Travel to Iraq: Is it possible?
Iraq has long been in the news for negative reasons, with much unrest hitting the headlines. Troops are no longer in-situ, however the situation in the country remains volatile, so a visit to this diverse Middle-Eastern country must be considered carefully.
Travel to most of Iraq is discouraged, however it’s possible to visit the Kurdistan region, where there is much money being thrown into tourism.
Travel to the rest of Iraq should not be undertaken, for your own personal safety, due to the risk of kidnap, and in some cases, even murder. This is a risk I don’t believe is worth taking.
Kurdistan on the other hand, is relatively safe, provided you keep your wits about you and refrain from making any comments that could cause problems. Aside from being extra careful, you will discover a truly beautiful and diverse part of the world, and a nation of people who are welcoming and friendly to visitors.
Before you set foot on Iraqi soil, although it’s worthwhile mentioning that Kurds do not consider themselves Iraqi, you need to contact your GP to check whether you require any additional vaccinations or medical treatment. Always ensure your regular vaccinations are up to date, and ensure you have adequate travel insurance. From another health point of view, if you’re visiting during the summer months, be warned that temperatures in the desert regions can reach anything around 50 degrees, so stay hydrated.
Visa regulation-wise, most citizens can obtain a free 15 days’ tourist visa stamp at the airport on arrival. If however you do wish to stay longer, you need to do a lot of form filling at the local residency office, with a fee. You will also be obliged to take a blood test for HIV and hepatitis. For up to date visa information requirements, it’s worth contacting the Iraqi Embassy in your home country.
So let’s concentrate on the Kurdistan region of Iraq, purely because if you’re safety-conscious, this is the part of the country you’ll be visiting. This covers the provinces of Erbil, which is where most of city life is to be found, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk.
You will probably fly into Erbil International Airport, or via bus from Turkey, with regular coaches across the border from Diyarbakir and other south-eastern Turkish cities. Be aware that border controls are strict, so have all paperwork to hand.
Once you’re safely in-situ, you will find plenty to see and do, and Erbil is where you’ll find most in the way of home comforts, Hawler Citadel is the centre of the city and you’ll find a thriving city life here, with people going about their daily business, and many mysterious souks to explore. Always be sure to keep your bag close to you. There is also a very large shopping mall here, for a spot of retail therapy.
This part of the world is also famous for many natural areas of awe, with soaring mountains and desert-scapes, including Chami Rezan, caves where the earliest human burial site was discovered. Gali Ali Bag is also an awesome site, with the highest waterfalls in the Middle East.
These are just a couple of the amazing sites you’ll see in this ancient part of the world. A visit to Iraq is possible, however safety is always a huge concern. Be sure to heed any advice given to you before you travel, stay safe and use your common sense. When you do all of the above, you’ll find Iraqi Kurdistan, is truly a stunningly beautiful part of the world.