Border crossing to Iraq
I crossed the Iraqi border at Zakho at around 10 am this morning. This was one of the most straight forward, comfortable, and easy borders that I have ever crossed.
Chaya and I awoke this morning to find a taxi driver knocking on our hotel door. There is only one reason to go to Silopi in the southeastern Kurdish borderlands of Turkey, and that is to go to Iraq. From the time we set foot off the bus last night everybody was asking if we wanted to go to Zakho, which is the town just over the border in Iraq, which was only around 20 km from where we were.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Dahuk, Iraq- March 30, 2009
Travelogue —Travel Photos –Travel Guide
Click on map to view route of travel.
So I did not find it odd that a taxi man was knocking on my door saying “Iraq? Iraq?” We were spotted from the moment we walked into this town: everybody knew what hotel we were staying in and where we wanted to go. Shuttling travelers over the Iraqi border seems to be one of Silopi’s biggest industries. I can not say that I saw much else going for this little border town.
“Yes, how much?” I answered the taxi man.
I read that it should cost around 60 Lira to get over this border and that walking is not a possibility. So when the taxi man said 20 Lira, my ears perked up. I agreed to meet him outside and talk over the terms.
I usually would not trust someone showing up at my hotel door offering me any kind of service, but in this instance, I did not find the act too sketchy. The fellow seemed alright, but I was still weary about jumping into a commitment without expending all of my options.
Chaya and I went outside and found the taxi man waiting at the front door of the hotel. We followed him around the corner to a taxi van, where we met three of his “brothers.” When we arrived at the van the price jumped up to twenty lira a person, forty all together. We laughed at this price hike and told him that we would not pay more than 20. The fellow countered with 30.
30 was less than what we expected to pay, but we figured that we may as well check our other options. We went to a grocery store for some food. When we came out we found a group of taxi drivers and the man that we were previously talking with huddled in with them. In all honesty, the fellow that showed up at my room seemed to be the best of the bunch, so we shook hands and agreed to go with him for 30 lira ($20).
I figured that someone was going to take us over this border and that we would probably not get a price under thirty. I also did not feel like arguing: I was going to Iraq, I wanted to just go. 30 Lira was half the going rate. We jumped on it.
The road to Iraq.
We walked back to the van and a different man jumped into the driver seat of the van than the man who showed up at my room. It became apparent that the first fellow was only a half way English speaking, clean faced runner. The real driver then started up the van and we began moving. After stopping for a moment to register our passports with some kind of office, the driver returned to the van with a formal certificate stating that Chaya and I were riding with him to Iraq. This border crossing was starting to get far more official and well run than I could ever have imagined.
This was how it went the entire time: the taxi driver walked us through the immigration procedures leaving Turkey and entering Iraq (he even crossed the border with us). He handled our passports and told us what to do. It became evident that I not only hired a taxi driver to transport me, but a full escort into Iraq.
I just sat back and took the ride.
Turkish immigration went by without difficulty and on the Iraqi side I found one of the most well run border posts that I have ever come across. The taxi driver gave our passports to the immigration officials in a booth and we went into a waiting room. There was a big TV and nice chairs and tables. Border crossers were relaxing, smoking, and drinking tea as the immigration officials called out their names one by one.
Everybody was smiling and happy. The Kurdish party won the elections in the part of Turkey that we were just leaving and there were celebrations in the streets. On the TV in the waiting room was footage of the festivities that were sweeping across the southeast of Turkey. Smiles were everywhere. I was beginning to get the impression that crossing the border so close to election time may actually work out to my advantage.
Kurd celebrating in Turkey.
Chaya and I were then called up to the window. The immigration official was smiling at us as we approached and asked what our professions were. We answered in unison that we were students. He then asked where we were planning on going in Iraq and if we knew how to get there. I told him the towns that we plan on visiting and said that we could find the way. Another man asked if we were going to Mosul. I said no.
“Because if you go to Mosul,” he said, “you may have an accident.”
Traveling with a pregnant girlfriend, I did not want to have any “accidents.”
As the main inspector was about to stamp my passport he looked up at me.
“What happened to your ears?” he inquired.
This was not the time for a fashion discussion, but I was pushed into it none the less.
“They are earrings,” I answered simply.
“Nooooo, those are not earrings,” the helpful inspector corrected with a big laugh, “those are big holes!”
I laughed too. It is far better to tweak the humor of an immigration official than to tweak his scorn. My passport was stamped as the official continued laughing at me, and we went on our way into Iraq.
The taxi driver left us at a parking lot full of other taxis and prospective drivers. He could drive us no longer, as it was clear that there was a code between the taxi divers that we were to be handed off to another driver once in Iraq.
Nobody really seemed to going anywhere in this taxi lot, and our approach caused a brief fluster of activity. All of the drivers crowded around us. $30 to Dahuk, the provincial capital 60 km away, and $10 to Zakho, which was the Iraqi border town, were the offered prices.
I agreed to pay $20 to Dahuk and took a fresh twenty dollar bill out of my pocket for emphasis. The drivers all walked away laughing at me.
Chaya and I soon found ourselves standing by all by ourselves with full packs on our backs going nowhere fast.
“What are we going to do?” Chaya asked, “just stand here and wait for something to happen?”
Yes, that was exactly what I planned on doing. Somebody, at some point was going to budge, and the sun was shinning brightly overhead and the day was still young and warm. We had time.
Within a couple moments a man approached us and told us to get out our passports. He agreed to take us for twenty dollars.
We then again registered our names with a little office and were soon moving down the highway into the interior of Iraq.
Crossing the Iraq border at Zakho was a like ticking a finely tuned machined: everything was worked out and everything worked. The total cost was $40 for the two of us to travel from Silopi, Turkey to Dahuk, Iraq by taxi. There were no other fees or random charges.
Map of Iraq
Border crossing to Iraq from Turkey