If you are hiking in Syria, be careful when encountering the semi-feral shepherd dogs. Obviously I don`t mean the rather cute puppies in the picture but the grown-ups. They are really aggressive and there is not always someone at hand supervising them. Once I drove with a taxi slowly past a flock of sheep, and all of a sudden 4-5 dogs where running after our car, barking hysterically and fletching their teeth and following us for some time. Try to avoid sheep or goat herds or isolated settlements, as watchdogs are likely to be here. And improve on your stone-throwing skills, it works as a deterrent.
Syria is a very safe country to travel in.
I never had any problems in this regard. The people are friendly and I never felt unsafe at all.
I am aware that there are warnings against travel to Syria, but this should not be a factor in deciding to visit this wonderful country.
Busra: Resturants, Avoid
Immediately nest to the citadel there are 3 restaurants. Try and avoid eating at these restaurants. What ever you do agree on the price before hand. I'd recommend that you pack a lunch with you from Damascus. I shouldn't make a generalised harsh statement about these restaurants because in the bus stop I met one of them (I don't know to which restaurant he belong) who gave me his phone number, his name was Zakaryya, he offered me to sleep in the restaurant for free because the bus got so late and there was a chance that it will not arrive
If you do need to buy stuff I suggest you either walk towards the Hotel, on the way you'll find few shops or go to a grocery store just beyond Bab Al Hawa.
Crossing the street
Crossing a street in Syria is a challenge. There do not seem to be rules to protect pedestrians. Crossing a street can be very dangerous, but of course, you have to do it, so best advice, latch on to people crossing and sort of go as a group...they know what they are doing because they do it every day! Its amazing how close the cars get to the people......very scary experience. I found Aleppo worse than Damascus in this regard.
NO PROBALMS IN SYRIA
Many Westeners, myself included prior to the trip, have notions of Syria, and what the situation is like there. When you get there you will be delightfully surprised by it. Syria is not dangerous, it is without a doubt one of the safest places I have been. I found myself walking at 2am in Damascus and not worried as I would be back home. There were no Secret Police following me (if there were damn they were good), there was no pressure of any sort. Syria is a safe modern country whose geography has made it center stage in many of the worlds modern conflicts. Bashar Al Assad has opened the country up by allowing cellphones, satelite dishes, the internet and so on. Are there some things that may seem oppresive to Westerners, sure, but relative to the rest of the region this truely is a modern, secular, safe country. You may not have the freedom of speech you do in the states or elsewhere, but they are not needed because I could think of a lot worse people than President Al Assad. So, enjoy Syria, it is one of the cheaper places in the area with friendly people. There were some who were surprised that I admitted to being American (apparently many say they are Canadian). Say so, and you will be treated to great talks on politics, culture, economics and freedoms.
very aggressive touts
not a problem or a danger, just an annoyance, unlike my trip to Jordan (Wadi Rum & Petra) 2 months ago, now (Feb) is probably the lowest of low season in Syria, the perceived danger of visiting Syria does not help either, at some of the tourists sights, ie Palmyra & Krak de C., the touts there outnumber the tourists 10:1 (very sad for them)... so with the lack of targets, they are very persistent and a bit aggressive, so i.e. if you like wandering castles (like me), you can say no to every single "guide", but a new one or the same one will pop up every 5 minutes to start guiding you again for "free" -- even if you tell them you really appreciate their assistance and despite the "free" service, you'd much rather wander by yourself, you will still be followed.
this was not an issue in the cities (Aleppo & Damascus) so I found the time there much more relaxing.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Pollution and litter
A renowned wise man once said, "My passion developed in Damascus, Syria." I must say that so did mine because I flatly admit that I fell in love with it. But another wise saying warns that a rose does not come without its thorns, or something like that. Syria is no exception and the first thing that I noticed among its beauty was the pollution. It was mostly confined to small areas, namely the cities, particularly Damascus. The amount of cars is incredible and some of them belch out billowing clouds of black smoke. The famous Barada River which gave life to the Damascus is now what you see in the photo. Street cleaners are common but the educated public who can understand that cleanliness is its responsability is not as common as it should be.
ladies and gentlemen cloth style
women planning a trip to syria- not only to syria, to other muslim countries, especially arabian ones- should know that koran prohibits exposing women bodies. you're probably are not arabian so you don't have to wear like muslim women but you have to respect their religion and culture. it means that you shouldn't wear ***rs without sleeves or shorts exposing your legs. i don't have to telll about breast because it's obvious. syrians are very nice and open people but when you go to countryside, old people might be indignat at that. that's like you would walk around church naked. when i was in syrian village i remember an old man who spitted at my firend who wore very, extremely, short jeans shorts. he has may feel injured. i understand him. when you want enter a mosque you have to be completely covered. only face and palms can be showed. so if you don't want to feel strange don't expose your bodies, dear ladies! neglige is not allowed there!
men also shoudn't have their thorax naked. somtimes locals look at western tourists wearing shorts at very strange way. sometimes they laugh because exposing naked men legs, in their opinion, is very ladylike.Related to:
- Women's Travel
Visas for Syria
If you are mailing your passport to the Syrian embassy in the United States, you should know that it will take about three weeks to be processed. It cost $100 for Americans and $68 for Romanians. If you need to contact the embassy, keep calling until someone picks up the phone. There is little chance that they will return your calls or reply to an email.
Taking service taxis or long-range taxis
A large amount of my travel in Syria was done by service taxis or long-range taxis. What I mean by "long-range" is that I hired a regular taxi to take me to a different city for a negotiated price. Of the four times I did this, I had problems with three of them.
Before traveling to Syria, I visited Antakya/Hatay in Turkey. A taxi driver offered to drive me to Aleppo in Syria. Before we left, I paid him the money. This is where I made a mistake. He had arranged for me to ride with a different driver. Instead of an aging car, I would travel in a new van. The problem came when the driver dropped me off at my hotel in Aleppo. He did not receive any money from the other driver! He didn't speak English, so I faced a serious problem. Fortunately, the manager of the hotel fixed the problem. Well, I don't know what happened, but the driver left without getting any money from me besides a tip.
The second questionable ride came when I took a taxi from Latakia to Qalat Saladin, a castle about a 30 minutes from my hotel. While my wife and I were exporing the castle, the taxi driver searched through her bag and took her mobile phone.
To get back to Turkey, we decided to take another service taxi. This time we paid nothing until we arrived at our destination. Plus, we kept our eyes on our bags at all times. The problem was that the driver and two of the other passengers were smugglers! They filled the trunk with as many packages as possible. We think they were smuggling drugs as the border we crossed was not as strict as the one we passed through coming into Syria. Because of all the stops to pick up and drop off these mysterious packages, a three-hour trip took five hours. We were worried that if the driver and the other passengers got caught, they would blame us. We were also mad because we had a plane to catch and the delay nearly caused us to miss it.
On your visa application...
They will ask if you have ever visited "occupied Palestine". If you say yes that you have visited "Israel", your visa application will most likely be denied. Techinically, Syria is at war with Israel.
No pictures please
Do not take pictures of government buildings, military instillations, military personnel, embassies, oil facilities, or anything else questionable. The governments concerns about outside countries spying on them. Keep in mind that for a time Syria wondered if they were next on George Bush's hit list after Afghanistan and Iraq (remember the Axis of Evil bit?). So their concern for security and safety is taken seriously.
I found it a constant issue in trying to give much larger bills to pay for things - which is all you get from banks and especially ATMs. Try your best to get smaller bills and coins to make things easier. Break the bigger bills as soon as you can and whenever you can.
To be or not to be...Canadian.
Generally speaking it's no big deal to tell people if you are American. However, in very rural areas and with the much poorer and less educated, the don't differerntiate between a regular citizen and the "bad deeds" of tehe American government. Therefore being "Canadian" for the day can help keep things civil.
The War in Iraq
As an American, the issue of the war in Iraq came up a few times while I was here. If you are an American, be prepared to give your opinion. Feel free to speak your mind on the matter, but remember that Syrians look down very strongly on the matter. It's all about oil to them. So if you try to defend the war in any way, the conversation is sure to grow more heated.
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