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Moving to Afghanistan

Afghanistan, situated in the heart of the Middle East, is an arid to semiarid landlocked country between Iran and Pakistan. The tall and forbidding Hindu Kush mountain range divides the country into three geographical regions and, while dry deserts make up most of the country's landscape, the southeast consists of lush fertile plains. 

Afghanistan is a country that has witnessed decades of war, and violent clashes and terrorist attacks are common. It remains embroiled in a Taliban-led insurgency against the government, which has struggled to extend its authority throughout the country. It's because of this that the country remains a high-risk expat destination.

Living as an expat in Afghanistan

Safety and security are the main concerns for expats contemplating a move to Afghanistan. That said, some expats will appreciate Afghanistan's multiculturalism, rugged pastoral beauty as well as the tenacity of the Afghan people. 

Expats living in Afghanistan mostly work in the armed forces, private security field or development and diplomatic sectors. Here, expats might not find the comforts of other expat destinations, but the 'hardship factor' combined with high risks to personal safety ensures that expats are well compensated financially. Expats are typically housed within secure military compounds and most foreign workers are surrounded by heavy safety measures.

Western interests are particularly targeted at attacks in Afghanistan, and expats should be aware that kidnappings of foreigners occur throughout the country. Foreign embassies, government offices, religious and military buildings, hotels, shops and restaurants used by the international community have been targeted in the past and the threat of further attacks remains high. 

Healthcare in Afghanistan

Decades of conflict in Afghanistan have left the country’s infrastructure ruined and underdeveloped. Healthcare is well below what most expats would be used to and there are only a few basic medical facilities available, mostly in Kabul. Any serious medical emergencies will require air evacuation out of the country and expats should therefore ensure that they have comprehensive medical insurance to cover this.

Expat families and children

Although the Ministry of Higher Education is in the process of improving the education system, schooling opportunities are extremely limited for expat children in Afghanistan. There are few international schools in the country, and those that are available are all centred around foreign-controlled compounds in Kabul. That said, Afghanistan is certainly not an expat destination for the whole family, and those contemplating a move to Afghanistan should rather do so without their children.

Due to the ongoing conflict, many governments advise their citizens to avoid travel to certain areas of the country, if not all of Afghanistan. An expat assignment to Afghanistan should therefore be considered very carefully. Whether the benefits outweigh the risks is for each expat to decide for themselves.


Fast facts

Population:  Around 39.5 million   

Capital city: Kabul

Neighbouring countries: Afghanistan shares borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the north, China to the northeast, Pakistan to the east and south and Iran to the west. 

Geography: Afghanistan is a mountainous and landlocked country with plains to the north and southwest. The Hindu Kush stretches from central Afghanistan towards Pakistan, forming the central highland region. 

Political system: Islamic republic 

Major religions: Islam

Main languages: Pashto and Dari

Time: GMT +4:30

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz. Two-pin 'type C' and 'type F' plugs are used.

Money: The Afghani (AFN) is subdivided into 100 pul, although there are no pul coins currently in circulation.  

International dialling code: +93

Emergency numbers: 101 (fire); 102 (police); 103 (ambulance)

Internet domain: .af

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road.