The Adventures of Nicole was invited to Syria to partner with Syrian Guides to promote tourism and sites around the country. All views are her own.

Mar Musa, Syria

Travel to Syria in 2024: What it was like

Travel to Syria in 2024: What it was like was originally published in 2024

Traveling to Syria had long been on my to-do list. I had loose plans to visit back in 2011, utilizing a (now) long defunct ferry line to get there from Europe.  

But as you all know, the 2011 Arab Spring kicked off.

I was still set on going, but as the protests started to increase my travel buddy started to second guess if it would be a giant pain, so we decided to hold off on our Syria plans.  

It’s one of the few things in my life I look back at and wish I’d have done otherwise, as the situation escalated into a full-scale war, the rise of ISIS, and the destruction of countless historical artifacts and sites.  

But still, I always knew that Syria would one day become feasible again. So there my Syria travel plans sat on the back burner until 2024.

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So what was it like to Travel to Syria?

Aleppo Citadel, Aleppo, Syria

Syria was quite different from the slew of difficult nations I’ve visited over the years. Unlike countries that I’ve frequented over the past decade such as Yemen and Afghanistan, Syria was a tourism powerhouse until rather recently, with a developed tourism infrastructure.

Strife due to the proxy war, terror organizations, and economic woes, among other hindrances, Syria has suffered immensely, despite housing a few of the most impressive archeological sites dating back to the times of the Greek, Roman Empire, and Byzantine eras as well as some of the world’s longest continuously inhabited cities.

With reminders of both Syria’s once-bustling tourism sector and of the scars of war, it’s a juxtaposition of two sides to a nation pushing forward.

Wandering the Roman ruins of Palmyra as it sat largely destroyed, and those of Bosra and Apamea featuring stones pockmarked with bullet holes or pieces missing altogether after looting across borders. All of which sites we had entirely to ourselves.

Courtyard cafes full of patrons sipping chai and even alcohol in a cloud of shisha hidden behind high walls and closed Damascene doors. Gorgeous stretches of Mediterranean coastline with nary a soul wandering its sands.

Hotels both grand and boutique sat desolate or in some cases burned and nearly razed- spiraled into a state of disuse. Trundling past towns between major cities sat largely abandoned and blown to pieces. This is the mixture of what I witnessed as I traveled across Syria.

So, Should You Travel to Syria?

Ajami, Damascus, Syria

Syria is complex, to say the least, from its rich history to its diverse cultures, and politics. Its complexities can be a deterrent as much as they can be attractive to tourists.

Those curious about Syria who accept the nation in the state it is currently in, actively acknowledge the delicate balance the country straddles, and the risks involved in visiting will be greatly rewarded by their travels in Syria. -If this is you, then I recommend a visit to Syria to experience what the country has to offer but also to serve as a voice connecting the outside world to the realities of Syria once your travels in the country are over, that it’s more than just another warzone.

There are many reasons to visit Syria and to do so responsibly, from helping support its tourism industry, which is essentially restarting, to understanding more about the complexities of Syria.

So who shouldn’t go?

I’m not here to tell anyone what to do, but those who want to visit for bragging rights of having traveled to Syria and want to perpetuate the stereotypes of what wartorn nations are like (hint: they are all vastly different)- Syria probably isn’t the destination for you.

Balancing the Ethics of Traveling in Syria

Maaloula Hotel, Maaloula, Syria

I’ve seen some self-righteous travel influencers and bloggers whining about the ethics of visiting war zones. Making the point that no one should visit, period. Of course, ethically visiting these destinations is a complex topic and you could argue either way if you should or shouldn’t go- and I think these all need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

In my opinion, there are plenty of reasons to visit Syria and ways to do it as ethically as possible. I personally think it’s far more important to visit places like Syria to support local business ventures and learn more about their society, rather than to sit in the comforts of well-beaten traveler routes in Southeast Asia, Europe, or even the US clutching your pearls and having an all-out online hissyfit over others doing it.

There are certain unavoidable places your money will go into the hands of the government- ie: visa fees and taxes that businesses must pay. So in the ethics category, this is one negative as many travelers do not want to support the governments of countries in strife- I feel that helping support local tourism and businesses affiliated with the industry overshadows this, but this is a question you have to mull over for yourself to decide if visiting Syria is ethical for you.

And finally, it just really depends on what you want to see and how you plan to depict your Syrian travels after your trip is over. If you just plan to treat it like an edgy backdrop or dramatize your visit as a tourist surviving a war zone, military state, etc., then maybe it’s not the place for you yet.

Is it Safe to Travel to Syria Right Now?

Damascus, Syria

It’s no secret that Syria has suffered immensely throughout the civil war, but that said, Syria at present is safer than you would assume, for tourists at least.

One major reason for this is that the movement of tourists around the country is tightly regulated.

You will go through countless police and military checkpoints as you move throughout the country and many will stop the car to check permits and documents.

These checkpoints monitor situations and movement into and out of their areas and will not allow you in if there is a threat as a precaution.

A thing to note about attacks in Syria is that when they do happen, they tend to be targeted, and these targets are rarely places a tourist would be visiting anyway (such as the IDF attack on the Iranian annex in Damascus back in April).

Although a guide is not required any longer to visit Syria, I still would recommend hiring one as they will enrich the experience with their extensive knowledge of the history and politics of the country as well as sharing their stories of life in Syria before, during, and now as the country rebuilds from the war. In my experience with Syrian Guides, Rami, Mary, and Bashar all take security quite seriously and make assessments throughout the trip based on information they might receive.

Independent Travel in Syria

Apamea, Syria

Foreign visitors are now able to travel independently in certain parts of Syria. They can visit the cities, but not all the tourist sites like Palmyra or Bosra.

Alternatively, they can come with a travel company, which will organize everything including transfers, transportation, accommodation, etc. (I 100% recommend Syrian Guides for this).

How to Travel to Syria

Salaladin Castle, Syria

Much to many people’s surprise, you can, in fact, travel in Syria. That said, a visa or e-visa is required for most nationalities and to visit certain sites such as Palmyra and Bosra, a guide is required.

Obtaining a Syrian Visa

With recent changes to Syria’s visa scheme, it is now possible to apply for an e-visa for Syria.

Tourists can now apply for the e-visa themselves, book their accommodations, and pay the e-visa fees without being required to have a tour guide as was required in the past.

Applying for the E-Visa

Go to the Syrian e-visa website and then click the red button to sign up in the upper right corner of the screen. You’ll enter your email and create a password before being sent a verification link to log in and create the account.

Once you can log into the system, click the link that says Apply Now! at the top of the screen. Once through here you will enter your details and upload a scan of your passport info page. Follow the remaining prompts on each page to complete the e-visa application process.

Visa fees vary depending on nationality. Most cost in the range of $50-75 including EU citizens, South Koreans, Russians, Mexicans, Taiwanese, and Hong Kongese. New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the UK all cost $100-150, and finally, the US and Turkey have a $200 fee.

Have any questions about visit Syria?

Ask in the comments section below.

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