Arbil (Hawlêr in Kurdish and also transliterated as Erbil) is the capital and largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the fourth-largest city in Iraq. It is one of the oldest continually-inhabited sites of human civilization, and is also a rapidly-growing and urbanizing center for the oil industry and NGOs in the Middle East.

View of Arbil Citadel from the 3rd floor of the shopping center


Get in


Citizens of the EU, the US, Canada, Japan and Australia are given a free stamp of 10 days on arrival. After that you must visit the residency office to extend your visa. Other nationalities must have an Iraqi visa before arrival.

By plane

Northern Iraq is served by Erbil International Airport with a growing number of international airlines serving Erbil. Several airlines suspended flights due to fighting in Nineveh province, west of Erbil, in fall 2014 and have not resumed flights, but may in the future. This includes Etihad (to Abu Dhabi), Iran Air (to Tehran), and Tunisair (to Tunis).

Other destinations are served with less frequent flights. In Europe, destinations with at least weekly flights include Berlin (Iraqi Airways), Dusseldorf (Iraqi Airways and Germania), Munich (Germania), Stockholm (Germania and ZagrosJet), Copenhagen (Iraqi Airways and ZagrosJet), London (Iraqi Airways), and Amsterdam (ZagrosJet). Egypt Air has flights four times a week to Cairo, while Mahan Air has three flights weekly to Tehran. Iraqi Airways provides frequent flights to other parts of Iraq, but the security situation in these places is rarely safe even for experienced travelers.

The security situation in the Kurdish area is very safe compared to the area south of the green line (no fly zone). However one should not travel to Iraq unless there is a specific mission or business. In May 2007, a suicide truck bomber detonated his bomb in front of the Interior Ministry, and two suicide bombings occurred in 2014 with some casualties.

By bus

There are many Iranian bus companies that run services connecting Iran to Erbil. This is about 916 km (569 mi) or 10 hours.There are many cities in Iran that connected to Erbil by bus including Tehran, Isfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Kurdistan , and Ahwaz. The VIP buses travel from Tehran to Erbil every day, 2 buses per day. If you take move by bus to Erbil, you should stop in Piranshahr city, at the Iran-Iraq border, to show your passport. If you have an Iranian passport, you don't need a visa to cross the border. Companies include

Bus companies also connect Erbil to Diyarbakir in Turkey (10–15 hours) and Istanbul (36–48 hours). The list of companies here is incomplete; are at least two other Turkish companies running busses from Erbil to cities in Turkey - look around for flyers on Iskan Road. Arrival time depends on border formalities (around 2 hours from Turkey to Iraq in March 2012 and 5–8 hours back to Turkey).

Get around

Public transportation is available in the form of taxis and some bus routes, but automobiles are the main mode of transportation. Compared with other cities in the Middle East, shared taxis and buses are very infrequent and impractical. If you don't know your way around or have a guide with local knowledge it is inadvisable to try public transporation alone. In terms of taxis there are several choices:

Car rentals are also available in Erbil, although beware that driving etiquette is very different from Western European and North American standards. Most rental cars have automatic transmissions.



Stroll around in the deserted city inside the citadel in the centre of Arbil. Hundreds of houses that appears to have been abandoned in a hurry. Walk into the court yards, sleeping rooms and bed rooms or up to the rooftop terraces to enjoy an spectacular panorama of Arbil or ponder what life might have been in this place before the inhabitants were repopulated.

In season, see the Erbil SC football team play a match at Franso Hariri Stadium, south of the city center. Erbil SC is a regular winner in the Iraqi Premiere League, runner-up in the Asian Football Cup, and beloved by many locals.

Explore Arbil's nascent local art scene at the Shanadar Gallery, in Shandar Park, then take in Kurdish, Arab, and Persian music at one of the many restaurant/show venues in the city.



A good many restaurants exist in Erbil. However, the vast majority serve kebabs and chicken, with some Lebanese and Turkish restaurants. Options for foreign food are limited. Note that most restaurants, except those in high-end hotels, do not serve alcohol or accept credit cards.





You can buy a wide variety of beer, wine, and liquor at pretty reasonable prices in Ainkawa, the Christian suburb of Irbil. Just look for any of the local liquor stores. A liter of Jack Daniels for about $22 (US) is cheaper than back in Tennessee where it is bottled! Remember that Erbil is a predominantly Muslim city: drinking in public is unacceptable and public drunkenness is frowned upon.

In addition, the bars at the major luxury hotels (such as the Divan and the Rotana) are popular gathering spots.





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