Syria is a country with a terrible travel reputation although most anyone who goes there will quickly realize it’s not the terrifying place it is made out to be. It is important to note before making travel arrangements that a visa will be required prior to entry and that travelers with Israeli stamps in their passports will be denied entry. The process can be somewhat confusing so it is best to contact the Syrian embassy to get the current procedures for your nationality. Once there however you’ll find a vibrant culture with elements of East and West combined in a normalcy many travelers find unexpected.
Travel to Damascus can be done through the main airport there, aptly named Damascus International Airport. Travelers already backpacking in Turkey can take the more scenic and immensely interesting overland route by train or bus. The train routes, times, and conditions vary so you’ll need to make plans from one of the major Turkish cities close before departure. Bus is also an option but best done from one of the southern or eastern Turkish cities to avoid complete fatigue upon arrival in Damascus. The longest trips from Istanbul are about 30 hours and we don’t recommend you skimping on the price since the quality of the ride can vary greatly.
- Getting around Damascus via taxi is fairly easy and inexpensive, just be sure to look out for cabs with working meters (taxi stands are a good place to start) and be sure to negotiate a price before getting in the cab.
Hotels And Hostels In Syria
Most hotels will be able to give you rough cost estimates for common routes within the city, such as to the National Museum of Damascus, Mount Qassioun, and the Umayyad Mosque. Damascus has more tourists than the rest of Syria but you won’t find many of these sites overly crowded, especially if you head to them midday during the week. Typically, entry to any of these major touristic sites requires the payment of a nominal fee, but should break any budget travelers bank.
From Damascus, backpackers should consider taking a bus to the nearby town of Hama. It’s one of the most charming and visually attractive cities in Syria, with the river Orontes running right through the middle of the city. Hama is a relaxing spot, with some historical ruins that can be seen by bus or booked tour from town. Hama is best done for about 2 days, and backpackers should plan to make trips out to the famous Norias of Hama, a gigantic water wheel along the banks for the Orontes River.
Another recommended city to spend a few days in is Aleppo, to the north of Damascus. The city is a wonder of living history and a place you should definitely plan to stop at if you’ll be heading overland from Turkey into Syria. Aleppo is home to one of the largest open air markets in the world where commerce takes places at a rapid rate and much as it has for centuries. You’ll find a lot to tempt you here but be sure to drive a hard bargain. Anything more than 30% off is usually a good deal.
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