Kabul has been the capital of Afghanistan since about 1776. The city has been badly damaged during the various 1979–2001 wars, particularly its western parts. For a few years, Kabul has been going through a period of reconstruction and development, with some modern style tower blocks and a handful of glitzy shopping malls appearing over the last few years. Many roads, particularly the main feeder routes have been reconstructed and upgraded. However, in outlying areas roads and other infrastructure remain in poor condition. Electricity supplies in Kabul are now quite reliable.
The city is believed to have been founded between 2000-1500 BCE. It is mentioned in Hinduism's sacred Rigveda text (c1700-1100 BCE) as a vision of paradise set in the mountains. It was an important center of Zoroastrianism and later Buddhism. The city remained of little importance for much of the first three millennia of its existence. It was controlled variously by: the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Seleucid Empire, the Mauryan Empire, the Bactrians, various Hellenistic kingdoms, the Sassanid Empire, and by the 5th century CE was its own kingdom known as Kabul-Shahan. This last kingdom before the Islamic conquest built a large wall to protect the city from invasion when the Arabs arrived at the edge of the kingdom; parts of the wall have survived to this day and are visible above ground within the city.
In 871 Kabul fell to the Islamic invasion (nearly 200 years after invading Muslims reached modern-day Afghanistan). The Kabulistan empire was formed covering much of Afghanistan and parts of western modern-day Pakistan. The city once again passed uneventfully through the hands of several empires, including the Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Timurids, Mughols, Durranis, and the Barakzais, before conquest by the Mongols in the 13th century. The famous Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta visited the city in 1344, noting, "We travelled on to Kabul, formerly a vast town, the site of which is now occupied by a village inhabited by a tribe of Persians called Afghans."
Under the rule of Tamerlane in the 14th century, the city developed into a regional center of trade. In 1504, the city was captured by the Mughal emperor Babur.
In 1747, Kabul came under control of the Durrani (or Afghan) Empire. In 1776, Kabul would become the empire's capital, although the empire soon fell into tribal civil war. In 1839, the region was claimed by the British and Kabul was established as the location of British government and the British Indian Forces. They were very unpopular amongst local tribes who revolted and in 1841. Within a few days, a series of events led to the massacre of all but one of the 16,000 occupying British and Indian civilians and soldiers within miles of Kabul as they attempted to flee to Jalalabad, a famous blunder known as the Massacre of Elphinstone's Army. The British returned in 1878 and 1879, but were both times thousands of them were killed and they were forced to retreat.
In the early 20th century, electricity was introduced to the city and the Darul Aman palace was constructed for the royal family. The 1930s-60s were good times in Kabul. Kabul University was opened; the roads were paved; modern shops, offices, & schools were opened; shopping centers and a cinema were opened; and the Kabul Zoo opened. The city also saw a vibrant tourism industry appear, largely due to the Istanbul-New Delhi "Hippie Trail" which passed through Kabul in the 1960s-70s.
The 1970s-80s brought a turn for the worse. The city saw two coups, in 1973 and 1978. The second coup was carried out by the Marxist PDPA, which a year later invited the Soviet military to maintain their power over the country. From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union maintained military and governmental headquarters in Kabul. After the Soviets left, the government collapsed in 1992 and left local warlords to fight over the city leaving tens of thousands dead and (according to the UN) 90% of the city's buildings destroyed. By 1994, the city was without electricity or water. In 1996, the political movement known as the Taliban captured the city, publicly hanging the former (pre-1992) president and imposing notoriously strict Islamic rule over the country.
A US-led military force invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, bombing strategic installations throughout the city to rout out the governing Taliban, who quickly fled the city. The city was named the capital of the Afghan Transitional Authority and subsequently the capital of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The city saw many suicide bombings between 2002–2007, but they have become rare since 2008. In late 2008, control of the city's security was passed from the NATO ISAF force to Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army. Since 2001, billions of dollars in aid and foreign investment have been used to improve the city. Most of the major roads have been paved and improved, government building have been extensively renovated, new hotels and shopping malls have opened, the zoo and many museums have reopened, and utilities have been extensively reconstructed.
Kabul's climate is greatly influenced by its location in a valley at 1,800m (5,900ft). Summers (Jun-Sep) are hot and dry, averaging from the high 20s to the mid-30s (80-95F) with next to no precipitation. Autumn (Oct-Nov) is temperate and sees very little precipitation. Winters (Dec-Mar) are cold and the time of year which sees the most precipitation (mostly snow, but also ice, freezing rain, and sleet on warmer days). January is the coldest month, averaging 4/-7 (39/19F). Spring (late Mar-early June) is temperate with rain tapering off by early May.
The city lies in a valley and some villages on the edge of the city are a few hundred meters higher and thus cooler in the summer and colder and snowier in the winters. Many roads leading to/from the city are regularly blocked by high snowfall in winter, the most notorious is the highway north, through the Salang Pass. The main highways are cleared reasonably quickly.
The city of Kabul is divided into 18 sectors, with each sector consisting of a handful of adjacent neighborhoods.
Kabul International Airport (IATA: KBL), +93 9251-61001, is a short drive east of the city centre. The new international terminal is now fully open, whilst the old terminal is now used for domestic flights. The airport is a hub for Ariana Afghan Airways, Kam Air, Safi Airways, & Pamir Airways. Airport facilities include banks, restaurants, post office and car parking (all very basic).
Foreigners will need to get a foreigner registration card - after immigration go to the desk adjacent to the baggage carousel and complete the form - if you have 2 passport photos with you then you can complete the registration there. Otherwise you'll have to finish your registration at the Ministry of Interior later (a major hassle - best to make sure you have those photos).
When arriving taxis are available to the city centre (AFN400), but it is safer to meet someone whom you know. Alternatively, Afghan Logistics (+93-777 443311, see below in Get Around) and the other taxi firms offer an airport pick-up for about USD25.
The Foreigner Registration card is sometimes required and taken from you when you exit Afghanistan, and a big fine / bribe is in some cases required if you haven't got it when you fly out, though sometimes arguing that no one was at the desk to issue the Foreigner Registration card will work. The registration card is free. Some people feel it necessary to 'tip' everyone at the airport when flying out, but tip one guy for putting your bag through the x-ray scanner and everyone will be on you for their share. A polite 'no thank you' usually suffices.
When flying out you will probably end up in Car Park C - and will have to get the shuttle bus to the terminal building. When flying out expect long queues and multiple ticket / passport / baggage checks, although things are now much better with the new terminal, principally because there is much more space.
International carriers and destinations include include:
- Ariana Afghan Airlines – to Ankara, Baku, Delhi, Dubai, Dushanbe, Frankfurt, Islamabad, Istanbul-Atatürk, Jeddah, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Riyadh, Sharjah, Tehran-Imam Khomeini, & Ürümqi.
- Safi Airways – flies to Dubai, Frankfurt, & Kuwait City.
- Kam Air – to Almaty, Delhi, Dubai, Dushanbe, Islamabad, Mashhad, Peshawar, & Urumqi.
- Pamir Airways – to Delhi & Dubai.
- Air India to Delhi.
- Pakistan International Airways – to Islamabad & Peshawar.
- Fly Dubai – to Dubai
- Air Arabia – to Sharjah
- Gulf Air-to Bahrain
- Turkish Airlines- Daily flights to Istanbul and most convenient connections to Europe.
While Kabul International Airport is not bad for a third world country, expect very basic conditions at other Afghan airports. As of November 2009:
- Ariana Afghan Airlines to Herat, Kandahar, & Mazar-e-Sharif.
- Kam Air to Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, & Tarin Kowt.
- Pamir Airways to Faizabad & Herat.
- Safi Airways to Herat,Kandahar, & Mazar-e-Sharif.
- The highway from Kandahar has been rebuilt, but travelling on it is very dangerous because of the Taliban.
- The highway from Mazar-e Sharif and the North via the Salang Pass is open, although one has to be careful travelling on it during the winter months.
- The newly rebuilt highway from Jalalabad is open which has reduced the journey time to 2-3 hours, however since 2008 the security on this road has deteriorated considerably.
- From Bamiyan it is advisable to take the longer northern route, as the southern route (through Wardak province) is of questionable safety.
Private operators serve most destinations in fairly comfortable Mercedes buses. Safety can be a problem, with frequent accidents.
Maps of Kabul are available from Afghanistan Information Management Services who can print out custom wall maps of the city.
There is the Millie Bus which operates many routes around Kabul, but it is faster and more comfortable to use taxis. Some buses are relatively new, but many are old as one might expect in a 3rd world country.
Taxis are plentiful and to hire the whole car should cost around AFN30-50 depending on destination and bargaining skills. Some drivers have learned basic English, but such drivers may try to charge a slightly higher price and are most likely to be found loitering near Westerner-friendly locations (airport, major hotels). While the city is fairly safe, it isn't a bad idea to be proactive and avoid catching a taxi near any sensitive location (embassy, military facilities, 5-star hotels). It is customary for women to always sit in the back seat. After dark local yellow taxis become a rarity, so keep a few taxi numbers in your phone as a backup.
By private taxi
- Afghan Logistics & Tours 700 277 408, 700 288 668, 700 479 435, 799 391 462. Catering mostly to expats they are probably the safest way to get around town. 24 hour minicabs are available as well as airport pickups and dropoffs. USD5-7 around town, USD15 to airport, USD20 from airport.
There are only a couple places to rent a car in Kabul, one of which is:
- Afghan Logistics & Tours 700 277 408, 700 288 668, 700 479 435, 799 391 462. Rents late-model Toyota cars, SUVs, trucks, & minivans along with a driver who doubles as a mechanic (very important on Afghanistan's harsh roads).
Downtown Kabul is relatively compact and walkable - a good option in the spring and fall - summers bring intolerable heat and dust, whilst winters bring snow and mud. Pavements are few, and you need to keep your wits about you when crossing roads.
If you are nervous about your safety walking around areas such as Wazar Akbar Khan and Taimani (to a restaurant, etc.), it is fine day or night. Central Kabul at night is walkable but be sure you know where you are going, and how to get back to your guesthouse. Given the volatile security situation always be aware of any demonstrations, gathering crowds, etc., which could spiral out of control quickly. Keep a low profile, wearing simple clothes and (for ladies) covering your hair with a scarf or shawl. It is also wise to vary your routes frequently to reduce the threat of kidnapping. People are generally helpful and polite if you ask for directions.
Be wary walking around traditional residential areas (e.g., near the city wall). Conservative Afghans are suspicious of anyone snooping around their house, and children may start throwing stones or setting their dog on you.
- Bagh-e Babur (Gardens of Babur). The gardens surround the tomb of the first Mughal Emperor Babur. Though he had wished to be buried here, he was originally buried in Agra, and later moved to this spot. Historically, the gardens have been visited by Afghans for picnics and lazy afternoons. There is a swimming pool, a small mosque for prayers and a small museum among other things. AFN10 for locals, AFN250 for foreigners.
- Bagh-e Bala. Built in the late 19th century, it served as a summer palace for Amir Abdur Rahman. Today, much of the original interior has been preserved, and the area around the palace has become a large park.
- Bagh-e Zanana (Family Park). A park and market for females only but includes male and female children. It was designed as a place where women could sell their own products and merchandise directly, which cannot be done in areas where men do business, because women in Afghanistan are not supposed to deal directly with men who are not relatives. This park was created as an outlet for these women to sell their goods with respect to their culture. There is also a female run restaurant. The park is also a nice place for female travellers to enjoy the outdoors. Entrance fee AFN50.
- British Cemetery. Where foreigners are buried in Kabul. There are also memorial plaques commemorating those ISAF forces killed during the last few years.
- Darul Aman Palace (At the end of Daral Aman Rd, south of the city, next to the Kabul Museum). Originally built as King Amanullah's Palace in the 1920s, it has been destroyed and rebuilt a few times over. Plans were unveiled a few years ago to renovate it once again although it is still in a state of crumbling disrepair on the verge of collapsing. AFN200 or so bakshesh to the guard to look around inside the ruins.
- Daoud Khan Memorial, Up the hill behind Darul Aman Palace. On 28 Jun 2008, the body of President Daoud and those of his family were found in two separate mass graves in the Pul-e-Charkhi area, District 12 of Kabul city. There is now a small memorial to the deceased on a small hill, offering nice views over southern Kabul.
- Kabul Zoo. 6AM-6PM daily. The zoo is very popular with Afghans, and houses over 100 animals, albeit in relatively poor condition. China was once one of the main donors of animals in the zoo, but after the death of a few animals to disease and malnutrition, China has announced that there will be no donations until living conditions improve. 'Marjan' the lion, which was blinded by a grenade, was the main draw of the zoo, but has died recently. AFN10 for locals, AFN100 for foreigners.
- Lake Qargha. described as Kabul's lake district, only 9km from the city. Spojmai restaurant provides international cuisine. Swimming and boating are popular on the lake with plans for water skiing and jet-skis in the future. Spojmai Hotel joins the list of establishments to be attacked by The Taliban in June 2012.
- National Archives of Afghanistan.
- National Gallery of Afghanistan (Afghan National Gallery), Asamayi Watt (34°31'2.94N, 69°10'15.97E). 8AM-ish to 4PM-ish, closed Fridays, and you may struggle to be allowed in on Thursday afternoons. A beautiful gallery in a charming old Kabul house that has been carefully restored. The collection used to have some 820 paintings and portraits but 50% have been looted or destroyed; the director said the Taliban destroyed 210 portraits. Most of the collection is of European and Afghan landscapes and portraits of famous Afghan writers and kings and a portrait of the French writer Victor Hugo. Well worth making the effort to see. The Sultani Gallery is attached, but the opening hours are a mystery. AFN250.
- National Museum of Afghanistan (Afghan National Museum), South Kabul, Darul Aman Rd (several miles from the city center, across from Darulaman Palace). 10AM-4PM weekdays, 9AM-noon Fridays. The National Museum of Afghanistan once housed one of the greatest collections of Central Asian artifacts in the world. A large percentage of the previous collection was looted in the 1990s during Taliban rule after the upper floors of the museum were bombed. Many of the early Buddhist treasures were destroyed by the Taliban at the same time as the Bamiyan Buddhas. Looted items still turn up around the world at auctions. The museum is open once again, with far more modest, but still impressive, displays of early Buddhist and Islamic artifacts. free, donations welcome.
- Mausoleum of Nadir Shah and Zahir Shah (Teppe Maranjan). This is the site where King Nadir Shah and his son, Zahir Shah, are buried. It has been going through renovation since about 2005 and is still not completed.
- Kabul Wall. A pleasant hike with rewarding views over the city. The Kabul City Wall is still is pretty good condition, running west-east from Babar Gardens over to Bala Hissar (about 3 km in distance).
- Kabul Golf Club, Qargha Rd, ☎ . Closed down in 1978 by the Soviet Union, it reopened in 2004 after a 25 year hiatus. This 9-hole course bills itself as "extreme golf with an attitude". AFN750/USD15 greens fee for 9 or 18 holes, or AFN15,000/USD300 yearly.
- Ariana Cinema, Pashtunistan Square. Primarily shows Bollywood or trashy action flicks, and the occasional American blockbuster.
- Amani High School sports field. Open to the public on Tuesday afternoons and Fridays - football (soccer) with local Afghan guys, frisbee (with a collection of expats) and a 400 metre running track in comparatively green and pleasant surroundings. Free.
- Ghazi Stadium (National Stadium). Home of the Afghan football team. Just past the stadium is the mine museum as well as a road up the hill where you will find hundreds of Afghan men and boys flying kites on holidays.
- Kabul National Cricket Stadium. Home of the Afghan cricket team. Newly built.
- Swim. There are a few swimming pools in the city. The nicest is probably at the Serena, but is a steep USD30 to use. UNICA club's swimming pool (USD5) is very popular, esp. on Fridays, when there is probably as much catwalking as swimming going on. Internationals (aka Maple Leaf) has a large and often empty pool (USD7) but it is in a plastic shed rather than outdoors. Le Divan also has a pool, again popular on Fridays. Except in private or foreigner-only places, women should not wear anything skimpy (especially bikinis).
The Share-e Naw area has some shops.
- The Kabul City Center, next to the park, has some very smart shops.
- Majid Mall. Is in Supreme Tower. It is the largest shopping mall in Afghanistan.
- Roshan Plaza has some quite respectable clothes shops.
- Chicken Street is famed for its tourist offerings (carpets, carvings, knives, etc.), and pirated CD/DVD's.
- Chelsea Supermarket sells many types of Western foods and products.
- Supreme Supermarket on the Jalalabad Road (near the British military base) has Western products, but currently no alcohol is available. It is not open to Afghans. A little further down the road is Ciano, an Italian commissary. There is frequently a security alert on the Jalalabad Road.
- Spinneys Seems to cater to NGOs. Can buy most Western products and food. They had turkeys and a lot of traditional side dishes available for Christmas last year.
- Shah M Book Co (Across from Mustafa Hotel). The best bookshop in the city, it has a good selection of coffee table books and books about Afghanistan. The owner was the subject for the recent book The Bookseller of Kabul. Prices are high, but you'll appreciate his selection.
- Finest Super Markets (Share-e-now, opposite Kabul Business Centre). Finest Super Market has four branches in Kabul, 1-Wazir Akbar khan 13th St (but this store was blown up on 28 Jan 2011), 2- Opposite Kabul Business Centre, 3- Kart-e-sai and 4- Kart-e-Parwan. Normally you can find most of your daily needs and has high quality goods.
A few ATMs that accept international cards are scattered around the city, and most dispense both Afghanis and US dollars. However, credit cards are unlikely to work or be accepted anywhere in the city, except a couple of the top end hotels.
- Afghanistan International Bank (AIB). Has a few machines around Kabul, including one inside the Kabul City Centre shopping mall. They dispense in Afghanis and US dollars, however they are often reluctant to part with any cash and sometimes dispense old, ripped notes.
- Azizi Bank. Has many branches in the city.
- Kabul Bank. Has many branches in the city.
- Western Union. Has many branches across the city.
- Money Changers – some people prefer to exchange their money for Afghanis through the local money changers that stand on the road. There is no fee to exchange money this way, but make sure you know the exchange rate before attempting this.
The thousands of foreigners in the city since the fall of the Taliban has gradually turned Kabul into something of a restaurant Mecca. Restaurants can crudely be split into "places for locals" and "places for expats", with the latter having higher security, higher prices, but not necessarily higher quality. Restaurants that are UN-approved are particularly expensive. If you are looking for a place with a good mix of Afghans and expat diners the (dry) Lebanese, Turkish and Iranian restaurants are the ones to head towards.
Restaurants open and close with surprising frequency, so it is a good idea to check whether a place is still operating before heading out.
- Afghan Fried Chicken, clean Western-style fast food restaurant.
- Cafe, in the basement of Kabul City Center, Share-e Naw. Burger and banana drink for less than USD3.
- Everest Pizza, 13 St Wazir Akbar Khan, ☎ . , 9AM-9PM. Fast food, English menu. Phone orders/ home delivery available.
- Kabul Fried Chicken, clean Western-style fast food restaurant.
- Peshawar Kebab Shop (Shash Darak). 11AM-6PM. A great local place for a tasty lunch. They only serve one type of food; Pakistani style flat chapli kebabs, but they do it well and it will only set you back AFN100 or so.
- Shar-e-now Burgers (Shar-e-now, opposite the Shar-e-now park), ☎ . , 10AM-10PM. Fast food, English menu. Phone orders available.
- Street stalls, abound, and good ones can be found around Shahr-e Naw Park and near the Pul-e Khisti bridge in the old town. However, the hygiene is questionable particularly in the summer.
The vast numbers of foreigners in Kabul has lead to the city being perhaps the best place to eat in the region, and in the mid-range bracket there are dozens of good places to eat for USD15-25 per person for an evening meal.
- Afghan International Pizza Express, Darulaman Rd (near Ministry of Commerce and Ariana TV), ☎ . Good pizza. Destroyed during the May 2006 riots, but has since been rebuilt and has a new chef.
- Anaar Restaurant & Bar, Crossing of St 14, Lane 3, Wazir Akbar Khan (Between Wazir Akbar Khan circle and Heetal Plaza Hotel, towards end of St 14), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM-10PM. UN security clearance. Great Indian and Asian cuisine. English menu, English speaking staff. Phone orders - take-away and delivery available.
- Le Divan Restaurant (frm L'Atmosphere), Str.4, Qala-e- fatullah, ☎ . , 10AM-10PM. French cuisine, French and English menu. Phone orders available. Garden dining and swimming pool. Closed on Sundays.
- B’s Place Restaurant (Guest House), Str.2, Qala-e- fatullah House No.3, ☎ . , 11AM–11PM. Italian and Mexican cuisine, English menu. Phone orders available.
- Bella Italia (Guest House), Street 14, near the Pakistani Consulate, ☎ . open until 10PM. Italian food. Good pizzas and pastas. Expensive mains. Good appetisers. English menu.
- Carlito's Restaurant & Bar, Str 15 Wazir Ak Khan, ☎ . , 10AM-10PM. Mexican cuisine, English Menu. No phone orders/home delivery
- Cafe du Pelican, Daraluman Rd (on the west side of the road, look for an orange guard box and Landcruisers parked outside). closes at 5PM. Run by a French couple, good French cafe food with a bakery.
- Chief Burger, Shahre Naw (In front of Park Cinema). 8PM-midnight. This restaurant provides fast food; burger and pizzas.
- Delhi Darbar, Cinema Zainab Rd, Share-e Naw (between the park and Flower St), ☎ . Great Indian food including a USD6 thali. Indoor seating is intimate and spread through 3 rooms, or sit outside in the spacious garden.
- Escalades Restaurant, Macroian2, Matba block 104, ☎ . 10AM–10PM. European cuisine, English menu. No phone hours/home delivery.
- Golden Key, No 284, Lane 4, Wazir Akbar Khan, (4th Turning on the left off St 13), ☎ . , 10AM–11PM. Chinese seafood restaurant. Garden dining in the summer, Sheesha, Karaoke and English breakfast on Fridays. Phone orders for take away and home delivery. http://www.goldenkeykabul.com
- The Grill Restaurant, Street 15, Wazir Akbar Khan (on junction near British embassy). Lebanese food in pleasant garden surroundings, mixed clientèle.
- Hong Kong Restaurant, Wazir Akbar Khan (near Pakistani embassy). Good Chinese food.
- Istanbul Restaurant, Macroian2, Matba block 104, ☎ . , 8AM–9PM. Excellent Turkish cuisine, English menu. Clean, pleasant and frequented by middle class Afghans - a great place to sample good food and a slice of local Kabul life. Phone orders available.
- Kulba Afghan, Shar-e-now, Esmat Moslim Str. 3rd floor, ☎ . , 10AM–9PM. Afghan and Italian cuisine, English menu. No phone orders/home delivery.
- Mai Thai Restaurant, Str15 Wazir Ak Khan House No.124, ☎ . , 11AM–9PM. Thai cuisine, English menu and English speaking staff. The reincarnation of 'Lai Thai. Inside is very nice or you can sit outside. Park outside on the dirt road. Good prices.
- Mr Cod, Kabul Tower, Shaheed Abdul Haq Square , Makroyan 3, ☎ . British style fish and chips
- New World Korean Restaurant, Charyi Ansari (Shar-e Now), ☎ . until 9PM. Now moved to a new location, but the food is still excellent quality. Good selection of Korean dishes, including excellent kimbab (Korean sushi).
- Zadar Croatian Restaurant, Wazir Akbar Khan 13th St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Romantic restaurant and Divan lounge Bar. Catering, take away, provides for parties and ceremonial events.
- Pamir Restaurant, Bagh-e Bala Rd (at the Intercontinental Hotel), ☎ . Offers an excellent and cheap buffet.
- Popolano Italian Restaurant, Charahi Ansari, Share-e Naw, ☎ . 9AM-10PM. English menu, good pizza and pastas. Phone orders available.
- The Springfield Restaurant & Bar, Wazir Akbar Khan. Pizza and assorted Italian/Western fare, and has a weekly quiz night on Mondays.
- Raven Rae Restaurant (Off Koche Qasabi, first left lane. Located in the Raven Rae Villa compound, 6th building on the right side), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 6:30PM-10:30PM. Serves grilled meat, seafood, steak, pizza, soups and salads. Serves brunch in the rose garden during the summer months. USD5-25.
- Sufi Afghan Restaurant, near the Intercontinental Hotel.
- Boccaccio Restaurant & Bar, Str 10 Wazir Ak khan (same street as Everest Pizza), ☎ . 10AM–10PM. European and Italian cuisine, English menu. No phone orders/home delivery. Expensive, but the food is some of the best in Kabul.
- Café Zarnegar, Froshgah St (In the Kabul Serena Hotel), ☎ . 6:30AM-10PM daily, brunch 11AM-4PM. Tasty high-end international food and nice atmosphere, one of the nicest restaurants in the city. Their large buffet is probably the best in the country. Mains USD15-20.
- Gandamack Lodge (Sherpur Square, next to the UNHCR). One of Kabul's classiest establishments serving a varied menu in a nice atmosphere. Alcohol is very expensive, even by Afghan standards, but that can be forgiven given the fairly reasonable food prices.
- Raven Restaurant, Shar-E-Naw (Off Butcher St. (Koche Qasabi), take first left lane. Raven Restaurant (and Guesthouse) is the 6th building on the right.), ☎ , e-mail: Raven@RavenRaeResources.com. 6:30PM-10:30PM. Grilled meat, seafood, steak and pizza. Vietnamese spring rolls and coffee served in the rose garden around back on F-Sa, 10AM-3PM. Restaurant is closed on Monday. USD5-25.
- Silk Route Restaurant, Froshgah St (In the Kabul Serena Hotel), ☎ . 6-10PM daily. Specializes in Southeast Asian food in a luxurious atmosphere. USD15-20.
Despite being illegal, alcohol is pretty easy to find in Kabul's expat restaurants - buying your own supply involves befriending someone working at an embassy or military base, or dipping into the murky world of expat black-marketeering. Beer and spirits are available at UNICA, but the selection is slim.
Kabul is not a cheap place to stay, principally due to the costs of running a generator and providing security. The hotels are good if you are just passing through, however for long term stays opting for a guest house is more popular. There are several in Wazir Akbar Khan and Shar-i-Naw, often in huge Pakistani style mansions.
It is wise to look closely at the security arrangements for any of these hotels. Many, especially those in the Splurge section, have been attacked by Taliban or other insurgent groups. Always think about escape routes and safe places to shelter.
- Salsal Guesthouse, Zarghona Maidan, Shar-e Naw Park (Between the park and the Chelsea Supermarket, is signed in English), ☎ . Reasonably clean, shared bathrooms, friendly manager (Bashir) speaks English. Most rooms have cable TV and a fan. Singles from USD10, doubles from USD20 per night.
- Ajmal Wali International (Guest House), St 13 Wazer Akbar Khan House #367 (Near Bebe Mahro Park), ☎ . Nice, quiet, relaxing place. USD45.
- Le Monde Guest House Kabul, 7 Herati Mosque St (Close to Shar-e Naw Park and Flower St).
- Park Star Hotel, Yaftali St, Shar-i-Naw (On a back street, behind the Kabul City Centre/Safi Landmark Hotel), ☎ . Very good and very secure hotel in Shar-i-Naw. There is a pool in the basement. Internet is intermittent. Buffet dinner costs USD20.
- UNICA Guest House, Shar-i-Naw, Ansari Wat. Nice by Kabul standards and includes nice common gardens, swimming pool and bar, dinner buffet is USD6. Few rooms from USD25, most cost USD45-50 per night.
- Petra Guest House, House 1036, Lane 4 left, St 15, Wazir Akbar Khan, ☎ . Better than average guesthouse popular with UN staff. Little garden with water feature and peacocks.
- Raven Rae Villa (Off Koche Qasabi (Butcher Street), first left lane, 6th house on the right), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Low-profiled with furnished rooms. Meals, Wi-Fi, laundry and daily room cleaning are provided. Restaurant on premises, the Raven Rose Garden. USD95/night.
- Afghans4Tomorrow Guesthouse (Guzar Gah area), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Non-profit guesthouse offering breakfast, dinner (or lunch), Wi-Fi, garden, airport pick-up and drop-off, laundry and a friendly and helpful staff. USD50.
- Canpro Villa, House 23, Koche Qasabi St (Off Koche Qasabi (Butcher St), first left lane, 5th building on right), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Offers comfortable andmodern living accommodation suitable for long-termed expatriate residents. Amenities include fitness centre, meals at next door Raven Restaurant and Wi-Fi. Also have spaces for meetings and conferences. USD145.
- Golden Star Hotel. Clean and modern 4 star hotel, with restaurant, conference hall, a small gym, and high speed Internet in each room. Damaged during insurgent attacks on 15 Apr 2012. USD80+.
- Heetal Plaza Hotel, St 14, Wazir Akbar Khan, ☎ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12PM. Nice, quiet, relaxing and cozy place. However, avoid the restaurant. AFN5,000+.
- Kabul Intercontinental Hotel (Bagh-e Bala Rd), ☎ . 5 star hotel with nice restaurants and a swimming pool. The latest hotel to be targeted by Taliban suicide bombers (Jun 2011). USD90+.
- Kabul Serena Hotel, Froshgah St, ☎ , fax: +93 7 9965 4111. Undoubtedly the best hotel in the city, clean and modern 5 star hotel with three great restaurants. Was target for an attack by the Taliban in Jan 2008. The hotel has since increased its security. From USD350.
- Moon Hotel Kabul, Malalai Hospital Square, Shahre Naw (Across from Safi Airways Building), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mostly targeted towards businessman and organization workers. Amenities include fitness centre, Wi-Fi, cafe, hookah, and buffet. Good service and security. USD80.
- Safi Landmark Hotel & Suites, Shar-e Naw Park (Top six floors of Kabul City Center shopping mall), ☎ . Large conference hall, restaurant and gym area, apartments also available. Damaged by bombing in Feb 2010. USD80+.
- There are numerous Internet cafes around the city, so getting access should not be too hard.
- Assa II Net Cafe, Muslim St. On the ground floor of Assa II Guesthouse, they have several computers with semi-reliable connections. AFN25 or USD1 per hour.
Kabul Coffee House and Flower Street Cafe both have wireless Internet for customers.
- The cellular telephone system in Kabul is excellent. American and European phones do work on the local system. 3G services are available by Etisalat.
- Roshan Shop, St 13, Wazir Akbar Khan (Off Main St), ☎ .
Kabul is generally considered one of the safer parts of the country, and while bombings and kidnappings have waned considerably, they do remain a threat. That said, there are tens of thousands of expats and visitors to the city and considering that only a small handful have been victims of such attacks, you should be vigilant but not afraid. Avoid walking after dark, don't loiter in hotel lobbies, and (for long stays and expats), vary your routes and timings daily. Riots happen occasionally and are often accompanied by looting -- stay well away from them as authorities will respond with lethal force.
Female visitors: Make sure you wear a headscarf before landing in Kabul Airport until you fly out.
While visiting Kabul or any other part of the country, having any kind of social interaction with local people should not be a problem, Afghan people are traditionally very kind and hospitable toward guests.
Read the Scene magazine for restaurant reviews and all sorts of useful info. It is free, although street sellers may charge for it. There are many FM radio stations. However, the only widely available English language broadcast is from the BBC World Service on 101.6MHz. Tolo TV is perhaps the most popular TV station.
- Finland, Street 10, Lane 1, House 728 Wazir Akbar Khan, ☎ , fax: +358 9 160 581504, e-mail: email@example.com. Su-Th 8:30AM - 4:15PM.
- Germany, Wazir Akbar Khan, Mena 6, ☎ , , (emergencies)fax: +49 30 5000 - 7518. Su-Th 9AM-noon and Th 2:30PM-3:30PM.
- Greece, Hay Babil, AL-Jadriyah Sector 913, Rd. 31/ Built 63, ☎ , , , (Emergencies)fax: +870 763262272, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Japan, Street 15, Wazir Akbar Khan, ☎ , fax: +870 761 218 272.
- United States, Great Massoud (Airport) Rd, ☎ , , (after-hours emergencies)fax: +93 700 108 564. Su-Th 8AM-4:30PM.
Most expats take any opportunity they can to leave Kabul. Istalif in a side valley of the Shamali Plain makes for an excellent overnight or day trip destination. A day trip to the north (Shamali Plain, Salang Pass, Panjshir Valley and Jabal os Saraj), Qargha Reservoir to the west of Kabul etc.