Electricity

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

Language

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

Money

The official currency is the Syrian pound (SYP), which is divided into 100 piastres. Travellers can change money at official exchange offices, hotels and at different shops; GBPs and USDs are the best foreign currencies to visit with. International sanctions have blocked ATMs and credit cards, so travellers will have to bring enough cash for the duration of their stay. If necessary, travellers can withdraw USD from most ATMs in Lebanon, as the capital, Beirut, is about a two-hour drive away from Damascus. Visitors can also exchange Syrian pounds for Lebanese pounds or USD in Beirut. They're unlikely to get the same opportunity outside of Lebanon.

Tipping

Visitors ordinarily tip waiters, bartenders, hotel staff and taxi drivers in Damascus. Waiters generally receive a tip of between 10 and 20 percent, depending on the quality of the service. Taxi drivers expect a tip of between 10 and 20 percent; hotel staffs usually receive between 2 and 5 USD.

Health

Travellers will find adequate medical care in Damascus and some coastal areas, though not necessarily in remote regions. Anyone visiting Syria should get travel insurance, as serious illnesses and emergencies may require evacuation to a neighbouring country or Western medical facility.

Safety

While life in the capital and Aleppo is starting to get back to normal, most western governments advise against all travel to Syria. The situation remains volatile and dangerous, and the Syrian government does not fully control many parts of the country, especially the north west and north east. Terrorism remains a threat.

Local customs

Syria is predominantly a Muslim country and visitors should respect religious sensitivity, especially when it comes to dress and public conduct. Women, in particular, should wear loose fitting clothes that cover most of the body, though 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.

Doing business

Foreigners should make an effort to arrive on time for meetings, but should remember that Syrians have a looser sense of punctuality and may be late themselves. Business cards are usually exchanged at meetings and it's important to only use the right hand to receive and present them, as the left hand is considered unclean. Meetings can become very animated and can involve many interruptions and tangents to unrelated topics. Foreigners should remain patient and feel free to interrupt to make their points heard. Personal relationships are hugely important in Syrian business culture.

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 SYP 250 without paying customs duty. Firearms are prohibited. There is no limit on the amount of tobacco or spirits for export.

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). There is good mobile phone coverage in Damascus; internet access is limited, but is available in the capital.

Passport & Visa

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 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 travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Useful contacts

Syria Ministry of Tourism, Damascus: www.syriatourism.org

Emergencies: 112 (Police); 110 (Ambulance).

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Honorary Consulate for Syria in Montreal, Canada: +1 514 992 4432

Honorary Consulate of the Syrian Arab Republic in Sydney, Australia: +61 2 9787 1504

Syrian Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa: (+27) 12 342 4701

Embassies / consulates in Syria

U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt (also responsible for Syria): +20 2 2797 2301

The Embassy of Canada in Beruit, Lebanon (also responsible for Syria): +961 4 726 700

The Embassy of Australia in Amman, Jordan (also responsible for Syria): +962 6 568 8660

South African Embassy, Damascus, Syria: +963 11 6135 1520

Embassy of Ireland in Cairo, Egypt (also responsible for Syria): +202 2728 7100

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