More opinions and discussion branching off from the Pakistan travel discussion.
Eh... Not really... But it depends on the time... For instance I wouldn't go to Iraq at the moment, which doesn't mean that I won't go there in some future date when I deem it safer to visit... And what I find safe enough to visit doesn't always fit with another persons perception of safe... But I am not on a suicide mission or anything...
I prepare a lot when I go to for instance a country like Afghanistan... I talked a lot to other people who had traveled there, looked on travel sights, etc. etc... And I took my final desicion the day I actualy went into the country, on the basis of the latest reports I had got... Traveling to Herat isn't that risky and from there I knew I could always decide to call it off or fly out or whatever... Every day I made a new assessment of the risks... When in Herat I talked again to a lot of people about the route I intended to travel, I got a lot of help from the Afghan Tourist Information (yes they actualy have a Tourist Board, one office in Herat and two in Kabul) and made the next move on the information they gave me. That is not to say I wasn't nervous the whole time I was there and did a lot of debating in my own head, but it all turned out alright... Also I dressed in full Afghan clothing and being blond I covered my hair as much as possible, I grew a bear and knew some Farsi, which is close to Dari one of the main languages of Afghanistan. It all helped, and the people in Afghanistan as everywhere else, were super friendly, helping all the time, thanking me for visiting, inviting me into their homes. I didn't meet one bad or evil Afghani, though I am sure they exist... Because I dressed in the Afghan way and had the beard it meant more openess on their side too, they really respected how I tried to adopt to their ways.
I am not saying Afghanistan is a safe country to travel, but when I went I found the risks acceptable... That is, I didn't think anything bad would happen to me if I stuck to the safe parts of the country... Probably that is what everybody thinks who take risks, it just happened to work out well for me... I wouldn't recommend going there, but I also wouldn't tell somebody not to go their if they wanted to... To each his or her own...
In the end I am planning to visit such countries as Iraq, Somalia (and I am not talking about the north, e.g. Somaliland) and traverse the whole breath of Congo... But not now... I am still trying to cross Asia and it is big and wide and long and there is so much to see...
Oh Ralf, what a treat it is to read your entries! Just reading your words makes me want to go to Afghanistan.
Thank you. It is a beautiful country, with beautiful people. I hope they will have peace one day soon.
I heard that another part of Afghanistan is now under the control of the Afghani government. That must be Herat if it is quite safe there.
Yeah, I heard of the Afghan Tourist Board. Apparently they allow tourists to go anywhere they want.
Glad to hear they could provide u with good safety info.
What about landmines? Had the areas u travelled in all been cleared or did u have to take those into considerion every time u wanted to step behind the bushes to pee?
And the Teliban? Did u encounter any in the areas u were in? Or would one recognise one if one saw one?
Which country are u in right now?
Excuse the number of questions but that is an amazing trip u are on.
It's not quite true about the Afghan Tourist Board, but of course they have no authority to stop you from going to a dangerous area if you want to go... The best they can do is advice against it... That said, I found the one in Herat better than the one in Kabul... The one in Herat was staffed by one very enthausiastic young man and that was it, while the one in Kabul was staffed by many grumpy older men who rather did nothing...
Landmines, yes they are everywhere and if one travels Afghanistan or any place that has gone through that much fighting and still is not at peace, than you have to take that into consideration... What you do is not stray from the road to much and look at what the locals do... I just got out and peed where the rest of the bus was peeing... Seemed sensible enough at the time... At many places the mines have, if not been cleared, at least been marked... White means, the area is clear of mines, red means it hasn't... Outside the the former Bamyian Buddhas, there are a lot of white marks and also a lot of red marks... But always be aware that some places are not marked at all, because they simply haven't been found yet.
Taliban, I am sure I encountered many, but it's not like they wear a flag proclaiming themselves as being Taliban. And if you look for beards as an indication than the whole country is Taliban... There are many people who still sympathise with the Taliban, not for their ideas, but because they brought for a while peace to the land... And that is in the end all the people want, peace to till their land and rear their childeren and make ends meet, be it by fundementalists or secularists it doesn't matter... Those on the countryside don't notice any change except that one government offers maybe more safety than another. That said, the Hazara's of the centre where persecuted by the Taliban because they are Shia muslims so they are glad to be rid of the Taliban, as are the minorities in the north... It isn't for nothing that the Taliban are strongest in the South, that was and is their heartland. But even their I doubt that they would have much support were it not for the stupidity of the west... Weapons won't beat the Taliban, peace and prosperity will...
I am currently in boring old England doing a far more dangerous thing than traveling Afghanistan, namely helping the medical world as a human guinea pig... It's what I do to get the money to travel... I will return to India in May me thinks... Than I shall continue my trip through Asia...
Wow Ralf, thanks for all the information. It's always been difficult for me to convey the beauty of that region to people who haven't experienced it yet. That you are only free when you don't have a safety net. That you're only alive when you connect with the peoples of earth. That even though you're covered in dust most of the time and are eating very questionable things, you're so alive and free to admire the people and the sunset in the evening and the beauty that is life.
Did u meet any other travellers while u were in Afghanistan Ralf?
Cool comment CosmisTreehuse. One really has to connect with people when one is not travelling the beaten tracks and when one cant just hang out at the local backpackers joint. I have not been to Afghanistan but I can imagine what u mean.
No, only the last day as I was making ready to leave to Peshawar over the infamous Khyber pass... I met 2 backpackers in the hotel I was staying in... But travellers there are in Afghanistan, though not many... I asked the guy at the Tourist Information if he knew how many backpackers or tourists visited Herat, he thought about one a month... I have met about 5 people who have travelled there in the last few years... Only one other has done the central route that I met... I think perhaps one or two people a year traverse the center of Afghanistan, maybe less...
You need not go to Afghanistan to get of the beaten track, India has lots of places... The northeast is one of them, or just take a local bus half an hour out of Delhi to a different direction then everybody else... Or better yet just stay in a part of any city, be it touristy or not, where no tourists stay... You will get the same experiences... I'm sure even Thailand has places that nobody goes to...
But, yes, I found Afghanistan very beautiful and understand those people who have fell in love with it. Pakistan is much the same... Same, same, but different as they say... Hmmm, yes me yearns to be on the road again!
I think this guys blogs will be interesting to follow, since he is stationed in Afghanistan at the moment.
I am a medic in the Illinois National Guard currently serving in Afghanistan.
hey! am not sure about this but recently ive been wanting to travel to afghanistan, since my first stop will be in india, i guess all i could do is travel via border etc. i can see that although the country is describe as dangerous country to visit, nevertheless, i, too would like to experience traveling to afghanistan. is there any info or things that i can do there? how's the security and threats there like now?
My first time in Afghanistan- this blog is fairly thorough and details so many of the standard issues I faced.
August and September 2010 blogs from travel in the Wakhan and Afghan Pamir, the "safe" part of Afghanistan
I agree that Wakhan and Afghan Pamir is safe. Let me add more for travellers that areas in Hazarajat such as Bamian and bandi-Amir (famous blue lakes) are also safe to visit. Apart from this Mazare sharif and Herat are also relatively safe areas. One must avoid visiting the south, Kandahar, Helmand, Nemroz etc..
If any one has any question or looking for any info on a particular area please feel free to post.