Iraq Travel Guide

DestinationsIraq
 

A complete travel guide to Federal Iraq

Everything you need to know about visiting Iraq can be found here. This travel guide is primarily intended for solo backpackers or backpackers, but it will also be useful if you are travelling with a tour operator or local guide. Find all the essential points to know before visiting Federal Iraq:
 

Places to visit – when to go – where to sleep – transport – checkpoints (security checkpoints) – formalities – visas – budget – SIM card and internet – and the essential things to remember about tourism in the country, not forgetting safety.

 
Recent informations

You should be aware that the little information that circulates on the web about travel conditions for foreign visitors to Iraq is often out of date, as it changes rapidly. You can rely on Spirit Travelers information as it is regularly updated with the help of our community and local contacts on the ground.
 

 

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Discover Iraq

Iraq is a Middle Eastern destination situated between Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran. The country is divided into two distinct parts:
 

1. Federal Iraq
2. Iraqi Kurdistan [see the guide]

 
1. Federal Iraq

Federal Iraq accounts for almost 80% of the territory (some provinces may be disputed with Kurdistan) and its capital is Baghdad. The population is Arab and the environment is desert. It is here that some of the most important archaeological sites in Mesopotamia, and indeed the whole world, are to be found. The country is also home to a significant number of Islamic holy sites. This travel guide is devoted exclusively to this part of Iraq.
 

2. Iraqi Kurdistan

Kurdistan is an autonomous region recognised by Iraq. It is located in the north of the country and is inhabited by the Kurdish people, whose culture is very different from that of the Arabs. Iraqi Kurdistan is mountainous and accounts for around 20% of Iraq’s surface area; its capital is Erbil. Mostly Muslim, it is also home to many religious minorities. Although completely different, Kurdistan sometimes reminds me of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
 

Karbala Travel Guide
© Spirit Travelers / Karbala, a holy city of Shia Islam

 

 

Languages and religions in Iraq

Travelling to Iraq in 2024

What a blessing to finally have the opportunity to visit this destination, which was cut off from the world for many decades due to the conflicts that completely isolated the country from the rest of the world, and naturally from tourism.
 

Iraq Travel Guide
© Spirit Travelers / Iraq Travel Guide

 

1. Can you travel to Iraq?

Many travellers remain resistant to the idea of travelling to Iraq today, as the images relayed by the media over a prolonged period are still vivid and well anchored in people’s minds. Nevertheless, you should be aware that the situation in Iraq has changed a great deal and that it is constantly moving upwards, and that, despite the presence of ongoing conflicts (most of which are well localised) and risks (yes, they do exist and to say otherwise would be a lie), it is still possible to visit the country, with certain precautions, vigilance and by staying informed about the situation. One of the best sources of information is surely the local population.
 

2. About the tourism in Iraq in 2024

Tourism is opening up more and more in Iraq, and there are more and more international travellers, although their numbers are still extremely low. What’s more, formalities and access to Iraqi territory have greatly improved, particularly when it comes to obtaining tourist visas.

Similarly, checkpoints are much easier to get through than when tourism opened in 2021, when the presence of a guide or knowledge of local contacts was strongly recommended or even compulsory in some places. Most cities and major sites can now be visited independently, i.e. on your own and without a guide, but don’t expect to get off the beaten track so easily.


 

Triggering tourism in Iraq

In March 2021, Pope Francis travelled to Iraq for a historic visit to Bakhdida (Qaraqosh), the country’s largest Christian city. This event was supposed to have been organised by his predecessors, but never came to fruition until he himself took charge of the visit.

The Iraqi government decided to make it easier for international visitors to obtain tourist visas in the wake of the visit, allowing the most adventurous and curious travellers to visit this country in the shadow of the most popular destinations. This date also coincides with the definitive withdrawal of US army troops from Iraq by Joe Biden.


 

3. Understanding Iraq before you go

It is important, and even essential, to be aware of recent events in Iraq in order to understand its current situation and the context in which you are travelling. Here is a chronology of major events over the last four decades:
 

1980 – 1988Iran/Iraq War
1988Kurdish genocide under Saddam Hussein reign
1990Invasion of Kuwait
1990 – 1991Gulf War
1991Shiite and Kurdish uprising against Saddam’s regime
1995 – 1996Kurdistan civil war
1998Bombing of Iraq by the UK and the USA
1999Shiite uprising
2003 – 2011Invasion of the United States
2013 – 2017Invasion of the Islamic State (ISIS)
2017 to dateInsurgency by the Islamic State (ISIS) and conflicts caused by religious sectarianism

 

Why visit Iraq?

1. Cradle of civilisation

Iraq is a country that has just emerged from several decades of war and conflict, but it is so important to lift this obscure veil and shed light on this core of history’s great civilisations, in which ours probably have some of their roots. To this day, Iraq could be the place where humanity first settled and developed.

While Ethiopia is known as the cradle of humanity with the oldest traces of hominids, present-day Iraq could be the cradle of civilisations. Indeed, it is in these lands, and more generally in the Sumer region (Sumerian people), that the earliest traces of agriculture have been recorded (and more widely in the Fertile Crescent), as well as certain forms of mathematics, writing, trade and the first metropolises in history.

 

2. A destination off the beaten track, rich in discoveries

In view of the above, Iraq remains a largely off-the-beaten-track destination, but one with enormous tourist potential. Visitors come mainly to discover the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and what is presumed to be the Tower of Babel – the Ziggurat of Ur – the historic fortress of Al-Ukhaidir and many other archaeological sites, not forgetting the historic city of Mosul. A number of important Islamic holy sites are also highly sought-after, including Najaf, Samarra, Karbala and Kufa.
 

3. A hospitable people

Iraq, with its sulphurous and even hostile reputation, remains a country with a hospitable people, just like its many neighbours in the Middle East, except that its very recent opening up to international tourism has changed things somewhat. Indeed, the Iraqis are so happy to see foreign visitors back in their country that they will let you know in many ways.
 

4. A major pilgrimage destination

Iraq is an important pilgrimage destination for Muslims, as 6 of the 12 Imams of Shiite Islam are buried in the country: two in Baghdad, two in Samarra, one in Najaf and one in Karbala, while the others are in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iraq is also the birthplace of Abraham (Ur) – the location of the Garden of Eden according to the Bible (Mesopotamian marshes) – the place where Noah built his ark according to Shiite beliefs (Kufa) and also the site of the tomb of the prophet Ezekiel (Al-Kifil).
 

The next time you’re asked why you decided to visit a country “like that” with a bemused look on your face that seems to say you’re probably crazy, here are a few solid arguments that might make your choice, which is to travel to Iraq, understandable. However, this is not the case for all travellers, since a disappointing proportion of them decide to visit the country just to be able to say “I’ve been to Iraq”, and boast about having set foot in a so-called “dangerous” country (we’ll come back to this point later), without any real deeper motivation. In fact, I’ve seen this for myself from the feedback I’ve had when sharing on social networks. Fortunately, they’re not in the majority. Visiting Iraq is an opportunity you can seize today, don’t waste it and make the most of it!

 
 

Watch my trip in Iraq

Follow me on Instagram to see all the stages of my itinerary in Iraq through my highlight stories.
 
📷 Follow on Instagram
 

 

Visa and entry conditions in Iraq

 

1. Federal Iraq visa

If you are planning to visit Federal Iraq + Iraqi Kurdistan, you can make do with an Iraqi visa. This is valid throughout the country and allows you to travel between the two regions as you wish. You can obtain your visa at an embassy or on arrival.
 
You can obtain a tourist visa for Iraq on arrival in these places:

  • Jordan’s land border
  • Kuwait’s land border
  • Iran’s land border
  • Baghdad Airport
  • Bassorah (Basra) Airport
  • Najaf Airport
     
     

Nationalities eligible for visa on arrival (VOA):

 

Price and duration of tourist visa:

  • 2 months (60 days) validity
  • 80 (USD) or €80 (I checked on the spot). Bring a bit more cash as the price of the visa can fluctuate. It keeps going up for several months at a time. You cannot pay by credit card.
     

 

How to get a tourist visa for Iraq
© Spirit Travelers / How to obtain a tourist visa for Iraq

 

2. Iraqi Kurdistan visa

Visa procedures are different from those in federal Iraq. French, Canadians, Belgians, Luxembourgers and Swiss can obtain a 30-day visa for $60 on arrival. This visa does not allow you to leave Kurdistan and you will not be able to obtain a visa for Iraq at the land border. You will have to fly into one of the 3 airports mentioned above.

If, however, you wish to stay longer in the country, you should know that your visa is renewable at the embassy in Erbil. These same nationalities have been able to obtain an e-visa since 1 March 2023 via the Kurdish government’s official website.

🔎 Apply here
 
 
There are only two places where you can obtain a Kurdish visa on arrival:

  • Turkey/Iraqi Kurdistan border
  • Erbil International Airport
     
     

Price and duration of tourist visa:

  • 1 month (30 days) validity
  • $60 (USD): allow a little more cash as the price can fluctuate.
     

 

 
Don’t forget to take out insurance before travelling to Iraq

Chapka offers ultra-complete coverage of your trip. Spirit Travelers readers will receive a 5% discount via this link:
 

 

 

COVID-19

Not required

All restrictions were lifted in 2023, which means that you no longer need to present a certificate of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative RT-PCR test, or even undergo quarantine on arrival.

 

Exit visa

Not required

“Check out with residence directorate within fifteen days”

When Iraq began to open up to international tourism, an exit visa was required for all stays of more than 10 days. You then had to apply to the Ministry of the Interior. This was extended to 15 days, but obviously no one at immigration cares.

 

HIV test

Not required

The Iraqi authorities used to require you to present a negative HIV test, but it is not anymore the case.

 

 

Crossing the Kurdistan-Iraq border

You can visit Kurdistan from Federal Iraq by land or air without any additional formalities. However, you should be aware that crossing the border in the other direction is no longer possible as Federal Iraq no longer issues tourist visas there, which means you will have to fly from Erbil. So if you’re planning to visit the country in its entirety, I suggest you start your visit in Federal Iraq.

 

Can you travel to Iraq with an Israeli stamp?

Your entry into Iraq is very likely to be refused if your passport has an Israeli stamp, as well as any other proof or suspicion of a previous visit to Israel in your personal belongings. When I first came to Kurdistan, obtaining a visa was a little difficult because for some reason immigration thought I was Jewish, which is completely untrue but was finally resolved after an interview.

If you got your stamp on a sheet of paper but left Israel by road to go to Jordan, Lebanon or Egypt, immigration will be aware of this via the name of the border post on the stamp concerned.

 

The Ishtar Gate in Babylone, Iraq
© Spirit Travelers / Iraq Travel Guide

 

Travel insurance for Iraq

Insure your trip to Iraq

There are a thousand and one reasons to have a problem abroad. Taking out insurance is a must when travelling in Iraq. Chapka’s reputation in the travel sector is well established.
 

Spirit Travelers readers benefit from a 5% discount for trips of less than 3 months (holiday package).
 

 

 

 

Where to stay in Hillah, Babylon
© Spirit Travelers / A street in Hillah, near Babylon

 

Places to visit in Iraq

Here is a selection of activities, things to do and places not to be missed in Iraq:

 

Babylon

Dating back more than 2,300 years BC, ancient Babylon was once the most important city in Mesopotamia. The ruins of this archaeological site are one of the main reasons to visit Iraq. Don’t miss the famous Gate of Ishtar (goddess of love and war), the palaces, the temples and the ziggurat of Etemenanki, dedicated to the god Marduk, which is also the supposed site of the mythical Tower of Babel.

📍 Location

 

Karbala

Karbala is a place of pilgrimage for Shia Muslims. It is home to the shrine of Imam Hussain, who was killed at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD.

📍 Location

 

Samarra

An exceptional place to visit in Iraq! Samarra was one of the largest cities in Mesopotamia. Nearly two centuries after the birth of Islam, Samarra was converted and became the capital of the Muslim world, governed by the Abbasid Empire, which ruled a territory stretching from Tunisia to Afghanistan. Samarra is appreciated for its exceptional minaret and its unique spiral architecture. The city is also home to the shrines of two important imams.

📍 Location

 

Mosul

Mosul is a destination steeped in history. From the 8th century onwards, the city was one of the most important in Mesopotamia. The surrounding area is known for its many co-existing communities, mainly Jewish, Christian and Muslim, as well as other minorities. The Yezidi people are a case in point. Today, this diversity has been greatly reduced. Unfortunately, Mosul has recently been the scene of an atrocious war under ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) for more than three years, in which religious and ethnic minorities have been martyred or decimated and their sites desecrated and destroyed.

Mosul is a very important place of cultural interest, but visiting this city also means seeing heavy images of a city torn apart by war. Rest assured, the city has been largely renovated, but there are still many districts under the rubble since the city was only liberated in 2017, which is still relatively recent.

📍 Location

 

Najaf

Najaf (also written Nadjaf) is one of the holiest places in Shia Islam. It is the burial place of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, making the city an important place of pilgrimage. It is also the site of Wadi Al Salaam, the world’s largest cemetery.

📍 Location

 

Al-Ukhaidir Fortress

Al-Ukhaidir is one of Iraq’s most important historic sites. The fort was built in the 8th century AD under the Abbasid Caliphate. The site is in a very good state of conservation.

📍 Localisation

 

Mesopotamian marshes

Located in the south of the country, the marshes surrounded by an arid environment attract many visitors. Fed by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, this area is where the Garden of Eden was located according to the Bible. The marshes can also be visited to the south of Nasiriyah, an exotic place with a unique culture.

📍 Location

 

Taq-e Kasra

Taq Kasra is an ancient monument not to be missed if you’re travelling near Baghdad, which is just 35 km away. These ruins are the only survivors of a large Sassanid Persian city that once stood here.

📍 Location

 

Ziggurat of Ur

A ziggurat is a pyramid-shaped religious building typical of Mesopotamia. They are all found in modern-day Iraq and Iran. Of Sumerian origin, the ziggurat at Ur is the best preserved of all. You can visit it near Nasiriya.

📍 Location

 

Kufa

Visit Kufa and its great mosque, the founding capital of the Abbasid Empire. It is a place full of myths and mysteries. Legend has it that Adam was buried here. It is also the place where Noah built his ark, according to Shiite beliefs.

📍 Location

 

Niniveh

Situated at the gateway to Kurdistan and on the outskirts of Mosul, Nineveh is one of Iraq’s most fabulous regions, being one of the oldest cities in Mesopotamia.

📍 Location

 

Discover more places

The list of places to discover in Iraq is endless. There are some 25 other ziggurats in Iraq, including Dur-Kurigalzu, Borsippa and Nimrud, to name but the best-known. Other notable archaeological sites to visit in Iraq include the caves of Al-Tar near Karbala, Uruk, Kish and Tell Girsu. But there are also historic sites of great importance, such as the tomb of the prophet Ezekiel at Al-Kifil, the Abbasid palace in Baghdad, Sinjar, which is the most important home of the Yezidis, a people now scattered in many diasporas, and many others. Take a look at the map I’ve created to discover all these places:

🔎 See all places

 

Solo travel in Iraq
© Spirit Travelers / How to travel to Iraq

 

 

10-day Iraq itinerary

I spent over 45 days in total in the country (including Kurdistan), but I know that most travellers tend to stay for shorter periods and visit one place after another, stopping only at the main places of interest. If this is the case for you, I’ve put together a simple itinerary that includes the historic sites and major tourist towns to visit in Federal Iraq in 10 days, plus a stopover in Kurdistan.

🔎 How to visit Iraq in 10 days

 

10-day itinerary in Iraq
© Spirit Travelers / How to travel to Iraq in a 10-day itinerary

 

Baghdad informations

 
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq. It is here that the majority of travellers land before exploring the rest of the country.
 

Things to do in Baghdad
© Spirit Travelers / Baghdad Travel Guide

 

Is Baghdad a safe city to visit?

Baghdad can be visited independently, but bear in mind that the situation remains volatile and the city is sometimes the victim of random attacks. Attacks are not uncommon and can occur anywhere at any time, even in the most secure areas, as was the case recently in the “Green Zone“, threatened by rocket fire. There was also the recent deadly incident in 2021, when a suicide bomber attacked a market in the middle of the capital.

Baghdad is generally easy to visit, but these factors must be taken into account. Make sure you remain vigilant during your stay and steer clear of any gatherings or demonstrations, as you would anywhere else in Iraq.

 

The best things to do in Baghdad
© Spirit Travelers / Discovering and exploring the city of Baghdad

 

Places to visit in Baghdad

  • Iraqi National Museum
    It’s a must-see in the capital, similar to the Cairo Museum in Egypt, except that it was heavily looted during the American invasion.
    📍 Location
     
     
  • Martyrs’ Monument
    A magnificent monument emblematic of the Iraqi capital. It was erected to commemorate the fallen and the atrocities of the war with Iran.
    📍 Location
     
     
  • Al-Rashid Quarter
    Al-Rashid is a historic and lively district of the capital where you will find some beautiful monuments.
    📍 Location
     
     
  • Al-Mutanabbi Street
    Like Al-Rashid, Al-Mutanabbi Street is historic and well worth a visit. In fact, it’s certainly one of Baghdad’s must-see places, where the architecture, monuments and old bookshops will delight your retinas. A famous century-old café called “Shabandar” can be found in this district. Almost all tourists stop here.
    📍 Location
     
     
  • Al-Mustansiriya Madrasa
    Al-Mustansiriya Madrasa is a must-see monument in Baghdad. The Madrasa is an ancient Islamic university dating back more than 8 centuries, built by the Abbasids and one of the oldest in the world.
    📍 Location
     
     
  • SEE MORE
    Discover all the places to see in and around Baghdad, things to do, and everything you need to know about visiting the capital in this travel guide:
    🔎 Baghdad Travel Guide
     

 

When to visit Iraq

Federal Iraq is an arid desert region, with a climate similar to most other countries in the Middle East. Winter temperatures don’t drop as much as those in Kurdistan, but they can be very hot in summer.
 

Weather and climate in Iraq

March and November are ideal months to travel to Iraq. Temperatures are mild, up to 24°C during the day and 14°C at night.

April and October are perfect to travel to Iraq. Temperatures are warm and pleasant, reaching around 33°C during the day and dropping to around 19°C at night.
 

December, January and February are pleasant but cooler, with temperatures of up to 19°C during the day and 7°C at night.

The months of May are hot but bearable: from 24°C to 35°C.
 

June, July, August and September are very hot months. Temperatures fluctuate between 41 and 45°C during the day and rarely fall below 28°C at night, which makes it difficult to visit the country, which is slowed down by this heat.

 

 

Is it easy to travel in Iraq?

Experienced travellers

If you’re already used to solo trips to many of the less touristy countries in the Middle East, this destination shouldn’t be complicated for you, or even fairly easy, although that doesn’t take anything away from the various difficulties that can be encountered.

 

Federal Iraq Travel Guide
© Spirit Travelers / Federal Iraq Travel Guide

 

Inexperienced travellers

Travelling to Iraq without prior experience of other Middle Eastern countries is not recommended. On the one hand, because the tourist infrastructure is virtually non-existent (let’s not forget that tourism only started in 2021), and on the other because of the numerous military controls on the roads, as well as the situation, which remains highly volatile throughout the country.

There are a number of parameters and factors that can hinder your ability to travel and visit Iraq, which requires a first experience abroad. Above all, you should take a cultural bath elsewhere in the Middle East and familiarise yourself with this environment before embarking on an exploration of Iraq. Any other sensible traveller who has visited the country will tell you the same thing.

Jordan and Egypt could be a good starting point, as they are both very popular tourist destinations and are predominantly Muslim. Why not visit Iran afterwards, which is undoubtedly an intermediary between these two ‘levels’.

🔎 Things to know before travelling to Iran
🔎 Things to avoid in Iran (don’t do it!)

 

Spirit Travelers Iraq
© Spirit Travelers / Visit Federal Iraq

 

Safety in Iraq

Is Iraq safe to travel?

Iraq remained one of the most dangerous countries in the world for a long time. Water has flowed under the bridge and the situation has improved significantly in recent years. Travelling in Iraq is now possible, even for solo backpackers. However, proclaiming that conditions are safe and optimal for visiting the country is not yet the order of the day, although security has taken a giant step forward.

Volatile situation

This security is relative, as Iraq remains a country of conflict and the situation can deteriorate rapidly. That’s why it’s important to keep abreast of current events in the places you visit. Conflicts generally occur locally, but certain places can always be the target of unexpected attacks.

 

Travel Safety Iraq
© Spirit Travelers / Is Iraq a safe place to travel?

 

Areas to avoid

As far as Federal Iraq is concerned, you should avoid travelling close to the borders, particularly the border with Syria because of the terrorist groups retreating there, but also the border shared with Kurdistan. Clashes in these regions are frequent, particularly in the province of Kirkuk, which is disputed between Federal Iraq and Kurdistan.

Avoid travelling off the beaten track and prefer crowded areas for your general safety, but also because the presence of landmines is still high in the territory. Also avoid independent travel in the provinces of Nineveh and the remote areas of Al-Anbar, as well as the North-West where the terrorist threat is higher. In fact, it’s best to stick to historic sites and places of pilgrimage, of which there are plenty in Iraq.

 

Travelling to Iraq as a single woman

A traveller is currently visiting Iraq solo for a total of 2 months. Her experiences and advice will soon be available here!

 

Checkpoints

Military checkpoint in Iraq
Photo credit: Dvidshub.net / Checkpoints between towns are part of the Iraqi landscape

 

Checkpoints and roadblocks exist throughout Iraq, at the entrances to most towns. They are controlled by the Iraqi army but can sometimes be controlled by different militias, Shiite or Christian depending on the location, for example.

Some checks can be lengthy, with officers checking your passport, your visa and what you are doing in Iraq. It’s usually a matter of waiting a few minutes. You won’t be affected much if your skin tone is slightly tanned, which was my case most of the time, but expect to have to get out of the vehicle a lot if your appearance is very different from that of an Arab, for example if you are very fair-skinned. Some foreign travellers wear a veil to blend in.
 

Off the beaten track

Outside the tourist circuits and traditional itineraries, checks can be lengthy (even very lengthy), as the military do not really know what to do with you in view of the orders concerning foreign visitors. In such cases, having a local contact in Iraq to put you in touch with the officers can be very useful and save you a lot of time.
 

Nasiriyah

There are numerous security checks around the town of Nasiriyah, which is the place where you are most likely to be checked due to the presence of Iraq’s largest prison, Al-Hoot, which is highly secure. It contains many members and supporters of the Islamic State. As a result, checks may last longer in this area.

 

How to get arround in Iraq

The most common form of transport in Iraq is the shared taxi. There are bus stations in every town, where vehicles leave for several destinations. These can be found in stations called “garages”. Buses are less common in Iraq for travelling between two distant towns. On the other hand, there are many minibuses for travelling within towns or in the immediate vicinity. These vehicles are usually stopped at the roadside.

You can also travel by air in Iraq, between Erbil, Najaf, Baghdad and Basra.

🔎 Find a cheap flight here
 

Travel to Iraq
© Spirit Travelers / Travel to Iraq

 

Location of bus stations in Iraq

Here you can find the location of all the stations in the main places and cities of Iraq:

Baghdad

📍 Garage Alawi (Northern cities)
📍 Garage Al-Nahdha (Southern cities)
 

Najaf

📍 Garage Baghdad (Northern cities)
📍 Garage Al-Najaf (Southern cities)
 

Mosul

📍 Garage Al-Shemal (Northern cities)
📍 Garage Baghdad (Southern cities)
 

Karbala

📍 Garage Al-Mowahad (All directions)
📍 Garage Hillah (to Babylon)
 

Tikrit

📍 Garage location
 

Nasiriya

📍 Garage location
 

Basra

📍 Garage location
 

Hillah (Babylon)

📍 Garage location
 

Samarra

📍 Garage location

 

Hitchhiking in Iraq

My experience

Arround Hillah and Najaf

I did a bit of hitchhiking around Hillah and Najaf and it was very easy. As public transport is well developed in Iraq, many minibuses stopped when I stopped, but so did local people.
 

Between Samarra and Mosul

I also hitchhiked between Samarra and Mosul. I spent a lot of time being moved between checkpoints by militiamen and soldiers who were waiting for their colleagues to transfer me or get me into the vehicles of “safe” local people. It was an unusual and amusing experience, but looking back, I can’t help thinking that the military have other priorities, even if they obviously appreciated my presence at the checkpoints. In any case, I’d already started so I couldn’t turn back.

In conclusion, it is possible to hitchhike in Iraq, but I wouldn’t advise travelling exclusively this way. For the experience, why not.

🔎 Hitchhiking Ultimate Guide

 

Find a cheap flight to Iraq

 

Money & budget in Iraq

Iraq isn’t the cheapest destination you’ll find in the Middle East, but it’s still affordable for most types of traveller, even on a budget. If, like me, you’re travelling independently, accommodation costs will be your main expense to factor into your budget.

Entrance fees to tourist sites are also part of the budget. The major sites all cost 25,000 IQD (Ziggurat of Ur, museums, Abbasid and Baghdad palaces, Malwiya minaret, Babylon, Hatra, etc).

Food and public transport remain cheap.

How to visit Samarra in Iraq
© Spirit Travelers / How to visit Iraq

 

Withdraw money

There aren’t many ATMs in Iraq, so I’d advise you to withdraw large amounts of money when you’re in a large city like Baghdad, Najaf or Mosul, for example, as ATMs may not be available in smaller towns. However, if you are careful about your spending, I would strongly advise you not to withdraw money in Iraq but to exchange it locally, as you will save a lot of money.

 

$1 = 1 300 IQD

 

Exchange currency

The conversion fees and the fees of the bank where you withdraw in Iraq are substantial (generally between 5,000 and 10,000 IQD per withdrawal), not to mention the other fees that your own bank charges on a transaction [Read this article to avoid these fees worldwide].
 

Exemple:

You decide to withdraw €100 in Iraq. At the official rate, you get back 130,000 IQD minus all the fees, which is roughly ≈ 117,000 IQD.

If you exchange €100 on the street (on the black market), you can get a better rate, usually around IQD 1,600 per euro (or USD dollar). You would therefore get back IQD 160,000, a difference of IQD 43,000!

On €500, you’ll save at least IQD 170,000 (around €130 at the official rate), a clear difference.
 

(Habibi) Come to Iraq with euros, or preferably USD

The moneychangers are usually to be found in the shopping streets and around the souks and bazaars, easily spotted with their windows full of money.

 

Daily expenses for a trip to Iraq

 

Where to stay in Federal Iraq

The hotel trade is well developed in the major cities, but the number of options will be considerably limited outside them.
 

Where to stay in Baghdad
© Spirit Travelers / A cheap single room at 30,000 IQD (≈$22), breakfast included

 

1. Budget hotels cost an average of 30,000 IQD. They are always very clean and often spacious. They can sometimes be negotiated (see previous section).

2. There are no guesthouse or kind of dormitory in Iraq. Tourism is so underdeveloped that these options are not available. You can still find some cheap hotels in Baghdad, Mosul, Karbala and Nasiriya for less than 20,000 IQD if you look hard enough. Note that cheap accommodation is absent from platforms such as Booking.com, Agoda and so on. Sometimes they’re not even listed on Google Maps and you’ll have to go to areas where there’s a good concentration of hotels to find them

3. More comfortable hotels are plentiful and easy to find in the major cities, from 70,000 IQD.

⚠️ Note: It is impossible to find accommodation in Samarra.

 

Wild camping in Iraq

A risky, even dangerous activity, and in any case too difficult to carry out because of the many constraints involved. If you want to camp in Iraq, I would advise you to do so in Kurdistan, which is much better suited to bivouacs and hiking.

 

Practical advices and tips for travelling to Federal Iraq

 

Advices and tips

 

Taq Kasra in Madain, a place to visit near Baghdad
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Tips for travelling to Iraq

 

Things no to do during a trip to Iraq

 

 

SIM card and Internet

The best telephone operator in Iraq is Asia Cell, who still have the best coverage and connectivity throughout the country by far, including Kurdistan. I strongly advise you to buy your SIM card directly when you arrive at Baghdad, Najaf or Basra international airport, as there are very few people there and it’s very quick. It may take a little longer in the city. The second best telephone operator in Iraq is Zain.
 

Asia Cell cost – Baghdad Airport

20 Go : $USD 20*
30 Go : $USD 30*
40 Go : $USD 40*
50 Go : $USD 50*

* Payable in USD and cash only
* The SIM card is included in the price

 

Travel to Iraqi Kurdistan

Travelling to Kurdistan will give you a distinctly different experience from federal Iraq. Indeed, the culture, history, landscapes and environment have nothing in common, even if some features may be slightly similar between the two territories. In practical terms, moving from one part to the other is almost like changing countries.
 

Iraqi Kurdistan Travel Guide
© Spirit Travelers / Travel to Iraqi Kurdistan

 

 

More details and content about Federal Iraq

Don’t hesitate to use the comments space if you want to know something that isn’t in this guide. I’m sure I’ll reply later today and that’ll help me complete the article as well as helping you. You can also follow me on Instagram and watch my trip to Iraq in my top stories.

 

Also join the Iraqi Travellers Cafe group to get in touch with Iraqis and other travellers. This group has also helped me get information, and I also use it to update some of the information in this travel guide.

 

Travelling to other destinations in the Middle East

You may also like our guides to other Middle Eastern destinations:

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About the author

Picture of Tom Spirit
Tom Spirit
Hey, it's Tom! Welcolme to Spirit Travelers. I'm a nomad traveler for several years and I share my experiences by publishing content and travel guides on this blog. Find some of the most popular countries to visit but also off the beaten track destinations.

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