Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions, but the use of credit cards is becoming more common. International bank transfers are limited. ATM machines exist at the Afghan International Bank (AIB) in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using them.
International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in many parts of the country, with service more reliable in Kabul and other large cities. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited.
In 2011, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior ordered the organization of a committee for the purpose of bringing better security, traffic movements, and functionality to the streets of Kabul. This committee has implemented several restrictions, namely on tinted windows of vehicles operating in Kabul. Owners of vehicles with tinted windows can be arrested if they fail to eliminate tinting or replace their windshields and windows (several U.S. citizens have recently been detained on such charges).
In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, Afghan-Americans may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. Information on dual nationality can be found on our website. We encourage U.S. citizens to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. Due to security conditions and travel difficulties, consular assistance for U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is limited, particularly for those persons outside the capital.
Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws, and practices. Foreign visitors -- men and women -- are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops, and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside Kabul, may want to ensure that their shirts have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; U.S. citizen women visitors should carry scarves for this purpose. Consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized in Afghanistan. Homosexuality and cross-dressing are considered serious crimes in Afghanistan and possible punishment may include the death penalty.
Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import or export of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. U.S. citizen travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for information on importing firearms into the United States.