Saturday, March 10, 2007

Getting around between cities

The main form of public transport between the major cities in Iraqi Kurdistan is shared taxi. Cars are generally white and orange sedans, some large, some quite small. Some newer, some older and beat-up. The roads between cities are not very safe for driving, with usually just one lane in each direction, and over-taking a dangerous activity. I witnessed one head-on collision.


Taxis seem to only travel on roads controlled by Kurdish forces. There are LOTS of security checkpoints, probably 10 or more on a 3 hour journey, usually before and after towns. You have nothing to fear at these checkpoints, in fact you should be grateful for them keeping Iraqi Kurdistan safe from terrorists. At some the soldier will just wave the taxi through, but at most ID will be checked. Have your passport ready. At some checkpoints, they'll want to check on foreigners more carefully, and you may end up being questioned by the head official. Just be honest and open and you should be fine. But, if they're suspicious of you, it helps to have a local Kurdish contact who can vouch for you.


Generally there is a normal price for one car, and this price is divided by the number of passengers. Usually you will end up waiting until enough passengers come to fill up all the seats.

In Dohuk, the taxi offices are next to the Hotel Birjin. In Erbil, get in a local taxi and ask for the "Suly Garage" if you're going to Sulaymaniyah. In Sulaymaniyah, "Erbil Garage" etc.

Zakho border - Dohuk: $45 per car, approx 1 hour.
Zakho border - Erbil: $90 per car, approx 4 hours.

Dohuk - Erbil: 20,000 dinar ($16) per person. 80,000 dinar per car. Approx 3 hours. The road goes close to Mosul, but doesn't actually pass through. Apparently the road is controlled by Kurdish forces, but a few soldiers I saw had Iraqi flags on their shoulders...

Erbil - Sulaymaniyah: 15,000 dinar ($12) per person. 3-4 hours. The cartel at the 'Suly Garage' in Erbil were shifty guys, constantly changing prices and 'extra charges' for having a large bag. Be firm in your negotiations. The road between Erbil and Suly passes through the north-eastern suburbs of Kirkuk. I heard that this road is safe, and controlled by Kurdish forces, but the vibes weren't good. Thankfully it only took around 30 minutes to pass through Kirkuk.

Sulaymaniyah - Erbil: 15,000 dinar ($12) per person, 3-4 hours. Takes the same route as above, through Kirkuk's suburbs.

If for some reason you think travelling in a 4WD/SUV would be safer, think again. They are more likely to be targeted for attacks. I sat next to a VIP in one taxi. He said he travelled like this to stay safe.

And if you are bloody crazy you can get a taxi or even minibus from Erbil just to Kirkuk, or even Baghdad. Seriously, you would have to be a foolhardy dunce with a death wish to do this as a foreigner.

No comments: