Mosque, Samarra, Iraq
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Mosque, Samarra, Iraq

© Photos.com / Thinkstock

Iraq Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

438,317 sq km (169,235 sq miles).

Population

37,547,686 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

89 per km2

Capital

Baghdad.

Government

Democratic republic.

Head of state

President Barham Salih since 2018.

Head of government

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi since May 2020.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. Various two- and three-pin plugs are in use. Electricity supplies are unreliable.

Iraq may be synonymous with strife, a land of dusty, dubious conflicts, but what you don’t see in the mainstream media are the country’s many attributes: its fantastic birdlife, shimmering oases, turquoise rivers, fertile valleys, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and stunning cityscapes. Some of the world’s oldest societies came out of this ancient land and many refer to the region as the ‘cradle of civilisation.’

But despite its glorious past, the country has little to celebrate at present. Most of Iraq’s political, social, physical and economic infrastructures were destroyed by the US-led invasion in 2003. Successful elections and the withdrawal of troops in 2009 seemed to herald Iraq’s road to recovery and there were reasons to be optimistic: despite continuing violence, tourism had climbed back up to an impressive two million people a year by 2013 and plans were afoot to increase that number threefold.

The government even announced that it would restore the Arch of Ctesiphon, the world’s biggest arch made of bricks, and what remains of the ancient Persian capital of the same name. Also revealed were plans to repair the damage done to the southern marshes, which Sadam Hussein drained, and use its status as a bird haven to create a centre for eco-tourism.

Since 2013, though, the security situation has rapidly deteriorated, culminating with the Islamic militant group ISIS seizing large swathes of territory in the north in 2014. The Iraqi government has since pushed back against the insurgency, but the situation remains highly volatile with no end in sight.

Despite government warnings to avoid travelling to the country, a few adventure tour companies are still taking small groups to Iraq, albeit not the north. If and when the country finally stabilises, there’s little doubt that tourists will return in greater numbers to the ‘cradle of civilisation’. But until then, travel to Iraq is strongly advised against.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus Travel Health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Iraq on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Travel

Commercial flights are operating to and from Iraq. All Iraqi airports are open. Federal elections take place in Iraq on 10 October and restrictions on movement between governorates and at Baghdad International Airport are planned for the period of 9 to11 October. As a result, flights may be disrupted or subject to change. Check with your airline before travelling.

All inbound/outbound international passengers will need to have a certificate showing they have tested negative for COVID-19. The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority and Ministry of Health have introduced an online portal for inbound/outbound passengers to register flight details and PCR test results. This does not apply to KRI.

All inbound/outbound international passengers will need to have a certificate showing they have tested negative for COVID-19.

Entry and Borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Iraq.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Iraq

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is subject to strict travel restrictions between provinces which are often introduced at short notice. These are published through local media and on www.moi.gov.krd.

You should keep up to date with information from your sponsor or employer in Iraq and/or with your airline on the impact of any existing travel plans. If you need further information about entry requirements, contact the local immigration authorities or the nearest Iraqi Embassy.

Healthcare in Iraq

If you are in Iraq and displaying symptoms of coronavirus you should seek medical advice while self-isolating. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company.

For contact details for English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Iraq

We will update this page when the Government of Iraq announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Iraq national vaccination programme started in March 2021 and is using the AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinopharm vaccines. The Government of Iraq has stated that foreign nationals resident in Iraq are eligible for vaccination, if they choose to join the programme. You should consult your health care provider for more information.

You can register for the vaccination programme on the Ministry of Health registration system for COVID-19 vaccines (this website is in Arabic and you will need assistance completing the form if you are a non-Arabic speaker).

In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq the registration link is available in English at the Kurdistan Regional Government Ministry of Health registration system for COVID-19 vaccines.

For more general information from the Government of Iraq regarding vaccines and Coronavirus measures see the Government of Iraq website, the Ministry of Health Facebook page and the Kurdistan Regional Government website.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Iraq, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Help and support

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are in Iraq and need advice which is not covered by reading our travel advice then you can contact us online.

If you need urgent consular assistance, call the FCDO on +44 207 008 5000. To get the latest information, sign up for travel advice email alerts.

Political and security situation

Iraq remains subject to regional tensions. Militant groups opposed to western presence in Iraq continue to pose a threat to UK and other interests in Iraq – including through attacks on Global Coalition military bases, diplomatic premises, and foreign nationals. It is possible that the security situation could deteriorate quickly. The situation remains uncertain and could worsen at short notice. You should avoid any rallies, marches or processions, and follow the instructions of local authorities.

Large protests occur regularly across Iraq. While many of these demonstrations are peaceful, there have been frequent violent clashes between Iraqi security forces and protesters, resulting in significant casualties including loss of life. You should avoid any rallies, marches and / or processions, and follow the instructions of local authorities.

There may be restrictions on movement, and the Iraqi authorities have discretion to impose curfews as they deem necessary. Curfews and vehicle bans can be enforced at short notice, particularly during protests and civil unrest, but also around religious holidays, pilgrimages and key political dates like elections. Religious gatherings have previously been targeted by terrorists.

British government officials serving in Iraq live and work under strict security rules. Depending on the threat level, they may be prevented from travelling to certain areas of Iraq.

If you’re travelling or moving to Iraq, you should take appropriate security precautions before travelling. Outside of the Kurdistan Region you are strongly advised to employ a private security company, make arrangements for secure accommodation and transport and consider pre-deployment training.

Local travel

Northern and western Iraq

Global Coalition forces, including the UK, continue to carry out targeted airstrikes against Daesh in northern and western Iraq. Areas liberated from Daesh are likely to contain remnants of war and improvised explosive devices.

Mosul Dam

The government of Iraq has begun to take measures to improve the structural integrity of the Mosul Dam as there is a risk the dam could fail. It’s currently impossible to accurately predict if or when this might occur. A failure could lead to major flooding in the Tigris river valley, from Mosul to Baghdad. As there’s likely to be little warning of a failure, it will be logistically impossible for the British Government to evacuate you. You should make sure you have contingency plans in place and monitor media reporting and this travel advice.

Baghdad

Routes in and out of Baghdad may become blocked and airports closed or inaccessible at little or no notice. You should plan and check your routes in advance of travelling.

There remains a threat to hotels in Baghdad, which could be targeted by terrorist groups. You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities.

You should avoid political gatherings and large crowds, and minimise your movement around banks, restaurants and shopping malls. Observe instructions given by the local security authorities.

Kurdistan Region of Iraq

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is currently subject to strict travel restrictions between provinces which are often changed at short notice. These are published through local media and on www.moi.gov.krd. You should remain alert, monitor media reports and this travel advice.

While the Kurdistan Region has a different security environment to the rest of Iraq, there remains a risk of attacks by Daesh.

Turkey conducts regular military action in the north of the Kurdistan Region and on occasion, further south. There is particular risk in mountainous areas, particularly around Qandil, Makhmur, and near the border with Turkey. Crossing points along the Iraq-Turkey border may also be affected.

Foreign nationals crossing the border from Syria into the KRI have been arrested for immigration offences. If prosecuted offenders could face a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

Basra

Protests are common in Basra. You should remain alert, monitor media reports and keep up to date with this travel advice.

Land borders

Border crossing points with countries neighbouring Iraq may close with little or no notice.

Check whether border crossings will be open before travelling.

Air travel

Do not leave airports without taking adequate security precautions. You should also take care within all terminal buildings.

The FCDO cannot offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Iraq.

A list of incidents and accidents in Iraq can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

Iraqi Airways’ permission to operate to/from the EU has been suspended. This is because Iraqi Airways has been unable to satisfy the European Aviation Safety Agency that the airline meets the requirements for non-EU airlines operating to/from the EU.

Flight schedules may change without notice. Contact your airline or travel company for the latest information before travelling.

Sea travel

Maritime facilities are under a high risk of attack. Maritime and sailing craft should take great care in the northern Persian Gulf. Vessels transiting the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of attack. You should consider any regional tensions that may affect your route.

Check whether sea borders will be open before your crossing.

Road travel

You need to have a 1968 International Driving Permit to drive in Iraq. 1926 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted. You can get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

Road travel within Iraq remains highly dangerous. Driving standards are low compared to those is the UK. Road traffic accidents are frequent and often result in fatalities. False vehicle checkpoints have been used to launch terrorist attacks. There is also a risk of carjacking and robbery.

Consular assistance

UK Consular support is severely limited in Iraq. The Baghdad Embassy and Erbil Consulate-General’s ability to visit locations across Iraq is limited and travel to unsecure areas to deliver consular services may not be possible. This is further impacted due to COVID-19 measures.

If you need urgent consular assistance, call the FCDO in London on +44 (0)20 7008 5000.

Advice to business

A number of UK companies visit and operate successfully in Iraq. However, movement is restricted and companies nearly always travel with close protection security teams. Specific guidance for companies seeking to do business in Iraq can be found on the Department for International Trade (DIT) website. DIT are also able to put you in touch with companies operating in Iraq who offer security services. For more information see Operating in high-risk environments: Advice for business

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Iraq.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

In December 2017, Iraq’s Prime Minister declared the territorial defeat of Daesh (formally referred to as ISIL) in Iraq. However, the risk of terrorist attacks in Iraq remains. Attacks are more frequent in areas where Daesh had a strong presence and capability, such as Anbar, Baghdad, Ninewah, Salah-Al-Din, Diyala and Tam’mim (Kirkuk) provinces, but can occur throughout the entire country.

While the Kurdistan Region has a different security environment to the rest of Iraq, there remains a risk of attacks by Daesh.

Targets for terrorist attacks have included: residential compounds, military establishments, oil facilities, airports, public transport, commercial venues, including markets and stores, maritime facilities, land border crossings, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, large crowds, police stations, political offices/events, sports venues/stadiums and religious sites/ceremonies. There is a heightened threat of attacks against western interests. While attacks can take place at any time, there’s a heightened threat during religious or public holidays.

Methods of attack have included shootings, large-scale co-ordinated bombings designed to cause mass casualties, suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, rockets and mortars.

Other militant groups opposed to western presence in Iraq continue to pose a threat to UK and other interests in Iraq – including threats on Global Coalition military bases, diplomatic premises, and foreign nationals.

Foreign nationals, including those of non-western appearance, are high value targets for terrorists, insurgents and criminals. Indiscriminate attacks against public places and Iraqi civilians also occur.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

If you travel to Iraq to fight, and your activities amount to offences against UK terrorism legislation, you could be prosecuted on return to the UK.

Aviation

Terrorists in Iraq likely maintain the intent and capability to target aviation.

Targets for terrorist attacks have included Iraq’s Airports.

Both Baghdad International Airport, and Erbil Airport are occasionally targeted by indirect rocket attacks.

You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports and observe any additional security measures.

Kidnap

There’s also a high threat of kidnapping throughout the country, including from both Daesh and other terrorist and militant groups. You should review your security arrangements regularly and consider carefully any travel plans around the country. Kidnappings can be for purely ideological reasons as well as financial or political gain. British nationals have previously been targeted.

You should regularly reassess your security arrangements and consider carefully any travel around the country. Close protection security is important, but does not remove the threat; a number of previous kidnap victims had security arrangements in place.

The US Overseas Security Advisory Council has previously issued warnings over the risk of kidnapping attempts on the vehicles of non-governmental organisation (NGO) staff providing aid to Mosul and on the elevated kidnap risk to US citizens in Baghdad and wider Iraq, linked to the elevated tensions between the US and Iran.

British nationals are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

International and local journalists have previously been detained in Iraq due to allegations of inadequate paperwork. Journalists should exercise extreme caution and take adequate security measures.

The long-standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Local laws reflect that Iraq is a predominantly Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religious customs at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or when visiting places of religious significance.

Although homosexuality is not illegal under Iraqi law, the LGBT community generally keeps a low profile, making it difficult to assess its size or relative freedoms. Local attitudes towards LGBT people may be hostile. There are also reports that LGBT people experienced discrimination, harassment and violence at the hands of state authorities. You’re advised to exercise discretion. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Iraq set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus

All inbound/outbound international passengers will need to have a certificate showing they have tested negative for COVID-19. Check with your airline for further information.

The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority and Ministry of Health have introduced an online portal for inbound/bound passengers to register flight details and PCR test results. This does not apply to KRI.

Screening

The Iraqi CAA have medical teams deployed to all civil airports to screen travellers coming from affected countries when flights are in operation. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the Iraqi authorities.

Quarantine requirements

You may be required to quarantine on arrival. You should follow local authority instructions.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

Iraqi law requires that you must get a visa before you travel. You can apply for a visa at the Iraqi Embassy in London or the Iraqi Consulate in Manchester.

In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq you can obtain a 30 day visa on arrival at Erbil and Sulaimaniah International Airports. This is valid for travel in the KRI only.

Documentation

Make sure you have the right documents when you arrive in Iraq, including Weapon Authority Cards (WAC) if you are carrying weapons.

Foreign nationals have been arrested for failing to provide the correct documentation when requested. For more information contact the Iraqi Embassy in London.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Iraq.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into Iraq. However, ETDs are accepted for airside transit and exit from Iraq. If you’re using an ETD to leave the country, you’ll need to get an exit stamp from the Baghdad or Erbil Residency Office.

Exit visas

If you remain in the country for more than 10 days without extending your visa, you’ll need to get an exit stamp to leave the country.

Your sponsor (for example the company you work for) must apply for the exit visa to the Residency and Immigration Office, which is part of the Ministry of Interior. Your sponsor will need to submit letters to the Immigration Office stating the start and end date of employment.

Blood test

All visitors to Iraq, with the exception of those travelling on a tourist visa, must have a blood test for HIV and hepatitis within 10 days of arrival. The test must then be repeated every 90 days while you’re in Iraq. Guidance on where to go for the blood test is available at the airport when you arrive.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Iraq on the TravelHealthPro website.

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Iraq.

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Medical treatment

Medical facilities are limited. In the event of serious accident or illness, an evacuation by air ambulance may be required. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Health risks

The temperature in summer months can exceed 50 ºC (122ºF), which can result in dehydration and serious health problems.

Iraq is situated in an active seismic zone and there is a risk of tremors and earthquakes.

In 2017, a powerful earthquake struck Iran’s mountainous border with Iraq, killing more than 400 people and injuring more than 7,000.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.