How To Backpack Iraq

by | Nov 20, 2015

In April 2015, I backpacked and hitchhiked my way through Iraq… One of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had…

How To Backpack Iraq

How to Backpack Iraq

Where exactly?

Iraqi Kurdistan is historically home to the Kurdish people, culture and language. This is an autonomous region in northern Iraq, Masoud Barzani is their president. There are roughly 10 million people in the region. The capital is Erbil (Hewler in Kurdish). 

How to Backpack Iraq Kurdistan Travelstache

Map of Iraqi Kurdistan


Many people wonder and ask me… “Why would you ever want to backpack Iraq?”    

Mostly I just want to see things for myself…

I met a few travelers who told us how safe it was. When I heard that, and that I could get a visa on arrival, I was all about it. I love exploring areas without much tourism. No one there looked at me as a tourist with a fat wallet. Their culture is not corrupted and their economy is not ruled by tourism. I could walk down the street and have genuine conversations with locals without being targeted for money. Many locals rarely interact with foreigners, so they are excited and proud to welcome you. Especially because of all the negative press in Iraq. The locals are generous with their time and hospitality.

I love exploring new lands, meeting people who can teach me different ways of life, trying new foods, etc. I want to experience it all, because life is a beautiful adventure and because why not?

How to Backpack Iraq


Getting there:

I took an overnight bus (Cizre Bus) for $35 from Mardin, Turkey to Erbil, Iraq. Left at 8pm, arrived at 6am. Americans and many other nations receive a free 15-day visa at the border. Easy!

Getting around:

Taxi or Hitchhike. Public transportation doesn’t exist. Everyone has a car and gas is pretty damn cheap. However, there are taxis everywhere. You can also grab a shared taxi from a taxi garage, which most major cities have.

How to Backpack Iraq Kurdistan

But was it safe?

We were generously welcomed by locals we met on Couchsurfing and Airbnb. While there I didn’t see or hear of any fear that ISIS will take control of this region. 

The vast majority of people are Kurdish or Kurds and do not consider themselves Arab like the Iraqi in the south. They fought against Saddam Hussein alongside the Americans, so contrary to the common belief, they actually LOVE Americans! This made it super interesting and easy for me to travel throughout the region. They have healthy ties with many western countries, mostly due to foreign oil investments.

The streets are safe, there are bars selling Budweiser and Coronas. There are shopping malls, and amusement parks. The downtown area is filled with locals drinking tea, friends riding bikes and the parks are filled with locals picnicking.

We became so comfortable that we began hitchhiking. We were invited into the homes of many locals and even refugees for tea, dinner and a few times to stay the night. By the end of the trip we became so trusting that we knowingly hitchhiked back into Turkey with a group of cigarette smugglers, but that’s another story 🙂

If you’d like to know anything about how to backpack Iraq, please don’t hesitate to ask!

This was hands down one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. Not to mention the undeniable beauty, just look at it…