Alcohol in Iraq

Ben Johnson
Dec. 20, 2023


When traveling through the Middle East and the Muslim world in general, there are many cultural norms that everyone has to learn how to navigate. One topic that we find comes up quite often is whether alcohol is available or not, and if it is, what the cultural expectactions around where and when you should drink it are. After all, a cold beer after sightseeing in hot weather definitely makes a holiday just that little bit more relaxing.

In Lebanon and Syria, alcohol is widely available, however, on our Saudi and Afghanistan tours, it would be totally illegal. If you are wanting to read more on bars in Syria then check out this blog we wrote here .


So where does Iraq sit?

Alcohol-in-iraq The answer is not as easy as you might think and the topic itself has caused a stir in Iraq in recent times since the government moved to ban alcohol across most of the country.

In Baghdad, alcohol is still legal and widely available. In some areas, especially on Sadoun street, you can find many alcohol shops which will be open till late. These shops have also invented a genius way of serving alcohol in which they pre-freeze a small amount of water in an empty water bottle and then mix whatever spirit and mixer you would like. If cheap whiskey with pomegranate juice is your thing then you’ll go mad for this!

There is also a range of beers both local and foreign which are available. We recommend the 8% beer called Reem.

Outside of Baghdad though, things are a different story. Alcohol is legal in Kurdistan and Baghdad only. Outside of these areas, you cannot transport or purchase alcohol legally. In the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, it would be extremely offensive and illegal to bring alcohol and consume it and it could even land you in trouble with the police.

In Basra and the south, it is also illegal, however, you can purchase it at duty free at Basra International Airport on the way into the country, and it is permitted to consume it inside your hotel room, however, whether this is allowed is at the discretion of the hotel itself. The Movenpick in Basra is one hotel we know absolutely guarantees this.

In some dry countries, certain religious communities are allowed to consume alcohol, such as the Armenians in Iran. In Iraq, while Christians are allowed to consume alcohol, there isn’t a particular venue or community area where they can purchase and consume it.

In short, to summarise our findings:

Baghdad - yes,

Kurdistan - yes,

Basra - maybe, if you consume it in private and buy it at duty free at the airport,

And for the rest of the country, it would be a no.

If a holiday without alcohol is not your thing then come with us to one of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia where vodka and beer are plenty and cheap!

If you’re wondering how alcohol is in our other destinations, you can check our destination guides here .



Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson

Originally from Perth, Australia, Ben has had the travel bug from a young age starting from a school trip to Beijing and Tokyo. He is known as a language nerd, having studied Mandarin, Japanese, French, Russian and now Arabic. In his downtime he loves to spend hours cooking and eating foods he’s discovered across the globe.

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