Syria Basics

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The Basics

Time: Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from April to October).

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. The country uses round two-pin attachment plugs.

Money: The official currency is the Syrian pound (SYP), which is divided into 100 piastres. Before the war, there were a few ATMs in the bigger towns, but not all cards were accepted. Credit cards were not widely used, but American Express and Diners Club were the most readily accepted.

Currency Exchange Rates

SYP100.00 = USD 0.47GBP 0.38CAD 0.62AUD 0.69ZAR 7.06EUR 0.42NZD 0.74
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: Arabic is the official, and most widely spoken language. English is widely understood by many educated Syrians in the major cities.

Entry requirements for Americans: US nationals require a valid passport and a visa for travel to Syria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documents required for their next destination and sufficient funds to cover their stay.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK nationals require a valid passport and a visa for travel to Syria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documents required for their next destination and sufficient funds to cover their stay.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians require a valid passport and a visa for travel to Syria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documents required for their next destination and sufficient funds to cover their stay.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australians require a valid passport and a visa for travel to Syria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documents required for their next destination and sufficient funds to cover their stay.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans require a valid passport and a visa for travel to Syria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documents required for their next destination and sufficient funds to cover their stay.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand nationals require a valid passport and a visa for travel to Syria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documents required for their next destination and sufficient funds to cover their stay.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a valid passport and a visa for travel to Syria. Visitors must hold return/onward tickets, all documents required for their next destination and sufficient funds to cover their stay.

Passport/Visa Note: Visitors should be aware that if their passport (or airline ticket) contains an Israeli stamp, or any evidence of an intended visit to Israel, entry to Syria will be refused even if in possession of a valid visa. Visas can only be issued on arrival to those travelling as part of an organised group if there is no Syrian representation in their home country, but this should be confirmed in advance. Visas are not required for any traveller whose passport states that he or she was born in: Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, or Yemen. All travellers must hold return or onward tickets, all documents required for the next destination and sufficient funds to cover their stay. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: Prior to the war, malaria was not a health risk in the urban areas of Syria. But, travellers to El Hassaka in northern Syria were encouraged to take chloroquine between May and October. A yellow fever certificate was required by travellers arriving from certain countries in Africa or the Americas. Medical treatment was inexpensive, though standards varied. Doctors were generally well qualified, and most medical personnel spoke English or French. As things stand, the quality of health care in the country has deteriorated significantly. The conflict has seen many hospitals stop operating, as well as shortages of the most basic medicines and medical supplies. Also, the destruction of infrastructure has meant there are frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases across the country.

Tipping: Tipping is a common way of showing appreciation, but the amount is left to the discretion of the giver. Ten percent is standard in bigger restaurants.

Safety Information: Syria is an active conflict zone. As such, no place is free from the threat terrorism and violence. Foreign visitors have been targeted.

Local Customs: Syria is predominantly a Muslim country and visitors should respect religious sensitivity, particularly in the matter of dress and public conduct. Women, in particular, should wear loose fitting clothes that cover most of the body. Headscarves are unnecessary unless entering mosques. Eating, drinking and smoking in public during the holy month of Ramadan should be avoided, as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal. The death penalty is enforced for drug trafficking.

Business: Dress should be formal, and meetings should be arranged in advance. Business cards are usually exchanged at meetings. English and French are widely spoken in business, but translators can be arranged. Business hours are Saturday to Thursday from about 8.30am to 2.30pm, but Christian businesses open on Fridays and close on Sundays.

Communications: The international dialling code for Syria is +963. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City codes are in use, e.g. (0)11 for Damascus. There is good mobile phone coverage in urban areas, and many networks have international roaming agreements. Internet access is limited, but is available in Damascus.

Duty Free: Travellers are allowed to import 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 250g tobacco, 1 pint of spirits, perfume for personal use, and gifts to the value of S₤250 without paying customs duty. Firearms are prohibited. There is no limit on the amount of tobacco or spirits for export.