Safety and security
Afghanistan is not a safe environment for travel. The security situation is extremely volatile and unpredictable. Attempting any travel, including adventure or recreational in this hazardous security environment, places you and others at grave risk of abduction, injury or death.
In August 2021, the Government of Afghanistan collapsed, and insurgents now occupy most of the country, including the capital, Kabul. Foreigners whose country of origin has supported the U.S.-led coalition forces, including Canadians, are preferred targets for terrorist attacks and kidnapping.
Criminals taking advantage of the unstable security situation are committing violent attacks.
Terrorism and criminal violence
Attacks in Kabul occur often. There’s an extremely high and continuous threat of terrorism and criminal violence. Terrorists and criminals carry out attacks throughout the country, including all major cities. These attacks are not restricted to particular areas of those cities, they can occur in reputable public areas frequented by foreigners, particularly at the Serena Hotel. No location in Afghanistan can be considered safe or exempt from the threat of attack.
Extremist organizations continue to plan attacks against a variety of targets in Afghanistan. There is a heightened risk of attacks targeting:
- western interests
- human rights defenders
- journalists and media workers
- judges and prosecutors
- religious scholars
- healthcare workers
- political analysts
- police officers
- civil servants
- other civilians
Attacks are completely unpredictable. Targets could include:
- government buildings, including schools
- security and defence personnel
- places of worship
- airports and other transportation hubs and networks
- public areas such as tourist attractions, restaurants, coffee shops, shopping centres, markets, hotels, medical facilities and other sites frequented by foreigners
In addition to targeted attacks, terrorist groups periodically fire multiple unguided rockets into central Kabul. These rockets are generally aimed at the airport, the Serena Hotel, embassies, and government or military facilities but can land anywhere in the central area of the city.
If you are in Afghanistan:
- always be aware of your surroundings when in public places
- exercise extreme caution at all times
- be particularly vigilant during and prior to days of national significance
Types of violent attacks
Tactics used by criminals include body- and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and firing rockets. Armed assaults and ambushes are also common.
Other types of violent attack also occur, including armed robbery, carjacking and sexual and gender-based violence and harassment. Weapons are readily available throughout the country and the number of civilian causalities is high.
- Avoid showing signs of affluence or carrying large sums of money
- Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times
Kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative practice. There’s an extreme risk of kidnapping of foreign nationals. Criminals have kidnapped and sometimes killed Westerners, including tourists, journalists, teachers, doctors and non-government organization workers. Journalists may be lured with offers of interviews, when the real purpose is to kidnap them.
Several organizations, including terrorist groups and criminal gangs, are responsible for these kidnappings. These groups will target anyone perceived to have money for kidnapping or extortion purposes. Kidnap-for-ransom groups may also sell their captives to terrorist groups, with victims potentially facing years in captivity.
Demonstrations, including anti-Western demonstrations and civil unrest, may occur throughout Afghanistan. Some demonstrations have become violent and have suffered terrorist attacks, causing death and injury. Demonstrations can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Millions of landmines pose a severe threat throughout the countryside. No area is safe.
Road conditions and road safety are poor throughout the country. Drivers often drive at excessive speeds. Drivers are aggressive and reckless. Drivers do not respect traffic laws, and Afghan police do not enforce them.
Accidents causing fatalities are common.
Overland travel is extremely dangerous, including in Kabul. Banditry by armed groups is common. Terrorist and criminal groups may set up fake checkpoints and road-blacks with the intent of robbery, kidnapping or other violent attacks. Military and police forces are inadequate.
- Avoid undertaking overland travel unless you’re accompanied by armed security guards
- Plan any road travel very carefully
- Always travel in groups
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General information about foreign domestic airlines
Women may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Women should:
- travel in groups
- not travel alone at night
Afghan authorities have detained women who have reported a sexual assault. Women must prove that the sex was not consensual to avoid criminal charges under extramarital sex statutes.
Safe-travel guide for women
Forced marriage affecting foreigners occur. It sometimes occurs without the affected person’s prior knowledge or consent.
General information and advice about forced marriage
Safe-travel guide for women
General safety information
Be aware that:
- basic infrastructure services such as electricity and telephones are minimal, even in urban areas
- food and water shortages are common
- foreigners should avoid travelling at night
- there is no safe area with adequate police coverage