Saturday, September 18, 2021

How To Travel Around Syria

AsiaSyriaHow To Travel Around Syria

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.