Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Wednesday, 19 August 2015.   This advice has been reviewed and updated. We continue to advise against travel to all of Iraq, including Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iraq overall

Summary

  • We strongly advise you not to travel to Iraq because of the extremely volatile and dangerous security situation. Australians in Iraq, including in Iraqi Kurdistan, should depart immediately while commercial flights continue to operate.
  • Armed opposition groups are active in many parts of Iraq, including in Iraqi Kurdistan. The situation could deteriorate further with little warning. The US-led coalition, including Australia, continues to conduct targeted airstrikes against militants in Iraq.
  • With the current conflict, there is an increased threat to foreigners throughout Iraq, particularly journalists and humanitarian workers.
  • Due to the challenging security environment, the embassy’s ability to provide consular assistance to Australians is extremely limited. Consular services are offered by appointment only. See Where to get help.
  • Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) and Erbil International Airport remain open. However, following an incident in January 2015 in which shots were fired at a commercial flight on its approach into Baghdad, a number of carriers suspended flights into BIAP until further notice. Some airlines have also suspended operations out of Erbil. The situation could change at very short notice. Australians should confirm flight arrangements well in advance.
  • It is an offence for Australians to enter or remain in the Iraqi district of Mosul which has been declared by the Minister for Foreign Affairs as an area in which a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in a hostile activity. Further information on the declaration of Mosul district and its implications for Australians considering travel to Iraq can be found on the Australian National Security website.
  • Australians risk prosecution under Australian law if they engage in a hostile activity in a foreign country, or enter a foreign country with the intention of engaging in a hostile activity.
  • Given the extremely dangerous security situation 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
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Entry and exit

We recommend Australians do not travel to Iraq. Australians in Iraq should depart immediately while commercial flights continue to operate.

International airports: Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) and Erbil International Airport remain open. However, following an incident in January 2015 in which shots were fired at a commercial flight on its approach into Baghdad, a number of carriers have suspended flights into BIAP until further notice. Some airlines have also suspended operations out of Erbil. The situation could change at very short notice. Australians should confirm flight arrangements before travelling to the airport.

Land borders: Border crossing points with neighbouring countries can close with little or no warning. Border crossings in areas under terrorist control or threat of attack are reported closed. Sensitive border areas, particularly with Syria and Turkey, are the target of military operations.

Visas: Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. 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.

Travelling with children: Iraqi authorities have indicated that children travelling to or from Iraq must be accompanied by one or both parents. Should a child be travelling without a parent, the child's guardian must carry documentation confirming that the parents of the child consent to the travel. As local laws can change without notice, parents of children who are planning travel for their children to or from Iraq with a guardian should confirm legal requirements with their nearest Embassy or Consulate of Iraq before departure.

Safety and security

We strongly advise you not to travel to Iraq because of the extremely dangerous security situation. Australians in Iraq should depart immediately while commercial flights continue to operate.

With the ongoing conflict, the security situation is volatile and could deteriorate further with little warning. Armed opposition continue to conduct large-scale coordinated attacks against the Government of Iraq and civilians. These groups have killed and injured thousands of people in many parts of Iraq, particularly the provinces of Anbar, Ninewa, Salah ah-Din, Diyala and Baghdad. There has also been fighting between armed opposition groups and Peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan. The US-led coalition, including Australia, continues to conduct targeted airstrikes against militants in Iraq.

Attacks by terrorists and anti-government forces occur frequently and without warning. While they 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 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, including shots fired at a commercial flight on its approach into Baghdad in January 2015 (see Entry and exit).

There have been recent attacks by terrorists targeting official buildings in Erbil and Sulemaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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.

Security restrictions, including curfews, may change at short notice. You should monitor the media and local information sources for information about any changes to local curfews.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin

Kidnapping: There remains a very high threat of kidnapping in Iraq. With the escalating conflict, there is an increased threat to foreigners throughout Iraq, including to journalists and humanitarian workers. Australians living and or working in Iraq are at risk of being kidnapped. Some kidnappings are carried out by criminal gangs who demand large ransoms for the release of their hostages. A significant number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped and murdered.

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, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place. See our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

Advice to Australian officials: Australian officials adopt enhanced security measures in Iraq.

Crime

Violent crime and corruption are prevalent across Iraq, with kidnap, murder and robbery commonplace. Organised criminal gangs, militia, tribal groups and the Iraqi Security Forces pose significant threats.

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

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 online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

We strongly advise against all travel to Iraq at this time.

Road travel: Road travel in Iraq is dangerous with roadside bombs, attacks against checkpoints, robberies, lack of observation of road rules and poor driving skills creating particular hazards. False security checkpoints have been used to stage kidnaps, robberies and murders, or to launch attacks.

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).

On 26 January 2015 shots were fired at a commercial flight on its approach into Baghdad. As a result a number of carriers have suspended flights into BIAP until further notice. Some airlines have also suspended operations out of Erbil. The situation could change at very short notice. Australians should confirm flight arrangements well in advance.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the Iraq.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

Declaration of Mosul district: It is an offence for Australians to enter or remain in the Iraqi district of Mosul which has been declared by the Minister for Foreign Affairs as an area in which a listed terrorist organisation is engaging in a hostile activity. Further information on the declaration of Mosul district and its implications for Australians considering travel to Iraq can be found on the Australian National Security website.

Australians risk prosecution under Australian law if they engage in a hostile activity in a foreign country, or enter a foreign country with the intention of engaging in a hostile activity.

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 the challenging security environment, the Embassy’s ability to provide consular assistance is very limited.

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. See our Drugs page.

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, while 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.

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.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in early June 2016. During Ramadan, Australians should take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, people who are not fasting are advised to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting. For more information see our Ramadan bulletin.

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 with Iraqi fathers who are departing Iraq may be required to provide proof of permission from their father to leave the country.

See our Dual nationals page

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 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.

Iraq is no longer infected with wild poliovirus, but is still vulnerable to the international spread of the disease.We recommend that you are up to date with routinely recommended vaccinations against polio, including a booster dose, as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook prior to departure.

Where to get help

The Australian Embassy is located within the International Zone, Baghdad. Due to access constraints and the challenging security environment, the Embassy's ability to provide consular services is extremely limited. Consular services are offered by appointment only.

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

Due to the security environment, you should register your presence in Iraq with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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.

Additional Resources



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.