Here’s what you need to know about travelling to the Middle East right now

Jan 6, 2020

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The New Year is here, and with that means more international travel. But if the news coming from the Middle East is confusing and alarming to you, you aren’t alone.

U.S. President Trump last week ordered the assassination of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani, who was killed at the Baghdad International Airport (BGW). Iran has promised retaliation, and some analysts have warned travellers to be especially cautious whilst overseas.

In fact, per its updated warnings on 5 January 2020, the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office now advises British Nationals against all travel to Iraq, except for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where the FCO continues to advise against all but essential travel.

When it comes to Iran, the FCO advises all British nationals against all travel to:

  • Within 100 kilometres of the entire Iran/Afghanistan border
  • Within 10 kilometres of the entire Iran/Iraq border
  • The province of Sistan-Baluchistan
  • The area east of the line running from Bam to Jask, including Bam.

The FCO advises against all but essential travel to the rest of Iran. However, for British-Iranian dual nationals, the FCO advises against all travel to Iran. The FCO goes on to say, “If you are in Iran, you should consider carefully your need to remain. If your continued presence is not essential, you should consider leaving.”

On 5 January, Iraq ordered all foreign troops to leave the country, calling the attack on Suleimani “a political assassination,” and further escalating tensions in the region.

It is unlikely that that many people have holidays or work trips booked to these areas, so what about the places that you might be heading in the near future?

With tension mounting, travellers may be wondering: Is it safe to travel to the Middle East? What precautions should I take if on vacation or a work trip? Here’s what you need to know.

For the United Arab Emirates (including Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras al Khaimah), Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, the FCO updated its advice on 4 January to state: “Following the death of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in a US strike in Baghdad on 3 January, British nationals in the region should remain vigilant and keep up to date with the latest developments, including via the media and this travel advice”.

There is currently no explicit advice not to travel.

At the time of publication, no major airlines have issued flight waivers to the region. TPG also spot-checked a selection of major resorts in the region, and none have issued advisories for tourists at this time.

TPG U.K. reached out to the FCO for further comment but did not receive a response by time of publication.

Experts on the region, including TPG’s Carissa Rawson, a former Arabic translator, advised travellers to exercise increased care while traveling in Israel due to the risk of rockets in the area and to avoid travel to Lebanon, where terrorist groups such as Hezbollah reside, if possible.

If you do need to be in the region, or have a holiday or work trip already planned, follow the FCO for the most up-to-date information in the country you plan to visit.

Additional reporting by Victoria Walker.

Featured image of Baghdad International Airport courtesy of Getty Images

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