SYRIA - AVOID ALL TRAVEL
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against all travel to Syria due to the deteriorating security situation. You should leave by commercial means as soon as it is safe to do so. For over a year, we have been urging Canadians to leave Syria. Many airlines, including Arab League carriers, have suspended their flights from Syria. Battles between Syrian and opposition armed forces have taken place in the vicinity of the airports in Damascus and Aleppo, which could be closed quickly, with little or no notice, and may be subject to checkpoints. Contact your airline to check the status of your flight before travelling to the airport. We strongly recommend that Canadians register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service.
Canadians who are leaving Syria by land into Lebanon should know that we advise against all travel to the border region. Consult the Travel Advice for Lebanon and transit through this area as quickly as possible.
Canadians remaining in Syria despite this warning should limit their movements and keep abreast of the latest developments. Canadians may have little notice of violent outbreaks and risk being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Canadians are also advised to ensure that their travel documents are up to date, to register as well as to carefully follow messages issued through the ROCA service.
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
Civil unrest and demonstrations
The security situation has deteriorated into a civil war throughout the country, including in major centres such as Damascus and Aleppo. There has been extensive use of force by the security forces and military in suppressing demonstrations across the country. Many casualties and fatalities have been reported, and protests and violent repression, including military operations and bombings, continue. Security operations have involved the complete lock-down of entire towns for periods varying from a few days to a few weeks. This may take place with little warning. Syria’s chemical and biological weapons program also contributes to the volatility of the country.
If you choose to travel to or remain in Syria despite this warning, you should know that the Government of Canada’s ability to offer consular services is very limited. The Embassy of Canada in Damascus has suspended operations until further notice. Canadian officials have left the country. Canadians in Syria and relatives in Canada seeking information should contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885 (collect calls accepted), by email email@example.com or by submitting an on-line form.
Heightened tensions throughout the Middle East, together with increased threats globally from terrorism, put you at greater risk. The security situation in Syria is very volatile, and violence associated with the crisis is ongoing. Some recent developments demonstrate that the general threat of terrorism in Syria has increased. Car bombings and other violent incidents have been reported on numerous occasions, killing and injuring many civilians.
Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times, as the security situation could deteriorate rapidly on short notice. Exercise appropriate caution in crowded places, including pedestrian promenades, shopping malls, open markets and restaurants. Monitor local news reports and follow the advice of local authorities.
Since the beginning of the civil unrest in March 2011, instances of kidnappings have been increasing throughout Syria. While some have been politically motivated and related to the ongoing crisis, there have also been a significant number of criminally motivated kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs targeting random victims from the general population. Kidnappings are occurring in various parts of the country including areas of Aleppo and Damascus. If you remain in Syria despite this warning, you should be extremely vigilant when travelling, especially after dark.
The crime rate has increased in Syria. Exercise a high degree of caution and ensure personal belongings, passports, and other travel documents are secure.
There have been incidents of women being harassed. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.
Aggressive drivers and poor driving standards make travel hazardous. Avoid driving outside of major cities after dark. Pedestrians should remain vigilant.
Roadblocks and checkpoints have been set up on roads, including major roads and highways in and around Damascus, Aleppo, and other major cities, as well as along the Damascus-Aleppo, Damascus-Jordan and Damascus-Beirut highways. Road travel restrictions may be imposed without notice making travel slow and dangerous.
Use only officially marked taxis.
Urban buses are safe but may be crowded and uncomfortable.
Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
General safety information
Telecommunication services and road access to some cities may be disrupted due to security operations.
Journalists attempting to operate in Syria without official approval from the Syrian government place themselves at considerable personal risk. Foreign journalists are being particularly scrutinized by Syrian authorities.
Syrians and foreigners alike can be arbitrarily arrested and detained, and obtaining consular access or information on these cases is extremely difficult. If any foreigners, including Canadians, are detained in Syria for any reason, they cannot assume that Syrian authorities will help them contact their government.
Carry identification documents at all times. Carry a photocopy of your passport and leave another one with a relative or friend at home.
Restrict your travel to major roads between urban centres or to border crossings, and only travel during daylight hours. Border crossings may close or be subject to restrictions on short notice and roadblocks may be set up.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. The following information on entry and exit requirements has been obtained from the Syrian authorities. However, these requirements are subject to change at any time. It is your responsibility to check with the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic or one of its consulates for up-to-date information.
Official (special and diplomatic) passport holders must consult the Official Travel page, as they may be subject to different entry requirements.
Canadians must present a passport to visit Syria, which must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of expected departure from that country.
Canadians must be in possession of a visa to visit Syria.
Tourist visa: Required
Business visa: Required
Student visa: Required
Visas for non-Arab nationals cannot be issued at border points of entry and must be obtained from the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic or one of its consulates prior to departure.
If you are planning to remain in Syria for more than 14 days, you must register with the Syrian Immigration and Passport Office before the 15th day. If you are a tourist, this requirement is applied each time you enter Syria, whether you have a multiple or a single-entry visa.
One-time visitors on a single-entry visa do not require an exit permit. Business and student visa holders, who are granted a one-year residence permit, require an exit permit to leave the country. Should you wish to return to Syria while your residency is still valid, you must also obtain a return permit prior to departure.
Health entry requirements
You must produce proof of yellow fever vaccination if arriving from an infected area.
You must be tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) if you intend to obtain a residence permit in Syria or marry a Syrian national. A residence permit will not be issued until you have tested HIV negative.
Declare foreign currency in excess of US$2,000 upon arrival at customs to avoid problems upon departure.
Canadians have been denied entry into Syria because their passports bore: (a) an Israeli visa; (b) an Israeli border stamp; or (c) an Egyptian or Jordanian border stamp issued by an office bordering Israel (such a stamp would indicate that the traveller entered from Israel).
If you are travelling in the Middle East, your passports could come under increased scrutiny by immigration authorities, and the authenticity of your passport could be questioned due to incidents of possible misuse. Contact the nearest Canadian government office or the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa for advice and assistance.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. Please consult our Children page for more information.
The Agency strongly recommends that you consult with a travel medicine clinic or health care provider preferably six weeks before departure.
The Agency publishes travel health advice for Syria.
Adequate medical care is available in major cities but not necessarily in remote areas.
Laws & Culture
You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention FAQ for more information.
An international driving permit is required.
The work week is from Sunday to Thursday.
Illegal or restricted activities
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect severe penalties which may include the death penalty.
Photography of military or government installations is prohibited.
Homosexual activity is illegal in Syria.
Although dual citizenship is legally recognized in Syria, the law indicates that Syrian citizenship takes precedence. If you are a dual citizen or are eligible for Syrian citizenship, you may be subject to compulsory military service and other aspects of Syrian law. Holding dual nationality may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. If you are a dual citizen, check your status at an Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic or a consulate prior to departure from Canada.
If you are a dual citizen and are contemplating travel to Syria, determine if you or one of your relatives or acquaintances is sought by the Syrian authorities for being or having been in contravention of Syrian law. Be particularly vigilant if you have left Syria without a passport, have previously been unwilling or unable to obtain a Syrian passport, or have reason to believe that you have been convicted in absentia by a Syrian court.
Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.
Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in the country’s customs, laws and regulations. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities, particularly when visiting religious sites.
Wear beachwear and shorts only at the beach or poolside.
The economy is primarily cash-based. The currency is the Syrian pound (SYP). Credit cards and traveller’s cheques are not widely accepted. Automated banking machines are available in major cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo, but cannot always be relied upon. Due to international sanctions, credit institutions and banks in several countries have suspended their transactions with Syria. This includes MasterCard and Visa credit cards and bank cards operating under the Cirrus, Maestro and Plus transaction networks. This list is not exhaustive. Inquire with your financial service provider prior to travelling to Syria.
Carry U.S. dollars. It is illegal to convert money on the street. Foreign currency must be exchanged in banks or at official exchange counters. Keep all official exchange receipts, as they are required should you want to exchange local currency into foreign currency before departure. The Syrian pound cannot be exchanged outside the country.
In August 2011, the Syrian government established limitations on the withdrawal of foreign currency in Syria. Regulation regarding financial transactions and currency exchange can change without notice.
Natural Disasters & Climate
Syria is located in an active seismic zone. It is also subject to dust storms and sand storms.
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