If you’re planning on traveling overland from Turkey to Iraq‘s northern Kurdistan Region (Iraqi Kurdistan), I’ve got news for you! The days of being forced to use the taxi mafia to get across the border are over! Instead, you can travel across the border in style on a comfortable Turkish bus! How does it work?
Get Yourself to a City in the Turkey’s Southeast
Daily buses run from cities like Diyarbakir, Mardin and Midyat, where I caught my bus all the way to Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan, for a mere 55TL (US$29). In fact, the bus I was on goes all the way to Sulaymaniyah, stopping off in Erbil as well.
Do note that buses also stop in Cizre en route to the border.
Find a Bus Company Running to Iraq
I arrived in Midyat with no idea how to get a bus to Iraq. But I asked around at the bus station and was directed to a company called Yeni Midyat Seryahat. While I was told it ran daily, I couldn’t actually ride the bus the next day as it was broken down (or so I was told). After a bit of time spent on Google Translate (where the first question I was asked was “Why you go Iraq?”), I was given a ticket for another bus company, Can Diyarbakir Turizm, which was passing through on its way from Diyarbakir.
What are Turkish Buses Like?
One word: awesome! They’ve got beverage service, super comfy seats, footrests and personal TVs in every seat (though on my bus, it was no “on-demand” as I’d seen on some other Turkish buses).
Is Crossing the Border Easy?
Yes! Once we arrived in the Turkish border town of Silopi, it felt like a line of cars stretched 10km (6.2 miles) from Turkish immigration! Thankfully, the bus flew down its own designated lane. We parked at a large booth and all stood there in the middle of the road while waiting to hand our passports to the man in the booth and be stamped out of Turkey.
On the Iraqi side, we waited in a nice, air-conditioned arrivals hall (where apparently you’re even served tea at times, though this was not my experience). There you wait patiently while an automated voice calls names one by one alerting you that your passport is ready. Super simple. Almost no questions asked or documentation needed and I got my 10 days visa free!
Customs is what took a while. Not for us, but for all the cargo the bus was transporting across the border. I was kept amused by a jovial Kurdish soldier who took a liking to me and used his smattering of English to take it upon himself to start teaching me some Kurdish! He also kept going on about how good the U.S. is (remember, regardless of what you think of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, it was very good for the Kurds as Saddam Hussein tried to wipe them out).
Getting Iraqi Dinar
Shortly after Iraqi immigration, we stopped at a convenience store where you could buy things in Turkish Lira and get Iraqi Dinar as change. This is something you SHOULD do as it’s good to have some Dinar if you need to get a cab somewhere before you get a chance to change more money, which brings me to my next point…
How Was Arriving in Dohuk?
The bus dropped us off on the side of the highway that was some way from town. I split a cab with a few other locals to the market. I didn’t have much Dinar, just the stuff I had received for my Lira at the stop earlier but thankfully my cab-mates picked up most of the cost. Once in Dohuk I found a man with a large wad of cash (the sign of a money exchange place in Iraq) and picked up Dinar to pay for a place to sleep!
And that’s it! It’s that simple!
Read More About My Adventure in Iraq
- So, What’s it Like to Travel in Iraq?
- Meet Kurdistan: The Other Iraq
- Is it Safe to Travel in Iraq?
- A Night at an Amusement Park in Iraq (With Video!)
- Inside Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors
- Photo Essay: Inside 7,000 Years of History at Erbil Citadel
- Amadiya: A Charming Paradise in Iraqi Kurdistan
- Road Trip Iraq: Kurdistan’s GORGEOUS Hamilton Road
- How to Drive in Iraq