Traveling to Iraq, you say? Most people will probably answer you with a “no”, “it’s not safe there”, “do they accept tourists”, and so on.
This is understandable, given the tumultuous road this country’s gone through within the past few decades. It’s so easy to paint a fearful image of Iraq in our heads with all the negative news we’re fed by the media about this country.
However, in recent times, many people have been gaining interest in taking a peek at the birthplace of some of the oldest civilizations on earth. Globetrotters are now interested to know how a country which has gone through so much conflict still manages to stand up and- as surprising as this may sound to some- move forward with their lives.
If you’re interested in getting Iraq tourist visa (which, I’m telling you, is not the easiest thing in the world) with your UK Passport, let me give you the basics so you can prepare for it properly.
Quick Facts About Iraq
Country Code: +964
Languages Spoken: Arabic, Kurdish
Currency: Iraqi Dinar (IQD)
Emergency Numbers: 122 for Emergency, 115 for Fire, 104 for Police
Step by Step Process of Applying for Iraq Tourist Visa
1. Find a trusted and verified organized tour operator in Iraq.
2. Book a tour with them and submit the necessary papers. These tour operators will then submit your application for a tourist visa to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
3. Once the Ministry approves your application for a tourist visa via a tour operator, you’ll receive a Visa Authority Letter before your departure which you’ll bring when you enter the country.
4. Upon your arrival in Iraq, you’ll be met by a representative of the Ministry to help you finalize the procedure of getting a tourist visa.
5. Process the cash payment at the Immigration desk at the airport (to be paid in USD).
You now have your visa with you!
Requirements in Getting Iraq Tourist Visa
Typically, tour operators will only ask you to provide the following when applying for a visa through them:
- A clear copy of your passport’s information page
- A completed tour booking form
- Deposit for the application
If you’re interested in applying for a group tourist visa on your own (a group of 5 and more), here are the requirements:
- Current passport, valid for a minimum of 6 months on the time of submission
- Visa application form, filled and signed by each applicant
- Two passport size photos to be sent along with the visa application form
- Financial proof that you can support the duration of your stay in Iraq
- The full address of your accommodation in Iraq
Where to Find the Embassy of Iraq in London
Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in London
21 Queens Gate
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: +44 020 7590 7650
3 Elvaston Place
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: +44 020 7590 9220
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Iraq
1. Wait, why do I have to get my visa through a tour operator? Can’t I apply for a tourist visa on my own?
Technically, you can. However, a tourist visa to Iraq is one of the most difficult visas to obtain by yourself.
You see, for you to apply for a tourist visa, you must be in a group with members no less than 5. You must also be applying together for you to be able to obtain a tourist visa on your own. You also need to apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad as the first step for your trip, something that will require contact from inside Iraq.
Let’s say you were able to apply for a tourist visa without needing help from a tour operator. You’ll still need to get permission to visit a lot of places within the country (the ones outside Baghdad), prompting you to enlist the help of a tour operator once again.
2. So does that mean I can’t go around Iraq on my own?
That depends on your arrangement with your tour operator. Some tour operators give their visitors the freedom to roam around on their own once they get to Iraq.
However, please remember that the government requires you to have a guide and a driver with you at all times, which is also one of the reasons why you should just book a trip with a tour operator.
3. How long will it take to have my tourist visa processed?
An Iraq tourist visa is not easy to get in the sense that it might take you up to a month to apply for it through a tour operator. Before that, you must coordinate with the operator much earlier so you can start arranging the details of your trip and pay the necessary fees for visa application so they can begin processing it for you.
Others who have been to Iraq say it too them roughly 4 months to get their visa! Quite a long time, right? So if you’re planning to visit, make sure to do it ahead of time.
4. How much does it cost to apply for a tourist visa to Iraq?
According to the Embassy’s website, applying for a tourist visa will cost you $30 or around £25 if you’ll be applying on your own.
However, since it’s tricky to get one on your own and you’ll be getting help from a travel operator, it might cost you more, depending on how much they will charge for the service.
5. How long will my tourist visa to Iraq be valid for?
Your single-entry visa will be valid for 3 months from the date of issue while the multiple-entry visas are valid for 6 months.
6. Will I be able to go to Iraq with an Israeli stamp on my passport?
Unfortunately, having an Israeli stamp will prohibit you from entering Iraq.
Israel no longer issues stamps on passports, but to make sure you won’t have to go through this trouble, avoid crossing the Jordanian and Egyptian borders when exiting. The officers at the border will stamp your passport, and some Arab countries still count this as gaining entry to Israel.
7. I have a visa to Kurdistan, can I use it to gain entry to the rest of Iraq?
Not really. Kurdistan is an autonomous region and has its government as well as its own set of laws. Your Kurdistan visa is only valid within the region, not within the whole of Iraq.
Also, remember that you’re unable to cross the land border between Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq, but you can fly between them, should you decide to travel to both places.
8. Is Iraq safe to visit?
Even after almost being under constant conflict for the past 2 decades, most tourists who have been to Iraq recently say they feel safe roaming the streets of the country. Of course, you still have to have a guide and driver with you 24/7 and you still have to gain permission to access some places, but overall, it’s a pretty safe experience for most travelers these days.
Just a reminder though, you have to take note of the places the FCO advises you not to visit:
Tam’mim (Kiruk) province
If in Erbil (in Kurdistan), south of Road 80, and within 10km of the border with Ninewah province between Road 80 and Road 2
For your safety, it’s always best to take out a comprehensive journey and medical insurance before your trip to Iraq.
9. Can I easily exchange my money in Iraq? Do they have ATMs? Can I use my credit card?
Yes, you can have your money exchanged at the airport or while you’re in the city. You can also withdraw money from the few ATMs scattered around Baghdad but it’s always best to just bring money with you to avoid trouble.
Only a few shops and hotels accept cards and most of the time, transactions are made with cards.
10. How do I go to Iraq from the UK?
Iraqi Airways has direct flights from London-Gatwick Airport and Manchester to Baghdad, Sulaymaniyah, and Erbil (if you are visiting Kurdistan) so once your travel arrangements have been ironed out, you can get one easily.
However, please remember to give your travel operator a heads up first before booking a flight. This is to make sure that everything goes smoothly with your trip as your visa begins at the start of your tour date.
Visiting Iraq by crossing the borders between Kuwait and Iran is possible as well.
It’s also important to note that you should enter and exit Iraq the same way. If you went to the country through Baghdad, you’ll have to leave through Baghdad as well.
11. Can I use my phone in Iraq? Do they have internet?
12. Do they speak English in Iraq?
Even though most of them speak Arabic and Kurdish (their official languages), you’ll find a lot of Iraqis who speak a few foreign languages like English as well.
If you do need help with communicating, you can always reach out to your tour operator and they’ll be more than happy to help out!
13. When is the best time to visit Iraq?
Due to its climate, the best time to visit Iraq is during spring and autumn, as both seasons are neither too hot nor too cold.
If you decide to travel from May to September (the hottest times in the country), you can visit the slightly cooler regions in the East.
14. Why visit Iraq?
As the birthplace of world civilization, and quite recently, a survivor of war, Iraq has such a rich story to tell.
In here, you’ll find Babylon, a city widely known because of its importance not just in ancient Mesopotamia, but in the Bible as well. Many people have probably heard about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the ancient world’s most prized wonders.
Despite years of looting, bombing and possibly every type of destruction man could have done to this historical area, some of its ruins still stand for tourists to see. You’ll still find old walkways filled with ancient art as well as the rebuilt walls and throne room of ruler Nebuchadnezzar standing proudly in this area.
Al Kifl, a city on the south-east, also holds an important place in the history of Iraq as the resting place of the prophet Ezekiel. The city still has ancient ruins standing proudly up to this day.
Al Mada’in is a place that has encountered some of the biggest empires to ever rise from this side of the world. It was rebuilt countless times by all the rulers who claimed this land as theirs in the past. You’ll also find the only remaining structure of the ancient city of Ctesiphon near this area.
It might probably take a whole day to list all the amazing places and structures that you’ll never find elsewhere in the world but Iraq. Hopefully, this also gave you a clearer idea about what this country is really about and why it’s worth paying a visit, despite the hardships that come with it.
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