Iraq travel guide

About Iraq

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.

Key facts


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


37,547,686 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

89 per km2




Democratic republic.

Head of state:

President Barham Salih since 2018.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi since May 2020.

Travel Advice

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Areas where FCDO advises against travel  

FCDO advises against all travel to Iraq except to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to KRI.

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel despite FCDO advice, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

FCDO provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK who choose to travel despite FCDO advice. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Iraq set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Iraqi Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Iraq. 

Passport validity requirements

To enter Iraq, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive and have at least one blank page.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements

You must have a visa to visit Iraq.

You may be eligible to get a visit visa on arrival in Iraq. Check with the Iraqi Embassy in London or the Iraqi Consulate in Manchester before you travel. You must pay any fees for visas on arrival in Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, in US dollars.

E-visa for Kurdistan Region

The government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) has introduced a new e-visa process. You can find the details and apply on the e-visa portal of the Kurdistan Region Government. It is also possible to obtain a visa on arrival. Both types of visas are valid for travel in KRI only. 

Weapon Authority Cards

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.

HIV and hepatitis test

You must have a blood test for HIV and hepatitis unless you’re travelling on a visit visa. You must take the test within 10 days of arrival and repeat it 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.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Iraq. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Taking money into or out of Iraq

On entering or exiting Iraq you must declare all currency or items valued over 200,000 Iraqi dinars (10,000 US dollars), or the same value in other foreign currencies.

This guide also has safety advice for regions of Iraq.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.    

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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Iraq

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

Attacks can occur throughout the country but are more frequent in areas where Daesh had a strong presence and capability. This includes the provinces of:

  • Anbar
  • Baghdad
  • Diyala
  • Ninewah
  • Salah-Al-Din
  • Tam’mim (Kirkuk)

There is still a risk of attacks by Daesh in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Targets for terrorist attacks have included:

  • airports and public transport
  • land border crossings
  • markets, stores, hotels and restaurants
  • government buildings, political offices, police stations and military establishments
  • residential compounds
  • maritime facilities and oil facilities
  • religious sites and ceremonies
  • political events, large crowds
  • sports venues and stadiums

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:

  • large-scale co-ordinated bombings designed to cause mass casualties
  • rockets and mortars
  • shootings
  • suicide bombs
  • vehicle bombs

Fake vehicle checkpoints have been used to launch terrorist attacks. Militant groups opposed to a western presence pose a threat to UK and other interests in Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region. Foreign nationals are high-value targets for terrorists, insurgents and criminals. This includes those of non-western appearance. Indiscriminate attacks against public places and Iraqi civilians also occur.

UK prosecution for terrorism offences

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

Terrorist kidnap

There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout Iraq.

This includes both from Daesh and other terrorist and militant groups. Keep your security arrangements up-to-date and carefully plan any travel plans. Kidnappings can be for ideological reasons as well as financial or political gain. Targets have included British nationals in the past.

Close protection security is important but does not remove the threat. Previous kidnap victims have had security arrangements in place. 

The US Overseas Security Advisory Council has warned about the risk of kidnapping attempts on non-governmental organisation (NGO) staff. This includes those providing aid to Mosul. They have also warned about the elevated kidnap risk to US citizens in Baghdad and wider Iraq. This is linked to the elevated tensions between the US and Iran.

British nationals are seen as legitimate targets, including tourists, humanitarian aid workers, journalists and business travellers. If you are kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to protect you or secure your safe release. 

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. 

Military activity in the Red Sea area      

There is a military response to Houthi militants’ attempts to disrupt international shipping in the Red Sea. The military activity is limited to the Red Sea and Yemen, but travel advice for nearby countries could change at short notice. You should monitor travel advice and follow instructions from local authorities.

Security situation

Some areas of Iraq have experienced recent attack by artillery, drones and rockets. US military installations continue to be a target, including in the Kurdistan Region.

The threat level may restrict UK government staff from travelling to certain areas.

If you’re travelling to Iraq, take security precautions:

  • get advice from a private security company
  • make arrangements for secure accommodation and transport
  • have contingency plans in place
  • stay up to date with local media
  • consider pre-deployment training

The security situation may change at short notice. You may need to ‘shelter in place’ or hunker down for several days. Keep essential supplies, such as food, water and medicine where you are staying.

In the event of widespread disturbances or a deterioration in the security situation, there may be limits to the help that FCDO can provide. Read further information and advice on how to deal with a crisis overseas.

Ensure your travel documents are up to date in case you need to leave Iraq at short notice. Do not rely on FCDO being able to help you evacuate in an emergency.


Protests take place in and around the International Zone in Baghdad and across Iraq. Clashes between Iraqi security forces and protesters have resulted in casualties and loss of life. Avoid rallies, marches and processions, and follow the instructions of local authorities.


Curfews and vehicle bans can be issued at short notice, particularly during protests and civil unrest, but also around religious holidays, pilgrimages and on key political dates like elections.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

It is illegal not to carry some form of photographic ID in Iraq. Always carry your passport or residence permit. The authorities may stop people for ID checks at checkpoints within cities and on main roads across Iraq. You should cooperate with officials conducting checks.

Lost and stolen passports

It is a legal requirement to publish the details of your lost or stolen passport in two local newspapers, after reporting the incident to the police. You may be refused an exit stamp until you have done so.


Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The dates vary by year and country. During this time, do not:

  • drink, smoke or chew gum in public in the daytime, including in your car
  • play loud music or dance
  • swear in public

Get more advice when you arrive from your tour guide, hotel or business contacts.

You should also:

  • check opening hours of shops and restaurants
  • be aware that if hotels and restaurants are providing food or drink in fasting hours, they may separate you from Islamic guests, for example with screens
  • follow local dress codes – clothing that does not meet local dress codes may cause more offence at this time
  • be aware that fasting can cause tiredness, particularly during the later afternoon and early evening
  • be patient and show tolerance

The Arba’ een

The Arba’ een, an annual pilgrimage that attracts millions of pilgrims to Iraq, usually occurs between August and September.

If you travel to Iraq during the pilgrimage, ensure that your belongings are secure at all times. Keep copies of your passports, visas and other important documents.

Child custody

Iraqi family law is very different from UK law. Male heads of household can impose ‘travel bans’ on family members. Even if you, or your child, hold a British passport, you may be subject to Iraqi laws.

If you are leaving Iraq with a child that has an Iraqi or dual-national Iraqi father you may need to show proof of parental permission to travel. This applies even if their mother is with them.


Authorities may detain journalists using allegations of inadequate paperwork. Journalists should be extremely cautious and take adequate security measures.

Alcohol laws and bans

The import, manufacture, or selling of alcoholic drinks is punishable by fines of up to 25 million Iraqi dinars (IQD). FCDO is not aware of any instances of Iraqi officials stopping travellers carrying alcohol for personal use.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Iraq continues to practise the death penalty for a range of crimes including for:

  • drug trafficking
  • espionage
  • kidnapping
  • murder
  • rape
  • smuggling antiquities
  • terrorism
  • war crimes

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex relations are not illegal under Iraqi law. However local attitudes towards LGBT+ people may be hostile. There are reports of LGBT+ people experiencing discrimination, harassment and violence from state authorities. The LGBT+ community keeps a low profile, making it difficult to know its size or relative freedoms.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Iraq, see information on driving abroad.

You’ll need to have both the 1968 version of the international driving permit (IDP) and your UK driving licence with you in the car. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

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

Air travel

When in an airport, be wary of anyone approaching you that you do not know or cannot identify. Do not accept offers from strangers for help or transport. Co-operate fully with security officials at airports and observe any additional security measures.

Your transfer vehicle should be pre-arranged or provided by a trusted sponsor.

Since October 2023, drone and rocket attacks have hit US military installations across Iraq. Erbil International Airport has had short closures, with operations resuming after a few hours. Indirect rocket attacks have occurred against Baghdad International Airport and Erbil Airport.

Flight schedules may change without notice. Contact your airline or travel company for the latest information before travelling. The UK Air Safety List (ASL) lists all known airlines in Iraq that do not meet international safety standards and are banned from operating commercial air services to, from, and within the UK. Check the UK Air Safety List when considering which airlines to fly with. The list is maintained by the Department for Transport, based on advice from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

UK government staff working in Iraq are authorised to use aircraft operated by Iraqi Airways for internal flights on a case by case basis.

Sea travel

Ports are under a high risk of attack. Be extremely cautious if you are in any type of vessel in the northern Persian Gulf. Vessels are at an increased risk of attack in:

  • the Gulf of Oman
  • Northern Arabian Sea
  • Gulf of Aden
  • Bab El Mandeb

Consider any regional tensions that may affect your route and check whether sea borders will be open before your crossing.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.


Flash floods are common between November and March. Recent flooding in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq led to loss of life and disruption to travel. Be aware in areas of heavy rainfall and follow the advice of the local authorities.


Earthquakes are a risk in Iraq.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Dust storms

Sand and dust storms are common during the spring and summer months. Poor visibility can create difficult driving conditions and affect flights.

This section has safety advice for regions of Iraq. It only covers regions where the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has specific advice.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and safety and security advice.

Northern and western Iraq

Areas liberated from Daesh are likely to contain remnants of war and improvised explosive devices.


Routes in and out of Baghdad and its airports may close with little or no notice. Check your routes in advance of travelling.

There is still a threat of terrorist groups targeting hotels in Baghdad. Stay alert and follow the advice of local authorities.

Avoid political gatherings and large crowds. Reduce your movement around banks, restaurants, and shopping malls. Follow instructions from security officials.

Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI)

There is still a risk of attacks by Daesh in KRI.

Turkey carries out regular military in the north of KRI and on occasion, further south. There is particular risk in mountainous areas:

  • Qandil
  • Makhmur
  • near the border with Turkey

Military action may affect crossing points along the Iraq-Turkey border.

On 15 January, Iranian missiles targeted the north-eastern edge of Erbil city, near the areas of Kasnazan and Mulla Omar. Ballistic rockets and drones have previously attacked other areas of Erbil, Koya and surrounding areas, and border regions.

Since October 2023, drones and rockets have attacked US military installations in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Foreign nationals crossing the border from neighbouring countries into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have been arrested for immigration offences. Prosecuted offenders could face a prison sentence of up to 5 years or fines of several thousand US dollars.


Protests are common in Basra. Stay 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.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 122 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in Iraq, including:

  • Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
  • malaria
  • poor air quality from dust and sand storms

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Iraq. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare in Iraq

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Iraq where some staff will speak English. 

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Iraq.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Iraq

Ambulance: 122

Fire: 115

Police: 104 

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Iraq and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Baghdad or Consulate General in Erbil.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Iraq on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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