How to Get to Iraqi Kurdistan
By: The PH Team
Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region in northern Iraq. The region is almost entirely separate from the rest of Iraq and is known for better security, tolerance of its minorities and gender equality.
The autonomous region is home to its own government (the Kurdish Regional Government), police force, military (the Peshmerga) and judiciary system.
Citizens of the EU, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, San Marino, South Korea, Switzerland, the UAE, and Vatican City are given a free stamp on arrival.
This is valid for 30 days after arrival, which can be extended by reporting to the Residency Office within 30 days of arrival. The Visa on arrival only applies to the Kurdistan Region and does not apply however to the rest of Iraq.
Getting to Iraqi Kurdistan by Plane
Getting to Iraq Kurdistan is quite simple and straightforward. The autonomous region hosts two international airports in Erbil and in Sulamaniyah, which operate regular flights to regional and international hubs around the world.
Erbil International Airport
For travellers making their way from Europe, regular flights operate from Germany (Frankfurt and Düsseldorf), Austria (Vienna) and Turkey (Istanbul and Ankara) to Erbil International Airport. There are also direct flights from Armenia, Azerbaijan, the UAE (Dubai), Egypt, Iran, Lebanon and Qatar.
Sulaymaniyah International Airport
The airport in Sulaymaniyah is also an easy option for travellers from Europe and around the world to get to Iraqi Kurdistan. For those beginning in Europe, regular flights operate from the UK (London - Gatwick), Turkey (Istanbul) and Germany (Frankfurt).
In addition, flights regular also operate from regional countries such as; The UAE (Dubai), Jordan, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar and Azerbaijan.
Duhok International Airport
The Duhok International Airport will hopefully be a good option in the future for travellers from Europe. The airport plans to operate regular flights from the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Sweden and other Middle Eastern destinations.
Getting to Iraqi Kurdistan on Land
Iraqi Kurdistan borders Turkey, Iran and Syria and can be accessed on land from all three countries.
Silopi, the closest town on the Turkish side, is connected to Istanbul and Ankara by bus. From here shared taxi across the border to Zakho, the closest town to the border on the side.
Buses linking Erbil with Diyarbakir in Turkey (about 10+ hours) and even from Istanbul. From Diyarbakir leaves at least three buses every morning from the main bus station to Duhok (7 hours), Erbil (12 hours) and Sulaymaniyah.
The border procedures generally take up to an hour to enter Iraqi Kurdistan.
Iran shares two border crossings with Iraqi Kurdistan: One at Piranshahr - Haji Omaran and one at Bashmaq - Panjwin (near Sulaymaniyah). The first is generally the preferred route by travellers.
These are the only two border crossings between Iraq and Iran that are accessibly for travellers who only wish to enter Iraqi Kurdistan and not Iraq. Other border crossing would require an Iraqi Visa and are not part of tours with Political Holidays.
1) Piranshahr - convenient for those travelling from Tabriz to Iraqi Kurdistan and is located approximately 150 km from Erbil.
2) Bashmaq - closest to Tehran and most convenient for those already in Iranian Kurdistan. This crossing leads to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah.
Although travellers do have the option to enter from Rojava, in Syrian Kurdistan, Political Holidays advises against it because of the ongoing conflict in Syria.