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Syria

If you’re travelling to Syria, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise against all travel to Syria.

Travel alert

If you’re currently in Syria, we strongly advise you to leave immediately while this is still possible. We cannot guarantee that the Honorary Consul of Ireland in Damascus will be able to remain open for much longer. Ireland has no Embassy in Syria, and if the Consulate has to close at short notice, it’s extremely unlikely that we’ll be able to provide any consular assistance to Irish citizens who decide to remain in Syria.

The decision to travel is solely your responsibility and you are responsible for your personal safety for the duration of your trip. Continue to monitor this travel advice for updates.

We cannot guarantee that documents sent to or from the Honorary Consul in Damascus will reach their destination safely.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand so if you have problems, start by talking to your local contacts.  

We are limited in the help we can provide in the event of an emergency in Syria. You can contact the Irish Embassy in Cairo if you require assistance or advice. Irish citizens with a genuine emergency can leave a voicemail message on the outside of office hours. Make sure to leave your name, mobile number, current location and the nature of the emergency. An Embassy Duty Officer will return your call.

Other EU embassies                        

You can also contact the Embassies or Consulates of other EU countries for emergency consular assistance, advice and support.  

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates    
  • Read our Topical ‘Know Before You Go’ guide

 

Safety and security

Social unrest

If you’re currently in Syria, we strongly advise you to leave immediately while this is still possible. Our clear advice for some time has been to leave the country by commercial means.

If you decide to remain in Syria, against our clear advice, please ensure that your travel documents are up to date in case you need to leave the country at short notice and that you and your family have valid exit visas, if you need one to leave Syria.

Always keep yourself informed of what’s going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel and local contacts. Follow the advice of the local authorities and stock up on basic necessities such as water, food, fuel and medicines as supplies of these may deteriorate rapidly, and without warning.

Demonstrations

Avoid demonstrations and large crowds and if you become aware of any disturbances leave the area immediately. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times.

Transport

The security situation has led to the suspension of commercial flights. There has been an increase in the number of checkpoints on major routes, and intermittent road closures on the main inter-city highways. If you want to leave Syria overland, check the status of the border crossing and access routes before travelling.

Crime

You should exercise caution if going outside after dark, and take sensible precautions: 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Syria, report it to the local police immediately. If you need help, you should contact the Embassy in Cairo or the Honorary Consul in Damascus.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Syria, road and driving standards are variable, so you should avoid driving outside the main cities at night. We advise against travel to the Syria-Iraq border. If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driver’s licence and your international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Security checkpoints

There has been an increase in the number of checkpoints on major routes, and intermittent road closures on the main inter-city highways

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Muslim culture

Syria is a conservative society, and you should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions. Avoid public displays of affection, dress conservatively (women's clothes should cover their legs and upper arms), be aware of your actions and take care not to offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or other religious festivals, or if you intend to visit religious areas.

During Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke during daylight hours. To avoid offence, you should not eat, drink or smoke in public during this time.

Local laws

While you’re in Syria, you’re subject to local laws, including ones that may seem harsh by Irish standards. In the current environment, foreigners as well as Syrians may be subject to arbitrary arrest and detention by the Syrian authorities. Getting information or providing consular assistance in these cases is extremely difficult.

Parents in particular should be aware that local laws regarding custody, etc of children are significantly different to those in force in Ireland. If you are involved in any local legal matters, particularly family law, we strongly advise you to get professional advice.

Illegal drugs

The punishment for possession of drugs is life imprisonment.  For drug trafficking, the death penalty applies.

LGBT

Homosexuality is illegal in Syria. Caution and discretion are advised at all times.

Photography

Photography near military and many other government installations is prohibited. Given the widespread nature of the current conflict, you should consider all areas as politically sensitive and therefore avoid photography completely.

Natural disasters and climate

Earthquakes

Syria is subject to occasional earthquakes. Monitor local updates during your stay and find out from your local contacts or your hotel what you should do in the event of an earthquake. Always follow local authorities’ instructions about security and evacuation.

Sandstorms

Dust- and sandstorms also occur.

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

Irish citizens need a visa to enter Syria. For entry requirements, please contact the Embassy of Syria in London.

Passports

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you when travelling to Syria and you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times during your stay.

Health

Polio vaccination is recommended for all travellers from Ireland to countries where polio transmission is a risk. Before travelling to areas where poliomyelitis cases are still occurring, travellers should ensure that they have completed the recommended age-appropriate polio vaccine schedule and have received a booster dose, if necessary. More information is available on the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre website.

Water

We recommend that you drink only boiled or bottled water during your stay.

Money

It’s illegal to change money on the street so only change money in recognised exchange shops, banks and hotels. Credit cards are not widely used in Syria.  

As a result of international sanctions, financial institutions in several countries have suspended their transactions with Syria. This may affect your ability to make payments, withdraw cash from ATMs, etc. Please check with your bank/credit institution for further details. There have also been restrictions placed on financial transactions by the Syrian government.

More travel advice

Because we don’t have an Embassy or Consulate in Syria, we can’t give you up-to-date travel advice. But you can visit these foreign ministries for more detailed information: