Crossing the Border into Iraq from Turkey

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Ibrahim Khalil

Crossing the Border into Iraq from Turkey Reviews

maykal maykal
85 reviews
From Turkey to Iraq Jan 06, 2014
**Note that this info might have changed since the events of 2014. The border was even closed to foreigners for a while**

The main point of entry for tourists will probably be the Ibrahim Khalil crossing between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. Crossing into Iraq is relatively easy; you need to get yourself to either Cizre or Silopi (regular buses from Diyarbakir and Mardin, or flights to Şırnak Airport connect with a Turkish Airlines shuttle to Cizre and Silopi), then take a shared taxi or minibus to the border. Silopi is closest to the border, although I have heard things about a taxi mafia operating there.

On my first trip in 2010, I took a taxi from Cizre with two other Iraq-bound passengers I met on the bus, and it worked out at 20TL per person. We managed to break down on the road which skirts the Syrian border, something that didn't go down too well with the Turkish border guards! This driver took me as far as a taxi rank on the Iraqi side.

On my second trip, I caught a minibus from Silopi, and the driver took us into Zakho, dropping us off at a petrol station on the edge of town.

The drivers cross the border many times a week, so know the system well and guide you through it. The Turkish side is simple...pass the officials your passport when asked, and don't mention anything to do with're going to Iraq, not Kurdistan. After a few minutes, you'll pass into no-man's land and cross the Habur river.

A huge Kurdish flag flutters over the plush passport control lounge. Your driver will take your passports and hand them in to the first booth, and you'll be told to take a seat until your name is called out. In 2010, free tea was brought round on silver trays, help yourself to sugar from the crystal sugar bowls on the marble tables, and relax on the comfy sofas while watching the news on a flatscreen telly...welcome to Kurdistan! In 2014 the experience was a little less glitzy, but still welcoming.

Both times, my name was called, and I had to answer a few easy questions about my intentions. It's an idea to know where you want to go (and to know where not to go!), and where you might be staying (I gave the name of a hotel I found in the Lonely Planet guide, which seemed to be good enough). That over, I was stamped into KURDISTAN in big letters, republic of iraq in little letters, and given a free 10 day visa in 2010, a free 15 day visa in 2014.

Try to arrange with your driver to exchange a little money, as there are no facilities at the border (or maybe there are, but drivers don't like to hang around). Once you get to Zakho centre, there are plenty of exchange booths, but you still need enough dinars to get to Zakho.

Direct buses between Istanbul and Erbil/Kirkuk use this crossing too, and I saw one of them waiting at the border. The passengers looked as if they had been there some time, and were still waiting when we were waved through, so I was glad I took the minibus/taxi option.

Landing at Şırnak Airport, I was in Zakho about three hours later, so this is a very convenient way of entering Iraq without paying the high prices of a direct flight.
Landing at Şırnak Şerefettin Ai…
Lorries heading into Iraq across t…
Crossing into Iraq (on the right) …
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