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Walking Across Border Turkey from Iraq

Walking Back to Turkey from Iraq With a tail tucked in between my legs and no more money in my pockets, Chaya and I returned to Turkey from Iraq. I did not anticipated that there would not be any public transport in the northern regions of Iraq and that I would have to take expensive [...]

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Walking Back to Turkey from Iraq

With a tail tucked in between my legs and no more money in my pockets, Chaya and I returned to Turkey from Iraq.

I did not anticipated that there would not be any public transport in the northern regions of Iraq and that I would have to take expensive taxis everywhere. I did not anticipate running out of money and not being able to locate an internationally capable ATM to replenish my stock.

I brought hundreds of dollars worth of cash to Iraq with me, I had no idea that I would run through it all so quickly.

We lived and traveled as cheaply as possible in Iraq. We did not pay over $10 for a double room in a hotel and we fought the taxi drivers down to the bitter depths for decent prices. But the lack of VISA ATMs and long distance public buses did us in.

With a start, we realized that if we continued to travel further into Iraq that we would not have enough money to get back to Turkey.

I thought of having my parents wire me some money, as there are Western Union branches all over the place in Iraw. But in the end, figured that it would be a needless ordeal, as I would probably only get the cash into my hands just as our entrance stamps were about to expire anyway.

In point, I did not want to hassle my parents with driving to banks and wiring money just so I could be in a country for a few more days.

It was time to be going back to Turkey, so we packed up our swag and made for the border.

We landed a taxi driver who would take us to the border crossing for $20. This was the price that we paid coming in, and figured it to be fair. We jumped into the taxi and rode back to Turkey the same way that we had come.

I was full of excitement when I entered Iraq, I was full of disappointment when leaving. I remembered how all-out thrilled I was as I rode further into this country, I wanted all of it: I wanted to go to every city and stay forever. I had those fun traveler goggles on and enjoyed them thoroughly. But now I was returning to the place from which I came prematurely.

I had not been this disappointed in travel since the time I ran out of cash halfway through Tierra del Fuego and had to return to Punta Arenas in 2002.

But this is just the way the Road winds. I suppose now I will get to travel to Hasankeyf in the east of Turkey.

All is well.

Back in Turkey.

On the way to the border the taxi driver stopped off at a road side Iraqi quicky mart and bought us all bottles of water and put on some bad Arabic lounge music.

My last impressions of Iraq came with a large smile on my face.

Disappointment road: traveling back to Turkey from Iraq

At the border we were meet by a gang of cankerous taxi vultures who said that they would not transport us back to Turkey for under 40 Lira($25) in a van that they planned to pack with other border crossers. On the way to Iraq we paid 30 Lira and had a ride all to ourselves.

I was not in the mood to be waiting around for other people to fill the van as the gang of taxi scrounges laughed and whispered into each other’s ears while looking at me. I did not trust these fellows, and did not like the way that they were trying to force Chaya and I into their van. As the driver was pressuring me into filling out a document confirming that he was going to take us over the border, I snapped.

We would not go with these vultures. We will walk across the border.

In the Turkey LP guide that we were given in a hotel in Sanliurfa it expressively states that a traveler could not walk across this border crossing. As seen through the lens of the other wrong and misleading information in that negligent book, I figured that I would try my luck.

I also harbored a secret desire to walk over the Khbour River between Iraq and Turkey and leave the country under my own steam.

Chaya and I began walking. We walked through one set of controls with hellos and waves, and found ourselves in the no-man’s-land of border crossings. We walked to another control booth and told the two men inside what we were doing.

“Take taxi,” one of the men said.

“Taxi drivers bad,” Chaya stated with a charming wag of her index finger.

The men in the control booth understood. They telephoned ahead to let the soldiers on the bridge know what we were doing.

We walked up to the Ibrahim Kahlil bridge and started our way across. We spotted a couple of heavily armed Iraqi soldiers eyeballing us. I waved at the appropriate time – just as I could make out the soldiers squinting at me – and they waved back. I walked in the road so that the armed men could get a good look at what they were dealing with. I hoped that they would take me for a stupid backpacker.

They did. We walked up to them and they shook our hands and we introduced ourselves and said that we were, obviously, going to Turkey. They wished us well and we walked to the other side of the bridge laughing. Stupid actions often creates stupid laughter: Chaya and I were both laughing.

We came up to another group of soldiers and went through the same greetings.

We were now at the border control at the Turkish side. I looked down into a car that I was standing next to and noticed two empty seats. I asked the driver if we could ride along, he said that we could.

After tossing our bags into the back of the car, we crossed back in to Turkey and traveled on to Silopi, the border town that we had departed from full of anticipation and excitement not a week before.

Wade with a Turkish soldier near the Iraqi border crossing.

Border crossing Turkey to Iraq
No Buses in Northern Iraq
No VISA ATMs in Iraq

Walking from Iraq to Turkey


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Filed under: Adventure, Border Crossing, Eastern Europe, Iraq, Middle East

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

4 comments… add one

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  • BP-Dubb July 20, 2009, 5:23 am

    There are ATM's in Erbil. The Iraqi Trade Bank in the Erbil International Hotel, locally known as the "Sheraton" (although it is not). The ATMs' give out IQD only and spit out about $70 USD at a time. There is an Iraqi Trade Bank location with an ATM (inside the bank lobby, so go before 2pm when it closes) a few blocks from the "Sheraton".

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  • Wade Vagabond Journey.com July 21, 2009, 9:17 am

    Thanks for this information. It is real good to know if traveling to Northern Iraq.


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  • Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures June 2, 2012, 12:35 pm

    Wow! Glad you were able to circumvent the taxi mafia! I’m currently in Midyat with plans of making it into Iraq tomorrow. Now there are supposedly daily buses from various Turkish cities, including, supposedly, here (at least thats what I was told…). Glad to hear walking is feasible if all else fails…

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    • Wade Shepard June 2, 2012, 8:12 pm

      That’s actually a pretty well run and very organized border post. At least it was when I went through. Taking the taxi from Turkey into Iraq wasn’t too bad — you can really bargain with the drivers as there is a much greater supply than demand. It was the coming back that oddly proved to be a challenge. The taxi mafia is tight in Iraq, really difficult to get around. Taking shared taxis is probably the best option. Maybe they have inter-city buses now, but they didn’t when I was there.

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