Crossing Into Turkey from Iraq

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Ibrahim Khalil
Crossing Into Turkey from Iraq - Looking back into Iraq...Ibrahim Khalil/Habur border crossing
Crossing Into Turkey from Iraq - Şırnak Şerafettin Airport near Cizre over the border in Turkey
Crossing Into Turkey from Iraq - Queuing on the bridge to enter Turkey
Crossing Into Turkey from Iraq - Iraq on the right, Turkey on the left.

Crossing Into Turkey from Iraq Reviews

maykal maykal
85 reviews
From Iraq to Turkey Jan 06, 2014
After the ease of entering from Turkey, I naively thought it would be the same in the opposite direction. In 2010, I got a taxi from Zaxo to the border, and was dropped off at the same taxi rank I first arrived at, where Turkish drivers touted for business, offering rides to Silopi, Cizre, Mardin and Diyarbakir. In 2014, a minibus service was operating from an office just outside Zakho all the way to Cizre, which made life easier.

While waiting for other passengers, you'll be sent to the passport office to photocopy your visa stamp and info page. Pass your passport to one official, who will type a few things up, put it on a huge pile of other passports and leave them for another official deal with. After a bit of a wait, you'll be stamped out of Iraq, and the next phase of waiting can begin.

Your driver will drive round to the customs section, where taxis and private cars wait in a loooooooong queue on one side of the road, lorries wait in another loooong queue on the other. You're waiting to have your bags searched in detail by Kurdish customs officials...and chances are you'll wait an hour or two. Cars with women, foreigners or Iraqis can jump the queue if your driver is persistent enough...cars full of Turks are made to wait longer. In my taxi, we had a Turkmen from Kirkuk with an Iraqi passport and two Turkish citizens...only the Turks had their bags searched, and ours were somehow "not seen" by an official who pocketed a fistfull of notes from the driver.

Then you'll wave goodbye to Kurdistan and enter no-man's land, where you'll wait several hours in a queue on the bridge over the Habur river. Plenty time to remember that you've never been to Kurdistan, never met a Kurd and never heard Kurdish spoken. Kurdistan? Oh no, officer, there's no such place! I've just come from Iraq!

Vehicles are checked thoroughly on entering Turkey, as there is a thriving business in smuggling cartons of cigarettes. Each person can bring 3 cartons into Turkey, but every taxi was over the limit...there may be Turkish soldiers parading up and down the bridge, but the drivers are really quite blatant about hiding the cartons in secret compartments in the car. It's a good idea to check your luggage at some point to make sure you haven't suddenly acquired an addiction to tobacco. Just before entering the border, there is a duty free shop, and all passengers were encouraged to buy cigarettes.

Wait...wait...wait... you can get out and wander along the bridge, taking in the views, which really aren't that bad...the river is wide and fast flowing, and the Zagros mountains loom in the background...but no photos (unless you're sure you can't be seen...See photos below!)

Feeling peckish? An enterprising Turk has set up a stall at the end of the bridge selling simit and tea.

The Turkish side make you wait while each bag goes through an x-ray scanner. Passport control shouldn't take too long if you're papers are in order, although my passport was old-style so I had to be sent to a separate office to be stamped in.

Both times, it took me roughly 6 hours to cross the border. A passenger on my minibus was Turkish, and did the border run every two weeks as he worked in Iraq without a proper work permit. He sometimes had to sleep on the bridge in no man's land waiting to get back into Turkey, only to cross the road and head back into Iraq to get a new 15 day visa.

Don't leave the crossing too late, especially if you have a flight to catch!
Looking back into Iraq...Ibrahim K…
Queuing on the bridge to enter Tur…
Iraq on the right, Turkey on the l…
Şırnak Şerafettin Airport near …
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