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Syria - Traveling

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Entry requirements

Organizing your trip

Means of transport recommended in town

Taxis can be recognized by their yellow color. Most taxi drivers speak some English. In order to make yourself understood, ask someone to write the different destinations of your journey in Arabic on a piece of paper. To avoid unpleasant surprises, ask the driver to turn on the meter (adadd). There are many urban buses or "services" and they are very inexpensive. However, it is always difficult to know their destinations.
Maps of urban networks: Maporama

Means of transport recommended in the rest of the country

Travel within Syria is usually carried out by bus. They run at various time, are very inexpensive, punctual and numerous, and they cover just about all of the country. From your arrival at the train station, you will be directed by the commercial agents to the counter serving your destination.
Rail companies: Syrian Railways
Airlines
Name Type Domestic flights International flights
Syrianair Traditional Yes Yes
Air France Traditional No Yes
Alitalia Traditional No Yes

Traveling by yourself

Recommendation: The transportation network is in a very uneven condition (it is in the process of being improved) and the traffic is very unorganized. The Highway Code is not always respected and accidents are frequent. In the event of an accident, it is advisable to ask for the protection of the police and to leave the place of the accident. The other means of transportation inside the country's territory are collective taxis or individual taxis, buses and minibuses (commonly called "services").
Road maps: Syria road map

Visiting

Different forms of tourism

Historical: -In Damascus: old fortified city with the Bab-as-Salama gate and the Touma gate. There is also the Qala' At fortress of Damascus and the Umayyad Mosque.
- Latakia: it is the main port of Syria. The tourist sector shows remarkable dynamism. The beaches must be seen. Located 16 kilometers from Latakia, there is a famous historic site: Ras-Shamra (headquarters of the monarchy of Ugarit).
- Aleppo: it is the second biggest city in the country. It is mainly an industrial and commercial area. Do not forget to visit Aleppo's old citadel, the great Jami'a Zakariyyeh mosque as well as the Meoline.
-Crac (Castle) of the Knights: a 13 tower fortress.
-Palmyra: Ruins of temples. Well-known tourist site located right in the desert.
Cultural: Damascus swords and daggers; hookahs; gold and silver jewelry; silk; mosaic pictures; pottery; ceramics; metalwork.
Nature: Syria is divided between mountains (in the south and north west), steppes (in the east and north east), valleys (in the center) and plains (along the coast). Even if the desert covers 48% of the country, with a few lush oases, such as Palmyra and Sakhne, the landscapes have an infinite variety: basalt rock in the Hawran and the Jebel Druze, fields of wheat or barley in the fertile crescent, snowy crests in the Jebel Ansarije, the green banks of the Euphrates against a background of sand....
Religious: - The Mosque of Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. The Sayyida Zainab Shiite Mosque in the outskirts of Damascus (important pilgrimage center for the Shiite community);
- The Deir Mar Musa Monastery, located  two hours from Damascus;
- The church of Qalbe Loze, located in a small Druze village in the Jebel al-Ala, on the road to Arim in the Belus Massif.
- Qal'at Sem'an (Saint Simeon): a very active ancient pilgrimage center.
- The great Jami'a Zakariyyeh Mosque in Aleppo.
Thermal: There are many period style Turkish baths (Hammam) in Syria (among them Amoonah in the old city of Damascus and Nouredinne in the core of  the "sourk" of  Bouzerieh in Damascus).
Beach: The Syrian coast runs for more than 175 km It has countless beaches: Ras Al Bassit, located 40 km north of Latakia (it is one of the most beautiful sites on the Mediterranean coast); Baniyas, located 55 km south of Latakia; Tartous, the second Syrian port on the Mediterranean, located 90 km south of Latakia; Arwad, Syria's only island, visible from Tartous in front of which it is located.
Winter sports: It snows often in the Lebanese border (near Bludan), but it does not really allow to practice any winter sports.
Outdoor activities: Hiking or pony trekking, especially in the Jebel Samaan region, north west of Aleppo.
Shopping: Hand blown glass in Damascus; crafts in the bazaars of Aleppo; musical instruments; very famous brocades; spices (zhourat); pistachios; soap from Aleppo; tax-free electronic goods.
Tourism organizations: Ministry of Tourism in Syria

Living conditions

Health and safety

Health precautions: A certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers coming from infected areas. There is a risk of malaria in its benign form on the area along the northern border, and in particular in the north east of the country, from May to the end of October. The preventive treatment is recommended in the areas of risk: CHL.

To prevent traveler's diarrhea, it is advised to avoid the foods most at risk: prepared dishes eaten cold at a later hour, seafood, meat and fish if it is undercooked or badly cooked, and raw vegetables and fruits that you have not peeled yourself. Drinking water must be boiled, filtered or drunk directly from sealed bottles. Bathing in fresh water exposes you to the risk of urinary bilharziosis (or schistosomosis) although this risk is not very high, it can vary one bathing place to another, even in the same region. Do not bathe unless you can get reliable advice regarding the spot. Bilharziosis is particularly prevalent in the valley of the River Euphrates.

For further information on sanitary conditions: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada - Advice for travelers

Time difference and climate

Map of the time zone: Damascus (GMT+2 in winter, GMT+3 in summer)
Summer time period: Summer time from April to October.
Climate: The climate is continental and dry in the interior, maritime and wet on the coast.

Eating

Food specialties: The Syrian specialties are very close to the Lebanese, Greek and Turkish ones. The dishes are usually very spicy and very varied. Some of the cooking specialties are:

- Mezzes, cold or hot appetizers like hummus (mashed chickpeas), muttabal (eggplant's caviar), baba ghanouge (a combination of minced vegetables seasoned with a pomegranate sauce), Kubbehs (round-shaped flour cooked dough stuffed with beef, onion and nuts), Yabrak (vine leaves stuffed with rice and shredded beef), etc.

- Brochettes (the kebab with cherries, a specialty of Aleppo), grilled meats, kefte, mloukhia (spinach), etc.

Drinks: You will automatically be given mineral water at table. There are many carbonated drinks as well, but American sodas are banned: so you will have to taste the local equivalents. In towns, many shops offer delicious fresh fruit juices. Lan is a very liquid yogurt served as a drink with mezze dishes. Coffee is Turkish-style kawa. Sometimes they serve green coffee flavored with cardamom. Tea is popular in Arab cafés, sometimes flavored with cinnamon, cardamom or various flowers. There are two brands of beer: Barada and Al-Sharq. Syria has always produced wine in its southern province. Arak is the aperitif flavored with aniseed, known as ouzo in Greece and raki in Turkey.
Dietary taboos: Alcohol is not subject to any restrictions except during the period of Ramadan when it is forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages in public places even for non-Muslims.

Speaking

Getting some knowledge: Hello : Salam Ailikoum ou Marhaba (plus familier) ou  Sabah el kheir

Good Evening : Masa el kheir

Good Night : Tisbahu al khayr

Bye/See you later: Maa Salama

Bon appétit : Sahten   Response: Aala albek

Please : iza bitrid

Thank You : shukran/islamou

How are you ? : kifak ?

I'm fine : mnih/tamam

I don't want anything : Ma biddi chi

What's your name? : chou ismak ?

It's very hot : fi choub ktir

It's expensive: ghali

Yes: Naam

No: La

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