All visitors to Iraq require a visa for entry. Currently, contract and military personnel working for the U.S. Department of Defense are exempt from this visa policy, as long as they present a valid Common Access Card CAC card issued by the Department of Defense. This only holds true if you are flying into the military side of BIAP by Gryphon Air or on a military flight. If you fly into Baghdad International without an entry or working visa you will be deported.
For those entering the country without a visa, one can be purchased at most border crossings for US$80. The border crossing from Turkey to Iraq Silopi/Zakho did not charge for a visa as of March 2007. Total crossing time is around 1 hour for individuals. If you intend to acquire a visa at your port of entry, be prepared for long waits, and bring plenty of documentation about who you are and what your business in Iraq is. Letters on company or government letterhead are preferred.
Obtaining a travel visa to Iraq is complicated and time consuming. You can obtain an application at the Embassy of Iraq in Washington, D.C. However, all applications are vetted in Baghdad. Even if you do obtain a visa, you may still be refused entry into Iraq once you arrive. Visas can be acquired in advance at the Iraqi embassies in London, Paris, and Washington, D.C..
Baghdad International Airport BIAP formerly known as Saddam International Airport IATA: BGW; ICAO: ORBS, now ORBI is about 16 km from the center of Baghdad.
The civilian side of BIAP continues to grow rapidly every week.
Currently, Royal Jordanian Airlines RJ operates two roundtrip flights daily from their base at the Queen Alia International Airport IATA: AMM in Amman.
Internet booking (http://www.rj.com) has recently become possible for RJA flights to Baghdad, and Iraq has now been effectively opened to the public.
After the 2003 invasion, some of Iraqi Airways Aircraft were retrieved from storage in Syria and Jordan and are now flying again under the Iraqi Airways name. Iraqi has recently begun computerised operations, and tickets for future European routes are now theoretically available for reservation online (http://www.iraqiairways.c...) via the IA website. Although IA does not yet hold an FAA airworthiness certificate, they operate from London to Arbil/Erbil using various charter flight providers, tickets for this slightly disorganised system are available from Iraqi's appointed agent "You Should Travel" (http://www.youshouldtrave...) - Royal Jordanian RJA is advisable over Iraqi for the time being, as its schedule is much more comprehensive.
In addition to Iraqi Airways, Turkish Airways has begun operating flights between Istanbul IATA: IST and BIAP several times per week.
Diplomats, private military contractors, and intelligence agents can use Gryphon Airlines. Gryphon offers flights between the military side of BIAP and Kuwait City. (http://www.flygryphon.com/)
Additional Services to the city of Van, Turkey are offered by Turkish airlines from most western cities via Istanbul, from here a taxi will take you to the border for the equivalent of $35 - $200 depending on your bargaining skills note that Turkish drivers will only usually accept Lira, Euros or Pounds Sterling
For those working for Non-Governmental Organizations NGOs in Iraq, there are two charter airlines operating into BIAP. Skylink and AirServ operate frequent flights. Travel on either of these services requires sponsorship by your NGO to get you onto an approved traveller list maintained by each. Schedules and services can be irregular, and change frequently.
The airport is under control of the Iraqi government. Take-offs and landings at BIAP are controlled by the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation. Several critical pieces of Air Traffic Control gear have not been turned on, and the result of this is that BIAP can only accommodate Visual Flight Rule VFR landings, not instrument landings. Because of this, the frequent sandstorms that hit the area can obscure visibility and cause flights to be turned away. It is not unusual for commercial flights to make it all the way to BIAP, and then turn around and return to their origin due to limited visibility on the runway. To protect against the extreme danger of ground-based attacks, incoming civilian flights descend from cruising altitudes in a tight spiral within protected BIAP airspace.
When departing at BIAP, be prepared for long, disorderly, and excessively slow lines wherever you go. If you are not working in Iraq on a government contract, your entrance to the airport grounds about three or four miles from the airport terminal will require you and your vehicle to wait in line to be searched. These security checkpoints can take from two to three hours to process through. The best strategy is to find accommodations somewhere within the BIAP area of control on the day prior to your flight so that you aren't subjected to the long wait and end up missing your flight.
All airlines operating services at BIAP have a 100% bag matching policy. All bags, whether carry-ons or checked luggage, are lined up on the tarmac next to the aircraft. Each individual passenger must physically touch and claim their bags before a baggage handler and security personnel will match it and then load it into the hold. Any bags left on the tarmac after the boarding process is complete are not loaded and are taken away from the terminal area to a secure facility for disposal.
Flights into the Kurdish region in northern Iraq arrive at Erbil International Airport. International carriers include Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Etihad and Viking Airways which flies to Sweden. The Kurdish Region, being relatively safer than the rest of Iraq, has seen enormous growth and investment since 2003, making Erbil a convenience destination for business in the region.
After twenty years of non-service, a once-weekly passenger train has recently been put in service between Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey and Mosul, crossing a short strip of Syrian territory. It departs 9PM every Thursday from Gaziantep and arrives in Mosul 2PM next day, costing â¬25 pp. This is the only way of arriving in Iraq by rail for the time being. Update, Aug 2010. Due to a request by Iraqi Railways, Gaziantep–Mosul service has been suspended until further notice. Website of Turkish State Railways still list the train—with a note that it is temporarily not in service—which means it is likely that the train will be back in service in the future.
Cars can be the most dangerous method of travel into the country. On reaching the border it is advisable to leave your taxi/rental car, for an armored 4x4, these are available for hire, with an armed guard if required, from the British security company GENRIC (http://www.genric.co.uk) for Â£300 $460 approx.