Is Afghanistan safe to visit 2023?

I spent roughly the entire month of October and the beginning of November 2023 travelling around Afghanistan. Was it worth visiting? Absolutely! Was it stress-free? Certainly not. While I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for a family holiday, Afghanistan is possible to visit, and for the adventurous, it’s likely to be one of your most rewarding trips. But is Afghanistan safe to visit? After all, the Taliban now controls the country. What was my experience like with them? In this blog I hope to cover these topics.

nuristan afghanistan safe
Me in Nuristan, one of the most remote places in Afghanistan.

“Now is the safest time to visit Afghanistan in the last 40 years!”

I stand by this statement. It certainly isn’t the safest country in the world. ISIS still has a rural presence and bombings still do occasionally occur. However, this is the safest Afghanistan has been to visit since the Soviet invasion in late 1970s. That’s because the war has finally ended. Before the Taliban takeover, coming across the Taliban in the country was one of the risks that a traveller might face. Many foreigners were kidnapped, killed etc. However, with the Taliban now in control and seeking international recognition, their motives have changed. They are the ones protecting you and, in fact, they are actually encouraging international tourism.

So, is Afghanistan safe? Well, it’s certainly safer than before.

How did the Taliban treat me?

In general, most Taliban members were respectful and on many occasions even hospitable with us, offering us food, tea and even accommodation (though we didn’t take up this offer). However, my travel partner, Anna, was mostly ignored by them, as she was a female. In one specific circumstance, when trying to get special approval for a female to visit Band E Amir lake (currently banned for women), the man in charge of giving permission even refused to meet with us, simply because he didn’t want to be in the room with a lady… at least that’s how it seemed!

However, I do believe that my interactions with the Taliban were made easier because I can speak intermediate Farsi. Dari (a dialect of Farsi) is the most widely spoken language in Afghanistan, and many Taliban members know how to speak it. As such, they tend to get quite happy simply at the prospect of being able to communicate with me. Furthermore, I learned some basic Pashto greetings (the native language of most Taliban members) which definitely made them feel more comfortable in my presence.

Did anything bad happen whilst you were there?

One incident with the Taliban occurred when Anna was feeling car sick and decided to sit on the front seat beside the driver. While this was not at all an issue at most Taliban checkpoints, one certain checkpoint did have an issue with it. It ridiculous to him that a woman was sitting in the front seat, and also sitting beside an unrelated man (the driver). Scandalous! So, he ended up calling Taliban intelligence. After a non-violent confrontation and rude behaviour with our Afghan friends, they let us go. It potentially could have ended up worse (temporary detention etc.). It’s important to keep in mind, though, that such experiences are the exception, rather than the norm.

Furthermore, two bombing attacks happened in the country whilst we were there, both in areas that we travelled to (though not at the time of bombing). Both attacks were directed towards the Shia Hazara people, with the first targeting a mosque in Pol e Khomri city, and another targeting a gym in Dasht e Barchi area of Kabul. I believe both attacks were attributed to ISIS. Such events do make you worry, but they are still so much more rare than they were before the Taliban takeover. Afghanistan is not 100% safe but it is getting so much better.


As annoying as Afghan bureaucracy is, it is essential to get permits for every province that you want to visit. It took us hours and hours to complete this process in Kabul (for free). You can learn about how to do that on this website. Travelling without the correct permits is risky and there are stories of travellers that have been detained by the Taliban for lengthy periods of time for this reason.

Officially, you should first obtain permits from the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul. Then, once you arrive in the province, you should register with their regional branch. However, in most cases, we didn’t register upon arrival in the provinces, and simply showing the permit from Kabul was sufficient. This doesn’t mean that I recommend this – just because we got away with it doesn’t mean that everybody will!

What can I do to minimize the risks?

Firstly, I believe it’s better to try to blend in. Or, if that’s not possible, at least try not to stick out toooo much. For men, this means buying Afghan clothes and perhaps limiting your time in public when walking around with a backpack. For women, this means wearing conservative clothing and letting your male travel companion take charge of most social interactions. This might not sound ideal, but it’s the done thing in Afghanistan.

Secondly, I believe it’s smart to register yourself with the Taliban’s Ministry of Culture and Information in every province you visit. This will ensure that you won’t get in trouble with local authorities. Furthermore, it will make Taliban security forces aware of your movements, so they can keep you safe if need be. The reason that we didn’t always register was because we were sick of the bureaucracy. Waiting in offices for hours on end isn’t so fun.

Thirdly, if you’re not experienced with dealing with such complicated and conservative societies and perhaps you don’t have any Persian/Pashto language skills, then it’s probably a good idea to get a guide. A good local guide will always ensure that you are safe. They will also make sure that interactions with the Taliban all go smoothly.

If you take these points into account, then I believe that for you, Afghanistan is safe.

I want a guide in Afghanistan. Who do you recommend?

I personally recommend Explore Afghanistan Tour Agency. I met with their owner and employees in Kabul, and they were very professional and knowledgeable. Oh, and also, super fun! Furthermore, visiting Afghanistan with them is safe.

You can contact them on their Facebook page by clicking this link, or by messaging them on WhatsApp on the following number:

+93 78 140 6446

Tell them that you read Xavi’s blog and I’m sure you’ll get a good price.

Afghanistan is safe with Explore Afghanistan Tour Agency
Anna and I with the best guides in Afghanistan – Ali Reza and Yousef

Don’t forget to follow my journey on Instagram! @travelling_the_unknown

How to Visit Nuristan, Afghanistan.

After spending an entire month travelling across Afghanistan, Nuristan was easily one of my favourite places to visit. This mountainous province is not only a natural gem, but it is also home to people of a unique culture and ethnicity. Many of the local residents have blonde hair and blue eyes, and the pine forest scenery is unlike anywhere else in the country.

Me sitting with old men during my visit to Nuristan
Me with some old men in Shtiway village

What makes Nuristan so interesting to visit?

Nuristan was in fact the last province of Afghanistan to convert to Islam, which happened just over 100 years ago after defeat at the hands of Amir Abdulrahman Khan, who supposedly forced local residents to abandon their ancient religious beliefs in place of Islam. Before converting, however, this region was known to outsiders as “Kafiristan”, which roughly translates to “the land of the infidels”.

Many local Nuristanis, until this day, resemble Europeans in race. Blonde hair, fair skin and blue eyes are not uncommon. Some people say that they are descendants of Alexander the Great and his army, while others say that they are descendants of the Arabs. I personally think the first theory is more plausible as Nuristanis don’t look like Arabs!

Children in Nuristan
Children with European features in Nuristan

Nuristan is also extremely remote. By bird’s eye, it’s only 100 kilometres from Kabul. And yet it takes two full days to reach there by road. Hence, this isolation keeps the culture more intact and the region less developed. For a visitor, it gives you a unique glimpse of what the past looked like for much of Afghanistan.

How to visit Nuristan by public transport?

Firstly, it’s important to get travel permits as a foreigner to travel around Afghanistan, including to visit Nuristan. The rules are always changing but you can find up to date information on this website. Once you’ve got your permits, it’s possible to reach Nuristan by public transport, but there aren’t any direct routes. So, you’ll first have to go from Kabul to Jalalabad, and then to Asadabad, and from there you’ll be able to find a ride to Parun, the capital of Nuristan. The whole journey should take about two days. Here’s exactly how you can go about doing it.

  1. First, go to Pol e Mahmoud Khan in Kabul. Here you’ll be able to find shared taxis to Jalalabad. Here’s the location:
  2. After arriving in Jalalabad, go to this location where you can find shared taxis to Asadabad:
  3. Now, you should spend the night in Asadabad, as you won’t find any transportation to Nuristan at this time. On one of the main squares in Asadabad, you’ll find many affordable hotels and guesthouses:
  4. The following morning, go to this location: . You will find many people shouting “Parun”, where you’ll have to wait for the car (or pickup truck) to fill up with passengers/goods. The ride to Parun should take around 7 or 8 hours, but it’s extremely scenic and you’ll enjoy the views on the way!
view of Asadabad
View from our hotel in Asadabad

Where to stay in Nuristan?

There’s only one proper hotel in Nuristan, so unless you’re content with sleeping in a restaurant (many offer accommodation), then you don’t have much choice. Google Maps doesn’t show roads in Parun so I can’t show you where it is. The name is “National Park Hotel and Restaurant”. I’m sure your driver will know where it is. Below is a list of room prices and services offered by the hotel (auto-translated from Persian). Although we didn’t use it, the tour guide service seems to be very well priced!

Nuristan Hotel Services

How to travel around Nuristan?

So, once you’re there, how are you actually going to get around? There isn’t any public transport between the villages. So, we negotiated with our driver that took us to Parun from Asadabad to stay with us for three days, driving us around to wherever we wanted and basically acting as our local tour guide. He took us on a beautiful hike nearby Parun and drove us to some amazing locations (I’ll explain more about that soon).

You could also try hitchhiking. There isn’t much local traffic, but it seems like hitchhiking is very common in this region, especially on the back of pickup trucks. It could also be a very fun experience!

children hitchhiking
Children hitchhiking

Finally, you could talk to the hotel so that they can arrange a guide and driver for you. If you’re a solo traveller, this might end up being quite pricey, but if you’re a group then it could be affordable!

What to do in Nuristan?

When visiting Nuristan, you might be wondering what there actually is to do there. Here’s a list of some of my favourite places and activities in the province:

Go on a hike!

I think this is an awesome way to experience the natural beauty of the province, and you’ll also be able to reach villages that are isolated and completely inaccessible by road. This was one of my highlights in the province. However, I think you should definitely get a guide if you plan to do this! And make sure to bring enough supplies of food and water.

Me hiking in Nuristan
Me hiking in Nuristan

Wama Alcohol Factory.

Okay this might sound like a surprise, but it’s not a real alcohol factory, at least not anymore! In the village on Wama, you can take a road to the top of the mountain, and under the trees, in a forest, you’ll find some historical ruins. These ruins represent an old alcohol factory, which was used to make wine and other drinks as recently as 150 years ago. The scenery in this area is also stunning, with some of the best mountain views you’ll get in Nuristan, with amazing Autumn colours as well. However, the road to get here is soooo scary!!

Old alcohol factory in Nuristan
These stone ruins were previously used to make wine.

Drive to Shtiway:

This village is located at the end of the road, close to the border with Badakhsan province. The nature here is also gorgeous, but it’s arguably the village people that make this place so interesting to visit. Just wondering around and meeting the locals in Shtiway and neighbouring villages is so fun, and they are all so photogenic as well! Keep in mind that there aren’t any restaurants over here so you should bring some food with you from Parun.

A girl wearing a colourful dress in Nuristan
A girl in Shtiway

Bow and arrow!

Shooting with bows and arrows in a popular sport in Nuristan, and you can do it yourself on the edge of Parun. However, we didn’t manage to do it because we were told that it’s only common in the summer season, and you won’t find many locals taking part in this tradition during the rest of the year.

What’s the Taliban like in Nuristan?

In general, they treated us pretty well. Actually one kind of funny experience happened during our hike, when we randomly came across a Taliban military base, which was a unique structure. It was basically a tree house complex. They actually invited us in and let us take pictures.

Taliban mountain treehouse
Taliban mountain treehouse with flag

We did have one issue with the Taliban, though. When driving back to Asadabad after our trip, Anna (my travel partner) was feeling car sick so decided to take the front seat next to the driver. At most Taliban checkpoints this was no issue, except at one. This man got very angry that a woman was sitting at the front, and next to a non-related male! He called the intelligence services and made a big deal out of this. But after ten or fifteen minutes we were allowed to go, and no other checkpoints had an issue with it.

In the future, we may run tours to Afghanistan, as we currently do in Syria and Iraq, so be sure to check our departure dates by clicking this link. If not, are you’re still confused about how to visit Nuristan solo, then we can help organise a guide for you. Message me on WhatsApp at +447905681636!