In common with most Arab countries, you will probably be refused a visa if your passport contains an Israeli stamp or any crossing point with Israel including the Araba border, Sheikh Hussein border, Rafah border and Taba border. For foreign nationals there are four main types of visa to Iraq:
- Business/academic visas
- Pilgrim visas
- Tourist visas
- Press and media visas
The usual validity for a visa is three months and the maximum stay is 30 days. You will need an invitation from the commercial company, university or tour operator who will be sponsoring you. Note that individual tourist visas are not issued owing to the security situation and the tour operator has to have a minimum of seven to ten persons before any tourist visa can be issued. If applying at an embassy you will need to complete the forms and supply photos, your passport and the fee (check for current cost at time of application, see opposite for embassy contact details), plus your sponsor’s invitation letter.
The alternative is to obtain the visa on arrival at the airport of your choice. This has to be arranged well in advance by your tour operator or sponsor. They will supply the documentation on your behalf and usually meet you at the airport to facilitate the process. Visa fees at the airport are currently US$52 for single entry; US$200 for multiple entry (usually for business purposes).
Do not attempt to travel anywhere in Iraq without your passport containing your Iraqi visa and stamp. There are an enormous number of roadblocks and checkpoints on every road in every town and city at which you and your passport will be examined.
Getting there and away
Your entry point to Iraq is likely to be through one of the two international airports: Baghdad and Basra. At the time of going to press, numerous airlines served these (a selection of which are listed below). Unsurprisingly, routes and flights are subject to constant change, especially with Covid-19 restrictions, so visit individual operator’s websites for full details of the current services.
Iran to Iraq
Northeast of Baghdad runs the route through Diyala Province to the main International Border Post of Khorasan and the Iranian border. It is approximately 90km and along the way there are some patches of good road.
Jordan to Iraq
The western border with Jordan is open between Karamal on the Jordanian side and Tarabil on the Iraqi side. This border is a very important one for Iraq and consequently it is closely supervised. Up until very recently the Iraqi side of this border was controlled by ISIS and it is still not recommended that any foreigner attempts to cross here.
Syria to Iraq
There are two border crossings between Iraq and Syria: one between Qusaybah on the Iraqi side and Abu Kamal on the Syrian side, and the other between Al Walid on the Iraqi side and Tanf on the Syrian side. Both are currently closed.
First mooted in 1914, the international service between Baghdad and Istanbul (and beyond) has a long, chequered history with many interruptions. The latest attempts to resume the service in 2010 were briefly successful, but it has now closed again due to the civil war and insurgency in Syria.