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Iraq Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit Iraq in 2023

Welcome to Iraq

Iraq is part of the Arab countries located in the Middle East, sharing borders with Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey. The country is located in an area that was once called Mesopotamia, or the cradle of civilization.

Although traveling to Iraq for tourism is currently not advised, we’ll share some valuable insight about the country in this ultimate Iraq travel guide.

Document checklist for Iraq

  • Visa

  • Health declaration

  • Valid passport

  • Sufficient funds

  • Return airline ticket

Essential Iraq travel information

  • Currency - The Iraqi dinar (IQD). $1 is equivalent to approx. IQD 1435.

  • Languages - Iraq has Arabic and Kurdish as the two official languages. Standard Arabic is used for official purposes in the country. However, most Iraqis speak Mesopotamian Arabic. English is widely spoken in urban areas.

  • Socket type - For Iraq, there are three associated plug types: C, D, and G. Iraq operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.

  • Time zone - Arabian Standard Time (GMT +3).

  • Top 3 cities - Baghdad, Basra, and Karbala.

  • Top 3 landmarks/monuments - The Abbasid Palace, Shrine Of Imam Hussain, and Babylon.

Visa information for Iraq

Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to travel to Iraq. Use our Visa Checker Tool or contact your local Iraqi embassy to find out which documents you need to visit Iraq. Some nationals might be eligible for an Iraqi tourist visa on arrival.

Typical costs and budget for Iraq

Daily spending per person - The daily budget for one person is IQD 43826,28 (USD 30).

  • Meals - Daily meals may cost about IQD 9320 ($6).

  • Transport - Local transportation is very affordable, daily costs are about IQD 628 ($0.43).

  • Hotel - A night in a hotel for one person is on average IQD 16,883 ($12) and IQD 33,766 ($23).

Transport and best ways to travel around Iraq

Here are a few tips for navigating Iraq.

  • Baghdad International Airport

Formerly referred to as Saddam International Airport, it is Iraq's most significant and main international airport. It is located about 16 km west of downtown Baghdad.

  • Shared taxis

The mini buses are a safe way to travel within major cities like Baghdad and Kurdistan, plus their prices are very economical. Negotiate the cost before taking a trip so you won't be surprised when arriving at your destination.

  • Rent a car with a driver

Independent foreign travelers can rent a car to move much more quickly, however, security and military checkpoints may cause difficulties along the way. Hiring a car with a driver who knows the areas very well might help you to get around safely and privately.

  • Bus services

Buses are available between the cities and the suburbs, and are one of the most affordable ways to travel.

Safety in Iraq

The political situation in Iraq is currently complicated and turbulent. For this main reason, it’s important to be cautious and vigilant at all times, and stay updated on local news through verified sources.

Terrorist attacks and military violence are a realistic threat. It is not advised to visit Iraq for tourism purposes at the moment.

It is not advised to walk around at night or alone around cities or even in rural areas, for travelers of all genders. Consider the following recommendation before you go and during your trip in Iraq:

  • Although traveling to areas such as Basra, Najaf, Karbala, and most of the Kurdistan region is safe, and the northeastern Iraqi Kurdistan provinces are considered relatively peaceful, this country should only be visited if absolutely necessary.

  • If you must visit Iraq, always be aware of your surroundings, and consult your embassy before leaving.

  • Avoid expressing opinions about Iraq’s history, religion, and current war situation while traveling around. Do not engage in any religious or political debate.

  • Iraq is a country in a state of war, and minefields in the entire country remain an issue. Do not stray from roads assigned by the Iraqi government. The best option is to travel with a local driver who knows about safe areas and routes.

  • Along the way, you will find many security checkpoints for armed groups. Always follow the instructions given by the federal Iraq police.

  • Always have your international travel insurance ready, in case you need medical attention or a medical report.

  • Iraq is an Islamic state. Always respect the local customs and traditions. For women, wearing the headscarf, or hijab, is not compulsory, but dressing modestly and covering your legs is advised.

  • Monitor local media reports. Check the news and be attentive to what is happening in the country.

  • Have all your documents ready, such as an Iraqi visa, any necessary permits, and others as advised by the Iraq government.

  • If you need to get local information for your travel to Iraq, join the Iraqi Travellers Cafe. The Iraqi Travellers Cafe is an informal Facebook Group in which you can ask assistance and information in English from local Iraqis and past travelers.

Weather in Iraq

Extreme weather is summer and winter can occur. The average temperature in Iraq can range from higher than 48°C/118°F in July and August to below freezing in January. That’s why the best months to visit Iraq are in spring and autumn, when the weather is milder.

In summer, your best choices are the slightly cooler mountains in the north and east. Between December and April it can rain a lot, especially in mountainous regions.

Here are some of the most interesting and prominent places in Iraq, mostly revolving around religion.

  • Baghdad - Iraq's capital and largest city was founded in the 8th century, so every street is filled with history. The river Tigris divides the city of Baghdad in two halves. This holy city in Iraq represents 40% of Iraq's GDP.

  • Basra - Located on the border between Iraq and Kuwait along the Shatt al-Arab River. It is the second-largest city and considered one of the most beautiful that Iraq has to offer. It is also home to the main port of the country, and is located in a significant agricultural region.

  • Karbala - Karbala is one of the holiest cities in Iraq, visited annually by over 30 million pilgrims.

  • Erbil - One of the oldest cities in Iraq, estimated to be around 7,000 years old. The ancient history is found everywhere, from UNESCO World Heritage listed castles, the Erbil Museum of Civilization and the Kurdish Textile Centre, and plenty of other attractions to learn about the rich history and culture of this remarkable part of the world.

Must do and see in Iraq

If you make it to Iraq for business, work, or another reason and you’ll find yourself in need of some culture, here’s a list of top recommendations.

  1. The Abbasid Palace - Baghdad's last remaining Abbasid palace is a historic two-story building overlooking the Tigris River. The Abbasid dynasty ruled the Islamic empire in present-day Baghdad from the 8th to 13th centuries.

  2. Shrine Of Imam Hussain - This sanctuary is a place where travelers and tourists can recharge their spirituality, whether you are religious or not. The architecture and atmosphere are both vibrant and quiet, making it a truly unique point of interest.

  3. Babylon - One of the ancient world's grandest and most famous cities, and the center of Mesopotamia for two millennia. This entire city is a monument, located 52 miles south of Baghdad. It is considered one of the cradles of civilization dating back to about 2300 BC. Babylon is regarded as a cultural center of science, literature, and art. Having once been the largest and most powerful city in the world, you can’t miss a visit to this historical place.

  4. Erbil Citadel - A must-see in Iraq. Here you will find local and traditional shops, tea houses, and exhibitions. There has been significant investment by the Iraqi government in maintaining and repairing the citadel's original buildings.

  5. Aqar Quf/Dur-Kurigalzu - This famous monument in Iraq is located 19 miles west of Baghdad. The ziggurat was built in honor of the god Enlil, and was an important landmark for travelers approaching Baghdad in ancient history.

For more great recommendations for traveling in Iraq, check out Iraqi travelers cafe, a community group that’s linked above on this page.

Typical Iraqi food to try

Don’t leave Iraq without trying some of its amazing delicacies and food full of flavors.

  • Dolma - Not to be confused with the stuffed grape-leaf that is used in the more common versions of this dish, Iraqis use boiled chard wrapped into finger-length stuffings of minced meat, rice, nuts, and spices, all covered with lemon zest.

  • Kubba Bil Burghur - Also known also as kubbah mosul because of its popularity in the Iraqi city of Mosul, this dish is made from nuts, cheese, rices, and minced meat.

  • Bagila Bil Dihin - A popular breakfast dish made with dried broad beans and eggs.

    Vaccine information for Iraq

International passengers over 12 who have received one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two doses of any other vaccine, will no longer require a recent negative PCR test when entering or leaving Iraq.

Passengers must present international vaccination cards with QR codes proving their vaccination status. You must provide a medical report, along with proof of a PCR test conducted within 72 hours, if you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Want to know all the information about COVID-19 vaccination requirements and other Iraq travel restrictions? Check out the CDC website, you'll find everything you need to know to prepare for your trip just a click away.

Fun facts about Iraq

Here are some interesting information tidbits to know about Iraq before you go.

  • Iraq is home to six UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the ancient sites of Ashur, Babylon, Hatra, and Samarra Archaeological City, along with Erbil Citadel and the mixed area of Ahwar of Southern Iraq.

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, written between 2150 and 1400 BC. It is widely regarded to be the world's oldest long poem.

  • Iraq is one of the world's largest oil producers and it is home to some of the world's biggest oil reserves.

  • Mesopotamia gave rise to some of the world's earliest civilizations, including the Sumer (c. 4500 BC), Akkad (c. 2300 BC), Babylon (c. 1894 BC), and Assyria (c. 1363 BC).

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