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Iraq is a country in the Middle East.
Except for the autonomous Kurdistan region, Iraq is a dangerous place. It would probably be very risky to hitch there. There are unverified information that checkpoints are infiltrated so that when they see your foreign passport on a road checkpoint they can very well call their friends who are going to wait for you somewhere on the road to kidnap. Anyway, obtaining a full Iraqi visa is very hard and your Kurdistan stamp does not allow you to enter areas outside of Kurdistan region. There are, however some reports of Westerners crossing the border into cities like Mosul for example; however without a visa this can get you a lot of questions, and even accusations of being in ISIS. The Peshmerga take this very seriously.
We highly recommend to NOT hitchhike in the rest of Iraq (regions south of Kurdistan) at the moment.
Note that the Kurdistan Region (KRG) currently includes the provinces of Duhok, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Halabja. Kirkuk and Nineveh planes regions, which were taken by Peshmerga from Daesh are no longer under Kurdish control.
This region is autonomous from the rest of Iraq and is completely safe for hitchhikers. People are warm, hospitable and very western friendly.
However, avoid going to the disputed cities of Mosul and Kirkuk. There are plenty of checkpoints and it is easy to avoid going into the cities if you make it clear to the driver. Its also a good idea to avoid remote mountainous areas near the Turkish border because of the ongoing Turkey-PKK conflict.
As said above, the KRG is largely safe, and will probably continue to be so. Recently there have been some potential issues with Daesh, as well as Iraqi-Kurdish conflicts following the independence referendum of September 2017. However, neither of these conflicts spilled over the official border into Kurdistan. Furthermore, the Daesh threat is mostly gone in Iraq, and the fighting in Kirkuk seems to be at it's lowest intensity.
The situation doesn't appear to be likely to change any time soon, however a people surrounded by enemies get their fair share of trouble from time-to-time. Monitor news reports while you are in Kurdistan.
A 30 day permit for the Kurdistan region can be obtained for free at the border for all EU and most Western citizens (official list). You will just get an entry stamp in your passport. While inside of Kurdistan you can prolong it. Those unlucky to be on the visa on arrival list may apply for an e-visa via e-mail (see link above).
From Turkey There is an agreement between the two countries that individuals cannot cross the border on foot. Therefore, there are a lot of taxis. However, if you wait for a while at the border and explain that you want to otostop the Turkish guards may pay for your taxi (if they like you). This happened to hitchwiki member Vlad. But generally there are private cars crossing the border too and you can try to get a ride with them.
If you decide to take a taxi, you might as well take it from Cizre (50 km from the border) instead of Silopi (10 km from the border) as the taxi prices are the same (20 TL). When I arrived in Iraq my Taxi driver dropped me off just after the border, he told me I would have to take another taxi to get to Zakho but the price would only be 1 TL - that was not true, the taxi was 4000 Iraqi Dinaar (about 6,5 TL). Anyway, don't take another taxi, it's just 10 kilometers to the town, you can walk or hitch it. --Jakobwithk 19:29, 12 January 2012 (CET)
In April 2014 we got to the border by truck. There are many mini-van smuggling goods into Iraqi Kurdistan, and the policeman on the turkish side was happy to show us into one of his friends'. They did not ask for money and neither looked interested in payment, but rather in having us as passengers in their list. On the Iraqi side a policeman asked the cars if anybody was going directly to Erbil.--Rovingsnails
If you are a Westerner, you can use your perceived status as a special guest in the country to help you in some difficult circumstances. E.g. with my New Zealand passport I managed to walk across the boarder on a Turkish holiday bypassing the massive queue and breaking the rule about no foot traffic. Because of the holiday, the border was all but shut and the queue there was definitely going to be there all day and night.
June 2019: Uncle_sam01 was approached by a very friendly Turkish customs officer, who understood the whole car issue immediately and half-forced him into an Iraqi car. The Iraqis had some sort of list to which his name and details were added, probably unnecessarily. Rest of the crossing (incl. the Kurdish part) was a breeze with only a few questions. The whole taxi thing here seems a bit unnecessary.
From Iran At the Pervez Khan boarder to the west of Kermanshah you can freely enter by foot. Border guards will look surprised to meet somebody who is not smuggling goods from Iran into Iraq, especially if you're not from the Middle East. Luggage will be fully checked twice, but when they notice you are there to visit their beautiful country they will give you a big smile and let you through in no time. Last verified on 22nd of October 2016.
Iraqi Kurdistan- Turkey
On the way back, the Iraq side is walkable by foot, but when you reach the Turkish side they expect that you have a taxi. When they see you're clearly a backpacker type, they might be more lenient and arrange for a passing truck to take you through. In short, easier to cross the Turkish side without a taxi on the way back from Iraq. You may also find mini vans (dolmuses) willing to take you for free on the Iraqi side, you can normally find them in petrol stations filling up their tanks before they head over to the more expensive Turkey. However, be warned that they offer you a free ride because they want to use you to smuggle cigarettes, tea and other goods across to Turkey. The consequences of getting caught is not known but checks are usually fairly strict because of the P.K.K conflict in the Sirnak district and checks could take upto 5 hours or more. These mini-vans are usually happy to take you upto Silopi or Cizre at least for free.
December 2011: I managed to get a free ride back to Turkey by a friendly taxi driver who was going there anyway. I generally got the feeling that you can easily pass the border without paying for a taxi, there are a few private cars passing by that might pick you up. I walked into the border from Iraq and all the taxi drivers told me that hitchhiking/otostopping was not possible. Just ignore them, go and get your exit stamp, shortly after there's a checkpoint where you can ask people to give you a ride --Jakobwithk 19:29, 12 January 2012 (CET)
February 2012: After thumbing for 5 seconds in Silopi city center I got a ride to Zakho in a private car. There were more private cars crossing the border so I have to say that from what I have seen I do not understand this overall cry about the taxis. Just do not come there with the idea of taking a taxi, and hitch you way as you always do! Be persistent, have some time, and open mind :) --rozwal
Iraqi Kurdistan - Iran
There are two main border crossings between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran: Piranshahr (the more popular of both) and Penjwin-Marivan. A third point exists between Tawela and Nowsud, but some locals say it is only for trucks and not specially safe - although this has not been not confirmed.
Penjwin-Marivan - the immigration office is somewhat randomly located on the right side (as you arrive) - walk towards the big gate with Iraqi/Kurdish flags and then take a right along the Duty Free shop. Once you get inside (it looks like a waiting room at the dentist's), locate the "exit" window, put your passport on top of the stack of passports there, sit down and wait for the officer to mispronounce your name.
April 2014: Rovingsnails crossed this border without any problems. From Said Sadq a policeman stopped a bus for them, directly to Marivan (Iran).
July 2019: Uncle_sam01 crossed fairly quickly, but finding the Kurdish immigration office was quite a scavenger hunt. The Iranian side was fairly quick and without searches. He was asked a bunch of "friendly" questions by the very-not-obvious secret police, incl. "What's your religion?" ...
Iraqi Kurdistan is probably one of the easiest places in the world to hitchhike. Almost every car will stop for you, often it is not even necessary to signal for a ride. People are very interested in meeting foreigners, so it might help to show that you are a tourist. Many people will want to take you to bus stations or taxi stands. Some people may expect money (this is normal in Kurdistan), and see the ride as if they're a taxi. They will often still take you, if you make it clear, that you don't have money. In my experience, if the car is a regular sedan, be suspicious as it is quite likely an unmarked taxi
Kurdish people are very friendly and will go out of their way to help you. Its very normal to be picked up and invited to stay at the family home of the driver.
It is fully possible for a solo woman to hitchhike alone in Kurdistan, but staying safe might require a little more care than in other countries. Claiming to be married doesnt seem to help much here. Taxi drivers may stop and tell you they will take you for free, and seem completely well-intentioned, indicating they are going that way anyway, until you get into the car at which point they will let you know they are looking for another form of payment. As to other rides, try to signal cars carrying women, children, or two or more business-type men - they keep each other honest. This post is not meant to discourage women from hitching here, just to pay more attention than in other places - dont be afraid to turn down rides if you have any sense of a bad feeling. In my experience ( alyssa ), every time I got into a car with a single man in Kurdistan he ended up hitting on me, usually in a very direct way. However despite this I did not feel unsafe, and when I asked the drivers to stop and let me out they did so. It must be remembered that in this culture it is quite bizaare for a respectable women to be traveling alone, let alone standing on this side of the road asking for a free ride. You just have to make your intentions known early on.
One of the reasons Kurdistan is safe at the moment is the huge amounts of Kurdish military checkpoints around the country. They're mostly looking out for Arab and Shia Iraqis entering the area, but they'll take an interest in foreign hitchers for sure. They'll check your passport and sometimes take you into a the chiefs office for questioning. It's not an interrogation, they just want to know why your here and where you want to go. Assure them that you are a tourist that wants to see the country and that you're not going south of Kurdistan, or to Mosul or Kirkuk. They'll usually let you go with no fuss. Sometimes they'll even make you a chai or give you some cold water.
Checkpoint stops are pretty regular and there's no communication between each one, so be prepared to be stopped a lot in Kurdistan. It's usually not for longer than five to ten minutes at a time. The guards are likely to smile at you and say, "welcome to our country"
You should also note that the main road between Erbil and Zakho actually passes very close to the non-Kurdish city of Mosul. The Kurdish region is MUCH SAFER then the Arab part and there are a few tips to keep in mind just to make sure you don't venture into the wrong place:
A) At checkpoints always let the guards know your destination, if you're heading the wrong way (or heading to Arab Iraq) they will most likely stop you from going any further.
B) Try to avoid Hitching in cars with Black or Green license plates near the border of Kurdish Iraq. These cars belong to Baghdad and Mosul respectively.
C) The best license plates are probably Turkish vehicles (which are plentiful) since also the Turks/Kurds fear for their safety in the non-Kurdish region and their visa are generally only valid for the Kurdish region.
N.B. White and Blue license plates belong to Kurdish and government officials respectively.
Camping is possible in Kurdistan and safe. If you camp somewhere where people can see you, the police may come by and check your passports, but its unlikely that you'll get any further hassle from the authorities.
2018: blanky has found the Kurds to be extremely hospitable; here's a whole blog post about a couple days of hitchhiking.
August/September 2015 - "I hitched around iraqi kurdistan most of the time and never had problem getting rides. People were as expected very friendly and hospitable. The only thing making hitching less smooth were the numerous checkpoints and the Asayish (some kind of secret police). While most of the time I could pass trough the checkpoints easily I was stopped and interogated a few times. Most of the times these interrogations were just a few questions (where to, where from and why) and after 5 minutes I was back on the road. But on a few occasions I was kept for a longer amount of time . The longest of these encounters were while I tried to hitch to Amedi taking the big road in the east (trough Barzan). I was stopped halfway there and then brought to a local chief of the Peshmerga. During the whole time my poor driver had to stay as a translator, being the only krudish english speaker around. After a few hours of waiting and answering questions I was let go but was strongly advised by the official not to take this road any further but return to Erbil. According to them the Checkpoints wouldn't get any more relaxed from this point and cars would become more and more sparse anyway. Might have been just a lie to make me change course but in the end I did return to Erbil since the better part of the day was gone anyway. From my overall experience I can say that at the beginning of these interrogations the officials can be unfriendly and might even make some amusingly exaggarated claims about you ( Faked papers or Israeli in disguise are my favorites). I didn't exactly help that I have a full somewhat longer grown beard as well. But just keep your cool, stay friendly and try not to tell them lies. They're just trying to keep the area safe and as soon as they realized that Im not a spy or came to join Daesh they became friendly and often even apologize for their behaviour. During the month I stayed and hitched around iraqi Kurdistan I never felt unsave and I can only agree with what people say about the kurdish hospitality." Wu Kong
Last time in January 2015 -As a woman the people of Iraqi Kurdistan have always been very welcoming, but I also used to have quite a lot of problems with sexual harassment there. I started feeling much safer in Iraqi Kurdistan since I started learning more Kurdish. People are really astonished by this and immediately try to show your the best side of their region. I have almost had no one acting indecently since then. This applies to hitchhiking as much as to any other situation. User: Irisn
June 2013 (Only relevant for Kurdish quarter of Iraq) I hitched in without any issues from Turkey, as there is alot of traffic at this border, and the process is straightforward to get your free visa. Alot of traffic heads to Duhok, which is pretty enough, but wait for traffic going directly to the capital, as it is a hard city to hitchhike out off, with large highways. Hitchhiking in this country is probably not quite as gushingly easy as earlier stated, although you will have someone stop out of curiosity eventually. They go to great measures to help, flagging down other drivers, putting you in taxis. All sorts. The road networks are a NIGHTMARE, and all being rebuilt. There are few definitive maps, and Google Maps is pish and out of date. Ask frequently to ensure you don't go astray, or even ashtray (if you slipped into Arabic territory). Peshmerga (bad spelling, but the elite police and army unit), keep the place very safe, and can be really friendly. I spent two nights at their roadstops, and got great hospitality. Much easier out of the big cities, and the Kurdish people deserve high praise for delightful hospitality, warmth and gentleness, a true asset - lukeyboy95
July 2014: I hitchhiked around Iraqi Kurdistan for about a week. I found it fantastically easy to find a ride. I hitched in from Turkey and got my free visa. When I was leaving the Kurdish border control office, a Peshmerga soldier flagged down a bus to take me all the way to Erbil (Hêwler) for free. After staying a couple nights with the deaf community in Erbil, I hitchhiked north and was offered a place to sleep in Akre by the Syrian family who gave me a ride. Afterwards, I hitched up to Amedi, where I stayed with some friends of the Kurdish border control officer I met a few days before. On my way back to Turkey, I was given a hotel room in Zakho for the night. I have nothing but good things to say about Kurdistan and the Kurdish people. - Sirrdc