WARNING Travelling in Afghanistan is extremely dangerous and is strongly discouraged. The current Afghan government has little control over large parts of the country; in particular, most of the South and East including Kabul is effectively a war zone. Threats are unpredictable and the situation remains volatile.
Trips should be meticulously planned and travellers should keep abreast of the latest security situation throughout their stay. If, despite the risks, you still find yourself heading there, see War zone safety and the "Stay safe" section below.
Abdul Rahman Mosque in Kabul, one of the largest mosques in Afghanistan.
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. Kabul is currently going through a period of renovation and development, with some modern style tower blocks and a handful of glitzy shopping malls appearing over the last few years. However, roads and other infrastructure remain in poor condition, and electricity is spotty even in the downtown areas.
The city is believed to have been founded between 2000-1500BC. It is mentioned in Hinduism's sacred Rigveda text (ca.1700-1100BC) 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 millenia 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 AD 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 emporer 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.
Map of Kabul, from early 1980's.
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 worst. The city hosted two coups, in 1973 & 1978. The second coup was carried out by the Marxist PDPA, which a year later invited the Soviet Union military to maintain their power over the country. From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union maintained headquarters for military and government 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 United States 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 1800m (5900ft). Summers (June-Sept) 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 lots of rain tapering off by early May.
Keep in mind that 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 (although the city's importance to the US presence means they will be cleared relatively quickly), the most notorious is the highway north towards Kunduz.
Karl Eikenberry's, then U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, visiting Kabul International Airport.
Kabul International Airport (IATA: KBL), +93 9251-61001, is a short drive east of the city center. 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 room with the sign 'duty free' behind 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). Registration services are also available at the Kabul Police station.
When arriving taxis are available to the city center (Afs 400), 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 $25.
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.
Maps of Kabul are available from Afghanistan Information Management Services  who can print out custom wall maps of the city. Open Street Map is the only online street level map presently available for Kabul.
Currently Google has offered the brand new service or road map in Afghanistan. it is mostly reliable except it wouldn't have all details. Google Map
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 30 to 50 Afg 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.
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. $5-7 around town, $15 to airport, $20 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.) 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 (eg near the city wall) - conservative Afghans are suspicious of anyone snooping around their house, and children may start throwing stones / 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.10 Af for locals, 250 Af for foreigners. edit
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.edit
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 50 afghani.edit
British Cemetery.. Where foreigners are buried in Kabul. There are also Memorial plaques commemorating those ISAF forces killed during the last few years.edit
Darul Aman Palace, At the end of Daral Aman road, 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.Afs 200 or so bakshesh to the guard to look around inside the ruins. edit
Daoud Khan Memorial, Up the hill behind Darul Aman Palace. On June 28, 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.edit
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.locals 10 Af for, 100 Af for foreigners. edit
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.edit
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.Afs 250. edit
National Museum of Afghanistan (Afghan National Museum), South Kabul, Darul Aman Road (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. edit
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.edit
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).edit
Kabul Golf Club, Qargha Road, ☎ +93 79 22 63 27, . 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".Af 750/$15 greens fee for 9 or 18 holes, or Af15,000/$300 yearly. edit
Striker's. Afghanistan's first and only bowling ally.$35 an hour. edit
Ariana Cinema, Pashtunistan Square. Primarily shows Bollywood or trashy action flicks, and the occasional American blockbuster.edit
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.edit
Ghazni 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.edit
Kabul National Cricket Stadium. Home of the Afghan cricket team. Newly built in the last several years.edit
Swim. There are a few swimming pools in the city. The nicest is probably at the Serena, but is a steep $30 to use. UNICA club's swimming pool ($5) 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 ($7) but it is in a plastic shed rather than outdoors. L'atmosphere also has a pool, again popular on Fridays. Except in private or foreigner-only places, women should not wear anything skimpy (especially bikinis).edit
There are a number of modern places for shopping such as these seen here
The Share-e Naw area has some shops.
The Kabul City Center, next to the park, has some very smart shops.
Majid Mall is situated 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 fare (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 NGO's Can buy most western products and food. They had turkeys available for christmas this year. Also a lot of holiday fixings.
Shah M Book Co, (across from Mustafa Hotel). The best bookstore in the city, it's the place to head for your next novel, and also 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.edit
Finest Super Markets, Share-e-now (Opposit Kabul Business centre). Finest Super Market has four branches in Kabul, 1-Wazir Akbar khan 13th street (but this store was blown up on 28 January 2011 killing 8 and leaving several injured, 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.edit
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.
Standard Chartered Bank is in Wazir Akbar Khan.
Afghanistan International Bank (AIB) has a few machines around Kabul, including one inside the Kabul City Center 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.
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.
Cafe, in the basement of Kabul City Center, Share-e Naw. Burger and banana drink for less than US$3.
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 Afs 100 or so.(34°31'33.95N,69°11'28.41E)edit
Shar-e-now Burgers, Shar-e-now, opposite the Shar-e-now park, ☎ +93 799-300797, +93 70-255788. 10AM-10PM. Fast Food cuisine, English menu. Phone orders available.edit
Everest Pizza, 13 Str.Wazir Akbar Khan, ☎ +93 799-317979, +93 70-263636. 9AM-9PM. Fast Food cuisine, English menu. Phone orders/ home delivery available.edit
Afghan Fried Chicken, clean western-style fast food restaurant.
Kabul Fried Chicken, clean west-style fast food restaurant.
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 US$15-25 per person for an evening meal.
Afghan International Pizza Express, Darulaman Road (near Ministry of Commerce and Ariana TV), ☎ +93 700 383 918. Good pizza. Destroyed during the May 2006 riots, but has since been rebuilt and has a new chef.edit
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), ☎ +93 700 284 315 (email@example.com). 10AM-10PM. UN security clearance. Great Indian and Asian cuisine. English menu, English speaking staff. Phone orders - take-away and delivery available.edit
Le Divan Restaurant (frm L'Atmosphere), Str.4, Qala-e- fatullah, ☎ +93 799-300264, +93 700 224982. 10AM-10PM. French cuisine, French and English menu. Phone orders available. Garden dining and swimming pool. Closed on Sundays. edit
B’s Place Restaurant (Guest House), Str.2, Qala-e- fatullah House No.3, ☎ +93 70-276416, +93 70-276711. 11AM–11PM. Italian and Mexican cuisine, English menu. Phone orders available.edit
Bella Italia (Guest House), Street 14, near the Pakistani Consulate, ☎ +93 799 600 666. open until 10pm. Italian food. Good pizzas and pastas. Expensive mains. Good appetisers. English menu.edit
Carlito's Restaurant & Bar, Str 15 Wazir Ak Khan, ☎ +93 799 159697, +93 799 167824. 10AM-10PM. Mexican cuisine, English Menu. No phone orders/home deliveryedit
Cafe du Pelican, Daraluman Road (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.edit
Chief Burger, Shahre Naw (In front of Park Cinema). 8PM-midnight. This restaurant provides fast food; burger and pizzas.edit
Delhi Darbar, Cinema Zainab Rd, Share-e Naw (between the park and Flower St), ☎ +93 799 324 899, . Great Indian food including a US$6 thali. Indoor seating is intimate and spread through 3 rooms, or sit outside in the spacious garden.edit
Escalades Restaurant, Macroian2, Matba block 104, ☎ +93 799 473763. 10AM–10PM. European cuisine, English menu. No phone hours/home delivery.edit
Golden Key, No 284, Lane 4, Wazir Akbar Khan, (4th Turning on the left off St 13), ☎ +93 799 002800, +93 799 343319, . 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.comedit
The Grill Restaurant, Street 15, Wazir Akbar Khan (on junction near British embassy). Lebanese food in pleasant garden surroundings, mixed clientèle.edit
Hong Kong Restaurant, Wazir Akbar Khan (near Pakistani embassy). Good Chinese food.edit
Istanbul Restaurant, Macroian2, Matba block 104, ☎ +93 70 200116, +93 799 356282. 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.edit
Kulba Afghan, Shar-e-now, Esmat Moslim Str. 3rd floor, ☎ +93 799 452151, +93 70 034979. 10AM–9PM. Afghan and Italian cuisine, English menu. No phone orders/home delivery.edit
Mai Thai Restaurant, Str15 Wazir Ak Khan House No.124, ☎ +93 70 297557, +93 70-278640. 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.edit
New World Korean Restuarant, Charyi Ansari (Shar-e Now), ☎ +93 799 199509. 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).edit
Zadar Croatian Restaurant, Wazir Akbar Khan 13th St., ☎ +93 70 0220884, . Romantic restaurant and Divan lounge Bar. Catering, take away, provides for parties and ceremonial events.edit
Pamir Restaurant, Bagh-e Bala road (at the Intercontinental Hotel), ☎ +93 20 2201321. Offers an excellent and cheap buffet.edit
Park Residence Hotel (Closed). Provides a good Afghan buffet.edit
Popolano Italian Restaurant, Charahi Ansari, Share-e Naw, ☎ +93 70 288116. 9AM-10PM. English menu, good pizza and pastas. Phone orders available.edit
The Springfield Restaurant & Bar, Wazir Akbar Khan. Pizza and assorted Italian/Western fare, and has a weekly quiz night on Mondays.edit
Raven Rae Restaurant, (Off Koche Qasabi, first left lane. Located in the Raven Rae Villa compound, 6th building on the right side), ☎ +93 779 057640 (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.US$5-25. edit
Sufi Afghan Restaurant, near the Intercontinental Hotel, . edit
Taverna du Liban, Street 14, Lane 3, Wazir Akbar Khan, ☎ +93 799 828376. Excellent Lebanese restaurant.edit
Boccaccio Restaurant & Bar, Str 10 Wazir Ak khan (same street as Everest Pizza), ☎ +93 799 160368. 10AM–10PM. European and Italian cuisine, English menu. No phone orders/home delivery. Expensive, but the food is some of the best in Kabul.edit
Shar-E-Naw (off ButRaven@RavenRaeResources.comcher St. (Koche Qasabi), take first left lane. Raven Restaurant (and Guest House) is the 6th building on the right.), ☎ +93 779 057640. 6:30PM-10:30PM. Grilled meat, seafood, steak and pizza. Vietnamese spring rolls and coffee served in the rose garden around back on Fri-Sat 10AM-3PM. Restaurant is closed on Monday.US$5-25.
Café Zarnegar, Froshgah Street (in the Kabul Serena Hotel), ☎ +93 79 9654 000, . 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 $15-20. edit
Silk Route Restaurant, Froshgah Street (in the Kabul Serena Hotel), ☎ +93 79 9654 000, . 6-10PM daily. Specializes in South-east Asian food, in a luxurious atmosphere.US$15-20. edit
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.edit
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 UNOCA, but the selection is slim and taking it outside UNOCA compound is against the rules.
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.
Mustafa Hotel, . Has a restaurant, Internet cafe and billiardsSingle rooms from US$30/night. edit
Salsal Guesthouse, Zarghona Maidan, Shar-e Naw Park (Between the park and the Chelsea Supermarket, is signed in English), ☎ +93 7 9973 4202. Reasonably clean, shared bathrooms, friendly manager (Bashir) speaks English. Most rooms have cable TV and a fan.Singles from US$10, doubles from US$20 per night. edit
Ajmal Wali International (Guest House), St 13 Wazer Akbar Khan House #367 (near the Bebe Mahro Park), ☎ +93 7 0028 5843. Nice, quiet, and relaxing place.US$45. edit
Le Monde Guest House Kabul, 7 Herati Mosque Street (Close to Shar-e Naw Park and Flower street). edit
Park Residence Hotel (Closed), Ansari Square, Shahr-e Naw Park. Damaged by suicide bombings in 2005 and 2010 and is now closed.edit
Park Star Hotel, Yaftali Street, Shar-i-Naw (Behind Kabul CIty Centre Mall), ☎ (+93) 706 220 221, . Very good and very secure hotel in Shar-i-Naw. It is located in a back street, behind the Kabul City Centre/Safi Landmark Hotel. There is a pool in the basement. Internet is intermittent. Buffet dinner costs $20.edit
UNICA Guest House, Shar-i-Naw, Ansari Wat. Nice by Kabul standards and includes nice common gardens, swimming pool and bar, dinner buffet is US$6.Few rooms from US$25, most cost US$45-50 per night. edit
Petra Guest House, House 1036, Lane 4 left, Street 15, Wazir Akbar Khan, ☎ +93 7 8841 1482. Better than average guesthouse popular with UN staff. Little garden with water feature and peacocks.edit
Raven Rae Villa, (Off Koche Qasabi (Butcher Street), first left lane, 6th house on the right), ☎ +93 7 7905 7640 (email@example.com). Low-profiled with furnished rooms. Meals, wifi, laundry and daily room cleaning are provided. Own restaurant on premises, the Raven Rose Garden.US$95/night. edit
Afghans4Tomorrow Guesthouse, Guzar Gah area, (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Non-profit guesthouse offering breakfast, dinner (or lunch), wifi, garden, airport pick-up and drop-off, laundry and a friendly and helpful staff.US$50/night. edit
Omega Guest House (Guest House), St 13 Wazir Akbar Khan House (next to Kazakh Embassy), (email@example.com). Low-profile and safe guest house with all amenities including meals, wifi, laundry service, generator, AC/heater, and restaurant. Popular with embassy staff due to location. edit
Moon Hotel Kabul, Malalai Hospital Square, Shahre Naw (Across from Safi Airways Building), ☎ +93 7 9888-8833 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Mostly targeted towards businessman and organization workers. Amenities include fitness center, wifi, cafe, hookah, and buffet. Good service and security.$80/night. edit
Canpro Villa, House 23, Koche Qasabi Street (Off Koche Qasabi (Butcher Street), first left lane, 5th building on right), ☎ +93 7 7340-2979 (email@example.com), . Offers comfortable andmodern living accommodation suitable for long-termed expatriate residents. Amenities include fitness center, meals at next door Raven Restaurant and wifi. Also have spaces for meetings and conferences.$145/night. edit
Kabul Serena Hotel, Froshgah Street, ☎ +93 7 9965 4000 (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 January 2008. The hotel has since increased its security.From US$350 per night. edit
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 15th April 2012.From US$80 per night. edit
Heetal Plaza Hotel, Street 14, Wazir Akbar Khan, ☎ +93-799167824, . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 12PM. Nice, quiet, relaxing and cozy place. However, avoid the restaurant.From Af 5000 per night. edit
Kabul Intercontinental Hotel (Bagh-e Bala Rd), ☎ +93-202201321, . 5 star hotel with nice restaurants and a swimming pool. The latest hotel to be targeted by Taliban suicide bombers (June 2011).Single rooms from US$90 per night. edit
Safi Landmark Hotel & Suites, Shar-e Naw Park (Top six floors of Kabul City Center shopping mall), ☎ +93 2 0220 3131, . Large conference hall, restaurant and gym area, apartments also available. Damaged by bombing in February 2010.Single rooms from $80/night. edit
WARNING Kabul is currently extremely dangerous and sudden changes can occur in the security situation. As of April 2012 there has been extensive terrorist activity in Kabul, including suicide bombings and attacks on embassies. If your visit is essential, consult your country's embassy in Kabul and monitor US Dept. of State & UK FCO travel warnings throughout the planning and duration of your trip/stay.
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. Note that the standard policy is now to not report kidnappings of foreigners, so don't think because you haven't read about any kidnappings recently that means they are not still happening. 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.