(this post was written in 2015. I cannot comment on the current situation in Kurdistan)
Kurdish region of Iraq is not only a safe place, it’s also an amazing destination to visit. We travelled to Kurdish Iraq on the motorcycle and loved every moment of our stay there.
In Kurdistan the mountains are beautiful, people are most welcoming and history is fascinating.
By motorcycle in Iraqi Kurdistan
Entering this country is free. Standard 15 days visa stamp is issued on the boarder without any problem, but extending this period can be tricky, as blood test is required.
When entering by bike, we had to pay 42$ for motorcycle insurance and nobody even asked me if I had a green card. The cost was soon balanced off by petrol prices which during our stay were 500 Iraqi Dinars per litter which is only about 20 British pens. The government introduced the law that across the whole region, the price for petrol has to be the same.
The roads are not bad, but due to the heat, some stretches of asphalt are pretty deformed, making it hard to ride. The most annoying thing about riding a motorcycle in Kurdistan, are ever present speed bumps, which are almost everywhere and not always marked. I suppose this makes riding safer as cars have to adjust their speed, but slowing down every 500 meters is no fun.
Apparantly Kurdistan is notorious for road accidents, but to be honest we didn’t notice anything out of ordinary.
Be prepared to be stopped by police on every check point, and there are a lot of them. When we were stopped, police man usually were very nice and wanted to joke with us, but after being stopped for 50th time, we kind of lost a sense of humour.
Kurdistan is not a large country so 15 days isn’t actually that short.
Amongst many popular destinations to visit, we went to:
- Duhok with it’s cool bazaar
- Arbil (also known as Erbil and Hawler), worth a visit for it’s Citadel and Blue Mosque.
- Sulaimaniya where we spent almost a week. It’s an interesting city with a nice vibe.
- Halabja and nearby villages
Also bikers should consider riding through Amedia and Barzan on their way from Duhok to Arbil. It’s a nice ride with picturesque scenery.
The best thing about Kurdish part of Iraq is its people, who are ever so kind and generous. Wherever we showed up, there almost always was somebody who wanted to invite us for food or to their house for a night. People are just happy to see tourist and show them Kurdish generosity. This makes Kurdistan a very special travel destination.
Alcohol is surprisingly cheap and available in most large shops.
When to visit
We were there in May which already was very hot, with temperatures reaching 35 degrees. Probably early spring (March/April) or autumn (October/November) is the best time to visit.
Riding a motorcycle in Iraqi Kurdistan is a fantastic adventure. We loved every moment of our visit.