Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Syria travel guide - Travel S helper

Syria

travel guide

Syria, formally known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a nation in Western Asia bordered to the west by Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea, to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iraq, to the south by Jordan, and to the southwest by Israel. Damascus is Syria’s capital and biggest city.

Syria, a nation of lush plains, high mountains, and deserts, is home to a varied ethnic and religious population that includes Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans, and Turks. Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, and Yazidis are among the religious groupings. Sunni Arabs make up the majority of Syria’s population.

The term “Syria” was previously associated with the Levant (known in Arabic as al-Sham), although the current state includes the sites of many ancient kingdoms and empires, notably the Eblan civilisation of the third millennium BC. Its capital, Damascus, is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. Damascus was the headquarters of the Umayyad Caliphate and a regional capital of Egypt’s Mamluk Sultanate during the Islamic period.

The current Syrian state was formed as a French mandate following the end of decades of Ottoman domination in World War I, and it was the biggest Arab state to emerge from the previously Ottoman-ruled Arab Levant. Syria achieved its independence as a parliamentary republic on October 24, 1945, when it became a founding member of the United Nations, thus ending the previous French mandate — though French forces did not depart the country until April 1946. The post-independence era was turbulent, with a high number of military coups and coup attempts taking place between 1949 and 1971. Syria formed a short union with Egypt called the United Arab Republic in 1958, which was ended by the Syrian coup d’état in 1961. The Arab Republic of Syria was established in late 1961 after a constitutional referendum on December 1, 1961, and was progressively unstable until the Ba’athist coup d’état, after which the Ba’ath Party has held control. From 1963 until 2011, Syria was under Emergency Law, which essentially suspended most constitutional rights for people. Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000, succeeding his father Hafez al-Assad, who served from 1970 to 2000.

Syria is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement; it was suspended from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in November 2011, and it self-imposed suspension from the Union for the Mediterranean. Syria has been engaged in an uprising against Assad and the Ba’athist regime as part of the Arab Spring since March 2011, a crackdown that has contributed to the Syrian Civil War and Syria being one of the world’s most violent nations. Since then, a number of phantom states have formed on Syrian territory, including the Syrian Opposition, the Federation of Northern Syria, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Flights & Hotels
search and compare

We compare room prices from 120 different hotel booking services (including Booking.com, Agoda, Hotel.com and others), enabling you to pick the most affordable offers that are not even listed on each service separately.

100% Best Price

The price for one and the same room can differ depending on the website you are using. Price comparison enables finding the best offer. Also, sometimes the same room can have a different availability status in another system.

No charge & No Fees

We don’t charge any commissions or extra fees from our customers and we cooperate only with proven and reliable companies.

Ratings and Reviews

We use TrustYou™, the smart semantic analysis system, to gather reviews from many booking services (including Booking.com, Agoda, Hotel.com and others), and calculate ratings based on all the reviews available online.

Discounts and Offers

We search for destinations through a large booking services database. This way we find the best discounts and offer them to you.

Syria - Info Card

Population

23,302,000

Currency

Syrian pound (SYP)

Time zone

UTC+2 (EET)

Area

185,180 km2 (71,500 sq mi)

Calling code

+963

Official language

Arabic

Syria | Introduction

Geography Of Syria

Syria is located between 32° and 38° north latitude and 35° and 43° east longitude. It is mainly made up of dry plateau, with the exception of the northwest corner of the nation, which borders the Mediterranean. The agricultural regions of al-Jazira in the northeast and Hawran in the south are significant. Syria’s most significant river, the Euphrates, runs through the nation toward the east. It is one among the fifteen countries that make up the so-called “Cradle of Civilization.” Its territory is “northwest of the Arabian plate.”

Syria’s climate is arid and hot, with moderate winters. Snowfall occurs on occasion throughout the winter due to the country’s height. In 1956, commercial amounts of petroleum were found in the northeast. Suwaydiyah, Qaratshui, Rumayian, and Tayyem, all near Dayr az–Zawr, are the most significant oil fields. The fields are a natural extension of Mosul’s and Kirkuk’s Iraqi fields. After 1974, petroleum became Syria’s most valuable natural resource and main export. In 1940, natural gas was found in the Jbessa field.

Demographics Of Syria

The Euphrates River valley and the coastal plain, a lush stretch between the coastal mountains and the desert, are home to the majority of the population. Syria has a population density of about 99 people per square kilometer (258 per square mile). According to the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants’ World Refugee Survey 2008, Syria had a population of about 1,852,300 refugees and asylum seekers. The overwhelming bulk of this group (1,300,000) came from Iraq, although there were also significant numbers from Palestine (543,400) and Somalia (5,200).

Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in March 2011, about 9.5 million Syrians, or half of the population, have been displaced; 4 million have fled the nation as refugees, according to the United Nations.

Ethnic groups In Syria

Syrians are a Levantine people who are closely connected to their near neighbors, including Lebanese, Palestinians, Iraqis, Maltese, and Jordanians. Syria’s population is estimated to be about 17,065,000 people (2014 est.) Syrian Arabs, together with 600,000 Palestinian Arabs, account for approximately 74% of the population (if Syriac Christiansare excluded).

The indigenous Christian Western Aramaic-speakers and Assyrians are estimated to number about 400,000 people, with Western Aramaic-speakers residing across the nation, especially in large cities, and Assyrians mostly in the north and northeast (Homs, Aleppo, Qamishli, Hasakah). Many people (especially the Assyrians) still speak and write Neo-Aramaic dialects, while the villages of Ma’loula, Jubb’adin, and Bakh’a still speak and write Western Aramaic.

The Kurds are Syria’s second biggest ethnic group. They account for about 1.6 million individuals, or about 9% to 10% of the population (including 40,000 Yazidis). The majority of Kurds live in Syria’s northeastern region, where they speak the Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish.

The Turkish-speaking Syrian Turkmen are Syria’s third biggest ethnic group, accounting for about 4-5 percent of the country’s population. Their population, however, is considerably larger when Arabized Turkmen are included. Their exact population is unknown, with estimates ranging from a few hundred thousand to 3.5 million people.

The Assyrians (3-4%) are the fourth biggest ethnic group, followed by the Circassians (1.5%) and Armenians (1%), the majority of whom are descendants of refugees who came in Syria during the Armenian Genocide. Syria has the world’s seventh-largest Armenian population. Aleppo, Qamishli, Damascus, and Kesab are the major gathering points.

Albanians, Bosnians, Georgians, Greeks, Persians, Pashtuns, and Russians are among the smaller ethnic minority groups. Most of these ethnic minorities, especially those who embrace Islam, have been Arabized to some extent.

Syria historically had a sizable Jewish population, with significant Jewish communities in Damascus, Aleppo, and Qamishii. In the second part of the nineteenth century, Jews started to move to Great Britain, the United States, and Israel as a result of a mixture of persecution in Syria and possibilities abroad. With the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the process was finished. Only a few Jews exist in Syria today.

Brazil, which has millions of individuals of Arab and other Near Eastern ancestry, has the biggest Syrian diaspora outside of the Arab world. Brazil is the first nation in the Americas to grant Syrian refugees humanitarian visas. The vast majority of Arab Argentines are of Lebanese or Syrian descent.

Religion In Syria

Sunni Muslims account for roughly 74 percent of Syria’s population, with Sunni Arabs accounting for 59–60 percent of the population. Most Kurds (8.5 percent) and Turkomans (3 percent) are also Sunni, while Shia Muslims (particularly Alawite, Twelvers, and Ismailis but also Arabs, Kurds, and Turkoman) account for 13 percent of Syrians. Druze are approximately 500,000 people and live mostly in Jabal al-southern Druze’s region.

President Bashar al-family Assad’s is Alawite, and Alawites are the majority in Syria’s administration and military. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), at least 41,000 Alawites were murdered during the Syrian Civil War.

Christians (2.5 million), who make up a significant portion of Syria’s Palestinian refugee population, are split into various sects. The Chalcedonian Antiochian Orthodox account for 45.7 percent of the Christian population; Catholics (Melkite, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Maronite, Chaldean Catholic, and Latin) 16.2 percent; Armenian Apostolic Church 10.9 percent; Syriac Orthodox 22.4 percent; Assyrian Church of the East and several smaller Christian denominations make up the rest. There are many Christian monasteries as well. Many Christians in Syria come from a wealthy family.

Language In Syria

The official language is Arabic. Knowing a few words is usually a good idea (“hello”, “thank you” etc.). Surprisingly, a large percentage of individuals can communicate in (very) basic English. It is, nevertheless, useful to understand basic Arabic numerals in order to bargain for cab rates. Personnel dealing with foreign visitors (such as tourist hotels, restaurants, tour guides, and so on) can usually converse in English quite effectively.

Because the general population lacks the capacity to converse in English beyond simple phrases, Syria is an excellent location to push yourself to study Arabic via immersion if you want to enhance your Arabic skills.

Internet & Communications in Syria

Syria offers simple and inexpensive internet connection. Internet cafés are extremely prevalent across cities. Although Facebook and YouTube have just been restored, certain websites, such as specific news sites, remain banned. The cafés are extremely welcoming, but to prevent getting overcharged, ask a local how much the internet costs per hour before agreeing to sit down. It is typically SYP50 per hour (USD1), however it may range from SYP50 to SYP100 per hour (USD2). It is advisable to avoid political discussions over the Syrian government, as well as reading Israeli publications or websites on the internet.

The cost of high-speed Internet connection varies greatly. As of November 2007, Aleppo’s Concord internet café charged a high SYP100 per hour, while the usual cost in Hama seemed to be SYP75 per hour, and in Damascus the price fell to about 50 S.P per hour (less if you pay for several hours in advance). Many years ago, power net in Latakia charged just SYP20.

Economy Of Syria

As of 2015, the Syrian economy is reliant on fundamentally unstable revenue streams such as decreasing customs and income taxes, which are supported in part by Iranian lines of credit. During the Syrian Civil War, Iran is thought to invest between $6 billion and $20 billion dollars each year on Syria. The Syrian economy has shrunk by 60%, and the Syrian pound has lost 80% of its value, as the country’s economy has shifted from state-owned to war-driven. Syria was categorized as a “lower middle income nation” by the World Bank at the start of the current Syrian Civil War. Syria’s economy remained reliant on oil and agriculture in 2010. About 40% of export profits came from the oil industry. Large amounts of oil are believed to exist on the Mediterranean Sea bottom between Syria and Cyprus, according to proven offshore missions. Agriculture accounts for about 20% of GDP and 20% of employment in the United States. In the next years, oil reserves are projected to decline, and Syria has already become a net oil importer. The Syrian economy has shrunk by 35% since the civil war started, and the Syrian pound has plummeted to one-sixth of its prewar value. Iran, Russia, and China are progressively providing loans to the government.

The government regulates the economy heavily, increasing subsidies and tightening trade restrictions to appease protestors and preserve foreign currency reserves. Foreign trade restrictions, decreasing oil output, high unemployment, growing budget deficits, and increasing pressure on water resources due to heavy usage in agriculture, fast population growth, industrial development, and water pollution are all long-term economic limitations. According to the UNDP, 30% of the Syrian population lives in poverty, with 11.4 percent living below the poverty line.

Since 2001, Syria’s proportion in world exports has steadily decreased. During the years 2000–2008, real per capita GDP growth was just 2.5 percent per year. Unemployment is at a peak of more than 10%. The poverty rate has risen from 11% in 2004 to 12.3 percent in 2007. Crude oil, processed goods, raw cotton, textiles, fruits, and cereals were among Syria’s major exports in 2007. Raw materials for industry, cars, agricultural equipment, and heavy machinery account for the majority of Syrian imports. The government’s main sources of foreign currency are earnings from oil exports and remittances from Syrian employees.

Political instability is a major risk to future economic growth. Violence, government limitations, economic sanctions, and international isolation all limit foreign investment. Syria’s economy is additionally hampered by the government’s bureaucracy, declining oil output, increasing budget deficits, and inflation.

Prior to the civil conflict in 2011, the government intended to diversify its economy and decrease its reliance on oil and agriculture by attracting new investment in tourism, natural gas, and service industries. The administration started to implement economic changes aiming at liberalizing most markets, but they were sluggish and haphazard, and they have been entirely overturned since the war began in 2011.

The value of Syria’s total exports has been reduced by two-thirds since 2010, from US$12 billion in 2010 to just US$4 billion in 2012. This is due to the continuing Syrian civil conflict. Syria’s GDP dropped by more than 3% in 2011 and is projected to drop by another 20% in 2012.

Syria’s oil and tourist sectors, in particular, have been decimated since 2012, with the continuing civil war costing the country $5 billion. The continuing civil conflict will need reconstruction costs of up to $10 billion. The government’s finances have been drained by sanctions. Oil import restrictions imposed by the United States and the European Union in 2012 are expected to cost Syria $400 million per month.

Tourism revenues have plummeted, with hotel occupancy rates plummeting from 90 percent before the conflict to less than 15 percent in May 2012. Since the commencement of the conflict, about 40% of all tourist workers have lost their employment.

ISIS took control of Syria’s phosphate mines in May 2015, cutting off one of the Assad regime’s last major sources of revenue. ISIS blew up a gas pipeline to Damascus that was used to produce heating and power in Damascus and Homs the next month; “the name of its game for now is denial of critical resources to the government,” according to one expert. In addition, ISIS is closing in on the Shaer gas field and three other nearby facilities—Hayan, Jihar, and Ebla—with the loss of these western gas resources potentially causing Iran to support the Assad government even more.

Petroleum industry

Syria’s petroleum sector has been on the decline for a long time. In September 2014, ISIS was producing more oil than the regime, at 80,000 barrels per day (13,000 m3/d) compared to the regime’s 17,000 barrels per day (2,700 m3/d), with the Syrian Oil Ministry reporting that by the end of 2014, oil production had plummeted to 9,329 barrels per day (1,483.2 m3/d); ISIS has since captured another oil field, resulting in a projected oil production of 6,829 barrels per day (1, Syria’s two major oil refineries were working at less than 10% capacity in the third year of the Syrian Civil War, according to deputy economics minister Salman Hayan.

Since the late 1960s, the nation has been producing heavy-grade oil from sources in the northeast. Light-grade, low-sulphur oil was found in Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria in the early 1980s. Syria’s oil output has plummeted from a high of over 600,000 barrels per day (95,000 m3/d) in 1995 to less than 182,500 barrels per day (29,020 m3/d) in 2012. Since 2012, output has dropped even more, reaching 32,000 barrels per day (5,100 m3/d) in 2014. (bpd). Official statistics put production at 27,000 barrels per day (4,300 m3/d) in 2015, but such data should be interpreted with care since it’s impossible to determine how much oil is being produced in rebel-controlled regions.

Prior to the revolt, over 90% of Syria’s oil exports went to EU nations, with the rest going to Turkey. In 2012, oil and gas income accounted for about 20% of overall GDP and 25% of total government revenue.

Entry Requirements For Syria

Visa restrictions
Entry will be refused to citizens of Israel and travellers with any evidence of having visited Israel (which includes stamps of Egyptian/Jordanian neighbouring land borders with Israel in addition to Israeli visas and entry stamps), any products with Hebrew labelling, etc. Passports are meticulously checked for Israeli stamps page-by-page at the border, so if you have an Israeli stamp, then you will need to get a new passport.

Visa & Passport for Syria

Most individual travelers need visas. These are in 6-month (single/multiple entry), 3-month (single), and 15-day (land borders only) options. Except for unaccompanied Moroccan women under the age of 40, citizens of Arab nations do not need a visa. Furthermore, Malaysians, Turks, and Iranians do not need visas.

Obtaining visas in advance is both costly and complicated. Even if they reside elsewhere, Americans must apply in advance at the Syrian embassy in Washington DC and pay USD131 or €100. Most other travelers, however, may get them anywhere, with Istanbul (Turkey) being a popular option since they are usually granted within one day for €20 (Canadian citizens) or €30 (EU nationals) (EU citizens). A “letter of reference” from your consulate indicating that there is “no objection” to your travel to Syria may be needed. The visa must include two stamps and a signature, otherwise it will be deemed invalid and you will be sent back at the border. The blue arrival form must be kept since it must be presented upon leaving.

According to official regulation, if your nation has a Syrian embassy or consulate, you should apply for your visa ahead of time. Most nationalities must apply for a Syrian visa in the country of their citizenship. A foreign person may also apply for a Syrian visa at a Syrian Consulate in a country other than their own provided they have a residence visa valid for at least 6 months in the country where they are applying. This rule has just a few exceptions. For most nationalities, it is easy to acquire a visa at the border.

How To Travel To Syria

Get In - By land

Almost any national may get a visa at the border, regardless of whether it is written or suggested. However, do not purchase a bus ticket that will take you all the way to the other side of the border. They will always leave you there since it takes 2-10 hours for US people to get there, and they will not tell you that when you buy your bus ticket. Purchase a minibus/shared taxi (servees) ticket to the border, then repeat the process on the opposite side. Others are more expensive: Japanese are USD12-14 or €9-11, Singaporeans are USD33 or €25, Australians/New Zealanders are about USD100 or €75.99, and Swiss are USD63 or €47.88. Only US money or Euros are accepted. You may only be granted a 15-day single-entry tourist visa, and you will be required to repeat the procedure if you return to Syria. When leaving Syria, you must purchase/pay for an exit card, which costs about USD12 or €9.15.

If you’re traveling by land and want to get a visa at the border, carry US dollars, euros, or Syrian pounds. Other foreign currencies will not get a favorable exchange rate, and credit/debit cards will not be accepted at most crossings. Also not accepted are traveler’s checks.

Sanctions on Syria should be avoided by Americans. While traveling to Syria and spending money there is legal, you cannot fly with Syrian Arab Airlines, and many US banks err on the side of caution and refuse to do business with Syria. Some credit or ATM cards may not function, but this is not an issue for most Americans nowadays. However, be aware that some travelers’ bank accounts have been blocked, regardless of whether or not they notified their bank of their trip to Syria.

Various regions of Syria are not under the authority of the Syrian central government as a result of the war. Kurdish and rebel troops are in control of areas bordering Turkey. Foreigners will not be permitted to enter these borders, and the border between Turkey and Syria is now blocked due to the war. People are crossing the river into Syria from Iraq’s Kurdish region at a location called Faish Khabour, but the passage is exclusively for humanitarian workers, and non-aid personnel may not be permitted to cross.

Get In - By plane

Syria has three international airports: Damascus International Airport (DAM), located 35 kilometers (22 miles) southeast of the capital, Aleppo International Airport (ALP), located just northeast of Aleppo in the country’s north, and Bassel al-Assad International Airport (LTK), located south of Latakia, the country’s main sea port. Because of the ongoing civil conflict, most airlines have ceased service to these airports.

Almost all visitors may obtain a free entrance visa upon arrival if they are met by a local travel operator. For further information, contact the Syrian Embassy in your own country.

Syria charges a SYP550 (US$13) exit fee at land and marine crossings. Since the summer of 2009, the airport departure tax has been included in the ticket price, and airlines will manually stamp your boarding permit.

One of the most feasible and reasonable methods to enter Syria from Turkey is to fly to Gaziantep and then cab to Aleppo through the Oncupinar border-gate in Kilis. The trip takes about two hours, including customs procedures. The price is USD60 per vehicle, with a maximum of four passengers and a one-way trip. Taxis with a permit may be hired in Kilis or Gaziantep. Turkcan Turizm can be reached at 0348 822 3313.

Get In - By train

There are two international railway routes to Syria: Tehran-Aleppo-Damascus and Istanbul-Aleppo.

Flying to Istanbul and then taking a train/coach down to Damascus is a more cheaper option than flying directly to Damascus (GBP200 return tickets from the UK to Istanbul). It takes approximately 36 hours to get to Aleppo (leaves on Sunday morning. Contrary to common perception, the train does not continue to Damascus; instead, you must change trains. Seat61 is very accurate and should be used.

All trains from Istanbul (Haydarpaşa railway station on the Asian side of the Bosporus) are run jointly by TCDD (Turkey) and CFS (Syria) and are by far the cheapest route entering Syria from Europe, with flights to Istanbul costing €200 – €300 cheaper than flights to Damascus.

Toros Express, which runs from Istanbul to Gaziantep (from where another train may be taken into Syria), has been stopped due to track repairs throughout the Turkish rail network, and it is unclear when and if it will resume operation. There are still daily night trains from Istanbul to Adana, which is a short bus trip between Antioch and Gaziantep, the former of which has extensive bus links to Aleppo and the latter of which has twice weekly rail connections to the Syrian city.

Tur-ista travel agency can purchase rail tickets for you before you arrive in Istanbul, which is a smart idea since trains fill up fast (Tur-ista tel: +90 (212) 334 2600).

Get In - By bus

Buses depart from Turkey, with regular connections from Antakya (Hatay). Traveling by bus from Jordan and Lebanon is also an option.

When arriving in Damascus by bus, make your way out from the station to get a cab to the city center. Otherwise, you risk paying many times the normal cost, which should be about SYP150, since vehicles impersonating taxis operate near the station.

Normally, this is a two-man job, with one guy attempting to distract you while the driver places your luggage in the trunk of the “taxi” and locks it.

Get In - By car

Service taxis (taxis that follow a set route exclusively, typically from one bus station to another) are a handy method to reach Damascus, Homs, Tartus, Aleppo, and other Syrian cities from Lebanon. Based on four persons sharing the same vehicle, a shared service taxi from Beirut to Damascus will cost between 700 and 800 Syrian Pounds ($17). If you want a private cab, you must pay for each seat.

A seat on a service from Latakia to Beirut will cost SYP800, while Tartous to Tripoli would cost approximately SYP500. In most instances, a Syrian visa must be obtained before to departure, which may cost as little as USD130 depending on the nation of residence. Tourists may get a free entrance visa if they are accompanied by a local travel agency. Arriving by vehicle from Turkey is also an option. A private cab from Gaziantep Airport (Turkey) would set you back about USD60.

Service taxis operate from Dar’a over the Jordanian border to Ramtha; from there, microbuses to Irbid and Amman are accessible; a stop in Dar’a allows for a side excursion to Bosra, which has a UNESCO-recognized Roman theater and ruins.

Get In - By boat

The closest automobile ferry port is in Turkey, at Bodrum.

Passenger ships operate on occasion between Latakia and Limassol, Cyprus. This service has come and gone throughout the years, with just four sailings planned in each direction in 2008. Before making arrangements that include this route, confirm with Varianos Travel that the departure will take place.

A number of Mediterranean cruise lines stop at at Latakia and Tartous.

How To Travel Around Syria

Get Around - By taxi

Taxis (often yellow and well marked) are a convenient method to travel about Damascus, Aleppo, and other cities. Most cab drivers do not speak English, therefore knowing Arabic would be beneficial. All legal taxis have meters, and it is essential to insist on the driver turning on the meter and making sure it remains turned on. Rather of using the meter, most drivers anticipate to negotiate rates with international tourists. A cab trip across Damascus may cost as much as SYP30. Taxis from the airport to downtown Damascus cost between SYP600 and SYP800, somewhat more at night. Private taxi services (which are extensively advertised at the airport) charge much more.

There is, however, a bus from Baramkeh station to the airport that costs SYP25 per suitcase and SYP45 per passenger.

Get Around - By car

Sixt, Budget, and Europcar car rental locations are available. Cham Tours (previously Hertz) has an office adjacent to the Cham Palace Hotel and provides affordable prices beginning at USD50 per day, including tax, insurance, and unlimited kilometers.

Sixt rent a vehicle, one of Europe’s leading automobile rental businesses, has just launched in Syria at the Four Seasons Hotel with a brand new fleet, with rates beginning at USD40 per day (All Inclusive).

If you’ve never driven in Syria before, take a cab first to get a sense of what the traffic is like. Driving in Damascus and Aleppo, in particular, is a unique experience due to near-constant congestion, a very aggressive driving style, poor roads, and extremely questionable quality of road signs. So be cautious.

The sole traffic regulation that may come in useful is that, contrary to much of the rest of the globe, incoming vehicles have the right of way in roundabouts, whereas cars already in the roundabout must wait. Aside from that, it seems that motorists have a lot of leeway.

If you have an accident in a rental vehicle, you must get a police report regardless of how little the damage is or who is clearly at blame – otherwise, you will be held responsible for the damage. Police (road police No:115) will most likely only be able to communicate in Arabic, therefore attempt to get assistance from other drivers and/or contact your rental agency.

Gas (designated as “Super,” red stands) costs SYP40 per litre (+10% tax), for a total of SYP44, whereas diesel (green stands) is about half the price. If you run out of gasoline (which is easy to do anywhere east of the Damascus-Aleppo route or in the highlands west of it), you may be able to locate a local willing to sell you a few litres from a canister, although costs may be expensive (say SYP70 per litre). Gas stations are usually only found in larger cities and key crossroads in the desert, so attempt to refill whenever possible.

Get Around - By microbus

Microbuses (also known as servees or meecro) are little white vans that transport ten or so people around cities on predetermined itineraries for approximately SYP10. The destinations are printed in Arabic on the front of the microbus. Typically, the money is handled by the passenger seated behind the driver. You may request that the driver stop anywhere along his route.

Microbuses often go greater distances, such as to neighboring villages around Damascus and Aleppo, or from Homs to Tadmor or Krak des Chevaliers. They are often more unpleasant and congested than bigger buses, although they are less expensive. They typically have more regular departures than buses, especially for shorter routes.

Get Around - By bus or coach

Air-conditioned buses are one of the most convenient methods to travel large distances in Syria, such as the journey from Damascus to Palmyra. Coaches are a cheap, quick, and dependable method to travel across the nation, but the timetables, when they exist, are untrustworthy. For the busiest routes, it’s best to just head to the coach station when you want to leave and take the next coach; you’ll have to wait a little longer, but it’s less of a hassle than trying to figure out when the ideal coach will depart, only to find out it’s late.

Get Around - By train

Syria’s railroads were quite modern. Rail travel is cheap and usually on time, but railway stations are frequently located a considerable distance from town centers. Damascus, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zur, Hassake, and Qamishle are all connected by the main line. A subsidiary railway runs along the Mediterranean coast, serving stations.

On Fridays throughout the summer, a small steam train departs from Damascus’ Hejaz Railway Station (which includes a nice restaurant) and climbs into the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. Many residents love the trip to the cooler highlands for a picnic.

Get Around - By bicycle

While cycling is not for everyone, and Syria is far from a cycling paradise, there are some distinct benefits. Syria is a decent size for cycling, and accommodations are plentiful enough that even a low-budget traveler may get by with “credit card” touring (though in the case of Syria, it might be better to refer to it as fat-wad-of-cash touring). There are places that are inaccessible by public transit, like as the Dead Cities, and the inhabitants are extremely hospitable, often asking a weary biker for a rest, cup of tea, lunch, or a night’s lodging. Children throwing stones at cyclists or running after bicycles asking for sweets and pens (as seen in certain areas of Morocco) do not seem to be an issue in Syria. Locals, young and old, will be fascinated by your journey and your bicycle, and if you stop in a town, anticipate a big crowd to gather for pleasant banter about where you are from and your trip.

In Syria, it is very simple to go wild camping. Perhaps the most difficult issue is not so much locating a space for your tent as it is choosing a location where people will not pass by and attempt to persuade you to return to their house. Except on a wet day when the dirt makes living tough, olive gardens and other orchards may be excellent places to pitch your tent. Another alternative is to pitch your tent in a private yard or next to an official building, such as a police station. As long as you can get your point through, you are unlikely to be denied. A note describing your journey in Arabic will aid communication.

Unfortunately, driving abilities in Syria are very poor, and other road users prefer to drive aggressively. They seem to be accustomed to slow-moving traffic and usually offer plenty of space when they pass. Motorcycle drivers are probably the most dangerous since they prefer to draw up beside cyclists to talk or zoom past your bike to have a look at the odd traveller before doing a U-turn in the middle of the road to return home. In this instance, stopping, talking for a few minutes, and then continuing may be the safest choice.

Another issue is the difficulty of locating excellent maps. You should carry a map with you since excellent maps are difficult to get by in Syria. Free ones are available from tourist offices, although they are not ideal for cycling. Even foreign-produced maps may include inaccuracies or roads that do not exist, making deviating from the main path difficult. When you get to a fork in the road, it’s a good idea to ask many residents for directions. Without excellent maps, it may be difficult to avoid riding on the main highway, which, although safe (a decent wide shoulder exists on nearly all roads), is not very enjoyable owing to the smoky vehicles and boring landscape.

Consider taking a water filter or water purification pills with you. Bottled water is not usually readily accessible in small communities. It is simple to locate local water. Tall metal water coolers distribute free local water in many town centers, and water is always accessible near mosques. The Syrian term for water is pronounced similarly to the English word “my” (as in “that is my pen”) with a little A after it, and if you ask for water in any business or house, they will gladly refill your bottles.

Destinations in Syria

Regions in Syria

Syria technically has 14 governorates.

  • Northwestern Syria
    Aleppo, one of the world’s oldest towns, as well as the Dead Cities, 700 abandoned villages in the country’s northwest.
  • Hauran
    A volcanic plateau in southwest Syria that contains Damascus and its area of influence.
  • Orontes Valley
    The Orontes Valley, which includes the cities of Hama and Homs.
  • Syrian Coast and Mountains
    Green and fertile, Christian and liberal in outlook, and dominated by Phoenician and Crusader history
  • Syrian Desert
    A large uninhabited desert with the oasis of Palmyra and the Euphrates basin, both of which are historically connected with Assyrian and Babylonian history.

Cities in Syria

  • Damascus — the capital claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world
  • Aleppo — a large souk and ancient citadel with great views
  • Deir-az-Zur — a desert town on the Euphrates River bank
  • Hama — waterwheels
  • Homs — an ancient city by the Orontes river, amazing green mountains in Spring
  • Latakia — a major port city, Saladin’s Castle, Fronloq Forests and Al Samra Beach near Kasab
  • Tartous — a historical port city and historical small island called Arwad

Other destinations in Syria

  • Apamea was an ancient Roman city that originally contained about 500,000 people. Apamea was devastated by an earthquake in the 12th century, but it still has a lengthy street lined with columns, some of which have twisted fluting.
  • Bosra is a Roman city in southern Syria near the Jordanian border known for its use of black basalt stones and well-preserved theater.
  • Crac des Chevaliers is the quintessential Crusader fortress, beautifully maintained and not to be missed.
  • Dead Cities – A group of cities that were formerly part of Antioch. They’ve been abandoned for a long time, yet they’re nevertheless worth a visit for visitors. Pyramidal tombs and once magnificent archways stand atop contemporary farmland in Al Bara. Serjilla is another well-known dead city.
  • Der Mar Musa is not a tourist attraction, but rather an active Christian monastery that promotes Islamic/Christian cooperation. Welcomes Christians as well as people of other faiths. It is located 80 kilometers north of Damascus.
  • Palmyra – in the midst of the desert, formerly housed the once-magnificent remains of a Roman metropolis. The UNESCO-listed historic monument, formerly considered Syria’s biggest tourist, is no longer a viable destination after being destroyed by Daesh militants in 2015.
  • Saladin’s Castle is a peaceful treasure in a pine-forested valley 37 kilometers inland from Latakia.
  • Salamieh — Salamiyah is a historic city that was originally recognized during Babylonian times around 3500 BC; it includes Shmemis fortress, the Greek temple of Zeus, the old Hammam, the old Walls, and the remains of Roman canals.

Things To See in Syria

  • Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra, Crac des Chevaliers, and Bosra are among the ancient towns with Medieval souqs.
  • The Al Aasi Water Wheels are located in Hama on a river.( نواعير نهر العاصي ).
  • Al Hosn Castle in Homs.
  • The oldest surviving Byzantine church, Qala’at Samaan (Basilica of St Simeon Stylites), is situated approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) northwest of Aleppo and dates back to the 5th century. This church is also known as Qalaat Semaan (Arabic: ‏قلعة سمعان‎ Qalʿat Simʿān), the ‘Fortress of Simeon’, or Deir Semaan (Arabic: ‏دير سمعان‎ Dayr Simʿān), the ‘Monastery of Simeon’ .
  • Tartous is known for its Crusader-era Templar stronghold.

Food & Drinks in Syria

Food in Syria

Falafel, deep-fried chickpea patties, are priced between SYP15 and SYP30. Foul is another famous vegetarian dish. Don’t be thrown off by the name. This fava bean paste, topped with cumin, paprika, and olive oil and served with flatbread, fresh mint, and onion, is not only delicious but also fulfilling and full.

You may also be able to order a Fatoush salad with your soup. Chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and herbs are combined in a dressing and topped with a dusting of croutons-like fried bread. Top with grated cheese if desired.

Shwarma and other meat wrappers cost SYP35-50. To take away, a half-chicken with bread and mayonnaise dip costs SYP175.

A meal at a decent restaurant costs SYP450 for lunch or supper. A high-end restaurant lunch or supper will set you back about SYP1,000.

Drinks in Syria

Water from the tap is generally safe to drink, but if you’re uncertain, ask the locals first. When compared to bottled water, which costs SYP15-25 for 1.5 L, this water is free.

Most towns have street vendors selling fresh fruit juices. SYP40-50 for a big glass of mixed juice (typically banana, orange juice, and a few exotic fruits like pomegranate).

Beer is inexpensive, with a half-litre bottle or can costing as little as SYP35 in a store and as much as SYP50-100 at most budget accommodations and local pubs. Syrian wine may be purchased for about SYP150, but Lebanese and French wines are available in a higher price range, beginning at SYP350-400.

Tea is given in a small glass with no milk and is sweetened with sugar. You’ll have to add the sugar manually since Syrians have a collective sweet tooth and will pour it on.

Money & Shopping in Syria

In Syria, inflation is widespread, and any numbers stated in these guidelines without dates and/or in Syrian pounds should be regarded with caution.

If you are under the age of 26, an international student card lowers entrance costs to numerous tourist attractions to 10% of the regular price. Depending on who checks your card, you may be eligible for the discount even if you are above the age of 26 or have an expired card. In Syria, an international student card may be purchased (around USD15). Inquire around subtly.

The best buys in the souks (especially the Souk Al Hamidiya in Damascus’ Old City, where you can easily “get lost” for an entire morning or afternoon without getting bored) are “nargileh” waterpipes, Korans, beautifully lacquered boxes and chess/draughts sets, and (especially in Aleppo) olive soap and traditional sweets. Because the quality of handicrafts varies greatly, when purchasing lacquered/inlaid boxes, run your hand over the surface to ensure that it is smooth and inspect the hinges in particular. Haggling is typical in the souq. Strive for a cutthroat bargain.

Syrian merchants who price their products in other currencies now risk up to ten years in prison after President Bashar al-Assad issued a directive that “forbids the use of anything other than the Syrian pound as payment for any kind of commercial transaction or monetary settlement.” This was due to the growing “dollarisation” of an economy in shambles after two years of civil war.

Money

Syria’s currency is the Syrian pound or ‘lira’ (ISO 4217 currency code: SYP), and its subdivision of ‘piastre’ is no longer used. There are many notations used locally, including £S, LS, or S£, Arabic: al-lra as-sriyya, however Wikivoyage utilizes the ISO 4217 currency code of SYP directly prefixing the amount in our recommendations.

Despite the fact that Syria was designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the US in 1979 and was subject to US sanctions at the time, the exchange rate has rapidly deteriorated from USD1 = SYP47 (official) in March 2011 to USD1 = SYP129 (official) and over SYP300 on the black market in September 2013. Hard currencies, such as Canadian and US dollars, pounds sterling, or euros, cannot be purchased legally; the black market is the sole source of foreign currency accessible to Syrian businesses, students, and the many others who want to flee overseas. The highest amount of foreign money that may legally be exported is a rather generous USD3,000 equivalent each year for each tourist. Any sum in excess of USD3,000 is subject to seizure by the government and imprisonment. Furthermore, the Syrian pound is not a hard money, and its export is limited to a maximum of SYP2,500 per person.

As a result of these restrictions, any sums stated in these guidelines without dates and/or in Syrian pounds should be viewed with caution.

Before the civil war began, most large cities had a number of ATMs located in banks, prominent squares, and five-star hotels. These ATMs no longer have connectivity to foreign networks. The Real Estate Bank had the most extensive network accepting foreign cards, although cards may also be used in machines operated by the Bank of Syria and Overseas and the Commercial Bank of Syria. ATMs did not exist outside of major towns even during the war, therefore it is prudent to take enough cash while leaving major cities to finish your trip in the countryside and return to the city before running out of cash. If you have a US-issued credit card, Bank Audi was the ideal place to go.

In Syria, it is almost difficult to exchange traveler’s checks.

Traditions & Customs in Syria

Clothing

Male and female tourists are usually permitted to dress as they would in their native countries. Contrary to popular belief, women are permitted to wear T-shirts and long-sleeved tops are not required until visiting a holy place. When visiting Muslim holy places, visitors should wear head coverings. To visit Christian religious places, dress as you would usually do in the West, but avoid wearing shorts in churches. Many local ladies, particularly in Christian neighborhoods, dress in Western clothing. Shorts are popular among both men and women. Be aware of your surroundings; outside of tourist areas, it is best to dress more modestly.

Women who want to draw less attention should wear shirts that reach the elbow and have no cleavage showing. In Damascus, T-shirts and jeans are acceptable clothing.

Israel

Syria considers Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights to be unconstitutional. Because of the occupation, Syrians have unfavorable opinions of Israel. There is still a tiny Syrian Jewish population in Damascus, and they face harsh persecution and intimidation from the government. Avoid any argument about Israel unless you have a passion for lengthy debates.

Culture Of Syria

Syria has a traditional culture with a lengthy history. Family, religion, education, self-discipline, and respect are all valued. Syrians’ appreciation for ancient arts may be seen in dances such as the al-Samah, the Dabkeh in all its variants, and the sword dance. Marriage rituals and childbirth are both occasions for a colorful display of local traditions.

Arts

Syria’s literature has contributed to Arabic literature, and the country has a rich history of oral and written poetry. Syrian authors, many of whom emigrated to Egypt, played an important part in the 19th-century nahda, or Arab literary and cultural renaissance. Adonis, Muhammad Maghout, Haidar Haidar, Ghada al-Samman, Nizar Qabbani, and Zakariyya Tamer are among the prominent modern Syrian authors.

Since the 1966 coup, Ba’ath Party control has resulted in increased restrictions. In this setting, the historical fiction genre, pioneered by Nabil Sulayman, Fawwaz Haddad, Khyri al-Dhahabi, and Nihad Siris, is often utilized to express dissent by criticizing the present via a portrayal of the past. Syrian folk tale, a type of historical literature, is infused with magical realism and is also employed as a veiled critique of the present. Salim Barakat, a Syrian émigré residing in Sweden, is a key character in the genre. Science fiction and future utopiae (Nuhad Sharif, Talib Umran) in contemporary Syrian literature may also function as medium of protest.

Popular culture

The Syrian music scene, particularly that of Damascus, has long been regarded as one of the most significant in the Arab world, particularly in the area of classical Arab music. Syria has produced a number of pan-Arab talents, notably Asmahan, Farid al-Atrash, and Lena Chamamyan, a vocalist. Aleppo is well-known for its muwashshah, a kind of Andalous sung poetry popularized by Sabri Moudallal, as well as famous singers such as Sabah Fakhri.

Syria initially received television in 1960, while it was a member of the United Arab Republic, along with Egypt (which got television the same year). It aired in black-and-white until 1976. Syrian soap operas have a significant market share in the eastern Arab world.

Almost all media outlets in Syria are state-owned, and the Ba’ath Party controls virtually all publications. The government run a variety of intelligence organizations, including Shu’bat al-Mukhabarat al-‘Askariyya, which employs a significant number of agents. Many Syrian artists, poets, authors, and activists have been imprisoned during the Syrian Civil War, including renowned cartoonist Akram Raslam.

Sports

Football, basketball, swimming, and tennis are the most popular sports in Syria. The fifth and seventh Pan Arab Games were held in Damascus. Many prominent football teams are located in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Latakia, among other cities.

The Syrian national football team plays in Damascus’ Abbasiyyin Stadium. The squad had modest success, qualifying for four Asian Cup tournaments. On November 20, 1949, the squad played its debut international match, losing 7–0 against Turkey. FIFA rated the squad 101st in the world in June 2016.

Cuisine

Syrian cuisine is rich and diverse in its components, and is linked to the areas of Syria where a particular dish originated. Syrian cuisine is mostly composed on foods from the Southern Mediterranean, Greece, and Southwest Asia. Some Syrian foods have also developed from Turkish and French cuisine, such as shish kebab, stuffed zucchini/courgette, and yabra’ (stuffed grape leaves, the term yapra’ is from the Turkish word ‘yaprak’, which means leaf).

Kibbeh, hummus, tabbouleh, fattoush, labneh, shawarma, mujaddara, shanklish, pastrma, sujuk, and baklava are the major dishes of Syrian cuisine. Baklava is a honey-soaked filo pastry filled with chopped nuts. Before the main meal, Syrians often offer a variety of appetizers known as meze. Popular hors d’oeuvres include za’atar, minced meat, and cheese manakish. Khubz, an Arabic flatbread, is usually eaten with meze.

The drinks available in Syria differ based on the time of day and the event. Arabic coffee, also known as Turkish coffee, is the most well-known hot beverage, which is often made in the morning for breakfast or in the evening for dinner. It is often given to visitors or as a dessert after a meal. Arak, an alcoholic drink, is also a well-known beverage that is often offered on special occasions. Other Syrian drinks include Ayran, Jallab, White coffee, and Al Shark, a locally produced lager.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Syria

Stay Safe in Syria

Syria has been engulfed in a political crisis since January 2011. Thousands of civilians have been murdered by armed insurgents, government security forces, and the military, and bombardment is mostly indiscriminate. In Syria, a growing military insurgency opposed to the Assad administration has carried out numerous high-profile assaults against government sites. As far as possible, avoid government buildings, protests, and armed troops.

All big gatherings should be avoided by travelers since they may become violent. Political organizations have targeted foreign visitors, particularly in the country’s south.

You may find yourself in hot water if you openly criticize the Syrian government or the president. To prevent any potential issues, you should avoid political discussions entirely. If you participate in political conversations with Syrians, be warned that if you are overheard, they may face rigorous interrogation by the secret police (mukhabarat). As a general rule, expect that you are being observed by plainclothes cops. You may note that there aren’t many uniformed police officers on the streets, but this is due to the police having a large network of plain clothes officers and informants.

Because begging is prevalent in certain areas of Syria, especially outside major tourist sites, mosques, and churches, beggars may sometimes demand money and may follow you about until you pay. Some have even been known to “attack” visitors in order to get money and food. It is recommended that you wear suitable Arab attire and attempt to fit in. It’s also a good idea to keep your money in your front pockets and keep it secure with you. Many beggar scams have also resulted in significant financial losses for many international visitors; be cautious of these scams.

Drugs

The death sentence is imposed for drug trafficking or production.

Women

Women traveling alone may find themselves attracting too much attention from Syrian males. However, this is usually confined to blank looks or weak efforts at communication. If it goes beyond that, the best course of action is to remain courteous while making it obvious that advances are not welcome. Bystanders may often be extremely chivalrous and helpful if you are vocal and engage them.

Women detained on suspicion of immoral behavior (for example, being alone in a room with a male who is not the woman’s spouse, or being in a home where drugs or alcohol are being used) may be submitted to a virginity test.

Homosexuality

Under Syrian law, homosexual behavior is punished by up to three years in jail under penal code article 520, which says that any sexual act “contrary to nature” is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Stay Healthy in Syria

Syria’s health-care system falls well short of Western expectations, and basic medications are not always accessible.

Most common illnesses, such as stomach infections and traveler’s diarrhea, are well-served by local pharmacies. Pharmacists often speak a little English. As of November 2007, you may request that your hotel summon a doctor if required, and a visit to your hotel room would cost between SYP700 and SYP1000.

Of course, the greatest therapy is to remain healthy in the first place. When dining out, choose a crowded restaurant.

Take your therapy with you if you have one. Don’t expect to locate all of your medications in Syria. If you must purchase anything from a drugstore, request a “foreign” EU or US brand. You will have to pay a premium for it, but you will have a better chance of receiving a genuine medication. According to several local pharmacists, certain products are of unknown origin and are useless.

Asia

Africa

South America

Europe

North America

Read Next

Damascus

Damascus is Syria’s capital and the second-largest city after Aleppo. Damascus is not only one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, but it is...