Afghanistan

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Flag of Afghanistan Afghanistan
Information
Language: Dari (Persian) and Pashto
Capital: Kabul
Population: 28,150,000
Currency: Afghani (AFN)
Paved roads: 8,231 km
Hitchability: <rating country='af' />
More info: AVP Free Encyclopedia (Russian)
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<map lat='34.05' lng='67.1' zoom='5' view='0' height='300' country='Afghanistan' />

Afghanistan is a country in Asia. The capital is Kabul. It has borders to Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China and Pakistan. Part of the Silk road and formerly part of the so-called Hippie trail, it has since been invaded by the Soviets, ruled by the Taliban and attacked by the United States.

Few people speak English or Russian, and there is an anti-Western feeling throughout the country, but the hospitality to individual travellers is immense. Afghanistan has the lowest rate of cars per inhabitant in the world. Travelling by public transport or staying in hotels is rather expensive compared to Central Asia.

Warning: Information about hitchhiking in Afghanistan is hard to get, and usually a little old (2-5 years). The country is rapidly changing and some areas deemed safer by previous hitchhikers might now be more at risk. Make sure to check the local news and to ask around what the current reality is; and come back to update this page!

Hitchhiking culture

Afghanistan has no tradition of hitchhiking for free. Those who flag down cars usually pay something for the transportation. Some Afghans might let you hitch a ride out of curiosity, but even if the hitchhiker makes it clear at the beginning of the ride that he cannot pay, the driver may still insist on payment when dropping the hitchhiker off. In some regions resp. seasons, hitching on trucks is the only way to travel. Most NGOs are forbidden to pick up hitchhikers, more specifically UN-based of large humanitarian organizations (nonetheless, in practice it's mainly NGOs who pick hitchhikers up). If you choose to hitchhike, be prepared to be questioned by the police over and over again. Low literacy rates mean that using a sign is not necessary.

In the central part of Afghanistan hitching is most common on Russian "Kamaz" trucks, but can be extremely slow (100 km can takes up to 5h) because the roads there are more for the donkey caravans, not for the four wheel transport. Traffic is very low as well, it's possible to wait up to 6 hours for the first truck to appear. About half of the times, the drivers want some money from you, but the other half of the drivers can be really funny and hospitable.

Justas hitched successfully only in the central part of Afghanistan (Hazarajat) in 2007 and in northern Badakshan province (Ishkoshim to Faizabad) in 2010. From Bamyan to the incredible Band i Amir lakes and on to Chagcharan, although he took the wrong way, got lost and had to trek in the isolated mountain valley for two days. He hitched back from Chagcharan to Bamyan and the north of the country. He intended to hitch all the way to Mazar e Sharif, but while sitting in a jeep and crossing over the Solang tunnel, he was dragged out of the car by the northern alliance soldiers (on suspect of being a Taliban), held up for the evening in ruined military barracks in the mountains and then taken to the police station in the city to sleep (they said sorry afterwards). He also tried to hitch out of Mazar and out of Kunduz, but both times unsuccessfully and just took public transport after hours of waiting.

Taylor tried to hitch in Afghanistan in 2009, dressed as a local. He was confused for one several times and it might not have helped him because showing yourself as a foreigner will attract attention to you, especially from people trying to protect you. The downside is that it makes you also easier to spot for Talibans or other radicals. He got his ride on buses paid by kind people as he didn't manage to really hitch.

Maps

Cities

Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kunduz

Public Transport

Collective taxis with fixed fares travel between cities once they are filled with passengers. Travelling with a backpack there means extra cost, but that's where you can bargain. There are also minibuses, a bit cheaper but much more crowded.

Safety

It's probably quite an unsafe country to travel to let alone to hitchhike even though Muslim hospitality might make up for that. Be aware that land mines are widespread in the country. Known fields are marked with cobblestones painted red (towards the field) and white (safer zone). They are identified MF (Mine Field) and LM (Land Mines). Another concern is around the opium traffic route - through the Panj river.

In 2006, a Russian hitchhiker travelling in Afghanistan went missing. For more information, read here. However, the feeling in the Russian community is that this hitchhiker perished while trying to ford a river or negotiate a cliff, and not from violence.

Women

Woman have hitchhiked in Afghanistan in the company of one or more male hitchhikers. It goes without saying that women are advised to cover as much hair and skin as possible when travelling in Afghanistan. This is not only a matter of safety, but of respect as well. Consider a salwar kameez dress with proper headgear. Afghan women do not chat up men in public, or make eye contact with them, or smile to them. Keep in mind that your behaviour and body language might send strong messages to men. Avoid all physical contact in public. It is generally advised to travel with a male companion.

Women travelling alone in group taxis generally have to pay for two seats at the front rather than be allowed to sit next to a man.

Border Crossing

Hitchhikers have crossed to Afghanistan:

  • from Iran via Eslam Qal'eh. Advice given by locals is to reach Kabul using the ring road via Kandahar in the South since it is a main road used by international peace keeping forces.
  • from Pakistan, via Torkham. The trip from Peshawar to Kabul takes about 7 hours.You must obtain a free permit the morning of the departure and a have a bodyguard accompanying you to the border. There is also a checkpoint via Chaman.
  • from Tajikistan, via Panji Poyon.
  • from Turkmenistan
  • Some people allegedly tried to cross from Uzbekistan, via Termez on the Afghanistan–Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge, but were refused, as only NGOs are allowed to cross there (no tourists). However, Taylor went through that border check in 2009.

Eating & Drinking

Food should be approached with a discerning eye, hygiene standards can often be lacking. Hot, freshly cooked food is generally safer. Bottled water is also advised, unless you have your own purification system.[1]

Accommodation & Sleeping

While hotels in Kabul can be extremely expensive, attempting to camp in the street will attract local people, who will then insist you stay in their homes.

In the centre of Afghanistan you can sleep in road side restaurants (mostly just mud buildings) for free as long as you eat dinner and breakfast there.

Other Useful Info

English News Websites

wikipedia:Afghanistan wikivoyage:Afghanistanvisa:Afghanistan nomad:Afghanistan