Traveling Luck for Syria

Syria is located in Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Lebanon and Turkey.

Syria has borders with Israel for 76km, Iraq for 605km, Jordan for 375km, Lebanon for 375km and Turkey for 822km.

Land in Syria is primarily semiarid and desert plateau; narrow coastal plain; mountains in west.

Syrian land covers an area of 185180 square kilometers which is slightly larger than North Dakota

As for the Syrian climate; mostly desert; hot, dry, sunny summers (June to August) and mild, rainy winters (December to February) along coast; cold weather with snow or sleet periodically in Damascus.

Syrian(s) speak Arabic (official); Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian widely understood; French, English somewhat understood.

Syrian National Map

Syrian Map

Regions of Syria

Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, France administered Syria until its independence in 1946. The country lacked political stability, however, and experienced a series of military coups during its first decades. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic, but in September 1961 the two entities separated and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the Socialist Ba'th Party and the minority Alawite sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel, and over the past decade Syria and Israel have held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-ASAD in July 2000, his son, Bashar al-ASAD, was approved as president by popular referendum. Syrian troops - stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role - were withdrawn in April of 2005.


Syria Country Profile

The Syrian Government estimates the economy grew by 4.5 percent in real terms in 2005, led by the petroleum and agricultural sectors, which together account for about half of GDP. Economic performance and the exchange rate on the informal market were hit by international political developments following the assassination in February of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-HARIRI and the specter of international sanctions. Higher crude oil prices countered declining oil production and exports and helped to narrow the budget deficit and widen the current account surplus. The Government of Syria has implemented modest economic reforms in the last few years, including cutting interest rates, opening private banks, consolidating some of the multiple exchange rates, and raising prices on some subsidized foodstuffs. Nevertheless, the economy remains highly controlled by the government. Long-run economic constraints include declining oil production and exports, increasing pressure on water supplies caused by rapid population growth, industrial expansion, and water pollution.

Syrian natural resources include petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydropower

there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 2005 est.)

Syrian religion is Sunni Muslim 74%, Alawite, Druze, and other Muslim sects 16%, Christian (various sects) 10%, Jewish (tiny communities in Damascus, Al Qamishli, and Aleppo).

Natural hazards in Syria include dust storms, sandstorms.

Travel Advice on Syria

Syria

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • Developments in the region may trigger public unrest.  You should take care to avoid demonstrations, which can turn hostile, and be particularly vigilant in public places.

  • There is a continuing threat from terrorism in Syria.  The Syrian authorities have confirmed that on 28 November 2006, following a terrorist incident, two Syrian military personnel were injured near the Jedaida–Yabous crossing point with Lebanon.  We understand the border is still operating as normal.  On 12 September 2006, suspected terrorists launched an attack on the US Embassy in Damascus involving grenades and small arms fire.  No US personnel were injured in the attacks but one bystander was killed and several injured.

  • You should not attempt to enter Iraq via the Syrian border, which is subject to restrictions on both sides.

  • The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance Syria is replacing lost passports.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling to Syria.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Local Travel
Avoid driving outside the main cities at night.  Buses/coaches are available between the major cities and tourist sites, but you should check timetables on arrival.  Taxis are cheap and widely used.  Driving standards and traffic systems are poor and the accident rate high.  Self-drive hire is best left to the experienced.  Driving at night should be avoided, unless absolutely necessary, as it is unsafe.  The Syria/Iraq border is unclear.  Traffic across it is restricted to certain categories of individuals (businessmen amongst others, but not tourists).  You should not attempt to enter Iraq via Syria.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

You should respect local customs and sensitivities at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.

The punishment for possession of drugs is life imprisonment.  For drug trafficking, the death penalty applies.  It is illegal to change money on the street.  Change money only in recognised exchange shops, banks and hotels.  Credit cards are not widely used.  Exercise discretion in behaviour and dress, especially when visiting religious sites.  Homosexuality is illegal.

Photography near military and many other government installations is prohibited.  These zones are not always marked; you should exercise common sense and limit photography to traditional tourist sites.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

You require a visa for Syria.  Whether or not you have a visa you should be aware that if your passport contains an Israeli stamp or stamps from other countries’ border crossing points with Israel, you will be refused entry to Syria.
If you are planning to add in side-trips to Lebanon or Jordan, you should apply for a double or multiple entry visa for Syria, as these are otherwise difficult to obtain after arrival.
If you intend staying for more than fifteen days you will need to have your visa extended at the immigration office, otherwise you may face difficulties when trying to leave the country.  For further information contact the Syrian Embassy in London, 8 Belgrave Square, London, SW1X 8PH, Tel: 020 7245 9012, Fax: 020 7235 4621.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that Syria requires documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information please contact the Syrian Embassy, London..


HEALTH

We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.
Medical treatment is inexpensive but standards vary from one hospital to another, although most are well equipped.  Doctors are generally well qualified though nursing standards vary.  Most medical staff speak French or English.
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at:  DoH: Health Advice To Travellers.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see the What We Can Do To Help page of the FCO website.
Cash can be obtained from cash points (ATMs) in Damascus, but not other parts of Syria, using internationally accepted credit cards.
You are advised to carry a photocopy of the information page and the page displaying your visa and entry stamp of your passport, as proof of identity at all times.


OTHER

Syria Country Profile