Fancy a trip to downtown Baghdad? - Middle East - Travel - The Independent

Fancy a trip to downtown Baghdad?

Jeremy Hillman meets the first tourist into the Iraqi capital since the war

Having run the BBC news operation in Baghdad for a couple of weeks, I've been working closely with dozens of other journalists, aid workers and the like. So when I asked a new American arrival who he was working with, I was surprised to get the answer, "I'm the first tourist in Baghdad".

I'm not sure if he was or not. But for the benefit of thrill-seekers venturing into post-war Iraq there are a few things to bear in mind. Right now you won't be able to fly into Baghdad - the Americans are still restricting the airport for military use. But this is set to change soon. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are vying to be among the first to fly to Baghdad International Airport, though a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper last week insisted that Kuwait Airways would be first in. Don't expect any bargains: the sorts of people who are seen as the target market are price-insensitive, so fares will be pitched high.

If you can't wait for the airport to open, the two routes right now are from Jordan or Kuwait. The traditional route by road from the Jordanian capital, Amman, is highly inadvisable. The road is still insecure, and groups of armed bandits are earning a good living stopping cars with foreigners and relieving them of all their worldly goods, car included.

Kuwait is the safer option. Providing you can secure a multiple-entry visa for Kuwait, you can find a car and driver willing to make the seven-hour journey for around $600 (£370) one-way. The journey is interesting; as the US military's main supply route, expect to see plenty of convoys chock-a-block with Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees.

Accommodation in Baghdad is plentiful - head for the Palestine Hotel, or the Sheraton opposite. Rooms are from a reasonable $60 (£37), though water and power are occasional optional extras. Beer and food are available from stalls around the hotel. In the evening you can sit on your balcony with a cold one and enjoy the tracer fire around the city. Don't worry about the explosions on the hour and half-hour. That's the military blowing up munitions dumps.

Sightseeing around town is possible, but you should seek some advice on where it's safe to go. The museum is closed for "renovation" at present. There are quite a few looters' markets around the city where you can pick up a Kalashnikov for as little as $10, although be aware that some airlines prefer you not to travel with these in your luggage.

Most taxi drivers prefer local currency. To obtain some, you will need a large hold-all. One dollar buys 1,400 Iraqi dinars; a car and driver will set you back about 140,000 dinars a day. You can always bring home a few bundles with Saddam's face on them as souvenirs.

A note of caution though. The Foreign Office says, bluntly, "You should not yet attempt to visit Iraq". It is unlikely that your travel insurance policy will be valid for a trip at present, and if you fall ill, healthcare services are fairly basic. Medical evacuation, if you can afford it, could be difficult to arrange. Don't expect support from the staff at the British Embassy, currently located in a portable building down the road from the hotels. They will "not be in a position to offer consular assistance for the foreseeable future".

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week