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Getting Around in Syria
 
 
 

By Air

Syrian Arab Airlines flies to Aleppo, Deir ez Zor, Latakia, Palmyra and Qamishli. In general, fares are exceedingly cheap.

By Rail

The Syrian railways are reasonably modern. Rail travel is inexpensive and generally punctual, although railway stations are often a reasonable distance out of town centres. The main line connects Damascus, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zur, Hassake and Qamishle. A secondary line serves stations along the Mediterranean coast.

In the summer, on Fridays, a little steam train leaves from the Hejaz Railway Station in Damascus (which has a good restaurant) and climbs into the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. Many locals enjoy the ride to picnic in the cooler mountains.

By Road

There are 25,887 km (16,086 miles) of roads. Traffic systems are poor and there are numerous accidents. Second-class roads are unreliable during the wet season. The principal route is Aleppo to Damascus and Dar'a (north-south axis). Traffic drives on the right.

Bus/Coach

Services run from Damascus and Aleppo to most towns and are cheap, widely used, efficient and comfortable. There are orange-and-white air-conditioned Karnak (Government-operated) buses and buses run by Transtour. Reservations should be made well in advance. Karnak bus routes serve their own terminals, which are usually in or near the city centres. There are also privately-run bus and microbus services, which started recently all over the Syrian Arab Republic.

Microbus

The microbuses (locally called servees, or meecro) are little white vans that carry ten, or so, passengers around cities on set routes for about S£10. The destinations are written on the front of microbus in Arabic. Usually, the passenger sitting behind the driver deals with the money. You can ask the driver to stop anywhere along his route.

Often, microbuses will do longer routes, for example, to surrounding villages around Damascus and Aleppo, or from Homs to Tadmor or Krak des Chevaliers. They are often more uncomfortable and crowded than the larger buses, but cheaper. Especially for shorter distances they have usually more frequent departures than buses.

Taxi

Shared taxis are available to all parts of the country. Service taxis (old limousines) run on major routes and cost 50-70% more than Karnak buses.

The taxis (usually yellow, and always clearly marked) are an easy way to get around Damascus, Aleppo and other cities. Most taxi drivers do not speak English. All licensed taxis carry meters, and it is best to insist that the driver puts the meter on, and watch that it stays on. Most drivers expect to bargain prices with foreign travellers rather than use the meter. A taxi ride across Damascus might come to S£30. Taxis from the airport can be booked in advance, either by phone, or on line through the respected Syrian agency, taxitel.

The flat price to and from Damascus airport to the city centre seems to be S£1200-900. It always better to ask how much you want to charge from this point to the other point you are going to. However, there is also a bus from Baramkeh station to the airport for S£25.


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