Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Monday, 07 April 2014.   It includes new information in the Summary and under Safety and security: Terrorism (there is a likelihood of increased violence in the lead-up to, and following, national elections scheduled for 30 April 2014; extremists continue to target critical infrastructure, including Baghdad International Airport). We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Iraq overall because of the extremely dangerous security situation and very high threat of terrorist attack.

Iraq overall

Provinces of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah

Summary

  • We strongly advise you not to travel to Iraq (with the exception of Iraqi Kurdistan) because of the extremely dangerous security situation, very high threat of terrorist attack and very high threat of kidnapping. Australians who decide to travel to Iraq should ensure they have appropriate personal security protection measures in place.
  • We advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan – the provinces of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah – due to the high threat of terrorism and risk of kidnapping.
  • Since early 2013, insurgent activity has increased considerably with a number of large-scale coordinated attacks against the Government of Iraq and civilians, killing and injuring thousands of people in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. These attacks included the indiscriminate targeting of public areas.
  • There is a likelihood of increased violence in the lead-up to, and following, national elections scheduled for 30 April 2014.
  • The security situation in Anbar province has deteriorated with clashes and heavy fighting between security forces and extremists in parts of the province.
  • Extremists continue to target Iraqi political figures, government facilities security installations and civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. Critical infrastructure, including Baghdad International Airport, continues to be a target. Attacks may target, or occur during other political events, including international meetings and conferences or political rallies. Rocket and mortar attacks occur without warning. Australians could be caught up in such attacks.
  • You should avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings due to the high risk of violence.
  • Both foreign and Iraqi nationals continue to be at risk of being kidnapped or murdered.
  • Australians may commit serious criminal offences by fighting in a foreign state, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
  • Due to the difficult security environment, the Australian Embassy's ability to provide consular and passport services is limited, particularly outside Baghdad.
  • Given the unpredictable security situation and very high threat of terrorist activity, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. All Australians need to obtain a visa before entering Iraq.

The Kurdish Regional Government allows some travellers to enter Iraqi Kurdistan (IK) – the provinces of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah – without an Iraqi visa. In these circumstances, the Kurdish Regional Government issues its own entry “visa”. These “visas” are not valid for travel outside the provinces of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. Visitors without the appropriate Iraqi visa may be arrested and detained if attempting to enter other provinces of Iraq.

Some foreigners may be required to get a blood test report before entering Iraq. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Iraq for the most up-to-date information on visa requirements.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

We strongly advise you not to travel to Iraq because of the extremely dangerous security situation and very high threat of terrorist attack. Iraq is unsafe for tourism. If you are in Iraq, you should ensure you have appropriate personal security protection measures in place.

There is a likelihood of increased violence in the lead-up to, and following national elections scheduled for 30 April 2014.

Insurgents continue to conduct large-scale coordinated attacks against the Government of Iraq and civilians, killing and injuring thousands of people in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country. Attacks occur frequently and without warning. They include the use of improvised explosive devices (roadside bombs, suicide vests and car bombs), small arms fire, rocket and mortar fire, and kidnapping. While terrorists and anti-government forces continue to target prominent Iraqi political figures, government facilities and security installations, public areas and religious events are also indiscriminately targeted without regard for civilian casualties. Attacks may target, or occur during other political events, including international meetings and conferences or political rallies.

There are ongoing attacks against Iraqi Security Forces, particularly check-points, police stations and recruiting centres. Terrorists have also targeted public transport, markets, mosques, churches, schools, universities, funerals, religious gatherings, foreign embassies and other civilian infrastructure. Critical infrastructure, including Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), continues to be a target. Since January 2014 there have been several attacks on BIAP. The cities of Baghdad, Mosul, Fallujah, Baqubah, Ramadi, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, Samarra, Abu Ghraib and the areas between them are particularly hazardous.

Terrorists and anti-government forces have attacked places frequented by foreigners, including banks, hotels and restaurants, throughout Iraq. Hotels outside the International Zone in Baghdad have been the target of past attacks, including the Al Sadir, Palestine, Sheraton and Babylon hotels.

Mortar, rocket, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and small arms fire are common, indiscriminate and occur without warning. You should take precautions to reduce the threat of injury from indirect fire, including limiting unnecessary movement outdoors.

Terrorists have mounted attacks during significant religious events, including Ramadan, Ashura and Arba'een. There have been a number of recent mass casualty attacks on sites and ceremonies associated with religious pilgrimages.

Military operations against hostile elements in Iraq are continuing and you are advised to avoid all areas where military operations are taking place. This includes Iraq's northern border where the Turkish and Iranian military have conducted operations (see Iraqi Kurdistan areas below).

Security arrangements for Australian Embassy staff in Baghdad are at a high level.

Security restrictions, including curfews and access to the International Zone, can be tightened at short notice. You should monitor the media for information about any changes to curfews.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Iraqi Kurdistan: We advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan - the provinces of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. These provinces are more stable than other parts of Iraq. However, there is a continuing threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping in these areas (see separate advice on kidnapping). You should maintain a high degree of security awareness at all times and monitor the media for information regarding your safety.

Due to the threat environment, Australian officials visiting Iraqi Kurdistan continue to employ protective security measures.

We continue to advise Australians not to travel to areas bordering Syria, Turkey and Iran due to the current dangerous security situation. In 2013 Turkish and Iranian military forces conducted strikes and military operations within Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kidnapping: There remains a very high threat of kidnapping in Iraq. Foreign nationals, including Australians, living and/or working in Iraq continue to be at risk of being kidnapped. Most kidnapping activity is undertaken by criminal elements for ransom. A significant number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped and murdered. For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

The Australian Government’s longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying ransoms increases the risk of further kidnappings.

If, despite our very strong advice against travel, you decide to visit Iraq, you should put in place robust measures to ensure your personal security, seek professional security advice and take out kidnapping insurance.

Civil unrest/political tension

The security situation in Anbar province has deteriorated with clashes and heavy fighting between security forces and extremists in parts of the province.

You should avoid all demonstrations and large public gatherings due to the high risk of violence. You should also take care in the period surrounding Friday prayers in all parts of Iraq.

Incidents of civil unrest, looting and the use of firearms and explosives are common throughout Iraq.

If a terrorist attack or civil disorder occurs, you are advised to maintain a low profile and, in the absence of other advice, remain indoors.

International and local events and political developments can quickly prompt violence or large demonstrations.

You should closely monitor the media and other local information sources for information about new possible safety and security risks.

Crime

Violent crime is prevalent in Iraq. A high proportion of kidnappings are carried out by criminal gangs who demand large ransoms for the release of their hostages.

A number of Australian businesses have been contacted by companies claiming to be Iraqi importers offering to transact business in unusual or suspicious ways. Individuals may have knowledge of the industry and the target company and may appear legitimate. You should seek legal advice if you or your company is asked to participate in such activities.

Australian companies have also been contacted by individuals claiming to represent the Government of Iraq and seeking payments associated with recently won contracts. You should seek advice from the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Canberra before making any payments. For further information on scams and how to reduce your risk of falling victim to fraudsters, visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's SCAMwatch website.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Iraq is effectively a cash economy. Banking services in Iraq, including credit card facilities and ATMs, are extremely limited and routine transactions can be time consuming.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

You are advised to consult a reputable security company about appropriate security arrangements, including at home and at work and for all travel. The Australian Embassy in Baghdad can provide a list of security companies. Fully implementing security advice will help to mitigate, but not eliminate, the threat of attack.

If you must travel to Iraq, you are advised to limit travel and transit to essential sites and determine, in advance, the security conditions of areas you are required to visit.

You are advised not to travel by road in Iraq as convoys of vehicles come under attack regularly. There is a risk to vehicles from bombs, landmines and unexploded ordnance. For further advice, see our road travel page.

Essential services in Iraq, including fuel, power and water, are not reliable. While some telecommunication services, including mobile telephone, have been restored, these also remain unreliable.

International borders, including the Iran/Iraq border, may not be clearly marked. Those who stray across risk detention by authorities.

With ongoing violence in Syria, the Iraq/Syria border is dangerous and border crossings are subject to closure without notice.

Travellers entering the Gulf area by sea should be aware that many areas are sensitive in relation to security and territory. There are reports of vessel inspections, detentions and arrests.

Piracy occurs in the Gulf. For more information about piracy, see our Piracy bulletin. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

Travellers should be aware that there are a range of factors that can affect the safety of aircraft and airlines. Aviation safety and security standards may not be equal to standards in Australia or meet those set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

For further information, please refer to our air travel page.

Laws

When you are in Iraq, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Due to access limitations and the difficult security environment, the Embassy’s ability to provide consular assistance is limited.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Australians who might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, including those related to family law (divorce, child custody and child support), are strongly advised to seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. See also Information for Dual Nationals below.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy jail terms.

Drink driving is illegal. Penalties include confiscation of driving licences, fines and jail sentences.

Alcohol should not be consumed in public.

The death penalty can be imposed for murder, treason and terrorism-related offences.

It is illegal to take photographs or film government buildings, security infrastructure (such as checkpoints and military bases) and embassies. Harsh penalties apply, including to journalists in Iraq. Journalists should be aware that official approval is required before filming in public places. A number of foreign journalists have been arrested for filming without approval.

Iraqi police may arrest anyone who eats or drinks in public between sunrise and sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.

Homosexuality, whilst legal, is considered taboo in Iraqi society. People suspected of engaging in homosexual acts may be charged with lewd conduct. Sodomy is illegal in Iraq. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Preaching is only permitted in places of worship. It is illegal to attempt to convert a Muslim. Abandoning your religion (Islam) is an offence.

The removal of antiques and artefacts from Iraq is illegal.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Australia has strengthened legislation relating to forced marriage to protect Australian residents from being taken overseas for this purpose. This new criminal offence carries significant penalties ranging up to 25 years imprisonment. For more information about this crime please refer to the Forced marriage page.

Australians may commit serious criminal offences by fighting in a foreign state, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Local customs

There are strong Islamic standards of dress and behaviour in Iraq. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

During Ramadan, Muslims are forbidden to eat, drink or smoke between sunrise and sunset. It is considered impolite to eat, drink or smoke in front of anyone who is fasting during Ramadan.

Public displays of affection between men and women are unacceptable in Iraqi society.

Hotels may refuse accommodation to couples who cannot provide proof of marriage.

Information for dual nationals

Australian/Iraqi dual national children departing Iraq may be required by Iraqi officials, to provide proof of permission from their Iraqi father to depart Iraq.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Health facilities in Iraq's major cities are limited and in remote areas are very basic or unavailable. Medical equipment and medicines have been severely depleted. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the appropriate facilities would be necessary. Costs would be considerable.

Insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis and sand fly fever) are common in Iraq. Malaria is prevalent in the southern province of Basrah and areas below 1500 metres in the northern provinces of Dahuk, Erbil, Ninewa, Sulaymaniyah and Ta'mim. We encourage you to take prophylaxis against malaria where necessary and to take measures against insect bites, including using an insect repellent, wearing long, loose-fitting light-coloured clothing and ensuring that your accommodation is mosquito-proof.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, tuberculosis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink boiled water and avoid raw and undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed human cases of avian influenza in Iraq. See our health page and Avian Influenza bulletin for further information on influenza.

Where to get help

The Australian Embassy is located within the International Zone, Baghdad. Due to access limitations and the difficult security environment, the Embassy's ability to provide consular services is limited. Logistical and security issues may make it particularly difficult for the Embassy to provide services to consular clients outside of Baghdad.

If you need urgent consular assistance you should contact the 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

If you need to speak to a consular officer in Iraq, call +964 780 923 7565 or email: austemb.baghdad@dfat.gov.au

The working week is Sunday to Thursday, in accordance with local practice.

If you are travelling to Iraq, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Iraq is in an active earthquake zone.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

Sandstorms and dust storms occur regularly.

Daytime temperatures in Iraq can be extreme. July to September daytime temperatures normally exceeds 40 degrees Celsius and often goes above 50 degrees Celsius.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.