I wanted to give you all a brief experience of my time traveling across the border from Iraq to Turkey by land, via a turkish bus company.
I landed in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan the week before and toured the country. To leave, I wanted to go by land with my US Passport. Now to enter Iraq us citizens need to get visas, but this is not the case with Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds control Erbil airport, and they set their own rules. On the internet it says US Citizens get visas on arrival, but it’s even better than that when you arrive by air. I went to the visa on arrival window and when asked about it, was greated with a smile by a kurdish passport control officer who told me proudly that US Citizens are VISA FREE for 30 days. I feel like they make up rules as they go, and fortunately they like America a lot. So I went to the passport control window and was stamped for approval of entry to Iraq, visa free.
I had a great time in the country, which I will cover in another article. But on leaving, I wanted to write this because it was nowhere to be seen online on how to leave by land as a US Citizen.
I purchased a ticket from the Erbil bus terminal. The terminal is next to the newly constructed modern Family Mall.
The office I bought my ticket from was a third party contractor for another office in the same terminal, called CIZRE NUH. You can buy a ticket to Diyarbakir for $30 American, or $80 all the way to Istanbul.
I originally was going to do Diyarbakir, and opted to go straight to Istanbul instead. Be prepared if you do this though.
I was given complimentary tea of course, and waited for the 1pm bus. The bus was comfortable, with a tv screen and USB port for charging your phone. Because my T-Mobile plan gives me free data and texting almost everywhere overseas, I literally just played on my phone for the next 30 hours.
At the time of this ride, Mosul was being recaptured from ISIS by the Iraqi Army. The Eastern half of Mosul was government controlled, and the western half was ISIS controlled. We took the road west, passing the river west of Erbil headed towards Mosul. So at first I panicked and thought we were going to drive through government held Mosul. There are busses that ride through all the different territories in Syria, and I thought that this bus company had the same kind of arrangement with ISIS.
We got to the first checkpoint of what would be many after crossing the river. A Peshmerga checkpoint stopped the bus and a soldier took all of our passports and ran our names. This took about five minutes. We then turned off the main highway, to go around Mosul from the north. We hit two more checkpoints at least where Peshmerga checked my passport. By nightfall we arrived at the border with Turkey. About 5 hours from when we left.
At the border, we first went through what I believe was a joint Kurdish, Iraqi immigration office. I got my passport stamped with the exit stamp and went back onto the bus. I was the only westerner this whole time.
Here is where a lot of waiting comes. We waited about an two hours to cross the river completely to get to the turkish side of the border across the river. First the we all got off the bus and ran all of our bags through metal detectors while the bus was searched. They were not very thorough with searches but very rough with bags.
After this, we reentered the bus. Also, officers would come onto the bus, check our passports, and then get off. This happened often at this point when we passed into Turkey. We then drove up to the passport control office for Turkey, where we got off the bus and waited on line to get approved for entry to Turkey. I had my multi entry 90 day visa already for Turkey, so I simply went up to the window, received my stamp, and went back to the bus.
I think because it was obvious I was only visiting Iraq, they were not suspicious why I went. If I had a 9 month gap on entering Iraq, then maybe they would be more alarmed.
After this we drove off to another checkpoint where my passport was checked again along with everyone else on the bus. And then, off into Turkey successfully.
I left Erbil at 1pm. I arrived in Istanbul the next night at 6pm. We arrived at the border at around 6pm, and got through 10pm. From 10pm to 6pm driving through Turkey, our bus was stopped and our passports checked at least 12 times by all types of Turkish authorities from police to soldiers.
The bus stops at restaurants along the way so you’ll be able to snack and buy food.
For changing money I didn’t see anyplace by the border but maybe I missed it. But it is possible, and I hope this guide helps!