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Kabul

Health & safety

Dangers & annoyances

Security in Kabul is now handled primarily by the Afghan police and army – the ISAF military patrols that were such a common sight until recently have largely taken a back seat. Although the situation can change incredibly quickly, Kabul is generally a calm city, with the greatest risk to personal safety being the insane traffic.

It’s essential to keep in touch with the news, and to talk to locals and other foreigners to gauge the popular mood, as well as getting security briefings where possible. That said, the riots that shook Kabul in 2006 took almost everyone by surprise. At such times, visibly Western buildings or interests can be targets.

There have been several incidents of street crime against foreigners, mainly bag-snatching. A vehicular version of this has been the ‘broken car’ ruse – your vehicle is flagged down by a local claiming his car has broken and needs assistance. When your attention is drawn, his accomplices rob your vehicle. We recommend keeping all doors locked when driving in Kabul.

We don’t recommend walking in Kabul after dark. Aside from the crime risk, there are very few streetlights, so broken pavements present a genuine accident risk. Many international organisations maintain curfews for their staff.

There have been kidnapping attempts (successful and unsuccessful) against foreigners by criminal gangs. For more on kidnapping, and other security concerns.

One environmental hazard you’ll quickly become aware of is the terrible quality of Kabul’s air, thick with pollution from the traffic, thousands of generators and the endless dust. Anyone staying in the city for any length of time is liable to pick up the ‘Kabul cough’ – seeking fresh air outside the city is the best remedy. In winter and spring, the dust can quickly turn streets into mud slicks.

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While you're there

Emergency

Afghan NGO Security Office (ANSO; 070 283320/079 9322 133; coordinator@afgnso.org)

Ambulance (020 112/079 9357 049)

ISAF (079 9512 904)

Kabul City Police (020 100/079 9046 714)

Kabul Fire Brigade (020 210 1333)

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Medical services

There are plenty of pharmacies in Kabul, but check drugs for expiry dates. Embassies can provide lists of recommended medical services, but the following hospitals are run to international standards:

BlossomGroupHospital ( 070 298397; www.blossom-group.org ; Hanzala Mosque Rd, Shahr-e Nau; 24hr) Private Indian-run hospital with walk in general practice clinic and emergency treatment.

CureInternationalHospital (079 9883 830; near Darulaman Palace, Jad-e Darulaman; 8am-3pm Sat-Wed, 8am-12pm Thu, closed Fri) General practice and surgery.

DK German Medical Diagnostic Centre (079 9136 211; www.medical-kabul.com ; Street 3, Charahi Ansari; treatment requires deposit of US$100/5000Afg against cost of treatment; 9am-5pm, closed Fri) Offers wide range of laboratory diagnostic tests, vaccinations and X-rays. Dental and gynaecological services were being introduced as we went to press.

Emergency Hospital (070 287519; Charahi Sherpur; 24 hr) Emergency surgical centre only.

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