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.
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.
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; see [www]). 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).
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.
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.
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.