Why are people talking about Iraq and Kurdistan?
Iraq is, of course, the country we are talking about. Kurdistan is a region in the Northeast which is part of Iraq but with a high degree of autonomy. The region has a lot of independence and feels also completely different from the rest of Iraq. Here you’ll experience strong influences from the Kurds from Turkey and Iran. A tour to Kurdistan is also easier to organize than in the rest of the country. In addition, most nationalities do not need a visa for the Kurdish region. The two largest cities in Kurdistan are Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.
When is the best time to plan your visit to Iraq and Kurdistan?
The best time to travel to Iraq is in the fall (September to November) and in the spring (March to May). Then you have the most pleasant temperature and the landscape is lush and green. Most part of Iraq has a desert climate with mild winters and extremely hot summers. In the mountains of Kurdistan, the climate is cold and rainy (or snowy) in winter and warm and sunny in summer. You can travel to Iraq most of the year, except in the summer, when it is generally above 40 degrees, and quite impossible to do anything.
Do I need insurance for my trip to Iraq?
Everyone must take out travel and health insurance before leaving for Iraq. Whether Iraq is covered by your policy differs per insurance policy. In most cases this will not be a problem. If not, we recommend that you check with one of the following international insurance companies: Global Underwriters or IATI Travel Insurance. They have different packages and you can put together exactly what works best for you.
Do I need a visa for Iraq and Kurdistan?
Iraq has two different types of visas. If you are going all over the country, you need a Federal Iraq visa. The Federal Iraq visa is available at the international airports of Iraq (Baghdad, Najaf and Basra). It’s visa on arrival for most Western countries and you’ll only need to fill in a form and present an offical hotel booking. The costs for the visa is $70. For the Kurdish region you’ll have a seperate visa, which is only valid for Kurdistan. It’s also visa on arrival and it costs around $70. More info can be found here.
What is the time zone in Iraq?
Iraq uses the time zone UCT +3.
Iraq has no difference between summer and winter time.
How can I pay and how much will I spend in Iraq and Kurdistan?
Iraqis pay across the country with the Iraqi Dinar (IQD). Always make sure to bring enough cash with you on the trip, as ATMs are often not available.
It is best to change money with the guide. He knows where the good, reliable exchange offices are and helps you with a good exchange rate. It is wise to bring Euros or American Dollars. These are accepted everywhere and can easily be changed. For the most recent exchange rate, visit www.xchange.com.
Of course, it mainly depends on yourself how much you actually spend in Iraq but as a guideline we advise around € 40 to € 50 per day. You should be able to make it with that amount. If you like to buy souvenirs, you better bring something extra. Soft drinks are usually around € 1 and a meal between € 5 and € 10. Tipping local guides is always encouraged. They don’t earn much in this part of the world and it often makes a big difference to them. Of course this is according to your own preference.
Do I have to arrange my international flight to Iraq myself?
We are always available to advise you when booking a flight. However, most customers prefer to book the flight themselves. Often this is cheaper in terms of price and you can pick your own preferences.
What is the voltage and which plug should I use in Iraq?
The complete electricity supply of Iraq is 230 Volt / 50 Hz. Iraq therefore uses the same plugs and sockets as in most of Western Europe. However, you may occasionally need adapter plugs, so we recommend to bring a universal plug. There is also regular power outages, so make sure to charge everything as soon as there is power in your hotel.
Is there internet access and can I make calls in Iraq?
Internet is available at most accommodations (if it works). However, don’t expect a fast and steady connection. In general everywhere in Iraq is mobile coverage. You can also choose to purchase a local SIM card. Your local guide will be happy to help you with this.
What are the local customs in Iraq?
Iraq is a predominantly Islamic country. The belief is widely present but Iraqis are generally not very conservative and strict in doctrine. However, there are regions and districts where more conservatives live. Keep this in mind while travelling through the country.
In Iraq, there are also areas with Christians and other believers. You often see more restaurants in these districts where they serve alcohol. Alcohol is also often available in larger hotels.
A few things to keep in mind:
– Wear simple clothes (T-shirt with pants / skirt).
– Don’t just drink alcohol in public.
– Always take off your shoes when entering a mosque or house. Never show your shoe sole when you sit down.
– Don’t pass by someone who is praying.
– Alcohol is prohibited in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.
– When visiting the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf there are strict rules of faith. Men need a pair of trousers and t-shirt to wear and women will need long sleeves and a scarf. Alcohol is prohibited in these cities.
Is it safe in Iraq?
Travel conditions are of course different in Iraq than in other countries. Our aim is always to give everybody the best tour possible. Nevertheless, the local guide always has the final say regarding changes to the tour schedule. It’s a different case in the Kurdish region. This region is much safer there than the rest of the country. Here it is easier to travel around alone and you can also walk independently on the street in the evening. If there is any unrest in Iraq, it’s often not in the Kurdistan.
The areas in Iraq which we visit are places where we feel comfortable and we feel that we can take people to. If the situation changes, we will respond immediately. We therefore demand a certain flexibility from our travellers. Some of the measures we take on our tours:
– We do not discuss the itinerary or the name of the hotel with anyone. While it will of course only be out of curiosity that someone asks, we don’t share this information with others purely as a precaution.
– Don’t show off your most beautiful jewellery and watches, leave them at home
– If we have a long day to go, we will start on time. If we have a car breakdown, we don’t want to get stranded after dark.
– We advise everyone to register with their local embassy. If you have problems on the spot, it is much easier to get in touch with the embassy on site.
Can I take pictures in Iraq?
In general, you can freely take pictures in Iraq. However, there are a few points to keep in mind.
– Do you want to take a picture of someone? Always ask permission from the person in question. Don’t just take pictures of women or praying people.
– Do not take photos of military personnel, military installations, police officers and government buildings. Are you in doubt? Ask your guide.
Food and drinks in Iraq
Iraqis have a deep appreciation for their own kitchen. It is considered to be a very rich and refined kitchen, as expensive meat is eaten with almost every meal. This meat can be mutton, lamb, chicken, beef, goat or fish. Iraqis view every part of the animal as healthy and nutritious. The only meat not commonly eaten in Iraq is pork.
Well-known dishes in Iraq are kebab, dolma, biryani and masgoulf. It is not possible to drink water from the tap in Iraq. This is due to a bad filter system for bacteria.
In Iraq, you can buy and drink alcohol from the age of 18. However, the country is a predominantly Islamic country, which means that alcohol is only very limited available. In Kurdistan can you drink in the Christian neighbourhoods. For the rest of Iraq, you can get alcohol at major hotels and in a few liquor stores.
What should I wear in Iraq?
Iraq is an Islamic country. In Kurdistan you can wear shorts, outside that region it is recommended to wear long trousers with a T-shirt. Women are not required to wear a headscarf, except at religious sites. In most hotels in the big cities you have the opportunity to do laundry.
Health and hygiene
Iraq is a developing country with a very turbulent recent history. Healthcare is therefore very limited. Healthcare is therefore very limited. Also in terms of hygiene, the standard is much lower than in the Western world. Make sure you have enough disinfection gel, sunscreen and insect repellent.
We advise you always to the last (health) risk programs for the region where you’re going to visit. Check with your own government for the latest info about your destination.