Getting in and Out
This is specifically for Federal Iraq (Southern Iraq) and does not apply to Iraqi Kurdistan. You can enter Federal Iraq through the main airports in Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala which all have visa on arrival for eligible foreign passports.
It is also possible to cross into Iraq from Kuwait and Iran. From Iran into Iraq most borders are only open for Iranian pilgrims however recent reports say that foreigners can cross at the Chazabeh-Al Shaib border.
Please note there are several other border crossings that foreigners can use from Iran into Iraq, however this is into Iraqi Kurdistan. If you enter Iraq through Iraqi Kurdistan you will not have the permission to enter Federal Iraq. Conversely however, If you enter Federal Iraq then you are allowed to enter Kurdistan and exit Iraq from any of those border points.
From Kurdistan you can also exit into Turkey.
The border with Syria is still closed and considered too dangerous. The border with Saudi Arabia is open, however it is not in use for foreigners.
See and Do
I raq is home to some of the earth’s most ancient civilisations which were spread down the Tigris and Euphrates. This area is known as Mesopotamia and contains numerous historical sites such as Babylon and Ur.
In addition, Iraq holds two of the holiest cities for Shi’a Muslims, Najaf and Karbala which are amazing to visit even for non-Muslims.
Nature-wise, Iraq is also blessed with some of the most diverse ecosystems in the Middle East with the southern marshlands being home to numerous species and also a unique style of Arab culture that is found nowhere else.
Baghdad is an amazing city to explore as well. It has thousands of years of history as well as many large and impressive modern monuments show casing recent events such as the classic blue domes of the Shaheed monument.
While there is no specific dress code in Iraq, you should dress modestly. In Southern Iraq it is advisable to wear long pants/trousers, even for men. In the Kurdish region they are a bit more forgiving if men wear shorts, however you won't really find any locals doing so.
You will of course have to dress modestly to enter religious sites. Women will have to be covered to be able to enter mosques. Note that it is particularly common for women who are visiting Najaf and Karbala to wear the black ‘chador’, as these areas are particularly conservative, so it is advisable for women visiting these areas to also err on the side of caution and wear a headscarf.
This is the type of place to maybe leave the crop tops at home.
Topics of discussion
One thing you may want to discuss is both Iraq’s war torn past and Saddam Hussein. You should be very careful especially when discussing Saddam and definitely do not glorify his regime.
Iraq is 95% Muslim with it being split between Shia (64-69%) and Sunni (29-34%). The other 5% of the population is made up of Christians, Yazidis, Jews and Zoroastrians.
Iraq is home to some of the most holy places for Shia Muslims, such as the Imam Hussein Shrine in Karbala. The most notable site is that of the shrine of Imam Ali. The assassination of Imam Ali is one of the main reasons for the split in in Islam between Shia and Sunni.
Pilgrims travel from all over the Shia Muslim world to make pilgrimages to holy centres of Karbala and Najaf during the holiday of Ashura. Ashura is held during the first month of the Islamic calendar and is celebrated through large-scale demonstrations which mourn the death of Hussein Ibn Ali (the grandson of the prophet Mohammed) during the battle for Karbala in 680 CE.
Interestingly, while the death of Hussein Ibn Ali is considered a tragedy also for Sunni Muslims, they are discouraged or even prohibited from mourning him.
Iraqi Kurds in the north are roughly 92% Sunni Muslim. Sunni Muslims have also in the past claimed that the government discriminates against them, a claim that the government of course denies.
Photography is absolutely allowed, however as in most places, photos of government buildings and of the military are not welcome. If you are caught taking photos of military people or checkpoints then you might have some issues.
As is the case everywhere in the world, you should also always ask locals before taking their photo. Iraqi people are very friendly and usually will love to take photos with you, but just ask first!
Drones are banned in the country and may be confiscated on arrival if discovered. This is for both commercial and private use.