British government officials serving in Iraq live and work under strict security rules. All British officials live in secure, guarded accommodation and travel with close protection teams at all times. Depending on the threat level, they may be prevented from travelling to certain areas of Iraq.
Hotels and guesthouses used by foreign nationals and the government of Iraq are subject to regular threats. The British embassy does not allow official visitors to stay in a hotel overnight outside the Kurdistan Region, however attendance to meetings in hotels are assessed on case by case basis.
If you travel to areas of Iraq to which the FCO advise against all but essential travel, you should take appropriate security precautions before travelling. Outside of the Kurdistan Region you are strongly advised to employ a private security company, make arrangements for secure accommodation and transport and consider pre-deployment training.
Avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people; if you become aware of any nearby violence, leave the area immediately.
As part of Arba’een religious observations, processions and events will take place throughout Iraq, especially in Karbala and Najaf, during November. Religious gatherings have previously been targeted by terrorists.
The government of Iraq has begun to take measures to improve the structural integrity of the Mosul Dam as there is a risk the dam could fail. It’s currently impossible to accurately predict if or when this might occur. A failure could lead to major flooding in the Tigris river valley, from Mosul to Baghdad. As there’s likely to be little warning of a failure, it will be logistically impossible for the British Government to evacuate you. The British Embassy has contingency plans to ensure staff are safe in the event of failure. You should make sure you have contingency plans in place and monitor media reporting and this travel advice.
British nationals in Baghdad should have robust contingency plans in place and continue to monitor media reporting. You should stay in close contact with your private security companies and monitor our travel advice pages. Routes in and out of Baghdad may become blocked and airports closed or inaccessible at little or no notice. You should plan and check your routes in advance of travelling.
In recent months Turkey has conducted a number of airstrikes in the far north of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). On 8 September 2015 Turkish troops crossed the border into the KRI in pursuit of alleged militants and on 29 November 2015 Turkey shelled militants in villages bordering Turkey and Iraq. Take extra care in mountainous areas, particularly near the border with Turkey. Crossing points along the Iraq-Turkey border may also be affected.
The Kurdistan Region is administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government which has considerable autonomy within Iraq.
While the Kurdistan Region has a different security environment to the rest of Iraq, Daesh controls territory nearby. The security situation in the Kurdistan Region could deteriorate quickly.
Following fighting in Ninewah province, large numbers of internally displaced people have travelled to Dohuk province in the Kurdistan Region, joining others already taking refuge there.
Foreign nationals crossing the border from Syria into the KRI have been arrested for immigration offences in recent months. If prosecuted offenders could face a prison sentence of up to 5 years.
There are no country-wide curfews at present, but curfews and vehicle bans can be enforced at short notice, particularly around religious holidays, pilgrimages and key political dates like elections.
Border crossing points with countries neighbouring Iraq may close with little or no notice. There are reports that a number of Iraqi border crossings with Syria are now under Daesh control and have been closed. Three Saudi Arabian border guards were killed at the Arar crossing between Iraq and Saudi Arabia on 5 January 2015. Check whether border crossings will be open before travelling through these areas.
Baghdad, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Basra International Airports are generally considered secure, but Baghdad International Airport has been the target of attacks in the past. You should take care within the terminals. Don’t leave Baghdad or Basra International Airports without taking adequate security precautions.
Iraqi Airways’ permission to operate to/from points in the EU has been suspended. This is because Iraqi Airways has been unable to satisfy the European Aviation Safety Agency that the airline meets the requirements for non-EU airlines operating to/from the EU.
On 26 January 2015, a Fly Dubai aircraft was struck by gunfire on approach to Baghdad International Airport. No injuries were reported but some carriers temporarily suspended flights. On 15 March 2015, several rockets landed on the outskirts of Erbil, to the west of the city. No injuries were reported but some carriers temporarily suspended flights to and from Erbil airport.
Flight schedules may change without notice. Contact your airline or travel company for the latest information before travelling.
Maritime facilities are under a high risk of attack. Maritime and sailing craft should take great care in the northern Persian Gulf. Vessels transiting the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of attack. You should consider any regional tensions that may affect your route.
Road travel within Iraq remains highly dangerous and there continue to be fatal roadside bombings and attacks on military and civilian vehicles. False vehicle checkpoints have been used to launch attacks. There is also a risk of carjacking and robbery.
Road traffic accidents are frequent and often result in fatalities.
The British Embassy in Baghdad and the British Consulate-General in Erbil operate a limited consular service by appointment only. It is highly unlikely that the Embassy in Baghdad will be able to intervene in any Iraqi visa-related matters on entry into Iraq, travel to unsecure areas of Baghdad outside the International Zone, or make a visit to a police station in the International Zone within Baghdad or any Iraqi prison (consular staff will, however, try to make contact by telephone).
A number of UK companies visit and operate successfully in Iraq. However, movement is restricted and companies nearly always travel with close protection security teams. Specific guidance for companies seeking to do business in Iraq can be found on the UK Trade & Investment website (UKTI). UKTI are also able to put you in touch with companies operating in Iraq who offer security services. For more information see Operating in high-risk environments: Advice for business
There is currently a very high threat from terrorism in Iraq. Extremist groups like Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) are responsible for the majority of attacks. Following Parliament’s support on 26 September 2014 for UK airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq, there is a heightened threat of attacks against western interests in Iraq.
Following Daesh’s expansion into the country in 2014, there have been numerous and frequent terrorist attacks, and levels of violence remain high. The UN has reported that at least 7,515 civilians were killed by terrorism and violence during 2015. This trend has continued in 2016.
Attacks are more frequent in areas where Daesh has a strong presence and capability, such as Anbar, Baghdad, Ninewah, Salah-Al-Din, Diyala and Tam’mim (Kirkuk) provinces, but can and do occur throughout the entire country.
Terrorist attacks are common in Baghdad city, where Daesh frequently targets the Iraqi government, security forces and Shia civilians. Attacks have also occurred in the Kurdistan Region with a small number in Erbil and its surrounds in 2015.
Targets for terrorist attacks have included: residential compounds, military establishments, oil facilities, public transport, commercial venues, including markets and stores, maritime facilities, land border crossings, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, large crowds, police stations, party political offices/events, sports venues/stadiums and religious sites/ceremonies.
Methods of attack have included shootings, large-scale co-ordinated bombings designed to cause mass casualties, suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, rockets and mortars. In the early months of 2014 and in October 2014 there were several reports of indirect fire on the International Zone in Baghdad and Baghdad International Airport.
Foreign nationals, including those of non-western appearance, are high value targets for terrorists, insurgents and criminals. Indiscriminate attacks against public places and Iraqi civilians also occur.
On 3 July 2016, a truck bomb killed at least 200 civilians and injured several others in a busy shopping district of central Baghdad. Daesh claimed responsibility. A second explosion in another part of the city killed five civilians.
On 17 April 2015, a car bomb detonated outside the US Consulate General in the district of Ainkawa in Erbil. At least 3 civilians were killed and more than 8 injured in the attack. Daesh subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack.
There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
There is a high threat of kidnapping in Iraq from both Daesh and other terrorist and militant groups. Kidnappings can be for purely ideological reasons as well as financial or political gain, and can be motivated by criminality or terrorism. British nationals have previously been targeted. Individuals have been kidnapped from homes, workplaces and while travelling. Some hostages have died.
You should regularly reassess your security arrangements and consider carefully any travel around the country, especially when moving outside the International Zone in Baghdad. Close security protection is important but doesn’t remove the threat; a number of previous kidnap victims had security arrangements in place.
During a major Daesh offensive which began in June 2014, there was an increase in reported kidnappings by Daesh. The threat of kidnap is highest in areas where Daesh have a strong presence, but they are not the only group who may seek to take hostages. Western nationals who come into contact with Daesh are likely to be seized and held as hostages.
International and local journalists have previously been detained in Iraq due to allegations of inadequate paperwork. Journalists should exercise extreme caution and take adequate security measures.
Daesh and other terrorist groups view those engaged in humanitarian aid work or journalism as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws reflect that Iraq is a predominantly Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religious customs at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or when visiting places of religious significance.
In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June. See Travelling during Ramadan
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
According to Iraqi law you must get a visa before you travel. You can apply for a visa at the Iraqi Embassy in London.
Immigration officials at airports in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq routinely allow travellers to get a visa on arrival. These visas are only valid for 30 days. If you intend to stay longer you should contact the Residency Office to extend your stay or you may be detained or fined. The local authorities in the Kurdistan Region charge large fines for over-staying. These visas are not valid for travel elsewhere in Iraq.
Make sure you have the right documents when you arrive in Iraq, including Weapon Authority Cards (WAC) if you are carrying weapons.
Foreign nationals have been arrested for failing to provide the correct documentation when requested. For more information contact the Iraqi Embassy in London.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Iraq.
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into Iraq. However, ETDs are accepted for airside transit and exit from Iraq. If you’re using an ETD to leave the country, you’ll need to get an exit stamp from the Baghdad or Erbil Residency Office.
If you remain in the country for more than 10 days without extending your visa, you’ll need to get an exit stamp to leave the country.
Your sponsor (for example the company you work for) must apply for the exit visa to the Residency and Immigration Office, which is part of the Ministry of Interior. Your sponsor will need to submit letters to the Immigration Office stating the start and end date of employment.
All visitors to Iraq, with the exception of those travelling on a tourist visa, must have a blood test for HIV and hepatitis within 10 days of arrival. The test must then be repeated every 90 days while you’re in Iraq. Guidance on where to go for the blood test is available at the airport when you arrive. In the Kurdistan Region, you only need to have this blood test if you’re staying for more than 15 days.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical facilities are limited. In the event of serious accident or illness, an evacuation by air ambulance may be required. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
In September 2015, the World Health Organisation reported a cholera outbreak in Iraq. See the TravelHealthPro website for more information.
The temperature in summer months can exceed 50 ºC (122ºF), which can result in dehydration and serious health problems.