I’ve had a few people suggest I start one of these travel blogs due to the slightly uncommon nature of a lot of the trips I make. I’ve got a bit of a habit of visiting off the beaten track places such as North Korea, Svalbard, Chernobyl, Palestine etc. and there tends to be a lack of information on trips to these places. There are blogs about all of them but very few cover how to go about visiting these places yourself.
I’ve always felt that a lot of people don’t travel because they are intimated by it, I know I certainly used to be. Thanks to the internet we have swathes of information available to us when planning a trip, but this presents the problem of having to sift through all of it.
So what to do? Well I thought I’d start by posting about trips whilst I’m planning them, distilling down the useful information I find and then discussing the decisions I’ve made based on that to put together a trip. Hopefully people will find my approach to the problems I encounter helpful.
So where am I going next? Well I’ve just booked flights to Diyarbakir in eastern Turkey as the first leg on a trip to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. It has been a huge struggle to plan this trip, much harder than any other I have been on. Now you’re probably thinking that the lack of information is with good reason as a war has been going on in this part of the world for the best part of 10 years. In reality Kurdish Iraq is for all intents and purposes a separate country to Iraq proper, and it has remained mostly safe. Navigating this area as a westerner has been slightly complicated by the presence of the city Mosul which is considered extremely unsafe for foreigners. Most public transport in Northern Iraq travels through this city.
Normally with a trip like this, if experiencing issues finding info. online, I try and hunt out a decent guide book. Even after visiting Stanfords in London I wasn’t having much luck. Most of the ones I dugout were pre 2003 and therefore of not much use, but after a lot of digging I stumbled upon this book,Kurdistan – A Companion (Companion Guides), which appears very promising. I’ll feedback on it when it arrives in November!
So why fly to Diyarbakir? It is possible to fly directly to Erbil in Iraq from Vienna. The cheapest I could find these flights for was around Â£600 which is frankly not an option. Now if flights are too pricey don’t disregard your destination just yet. What countries are nearby? How difficult is it to get to them? And is travelling from them to my destination feasible? Well Iraq borders 6 countries (Iran, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia and Turkey) and 3 of them directly border Kurdistan (Iran, Syria and Turkey). Now Syria is in a full on civil war and to fly to Iran costs about the same as Erbil and presents serious visa issues for a British Citizen. So Turkey it is!
I know that cheap flights from London to Istanbul can be had fairly easily, a quick search returns a price of about £100. Looks promising. After a bit more searching I discover there is a bus provided by a company called Best Van Turism. Now this bus takes the best part of 24 hours, not the most economical use of time so lets see if we can fly further a long the route and meet the bus there and gain a day of free time. The bus appears to only stop in Diyarbakir in Turkey before going straight to border, a quick look on Google Maps shows that Diyarbakir has an airport, perfect! Skyscanner reports that flights from Istanbul to Diyarbakir and back are around £75. With a bit of timing I can even grab myself a couple of days in Istanbul on my way over! All for the total of £175. Perfect.
The next problem is whether that bus is a viable option as the route it takes goes straight through Mosul…. I’ll post about that when I’ve figured it out!