Places in Syria
Overlooking the Roman City in Syria
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Overlooking the Roman City in Syria

© Creative Commons / Neil Carey

Syrian Arab Republic Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

185,180 sq km (71,498 sq miles).

Population

18,563,595 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

92.2 per sq km.

Capital

Damascus.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Bashar al-Assad since 2000. 

Head of government

Prime Minister Hussein Arnous since 2020.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins and Italian-style plugs with three round pins in a row are used.

Until the recent civil war, Syria was a diverse destination that revelled in its antiquity. Inhabited for tens of thousands of years, the country accumulated all the cultural riches afforded by such a long history and was rightly considered one of the Middle East’s top destinations. Sadly, the war-ravaged nation is now struggling to preserve its ancient relics, which document the rise and fall of myriad civilisations.

Like its history, Syria’s landscapes are varied. Vast steppes cover much of the country, but mountains soar in the west, deserts stretch in the east and volcanic fields spread across the south. Meandering through this dusty land is the great Euphrates River, which also flows through neighbouring Iraq.

Syria was once regarded as a frontier region, bordered to the east by Persians and west by the Arabs. The country fell to the Persians in the sixth century and though it retained Christian and Jewish populations, Syria was from then on a Muslim nation.

The country’s story is littered with dramatic episodes. Syria was subsumed by empires from Babylon to Canaan, Assyria to Phoenicia; it was conquered by the Ottomans, endured a campaign by Napoleon and was invaded by the Egyptians. During the height of pan-Arabism in the 1950s, the country briefly joined with Egypt in the United Arab Republic, but seceded to form the Syrian Arab Republic in 1961.

The battles and territorial scrambles of the past have translated into a catalogue of staggering cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo, which are chock-full of stunning monuments and ancient mosques.

The uprising against the ruling Baath Party in 2011 gave way to a civil war, which continues to rage and is further complicated by the formidable presence of the jihadist militant group Islamic State. Travel to Syria is ill-advised (it is probably the most dangerous country on the planet right now) and the future remains uncertain.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Syria on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel

Commercial flights to and from Syria remain limited. Travel companies can provide updated information.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Syria.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Syria

Syria has announced a number of measures and restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus, including local lockdowns and the enforcement of fines for non-compliance.

Consular support is not available from the British government from within Syria, as all services of the British Embassy in Damascus are suspended and all diplomatic and consular staff have been withdrawn. If you need to speak to a consular officer in the UK, call the FCDO in London on +44 (0)20 7008 5000.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Syria

If you’re a British national living overseas, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Civil unrest/political tension

The situation remains volatile and dangerous after a decade of conflict The Syrian regime does not exercise control of parts of Syria, notably in the north west and north east of the country. There are many armed groups – both internationally-backed and domestic – controlling huge swathes of the country.

In the north-west, a ceasefire between regime and opposition forces has been in place since March 2020. However, some violence continues involving the use of small arms, artillery and sporadic airstrikes. The earlier regime offensive displaced large numbers of civilians, caused significant civilian casualties, and severely damaged civilian infrastructure including health facilities.

In north-east Syria, a ceasefire agreed in October 2019 remains in place but the situation remains unstable with intermittent violence.

Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) fighters continue to operate as an insurgency and conduct regular attacks, especially in north-east Syria. Civil unrest and violent clashes between armed groups remain common throughout Syria, including in areas of north-west Syria under Turkish control, and areas of south Syria.

Fighting has at various times caused the temporary suspension of commercial flights, closed roads, impeded access to land border crossing points and led to the closure of some border crossings.

Journalism

A number of foreign journalists have been killed during the course of the Syrian conflict. All foreign journalists entering Syria require special permission from the Syrian authorities. Those journalists and other foreigners in opposition-held areas are vulnerable to mistreatment by armed groups as well as to explosive remnants of war, improvised explosive devices, and the bombardment of these areas. Others have been detained by regime security forces or other armed groups during the crisis. The security forces have confiscated phones, cameras and video cameras.

Political activity

There are severe restrictions on political activity. Thousands of people have been detained, and in many cases tortured and executed, because of actual or perceived involvement in political activity. Foreigners engaging in unlicensed political activity are at risk of detention.

The regime authorities have detained and deported several British nationals for unauthorised activity. Activity in opposition-held areas will also attract attention. If you are deported by local authorities, you will not be able to return to Syria.

Humanitarian crisis

Humanitarian needs in Syria have increased significantly since the beginning of the crisis with over 13million people in need of humanitarian aid. The ongoing conflict has seriously affected public infrastructure and services. This widespread destruction has led to high unemployment, scarcity/prohibitive cost of food, lack of water, sanitation, health services and fuel. Electricity, internet and cellular services are intermittent in many parts of the country.

Crime

The escalating conflict has led to a rise in crime in most areas, including extortion at checkpoints, violent robbery, carjacking and kidnapping.

Air travel

Fighting near airports has sometimes caused the temporary suspension of flights. Road networks may be blocked without warning. There are security force checkpoints on major road routes.

Fighting and road closures have affected access to some land border crossing points. Some border crossings are in the hands of non-state armed groups, vulnerable to attack, and/or closed.

Road travel

Road travel remains very dangerous in many parts of the country due to fighting, the fragile security situation and unexploded ordnance. Driving standards and traffic systems are poor, and the accident rate is high. Driving at night is particularly dangerous. When there is a car accident with a pedestrian, the car driver is usually legally responsible.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Syria.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

There have been many terrorist attacks across Syria including in major cities, resulting in large numbers of casualties. There are a number of terrorist groups that operate in Syria, including Daesh and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (formerly known as Jabhat Fatah al Sham / Al Nusrah Front).

These groups target a wide range of places, including official installations, airports, border crossings, public transport and civilian spaces like public squares, hospitals, places of worship and learning institutions.

There is an increased threat to Westerners in Syria. Terrorist groups continue to pose a significant threat to civilians residing in Syria and have demonstrated the ability to conduct co-ordinated attacks against armed actors and civilians.

Targets for terrorist attacks have included: residential compounds, military establishments, oil facilities, airports, public transport, commercial venues, including markets and stores, maritime facilities, land border crossings, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, large crowds, police stations, political offices/events, sports venues/stadiums and religious sites/ceremonies. There is a heightened threat of attacks against Western interests. While attacks can take place at any time, there’s a heightened threat during religious or public holidays. Methods of attack have included shootings, large-scale co-ordinated bombings designed to cause mass casualties, suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, rockets and mortars.

Foreign nationals, are high value targets for terrorists, insurgents and criminals. There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attacks globally against Western interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant of this and the FCDO’s advice not to travel to any part of Syria at this time.

If you travel to Syria to fight, and your activities amount to offences against UK terrorism legislation, you could be prosecuted on return to the UK.

Kidnap

There is a very high threat of kidnapping throughout Syria. Kidnappings can be for financial or political gain, and can be motivated by criminality or terrorism. There have been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals and other Westerners. Some hostages have been killed.

Terrorist groups operating in Syria routinely use kidnapping as a tactic. Westerners continue to be targeted and any Western presence in Syria would be at high risk. British nationals are viewed as legitimate targets, including those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

The long standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Syria is a multi-faith country. Alongside the majority Sunni population, there are large practicing Shia, Christian, Druze and Alawite communities, as well as other smaller sects and religions. As the conflict continues, divisions along sectarian lines have increased, communities have been displaced and levels of religious tolerance can vary considerably. There are restrictions on unlicensed political and religious activity, particularly political Islam.

In many areas of Syria the punishment for possession of drugs is life imprisonment. For drug trafficking, the death penalty applies.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Syria set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

The FCDO advise against all travel to Syria. The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to Syria

Some routes into and out of Syria are totally or partially closed.

Some international commercial flights to and from Damascus International Airport are operational.

Many land crossings to neighbouring countries are closed, with some exceptions e.g. crossings being permitted for commerce or humanitarian reasons. Crossings between areas controlled by the Syrian regime and those controlled by non-regime forces are largely closed. Further restrictions, including border closures, may be introduced without notice.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

If you choose to travel to Syria against FCDO advice, you will need to get a visa and security clearance before you travel.

In June 2013, the Syrian regime issued a law stating that individuals who enter Syrian territories illegally will be punished by a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and/or a fine of 5 to 10 million Syrian pounds.

Passport validity

If you choose to travel to Syria against FCDO advice, your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into Syria – local authorities may ask you to produce a copy of your passport; you should carry a copy with you at all times.

Previous travel to Israel

If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport or Emergency Travel Document it is highly likely that you will be refused entry into Syria, regardless of your nationality.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Syria on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Syria.

If you choose to travel to Syria against FCDO advice, at least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate
of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Local medical care

The quality of health care has deteriorated significantly during the conflict, with many hospitals no longer operating and shortages of even the most basic medicines and medical supplies. The destruction of infrastructure means there are regular outbreaks of infectious diseases across the country.

The currency of Syria is the Syrian Pound (SYP); although prices may be set in US Dollars (USD) (for example, COVID-19 PCR tests) regime authorities have warned against carrying or using currencies other than the Syrian Pound, and penalties are severe. There are four official exchange rates for SYP to the dollar; it is difficult to access USD in Syria.

As a result of the ongoing conflict there have been a number of restrictions placed on financial transactions in Syria. Some of these restrictions are the decision of the Syrian regime, while others are the result of international businesses and banks being unwilling to invest or trade with Syria in the current environment.

Since 2011, Syria has been subject to financial sanctions put in place by the European Union (EU) and, therefore, imposed by the UK as a member of the EU. The UK’s own sanctions regime on Syria came into force at 11pm on 31 December 2020 with substantially the same effect as the EU legislation. For more information, please visit the website of the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, HM Treasury and this page on UK sanctions on Syria.

Economic situation

Syria is suffering a severe economic crisis, and it is often difficult to obtain or pay for basic goods and services, including essential foodstuffs and fuel. As of mid-2020, the value of the Syrian Pound has fallen rapidly against the US Dollar. Prices have increased accordingly.

Consular support is not available from the British government from within Syria, as all services of the British Embassy in Damascus are suspended and all diplomatic and consular staff have been withdrawn. If you need to speak to a consular officer in the UK, call the FCDO in London on +44 (0)20 7008 5000.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the FCDO in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Finance

There is a range of financial support from the government that you can access while you are unable to return due to coronavirus restrictions.

For further UK government guidance on support you can access whilst abroad, visit our waiting to return guidance. This includes guidance on finance, health, and staying connected.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.