Iraq is a country located in the Middle East. It is situated at the north end of the Persian Gulf with a small coastline in the south east of the country. It shares its borders with Iran to the east, Kuwait to the south, Saudi Arabia to the southwest, Jordan to the west, Syria to the north west, and Turkey to the north. Unfortunately, Iraq has been through tough times in the past 40 years and its tumultuous history has taken a toll on its travel industry.
After the fall of the Saddam Hussein government, known for being extremely hostile to the Shia religion, the holy sites of southern Iraq and in particular the spiritual home of Shia Islam in Karbala welcomed the hordes of religious pilgrims mostly from the Middle East, Iran, and Central Asia. Religious pilgrimage is still unsafe, but it’s definitely safer than it used to be and knowing the Arab region is also quite useful as it will make you feel safer.
Warnings & Dangers in Iraq
OVERALL RISK : HIGH
Generally, Iraq isn't a safe country to visit, because of its complicated political situation and turmoil that took over the country and its neighbors. It is strongly recommended that you do not travel to Iraq at this time.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : HIGH
Terrorist groups make transportation through the country rather difficult. You might get pulled over at any second. Air traffic isn't safe either. In January 2015, a commercial flight arriving into Baghdad International Airport was fired upon by the rebels.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
Petty crime in Iraq exists and if you do leave your accommodation for whatever reason - even though this is also strongly advised against - be careful in crowded places such as bus and train stations and keep your valuables in your accommodation.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
As for the natural disasters, floods are Iraq's most severe threat. In 2015, a state of emergency was declared in Iraq due to torrential rains resulting in severe flooding.
MUGGING RISK : HIGH
Violent crime has actually been on the rise during the past three years. There have also been some kidnappings involving foreigners. Travelling in groups is recommended in Iraq. Avoid any suspicious parts of the country or going out at all after dark.
TERRORISM RISK : HIGH
Terrorists are very likely to try and carry out attacks in Iraq. The biggest threat is coming from the extremist groups like Daesh that are responsible for the majority of attacks. Remain vigilant at all times.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
Scams are the least of your problems if you're in Iraq, but yes, there are scammers here that will try to trick you. Double check your change, never pay anything upfront and negotiate everything in advance. Be very careful around ATMs and be wary of people trying to distract you.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : HIGH
Iraq isn't dangerous for women particularly, but it is advised for tourists in general, regardless of their gender, not to walk around Iraq, be it during day or night, as the country is essentially in the state of warfare.
So... How Safe Is Iraq Really?
Iraq is not safe to travel to. All travel to Mosul, Al-Qaim, Hawijah etc. is strongly discouraged and governments are advising their citizens world-wide against traveling to Iraq. Though traveling to areas like Basra, Najaf, Karbala, and the majority of Kurdistan is safe, and the north-east provinces which comprise Iraqi Kurdistan can be considered somewhat safe, you should still travel to this country only in cases of absolute necessity.
If it is necessary to visit Iraq, then remain cautious and aware of your surroundings at all times, and consult your embassy before you leave. If you go to Iraq and you have certain opinions on its history, religion and the sectarian warfare that has been going on for over a decade, keep it to yourself as expressing these opinions in certain areas can end with fatal consequences. Rule of thumb is to avoid any religious or political discussions.
Keep in mind that Iraq, being a war zone, has minefields pretty much everywhere in every area of the country, so do not stray anywhere, do not walk into fields, especially unmarked ones unless you’re guided by someone who knows the area or are absolutely sure that it’s safe. It would be best not to go anywhere without escort from the Iraqi army.
- Visas - Most countries do need a visa in order to enter Iraq. Make sure your passport is valid for at least the next six months. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - Iraqi dinar is the official currency in Iraq. ATMs exist throughout the country and are mostly located outside of banks.
- Weather - Climate in Iraq is mostly mild, though extremes to both ends can occur. Average temperature in Iraq can range from higher than 48 degree C in July and August to below freezing in January. It receives plenty of precipitation, mostly within a period between December and April. Rain is more abundant in the mountainous region.
- Airports - Baghdad International Airport, formerly referred to as Saddam International Airport, is Iraq's largest and main international airport. It is located about 16 km west of downtown Baghdad.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Iraq, since it covers not only the costs medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.