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Syria

Getting there & away

Contents

Land

Syria has borders with Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. It also shares a border with Israel, the hotly disputed Golan Heights, but it's a definite no-go zone that's mined and is patrolled by UN peacekeepers.

Iraq

The only open border crossing with Iraq is just south of Abu Kamal in the extreme east of the country.

Jordan

There are two border crossings between Syria and Jordan: at Nasib/Jabir and Deraa/Ramtha. These crossings are 3km apart. If crossing by car, service taxi or bus you'll cross through the main Nasib/Jabir post, on the Amman-Damascus highway. If you're travelling by train or by local transport, you'll use Deraa/Ramtha. Microbuses from the bus station at Deraa charge S£150 per person to take you across the border to Ramtha. The best way to get to Deraa from Damascus is to catch a bus from Baramke garage.

From Damascus there are a couple of daily buses to Amman, for which you need to book in advance as demand for seats is high, or you can catch a service taxi. The famous Hijaz railway trip is also a possibility.

Jordanian visas are issued at the border, or can be obtained in advance from the embassy in Damascus. It's cheaper to get it at the border.

Lebanon

There are plenty of buses from Damascus to Beirut, although to travel direct to Baalbek the only option is a service taxi. You can also travel by bus or service taxi to Beirut via Tripoli from Aleppo and Lattakia.

Turkey

There are several border crossings between Syria and Turkey. The busiest and most convenient links Antakya in Turkey with Aleppo, via the Bab al-Hawa border station. This is the route taken by all cross-border buses including those from Damascus, Lattakia and Aleppo bound for Antakya and onward Turkish destinations.

An interesting alternative to the bus might be the weekly train from Aleppo to İstanbul.

You can also make your way by microbus from Lattakia, on the Syrian coast, to the border post on the outskirts of the village of Kassab and on to Antakya via Yayladağı. Over in the far northeast of Syria there's another crossing at Qamishle for the southeastern Turkish town of Nusaybin.

While Turkish visas are issued at the border, you must already be in possession of a valid visa to enter Syria - unless you hold a passport of a country without Syrian representation, in which case you can get your visa at the border.

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Air

Syria's main international airport (544 5983-9) is just outside Damascus and has regular connections to other cities in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia on a variety of European- and Middle East-based airlines. There are other international airports at Aleppo (flights 421 1200, reservations 421 6900) and Lattakia, but other than one weekly Syrianair flight to Cairo from each of these, they are most frequently used for charters and domestic flights.

Syrian Arab Airlines (Syrianair; www.syriaair.com) is the national airline. It has a small fleet, which includes some recently purchased Airbuses. From Damascus, Syrianair flies to destinations including Cairo (US$158 one way) and İstanbul (US$194 one way).

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