If you’re looking to get to Iraq from Turkey one of the easiest ways is to take the Diyarbakir to Erbil bus and cross at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing.
Getting from Diyarbakir to Erbil by bus is very easy as there are multiple daily buses. Tickets can be bought online for 600TL ($32.00) and the trip takes around 10 hours (though it takes double that coming back).
I took the Diyarbakir to Erbil bus from Turkey to Iraq in November 2022 and detail everything you need to know about making this journey, how to get tickets and more.
Read my complete guide on things to do in Erbil, Iraq!
How to Buy Tickets for the Diyarbakir to Erbil Bus
At Diyarbakir Bus Station
You can buy bus tickets at any bus station in Turkey, Just find the counter for the company you wish to travel with. At each bus station, there are windows for many bus companies including Cizre Nuh, Ozlem Istanbul and more.
The bus station (Otogari) in Diyarbakir is about 6km northwest of the old city and costs around 100TL for the 20-minute journey. There are ticket offices for all the major bus companies, an ATM, toilets (3TL) and lots of shops selling drinks and snacks at the bus station.
You can also book your tickets online using sites like BusBud and Obilet (I have used both for journeys in Turkey, but Bus Bud for Diyarbakir to Erbil). The whole process takes just a couple of minutes and your ticket will be emailed to you to show on your phone.
There are several companies operating this route every day. I chose Ozlem Istanbul as the bus times and price suited my needs.
- Ozlem Istanbul
- Ozlem Cizre Nuh
- Can Diyarbakir
- Ozel Diyarbakir
The prices and journey time is much the same for all carriers with tickets costing around 600 TL ($32.00). For some reason, the price coming back the other way is almost half. I paid 600 from Diyarbakir to Erbil, and 380 from Erbil to Diyarbakir.
Vaccine Certificate/PCR at Ibrahim Khalil Border Crossing
You will need to show proof of a covid vaccine (including booster) or a PCR test taken within 48 hours at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing. I did a PCR test at Diyarbakir SBU Gazi Yasargil hospital. It cost 170 TL and the result was ready the next day.
I had a friend/Airbnb host take me to the hospital so it was quite straightforward. If you will do this on your own you will need to first pay the fee in one area, go to another place to take the PCR test and then take your own sample to the lab (second floor, section S).
Iraqi Kurdistan Visa on Arrival (VOA)
Citizens of the UK, EU, USA, Australia, New Zealand and others can obtain a 30-Day visa on arrival for Iraqi Kurdistan. The cost is 100,000 Iraqi Dinars and you pay this at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing.
I changed some Turkish Lira on the bus with a money changer, but you can also change US Dollars and Euros in the customs hall (make sure you have cash with you as there is no ATM).
It’s up to you whether you want to use a black-market exchanger, but thankfully the bus driver came over and helped secure me a good rate.
Amenities on Board the Diyarbakir to Erbil Bus
The buses are modern and comfortable with reclining seats. Some buses have a toilet but generally, these are not used/locked and you have to wait for the rest stops every two or three hours.
Tea, coffee, water and soft drinks are provided free of charge, as well as a biscuit. Each bus has a steward keeping the bus clean, offering drinks and assisting wayward foreigners trying to cross the border.
Although we didn’t share a common language I got on well with the drivers and stewards which made things a lot easier.
Most buses don’t have available WiFi, but you may be lucky and get a connection for some of the time as I did. There are USB charging points and TV screens on the backs of each seat.
- Diyarbakir – A predominantly Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey
- Mardin – a beautiful town overlooking the plains of Mesopotamia
- Cizre – the border between Turkey, Syria and Iraq
- Ibrahim Khalil Border Crossing
- Duhok – a city in northern Iraq
- Erbil Terminal
Ibrahim Khalil Border Crossing
Diyarbakir to Erbil
It took around four hours to reach the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing. On the Turkish side, it was very quick and easy. All you need to do is take your bag(s) from the bus and go through customs and passport control.
There are toilets, a duty-free shop and a cafe on the Turkish side. Once through wait outside for the bus to come and pick you up again. A border agent will enter the bus again for a final check so have your passport with the page of the exit stamp open and ready.
On the Iraqi side you will need to remove your bags again and scan them through the x-ray machine. You then leave your bags and go to the first cabin to show your vaccine certificate or 48-hour PCR test.
If you don’t have either the test can be done at the border, but this will obviously delay things so aim to have either before you reach the border.
Once you have proven your vaccine status head to the main building for passport control and to obtain your VOA if you need it. I paid 100,000 Iraqi dinars in cash and the whole process was completed in under ten minutes.
Erbil to Diyarbakir
On the return journey from Erbil to Diyarbakir, the bus waited over four hours at the border in no man’s land between the Iraqi and Turkish border crossings.
Apart from the long wait the process was straightforward and as a British passport holder, I didn’t need anything other than a valid passport to reenter Turkey.
How Safe is the Bus from Diyarbakir to Erbil
When entering sensitive border areas and large towns along the route the bus will stop at military checkpoints. The bus will be searched and you may be asked to show the contents of your bag.
The authorities will check the passports/ID cards of everyone on board. The process usually takes around ten to fifteen minutes.
Syrian Border Area
Much of the route is within a few metres of the Syrian border. At the time of writing (November 2022) Turkey is conducting Airstrikes on Syria and looks to be amassing troops on the border ready for a full-scale land invasion.
With this in mind, there are obvious risks involved, but so too with visiting Iraq in general. Personally, I took comfort from the fact that I travelled on a Turkish bus and one would hope the Turkish government at least will be less likely to be bombing their own transportation.
Iran is also attacking Kurdish interests across northern Iraq and Syria with airstrikes along the border area which should also be taken into consideration. Be sure to follow the news in the days up to your planned trip.
Read more about safety in Turkey – How Safe is Turkey?
Arrival in Erbil
The bus stops at the International Bus Terminal in the east of the city approximately 4km from the centre and Citadel. A taxi from here to anywhere in the city should not cost more than 5,000 Iraqi dinars.
If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip, SafetyWing covers Iraq.
Top Things to See and Do in Erbil
Check out this complete guide to Iraqi Kurdistan for more things to do in the area.
Where to Stay in Erbil
I stayed at the Sinaia Palace which was basic but comfortable. Reviews question the cleanliness of the hotel, but apart from obvious wear and tear, my sheets were clean and I’ve stayed in far worse hotels in my time (though none with the receptionist packing a handgun).
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About the author:
Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has travelled to over 60 countries, lived in China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.
Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of Europe and Asia by train, bus and boat.
Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲