The Survival Guide to Kabul©

Published internationally in July 2003 as Kabul: The Bradt Mini Guide.

First published in Kabul in September 2002 as a pamphlet.



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December 2003


Reviews so far for Kabul: The Bradt Mini Guide from individuals and the press including The Sunday Times Book of the Week, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer, Newsweek and Wanderlust.




Still haven't decided where to go on your summer holiday? Well, I have the perfect answer for you. How about a relaxing fortnight in Kabul, the Afghan capital?

Unbelievably, Bradt publishes a mini-guide to the city - perfect for those last minute getaways. To be fair, tourists have already been spotted in the city - not by the planeload, but in small numbers from Japan, Australia and the UK.

I spent time in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban in 2002, and I could have done with a few tips to having a good time there. Things have come a long way since then. As the new guide points out, Everest Pizza delivers - great news, because there's a good chance you'll be shot or kidnapped if you go to pick up an 18in extra-spicy pizza yourself.

According to the guide, which also comes in an online version (, there are some great places to see, even if many of them are partly destroyed . It's full of good advice for holiday-makers too - but not the usual stuff about preventing sunburn or how to spot when a taxi driver is trying to rip you off. These tips are unique to the city. 'Kabul is one of the most mined cities in the world, so take care. Never wander off the beaten track.'

I can't understand why easyJet hasn't seen the gap in the market and started selling cheap flights there.


Ahmed Rashid, March 24, 2003. Ahmed Rashid is best selling author of the books Taliban and Jihad.

“The best and only guide for Kabul's hot spots, monuments, historical buildings and most important of all good places to eat. The guide has put Kabul on the map for the first time in 20 years.”



December 5 2003

USA Today features Kabul Mini Guide on front page of travel section: Online article (see full article).


November 22 2003

The Guardian: “The mini-guide to Kabul (£9.95) would make a good stocking-filler.”

Check article.


September 19 2003

The mini guide features in The Financial Times.

To make it easier, two enterprising journalists recently completed Kabul's first tourist guidebook in 20 years. Kabul: The Bradt Mini Guide evolved from a 16-page leaflet aptly named The Survival Guide to Kabul.

First time, solo visitors to Kabul should pick up 'Kabul: The Bradt Mini Guide,' by Dominic Medley and Jude Barrand. It is packed with tips on culture, where to hire a car or a translator and suggestions of places to stay and eat (

Full article…


August/September 2003

Wanderlust Travel Magazine
BEST BUYS In the first of its new series of mini guides, Bradt has set an impressive precedent. Evolved from a 16 page leaflet handed out by streetkids to aid workers and expats after the war, the comprehensive Bradt Mini Guide to Kabul is a fascinating insight into Afghanistan's capital, whether you intend to go there or not. Historical information on the city, its citizens and the ruthless Taliban is mixed with practical advice on safety, security and health issues for travellers, and moving personal accounts from Afghans and aid workers. Since the TV news coverage has stopped it's hard to imagine how life in Kabul has changed, but reading snippets about the growing popularity of juice bars and the colourful stalls on Chicken Street allows you to get a glimpse of how life might have changed for the Afghan people. A must read.


September 22 2003


TRAVEL Coming To Kabul The Taliban may still be hiding out in the hills, but already the backpacking set is jetting into Afghanistan. So it’s no wonder the guidebook industry is getting in on the deal. The idea for “Kabul: The Bradt Mini Guide” was dreamed up by journalist Dominic Medley and NGO employee Jude Barrand in the hope of creating a survival handbook for new arrivals. The duo at first simply put together photocopied pamphlets of embassy contacts, U.N. office addresses and top guesthouses, distributing them free to the city’s street children, who could then sell them and make a quick buck. They sold fast, and soon Bradt Travel Guides swooped in with an offer to publish the books, providing Kabul’s kids continue to sell them to the expatriate community and new-arrival tourists. So, what are the new travel guides like? NEWSWEEK sneaked a peek and they’re not half bad. The guide gives practical tips on security (“Be extra careful walking or driving around at night”), steers readers to the hot hotels (the Mustafa and Intercontinental) and even reveals where to buy NEWSWEEK (the Habibi Book Centre “halfway down Chicken Street”). The index reveals almost everything a foreigner might want to know about Kabul and its environs. Except, of course, where Osama bin Laden is hiding out. That’d be too easy, right?  —Michelle Jana


July 20 2003

The Sunday Times.

Anthony Sattin: Books of the week

Kabul, the Bradt Mini Guide
by Dominic Medley & Jude Barrand
This is a guidebook that puts something back into the city it describes: Kabul, ruled by the Taliban until November 2001, when it was famously “liberated” by the BBC veteran John Simpson, and which even now is on the Foreign Office’s list of places to be visited only on essential business.

Last year, the energetic Kabulis celebrated the dawn of the post-Taliban era by reopening their city, helped by thousands of foreign- aid workers. The authors were among this influx: Medley arrived to set up a journalism training project, while Barrand was press officer for Caritas Internationalis. Both were well placed to collect information on everything from security and travel to hotels and restaurants, and they collated it into a 16-page pamphlet, The Survival Guide to Kabul. Then they had the bright idea of getting the city’s street-kid newspaper vendors to sell it. The guide was popular, especially with the many new aid workers, and put much-needed cash into the pockets of impoverished children.

With the help of Bradt, the original pamphlet has now grown into a mini-book that, in its scope, shows just how far the city has come since the days of banned schools and hidden women. This, too, is being sold by children on the dusty streets of Kabul. Of course, it might be worth waiting for Afghanistan to drop off the FO’s warning list before you book the plane tickets — but at least now there’s a guide to take when it does.


July 6 2003

The Observer.


July 4 2003

The Daily Telegraph.



A reader from LA, CA, USA

The new Bradt Mini Guide to Kabul is a well written insider's view of Kabul. It offers the traveller everything he/she needs to know to survive and enjoy Kabul and its environs, from security concerns to the best espresso cafe. The content is informative and well-organized. The lively prose and diversity of subject matter makes the book a good read, even for the armchair traveller curious about life in this war torn city. Excellent!



Tim Neilson, BBC Journalist:

In life, I've learned, you should always judge a book by its cover. Immediate and instinctive judgements are there to be trusted. And the photograph of a young Afghan girl framed in a half-opened door is an intriguing image that catches the eye and draws the Kabul Mini Guide off the shelf and into your hand. The girl, with rich black hair pushed behind the ears and wearing a pretty (almost Edwardian) patterned dress, has a slightly forced half smile that betrays a wariness of the cameraman and his intimidating lenses. Despite this, she has an intelligent eye that fixes us with a straight gaze. The door is held open, perhaps reluctantly, and with her hand on the handle there remains the possibility the door may soon be closed. So perhaps the cover is a visual metaphor for the relationship with Kabul that awaits the western traveller.


A book should also feel right. The mini guide is very light but, like a compact disc, feels a centimetre too wide. It can, just, be held in the span of a hand. Nevertheless, the book, despite its 178 pages, can easily be slipped into a breast or jeans pocket without feeling too bulky.


Once these courting rituals, habitual to the experienced bookshop browser, have been performed we can finally open the book and read its contents. And again, the immediate response is positive: the typeface is clear and easy to read, the maps simple to follow and the list of contents and introductory pages are well laid out.


The opening Background chapter outlines concisely Afghanistan's turbulent history and puts the present political situation in context. One of the great strengths of the guide are the individual personal testimonies that surprise the reader and break up the main text: the best is the story of Naser Barotali, an orphan boy who sold the guide's precursor The Survival Guide to Kabul on the city streets in order to provide for his younger brother and blind grandfather. His tale of heroic endurance, laid out in short, barely punctuated sentences is immensely moving.


But undoubtedly the strongest sections of the guide are the two main chapters that give every conceivable piece of practical information that the prospective visitor to Kabul needs to know. It's vital to know the Afghan Tourist Information Office has no information, that the fleet of the Ariana Afghan Airways lie as burnt out hulks on the runway - and I'm now convinced the only real way to get to Kabul is via the Khyber Pass!


The city of Kabul is wonderfully evoked in the guide. There seems to be so much going on that before long we'll see Time Out Kabul on the stalls. And the authors seem suspiciously expert on the fare offered by the surprisingly large number of restaurants in the city. The various guest houses and hotels are expertly detailed and, as ever, the information is punctuated with humour and insight.


With the Kabul Mini Guide sitting on my desk for the past hour, many colleagues have wandered by and gently enquired "Are you going to Kabul?" They pick the book up and flick through with curiosity and a genuinely appreciative air. Unhappily it's unlikely that I'll be in Kabul in the near future - getting east of Sevenoaks is in itself an achievement. But for anyone going this is undoubtedly an essential part of the kit and the authors are to be commended.



Mike Dobbie, Editor, Shares magazine

Having been told last December by the International Federation of Journalists that they were sending me to Kabul to train journalists and assist with plans to set up an independent journalists union, I then set about reading and learning all I could. The only problem: there was nothing relevant, current, accurate, or informative... There was nothing that gave you an idea of the city and what you would find when you got there. Lonely Planet had never done a guide and all they could offer was a rudimentary history and a warning not to go. Newspapers only offered war reporting - news but not city life.


And so it seemed there was nothing to help me out there... or so I thought.


I then stumbled on to the web site and it was all there. Along with a welcome that mirrored exactly what I was hoping someone would say as I stepped off the Ariana flight, it was loaded with details about mobile phones, restaurants, social life, hotels. It was all of up-to-date, meaningful and not just practical but a great relief as well. Usually, in situations like this, the detail of the Guide is passed by word of mouth among once yet get there and gleaned over many weeks. But in your case, all those essential bits of information was all available in a central location, ready to be mined and treasured.


On my first trip in December, venturing into the unknown and wandering around the city for the first time, I actually knew more than I thought because the Guide had equipped me with the essential information. Not only that, but my partner back in Melbourne was utterly relieved too - having had visions of minefields and war - the Guide actually helped her relax and realise Kabul in December 2002, was not the war zone that 14 month old TV images had created in her mind.


So, it's great to see "the book of the web site" is now available. May you outsell JK Rowling. I look forward to Amazon delivering my own copy and hopefully will have it well-thumbed and in-hand on my return to Kabul.


كابل، افغانستان

The Survival Guide to Kabul©