunately, I had someone obtain my permits before I arrived in Afghanistan. Permits can be obtained in Kabul at the Ministry of Information and Culture. The location is here: Ministry of information & culture – وزارت اطلاعات و فرهنگ

The permits cost 1000 AFN for each province. 7000 for all provinces. They are open M-Th, closing at noon on Thursday. If you are transiting a province, as I did from Kabul to Torkem border at the end of my trip, it is not required to have a permit for that province in theory. (but there was some debate on this at a checkpoint but they let me pass). If you have obtained the permits for you in Kabul, then the guide will go to another location which is called Afghan Tour – this is where guides receive their permits for travelers. Note: the permits they receive will list the guide’s name on it, which could be confusing for the Taliban checkpoints  if you switch guides, or use a different guide in different cities as I did. This was a bit stressful but ultimately didn’t cause me any problems.  

Taliban Soldier guarding Bamyan Buddhas, Afghanistan

Registering – with permits in hand it’s now possible to travel through Afghanistan. But there is one more step required. Upon  arriving in a new province it is required to immediately register your presence. Once you are registered they will stamp your permit, and give you a receipt  allowing you to explore that province.

I visited three provinces and the locations of the Ministries to register your permit are: 

Overnight bus from Mazar to Kabul

Getting Around

Flights connect Mazar i Sharif, Kabul and Herat and can usually be booked for $80 per segment on Kam Air. I bought my tickets in the Kabul office, rountrip from Kabul to Herat was $150 payable in cash only.

Busses are cheap and we took a comfortable overnight bus from Mazar i Sharif to Kabul for slightly less than 1000 AFN. The bus from Kabul to Bamyan is less than 500 for a 5 hour trip.

Private / Share taxi. One of the quickest and most convenient ways to explore Afghanistan. A private taxi will seat 4 people, therefore all prices are divisible by 4 to estimate the per person share taxi price.

  • Kabul -Bamyan: 2000 – 4000 AFN
  • Shir Khan Border – Mazar i Sharif (via Kunduz): 2000 – 3000 AFN
  • Mazir i Sharif – Balk and surrounding area: full day 1500 – 2000 AFN
  • Bamyan to Band i Amir: full day – 2000 – 3000 AFN
Tuk Tuk, Herat


It’s a subject of debate whether guides are legally required in Afghanistan. Technically it seems they are not required, and independent travel is possible. Permits can be obtained independently, and guides hired afterwards. I was required to change guides, and one of the tourism ministries questioned why the guide listed on my permit was unavailable. This would have been avoided if the permits had been obtained independently to begin with.

I rarely use guides but recommend travelling with one in Afghanistan because they are extremely useful and cheap at only $30 – $50 a day. I found having a local guide was helpful in interactions with locals, explaining the sights and curiosities in Afghanistan, navigation logistics, and negotiating hundreds of Taliban checkpoints. In Herat when a large fight broke out with hundreds of gun wielding Taliban fighting with locals – a guide was able to help me understand what was happening, and why. I used three local guides during my time in Afghanistan. Finding the right guide is very important. My guides in Herat and Kabul, as well as to the border with Pakistan were very good. However my guide, Sami, in Bamyan and Mazar was very bad. Sami was dishonest and manipulative, always trying to scam everyone and fortunately I had the contacts of other guides who were able to help me. At one point in Bamyan he lost my passport, and we had to rely on the help of the Taliban soldiers to help me find the checkpoint where I had used it last. This was an incredibly tense moment as it’s illegal to be without your passport as a foreigner, with no documents the Taliban could have easily had arrested me but they chose to help me instead, and there are no foreign embassies to get a replacement. I would have been stuck in Afghanistan! Your guide will be the key to navigating Taliban checkpoints. A good guide will make it easy, but a bad guide can make this a very dangerous affair and some have ended up in prison because of checkpoints that went poorly. Fortunately I was able to change to a different after having issues with Sami. 

Kam Air plane, Kabul

Changing to a different guide wasn’t a problem, However the permits had a different name when I went to register in Herat. This wasn’t a problem, and when I registered in the province they asked where the original guide was and changed the name on the permit. We solved the issue, but it required extra time and lots of questions. If you want to travel without a guide it’s possible, and permits can be obtained directly at the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul. This is also helpful if you haven’t decided on a guide, want to travel independently, or want to use several different guides. 

I recommend the below local guides which I used

  • Herat – Ehsan Khan +93796626164
  • Kabul – Nur Ahmad Ansari +93795449748

Friends have recommended the below guides:

  • Obaid Ullah Salar +93778426816
  • Mahdi +93797070450
Bamyan, Afghanistan

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