From Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan, I wanted to cross over to Southeastern Turkey. Despite reading some reports online from people who had challenging experiences, for me it was quite a straight forward border crossing, albeit with a long processing and wait time.
I crossed from Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan to Mardin in Southeastern Turkey by bus. Here’s my experience and report on the Iraq-Turkey border crossing so you can plan your own overland journey.
Bus travel between Iraq-Turkey border
The easiest way to get from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey is with one of the many bus companies who run ‘thru trips’. Many of the buses originate in Erbil and some begin in Duhok, where they run through to many Turkish cities, even as far as Istanbul. I asked my hotel in Duhok and they called Cizre Nuh (one of the better companies) office and reserved me a seat for the following day and this was by far the easiest way to go.
The buses leave from the companies respective offices. Cizre Nuh and a few others were clustered together, quite a way outside of the city centre, on the road to Zakho, just passed the University of Duhok. There was only around 7 people on the bus when we left Duhok for the border at 9.30am.
I originally wanted to go to Diyarbakir in Turkey but decided to get down in Mardin instead, just a couple of hours before. The price was USD$25, almost 30, 000 Iraqi dinar. The distance was 265km and the journey took 8 hours in total, including 3 hours wait at the border.
Other transport options from Iraq to Turkey
There is potentially a cheaper option which is to take a shared taxi from Duhok to Zakho at the border and then take another taxi across the border to Silopi, Turkey. There are only a few licensed taxis available who do this route and you need to leave in the morning as usually the taxis from Zakho for Silopi leave before midday (from what I heard).
From Silopi you can get buses and shared transport to other cities in eastern Turkey. I’m not sure of the prices of each of these taxis and so to pay $25 for the whole way in the same bus seems much more convenient.
Border crossing and immigration process
The border crossing and immigration process was actually relatively straight forward and pretty clear. At each x-ray stop, you have to get off the bus and carry your own bags through to the other side, which soon gets old as there’s more than just one. The benefit to being on the bus also means they help shuffle you through from one point to another, and they also point out where you need to go. This can otherwise be confusing when tackling a border crossing independently (like I did from Iran to Iraq!).
The Iraqi Kurdistan exit process is easy, but the queue can sometimes be quite lengthy.
From there to the Turkish immigration, the wait was the longest, as each vehicle was thoroughly checked by customs and only one seemed to be let through at a time. There is a restaurant off to the side, otherwise you just have to wait around. You can then be driven through to Turkey.
On the Turkish side, everyone had to get off the bus and go through immigration. Surprisingly, it was quite easy and painless. I already had my e-visa done and he only needed to see it on my phone as he had the information on his screen. I was stamped through and finally, back on the bus for the journey to continue.
The total time at the border was just over three hours, but I had heard of people spending up to six hours there. It depends a lot on the traffic and situation in the region.
In terms of money changers, there weren’t any that I could see and I asked the bus conductor who also didn’t seem to know. Luckily, there was a young Turkish guy on the bus who spoke English and he took me back outside the gate of Iraqi Kurdistan (we had to convince the guard to let us back through) where there were a few shops who change money. Otherwise, you may have to wait until you arrive in Turkey, which I wasn’t confident would be very easy to change Iraqi dinar in many places.
It would be best to try and exchange some before going through the immigration process or in Duhok before leaving.
Turkey has an e-visa process that is very easy to do in around five minutes and is approved basically immediately, with the visa emailed through. Australians pay USD$60, for a multiple entry, 90 day visa, valid for six months.
Some European nationals do not need a visa to enter Turkey.
If you’re coming the other way, many nationalities do not need a visa for Iraqi Kurdistan and are granted a 30 day stay on arrival for free.
Arriving in Turkey
The border is very close to the Syrian border as well. For much of the drive from the border post to Mardin, we skirted along the border fence that marks Syria. This means the area is heavily militarised and we were stopped at a few checkpoints along the road where they checked passports and/or ID.
The bus dropped me at the edge of Mardin town and I walked up the hill to the centre to find my accommodation. The bus I was on continued on to Diyarbakir, the largest city in Southeastern Turkey.