Travelling to Iraq: How to prepare for your journey
Travelling to Iraq has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. If you pay attention to any sort of news outlet, you’ll be familiar with the wars, the fighting, the devastation.
However, in recent years the Iraqi borders have been opened, and tourism is being championed. There’s a side of Iraq that the media doesn’t show you: hospitality.
That’s right, Iraqi culture is one of hospitality, kindness, generosity, and food. Federal Iraq is a place where visitors are welcomed and cared for.
No matter how unfortunate the past 30 years have been, the spirit of Iraq is stronger than ever, there’s a strong sense of hope, and the country itself is turning into a tourist destination.
If you’re considering a trip to Iraq, or you’re planning to join one of our photography tours in Mosul, this guide will help you get ready for your adventure.
How to Pack for Your Trip to Iraq
You’re aware of the extreme heat and desert climate in Iraq. But did you know that northern cities like Mosul and surrounding areas can get quite cold in the winter? In fact, mountainous areas like the Kurdistan region of Iraq are typically covered with snow during the winter.
Depending on your destination and the time of year, your wardrobe will look quite different. When travelling to Iraq in the summer, you’re guaranteed to be met with some extreme heat.
Packing light-coloured, lightweight clothing, sunscreen, a refillable water bottle, a hat, and sunglasses can help protect you from the heat and the sun.
If you’re visiting in the winter, you’ll carry a mix of lightweight clothes and warmer clothing for layering.
Either way, it’s important to check the weather before packing for your trip to Iraq.
Passport, Visa, and Air Travel for Iraq
When preparing for any international travel, make sure your passport’s expiration date is greater than 6 months from your return date.
If your passport is issued by the EU, US, UK, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea, or Russia, you qualify for a tourist visa on arrival. Just fill out the form, show your passport, and pay the $77 USD fee. This is a 2-month, single entry visa.
Getting an Iraqi visa on arrival is only available for the above-mentioned passport holders at Baghdad International Airport or Basra International Airport. Erbil and Sulaymania in Iraqi Kurdistan both have international airports, but if you get your visa in Iraqi Kurdistan you’re only allowed to travel within the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
If you get an Iraqi visa at Baghdad International Airport you’re granted access to Federal Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. This is why we require people to fly into Baghdad for our Mosul photography tours. We are also quite familiar with the process, so we assist our photography tour participants in getting their Iraqi visas.
If you’re flying from the United Kingdom, Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines both offer competitive airfare to Baghdad.
If you’re flying from the United States, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines offer the best routes and competitive pricing.
If you’re flying from within the European Union, Turkish and Pegasus seem to run the show in most of the EU. Lower-priced fares originate or connect in Istanbul, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Brussels, Bucharest, and Larnaca.
As with most international travel, travel insurance is a necessity when traveling to Iraq. Use your preferred provider if you have one. Otherwise, have a look at IATI Travel Insurance Worldwide. The cost is between €50 and €100 per traveler depending on where you depart from and the medical coverage amount you desire.
Iraqi SIM cards and Internet
There are a number of options for staying connected in Iraq. First, you want to make sure your accommodation has WiFi. Using the WiFi with your phone while in the house will reduce your mobile data usage.
However, when you’re out exploring or capturing amazing photos on one of our Mosul photography trips, you’ll need a way to connect that doesn’t require WiFi. You’ve got 2 options for mobile SIM cards in Iraq.
eSIMs have become increasingly popular for international travel. The largest global provider of these digital cards is Airalo. You can simply download the app, choose your package, and activate your eSIM.
For Iraq, you can get a 7-day, 1GB eSIM for $10 USD. If you plan on visiting multiple countries, Airalo’s discover+ eSIMs are usable in 130 countries.
Traditional SIM Card
You can get a physical card for your mobile phone in one of two ways:
- Order a card to be shipped to your home before you leave.
- OR Buy an Iraqi SIM card on arrival. You can buy a card at the airport (which tends to be a bit more expensive), at a mobile phone shop like Zain, or from a convenience store in the city. Zain offers a “visitor sim” and an eSIM.
Whatever route you choose, make sure to read the details about calls, text, and data rates. Plans are not all-inclusive so you need to view the rates. Fees could be charged per text, per incoming call, per outgoing call, and per megabyte of data used.
Travel guide and ground transportation in Iraq
Once you’re in Federal Iraq and you’ve been granted a tourist visa, it’s time to move about the country. Whether you plan to visit multiple cities or simply explore Baghdad, reliable ground transportation is a must.
This is where it pays to have friends. If you’re working with a local tourism company, or you’re attending one of our Mosul photography trips, this part will be taken care of for you.
Ground transportation is more than just a vehicle and a driver. There are many security checkpoints scattered throughout the region, and navigating them is better handled by a local travel guide familiar with local laws.
We use travel guides when necessary for our photography tours for logistical reasons, but they also help to identify the cultural and historical significance of certain areas in Iraq.
Taxi services are popular, and you’ll even find some English-speaking cabs at international airports. It’s important to find out the price of the ride and agree on it before leaving.
Safety and security in Iraq
A common question when travelling to Iraq is, “Is it safe?” While we take every precaution to make our Iraq trips enjoyable and safe, this is ultimately your decision to make. Our photography trips are planned and executed using local contacts and personal experiences which demonstrate to us that right now is possibly one of the best times to visit Iraq in decades.
With the proper planning and the experience of trustworthy guides, your trip to Iraq will be a life-changing adventure that you’ll never forget!