Because of ongoing violent conflict in Iraq, foreign visitors risk being exposed to armed violence and kidnapping. For this reason, entry to Iraq can prove difficult for foreign nationals unless traveling to Iraq on official business; however tourism visas can
generally be easily obtained to visit Kurdistan in the north, which is generally considered safe for foreign visitors. If travel is necessary, be sure to contact your embassy and stay aware of developments.
Arabic is the national language of Iraq. English is somewhat widespread. In Kurdistan, Kurdish is spoken as well as Arabic.
Most of Iraq has a hot, dry climate with summer temperatures exceeding 40°C. Sunscreen is advised and visitors should be sure to stay hydrated, especially during the summer months.
Traveling on your own outside of Kurdistan, whether in public or private transportation, is not advised. Driving in Iraq can prove dangerous due to traffic conditions and continuing terrorist attacks. Be on the lookout for the frequent military checkpoints and obey the commands of police and soldiers. Do not hitchhike under any conditions. Taxis are available in cities, but pose the same dangers as driving your own vehicle.
The currency of Iraq is the Iraqi dinar. Euros and dollars are accepted almost everywhere, however. Counterfeit bills are common in Iraq, so be cautious. The banking system is still underdeveloped, and it is best to carry cash rather than relying on ATMs.
Hotels are plentiful in Kurdistan. In the rest of the country, a variety of options are available, although most visitors will have their accommodation arranged by their employer since they are there on official business.
Travelers should be aware that during the month of Ramadan, which varies based on the Islamic calendar, the daily routine of the country changes drastically. Because this is a month of fasting, many businesses, especially restaurants, are closed during the day.
In better times, Iraqis are known for being welcoming and helpful, however, travel in Iraq is now considered dangerous. Be sure to consult your embassy and employer to find out about safety procedures and remain aware of your surroundings at all times. Crime is now rampant in Iraq due to the security situation and political and sectarian conflict continues to flare up.
Drinking tap water is best avoided. Visitors should drink bottled water, which is widely available.
Sanitation standards in Iraq are extremely low in many establishments and visitors should choose the establishments they visit with care. Pharmacies are widely available. Be sure to consult your employer about healthcare options available.
The people of Iraq have become increasingly conservative due to the hardships they’ve endured over the last several decades. Respect should be shown for local customs and discussions of politics and religion should be strictly avoided in this volatile country. Visitors should dress modestly. Alcohol is legal in Iraq, but in light of the ongoing sectarian conflict in the country and religious sensibilities, drinking in public is best avoided in many areas.