Road Conditions and Safety: Vehicular travel in Iraq can be extremely dangerous. There have been attacks on civilian vehicles as well as Iraqi military and security convoys on roads and highways throughout Iraq, both in and outside metropolitan areas. Attacks occur throughout the day, but travel at night is more dangerous and should be avoided. Such attacks are unpredictable, and have involved small arms fire and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) capable of destroying the average vehicle.
Public Transportation: Buses run irregularly and frequently change routes. Poorly-maintained city transit vehicles are often involved in accidents. Long-distance buses are available, but are often in poor condition and drive at unsafe speeds.
Traffic Laws and Practice: Drivers usually do not yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and ignore traffic lights (if available), traffic rules, and regulations. Jaywalking is common. Roads are congested. Some cars do not use lights at night and urban street lights may not be functioning. Some motorists drive at excessive speeds, tailgate, and force other drivers to yield the right of way.
Checkpoints: Many government checkpoints are scattered throughout the country. New ones may be placed randomly, particularly after terrorist attacks. It can take a long time to navigate them in crowded traffic, and some may shut down altogether at certain hours. Drivers should have car registration and ID documents available and should be very patient and polite.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Iraq should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard Homeport and the NGA Broadcast Warnings website.
Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Iraq, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Iraq?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
The FAA prohibits U.S. civil flight operations over or within Iraq at certain altitudes and under other circumstances specified in KICZ NOTAM A0025/17. In addition, travel for U.S. Mission personnel through Basrah Airport remains prohibited and travel through the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) by official personnel is limited. The FAA has determined that U.S. civil aviation flying in Iraqi airspace is at risk from military operations (military aerial combat operations and other military-related activity) and militant groups. Foreign airlines operating in Iraq may cancel their operations without warning due to the security environment or other factors. Travelers should remain vigilant and reconfirm all flight schedules with their airline prior to commencing any travel.
For further background information regarding FAA prohibitions on U.S. civil aviation, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration?s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices website.
The U.S. Embassy does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare and Medicaid do not apply overseas. U.S. citizens in Iraq should not expect any medical assistance from the U.S. government.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation by air ambulance since the U.S. Embassy does not pay for this service.
Prescription Medication: Always carry your prescription medication in the original packaging with your doctor?s prescription and in sufficient supply for your entire stay.
Medical Care: Basic, modern medical care and medicines are not widely available in Iraq. Conflict has left some medical facilities non-operational and medical stocks and supplies severely depleted. The facilities in operation do not meet U.S. standards, and the majority lack medicines, equipment, and supplies. A limited number of companies facilitate medical evacuations. Blood banks exist in Iraq, though the blood supply may not be sufficient in the event of an emergency and likely has not been tested under U.S. standards for infectious disease. In addition, many areas suffer rolling power outages and generators are not always available for back-up.
Mental Health: There is limited mental health or psychiatric care in Iraq. Be aware that Iraq is a country under conflict; pre-existing mental health conditions and symptoms may resurface or be exacerbated due to exposure to ongoing events and the environment.
- Food-borne illnesses
- Breathing problems caused by frequently hazardous air quality, especially in Baghdad.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Further Health Information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Family Circumstances: The U.S. Embassy is aware of cases in which U.S. citizens, especially female dual nationals of Iraq, have traveled to Iraq with family members and have been subject to threats, kidnappings, and extortion, including incidents of loss of custody of children or forced marriage. Women and children should pay particular attention to any warning signs, including husbands or other family members withholding money or travel documents after arrival in Iraq, and should also be aware that U.S. laws cannot protect U.S. citizens when they are outside of the United States. The Iraqi police and legal system may offer little protection.
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
Property Disputes: Some U.S. citizens have been kidnapped, assaulted, or threatened by family members in response to family disputes over property. Land disputes are common in Iraq and are often difficult to resolve through legal channels. The U.S. Embassy cannot protect personal property and cannot take sides in a legal dispute. U.S. citizens wishing to purchase property should be aware of the risks, including not being physically present to oversee property. Those involved in a court dispute run the risk of having cases filed against them, and they may be arrested and jailed.
Special Circumstances: The ability of the Embassy to provide consular services to U.S. citizens is extremely limited given the security environment. Host government emergency services and support are limited.
Iraq continues to suffer from serious deficiencies in public services. Electricity often fails. Iraqi fire and rescue services are still developing, and hotels may not be fully equipped with fire safety equipment. Telephone (landline) service is very limited, and while cellular service (mobile wireless) has expanded rapidly into urban areas, reliability varies by region. The banking and financial infrastructure is underdeveloped, as transactions remain largely cash-based. Hotels usually require payment in foreign currency. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are extremely rare in most of Iraq.
Customs officers have the broad authority to search persons or vehicles at Iraqi ports of entry. Officers may confiscate any goods they deem may pose a threat to the peace, security, health, environment, or social order of Iraq. Antiquities or cultural items suspected of being illegally exported may also be confiscated, as with goods that are not declared. Visitors may also be ordered to return such goods, at their expense, to the jurisdiction from which they came.
Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report? see country reports
- Human Rights Report? see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBTI Travelers: Iraqi law prohibits discrimination based on race, disability, or social status, but it does not address the issue of sexual orientation or gender identity. Societal discrimination in employment, occupation, and housing based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and unconventional appearance is common in Iraq. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: While in Iraq, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and other state services. The government enforces the law in the public sector, but not in the private sector. Access for persons with disabilities to buildings and in educational and work settings remains inconsistent. Public and government buildings, as well as public bathrooms, may not be accessible.
Safety and Security
Risk of Violence to U.S. Citizens: U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at critical risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence. The U.S. Embassy warns U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Iraq and advises citizens to read the State Department?s Iraq Travel Advisory.
ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL or Da?esh) is a designated terrorist organization conducting an active insurgency in Syria, with franchises or direct links to terrorist groups in Iraq and other parts of the world. It commits terrorist attacks, violent atrocities, and targets U.S. citizens. ISIS controls some areas of Syria on the Iraqi border. The Iraqi government declared all of its territory liberated from ISIS in December 2017; however, despite improved government control, ISIS remains a threat to public safety in Iraq through the indiscriminate use of terrorist and asymmetrical attacks. Additionally, criminal gangs and local militias pose a potential threat to U.S. citizens.
U.S. Government Security: The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. government personnel in Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Ambassador must follow strict safety and security procedures when traveling outside Mission facilities. The internal security policies of the U.S. Mission in Iraq may change at any time. The Mission will regularly restrict or prohibit movements by its personnel, often on short notice, for security threats or demonstrations.
Private Security: State Department guidance to American businesses in Iraq advises the use of protective security details. Detailed security information is available on the U.S. Embassy website.
Avoid Border Areas: U.S. citizens should avoid border areas, especially near Syria, Turkey, and Iran. These areas are especially dangerous and not always clearly defined. For more information, please see the Iraq Travel Advisory and Country Specific Information for Iraq?s neighboring countries: Iran, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Syria. U.S. citizens traveling near border areas may encounter aerial or artillery bombardments, unmarked minefields, and border skirmishes with smugglers.. Neighboring governments, including Iran, have detained U.S. citizens who approach these borders.
Mosul Dam: The Government of Iraq has begun to improve the structural integrity of the Mosul Dam. A dam failure could cause significant flooding, loss of life, and interruption of essential services from Mosul to Baghdad. While it is impossible to accurately predict the likelihood of the dam failing, the Embassy has made contingency plans to relocate its personnel in such an event. The Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in Iraq, especially those visiting or residing in the floodplain of the Tigris River, prepare their own contingency plans and stay informed of local media reports and Embassy security messages for updates.
Crime: Petty theft is common in Iraq; this includes pick-pocketing in busy areas (e.g., markets), as well as the theft of money, jewelry, or other valuables from hotel rooms and private residences. Historically, carjacking by armed thieves has been very common, even during daylight hours, and particularly on the highways from Jordan and Kuwait to Baghdad. Foreigners, Iraqi citizens, and especially dual U.S.-Iraqi citizens are targets of kidnapping. Kidnappers often demand money but have also carried out kidnappings for political/religious reasons. Many hostages have been killed.
The murder rate remains high due to terrorism, tribal and family disputes, and religious/sectarian tensions.
Victims of Crime: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. We can:
- Replace a stolen passport.
- Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
- Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, contact family members or friends.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
The local equivalent to the ?911? emergency line in Iraq is ?130? from both mobile and fixed line telephones. Please note that responders do not speak English.
See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
Protests: The Embassy urges U.S. citizens in Iraq to avoid protests and large gatherings. Iraqi authorities have responded forcefully when violence has occurred, including on two occasions in 2016 when protestors entered the International Zone (IZ) in Baghdad and attacked Iraqi government buildings. These incursions resulted in personal injury to both protesters and security personnel. Demonstrations in Baghdad have also occurred in and around Tahrir Square. Demonstrations in Basrah have occurred at the offices of the Provincial Council and governor.
Tourism: No formal tourism industry infrastructure is in place. Tourists are considered to be participating in activities at their own risk. Emergency response and subsequent appropriate medical treatment is not available in-country. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
The Government of Iraq strictly enforces regulations regarding visas and entry, authorizations for weapons, and movements through checkpoints. U.S. citizens traveling to Iraq without the proper authorization or whose purpose of travel is not readily apparent have been detained without warning.
Required Travel Documents:
- Passport: Valid for at least six months after dates of travel.
- Visa: Apply with the Embassy of Iraq in Washington, D.C.
Within seven days of the date of entry into Iraq, most travelers must:
- Obtain an arrival sticker
- Submit a blood test (does not apply to tourist visa holders)
- Obtain a residency stamp
Arrival Sticker: The arrival sticker is available at the immigration desk at the port-of-entry into Iraq. Visitors who exceed the seven-day period can face a large fine.
Blood Test: All visitors and new residents to Iraq, with the exception of those traveling on a tourist visa, must have a blood test for HIV and hepatitis within seven days of arrival or face a fine. The test must then be revalidated every 90 days while in Iraq. Guidance on where to go for the blood test is available at the airport upon arrival. In the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, travelers need to have this blood test only if staying for more than 15 days.
Residency Stamp: There is a high-cost penalty for visitors who do not obtain the required residency stamp within their first seven days in country. Visitors staying less than seven days do not require this stamp. A U.S. citizen who plans to stay longer than two months must apply at the Residency Office for an extension.
Exit Stamp: Before departing the country, U.S. citizens must obtain an exit stamp at a residency office. Contractors in the International Zone (IZ) may also obtain exit stamps at the Karadah Mariam Police Station (available Sunday and Wednesday, 10:00-14:00). Exit stamp fees vary, depending on length of stay, type of entry visa, and other factors. Travelers who hold a tourist passport with no visa or an expired visa are required to purchase an exit visa and pay a fine. The requirement and cost of an exit stamp may differ if the U.S. citizen passport holder has Iraqi ancestry. Visitors who intend to return to Iraq will require a re-entry visa, also available through a local residency office.
U.S. Government Contractors: The Government of Iraq?s requirements for entry and residency for U.S. government contractors vary based on many factors. Persons traveling to Iraq to work on U.S. government contracts should check with their contracting company and contracting officer?s representative to determine entry and residency procedures and requirements. Contractors receive an Iraqi visa tied specifically to the contract and will be in violation of Iraqi immigration law if found to be violating the terms of the visa, including by overstaying. The process for obtaining these visas can be lengthy, so contractors should apply early and remain in close contact with their contracting company during the visa process.
Private U.S. Citizens Traveling for Work: U.S. citizens traveling to Iraq for the purpose of employment should check with their employers and with the Embassy of Iraq in Washington, D.C. for any special entry or exit requirements related to employment.
Residency Offices: Each province has a Residency Office in the provincial capital.
Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) Entry/Exit Requirements: U.S. citizens who plan to stay for longer than 30 days in the IKR, including those with valid Iraqi visas, must visit the local residency office within seven days. U.S. citizens who allow their residency within the IKR to lapse may face difficulties getting the exit stamp needed to leave the IKR either by land or by air.
Embassy of Iraq, Washington, D.C.: Visit the Embassy of Iraq for the most current visa information. The Embassy of Iraq is located at 3421 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20007; phone number is 202-742-1600; fax number is 202-333-1129.
HIV/AIDS: Iraq has imposed HIV/AIDS travel restrictions on all visitors and new residents must have an HIV blood test during their first seven days in country or face a fine. There is no waiver available for this ineligibility. Please verify this information with the Embassy of Iraq before you travel.
International Parental Child Abduction: International parental child abduction is the removal or retention of a child outside his/her country of habitual residence in breach of another parent or guardian?s custody rights. The Office of Children?s Issues within the U.S. Department of State is a leader in U.S. government efforts to prevent international parental child abduction (both from the United States and to the United States), help children and families involved in abduction cases, and promote the objectives of the Hague Abduction Convention.
If you believe your child is in the process of being abducted by a parent, legal guardian, or someone acting on their behalf, call: 1-888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on Iraq for additional information on U.S. ? Iraq relations.
Travel Embassy and Consulate
U.S. Embassy Baghdad
Telephone: 301-985-8841 (U.S. dial numbers that ring in Baghdad)
U.S. Citizen Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 301-985-8841 from the United States or 0760-030-3000 locally from within Iraq or 964-760-030-3000 when calling from another international location.
U.S. Consulate General Erbil
413 Ishtar, Ankawa Erbil, Iraq
Telephone: During business hours from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Sunday through Thursday (local Erbil time is eight hours ahead of EST and seven hours ahead during EDT)
From Iraq: 066-211-4554
From the United States: 240-264-3467 and then extension 4554
After hours emergencies and on weekends (Friday, Saturday & Holidays):
From Iraq: 066-211-4000 and ask to speak with the Duty Officer
From the United States: 240-264-3467 and ask to speak with the Duty Officer
U.S. Consulate General Basrah
Basrah, Iraq (near Basrah International Airport)
At this time, U.S. Consulate General Basrah does not provide consular services; please contact the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad for assistance.
The work week in Iraq is Sunday through Thursday.