Packing for the Middle East might seem quite a daunting task but it isn’t that complicated, especially for Iraqi Kurdistan where typical Muslim traditions are a little more relaxed. If you are headed to Kurdistan, your packing essentials need to be both practical and respectful of local culture.
Passport – It goes without saying that you’ll need your passport. Make sure you have at least six months valid on your passport on your arrival date, otherwise you might have some issues at the border.
Visa – Citizens of the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and all EU countries are given a free 30 day entry stamp on arrival into Iraq Kurdistan. The full list of eligible countries can be found here. For all other nationalities an “Iraq – Kurdistan Region” visa must be arranged in advance. The list of offices can be found here.
Cash is king in Kurdistan. Outside of the bigger hotels, you’ll find it pretty tough to find any stores or restaurants that will accept cards. Your best bet would be bringing all the cash you’ll need for your trip with you beforehand. ATMs are pretty scarce in Kurdistan, and occasionally the servers will be down so it won’t be possible to withdraw any money.
If you’re finding it difficult to get your hands on some Iraqi Dinar, bringing USD will not be a problem as it’s also widely accepted and can be exchanged relatively easily.
What kind of luggage should I bring?
In our experience, the majority of countries in the middle east are not built for suitcases. You’ll likely be doing a lot of moving around too, so we’d suggest packing all your things into a sturdy backpack. Aim for spacious backpacks with a lot of pockets to store your things. I’ve been using the Osprey Farpoint 40 for many years now, and it’s a great pack for lightweight travel.
It is also a good idea to also bring a day pack for all the essentials you’ll need such as snacks + water for your daytrips. Daypacks are also good for storing items such as cameras and portable chargers.
Although Kurdistan is pretty relaxed in regards to traditional Muslim traditions, it’s always wise to still dress respectfully. You shouldn’t stress too much about what to wear, but as a general rule of thumb, especially for women, you should try and cover as much of your shoulders and knees as you can.
Kurdistan can get extremely hot during the day, but at times can get pretty chilly at night so pack plenty of long pants and loose fitting t-shirts. Ideally, skirts should cover your ankles but covering just your knees would be fine too.
T-Shirts – Bring plenty of t-shirts. It will be hot and it’s likely you’ll sweat a lot so you’ll probably want to change your shirt a couple of times a day.
Shorts – Men can get away with wearing shorts as Kurds are a lot more forgiving with tourists, however, it is advised that women don’t wear shorts.
Jacket/Jumper – No matter where you travel, it’s always advisable to bring a versatile jacket or jumper just in case it gets cold, or you get caught in a sudden downpour.
Sturdy Flip Flops/Sandals -You’ll probably spend most of your time in these, so make sure they’re durable and comfortable.
Lightweight shoes – Shoes can also take up a lot of space in your luggage, so we recommend only bringing one pair of extra shoes. You will be walking a lot and going through different streets and environments so make sure they’re versatile but also comfortable.
Electronics have become an essential part of traveling these days, and a trip to Iraq Kurdistan is no different.
Smartphone/SIM Cards – In our opinion, the most essential device you can travel with. Your phone can store your boarding passes, hotel details, bank accounts and emergency contact numbers so it’s essential you have a working smartphone.
Most hotels will have Wi-Fi, but if you want to stay connected at all times we would advise buying a local sim card.
*IMPORTANT* Make sure your phone is unlocked from your home network before you travel, otherwise your new sim will not work!
Camera – This is another important piece of equipment if you do not like taking pictures with your smartphone. A good camera will allow you to take pictures that are superior to those captured on a smartphone, thus ensuring your Instagram page will be popping when you get home!
Power Adapters – The most common type of plug sockets in Iraq Kurdistan are types C and G. Type C is the two-pronged socket you’d find in European countries and type G is the socket you’d find in the United Kingdom. We would suggest bringing a multi-socket adapter just to make sure you can cover all bases. Iraq Kurdistan operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
E-Reader – If you enjoy reading on the road, an E-reader is a fantastic piece of kit. Books tend to be big and bulky so will take up much-needed space in your backpack. Loading an E-reader with loads of books and travel guides is a sure-fire way to pass the time on those long bus/plane journeys, whilst keeping your backpack lightweight.
Here are some other items we would deem essential for any trip to Iraq Kurdistan.
Sun Cream/After Sun – Sun cream and after sun are necessities to protect your skin from the dry relentless sunlight. Sun Cream can be expensive when you arrive, so make sure to bring your own.
Toiletries – Bring all the usual things such as toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gels, razors and shaving creams. We advise bringing lip balm to protect your lips from the dry climate.
Insect Repellent – Kurdistan is very hot so insects can be a real pain. Bring a strong repellent if you don’t want to be chewed up while you sleep.
Hand Sanitizer/Face Masks – A requirement for traveling for the foreseeable future. Make sure you bring a few masks with you for plane/bus journeys, and hand sanitizer to kill any germs that might be flying around.
Medication – Bring any medication that you require, but please check the local customs rules to make sure what you intend to bring in is legal. You should also look to include a basic first aid kit, diarrhea medication and pain killers.