Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Is the road, border or area open and accessible to foreigners? Is there danger?
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steven
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Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Postby steven » Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:40 am

Please leave your ideas, research, questions and reports about traveling in Iraqi Kurdistan below.

More info:

General Silk Road safety info
Turkey - Iraqi Kurdistan border crossings
Iran - Iraq border crossings
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Re: Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Postby steven » Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:46 am

Decided to start this thread after reading this article about the return of ISIS. Since Iraqi Kurdistan has been considered pretty safe for travelers over the past few years, this may be changing once more.

Your thoughts are welcome.
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cristiano
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Re: Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Postby cristiano » Sat Feb 16, 2019 7:53 pm

steven wrote:Please leave your ideas, research, questions and reports about traveling in Iraqi Kurdistan below.

More info:

General Silk Road safety info
Turkey - Iraqi Kurdistan border crossings
Iran - Iraq border crossings


steven wrote:Decided to start this thread after reading this article about the return of ISIS. Since Iraqi Kurdistan has been considered pretty safe for travelers over the past few years, this may be changing once more.

Your thoughts are welcome.


I did some research in the past weeks about that area: it still looks like Iraqi Kurdistan is very safe.
BUT, important thing is to be clear about what are we talking about when we say "Iraqi Kurdistan".
The article you mention refers to a prison in Erbil, and Erbil is considered safe since years, but then refers about Mosul, and Mosul was never considered safe in the last few years.

If things doesn't change too much, I hope to have some first hand infos next summer... ;-)
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Re: Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Postby steven » Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:38 am

Hi cristiano,

What areas would you personally then consider very safe?

What's your planned itinerary?
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Re: Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Postby CallumT » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:11 am

I was there with my girlfriend in August last year and the whole Kurdish territory felt extremely safe. After visiting Sulamaniyah and Erbil we rented a car for 6 days and drove to Lalish, Amedi, Rawanduz and Akre. Never felt unsafe anywhere and were welcomed everywhere with open arms. Frequent security checkpoints seem to keep everything well under control.

We entered from Iran at Marivan, and departed to Turkey at Zakho

Obviously this area can change quickly though so I can't comment on the latest situation. When we were there though people were even offering to us to take us to Mosul, saying a short stop was not considered unsafe. We didn't accept their offer and I probably still wouldn't recommend going there.
Last edited by CallumT on Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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cristiano
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Re: Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Postby cristiano » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:34 am

steven wrote:Hi cristiano,

What areas would you personally then consider very safe?

What's your planned itinerary?


From the research I've done, it looks like the following areas are ok:

entering from Turkey from the border at zakho, dahuk, lalish, amadiya, rawanduz, soran, gali ali bag waterfall, bekhal waterfall, erbil, sulamaniyah and halabja, and then exiting to Iran to marivan.

I'm not saying these area are safe, and I've not been there yet.
I'm saying that, from the research I've done, it looks like they are safe, but I suggest to everyone planning to go in that area to check again short before going.

Looks like mosul and kirkuk are not ok at the moment, but this can also change.

Basically, and simplifying, I would say that all the areas controlled at the moment by the self proclamed "Iraqi Kurdistan" are safe, while the areas controlled by the central government or disputed are not.
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togreiser
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Iraq - Kurdistan

Postby togreiser » Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:56 am

Have anyone been to Iraq - Kurdistan lately ?

I'm thinking about stopping by for 2 nights just to get it of my bucket list. My plan is to visit Erbil/Arbil and Lalish

Any advise? Does anyone have a security update? Have anyone done overland from iran?
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Re: Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Postby thijsbroekkamp » Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:58 am

Will be going in october so been following all the news daily. As far as I can tell still very safe although there is unrest to keep a close watch on, such as Turkish invasion and occupation at the border. A Iran - US escalation would probably affect this part of Iraq as well. ISIS still very much active in Iraq, in the areas close to the Kurdistan border, in Mosul, Kirkuk etc.
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Re: Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Postby blakep76 » Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:03 pm

I was there in February and would say Callum T's assessment a few posts up is 100% accurate. I crossed in by land from Turkey and flew out of Erbil. Felt very stable, relatively economically prosperous, and without fail everyone I met was welcoming and happy to see tourists. Great food and stunning scenery. A lot of history, both ancient and recent. It felt like a real adventure. I'm very happy I went.

It's obviously not 100% safe. Whilst it has been unfairly lumped in the same 'Do Not Travel' category as the rest of Iraq by most countries' Foreign affairs departments, the warnings do also have somewhat of a valid basis and the ubiquitous armed guards and military checkpoints exist for a reason. A lot of ISIS fighters went underground in the region when it was obvious their use of conventional military tactics was going to see them lose. While I was there, there were 7 or 8 ex-Mosul fighters captured in Erbil and Sulaymaniah (one had featured in ISIS propaganda videos beheading prisoners), mushroom farmers being executed in the hills around Makhmour, car bombs in the outskirts of Mosul, which both whilst technically Arab Iraq are only a stone's throw from Erbil and 'civilization'. The Peshmerga also can arrest anyone they feel like for the flimsiest of reasons and hold them indefinitely. I used an English speaking driver for a couple of days who had been imprisoned for a month and held in a cell with drug smugglers and ex-Daesh for taking an American tourist to a restricted area inside Kurdistan in 2018. I was grabbed in Erbil and required to show the contents of my SD card to the neighborhood security chief after taking a photo of a 'no guns' street sign. A little tense at first, but good natured and friendly once it was obvious I was just a clueless tourist.

The Kurds are a stoic people, but in talking to them based on their history you get the impression they consider the current situation of relative stability to be a temporary lull, and that there is more sh1t on the way, be it interfactional fighting amongst the Kurdish political groups, a stronger military presence from Turkey (bombings, more soldiers on the ground, sponsored militia causing disruptions), land grabs from Arab Iraq etc.

So yeah - for the time being visit. Watch what you take photos of, tell your driver to slow down (the roads and driving are still probably the biggest threat to your health) and don't lose that passport, because god only knows how you'd get a replacement.

I also heard of tourists who had been smuggled into Kirkuk, Mosul, or even a couple of years ago into the frontline ISIS areas, but this is mostly through a combination of bribes and fixers, and hence highly illegal. If you get caught you're going to jail. An Iraqi jail! And doubtful you'd get too much consular assistance. If you *really* have an interest to carry on travel into the rest of Iraq do it the legal way and obtain a visa/guide.
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AreWeThereYet?
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Re: Travel safety in Iraqi Kurdistan?

Postby AreWeThereYet? » Tue Jun 18, 2019 8:14 am

One of the travellers I follow most in the Internet has been in Kurdistan and Rojava at the height of Daesh's reign of terror. His reportage is here:
https://www.dsw-photo.com/Travel/To-The ... ainst-ISIS

Now, I can't vouch for him or recommend doing what he's done, but I know he's a scrupulous traveller who leaves very little to fate. It might be of use for others who are planning such a trip.
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www.awtytravels.com
Stories from the road.


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