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  #1  
Old 8 Apr 2014
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Iraq - Jordan - Israel.....

I and my girlfriend are thinking about heading to Israel this summer. We have friends in Tel Aviv. Our general plan is to go through Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Iraq into Jordan and south to Petra and enter Israel in the south and head north. And leave by ship to Cyprus or Greece from Haifa and head home north to Sweden again. This is our general plan. Will leave Sweden in mid june and be back home again in mid august.

Is it stupid to go through Iraq on two bikes? Anyone has any general advices or suggestions regarding what route that is the most safe through Iraq from Turkey to Jordan? Is it hard to find places to stay and food in the desert?

Any thoughts, advices or suggestions are appreciated.

Thanks.

//Jan
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Old 9 Apr 2014
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Hej Jan,

Please forget Iraq!! The only thing which is possible would be to go to the Kurdish regions of the country. They are generally safe. The rest of the country is not - and this is especially true for the notorious Sunni triangle West of Baghdad and all the way to the Jordanian border. This area has for several months been basically out of government control and dominated by radical Islamist groups. It is an absolute NO GO - full stop!!

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Achim
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Old 10 Apr 2014
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Hi and thank you so much for your reply. It´s this kind of thing we need to know.

But from what I´ve read no tourists have been kidnapped or killed since some 8 to ten years ago in Iraq. And no westerners working in Iraq since 2006. We are aware that there are risks but we met a israeli guy in no-mans-land between Russia and Mongolia two years ago and he hade taken this route on his way to Mongolia. I also know about two swedish people that has gone this way on separate occasions but they´ve been traveling in cars. But with swedish plates on the cars. Last one came back 6 months ago. But you say that the western parts towards the Jordanian border has been out of government control these last months? Things has gotten worst lately? I have little knowledge about that. Is it a no go even if one stay in northern Iraq for a couple of days and then just drive straight to the Jordanian border? Should be a 900 kilometer ride to my knowledge. Is it THAT dangerous now?

Are there any other options than boat from Cyprus/Greece if one wants to go to Israel/Jordan on the bike?

Thanks for your reply! All the best to you!

Sincerely//Jan
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Old 10 Apr 2014
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Hej Jan,

Unfortunately, the situation has gone from bad to worse in many parts of Iraq during the last two years. It might become better once the elections are over later this month but exactly those elections have now been called off in the area mentioned because of the deteriorating security situation.

To be very honest, I do not believe that an Israeli traveller has been crossing Iraq! There is no way he or she would ever get a visa. As for the Swedish travellers, I would think that they have crossed the Kurdish areas, coming from Turkey and continuing to Iran. This is basically the only feasible route for overland travellers (other than in organized groups). If they have actually crossed the rest of the country they have been extremely lucky!

The problem is that crossing the rest of Iraq (the Kurdish region advertises for tourism claiming to be "the other Iraq") involves passing some hotspots like Mossul and Kirkuk (you could circumvent both through the Kurdish areas).

The more serious part is then to pass the capital Baghdad. It is a labyrinth of more than 600 kilometers of walls, dividing the city in geographical and often religious quarters with a myriad of checkpoints. I remember one road which had three checkpoints, each leading to a different area behind - one safe, one not so safe, one extremely dangerous. If you don't know the city by heart, it is next to impossible to pass it without being stopped, interrogated or else.

Yes, it is true that foreigners have not been harmed since about 2006. But this is basically due to the fact that you will not find a foreigner except in heavily guarded compounds and bullet proof vehicle convoys. When I went into a restaurant in central Baghdad on one of my trips in 2011, people told me I was the first foreigner they had physically seen in more than five years (of course there are a few journalists)!!

But the most dangerous part is then the road leading west from Baghdad. Hundreds of passengers in cars and busses have been killed on that road, many of them executed in cold blood on the road, some of them being pilgrims, some of them migrant workers from Pakistan. I remember a short phase when you could see more overland taxis from Baghdad in Amman, but these guys know the road very well and have every bit of information gathered from locals beforehand.

To do this road on a bike is certainly even more dangerous - not least you might be mistaken for a suicide bomber or otherwise an insurgent by the security forces. Bike travellers on overland routes are almost unheard of in Iraq, even more so in the desert.

Sorry that I can't give you any better perspective.

Greetings,
Achim
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Old 13 May 2014
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Hi Jan,

I travelled through the Kurdish region in early 2012 and had no problems, other than being stopped many times at checkpoints, especially when i went through Mosul and Kirkuk and near to the borders with Iran and Turkey. Other than that, the people were friendly and the roads and driving not to bad.

I was warned that i would be turned back if i decided to travel south towards Basra or Baghdad, as special permits were required to enter the areas, but as i was not planning on going in those directions anyway, it wasn't an issue and i don't know how true the warning was i'm afraid.

What ever you do, take care and enjoy the trip.

Regards,

John.
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Old 13 May 2014
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Hi again,

John has raised an important point which I forgot to mention: Upon entering the Kurdish region of Iraq, you can obtain a ten day visa (sometimes even for a longer period). But: This visa is not valid for travels in the rest of Iraq!! In order to visit any other area of Iraq you need to obtain a visa beforehand - especially so if you are entering overland!

Greetings,
Achim
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