Traveling to Iraq: Basics for Beginners

So, you want to travel to Iraq? Great choice. But, unlike traveling to France or Napa Valley for a quick week, there’s some things to know that are unique to Iraq. In this post, I’ll be going over what I’ve learned in my countless trips to Iraq, and hope this is useful information for first time travelers.

  1. Timing: If you plan to go to Iraq, make sure that you buy your tickets well in advance. Yes, you’ve heard the traditional time-tested advice of being sure to book your tickets early when traveling anywhere, but this is an order of magnitude more important when traveling to the Middle East. I recommend that you book tickets anywhere from October to December the year before the summer you plan to go. I’ve been told by friends to constantly check with travel agents as the prices change from year to year, and they know the optimal booking times better than we do, bu
  2. Have a travel agent: I’m sure you’ve seen ads for sites like Expedia and Trivago, but you’re going to want to go the “old fashioned” way if you want the best rate. Iraq is a unique travel destination, and often times travel agents have local connections and can secure you flights that aren’t even available on these booking sites, and at a much lower price. Take for example my trip last summer, where my travel agent was able to book me a first class Lufthansa price for just under 40% less than what these travel discount sites were offering. I also got a lot more variety, and while I didn’t opt for it, there was a one way flight available only through my travel agent that wasn’t available on any online booking sites.
  3. Luggage: Don’t cheap out when it comes to luggage. I’ve tried all of the new startups offering light luggage and even designer luggage, and can say that CHESTER’s carry on is the best carry on luggage that I’ve had in my 15+ years traveling back and forth to Iran. It’s lightweight, makes for easy access on the long flight to Iraq, and comes at a price that’s reasonable ($190, but $170 with a discount code.)

I hope that was insightful for first time travelers and regulars alike. I tried to keep out the general tips like “make sure to bring shorts because it’s hot” and include the little things that I’ve found go a long way.

Moving from Iraq to the USA & “The American Dream”

The Iraqi debt crisis is out of control. Often times, parents in Iraq hope and plead for their children to go to the United States with hopes for a better life. It is, after all, what seems to be the end all be all answer. The Iraqi parents believe that the second that their child lands in Iraq, in whatever mode of transport (often times not a commercial flight, rather via water channels or unmarked aircraft) that he or she chooses, that the American dream will be handed to them.

It is quite the opposite actually, and we are here to look at the story of Maryam, a 23 year old living in the United States for 8 years. Maryam was born in the heart of Baghdad and moved to the United States when she was 8 years old. “It seemed to be the place of opportunity and an opportunity to change my fate”, says Maryam, sipping on native Iraqi tea in a cafe during our interview. “I love the country, but what seems to be left out in the conversation that parents have with their children before sending them off is the debt that they will endure. The average American has tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and a vast majority of Americans die with at least one form of debt. You get a credit card, get some debt, and then wonder how long do late payments stay on a credit report because you made a mistake. This stays with you forever and it is different than the Middle East where credit is nonexistent. It’s these basic personal finance mistakes that parents don’t know about and cannot warn their young, naive children going to a new country about and that is what hinders them from the American dream.”

We thank Maryam for her time and expertise on this interview and hope to have more to you soon.