Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Iraqi Kurdistan refers to the four northern Iraqi Provinces, which are autonomous of the central Iraqi government and ruled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
These provinces achieved de facto independence after an uprising in 1991 and their autonomy has now been enshrined into the Iraqi federal constitution.
The autonomous region is also home to its own government, military, police force and judicial system - allowing for greater safety and freedoms than the rest of Iraq.
As such, autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan is much easier to travel to than other places in the region and is considered far safer than the rest of Iraq.
Visa On Arrival
Iraqi Kurdistan has a separate visa policy to the rest of Iraq. Thankfully for travellers, the Iraqi Kurdistan is much easier and safer to travel to.
Citizens of Canada, the USA, the EU, Australia, New Zealand and other countries are able to receive a visa-on-arrival when entering the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan, without any prior notice.
Passengers flying to either Erbil or Suleimaniyah international airports will be able to receive a visa on arrival upon landing in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Travellers holding passports from other countries may require prior visa clearance and should inquire with Barzan Ardalan (202-821-1850 or email@example.com)
Iran shares two border crossings with Iraqi Kurdistan:
These are the only 2 border crossings between Iraq and Iran that are realistic for travellers with foreign passports, since all other border crossings require an Iraqi visa in order to cross and therefore will be unable to obtain a visa on arrival.
Piranshahr — convenient for those travelling from Tabriz to Iraqi Kurdistan.
Bashmaq - closest to Tehran and most convenient for those already in Iranian Kurdistan. This crossing is the closest to Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan.
There are long distance coach services between Tehran and Erbil crossing the border (ca. 950 km, 10 h), but many travellers also rely of either private taxis or hitchhiking. The border is very safe to cross and has not been a site of safety concerns for travellers.
Please note, that Political Holidays does not operate tours to Iran and all tours to Iraqi Kurdistan will begin either at an international airport or on the Kurdish side of the border.
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. Recently companies have begun running buses linking Erbil with Diyarbakir and Van (about 9-15 hours depending on border traffic) and even Istanbul.
The border formalities may take as little as 45 minutes entering Iraqi Kurdistan. No papers or photocopies are needed - all you need is your passport and you will receive a visa on arrival.
Please note, that Political Holidays does not operate tours to Turkey and all tours to Iraqi Kurdistan will begin either at an international airport or on the Kurdish side of the border.
Travel to Iraq
As mentioned above, the visa policy of Iraqi Kurdistan is completely separate to that of the rest of Iraq. As such, the visa-on-arrival in Iraqi Kurdistan does NOT apply to the rest of Iraq.
Travellers who wish to continue on to other parts of Iraq will have to apply for an Iraqi visa separately and is not connected to any tour with Political Holidays.
This also applies to disputed regions such as Kirkuk, which are under control of the central government in Baghdad, even though claimed by the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil.
More information can be obtained by emailing us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: November, 2019