Kurdistan Travel Costs & Money

The currency of Iraqi Kurdistan is the Iraqi Dinar, the same currency that is used throughout the rest of Iraq.

Iraqi Dinars

Current exchange rates for major currencies are approximately (always subject to change):

$1 USD = 1165 ID
1 EURO = 1685 ID
1 GBP = 1925 ID
$1 CAD = 1183 ID
$1 AUS – 1220 ID

For more up-to-date exchange rates, visit a site such as XE.com.

Apart from Iraqi Dinars, US Dollars are also accepted for such things as long-distance shared taxi rides and hotel rooms. You can also pay with Turkish Lira in many places as well. However, as is the case almost anywhere you travel, it is recommended that you exchange your money into the local currency in order to receive the best value for your cash.


Exchanging Money:

Money can easily be exchanged from money exchangers who set up small tables along the main roads and in the markets of the major towns and cities. The best currencies to exchange are US Dollars, Euros or Turkish Lira, although other currencies are also accepted. If you can’t find the money changers, just ask any shop owner or the staff in your hotel and they will tell you where the cluster of money changers are located. Some hotels will offer to exchange money at decent rates as well.

While the rates won’t vary widely, it does pay to shop around for the best rate. And the more money you exchange, the better the rate you will receive.


ATMS in Iraqi Kurdistan:

There are a handful of ATMs located in Iraqi Kurdistan, but given their scarcity and lack of reliability, it is strongly recommended that you bring sufficient cash with you for your trip. The few ATMs that do exist often have their networks down for long periods of time so it is always best to use them only as a last resort.

If you are in a bind and need to access an ATM, here are few locations where you can find one:

Rotana Hotel (Erbil): ATM machine that accepts both Visa and Mastercard

Majidi Mall (Erbil): 3 ATM machines in the mall but often times they do not accept international cards or are out of order

Trade Bank of Iraq (Dara Market, Sulamaniyah): Semi-reliable ATM machine that dispenses only Iraqi Dinars


Credit Cards:

Credit Cards are not widely used in Iraqi Kurdistan. Some of the top end hotels may accept them but there are no guarantees. Again, it is best to always assume that you will have to pay cash for everything and to therefore carry sufficient money with you at all times.


Travel Costs:

Kurdistan is not a terribly expensive area to travel around. It’s not as cheap as India or Indonesia but it’s not nearly as expensive as Western Europe or Australia. In the end, one can travel quite comfortably in this region for about $35 – $45 USD per day, as long as you stick with budget hotels and mostly simple meals in local restaurants. There are also a handful of hotels in each city that offer dorm rooms, so if you stay in such places, you could cut your costs down to $25 USD per day if needed.

If you choose to spend your nights in 3-star, mid-range hotels, and eat in hotel restaurants, you should expect to spend about $75+ USD per day, although you’ll probably agree that the difference in price may not be worth it once you read the below section on “Accommodation”.


Detailed Breakdown of Travel Costs:

Visas

As detailed on the Visas page, citizens of many countries are able to obtain a 10-day visa free of charge at the border crossings or at the airport upon arrival.

Accommodation

Budget accommodation in Iraqi Kurdistan is reasonably comfortable and usually easy to find.

Here is a general outline of what you can expect in terms of prices for budget accommodation:

Dorm/Shared Room: 10,000 – 18,000 ID

Single Room: 20,000 – 40,000 ID

Double Room: 35,000 – 50,000 ID

In addition, many budget hotels also include a simple Middle Eastern breakfast (eggs, bread and vegetables) in the price of the room. However, the reception staff never seem to inform you of this fact when you are checking in. Just show up in the lobby before 10am and join the other guests who are eating their complimentary meal.

For specific hotel recommendations, please visit the Accommodation page.

Food

Eating out in Iraqi Kurdistan is by no means an expensive affair, especially if you avoid eating in hotel restaurants. While the variety of food on offer in the region is not terribly diverse, there are plenty of eateries selling shawarma, falafel, roast chicken and other basic meals.

Here’s what you’ll generally pay for food:

Shawarma (chicken, beef or ‘falafel’) – 800 – 1400 ID per sandwich
Roasted chicken & salad – 7000 – 10,000 ID per plate
Sit down meal at a local restaurant – 8000 – 15,000 ID per dish
Sweets (cakes, turkish delight, custards, etc.) – 1000 – 2000 ID each
Tea (from tea stalls) – 100 – 300 ID per glass

For more information about what to expect in terms of food in Iraqi Kurdistan, have a read through the Food page.

Transportation

Local Taxis: Local taxis within cities and towns are quite cheap, with one-way trips costing between 2000 – 5000 ID.

Long-Distance Taxis: Long distance shared taxis that travel between towns and cities are also quite reasonably priced considering the distances traveled and the relative comfort involved.

Here is a list of prices for shared taxis between major destinations:

Zakho (Iraq/Turkey border) to Dohuk: 7,000 ID
Zakho to Erbil: 30,000 ID
Erbil to Sulamainiyah: 15,000 ID
Sulamainiyah to Halabja: 3,000 ID
Dohuk to Amadiya: 8,000 ID

For a more detailed list of shared taxi prices to destinations throughout the region, check out the Getting Around page.

Entrance Fees

There really aren’t too many actual tourist sights in Iraqi Kurdistan, so entrance fees will not be a major expense at all. Places such as the Erbil Citadel and Salahaddin’s Fortress are free of charge and other interesting destinations simply involve walking around, which of course doesn’t cost anything. There is a 2000 ID entrance fee when visiting the memorial at Halabja, the village where Saddam gassed and killed over 3000 Kurds in 1988, but such fees are rare.

Internet

Accessing the internet from one of the internet cafes in a particular city will generally cost around 1200 ID per hour. Some hotels will also offer Wi-fi, sometimes for free and other times for a fee of around 7000 ID per day or 1200 ID per hour. Another option is to visit one of the modern, comfortable, atmospheric shisha bars, such as the Shawany Malik Cafeteria in Sulamainiyah, which offers free Wi-fi to all patrons who pay to smoke some shisha. The shisha costs about 8000 ID per hookah and can be split among several people.

Final Tips

  • Few people in Kurdistan speak fluent English, so it pays to learn some Arabic or Kurdish ahead of time or at least carry around a phrasebook. This will prove especially useful when purchasing food, making a hotel reservation and trying to communicate with taxi drivers.
  • While bargaining is an accepted practice in most shops and markets, it is rarely necessary as you will almost always be charged the local prices. The Kurdish people are very honest and seldom try to cheat foreigner travelers (although this could change as more travelers visit the region).
  • Bottled water is available everywhere although you will rarely find large bottles. Some hotels have filtered drinking water machines where you can fill up your bottles safely instead of having to buy more bottles. This will also reduce your expenses by not having to purchase water all of the time.