1. Is Syria safe?
Put simply, Syria is still technically at war, but much of the country is safe and has been for a while now. While official government advice is not to travel to Syria, normal life is resuming across much of the country and things are opening up again – which is great news. Is Syria Safe?
2. How do tours ensure safety?
Rocky Road Travel liaises with certified, government-approved agencies on the ground. You will receive a full security clearance, as will your guides and driver. Thankfully, the situation on the ground has been a lot more stable since 2018, with fighting being located in one main area – which we cannot and do not go to.
3. What should I wear?
Syria is a lot more relaxed than some other Islamic countries, and you’ll be either given fair warning or have an alternative dress provided when it’s required. For men, regular clothing is fine. Women should cover their shoulders and knees in holy places and hair in one or two mosques. Of course, anything with explicit or inflammatory wording must be avoided.
4. Is there much tourism in Syria currently?
Before 2010, Syria was one of the most visited countries in the region with as many as 10 million visitors annually. Today, for obvious reasons, it’s the least visited. But still, numbers are increasing as normal life begins to resume.
According to Syrian Tourism Minister Mohammed Rami Martini, Syria saw “750,000 visitors in the first half of 2022 compared to 570,000 visitors for the entire year of 2021”. He expects the total number of visitors in 2023 to exceed one million for the first time since the beginning of the conflict.
Since 2018, all travellers to Syria are required to travel with a licensed tour operator in order to obtain a Syrian visa. Group tours are typically the lowest in price and therefore a popular option. It’s not unusual to bump into other tourists in Syria, particularly in the more prominent sites and especially during spring and autumn when the weather is best for travelling.
Tourist overcrowding is currently far from being a problem, and guides liaise with each other to ensure groups avoid going to certain places at the same time.
5. How long does the visa process take?
It’s not actually the visa itself that the tour operator applies for, but the security clearance (background check). This takes up to two weeks to process, and once we let you know it’s been approved, you can start making travel arrangements.
The visa itself is paid for and picked up when you cross the border into Syria. This process can be anything from a few minutes to over an hour depending on how busy the border is that day. See more info about the Syrian visa process here.
6. Can I contact home when I am in Syria?
You will be staying at a hotel every night in Syria, and all of the hotels have internet. The reliability of the internet is generally very good – particularly if you’ve been staying in Beirut for the days leading up to the trip. It is possible to ask your guide to arrange for a local sim card for when you’re out and about.
7. What do I need to bring?
You don’t need to bring anything specific for a tour to Syria. A camera, extra batteries, a travel adapter (if needed), and any other personal effects you can’t do without for a week. The hotels have shampoo and towels, so unless your tour involves some time at the beach, you won’t need to bring a towel. Suitable walking shoes are beneficial, particularly for when exploring the ruins of Palmyra, but aside from that, you only need to bring the typical things you would do to any country with the climate of Syria:
For summer months:
- A sun hat
- A cover-up in case you get sunburned
For winter months:
- Warmer jackets and fleeces as temperatures can regularly drop below 10C in some parts of the country.8. How much cash should I take?
Syria is cheap by western standards. Do keep in mind that on our tours to Syria, only breakfast is provided, so you will need to pay for lunch and dinner, as well as any drinks. Small lunches go for around 1-4 USD and dinners maybe 10-15USD. If you enjoy drinking in bars, bring extra (beers are a few dollars each, cocktails will be more).
Recommended tips per person are 100USD which is split between the driver and the guide. It would be great if you also tipped the Rocky Road tour guide, but how much is of course discretionary. Souvenirs can be cheap or expensive depending on what you buy. For example, a small (150 x 60cm) handwoven rug is around the 25-30 USD mark (September 2022), although it is possible to find cheaper ones. Haggling is not uncommon in Syria, but do keep in mind that prices are already low and that these artisans are supporting their families in a difficult economy.
8. How do I get there?
Getting to Syria is very straightforward. We pick you up! Simply get yourself to Beirut before the tour and meet at the pickup point. Your driver will meet you there and take you all the way to Damascus. The drive is around two hours in total, but you will need to get off around three-quarters of the way there to go through Syrian immigration. This is a straightforward process and usually doesn’t take more than an hour. Then, before you know it, you’ll be meeting your Syria tour guide in Damascus, ready to start exploring.
Or, ready to take the leap? Browse our tours to Syria here