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I flew to Erbil on 13 May, transiting through Istanbul. I was nervous as I fit the profile of a potential jihadist - young, single, male, dark-complexioned, from an EU nation and mysteriously travelling to Iraq for 'tourism'. But the airport security people didn't ask me a single question. I was amazed and pleasantly surprised. I was stamped right in!
Also, I got a day tourist visa. My passport is Irish but all the info online says to expect a day visa on arrival for US and EU citizens. Maybe they've changed the policy. My return flight was booked exactly 15 days after arrival so it's not that he was trying to cater for a return flight booked more than 15 days after arrival. City centre parks are safe to wander in the darkness of night and petty crime and assaults are practically unheard of.
Kurdish people are very open and welcoming and it won't be long before you make friends, if you are open to it. Just try not to let them pay for everything - to me that is taking advantage of their great hospitality. The general standard of English is poor to very poor, but you can usually find a speaker somewhere to help you out. Kirkuk is still very dangerous but the road only passes through its outskirts and the shared taxis will not stop in the city, so you don't need to worry too much.
My shared taxi from Erbil to Sulay stopped in a small village 10km beyond Kirkuk and I got stared at with hostility by two men with Islamic-style beards which are very unusual in Kurdistan for both Kurds and Arabs and mark out highly conservative, religious people , so that was a pretty uncomfortable experience. On the same day I passed through Kirkuk, some ISIS suspects were arrested in the city and were found to possess 30 mortars.