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When it comes to getting around Iraqi Kurdistan, most people (locals and travelers alike) use the efficient system of long-distance shared taxis that has been set up all over the region. While there are also some buses that travel between certain cities, they are often not the best option for foreigners (see below).
Long-Distance Shared Taxis
The process involved with using these taxis is relatively straightforward:
Depending on the destination you want to travel to, you simply take a local taxi to the “Garaj” for that destination. You then tell the staff where you want to go and they’ll put you in the next long-distance shared taxi that’s heading to that destination. As soon as the taxi fills up with 4 or 5 people, you pay the official fare and off you go. If you’re heading to/from one of the main cities or towns, rarely will you have to wait more than 15 – 30 minutes. If you’re heading to a smaller town or village, the wait can be a bit longer for the taxi to fill up.
Example: If you’re currently in the city of Erbil and you want to travel to the city of Sulamaniyah, you would take a local taxi to the “Sulamaniyah Garaj” in Erbil. Once there you would be directed to your taxi and after a few minutes of waiting for the taxi to fill up with other passengers, you’d be on your way to Sulamaniyah.
The shared taxis are almost always in very good condition and are quite comfortable. Also, you’ll find the staff and drivers to be very honest people. It is quite rare for them to try and cheat a foreigner by charging a higher price for any journey.
Below is a chart of the general fares for shared taxi travel. Of course, the prices can always change so it is recommended to ask a couple of people (taxi staff and/or other passengers) for the official price before handing over any money.
Distances & Shared Taxi Prices
*All fares are based upon a full taxi. If there are less than 4 passengers waiting around for a while, drivers will often offer to leave immediately (for a higher fare) instead of waiting around hoping for more passengers to arrive.
- Zakho (Turkey/Iraq Border) to Dohuk (1 hour): 7,000 ID
- Zakho to Erbil (4 hours): 30,000 ID
- Dohuk to Erbil (3 hours): 15,000 ID
- Dohuk to Amediyah (1 hour): 8,000 ID
- Dohuk to Akre (1.5 hours): 10,000 ID
- Akre to Soran (1.5 hours): 10,000 ID
- Soran to Choman (1 hour): 5,000 ID
- Soran to Shaqlawa (1 hour): 7,000 ID
- Erbil to Sulamaniyah (3 hours – highway): 15,000 ID
- Erbil to Koya (1 hour): 5,000 ID
- Erbil to Akre (2 hours): 10,000 ID
- Erbil to Shaqlawa (1 hour): 5,000 ID
- Koya to Sulamaniyah (1.5 hours): 10,000 ID
- Sulamaniyah to Panjwin (1 hour): 5,000 ID
- Sulamaniyah to Halabja (1.5 hours): 3,000 ID
- Sulamaniyah to Dohuk (6 hours): 40,000 ID
All cities and towns in Kurdistan are best enjoyed by simply hitting the streets, going for a wander and seeing where you end up. As a result, unless you are interested in visiting an outer suburb (such as Ainkawa in Erbil), your own two feet are your best option for moving around. But when you do need to take a taxi, they are plentiful and cheap when traveling within a particular city or town.
Official taxis are either cream color or part cream/part orange and it will rarely take you more than a minute to find one.
Prices are generally fixed, but they are not listed anywhere. So it’s a good idea to find out ahead of time (from your hotel, etc.) what the official price should be.
As an example of cost, in Erbil, most journeys within the city center cost 3000 ID and a trip out to one of the suburbs costs 4000 ID. In general, you can expect to pay between 2000 – 5000 ID for a local taxi ride in any city or town.
Buses and Private Taxis:
You will see actual buses every now and then traveling between destinations, however, it is typically not a recommended mode of travel for foreigners. Many of these buses often stop in the center of either Kirkuk or Mosul en route to their final destination. These two cities, both of which are located just outside of the region controlled by the Kurdish Security Forces, are some of the most dangerous cities in all of Iraq. While Kurdistan is a safe place to visit, these two cities present a very real threat to foreigners and should be avoided at all times.
The shared taxis do not stop in Mosul or Kirkuk, although they do leave the safety of Kurdistan and travel through the outskirts of these cities without stopping. This is the case when traveling between Dohuk and Erbil and between Erbil and Sulamaniyah.
While you will never get closer to Mosul or Kirkuk than the far outskirts, and the chances of encountering any violence along these routes is very small, if you wish to avoid these areas altogether, you would need to hire a private taxi or take an alternate route in order to reach certain destinations.
Private taxis (and some shared taxis) will use the smaller roads that pass through the mountains and do not leave the safety of Kurdistan at all. Such trips will naturally cost more, with a ride between Erbil and Sulamaniyah costing approximately $70 USD.
Also, if you want to visit some of the more remote regions and sights, sometimes a private taxi will be your only option. An example would be the trip from Amediyah to Shaqlawa, a 3-4 hour journey that almost always needs to be done with a private taxi given the remote route. You can expect to pay 70,000 ID for this trip.
In order to hire a private taxi, you would simply need to negotiate with a taxi driver and reach a suitable price. The staff in some hotels may be able to help you with arranging such a service.