A guide to traveling in Iraq in 2024

By Joan Torres 64 Comments Last updated on April 11, 2024

Iraq travel guide

Wanna travel to Iraq with Against the Compass?

Join a group of like-minded travelers in our next scheduled tour in Iraq, where we’ll visit Baghdad, Babylon, Karbala, Mosul, and more

May 19th to 26th, 2024

This country is truly an adventure, and this guide contains absolutely everything you need to know to travel to Federal Iraq, including visa procedures, how to move around, where to stay, going through checkpoints, budget, money, security tips, and much more.

By the way, this guide refers to traveling independently in Iraq proper, which includes Baghdad, Mosul, the Marshes, and everything in between, but it doesn’t focus on the autonomous region of Kurdistan. For that, read our Kurdistan travel guide,

Don’t forget to check my Iraq itinerary

travel to Iraq

Introduction: why visit Iraq?

After decades (literally) of being pretty isolated from the outside world, Iraq finally decided to open its borders to international travelers, making a dream for many come true.

This is the cradle of modern civilization and the heart of Ancient Mesopotamia, home to Babylon, the City of Ur and Nineveh, once the center of the world, and today epic archaeological sites awaiting to be discovered by intrepid adventurers.

The country, however, is much more than just archaeological sites; Iraq is made of its people, kind-hearted Iraqis who will accompany you in your journey, offering you unprecedented doses of Arab hospitality and generosity.

Jaw-dropping shrines, the lively streets of Baghdad, and a surprisingly elaborate local cuisine: there are many reasons to travel to Iraq.

🪪 How to get a tourist visa for Iraq

For your information, you can travel to Iraq since March 2021, when they finally introduced a very long-awaited Visa on Arrival (VOA) regime.

The visa on arrival for Iraq proper is available at:

Warning: The Turkey-Iraq border is also open but that border takes you into the region of Kurdistan. You can get a VOA for Kurdistan but remember that the Kurdish visa is not valid for Iraq proper and that you can’t get an Iraqi visa at the Kurdish/Iraq border, but you need to fly into Baghdad.

Which countries can get a visa on arrival (VOA) for Iraq?

All EU passport holders, and also the United States (yes, Americans can travel to Iraq), United Kingdom, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland

Bonus: What happens with the rest of the nationalities?

If you are not one of the lucky countries, you can still travel to Iraq, but you will need approval from the respective Ministry, something which you must arrange through an authorized Iraq tour company.

For this service, they usually charge between $250 and $300, plus you need to join one of their guided tours.

This approval takes up to 4 weeks but once it’s issued, you’ll be able to collect your visa at your desired Iraqi embassy.

How to get an LOI for traveling to Iraq

As mentioned, one must first book a guided tour in Iraq.

By joining one of our expeditions, we can easily get the LOI for you.

Check below our upcoming Iraq departures:

How long is the Iraq VOA valid for?

The visa allows you to travel in Iraq for 60 days.

How much does the Iraq VOA cost?

Today, the Iraqi visa costs 80 USD.

They raised it from 77 USD to 80 USD in November 2023.

How to get your VOA at the airport: procedures

Getting my Iraq travel visa on arrival was surprisingly easy.

Upon my arrival at the airport, all I had to do was fill out a form and pay the respective fee.

They processed my visa in less than 15 minutes.

Up to mid-2023, having a hotel reservation in one of the authorized hotels was also a requirement, but this isn’t the case anymore.

Iraq is becoming more and more tourist-friendly by the day.

Is the Iraq travel visa valid for the Kurdistan region?

Yes, it is.

Once you are in possession of an Iraqi tourist visa, you can travel freely all over the country, from Baghdad to Erbil, including by land.

However, if you enter Iraq via the Kurdistan region, the Kurdistan visa (75 USD, on arrival) is not valid for Federal Iraq.

Therefore, given that the visa for Federal Iraq is only available if flying in, you will have to fly from Erbil to Baghdad.

Iraq travel tip – If you are planning to visit all over Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, it’s better to fly into Baghdad first, so you will only have to purchase one visa.

How to get a visa for Iraq
My tourist visa for Iraq

✍️ How to sign up for a tour in Federal Iraq

Traveling with a group and an expert local guide will make things much easier, and more fun!

Against the Compass has several Iraq expeditions scheduled all year long, and the next one is on:

Check below our upcoming Iraq departures:

  • May 19th to 26th, 2024. APPLY NOW
  • Sep 30th to Oct 10th, 2024. SOLD OUT
  • Oct 23rd to Nov 3rd, 2024. APPLY NOW
  • Dec 6th to 16th, 2024. (Spanish) APPLY NOW

Also, click here to learn more about our Iraq Tours

Private and bespoke tours for Iraq

Do you wish to join a small group, but you can’t travel on any of the above dates?

No problem, just shoot us an email at hello@againstthecompass.com indicating:

  • How many people you are
  • How many days do you want to spend in Iraq
  • Which dates

And we will try to find other travel buddies you may travel with. Otherwise, know that we can also organize private, tailored trips. 

tours for Iraq
In Babylon with one of our past groups

🚑 Travel Insurance for Iraq

For obvious reasons, regular insurance companies don’t cover travel in Iraq.

One of the very few companies which does cover, however, is IATI Insurance, a travel company based in Europe, which I recommend because:

  • It offers different plans for all types of travelers: from families to budget backpackers
  • Covers senior citizens
  • Valid for multi-country trips
  • Readers of this blog can get an exclusive 5% discount.

📚 Useful books for planning your trip to Iraq

Iraq Travel Guide by Bradt

If you follow my blog, you will see that I always recommend Bradt guides for all destinations, so Iraq will be no different. They have the most insightful guidebook to Iraq.

The Rise of the Islamic State by Patrick Cockburn

This is my favorite journalism book ever and it is written by Patrick Cockburn, one of the world’s top experts on the Middle Eastern conflict. In this book, he gives an extremely perceptive introduction to the origins of ISIS, with many references to Iraq, of course. A really useful book to understand the complexity and origin of the conflict.

A pictorial guide to Iraq by Sian Pritchard-Jones & Bob Gibbons

My friends and fellow travelers Sian and Bob just published this pictorial guide to Iraq which also contains fresh and actionable advice to the country. 

⚠️ Is it safe to travel to Iraq?

Safety is the number one concern for people visiting Iraq.

From the war between Iran and Iraq in 1980 to Saddam’s Hussein regime, the US invasion in 2003 and the more recent ISIS rule, decades of conflict and religious sectarianism made Iraq an actual war-torn country, labeled by all international media as one of the most dangerous destinations in the world.

While it’s true that for decades, Iraq was a pretty dangerous country to travel to, the situation has drastically improved.

This has been recently proved by the visit of Pope Francis in March 2021, thanks to whom – no kidding – Iraq finally opened its borders for tourism.

I traveled around Iraq independently, moving around by public transportation and I was particularly surprised by how calm and peaceful everything seemed to be, especially Mosul and around, an area occupied by ISIS just a few years ago.

Except for the endless checkpoints, everything else seemed pretty normal when traveling in Iraq, with the particularity that Iraqis, in general, were always extremely kind, helpful, and generous, like nowhere else you might have been to.

Nevertheless, remember that religious sectarianism still exists across the country and that occasional bombings may happen from time to time, in Baghdad in July 2021.

Iraq is mostly safe to travel but even experienced travelers should keep an eye open because we can’t forget that the country is highly unstable.

Always stay up-to-date with the latest security updates but, instead of reading biased newspapers or the Iraq travel advice FCDO, do contact the local people.

For that, Iraq Travelers Café is an invaluable source of information, where you can get in touch with English-speaking Iraqis.

What about the Kurdistan region?
Kurdistan is a different story. The region has always been safe, which is why it has been open to international tourism for quite a while now. For a better understanding, read:
Is Kurdistan safe?

There’s army and police everywhere you visit in Iraq but they are super friendly always

🤔 Iraq independent travel vs organized tour

Wanna travel to Iraq with Against the Compass?

Join a group of like-minded travelers in our next scheduled tour in Iraq, where we’ll visit Baghdad, Babylon, Karbala, Mosul, and more

May 19th to 26th, 2024APPLY NOW

For most people, Iraq is perceived as a challenging country to travel to, a destination only aimed at experienced backpackers, the reason why most travelers tend to visit Iraq with a local guide or on an organized tour group.

Traveling in Iraq independently – aka backpacking in Iraq

You would be surprised to know that independent travel in Iraq is completely doable, in fact much easier than in countries like Pakistan or Afghanistan.

There’s plenty of public transportation, most cities have a range of hotels and local Iraqis are super helpful.

The only challenge you may encounter, however, is police and army checkpoints.

Some checkpoints are pretty easy to get through, but some may come with their own challenges, for which is best to have a local contact, which you can easily get from Iraqi Travelers Café. More on checkpoints later.

Nevertheless, some previous experience traveling alone in Arab countries like Palestine or Lebanon is highly recommended.

Iraq travel tips
Martyr’s monument in Baghdad, an unmissable monument in your trip to Iraq

Traveling in Iraq with a local guide or on a group tour

That’s what most people do, and it’s fine.

Against the Compass (this site) is leading group expeditions into Federal Iraq.

Learn more: Against the Compass EXPEDITION to Federal Iraq.

🛖 Top experiences when traveling in Iraq

Remember to read my Iraq itinerary

Explore vibrant Baghdad

With its bustling bazaars and lively districts, Baghdad is a thrilling city with so much going on, the destination within Iraq where you need to spend at least one day.

Visit iraq
This is Shabandar Café, a must-see in your trip to Iraq and one of the oldest cafés

Learn about the Islamic State’s legacy

The rule of the Islamic State in the north of Iraq is still latent in people’s life, living history I call it.

Witnessing the city’s reconstruction and the Iraqis’ struggle to return to normality is an unmissable part of their history to experience.

traveling to Iraq
This is the oldest mosque in Mosul, destroyed during the liberation from ISIS

Touring the Mesopotamian Marshes on a boat

The Arab Marshes are a wetland ecosystem in south Iraq, a huge aquatic landscape in the middle of the desert, home to a distinct cultural group named the Marsh Arabs. Going through the Marshes on a traditional boat, visiting the different islands and the local people is a great experience.

Marsh Arab
A Marsh Arab

Witness one of the largest pilgrimages in the world

The city of Karbala, along with Najaf and Samarra, are the holiest cities for Shia Muslims, cities that every year receive millions and millions of pilgrims from all over the world, especially from Iran.

visit Karbala
The shrine in Karbala

Discover Iraq’s ancient history

Iraq was the heart of Ancient Mesopotamia, the people who developed the first cities, writing and agriculture, between 10,000 and 3,000 BC.

Discover Iraq’s glorious past by paying a visit to the most relevant archaeological sites.

ancient Babylon
Ancient Babylon

🕌 Iraqi culture, language and religion

Iraqis are proud Arabs, something you are likely to notice throughout your travels in Iraq.

They comprise 75% of the total Iraqi population, the rest being Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandaeans, Shabaks, and other minority groups.

It’s an ethnically diverse country but these figures might have changed in recent years, especially those of Yazidis, Mandaeans and Turkmens, whose numbers have drastically decreased due to violence unleashed against them.

how to get to Iraq
A man from Mosul cooking kubba

Getting to know local Iraqis

Before traveling to Iraq, I expected Iraqis to be very generous, similar to their Arab neighbors, but what surprised me the most is that they could be perfectly equal to Pakistanis, Afghans or Iranians – you know, the most hospitable countries in the world – unprecedented hospitality in the Middle East.

Topics aside, making friends in Iraq is particularly easy, and a lot of fun.

Local Iraqis will always be super happy to hang out with you, to show you around, something truly appreciated in a country where chances to meet other travelers are scarce.

They can, however, be over-protective sometimes, and will always want to pay for all your meals and buy you souvenirs. This made me feel awkward but that’s their culture, you are their guest and, although you should always attempt to pay for your own food, just go with their flow.

In Nasiriya with some local friends

Language spoken in Iraq

Arabic is the common language throughout Iraq, understood by pretty much everybody, except for a large portion of Kurds.

English is relatively commonly spoken among highly educated people but not the rest of Iraqis, especially at checkpoints, so learning some Arabic words can prove very useful.

Religion in Iraq

More than 90% of Iraqis are Muslim, divided into Shia and Sunni Muslims by ≈ 50%, depending on the report.

This extreme division dictates Iraq’s everyday politics and is one of the reasons why religious sectarianism flourishes.

There is a large proportion of Christians too, around 7% according to some reports, mostly living in Baghdad, Mosul, and Erbil.

traveling to Iraq
A destroyed church in Mosul, or what’s left from it

Close to Mosul, there is a city named Bakhdida, home to 300,000 people, 90% of whom are Christian, the largest Christian city in Iraq and perhaps in the whole Middle East.

Pope Francis visited it in March 2021, where he said Mass in a recently restored Catholic church that had been burnt down by ISIS.

Bakhdida Iraq
A priest from the Catholic church in Bakhdida

🍲 Cuisine in Iraq

Before traveling to Iraq proper, I had spent two weeks in Kurdistan running two expeditions, eating nearly the same thing every single day.

In Iraq proper, where I also traveled for two weeks, I thought I’d be eating the same dishes again, but I was wrong.

While it’s true that shawarma, falafel, and grilled kebabs abound everywhere, being their staple foods, there are many must-try, elaborate dishes defining Iraq’s rich, complex history.

In the north, I found the food to be more sophisticated, more varied, probably because of their proximity to Syria and also because the land is more fertile.

The classic Syrian foul for example, which is like hummus but made of beans, could be found everywhere in Mosul.

In the south, I ate mandi on a few occasions, consisting of rice with meat on top, and the national dish in Yemen, but also in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Alcohol in Iraq
You would be surprised that liquor shops in Iraq abound, especially in Baghdad and Mosul, where you find the largest Christian populations. Drinking in the street is technically not allowed in Federal Iraq, but you can do it in your hotel and in Baghdad there are many Western-style bars. Kurdistan on the other hand, is way more permissive than Federal Iraq, with far more liquor shops.

Anyways, some more must-try dishes when you visit Iraq are:

Kubba – Consisting of a couscous paste filled with meat. It comes in plenty of different sizes and shapes, depending on the region in Iraq. I was always down for kubba 🙂

Iraqi food
Kubba 🙂

Masgouf – An old Mesopotamian dish consisting of a huge fish from either the Tigris or Euphrates, which they grill for hours sometimes.

Iraqi cuisine
Masgouf 🙂

Kahi with Geymar – The national breakfast, consisting of a sweet pastry with honey or syrup, covered with a creamy, thick white cream made from buffalo milk. Amazing.

Kahi with Geymar
Local breakfast

Gus – Similar to shawarma but eaten with broth and floating pieces of bread. Typical from Mosul.

Best food in Iraq
Gus

⛅ When is the best time to visit Iraq

Read: Places to visit in Syria

Best season to travel to Federal Iraq

From mid-October until March, when the temperature is pleasant.

You should know, however, that in winter, especially from December until January, the northern part (Mosul and surroundings) can get pretty cold (0ºC).

The south is warmer but it can also get chilly at night so, if you are traveling in Iraq during winter time, do bring some warm clothes.

Worst season to travel to Federal Iraq

Summer, late spring, early autumn.

During the warmer months, all Iraq can be too hot for traveling so, unless you can stand extreme heat (40 to 50ºC), I don’t recommend visiting Iraq at that time of the year.

What about Kurdistan?
Kurdistan is a mountainous region, with extremely cold winters and extremely hot summers. In December-January, most of the region is covered by snow but in spring, the whole region is covered in lush green and colorful meadows, making it a visually appealing season to travel to. Autumn is a great season too, with pleasant temperatures and beautiful fall colors.
Remember to check my Kurdistan itinerary

how to travel to Iraq
It gets chilly in Iraq in December, even during the day, that’s why I wear a jacket

🛫 How to get to Iraq

How to travel to Iraq by air

The International Airport of Baghdad has connections with pretty much any city in the Middle East, especially Dubai, Doha, Beirut, Amman and Riyadh.

If you are coming from Europe, Istanbul is a common stopover, Pegasus having the cheapest fares.

Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, has an international airport too, with similar connections to Baghdad. Remember, however, that it’s recommended to fly into Baghdad first because the Iraqi visa can be used for Kurdistan too, while the Kurdish visa is only valid for Kurdistan.

Getting from Baghdad International Airport to the city center
At the arrival terminal, there are branded official taxis that can take you to the city for 40,000IQD.
To make it cheaper, you can take the bus (9,000IQD) that takes you out of the airport security zone. From there, you can take a taxi for 12,000-15,000IQD

How to travel to Iraq by land

Now that you can finally get a visa for Iraq at most landborders, things have improved a lot when it comes to overlanding into Iraq.

Traveling from Turkey to Iraq

You can easily cross into the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

There are direct buses from the city of Diyarbakir to Zakho, the first Kurdish town, and a visa is available on arrival.

However, remember that Turkey only connects with the Kurdistan region and that a Kurdistan visa is not valid for traveling in Iraq proper.

Traveling from Iran to Iraq

You can also cross into both Kurdistan, and the rest of Iraq, and the visa is available at both.

You cross the border on foot because direct transportation is not available.

I once crossed from Iran into Kurdistan at Bashmak-Penjwen.

Traveling from Jordan to Iraq

The border is open, and there are direct shared taxis from Amman for around $75.

Traveling from Kuwait to Iraq

The border is open as well, but transportation options might be more scarce.

Travel reports on this border are welcome in the comments section.

Traveling from Saudi Arabia to Iraq

The border is fully open, and you can get a visa on arrival.

Read my Saudi travel guide

Traveling from Syria to Iraq

The border is closed. Read my Syria travel guide

Don’t forget to check also our travel guide to Haiti.

How to get to Iraq
Ishtar Gate in Ancient Babylon

💻 Internet & connectivity in Iraq

Buying a SIM Card in Iraq

You can buy a SIM Card in a phone shop but not all of them can sell one, you will have to enter and ask.

I recommend Zain. Typically, they have 1-week or 1-month plans, the 1-week plan starting at 10,000IQD, more or less, for 3-5GB.

If you start your journey in Kurdistan, don’t get Korek, a Kurdish operator with limited service in southern Iraq.

Connecting to Wi-Fi in Iraq

Relatively good hotels do have Wi-Fi, and some cafés too, but it’s not very reliable. Do buy a SIM Card to stay connected.

Get a VPN for traveling in Iraq

You should always use a VPN when you travel, especially when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks.

Your connection will be much safer. 

Moreover, you will be able to access content that is typically censored in Iraq. 

I recommend ExpressVPN – Extremely easy to use, fast and cheap. 

If you want to learn more about VPN, check: Why you need a VPN for traveling.

💰 Money and budget: need to know

In Iraq, they use the Iraqi Dinar (IQD) and approximately:

1 USD = 1,459 IQD

Exchanging money in Iraq

Exchanging money in Iraq is fairly easy.

Exchange offices are plentiful, but one small issue I encountered is that Euros (€) are not accepted everywhere, especially outside of the big cities.

US dollars, however, can be changed all over.

This wasn’t the case in Iraqi Kurdistan, where both USD and € are widely accepted.

Withdrawing money in Iraq

ATMs are accepting both VISA and Mastercard but you need to look for them. It’s better to bring cash with you.

Also remember that except for a few fancy places, you can’t pay by credit card in Iraq, but only cash.

How much does it cost to travel in Iraq independently?

Baghdad was obviously the most expensive city in all Iraq, while Mosul was the cheapest.

Kurdistan lies somewhere in between and the rest of Iraq is pretty affordable. These are the cost of the most typical things:

Average daily backpacking budget for Iraq
Starting from $45 – $65 a day

The 10,000 dinar bill features the twisted minaret from Al Noori mosque, today destroyed due to the war

🛺 Transportation: how to travel around Iraq

Moving around Iraq by public transportation is fairly easy.

Typically, most towns and cities are connected with either local shared taxis or minibuses.

The local shared taxi is always a bit more expensive than the bus, but it’s way faster and more comfortable. I only took shared taxis and I recommend you do the same.

Shared taxis I took (with prices):

Iraq Travel tip – garage is the word used for referring to a bus or taxi station. If you wish to go to Nasiriya, just ask for the Nasiriya garage and Iraqis will point you in the right direction,

Hitchhiking in Iraq

I didn’t hitchhike but in Karbala, when asking for the Hilla garage, a random Iraqi told me: I am going in that direction, you can join me. Does that count as hitchhiking?

In any case, hitchhiking in Iraq should be easy.

Taxis to move around Baghdad

If you have a SIM Card, get your Careem App, which is the regional version of Uber.

Taxi rides within Baghdad cost anything between 3,000-7,000IQD.

Touring the Marshes by boat is one of the greatest experiences when traveling in Iraq

Checkpoints in Iraq

As mentioned, military checkpoints are the one challenge travelers need to face when backpacking in Iraq.

A few things about checkpoints in Iraq:

However, there are 2 checkpoints that can take a lot of time.

Based on my own experience, here’s an overview of each one of them:

Nasiriya checkpoint

Update 2024: A local contact/sponsor was required but this isn’t the case anymore

Nasiriya is a big city in southern Iraq and an unavoidable destination for anyone heading to Basra or the Marshes.

Its main peculiarity is that this is home to al-Hoot prison, an American-made high-security prison, today filled with ISIS fighters, and the reason why the Nasiriya checkpoint is a tricky one.

Basically, in order to enter Nasiriya, you are supposed to have a local to sponsor your visit. If you don’t have one, you will eventually make it through but there are reports from travelers who waited there for several hours.

In my case, I did have a friend in Nasiriya.

I gave his phone number to the authorities and after 45 minutes, they let me go. During those 45 minutes, all we did was have friendly chats, mainly about Spanish football. That’s it.

Samarra checkpoint

Update 2024: A local contact/sponsor was required but this isn’t the case anymore

In 2006, the city of Samarra was affected by a suicide bombing targeting Al-Askari mosque, one of the holiest shrines in the world for Shia Muslims.

Since then, the armed group and Shia militia Sarayat al Salam has taken control of Samarra, establishing checkpoints all over the city, closing all hotels, and making Samarra the worst city to live today in Iraq, according to local Iraqis.

Sarayat al Salam is a paranoid group which is suspicious of everyone, especially foreigners. If you come to Samarra by yourself, without a local Iraqi, chances are that you can be waiting at the checkpoint all day before they let you through.

I visited Samarra with two local Iraqis actually from Samarra and even with them, we had to wait 15-20 minutes at each checkpoint before they let us through.

At the Nasiriya checkpoint, on my way from Chibayish

🏨 Where to stay in Iraq: accommodation guide

There are no hostels in Iraq, but you can find all sorts of hotels.

In Baghdad, they can be expensive for what you get but, in the rest of the country, they are pretty affordable.

Here’s a list of all the hotels I stayed during my trip to Iraq:

  • Baghdad – Uruk Hotel – Around 70 USD a night. Very good location, comfortable and great Wi-Fi.
  • Karbala – Al Karama Hotel – 15,000IQD. Very basic, but OK for one night. It was close to the shrine.
  • Najaf – Qaem Hotel – 20,000IQD. Also basic but better than the one in Karbala. Amazing shower and good Wi-Fi.
  • Nasiriya – Hotel Tourist – 50,000IQD. Quite good, and comfortable.
  • Chibayish – I did a homestay, paying around $30 including dinner and breakfast.
  • Mosul – Alsfer Hotel – $15. Surprisingly good for the price.
  • Samarra – You are technically not allowed to stay in Samarra.

💃 Solo female travel in Iraq

According to female travelers I have been talking to, traveling in Iraq as a solo woman isn’t very different than in other Arab countries like Egypt or Jordan.

Occasional verbal harassment does happen, but it’s rare, and most Iraqis will be nothing but extra kind with any foreign women.

What to wear as a solo female traveler in Iraq

In cities like Baghdad, Mosul, or Nasiriya, you will see all sorts of women dressing in all different ways, some of them apparently quite liberal.

However, do always dress modestly in order to avoid unwanted attention, and bring a headscarf with you, since you may need it depending on the area you are visiting.

On the other hand, in Karbala and Najaf – two very holy cities – a full abaya covering your whole body is mandatory.

For more information, read this Iraq travel guide for females.

❗ More information for traveling in Iraq

📢 In my Travel Resources Page you can find the list of all the sites and services I use to book hotels, tours, travel insurance and more.

All guides and articles for traveling in Iraq destination

Travel guides to other countries in the Middle East

You will also like our Libya travel guide.

You will also be interested in: Where in the Middle East is safe? and The most beautiful places in the Middle East.

I hope you enjoyed this article, which I believe is the best travel guide to Iraq available on the internet. Any questions or concerns, kindly let me know in the comments section.

How to travel to Iraq

64 comments

Hi Joan! Very interesting and inspiring article, thank you for that 🙂
I’m looking to do a several month long trip in the middle east and I was wondering if it’s also possible to enter Iraq by land from Syria?

Your posts are always riveting. Can’t wait to hit the road to the Middle East again. I have had nothing but the most amazing hospitality while travelling and studying/working there over the years.

Hi Joan! Truly inspiring and eye-opening article. I have become motivated to venture into Iraq and see it from a completely different lens. How many group tours are you planning on running in Iraq this year (and for the future)? Can you recommend other group tours if yours runs out of space?

Hi Joan
Another excellent, and useful, guide. It is good to know that other parts of Iraq are now safe to visit. Having been to Kurdistan using information supplied by yourself, it is great to have this new one.

Many thanks

Mike Robinson

These guides are invaluable; thank you so much! How would you recommend visiting the Mesopotamian Marshes? Is it possible to arrange a tour of the marshes from within Federal Iraq?

I just showed up in the city of Chibayish, went to the spot where boats departed from and asked for a boat tour. It’s a touristic area because local Iraqis come here too. That’s the cheapest way of doing it. Otherwise, you can also contact an Iraqi travel agency, but that will come with an extra cost.

Did you also arrange the homestay on the spot or was that through the Iraqi travelers Cafe. Also is there direct transport between Chibayish and Baghdad?

Hello Jean
Did you visit either the arch (Taq-i-Kisr / Arch of Ctesiphon) or Agarquf / Dur-Kurigalzu from Baghdad? I am thinking they would be worth a trip – but fear that they would both be private taxi trips… unless I get my thumb-out and hitch the road! Cheers Andy

Hi:)

I’ve heard that there are buses going from Abdali Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad, Irak. But here it says that there is no way to cross the border from Jordan to Iraq by land. Does someone have a recent experience here?

Cheers,
Julia

Hi Joan

Your blog posts are great thank you! I was wondering if there is any other way to get a VOA or visa for federal Iraq crossing by land from Iran. I had wanted to cross into Iraq Kurdistan which offers a land based VOA I believe but wasn’t sure how to then get a visa to go into federal Iraq. Does anyone have any insight into this?

Thanks

Adrienne

Hi Joan

I am a more ‘mature’ woman who is desperate to visit the archeological sites mainly north of Baghdad (where I lived for 4 years), i.e. ancient part of Mosul, Khorsabad, Nimrud, Nineveh, Hatra, Ashur (anything else??). I’ve been to Erbil a couple of times and have had private visits to the Citadel and bazaar so I don’t need to repeat. What I do need is a good guide who can explain, no 5-star accommodation, just clean and as much integration as possible. But unfortunately no trekking or hitchhiking, too old! Muchas gracias de antemano.

Hi Joan, I have – as you have requested – sent you an email at the address above last week. Have you received it yet? Suzanne

Since you have covered the safety part, I’d like to ask about family visit to Iraq from Turkey and obviously via Kurdistan. Have you met ANY other foreign family (non-Arab) while you were in both Kurdistan and Federal Iraq? We are considering the option of crossing Iraq on our way home (UAE). The tricky part is that we are traveling with a 4 y.o.
Any insights on foreign travelers with kids in Iraq?
Gracias por adelantado

Hi Lora, I do know one family who overlanded from Turkey to Iraq via Kurdistan and had a great time. Irak is nowadays pretty safe, I’d definitely take my kid there, and I don’t think traveling with a kid is any different, safety-wise speaking. On the contrary, if they see you have a kid, you’ll be blessed with more hospitality.

Hi Joan,
Thanks so much for a fantastic post.
We are travelling in our campervan (covert transit van). We are currently in Turkey, we are waiting on visas for Iran, apparently for Irish people it is now mandatory to have a guide in Iran ?
We expect the visas for take another three weeks and are thinking of heading to Iraq for the three weeks, do you know what the situation is like for travelling in a campervan?
Also would we need to come back to turkey to drive into Iran or is it possible from Iraq?
Is the carnet de passage necessary for Iraq?
Thanks a million.

Hi Meabh, are you planning to visit southern Iraq or just Kurdistan part? Kurdistan definitely not a problem, many people drive there. South Iraq shouldn’t be a problem either but do have patience for all checkpoints. No problem overlanding in and out of Iraq, especially in Kurdistan part.

Hi Joan,
Really happy to read your story about iraq.
I’m Salli from indonesia. I plan to visit iraq also as solo female.
Unfortunately, Indonesian citizen can’t enter Iraq with VOA. I need to get VISA for Iraq.
So, just wondering if you have specific contact / travel agency in Iraq that can help me on visa invitation in Baghdad.

Thank you

Iraqi travellers group hasn’t approved my request to join the group for 5 days. Are there any other contacts you know of that can help me get a local contact to help me get through the checkpoints?

Hi Joan,
I am trying to figure out whether a visit to Iraq would close my door to a future visit to the USA. As I understand this might completely block my visit visa issuance by the USA state. Any insights on this? Any non-US citizen who has been to Iraq and then decided to visit the USA and was denied access?

Thank you in advance

Hi Joan,

My family (2 adults, 2 young kids) and I are spending the summer in Jordan and are thinking of visiting Iraq for a short trip, maybe a week or less. We’d love to visit Baghdad, Karbala, and Najaf. Do you think this is enough time to visit these places? Are there other places in Iraq you would recommend for a short visit?

Hello Joan !
Wonderful web site. Congratulations !

Now the question 🙂
Are you absolutely sure that I can’t get an Iraqi visa at the Kurdish/Iraq land border, but I need to fly into Baghdad ?
Is this info valid for April 2023 ?
I checked many different websites and I didn’t find such restrictions…
Could you be so kind and share with me the source of this message ?

I plan to go first to Kurdistan and then by land to Iraq so your answer is extremely important for me.

warm regards
Pawel

Hi Pawel, there’s no official information about it but you can’t certainly cross and that reason is that it’s not an actual border, so there aren’t immigration authorities who can issue you a visa.

Hi Joan,
many thanks for so fast reply.
I assumed that the border is more or less official with Iraqi authorities able to issue a visa. So in practice I can enter proper Iraq through Kurdistan, even without visa, but at the first checkpoint I will be stopped and then the consequences can be severe for me… Am I right?
Pawel

The problem is that if the Iraqi authorities ever set up a border there, it would mean that they recognize Kurdistan as an independent region or country, that’s the main issue. For them, there can’t be a border because Kurdistan is Iraq.

The solution would be for Iraqi authorities to be present along the Turkish border or at the Erbil airport but they can’t because in that area, immigration is controlled by the Kurds and Kurds give you Kurdish visas.

I don’t know what would happen if you ever sneaked in and traveled around Iraq. I did it a few years ago, just to go to Mosul, but that was before Iraq began issuing visas, so the checkpoints to Mosul didn’t really check that but apparently, now they do. In any case, I did it with a fixer who faked some NGO papers, something I don’t really recommennd.

Yes, clear.
As I see I will have to start from Baghdad.
The only problem is the price of the tickets which are expensive…
Sunny day !
Pawel

Hi John! There are several bars on Sadoun street, around Baghdad Hotel. Those are very local bars, not particularly good places and usually with very loud music, but it’s an experience to try them once. Alternatively, there’s the Hunting Club, it’s a social club where the wealthy local community hangs out, an area with several bars and restaurants but if you aren’t a member, you may need to have an invitation, but I’d still try to go anyways

Hi Joan, as a British Iraqi, I am very happy to see such a great blog (albeit with a few errors!) about my home and I am using it to convince my non-Iraqi husband to visit.
I just wanted to mention that Sarayat Alsalam (offshoot of Jaysh Al-Mehdi) were actually an invaluable group who defended and supported Iraq and Iraqis and were a major reason why ISIS were defeated. Many of them lost their lives with little recognition from the so-called government. Anyone spreading hate for them, do so for political reasons as they tend to be supporters of Iranian groups who believe Iraq belongs to the land of Persia.

Hi Sara! Thanks a lot for sharing your feedback on this 🙂
This is however turning into a political discussion that goes beyond my understanding, but something which I’d like what other Iraqi fellows think about.

Hi Joan,
Has the visa situation improved since Iraq opened for tourism 2 years ago? Can you get a visa at the Jordanian land-border? Is there still a requirement to book hotels prior to your visit and show the receipt at the border? For how long are you allowed into the country? Thanks in advance, Yuval

Thanks for the amazing blog – this is so useful.
I’d love to understand two things.
Firstly how much planning before do you recommend? I’m experienced travelling Latin America, Asia and Europe where you can arrive last minute and talk to other travellers to learn how to enjoy a place.
Secondly, as a solo traveller but no backpacker dorms in Iraq – will it be difficult to make friends? I’m trying to understand how lonely/fun it might be.

Hi Joan
We have a security question. We planned to travel to Iraq between November 17 and December 9 (Baghdad, Karbala, Najaf, Kufa, Basra, etc., all south of Baghdad). However, after what happened in Gaza, we hesitate. We know the Arab countries well, including the Middle East and Central Asia . We don’t speak Arabic, and the Persian I know isn’t likely to be useful here. As a student, I spent the revolution in Iran, we were caught up in the riots in Pakistan, we have been travelling around the world in very different conditions. Roughly, we have been travelling for over 40 years.
What are we afraid of? That some hidden ISIS cells will be reborn, etc.

What is your opinion? And thanks for the suggestion about the hotel in Baghdad. Can you suggest accommodation in Kufa and Basra?
Congratulations on your blog – it’s great.
Greetings from Krakow (Poland)
Elizabeth

Hi! Do you know how to get invitation letter for all Iraq?I from Serbia and I need tourist visa before travel.I would like to travel without tourist guide

Try to ask in Iraqi Travelers Cafe FB group. There are some well-connected people who are willing to get the approval without booking a tour but they’ll charge around $400-$500

Hello Joan, I plan to drive myself in a rental car and head to some remote/rural regions in the south and east (and eventually continue on to Mosul and Erbil). I will always ask on site whether my planned route is considered safe (and adjust it if necessary). Do you think this is sufficiently safe or would you advise against driving alone in these areas?

Hi Joan,
Thank you this page has been massively helpful in my research.
I am planning a solo backpacking/hitchiking trip to Iraq. Beginning in Baghdad through Basrah and finally ending Kuwait to fly home.

I had a few questions:

I am a British citizen, do you know if the VOA is still applicable to British citizens, as I have heard mixed things.

Will I need a letter of invitation?

Would it be wise to contact the Iraqi embassy?

In terms of security given the current situation in Gaza and West Bank, would it be too dangerous for one to attemps a solo trip through Iraq?

Hey Finnian! VOA is totally available, and no LOI is needed for UK passports when traveling to Iraq. You don’t need to contact the embassy either. We are currently running many group expeditions into Iraq. Actually, we have one group there as we speak, life there is going on as usual! Have a safe trip to Iraq!

Hello! This is such an interesting guide and I’m really interested in visiting Iraq. I am a UK citizen and I live in Riyadh and I’m wondering if you know whether it’s possible to take a Saudi car over the border for a road trip?

We travelled to Iraq – Feferal and Kurdistan November 2023.

Travelled with a British Passport.

Even though we were told that the visa was $80 (visa on arrival) we were charged $85. We were independent travellers.

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