Backpacking In Damascus

in Syria

Damascus is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, and it is a cultural center in the region, as well as the capital of Syria. It has been inhabited since the 2nd millennium BC; from early settlers to Alexander the Great, and from Ottoman rule to modern times. Damascus’ history and culture is so vast that it will take more than a few days to discover the city while backpacking in Syria.

Travel to Syria

A visa is required to travel to Syria, and it must be obtained before traveling to the country. If you plan on staying in Syria for over 2 weeks, it is required that you register with Syrian immigration authorities to inform them of your stay. As with several other Middle East governments, the Syrian government enforces restrictions on those who have traveled to Israel. If your passport has an Israeli stamp, or if you have an Israeli passport, you will be denied a visa and thus be denied entry into Syria. If you are suspected of having traveled to Israel, you may be pulled aside for questioning at the airport.

damascus citadel damascus mosque damascus statue

The Syrian government is also concerned about those who have traveled to Iraq. There have been some instances in which Americans who were thought to have traveled to Iraq were detained for questioning upon entering or exiting Syria. If you are counting on traveling between Syria and Iraq, keep in mind that the border between the two countries has been closed and opened a few times with little or no notice, and Syrian security officials will pay close attention to these travel plans.

Travel In and Around Damascus

Getting around the city is cheap and easy. Damascus has an extensive bus system that will cost you about 20 cents (USD) when traveling within the city. Bus drivers will generally stop anywhere that is along their route, since there are only a few main bus stops. Damascus is also full of taxis. Be sure that any taxi you ride has a working meter, otherwise you can negotiate the fare of  your ride. Not only can you take a taxi to get around Damascus itself, but there are also service taxis that provide transport to Beirut and Amman. A full taxi from Damascus to Beirut in which passengers split the cost, has passengers paying about 700 Syrian Pounds (SYP), which is only about 15 USD.

Souq al Hamidiyya

The Souq al Hamidiyya is the largest and most popular market in the old city of Damascus. It has general goods for locals, as well as souvenirs for those who are visiting. The bazaar was built on the site of an ancient Roman fortress centuries ago, and traces of it can still be seen as you wander through the market.

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