{{ message }}

Admin Page Edit


{{ message }}

Karbala Rayhaan
Karbala Rayhaan - dream vacation

Bab Baghdad, Main RoadKarbala

Ankawa Royal Hotel & Spa
Ankawa Royal Hotel & Spa - dream vacation

Ankawa Main Road Mar Yousif Str Darga RoundaboutErbil

Copthorne Hotel Baranan
Copthorne Hotel Baranan - dream vacation

Sarchinar Main StreetAs Sulaymaniyah

Dedeman Erbil Hotel
Dedeman Erbil Hotel - dream vacation

Erbil 60 City Setekan Nr:36 246062 Northern IraqErbil

Highcrest Hotel
Highcrest Hotel - dream vacation

Bakrajo Main Road (Opposite Majidi Mall)As Sulaymaniyah

Iraq (Arabic: العراق Al-Irāq, Kurdish: عێراق Êraq) is a republic in the Middle East. Once the site of ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilisation, the country has been in a state of flux since the 1980s. The political situation is volatile, and the country suffers from a plethora of social problems such as warfare, corruption, terrorism, and poverty.

Negative facts aside, Iraq is home to several Islamic sites such as Najaf and Karbala and this country has a lot to offer to the adventurous, thrill-seeking traveller.

Iraq is a melting pot of different cultures, with the Arabs being the largest ethnic group. Other prominent ethnic groups include Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, and Turkmens. Islam is the state religion, but the country recognises many different religions. Most Iraqis are Shia Muslims, just like their Iranian counterparts.

The Iraqis are friendly and hospitable people; in fact, you might be showered with a lot of hospitality and care, even if you unintentionally make a few cultural blunders.



  • Baghdad (بغداد) — capital of Iraq.
  • 2 Ar Rutba (الرطبة) — most isolated town in Iraq, deep in the desert.
  • Basra (البَصرة) — large port city with extremely hot climate.
  • 4 Dahuk (دهوك) — Kurdish city surrounded by mountains.
  • Erbil (Arbil) (أربيل) — capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
  • 6 Fallujah (الفلّوجة) — a city with over 200 mosques now better known for the sieges and battles fought here.
  • Karbala (كربلاء) — one of the holiest cities in Shi'a Islam. The Arbaeen pilgrimage brings millions of Muslims to the Imam Husayn Shrine here every year.
  • 8 Kirkuk (كركوك) — an important cultural capital to the Kurds, Turkmen and Iraqis.
  • 9 Mosul (موصل) — Once an important city in Iraq and containing the ancient ruins of Nineveh, now left mostly in ruins after battles with ISIL.

Other destinations

  • 1 Ashur — former capital of the Assyrian Empire and UNESCO World Heritage site, this is one of the country's few great archaeological sites that has benefited from the latest invasion—the Hussein government planned to create a dam nearby that would have flooded and utterly destroyed the site.
  • 2 Babylon (بابل) — damaged by inept reconstruction, looting, and military negligence, the ruins of ancient Babylon are still some of the most impressive in the Cradle of Civilization.
  • 3 Ctesiphon — the ancient capital of the Parthian and Sassanid Empires left us with magnificent, towering ruins, most notably of the magnificent Arch of Ctesiphon; just across the Tigris is the archaeological site of the ancient Hellenistic city of Seleucia.
  • 4 Hatra — once a UNESCO World Heritage site, this formerly well-preserved Parthian city off in the desert contained quite possibly Iraq's most magnificent ruins, which were severely damaged or destroyed by Da'esh extremists in 2015.
  • 5 Lalish — Home to the holiest temple of the Yazidis
  • 6 Nineveh (نينوى) — a 3,000 year old city and one time capital of Assyria, whose partially reconstructed ruins and archaeological site lies across the Tigris from Mosul.
  • 7 Ur (أور) — the ruins of the ancient Sumerian city, best known for its giant step pyramid, the Great Ziggurat of Ur.
  • 8 Uruk (أوروك) — an ancient Sumerian city that was once the largest in the world during its apex circa 3100 BCE, and from where Gilgamesh once ruled. (Should be about 40 km east of As Samawah)


A country with a federal democracy, Iraq has a growing population of 40 million. As a member of the Arab League, it has significantly experienced modern economic and military growth and historic instability through wars. Iraq is the home of the world's first civilizations, with a development of writing, agriculture and urbanity.


See also: Ancient Mesopotamia


Iraq is the birthplace of many of the Earth's oldest civilizations, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians. A part of the Persian Empire from the 6th century BCE, the Caliphates between the 7th and 13th centuries and the Ottoman Empire from 1534, the Treaty of Sèvres brought the area under British control in 1918. Iraq gained independence in 1932.


On 14 July 1958, the long-time Hashemite monarchy was overthrown in a coup led by Abdul Kassem that paved way to radical political reforms, including the legalisation of political parties such as the Ba'ath and the Communist Party, both key players in the coup (also called the 14 July Revolution). Following the Revolution, the Soviet Union gradually became its main arms and commercial supplier.

In February 1963, Kassem was overthrown and killed in a second coup that brought the Ba'ath Party into power. Internal divisions would follow for the next five years, until another coup on 17 July 1968 led by Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr (with Communist support) stabilised the party. Relations between the Communists and the Ba'athists ranged from mutual cooperation to violent mistrust, culminating in the purge of Communists from the army and the government by 1978, causing a temporary rift with the Soviet Union. On 16 July 1979, Bakr resigned and was succeeded by right-hand man Saddam Hussein, who carefully purged his enemies and became a dictator almost overnight.

Ba'athist Iraq

The next twenty-five years took a grinding toll on the country. Saddam Hussein's regime was notorious for its severe violation of human rights and many experts consider his regime to be among the worst of the worst in the world. Political dissent was not tolerated, freedom of speech was curtailed, and many Shia Muslims were routinely targeted and murdered by government forces, furthering the sectarian divide in the country. The harshness of Ba'athist Iraq forced many Iraqis to go into exile or flee abroad.

The Ba'athist regime was also notorious for its brutal, harsh treatment of the ethnic Kurdish minority. The Ba'athist regime forcibly deported Feyli Kurds to Iran, engaged in forced disappearances of ethnic Kurds, and ruthlessly cracked down on uprisings in Iraqi Kurdistan by responding with full-scale massacres. Perhaps the most brutal campaign ever to be organised against the ethnic Kurds is the Anfal Campaign, in which more than 200,000 Kurds were killed and tens of thousands of women and children were imprisoned and tortured. Because of these actions, many ethnic Kurds express feelings of distrust towards the Iraqi government.

When Iran became an Islamic theocracy in 1979, Saddam Hussein feared that Iran would threaten his leadership and control in a Shia-majority country, so he launched a full-scale invasion against the country in the 1980s, which would soon culminate into open warfare. To fund its military objectives, the Ba'athist regime borrowed extensively from other countries, pushing the country to near bankruptcy. Historians have documented that the Ba'athist regime extensively used chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war. The Iran-Iraq war lasted for eight years and it claimed more than 500,000 casualties. The war ended in a stalemate.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein annexed and invaded Kuwait in the 1990s, claiming that Kuwait was an integral part of Iraq. Soon after, the Gulf War began and after a month, Saddam Hussein surrendered and retreated from Kuwait. International sanctions targeted Iraq, exacerbating the country's political, social and economic problems.

Present day

In the early 2000s, the United States accused the Iraqi government of having a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program and organised a coalition of forces and invaded Iraq. Although they were successful in removing Saddam Hussein from power, much of Iraq's infrastructure was destroyed, sectarian tensions were worsened, and millions of Iraqis were forced to flee abroad. The WMDs were never found and the invasion and the handling of the aftermath of the war remain controversial.

Iraqi Kurdistan's autonomy was confirmed. While it never declared independence, it is de facto run as a separate country with its own laws, military, immigration and diplomatic missions, and where Arabic is not widely spoken. Iraq held its first post-Baath elections in 2005. Political tensions and instability continued and reached its peak in the mid-to-late 2010s when ISIS controlled large parts of Iraq. ISIS was eventually defeated and driven out of the country. Although things appear to be getting better, Iraq's security situation remains volatile.

Life for the vast majority of Iraqis has become incredibly miserable, and many have since emigrated in search of better opportunities elsewhere. Many Iraqis feel there's no hope or future left for their country, although a small portion of people feel that things will change in due time. The prospects of change seem remote at best, but hopes are high.

Some of the problems that Iraq faces today are universal throughout the Middle East. Issues include widespread corruption, lack of effective governance, sectarian and ethnic tensions, and negative influences on democracy. In the 2020s, Iraq has been trying to position itself as a hub of diplomacy in the Middle East, and hosted numerous rounds of normalization talks between arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, though the final agreement was only reached after a round of talks was hosted by China in March 2023. This success has been followed-up by Iraq playing host to still-ongoing normalization talks between Egypt and Iran.

Since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has had an informal power sharing agreement such that the prime minister is always a Shi'a Arab, the speaker of parliament is always a Sunni Arab, and the president is always a Kurd.


Iraq mainly consists of desert, but near the two major rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) are fertile alluvial plains, as the rivers carry about 60,000,000m³ (78,477,037 cu yd) of silt annually to the delta. For the early history see Ancient Mesopotamia.

The north of the country is mostly composed of mountains; the highest point being at 3,611m (11,847 ft) point, unnamed on the map opposite, but known locally as Cheekah Dar (black tent). Iraq has a small coastline measuring 58km (36 mi) along the Persian Gulf.


Most of Iraq has a hot arid climate. Summer temperatures average above 40°C (104°F) for most of the country and frequently exceed 48°C(118°F). Winter temperatures infrequently exceed 21°C (70°F) with maximums roughly 15 to 16°C (59 to 61°F) and night-time lows occasionally below freezing. Typically precipitation is low, most places receive less than 250mm (10 in) annually, with maximum rainfall during the months of November to April. Rainfall during the summer is extremely rare except in the very north of the country.


Before the large-scale murders by the "Islamic State" organization and flight from Iraq of members of non-Muslim minorities (especially Yazidis and Christians), Arabs who are 65% Shia and 35% Sunni Muslim comprised 75%-80% of the major population of Iraq. 15% of Iraq's population was comprised of Kurds (including Yazidis and Shabaks), Turkmen and Assyrians. Over around 20,000 Marsh Arabs live in southern Iraq. Indigenous Neo Aramaic speaking Assyrians, most of whom are adherents of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Syriac Orthodox Church accounted for 10% of the Christian population. It is hard to be sure what current figures would be.


  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Armed Forces Day (January 6)
  • Nowruz (March 21)
  • Baghdad Liberation Day (April 9)
  • Labor Day (May 1)
  • Republic Day (July 14)
  • Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha (variable) Islamic religious observances
  • Islamic New Year (variable) Islamic religious observance
  • Ashura (variable) Islamic religious observance
  • Independence Day (October 3)
  • Victory Day (December 10)
  • Christmas (December 25)

Get in

Entry requirements

Citizens of all European Union member states, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States may obtain a visa-on-arrival at any official point of entry. All other nationalities require a visa in advance.

For those entering the country without a visa, one can be purchased at most border crossings for USD80. Total crossing time is around 1 hour for individuals. If you intend to acquire a visa at your port of entry, be prepared for long waits, and bring plenty of documentation about who you are and what your business in Iraq is. Letters on company or government letterhead are preferred.

Obtaining a travel visa to Iraq is complicated and time consuming. You can obtain an application at the local Embassy of Iraq. However, all applications are vetted in Baghdad. Even if you do obtain a visa, you may still be refused entry into Iraq once you arrive. Visas can be acquired in advance at the Iraqi embassies in London, Paris, and Washington, D.C.

Iraqi Kurdistan has its own separate visa requirements from the rest of Iraq, meaning that a regular Iraqi visa is not valid for travel to Iraqi Kurdistan; you will need to obtain a separate Iraqi Kurdistan visa for that. Iraqi embassies and consulates cannot issue Iraqi Kurdistan visa; you will need to contact an Iraqi Kurdistan representation for that. Likewise, Iraqi Kurdistan visas are not valid for travel to the rest of Iraq.

By plane

Iraq has international airports at Baghdad (BIAP), BasraErbil, Sulaymaniyah and Najaf. For passengers transiting these airports, connecting flight tickets are usually not available, so separate tickets are needed. This means that a delayed flight can miss a connection making onward travel difficult. Be prepared to spend many hours waiting for a replacement flight. Iraqi Airways will exchange flights quite easily when there is space available.

The national airline, Iraqi Airways, operates a growing fleet of more than 30 modern jets. Their main activity are domestic flights but Iraqi Airways also offers flights to numerous international destinations. FlyBaghdad also has local and regional flights to/from BIAP. There are some other small airlines offering domestic flights.

The best way from Europe to Iraq is either with Austrian or Turkish Airlines. Austrian Airlines provides four flights per week from Vienna (VIE IATA) to BIAP. Turkish Airlines flies twice daily from Istanbul (IST IATA) to BIAP, and to BasraErbil and Sulaymaniyah.

Within the Middle East, Royal Jordanian Airlines operates two daily roundtrip flights from Amman (AMM IATA). Emirates and the low-cost carrier Flydubai from Dubai arrive on a daily basis in Baghdad and Basra.

The best connected and safest airport is the Erbil International Airport. Flights into Iraqi Kurdistan are offered by most European and Middle East carriers like Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Royal Jordanian and Etihad. Iraqi Kurdistan has seen enormous growth and investment since 2003 due to being safer than the rest of Iraq and is the business hub for the region.

Services to the city of Van, Turkey are offered by Turkish airlines from most western cities via Istanbul, from here a taxi will take you to the border for the equivalent of USD35-200 depending on your bargaining skills (Turkish drivers will only usually accept lira, euros or pounds sterling).

By train

The classic way of reaching Iraq was by the Taurus Express train from Istanbul, featured in the novel Murder on the Orient Express. However, since 2003 there have been no regular international passenger trains to Iraq and its unlikely there will be any in the near future. For travelers to the southern city of Basra, an alternative might be to travel to the nearby border city of Khorramshahr, which sees daily trains from several cities in Iran, and then continue by taxi the last few kilometers.

By car

Cars can be the most dangerous method of travel into the country. On reaching the border it is advisable to leave your taxi/rental car, for an armoured 4x4, with an armed guard if required.

From Turkey

Driving in from Turkey is the best method of entry into the Northern part of the country. This area of the country is relatively safe, at least compared to the rest of the country. Border police and locals will advise you which cities are safe to travel in (Zakho, Dohuk, Erbil, As-Sulaymaniyah), and will warn you away from specific cities (such as Mosul or Baghdad).

From Diyarbakir, Turkey, you will drive south east to Zakho, Iraq. It is possible to take a previously arranged taxi, the average cost of this taxi ride is USD150 and most of the drivers only speak Kurdish or Arabic. You will often switch taxis in Silopi about five minutes from the Iraqi border, or you will change cars about 70 km from the border and continue on from there. The taxi driver will then take care of all your paperwork at the border. This involves your driver running from building to building getting paperwork stamped and approved. You must have a photocopy of your passport for the Turkish section of the border, which they require that you leave with them (the photocopy, not your passport).

A much less expensive option is to take a bus from Diyarbakir directly to Silopi. From the Silopi otogar (bus station), it's easy to get a taxi to Zakho. A good taxi driver can handle all of the photocopying and paperwork for the Turkish side.

At this point you will finish driving across the border crossing into Iraq. Your taxi driver will then take you to the Iraqi immigration and customs section. All persons and vehicles entering Iraq must be searched for contraband by the customs officers, and their vehicles are registered and pay some sort of stamp tax, however, occasionally, searches are not conducted. Without this stamp tax, it is illegal for a non-Iraqi vehicle to purchase gas at any of the state-run gas stations all over the country. After paying any import duties to customs and receiving the vehicle stamp, the immigration officers will check your passport and stamp it if you have a visa. Additionally, at some land border crossings, your fingerprint and/or photo will be taken.

At this point, you will be at the border taxi stand, a few kilometres outside of the city of Zakho, and may need to hire another taxi to get to Zakho's city centre. For the taxi ride from the Turkish city where you changed cars to Zakho, it's about USD40. This is a safe place to meet your friends or to charter a taxi into another part of the country. Enjoy some tea while waiting.

From Jordan

For land crossings from Jordan, be prepared for a long ride. The trip through the eastern Jordanian desert is much like a moonscape. The journey from Amman to Baghdad can take anywhere from 10-15 hours. You will depart Amman between 05:00 and 10:00, and arrive at the border crossing about four hours later. The border crossing can take anywhere from an hour and a half (on a very good day) to more than five or six hours. Entering Iraq usually takes about half as much time as leaving Iraq. The Jordanian immigration and customs officers are very finicky about whom they will let in, and they will often shut their side of the border and not allow anyone to enter for unspecified reasons.

The trip from the border to Baghdad is very dangerous. The route is full of highway bandits and gangs of thieves that prey upon unprotected travellers. Travelling this route without adequate communications gear or weapons of any kind is strongly discouraged. Do not make any stops along this route, if traffic becomes stalled for any reason on the highway (other than a possible IED), then it is best to make circles until traffic flows again. Vehicles, especially those that may be occupied by westerners, are subject to attack at any time. Carry extra fuel and plenty of food.

From Kuwait

Travelling from the Kuwaiti border is just as difficult as crossing from Jordan. The Kuwaiti crossing is complicated even more by the fact that Kuwaiti immigration and customs officers are even more strict than the Jordanians and anything at all can cause them to arbitrarily block your entry or exit. Sneaking into a military convoy is not advised as your vehicle might be mistaken for a suicide attacker by the turret gunners in the convoy.

Reliable but inconspicuous transportation is a must in Iraq. It is probably best to buy a vehicle that blends in with the other cars on the road. Toyota, Hyundai and Kia, along with less familiar Eastern European and Asian brands are common. BMWs and Mercedes are also seen in Iraq but are less common, especially nice ones, which usually have the steering wheel on the right side.

From Saudi Arabia

The border crossings in Arar and al-Jumayma are both open. However, these routes pass through some of the most inhospitable parts of Iraq and strict preparations are necessary.

By bus

Bus travel is a popular choice for locals to travel between Iraq and neighboring countries, especially from Iran. However, travelling this way can be quite chaotic and involves finding timetables and arranging tickets on the ground or by phone. One exception to this is buses from Turkey into cities in Iraqi Kurdistan where sites such as Obilet offers online tickets.

There's limited regular routes from other neighboring countries, with shared minibuses being the main option instead. JETT has intermittently offered a bus service from Amman, capital of Jordan to Baghdad. Third party nationals can also gain entry into Iraq for work purposes; these buses usually depart from Kuwait.

Get around

Due to the autonomous nature of Iraqi Kurdistan, travelling between Iraqi Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq will involve border inspections as if you were travelling internationally.

  • In Kurdistan, public transport is rare although regular buses do link Zakho and Dohuk and cost about USD2. There are plans of a public bus network in Erbil, which is estimated to be launched after 2020. From Dohuk, shared taxis leave all day for Erbil and other cities. The road from Dohuk to Erbil goes south near Mosul, but does not leave Kurdish territory and is thus safe, although perhaps too close for comfort.
  • Shared taxis might be the safest way to travel in Iraqi Kurdistan, as the drivers are not interested in leaving the province either.
  • Shared taxis also may be your only method of traveling around outside Iraqi Kurdistan. If you are a foreigner, expect to be stopped at most checkpoints. Be ready to tip or pay more than the agreed upon amount for the inconvenience. The checkpoints really start to ramp up north of Tikrit.
  • The road from Mosul to Kirkuk passes by Iraqi Kurdistan. Have your Iraqi visa ready.

By car

Driving at night may be a safer alternative to daytime driving, but a few rules to follow:

  • Avoid city centres. Although most Iraqis are asleep by midnight, the few that are awake are almost certainly up to no good.
  • Watch for the military. If you are out late at night and effectively trying to blend in with the locals, you could be mistaken for a hostile/troublemaker. At checkpoints, you will also be treated as a suspect, and until they decide you are not a target, you must conduct yourself carefully.
  • If you do encounter the military, ensure your lights are on, turn on your hazards/flashers, slow or pull over to the side of the road and follow any and all instructions given. If a stop sign, green laser, or any other signal is directed at you or in your general direction it is advisable to follow it, better to err on the side of caution than get shot at.
  • For those travelling to Iraq and make friends along the way, be extremely cautious if they offer you a ride. When accepting the offer, make sure they are not leaving Iraqi Kurdistan province.

By train

Overnight trains links Baghdad with the southern city of Basra, there are both a slow train taking up to 12 hours for the full journey and an express one making the journey in 6-7 hours. There are also daily trains between Baghdad and Fallujah as well as irregular services to the holy city of Karbala, especially during religious festivals. Train travel is considered relatively safe, mainly due to the extensive security checks all passengers have to go through before boarding the train.

All trains are run by Iraqi Republic Railways. Tickets can only be bought at stations.


See also: Arabic phrasebook See also: Kurdish phrasebook

The two official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

The local vernacular is Mesopotamian Arabic, otherwise known as Iraqi Arabic. It has extensive borrowings from languages such as Aramaic, Akkadian, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, and Hindi. Know that Modern Standard Arabic is rarely spoken in everyday conversations. However, approximately 68% of Iraqis are knowledgeable in MSA, so if you wish to improve your Arabic skills, you shouldn't have any problems. You're not expected to know the local dialect, but if you make an attempt to learn a few words of the local vernacular, you will impress the locals!

Iraqi Kurdistan is one region where little to no Arabic is spoken.

Kurdish is the mother tongue of the Kurds and it is spoken mainly in Iraqi Kurdistan. Two varieties of Kurdish are spoken in Iraq: Kurmanji and Sorani. Generally speaking, the use of Kurmanji is limited to Duhok, whereas Sorani is more commonly spoken. It's worth mentioning that Kurmanji and Sorani are mutually unintelligible. Any attempt to speak Kurdish will be warmly received.

English is commonly spoken. You should not have problems getting around using only English, but the downside of speaking English is that you'll immediately be identified as an outsider and may attract unwanted attention from some undesirable people (e.g. criminals, corrupt officials).


The past 40 years of disastrous government and devastating wars has taken its toll on Iraq's travel industry. After the fall of the Saddam Hussein government, which was virulently hostile to the Shia religion, religious pilgrims, mostly from the Middle East, Iran, and Central Asia, have returned in large numbers to the holy sites of southern Iraq, especially to the spiritual home of Shia Islam in Karbala. Religious pilgrimage remains quite unsafe, but there is a greater degree of safety in numbers, and in being familiar with the Arab region. And of course, pilgrimage is a more urgent reason for travel than sightseeing!

One can only hope that this great and ancient region soon sees increased security and stability, for it makes a fascinating travel destination for anyone interested in history, be it in ancient history 4,000 years old, medieval Islamic and later Ottoman history, or the modern history of the early 21st century. The aforementioned conflicts and misgovernment have not been kind to Iraq's ruins, especially in terms of the massive rebuilding done on ancient Babylon by the Hussein government and later negligence by foreign military presence. But the pull of such ancient cities as the Babylonian capital Babylon; the ancient city of Ur, of mankind's first great civilizations, Sumeria; major Parthian cities at magnificent Hatra and the capital Ctesiphon; and the Assyrian capital of Ashur, remains great enough to overlook the damage done.

The holiest sites of Shia Islam outside of Saudi Arabia are in Iraq's southern fertile heartland. The Shia-Sunni split in Islam occurred over a dispute in the mid-seventh century C.E. as to the true successor of the Prophet Muhammad, with the Shiites supporting Ali ibn Abi Talib, who would become the first Imam, and whose Caliphate capital was located in the medieval city of Kufa. Ali's tomb is found in present day Najaf at the Imam Ali Mosque, one of Shia Islam's most holy sites. The third Imam, grandson of the Prophet, Husayn ibn Ali, is widely revered as one of Shia Islam's greatest martyrs, and the two grand mosques of Karbala, Al Abbas Mosque and Imam Husayn Shrine (which stands on his grave) are the sites of the Shiites' most important pilgrimage, to observe the Ashura, the day of mourning for Imam Husayn. Samarra is home to another one of the most important Shia mosques, Al-Askari Mosque, which serves as the tomb of Imams 'Ali al-Hadi and Hassan al-'Askari. Tragically, this mosque is badly damaged, suffering explosions in sectarian violence in 2006, destroying the dome, minarets, and clock tower. Lastly, Al-Kadhimiya Mosque in Kadhimiya is revered, as it is the burial place of the seventh and ninth Imams, Musa al-Kadhim and Muhammad at-Taqi. Also buried within this mosque are the famous historical scholars, Shaykh Mufid and Shaykh Nasir ad-Din Tusi. Iraq is also home to significant holy sites of Sunni Islam, especially Baghdad's Abu Hanifa Mosque, built around the tomb of Abu Hanifah an-Nu'man, the founder of the Ḥanafī school of Islamic religious jurisprudence.

In terms of modern attractions, most are the big modernist sculptures and palaces of the Saddam Hussein government, located primarily in Baghdad (or on top of some of the world's most important heritage sites....) Given the warfare, external and internal, and government atrocities committed against its own people over the past 40 years, one can only expect that the future will see widespread construction of memorials to those who suffered. But such developments may have to wait until the nation's turbulent present settles down. In the meantime, it is possible (albeit often dangerous) to visit the cities and sites of battles that became household names throughout the world in the 2003-2011 conflict.




Iraqi currency is the Iraqi dinar, denoted by the symbol "د.ع" (ISO code: IQD). Banknotes are issued in 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 25,000, 50,000 dinars denominations. Coins, and banknotes in 250 and 500-dinar denominations are rarely used.

While the dinar is the official currency, you will also be able to spend euros (€) and US dollars (USD) in many places. Most people do not like to make change for large banknotes. Any defects in the bills (creases, ink stamps from banks, tears, etc.) will raise suspicion that you are a counterfeiter. Don't bring old bills with you, either. Carry mostly small bills in the form of Iraqi dinars for daily spending cash.

Some shopkeepers do not accept U.S. dollars, but most people will still pay large hotel bills using US dollars or euro due to the volume of notes required to pay with dinars. The conversion rate fluctuates from day to day and from town to town.

Learn the security features of the dinar and US dollar notes; do not accept pre-2004 "Saddam dinar" notes. The former Iraqi government was known to be making passable USD20, USD10, and USD5 bills, and these counterfeiters are apparently still in business.


See also: Middle Eastern cuisine
  • Masgouf Considered as the national dish of Iraq. It is an open cut carp (a freshwater fish) roasted for hours after being marinated with olive oil, salt, curcuma and tamarind while keeping the skin on. Traditional garnishes for the masgouf include lime, chopped onions and tomatoes, and flatbread.
  • Tepsi Baytinijan Also very popular dish in Iraq. A baked casserole typically consisting of meatballs, aubergine, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and potatoes.


Alcohol is legal in Iraq and street vendors can usually get alcohol if you really need it, but again this is just asking to be identified as an outsider. Furthermore, while alcohol is legal many Islamic fundamentalist insurgent groups in Iraq have targeted alcohol vendors and users.


Sleep in the hot summer months can be difficult. Sleeping outside and near flowing water is the most comfortable setting one can find outside of air conditioning.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, there are plenty of hotels and although they are hard to find in any travel guide, anyone on the street will direct you to a nearby place. There's no shortage in Zakho, Dohuk or Erbil. Rates run about USD15-25 per night for a single room with bathroom.


Work in Iraq pays very well. Typical foreign contractors can make up to USD100k per year for security and administrative work.

You may also find some jobs in the construction sector, as the country's infrastructure is in need of desperate repair.

If you're an investor seeking to diversify your portfolio, you can set up a brokerage account in Iraq and invest in the local stock market. Bear in mind that you typically need USD20k to set up an account and all required documentation needs to be verified by the local Iraqi embassy/consulate in your country.

Stay safe

Although things are gradually getting better, the political and security situation remain very unstable.

Emergency services

Due to years of warfare and destruction, emergency services are unreliable and inadequate.


See also: Corruption and bribery

Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Corruption is so deeply embedded in Iraqi society that even the Iraqi government struggles to fight it with success.

Brutality and corruption are rampant in Iraq's police force; such is the extent of corruption in the police force that it's not uncommon for police officers to bribe political figures so that they can climb up the work ladder.

In other words, do not expect any kind of help or reliable assistance from Iraqi law enforcement authorities. They only exist to harass, intimidate, and threaten people.

Foreigners may attract the attention of corrupt police officers. In the event you come face to face with a corrupt official, just be firm and polite. As upsetting as it may sound, try not to lose control of your emotions when dealing with an ill-behaved, corrupt official; rude behaviour will be responded to with rude behaviour.

Legal issues

The legal system in Iraq is slow, highly corrupt, and inefficient. Due process is hard to come by. Property and land disputes are common and they're very difficult to resolve through proper channels. Your embassy will most likely stay away from such circumstances.


Iraq is beset with numerous problems that make travelling risky and difficult. The security situation is perilous in just about any area of the country, and continues to deteriorate under continuing terrorist attacks. Resistance to continuing military occupation, U.S. and UK forces, and Iraqi military, police or anyone associated with the Iraqi government, as well as increasing factional and sectarian conflict make street warfare, bombings, and other acts of armed violence daily occurrences.

The central third of the country is the most volatile; the southern ports are less dangerous, but only relatively so. However, northern Iraq, or Kurdistan is safe and has suffered from very little violence since 2003. Major cities, including Baghdad, are fertile grounds for political upheavals, kidnappings, and other underground activity, so tread lightly. The Kurdish peshmerga (military) is over 100,000 strong and every road, town, city and even village has checkpoints going in and out. All non-Kurds are searched thoroughly and occasionally followed by the internal secret police. However fear not, this is why there is almost no chance of terrorism in the North. The police are friendly and everyone is happy to meet foreigners, especially Americans.

Travelling alone makes you an easy kidnapping target, and is best avoided – if possible travel with a translator/guard. There are comprehensive private and state security services available for your personal protection - you are strongly advised to use the available options for your own safety. If employed in Iraq, consult your employer on how to handle your personal safety. Independent contractors will usually have security provided by their clients, if no security is provided you should seriously consider not travelling to Iraq, if you must go you should hire armed security and get proper training in appropriate protective gear, survival, and weapons.

Stay healthy

It is not safe for short term visitors to drink the water anywhere in Iraq. It is best to always drink bottled water. It will usually be sold at vendors and large stores, and will be easy to find. Most Iraqi water companies pump their water directly from the Tigris or Euphrates rivers, treat it with ozone, and then filter it into bottles. Those with sensitive systems should not drink it. Many street vendors will offer drinks such as water with a lemon twist, which should be presumed unsafe for foreign visitors.

Those with experience in Iraq should use their discretion and past experience when purchasing drinks.

Drinking the local tea (chai) can be safe for some people since it is brought to a boil before serving, but when in doubt, insist that bottled water be used. Many kinds of water-borne disease, pollution, and infectious agents are not affected by boiling of water, and are still present in the water after boiling.

As a walk past an Iraqi butcher shop will demonstrate, food preparation standards are not the same as in Western countries, and consumption of local food can make a visitor ill. Try to bring your own. As tap water is generally not potable, you should especially avoid uncooked foods.

Should you find your body in the uncomfortable position of rejecting food and water due to something you shouldn't have drunk, immediately find someone who speaks Arabic and send them to a local pharmacist and request a product known locally as "InterStop" (similar to co-phenotrope/Lomotil). This works better than any well-known western brands.


The Iraqis in general are humble, hospitable and down-to earth.

General etiquette

  • The Iraqis are indirect communicators. They are tempered by the need to save face and they will avoid saying anything that could be construed as critical, judgmental, or offensive. This said, the Iraqis value transparency and openness and they take words at face value.
  • Sincerity and genuineness are highly valued in Iraq. Don't say something if you don't mean it. Don't say "next time" if there isn't going to be a "next time".
  • Iraqis are personable and often talk about themselves. Iraqi society values transparency.
  • Never beckon an Iraqi person directly, even if they have done something wrong in your opinion. The Iraqis are quite sensitive to being beckoned directly, and it is considered very rude manners.
  • Never show the soles of your feet to others. This may be considered very disrespectful by most Iraqis, unless you are in the company of friends. When in the company of friends, it's still best to excuse yourself before putting your feet up in the air with the soles of your feet in the direction of any person.
  • Don't spit in public or in the direction of others, even when obviously done without malice. It is extremely rude.
  • Don't talk someone down for having poor English skills. Many Iraqis can speak English, usually as a second language. The Iraqi accent can be a little hard to understand at first. Making condescending statements such as "You speak very good English" is extremely rude.

Things to avoid


  • Politics is a highly sensitive issue in Iraq. Most Iraqis express frustration towards the government and Iraqi politics are quite complex. You could immediately be seen as uninformed if you don't follow Iraqi news closely.
  • Be careful when discussing Saddam Hussein's regime. It may bring up bad memories for some people. This is especially true in Iraqi Kurdistan. In some circles (particularly among Ba'athist Iraqis), people may be offended by the suggestion that he was a brutal dictator.
  • Show extreme respect when discussing the Anfal campaign. In Iraqi Kurdistan, it is a highly emotional issue and the event prompted many Kurds to escape Iraq and Saddam Hussein's repressive and brutal regime.
  • Be careful when discussing the Iran-Iraq war. It may bring up bad memories for some people.
  • Be careful when discussing Kurdish independence. It is quite a sensitive issue in Iraqi Kurdistan.


  • Avoid critcising or speaking badly about religion. Even highly-educated Iraqis won't appreciate it.


AVOID NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Anbar province (see Advisory)

Avoid all travel to Anbar province. Armed clashes between Iraqi security forces and militants have been taking place in the area since the beginning of 2014, with the most severe fighting concentrated to Fallujah and Ramadi. Numerous casualties have been reported and thousands of residents have fled the province.

Provinces of Nineveh, Salaheddin and Diyala (see Advisory)

Avoid all travel to the provinces of Nineveh, Salaheddin and Diyala. Sectarian violence and terrorist activity have increased since early 2013 in these provinces, including frequent improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. 

Provinces of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)

In recent years, the areas under the control of the KRG have been less affected by violence and terrorism than other parts of Iraq. However, these areas remain vulnerable to the impacts of both regional instability and internal tensions. While significantly less frequent than in other areas of Iraq, terrorist attacks do occur in this region, including in September and December 2013 and January 2014. Exercise a heightened level of vigilance and plan your security arrangements accordingly. Political tensions between the KRG and the Iraqi government may also result in the spread of violence beyond these disputed areas, into cities such as Mossul and Kirkuk.

Avoid border areas where Turkey and Iran conduct occasional cross-border military operations against Turkish and Iranian Kurdish rebel groups.


The security situation remains extremely dangerous and unpredictable. Since March 2013, the number and intensity of security incidents and sectarian-related violence have increased across Iraq, and this trend is expected to continue. Popular targets include Iraqi security forces, government offices as well as large public gatherings. Potential Arab-Kurd violence is also of concern. Iraq’s internal stability is further undermined by the ongoing political situation, in which government officials compete for power along ethnic and sectarian lines.

Car bombings, vehicle ambushes, and mortar and rocket attacks occur periodically across the country, including in Baghdad and the International Zone, resulting in numerous fatalities. These attacks are coordinated and cyclical in nature with recorded incidents generally declining after a spike of violence as security is tightened and as terrorist and insurgent groups prepare for future attacks. These attacks result in many casualties for bystanders, and the risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time therefore remains high.

Threats to foreigners

Except in the Kurdistan region, the threat to foreigners, including Canadians, is very high. Foreigners are a prime kidnapping target for criminal and terrorist groups hoping to extort money.

While increasing numbers of international business people travel throughout much of Iraq, they do so under restricted movement conditions and almost always with close security protection. Stay in secure, guarded accommodations, travel with close protection teams at all times and take all necessary security precautions if you decide to travel to Iraq. You are also strongly advised to consider employing a professional security company and to adhere to their advice for the duration of your stay and to acquire comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.


Demonstrations and retaliatory attacks have been occurring across Iraq since April 23, 2013, when clashes between security forces and protestors in Hajiwa left more than 50 people dead.

Deaths and injuries are typical of these incidents in Iraq. There is greater unrest in the western and northern provinces due to ongoing Sunni protests and increased militant activity. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.


Crime and corruption are rampant. Carjackings and robberies are common. The security situation deteriorates after nightfall in most areas. Violent conflicts involving organized criminal elements, street gangs, militant groups, rival militias and Iraqi security forces pose grave dangers.


Security checkpoints have proliferated in Baghdad and in other parts of Iraq. Exercise extra respect and cooperation at security checkpoints as tensions are heightened. An Iraqi police or army uniform is not a guarantee that the wearer is bona fide or operating in an official capacity. Exercise particular caution at ad hoc checkpoints, where murders, kidnappings and robberies frequently occur.

Baghdad’s International Zone

Movements in and out of Baghdad’s International Zone (IZ) are controlled by Iraqi security forces. All IZ entry control points are closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., with the exception of the entry control point leading to Baghdad International Airport, which closes at midnight. There is a heavy presence of Iraqi security forces throughout the IZ and vehicle check- points may be established at any time without prior notice.

Border areas

Avoid travelling to border areas. Iraqi forces are currently attempting to contain the effects of the deteriorating security situation in Syria, and Kurdish rebel groups are frequent targets of military operations into Turkey and northwest Iran. You may encounter serious problems with local authorities when unknowingly crossing porous borders.

Women’s safety

Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.

Road travel

Motorists frequently disobey traffic rules, including traffic lights, failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, speeding, tailgating and not yielding the right of way. Avoid road travel at night.

Due to the country’s high liability risk, you may have difficulties obtaining car insurance.

Travel by road is not safe. Although travel at night is especially dangerous, attacks are also common during the day.

Avoid all travel by road from Amman to Baghdad in light of the heightened security threat. The road leading to Baghdad’s airport has also been the target of several attacks.

Buses run irregularly and routes are subject to frequent changes. Rundown transit vehicles are frequently involved in accidents.

Rail travel

Avoid travelling by rail in Iraq, as the railroad is old and poorly maintained.

Air travel

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

Register with the Embassy of Canada in Amman, Jordan, plan your own security arrangements, limit your movements to areas not prone to violence, monitor local news reports and news broadcasts and remain alert to your surroundings at all times.

Curfews may be imposed throughout the country on short notice. Monitor the media in order to stay informed of changes.

Carry photo identification as well as a legally certified copy of your visa and registration at all times. Keep your passport and visa in safekeeping facilities.

Telecommunications facilities are very poor or non-existent in remote areas. The use of mobile phones is widespread in the major cities.


Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.


Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.


Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.


There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.


Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).


Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Western Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Western Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


There have been cases of cholera reported in this country in the last year. Cholera is a bacterial disease that typically causes diarrhea. In severe cases it can lead to dehydration and even death.

Most travellers are generally at low risk. Humanitarian workers and those visiting areas with limited access to safe food and water are at higher risk. Practise safe food and water precautions. Travellers at high risk should get vaccinated.


Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.


Insects and Illness

In some areas in Western Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, Rift Valley fever, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.



There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Western Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.

Avian Influenza

There have been human cases of avian influenza ("bird flu”) in this country. Avian influenza is a viral infection that can spread by contact with infected birds or surfaces and objects contaminated by their feces or other secretions.

Avoid unnecessary contact with domestic poultry and wild birds as well as surfaces contaminated with their feces or other secretions. Ensure all poultry dishes and eggs are thoroughly cooked.


Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities in Iraq are scarce and below Western standards.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

An international driving permit is required.

The work week is from Sunday to Thursday.

Illegal or restricted activities

Religious proselytizing is forbidden.

The use of drugs and alcohol is prohibited. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect a long detention or even death penalties.

Do not drink alcohol outside licensed facilities. There is a zero tolerance policy regarding drinking and driving.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship is not legally recognized, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times. Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.


According to Iraqi law, the child of a male Iraqi national is considered an Iraqi national. Even if the name of the child is written in the mother’s foreign passport, Iraqi authorities may consider the child an Iraqi national and the child will require the father’s permission to travel.


Islamic practices and beliefs form the basis of the country’s customs, laws and regulations. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.


The currency is the Iraqi dinar (IQD). The economy is primarily cash-based. U.S. dollars are accepted. Credit cards and traveller’s cheques are not accepted. There are very few automated banking machines.


Iraq is subject to sandstorms and dust storms as well as flooding caused by heavy rains.

The weather is very dry and hot from May to October.

Site issues? Contact Us