- Is it safe to travel in Kurdistan?
- Do I need a visa to visit Kurdistan?
- Does Kurdistan have the same kind of restrictive social requirements like some Muslim countries (such as Saudi Arabia and Iran)?
- How can I pay for personal items not covered in the cost of the tour?
- What are the physical restraints of the tour?
- What is the local currency?
Generally speaking the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is a very safe place to visit. There have been surprisingly few major incidents since the war and no loss of foreign life. Kurdistan has its own security, military and police force and the autonomous government prides itself on its record of safety. The region is unlike the rest of Iraq (which the media normally focuses on) in this regard and is widely known in media and political circles as “The Other Iraq”. It has often been said that the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is safer than New York or London both of which have suffered enormous security problems in the past. It should also be noted that in Kurdistan personal attacks such as muggings etc. are virtually unknown.
We as a tour company will absolutely not go anywhere with our clients that we deem dangerous. The well being of our guests is priority number one. One of our partners is the senior security adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government and Vice President of a large security company and therefore constantly abreast of all developing situations. We will cancel a tour and take the loss before putting anyone in unnecessary danger.
That said, Adventure Tourism is what the name suggests and common sense should always be used in this or any other country. Our company always provides its guests with a security briefing upon arrival and gives a few pointers to follow – such as following the instructions of your guide in case of emergencies.
The laws regarding visas change from time to time and our company will inform our clients of any new developments. At present, all citizens of the United States and the EU, Kuwaitis, Canadians, and Japanese, as well as a number of others, can enter Kurdistan without a visa for a period of 30 days. If the stay is longer than 30 days an exit fee of approximately $40 USD can be required. Stays of 30 days or longer require a visit to the Office of Foreign Registry, which your guide will assist you with, in such an event. It is generally fairly easy and painless but does take a bit of time - two hours or more. All persons from countries requiring a visa to enter the country must make an arrangement with our company one month in advance. High definition passport photo and a copy of the passport page is required. There is a substantial cost for visas at this time, which can also change. We will inform the client at the time of the booking what fees are involved. Our company does not profit from the visa process. All fees are paid to the legal broker and for official government fees over which we have no control. Facilitating visas to Kurdistan is a service we provide our clients only. We do not arrange visas for anyone other than those who have booked a tour with our company.
No. While Kurdistan is a predominantly Muslim area there are also large minorities of Christians and adherents to other faiths whose rights are scrupulously protected by law. Kurdistan is a very westernized area and is often referred to as “The Next Dubai”. There is a great deal of freedom in the region and women are often seen in the streets in jeans – rarely in veils. There are more than 20 seats reserved in Parliament for women and their rights are protected by law. That said, it is always wise to dress conservatively out of respect for the norms for this part of the world. Almost all of our visitors remark on the incredible level of hospitality throughout the region and indeed taking care of guests is a national pastime.
The currency of the region is the Iraqi Dinar and all purchases can be made in the local currency. Your guide can help you change foreign currency. While most major currencies can be easily exchanged, U S Dollars are the most widely accepted and many purchases can be made in dollars without having to convert them to the local currency. Credit/Debit cards are generally not accepted outside of major hotels or western style shopping malls - but this is rapidly changing. There are a few ATM machines but this is not a reliable source of obtaining cash and it is advisable to bring sufficient cash to make any desired purchases. Keep in mind that most expenses are covered in the tour cost although you will be responsible for personal items such as souvenirs, gifts, long distance telephone etc. In emergencies there is a local Western Union where one can receive funds.
The tour is rated as ‘moderate physical exertion’ and any special health concerns should be noted prior to arrival. There are several sites that require a moderate climb up steps. Each location description in the itinerary elaborates on this and guests can opt to wait in the air conditioned bus or lounging area if they do not wish to make the climb. Many of our guests are senior citizens or retirees and most do not find the journey particularly strenuous. We try to keep the pace such that there is time to rest and relax along the way. Most of our tours are custom designed for the particular needs of each client. It should be noted that Kurdistan is still a relatively new and developing tourist destination and therefore some amenities – particularly between large cities – are less than luxurious. Our company has screened all eating establishments for cleanliness but guests are advised that if the tour takes them to remote areas patience and forbearance is required.
The currency of Kurdistan is the Iraqi Dinar. The rate of exchange varies and for up to date information please check at the airport upon arrival or at your hotel or any of the many banks in each city. As an example the rate of exchange in December 2014 was roughly 1220 ID to 1 USD.
The US Dollar and sometimes the Euro as well as a few other currencies are also accepted at larger establishments such as hotels and restaurants. US dollars are accepted at some smaller shops. However credit cards are not accepted at most locations other than major hotels. ATM machines do exist in some banks and shopping malls but will dispense currency only in Iraqi Dinars and they function sporadically. Traveler’s checks are generally not accepted. To be sure you will have sufficient funds for your visit it is recommended to carry sufficient cash. US Dollars are the most accepted currency. For a currency calculator click: Yahoo Currency Coverter