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Erbil's New Bus Terminal a Boon for Travelers

The new bus terminal in Erbil. Photo: Rudaw
The new bus terminal in Erbil. Photo: Rudaw

 By Rekar Aziz and Alexander Whitcomb

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Erbil’s first proper bus terminal signals that the bad-old-days of difficult road journeys to Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria are over.   

The noise of buses making daily trips to the Turkish city of Istanbul is especially welcome in Iraqi Kurdistan. Not long ago, it took lots of time, energy and patience to make this trip. Ill-tempered border guards could refuse crossing after long and expensive drives.

Erbil International Terminal, located in the northeastern corner of the city, will officially open soon.  Its lots are already filling up with buses shuttling passengers to Turkey and Iran, as well as domestic destinations.  Shopkeepers and restaurateurs busily set up their stalls and kitchens. Cabbies chat outside the station, waiting to take tourists into town, and bus conductors shout out their destinations to waiting passengers. 

Iraqi Kurdistan has long been a transit route for traffic between Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.  According to the Association of Tourist Companies, 224 travel agencies are registered in Kurdistan, most of which are local. These are typically small bus companies that have been operating in the region for years.

In the past, however, they operated informally and without coordination. By building dedicated terminals in Erbil and Sulaimani, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) seeks to incorporate these businesses into a rapidly growing tourism industry. 

Lawan Transportation Company is one of these small businesses, taking five buses (70-100 passengers) to Turkey and Iran every day since 2007. Like other such companies, the ministry of transportation requires them to move into the new terminal.

Company employee Arkan Najat is pleased with the new real estate.

“We are very happy to have a terminal, because passengers don’t get lost here, unlike the old locations in the inner city. We used to spend a lot of time giving directions to customers or the taxi drivers where to find us.” These tasks have been outsourced to Information Desk attendees, who also help tourists find hotel rooms and restaurants. 

Fuad Muhammad Mustafa frequently travels by bus to Turkey. “This is my first trip north, stopping at the Erbil International Terminal.  The bus station is beautifully designed,” he said. “It’s a lot like Turkish bus stations.  It’s very comfortable and safe, with rest seats for passengers.  It shows the growth and development of Erbil as a city.”

The transportation ministry reveals that construction is underway for a second terminal in the city. This will be on the southern side of the city, and is already 30 percent complete.  Both located on the perimeters of Erbil, these terminals are part of initiatives to decrease the flow of traffic through the center of the city, which is already suffering from high levels of congestion and pollution.

Nadir Rosty at the Kurdistan Region’s Board of Tourism thinks regional tourism is a big part of Kurdistan’s future. All you have to do is look at the multitude of new hotels and resorts springing up across the country.

“Facilitation of transportation is one of the key factors in attracting tourists to the region.  Erbil International Terminal is not one of the biggest in the world, but it does a great job, especially accommodating the tourists from Turkey and Iran.”

Over 2.2 million tourists visited the Kurdistan Region in 2012, a figure surpassed in the first eight months of 2013. Erbil was named the Arab Tourism Capital for 2014. 


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Kurd | 25/4/2014
Nice. But the bad thing is the flags. Ok, Kurdistan has strong ties with Turkey, but does that mean that it need to be Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi flags everywhere? Have you ever seen a kurdish flag in Turkey? No. So why would we let them have their flaqs in our region? The kurdish flag is beautiful. I'm very sad. I want the kurdish flag-only. If it is something very important then we can have a iraqi flag beside the kurdish flag but why TURKISH!?
Muraz Adzoev | 25/4/2014
It's fortunate time for all citizens of South Kurdistan to get used to the fact that there will appear a lot of flags of many other foreign states in your beautiful capital, cities and provinces. It is wonderful and we, kurds from allover the World, should be proud of the attractive evidence which shows that the active South Kurdistan successfully has been developing its international relations and cooperation in economic, political and diplomatic spheres. Foreign flags is the actual mark of the recognition of South Kurdistan's sovereignty. Rejoice and try it with pleasure to be at the same high level of the new creative image of the country- South Kurdistan. Make wider your hearts and you will improve your feelings.
Rodin | 25/4/2014
And why KRG is still using name ERBIL not HEWLER?
Azad | 26/4/2014
Rodin Erbil is a historical name, it should not be changed. We the Kurds shouldn’t do to other people what chauvinistic and racist Turks, Arabs and Persian done to us. They changed many names of Kurdistan towns and villages. I think they should leave the name Erbil for the city and name the province Hawlir. Or vice versa .
KurdiskPatriot | 26/4/2014
Azad is right. Hawler or Hewler is the corrupted Kurdish version of Erbil from the Assyrian/Akkadian/Mesopotamian Arbela. We should not do to others, what our enemies have done to us. That would be high level hypocrisy and we Kurds are too good people to get to that level. We can use Hewler as much as we want, but the official name should be the name that has been used for the longest and with evidence, that is Erbil. Just like Kurdistan also, it should be Karda or Kurdiland, Kurdland, Kurdiya etc. Stan is way too used. Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Kyrgystan, Tadjikistan etc. Do we want to be assosiated with these countries? If we use Kurdi-stan we definitely will be associated with these. Just another worthless stan country, that's what especially the people in the West whom a lot of ignorant Kurds want to become like, will think. Back to topic. I want a free and independent Kurdistan in Bashur, not another Turkey or Iran. We want a Kurdish busterminal, with a new design, Kurdish airports and so on with Kurdish innovative designs, not old, mainstream Turkish designed ones. If we continue like this, Hewler and the rest of Bashur will be looking like a province of Turkey.
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