Iraq Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Iraq
Threat level: High
Anyone travelling to Iraq is to be extra vigilant and cautious, it is strongly advised that you do not visit on an unofficial basis to many parts of the country as it is a very volatile and dangerous region. There is a heated conflict within the region and its neighbouring countries that has been ongoing for many years. All but non-essential travel is advised throughout the country including the Kurdish region.
Any and all travel to Iraq should be with the appropriate level of armed close protection. All movement should be well planned with logistical support in place.
Recent Security Risk Events
Iraq is very unpredictable and unstable. Although the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, declared victory over the Islamic State in December 2017, attacks are still occurring in the country but are less frequent. Attacks can be carried out in many formats which can cause mass casualties. Attacks such as suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, rocket and mortars are frequent. Governmental buildings and military forces encroaching the offending front line areas are likely targets.
Destinations where current travel advisories in place and are advised against are:
- Anbar province
- Ninewah province
- Salah-Al-Din province
- Diyala province
- Tam’mim (Kirkuk) province
- South of Road 80, Erbil Province
- Ninewah province between Road 80 and Road 2, within 10km of the border
Some Kurdish regions are notably different in security levels, and as such safer and still visited for tourism purposes. Please make sure you check the latest threat level for the particular town you are visiting prior to departure. This is due to the evolving presence of Iraqi forces and fighters in nearby regions. Avoid the mountainous areas, and crossing points close to the Iraqi-Turkey border where recent shelling has occurred.
2016-17 has been a devastating two years for attacks in the country, with many major incidents including in June 2016, ISIS targeted a crowded shopping district in Baghdad where hundreds of Iraqis were gathered during the holy month of Ramadan. The car bomb is thought to have killed at least 300 people. Travellers are advised to avoid all but essential travel to Iraq and to avoid areas with large amounts of people at all costs.
On New Years Eve 2016/2017, a bomb exploded in the Sinek market in central Bagdad, killing 27 people, most of whom were shop keepers from the market. Although nobody has yet claimed responsibility for this attack, it is likely to be related to the so called Islamic State.
Although the Iraqi forces are pushing throughout the country fighting militant forces, it is seen that this will be an ongoing battle for many years to come. Alongside the military operations, infrastructure development and a battle for hearts and minds is ongoing, assisting those who have been displaced over the many years of conflict in the region.
ISIS have targeted a generation of men as young as 10 within the region, bitter from many years of struggle, converted to fight in the hope that they will be offered a better future when ISIS take hold of the region as a whole. And as such until a long term diplomatic solution for the regeneration of the country is under-taken and military strong holds are fortified, the long term the stability in the region will always be questionable.
If you are of Arabic/Iraqi descent it is strongly advised that you do not travel to smaller villages caught up in the frontlines of fighting. Iraqi forces will pass through these villages holding mass public inquisitions of the village’s inhabitants, if you are a newcomer or unknown, with none of the village elders able to vouch for you, it is highly likely that the town residents may think you are an infiltrating ISIS militant. You will be detained on the spot, taken away and interrogated at a military base.
There is a high risk of kidnap in the country, please keep all windows shut and follow the instruction of your driver when travelling, seemingly calm areas have been known to erupt spontaneously, with small arms fire targeted at cars. Extreme caution should be noted when at checkpoints and also when vehicles are stationary, please be aware and watch for suspicious behaviour around you at all times.
Please be respectful of local laws and traditions when in the area, especially females even in the Kurdish controlled regions. It is also best to show a low level of affluence to prevent yourself from becoming a target of petty or opportunistic crime.
Since the departure of Saddam Hussein’s rule and the Iraq invasion in 2003, the dynamics of the country have changed somewhat. Previously a country which had been under tight rule, was then confronted by large scale military conflict, insurgency and interim governments. For over a decade now it has been turbulent, however diplomatic talks and infrastructure rebuilding the country has moved the country forward towards a post Hussein future. Aid has been received by many western and far eastern countries, with the USA taking point in the reconstruction assistance.
Please do not travel near the Syrian, Turkish, or Iranian borders. This is due to the increased risk from the ongoing conflict. Fatalities and attacks have occurred in these areas.
Please note that there is a risk of the Mosul Dam failing, if it were to fail the Tigris river valley from Mosul to Baghdad would suffer major flooding.
Curfews can come into effect at short notice as well as vehicle bans, these are more likely around religious holidays and key political dates.
Please note Iraq’s airports have been targets for attacks, which has led to suspension of flights. Flight schedule can change without notice so please be aware of this and be in contact with your travel provider to monitor for such events. There has been a suspension on Iraqi Airways to operate with some destinations in the EU, this is due to not meeting the required safety standards.
Currency: Iraqi dinar
Time now in Baghdad:
To enter Iraq, you must apply for a visa before your travel. Further information on requirements for Iraq can be found at: Visa Check Iraq
It is advised that visitors to Iraq are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You must get a Polio vaccination if you have not already had it or a booster jab if you have. It is further recommended that most travellers also get Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccinations.
Although there is no direct risk of Yellow Fever in Iraq, if you have been in a country where there is a risk of the disease, or have transited for longer than 12 hours in an at risk country, you will be required to provide a vaccination certificate. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Medical care varies greatly out of the main cities and large towns.
Other health risks
Personal hygiene must be paramount and the local water supply avoided at all costs and bottled water inspected prior to consumption. It is advised if possible to provide your own medical support if visiting Iraq, as the countries medical facilities are under strain in certain parts from the ongoing conflicts.
U.S. Embassy Baghdad
Telephone: +0760 030 3000
British Embassy Baghdad
Telephone (UK CONTACT): +44 01908 516666
Other useful info
Police emergency: 104
Medical emergency: 122
Fire emergency: 115