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Iraq - Travel and visas
The FCO are currently advising against travel to most parts of Iraq, check out their website for the up-to-date situation. 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 Araba border, Sheikh Hussein border, Rafah border and Taba border.
For foreign nationals there are four main types of visa:
• 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 due 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.
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$82 for single entry;
US$200 for multiple entry (usually for business purposes).
For more on visas and red tape, see Iraq: the Bradt Guide.
Baghdad Airport was re-opened for commercial flights in April 2004. The airport is located 16km west of the city and there is a complicated entry system for passengers due to the strict security currently in place.
A network of well-paved and signposted highways connects Baghdad with all parts of the country. Smaller roads are not always as well maintained, however, and may only be signed in Arabic, or not at all. Road congestion in the centre of Baghdad is horrendous and you can be stuck in traffic for hours on the shortest of journeys. If you have been invited to Iraq for business or academic reasons then you will need to rely totally on the organisation who invited you for vehicles. Pilgrims will be under the supervision of a travel agent who will supply the necessary transport. Tourists can only travel around Baghdad under the control of the Ministry of Tourism or with the tour company that supplied their visa and therefore they will provide transport.