Kurdistan – Is It Safe?

Mountains of Harir - Kurdish Region, Iraq

Mountains of Harir – Kurdistan

Note: Due to the current conflict encroaching into parts of Kurdistan (from the western border with Iraq), one should exercise extreme caution if travelling through the that part of the country.

For many years, the Kurdish regions of Iraq (namely the provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah – known collectively as Kurdistan) have been safe and stable.

During my visit to the cities of Sulaymaniyah and Erbil in February 2013, all was safe, and according to reports from locals, so is Dohuk.  If travelling between Dohuk and Erbil, it is best to avoid any transport that goes anywhere near Mosul. As of June 2014 Mosul is in the centre of an armed conflict, so travel to anywhere near there is not advisable. There are two roads between Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. The most direct route passes near to Kirkuk, one of Iraq’s most dangerous cities.  Every local person I met strongly recommended against that route and informed me that I could be shot if I dared enter Kirkuk. However, Kirkuk was taken over by Kurdish forces in June 2014, and it may become safer in the future.

My ten day experience in Iraq exposed me to the most hospitable people that I have ever met, the welcome was almost overwhelming. Everyone ensured that I was happy and safe, and this included the time when I witnessed a man in the street draw a pistol ready to fire it at an adversary.  Even with this incident, I felt in no danger at all during my time in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.

I found the streets at night to be comfortable to walk along – you are extremely unlikely to be harassed by a person drunk or under the influence of drugs – something that people (including myself) would argue is a major source of crime in other countries.

The biggest threat you face in the Kurdish region of Iraq is on the roads.  Some taxi drivers hurtle along at irresponsible speeds, and travelling anywhere will reveal the recent carcass of a smashed vehicle.

If you wish to visit Kurdistan, it is important to read the following information, but remember to read information applying to Kurdistan (the Kurdish regions) and not Iraq:

Lonely Planet  Tripadvisor  UK FCO