Travelers can enter Iraqi Kurdistan either by land or air.
Enter By Air:
The international airport in Erbil has regular flights to and from destinations all over the Middle East and Europe. Several budget airlines also fly into Erbil, including Pegasus Air, Atlas Jet, Viking Airlines and FlyDubai. Other airlines offering flights to Erbil include Air Berlin, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Middle Eastern Airways, Royal Jordanian, Etihad, Gulf Air, Iraqi Airways and Turkish Airlines.
Alternatively, there are also semi-regular flights from various points in the Middle East going to and from the international airport in the city of Sulamaniyah.
Enter By Land:
Turkey – When traveling from Turkey to Kurdistan (or vice versa), you’ll make your crossing at the Ibrahim Khalil/Habur border. From Turkey, there are regular shared taxis leaving from the town of Silopi which will take you through the border and into the town of Zakho in Iraqi Kurdistan (cost = 20 Turkish Lira / 20,000 ID).
Coming from Iraqi Kurdistan, you’ll want to get to Zakho from either Dohuk or Erbil. However, if you’re not planning on staying in Zakho, make sure your driver knows that you want to go to Ibrahim Khalil and not to Zakho itself. The border is located 15 minutes away from the town so this will prevent you from having to take a second taxi.
Iran – While a handful of travelers have experienced difficulties crossing between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran, it seems that most travelers have successfully managed these crossings. The Bashmakh border crossing is located near the town of Panjwin and the Haj Omaran border crossing is located along Hamilton Road that leads from Erbil to Iran. Keep in mind that if crossing into Iran, an Iranian visa is required as you will not be able to obtain one at the border. When trying to enter Iraqi Kurdistan, visas are given upon arrival to only certain nationalities (see the “Visas” page). If your nationality is not able to obtain a visa at the border you will need to apply for and obtain one ahead of time from an Iraqi Embassy or Consulate.
Iraq – If for some reason you happen to be traveling around the rest of Iraq (which is something we don’t recommend), you can easily cross into Iraqi Kurdistan from any number of points.
Syria – While there is a border crossing between Syria and Northern Iraq (at Hsalbah), it is not recommended that foreigners attempt to use this point of entry. The Iraqi side of the border lies beyond the safety of Iraqi Kurdistan and is considered to be a highly dangerous area for foreigners to be present.
In addition, when trying to enter Syria from Iraq, Iraqi border police will often force you to return to Iraqi Kurdistan if you do not have an official visa for Arab Iraq. If you are coming from Syria, it is best to cross the border into Turkey at the Syrian town of Qamishli. From there, you can easily take a mini-bus to the Turkish town of Silopi from where you will find shared taxis making the journey to the town of Zakho in Iraqi Kurdistan.
For more information on traveling overland from Syria or Turkey, have a read through my detailed post about my own journey from the Syrian city of Aleppo to the Kurdish city of Erbil.