Saturday, September 18, 2021

Money & Shopping in Syria

AsiaSyriaMoney & 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.


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.