Damascus Travel Information
Local time is GMT +2 (GMT +3 from April to October).
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin attachment plugs are in use.
Arabic is the official, and most widely spoken, language. English is widely understood by many educated Syrians in the major cities.
Malaria is not a health risk in the urban areas of Syria but travellers to El Hassaka, in northern Syria, are recommended to take chloroquine between May and October. A yellow fever certificate is required by travellers arriving from an infected country in Africa or the Americas. Although medical treatment is inexpensive, standards are variable. Doctors are generally well qualified and most medical personnel speak English or French. Basic medical care is available in major cities, but medical insurance is strongly advised.
Tipping is a common way of showing appreciation, but the amount is left to the discretion of the giver. Ten percent is standard in bigger restaurants.
Crime levels are generally low in Syria, but the obvious major issue of terrorism in current times is something to take serious note of before making travel arrangements. Although acts of terrorism are not usually directed at tourists, there is the risk of becoming an unintentional victim, especially at places like the US Embassy.
Syria is predominantly a Muslim country and visitors should respect religious sensitivity, particularly in the matter of dress and public conduct. Women, in particular, should wear loose fitting clothes that cover most of the body. Headscarves are unnecessary unless entering mosques. Eating, drinking and smoking in public during the holy month of Ramadan should be avoided, as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Homosexuality is illegal. The death penalty is enforced for drug trafficking.
Dress should be formal, and meetings should be arranged in advance. Business cards are usually exchanged at meetings. English and French are widely spoken in business, but translators can be arranged. Business hours are Saturday to Thursday from about 8.30am to 2.30pm, but Christian businesses open on Fridays and close on Sundays.
The international dialling code for Syria is +963. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City codes are in use, e.g. (0)11 for Damascus. There is good mobile phone coverage in urban areas, and many networks have international roaming agreements. Internet access is limited, but is available in Damascus.
Travellers are allowed to import 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 250g tobacco, 1 pint of spirits, perfume for personal use, and gifts to the value of S₤250 without paying customs duty. Firearms are prohibited. There is no limit on the amount of tobacco or spirits for export.
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