Is it even possible to travel to Syria?
There are a lot of things to think about when considering a tour to Syria – from a purely logistical point of view, it certainly has its challenges, and there are no small number of ethical implications to ponder when thinking about visiting this fascinating country. Ultimately, however, we think that you should definitely visit Syria at least once in your lifetime. More than that, we do think it’s ethical to do so.
So yes, you can – and should – travel to Syria.
Is it ethical to travel to Syria?
This is a big sticking point for a lot of folk, and one that we can completely understand. Syria still has an ongoing conflict, but it’s important to point out that that’s not why we go there. We do not visit any active warzones and our tours are not about misery or poverty tourism. Syria is a country with a rich history and heritage. One that’s every bit as deserving of your tourist dollar as France or Italy. Arguably more so, in fact; tourism to Syria helps out the people and the economy at a crucial time.
Is it difficult to get a visa for Syria?
It’s slightly trickier than prior to the war, but it’s still eminently doable. In order to get a visa you’ll need the following:
- A booking with a licensed tour operator That’s easy; simply book up with us!
- No evidence of a trip to Israel This includes entry/exit stamps from Israel (obviously), exit stamps from Jordanian or Egyptian borders with Israel, flight tickets, barcodes or baggage slips from Israeli airports, books/souvenirs from Israel or Palestine, social media posts about your trip to Israel/Palestine, and “I heart Israel” T-shirts. Naturally, Israeli nationals cannot go to Syria.
- A passport-style photo and a photocopy of your passport photo page Simply send these to us and we’ll take care of the rest.
- 50-200 USD visa fee
This varies depending on your nationality, and changes constantly. Please note: the visa application process for Americans is complicated and has a high failure rate. Please check with us before applying. Furthermore, visiting Syria disqualifies you from using the ESTA visa waiver programme for entering the USA.
How can I get there?
Typically, visitors to Syria will need to fly to Beirut and then travel overland to Damascus. This takes around 2 hours, including crossing the border. If you book with us, pickup and transfer from Beirut is included! It’s also possibly to cross the Jordanian border, for a small additional fee. Flights to Damascus are unreliable but they are possible to book.
Is it safe to travel to Syria?
Largely, yes. The war is now largely confined to the north-western province of Idlib. Damascus and Aleppo are safe. We stay abreast of developments in the country, and in event of any changes our first priority is your safety.
What is there to do?
Plenty! Syria is an ancient country with a storied and rich history – plenty of which is still evident despite the best efforts of ISIS.
Syria’s ancient capital of Damascus has plenty to see and do:
- The October War Museum will give you an overview of Syria’s conflict with Israel.
- Where’s the last place you’d expect to see a park dedicated to North Korean president Kim Il Sung? How about in Damascus? We’ll drop by Kim Il Sung Park for a couple of photo ops and explore the relationship between these two nations.
- The Damascus National Museum is the country’s largest. It contains a
comprehensive collection of artefacts dating back over 11 millennia. Definitely a must-see when in the capital.
- For men in the group, visiting a local hammam is strongly recommended. A
hammam is a sort of bathhouse/spa where you can enter a sauna, get dead skin scrubbed off your feet and have a massage. Unfortunately, they are only open to men.
What about outside Damascus?
Of course, no trip to Syria would be complete without a trip to Aleppo:
- On the way to Aleppo, we’ll stop at the Christian town of Maaloula. Sadly captured and razed by ISIS in 2014, the town is still rebuilding. Here we’ll see its reconstructed Greek Catholic church, the destroyed Safir Hotel, and the St. Sergious & Bakhous Monastery.
- The world-famous Aleppo Castle, thankfully left largely untouched in the fighting. This will be one of our highlights whilst in the war-ravaged city. On our way here we’ll see the nearby ruins of the destroyed souk.
- The Aleppo Old Town, sadly largely destroyed in the conflict.
- It’s now time for the women of the group to get their turn in a hammam!
Nearby Homs was greatly affected during the war, but there’s still a lot to see:
- On the way to Homs we’ll see the famous beehive houses scattered across the Syrian desert-scape. These conical mud-and-straw buildings are designed to keep the occupants cool in summer and warm in winter.
- St. Mary’s Church of the Holy Belt – the seat of the Syrian Orthodox Church and the resting place of a section of the Virgin Mary’s girdle. The relic was removed prior to the arrival of rebels and, though the church was damaged and looted, work is underway to restore it.
- The grave of Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch Jesuit missionary who established a
community centre and farm in the region and was murdered by members of the Al- Nusra Front in 2014. He is much respected by the locals, and there is a memorial in remembrance of his contributions to Homs.
- The Old Town, though sadly razed by ISIS fighters when they captured the city, is still present to a certain degree. Until recently, it wasn’t possible to visit, but this has thankfully changed.
- On the way back from Palmyra, the Krak de Chevaliers makes for a fascinating pit stop. Originally built by the Kurds in the 11 th century, it was to become occupied by crusaders and would change hands many more times. It was occupied by rebels during the Syrian Civil War, but has since been recaptured by the government.
What currency can I use?
The official currency in Syria is the Syrian pound. At the time of writing, 434 Syrian pounds was equivalent to 1 USD. It’s virtually impossible to use ATMs within Syria. It’s therefore strongly recommended that you bring either euros or US dollars with you before entering the country, where you can then change your cash into Syrian pounds.
How much can I expect to spend?
Syria is not an expensive country, the daily costs should be quite low. Expect to pay between 5 and 15 euros for a meal in a restaurant, 1 euro for a snack and 1-5 euros for a beer. Obviously, souvenirs are a whole other story and can vary in price greatly.