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Syria - AVOID ALL TRAVEL
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada advises against all travel to Syria due to ongoing conflict. Commercial means to leave Syria are extremely limited, and you should leave as soon as it is safe to do so. Since November 2011, DFATD has urged 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 checkpoints may delay or impede access to the airport. 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 service.
If you are leaving Syria by land to Lebanon, transit through the border area as quickly as possible, as we advise against all travel to the border region with Lebanon.
If you choose to remain in Syria despite this warning, limit your movements and keep abreast of the latest developments. Outbreaks of violence can occur with little or no notice, and you risk being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Ensure your travel documents are up to date.
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.
Syria is not a safe environment for personal travel. Attempting any form of travel in this very hazardous security environment would place you at grave risk. Foreigners may be targets for terrorist attacks, assassination and kidnapping for ransom or political gain. Criminals, taking advantage of the unstable security situation, are also committing violent attacks and kidnapping travellers.
Canadian officials have left Syria. The Embassy of Canada to Syria in Damascus has suspended operations until further notice, and the Embassy of Canada to Lebanon in Beirut’s ability to provide consular and other support throughout the country is very limited. Canadians in Syria and their relatives seeking information should contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The security situation has deteriorated into open conflict throughout the country, including in major centres such as Damascus and Aleppo. Fighting is generalized, and involves the use of small arms, tanks, artillery and aircraft. In August 2013, the suburbs of Damascus were the scene of a conventional and chemical weapons attack, and Aleppo has been subjected to a government campaign of aerial bombardment and rebel attacks since December 2013. Since September 2014, the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been carrying out aerial attacks on targets belonging to ISIL and other extremist groups.
Syria’s chemical and biological weapons program also contributes to the volatility of the situation, as do allegations of attacks using chemicals, such as chlorine.
Common war tactics have involved blockading entire cities for months with little or no warning, and denying entry to humanitarian aid workers and supplies.
Security forces and the military are using extensive force to suppress uprisings and demonstrations across the country.
ISIL and other extremist groups control large parts of the country, and pose an exceptional risk to foreigners. Areas under these groups’ control are highly dangerous.
The security situation in Syria is very volatile, and violence associated with the conflict is ongoing. The threat of terrorism in Syria from extremist groups such as ISIL and Jabat Al Nusra is generalized. Car bombings and other violent incidents occur regularly, killing and injuring many civilians.
Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times, as terrorist incidents occur with no warning. 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.
Although kidnappings had already increased throughout Syria, since the beginning of civil unrest in March 2011, 2014 saw a sharp increase in the kidnapping of non-government organization workers and journalists. Kidnappings are common in various parts of the country, including in parts of Aleppo and Damascus.
Kidnapping for ransom is common, as are politically motivated kidnappings by armed and terrorist groups that often result in execution.
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. Ensure personal belongings and passports and other travel documents are in a secure place.
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 for Canadian women.
Women in ISIL-controlled territory, such as Raqqah, are at extreme risk of being physically harmed.
Aggressive drivers and poor driving standards make road 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. Some border crossings are no longer under the control of Syrian authorities; instead, they are in the hands of opposition groups, including extremists.
Use only officially marked taxis.
See Transportation Safety in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
General safety information
Telecommunication services and road access to and within 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. Journalists and other foreigners in opposition-held areas may be harmed, kidnapped or killed by the armed groups operating there. A number of foreign journalists have already been killed, and others have been detained by Syrian armed forces and by other armed groups.
Syrians and foreigners alike can be arbitrarily arrested and detained, and obtaining consular access or information on these cases is extremely difficult. Foreigners, including Canadians, detained in Syria for any reason, 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.
It is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter. Canadian consular officials cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet entry requirements. 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. Prior to travelling, ask your transportation company about its requirements related to passport validity, which may be more stringent than the country's entry rules.
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 nearest 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 be tested for 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 when leaving Syria.
Canadians have been denied entry into Syria because their passports bore an Israeli visa, an Israeli border stamp, or 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 from Syria to Lebanon, you must present the same document to enter and leave the country.
See Health to obtain information on this country’s vaccination requirements.
Children and travel
Children need special documentation to visit certain countries. See Children for more information.
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Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world. Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever Vaccination
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
|* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.|
|Country Entry Requirement*|
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in Western Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Western Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers at high risk visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care provider about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in Western Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, Rift Valley fever, and West Nile virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
Leishmaniasis, cutaneous and mucosal
Cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis causes skin sores and ulcers. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine or medication to protect against leishmaniasis.
There is no risk of malaria in this country.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Western Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Medical services and facilities
Adequate medical care is available in major cities but not necessarily in remote areas.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws & culture
Laws & culture
You are subject to local laws. See Arrest and detention 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.
Mobile phone use at checkpoints is prohibited.
The laws of Syria prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. Other related offences include being in a same-sex marriage and promoting homosexuality. Convicted offenders can face the death penalty. See Gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgender travel for more information.
Although Syria recognizes dual nationality, dual nationals are considered Syrian citizens and are subject to local laws without regard to another nationality. See Travelling as a dual citizen 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.
During the lunar month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim calendar), refrain from drinking, eating, and smoking in public between sunrise and sunset. This year, Ramadan is expected to begin on or around June 18, 2015.
The currency is the Syrian pound (SYP). The economy is primarily cash-based. 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, several foreign credit institutions and banks 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; note this list is not exhaustive. Inquire with your financial service provider prior to travelling to Syria.
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. Regulations regarding financial transactions and currency exchange can change without notice.
Natural disasters & climate
Natural disasters & climate
Syria is located in an active seismic zone. It also experiences dust sand storms.
There is no resident Canadian government office in Syria. The Embassy of Canada in Beirut, Lebanon has consular responsibility for Syria.
Beirut - Embassy of Canada
For emergency assistance, contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at 613-996-8885 (collect calls accepted), by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by submitting an on-line form.
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