Getting in to Krak Des Chevaliers from Hama is quite easy, BUT, it's a bit of a hassle going out from the Krak back to Homs or Damascus in my case, since I stayed at a hotel at the back of the castle.
I walked from the hotel to the entrance of the castle where all the transports are, and where the van dropped us off during the arrival. It was a 20-minute hike with my bag on my back. at the entrance of the castle, i've suddenly realized -- alas! it's the day of the Eid!... which means that most people are celebrating the festival with their family!
So I sat there at the side of the road watching people getting in with their private vans/vehicles in front of the castle -- no service van around. I sat there for awhile, and after half an hour a van arrived and dropped off 2 people, the driver saw me sitting at the ledge on the side of the road and stopped. I was thinking it was a good samaritan-ish again, he said he's going to dropped me off down near the highway where I could catch transportation --- and guess what? He said he's a taxi and demanded SYP 150! I don't normally argue and so I handed him his unfair due then he left going up again. He's a taxi but a private taxi, it's ok for me actually - converting it to my permanent base currency - it's still cheap, and also because it's a holiday, but during non-holidays be careful if you're in the area be sure to ask for the fare before boarding.
Down at the main street where he dropped me in front of the yellow service taxi vans, I asked if those were going to Homs and one of the several men/drivers sitting on the other side of the road came and said yes. I'm the only one there so I waited in front of the van since it's not going to move until it's more than half full or full, depends on the driver. Then one older driver offered a "special" - only me as passenger - on his service van at SYP300! Naaaah! I could wait I said, I'm not in a hurry anyway, then a family of 4 came, then some more, so the service van moved at last after more than half an hour.
Fare is SYP 50, similar with the one I took coming here. One by one the passengers alighted from the van along the way when we reached Homs, until only 2 of us were left, and the driver asked me if i wanted to go to the mahatat "bulman" (pullman station) - that's how they call the bus station for big regional buses, and he did dropped me there.
There are many people again approaching you at the Homs station for a ticket shouting "Shams" (the local name of Damascus) but I didn't mind them because I really want to take the more comfortable and realiable - imo - AlAhliah Co., so I bought the ticket at their window, I think SYP 110, waited there for an hour, and on we went for the hour and a half or so trip to Damascus.
So all-in-all I've spent SYP 310 Krak to Damascus or $6.75. Plus I took a taxi from the bus station in Damascus to my hotel for SYP 60.
While checking out of the hotel in Hama, I asked th guy at the reception about the transport going to Krak. That was silly actually because I said I hve the train or bus option and I've read about it online. So he told me that they offer private car to take me there directly and it would be a hassle if I go alone.
Naaaaaaaahh! I can do it - against his $45 offer!
He said he haven't heard anyone taking a train from Hama to Homs - but there is - but anyhoo thi is how I did it, and maybe most people will:
From my hotel, I took a taxi to the Hama central bus station at SYP 40, then at the bus station I bought a ticket at the AlAhliah Co. for Transport office at station going to Homs for SYP 30. The bu was very comfortable and the trip was like an hour only.
Ariving at Homs central bus station, I walked out of the station and onto the other bus station beside it which is a couple of minutes distance. It's more chaotic than the other station -- there are lots of stores an people selling stuff in front.
I got a little confused here because most people around don't know the name "Krak Des Chevaliers", I asked the guy at one of the ticket windows near the entrance and he told me to look for the van, I asked him what's it called in arabic -- he said "Qal'at Al Husn".
The vans or microbus or service - whatever they call it - are parked on the left side of the lot, most big buses are on the right. I asked one of the guys where the van going to Qal'at Husn is and he directed me there where I saw 3 europeans girls speaking in arabic and writing down their details on a notebook or logbook - and they wrote it in arabic too, must be those studying the arabic language in damascus. The guy - which later turned out to be our driver - asked me to write down my details too on the paper, then I've realized, they do this for foreigners/tourists only - i think for security purposes or maybe fo some checkpoints. So I jot down my name, nationality, etc... then the guy took all our passports (4 in total) and walked away when the van started to move --- so the girls sitting at the back of the van whose passports are also with the guy started screaming ---"Hey...our passportssss!".
Well, the van just made a U-turn to pass by this small office where the guy took all our passports along with the small logbook where we wrote our details. The driver stopped there and went down and then the guy holdng our passports jumped in and started driving the van --- and returning our passports.
So, in case you experience the same thing, it's a procedure, for your own safety I guess, they're not going to run away with your passport -- but be sure you get it before the van moves out of the station.
The shared van fare is SYP 50 , about an hour drive, and it went all the way up the mountain and up to the entrance of the Krak des Chevaliers. Nice.
So... aganst the $45 private transport being offered by the hotel, I spent only SYP120 or US$2 and 60 cents. Going back the though is another story...keep on reading... next transport tip please.
As of my trip in 2006, there were no public routes to Krak des Chevaliers. The closest drop off point for minibus service stops just over 1km away from the road that leads up to the fortress.
Whatever the case may be, I highly recommend arranging transport even though it may be a little more costly. The safe part is, you'll also have a ride out of the area. Why worry about transportation when you should be enjoying the Krak?!