Published On: Thu, Mar 28th, 2019

Getting Mobile and Internet Access in Iraq: 5 Tips for Expats

When thinking of expat life in Iraq — whether you’ll be there temporarily on business or relocating internationally for work — living in Iraq can be an interesting cultural adventure. After all, it is home to the ancient Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Mesopotamia and Babylonia.

And as you settle in Iraq, one of the first things you will be looking for is a stable internet connection. Since you’re miles away from your family and friends, the internet is a crucial factor in keeping communication lines open. And, contrary to what most people are led to believe, the country enjoys relative stability, and connecting to cyberspace in many areas of Iraq is convenient and easy.

photo/Gerd Altmann

Here are some tips to keep yourself connected to the internet during your stay in Iraq.

1. Get a SIM card at the airport

The moment you arrive at the airport, find where you can get a prepaid SIM card. This way, you can avail of 4G data with speeds of up to 25 MBps, especially in Kurdistan where internet connectivity is fast. You can then communicate with your loved ones and upload photos or videos quickly.

2. Check your hotel for free Wi-Fi

Don’t want to spend too much on mobile data or internet connection? The easiest way is to book a hotel that offers free Wi-Fi. This can be a practical option for traveling business executives who will only be staying in the country for a couple of weeks to a few months. This way, you can easily chat and stream videos conveniently at your hotel without spending extra.

3. Avail of a prepaid package

Many people choose to avail of prepaid packages because they are usually easier on the pocket. Moreover, prepaid plans are much easier to get, plus, this way, you don’t have to get stuck in a contract.

If you will only be in the country for the duration of your employment contract or will be staying for a few weeks on business, this gives you instant and easy control of your internet consumption. You can also easily adjust it to what suits your budget and needs.

4. Use public Wi-Fi

If you’re like most people whose free Wi-Fi in the hotel isn’t enough, public Wi-Fi always comes in handy. Often, you’ll find free Wi-Fi in coffee shops or cafes – simply look for a sign indicating such. Just make sure that you at least buy something off the menu as nobody likes a Wi-Fi freeloader.

Cyber Safety

When connected to a public network, it’s important to exercise caution.

Well-known global brands may be trusted for providing safe Wi-Fi, but a standalone café may not give you the same protection. Networks which are completely open should be used with extra care as most hackers use these networks to look at people’s personal data and steal private information.  

Keep in mind the following safety precautions when browsing the internet through a public network:

  • Avoid internet banking – Unless you have complete trust in the network, never log in to your personal bank account while connected to a public Wi-Fi.
  • Use VPN – A virtual private network (VPN) basically makes you anonymous online. This is possible through a server and an untraceable IP address. VPN strengthens the security on any device whether a smartphone or a laptop while connected to the internet.
  • Keep privacy settings on – Marketers or hackers can learn a lot from your social media usage and browsing data. But you can take charge of your personal information by keeping your privacy settings on.  

photo/ William Iven

5. Purchase an international plan

This option is only best for short stays. Using your own carrier is the most straightforward method to access the internet when in another country. The key here is to check and sign up with your carrier’s international plan prior to your trip to Iraq.

Essentially, you’ll be taking your existing phone and data plan with you and use it abroad as if you’re using it at home. Do check first if your carrier offers an international plan for Iraq. The good thing about this is you won’t have to worry about spending on data unless you go over your limit.

Minimize Data Usage

To reduce your data usage when in another country, turn off anything that is running in the background. This involves email and push notifications from different apps. By doing so, you have more data to use for uploading photos and other more important files.

Do your own pre-research

Wherever you’re trying to establish an expat life, whether in Iraq or in another country, it’s important that you do your own research. You should have some knowledge of the basic items you need to get set up comfortably overseas since that is the best way to relocate abroad well-prepared.

Although you may be no tech wizard, the 5 tips above will help you stay connected to the internet anywhere you are in the world.


Al-moottil P Antony is a C-Suite Executive Support Professional for Zain, a leading mobile and data services operator with a commercial footprint in 8 Middle Eastern and African countries.

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