The overlander’s guide to getting into Syria!

At the current time of  writing western Syria is quite hairy. There are lots of military patrols and stacks of refugees on the Turkish side of the border. Its not the best place to cross and the Syrian’s are unlikely to let you enter for fear that your a journalist. Our advice is head a few hundred kilometers east to Akcakale, Karkamis or if you really want to visit Haleb go to the crossing at Kilis. Arrive at the border as early as possible as the process can take several hours, and join the right queue, we joined the one for freight and ended up right at the end of the normal vehicle queue. Get cleared out of Turkish customs and get your exit stamps. Now the fun begins. We had gone to great lengths to hide our electronic equipment. Camera’s, laptops and our satellite phone were all hidden away. This was a mistake, the Syrians search your vehicle rather thoroughly and they found everything we wrapped up and stashed away. This just made us look like we had something to hide. There is a difference between hiding things and keeping them out of sight. Keeping things in bags and just out of the way is normal, just dont bury your laptop in 3 tshirts and throw your smelly boxers on top. You’ll look like a journalist. We were carrying two laptops on the trip and when the Syrians discovered this they took the laptops and their owners into the police station to further document the fact that they were carrying laptops. They simply wrote it down in our passports beside the visa that this individual was carrying a laptop. We said the laptops were for keeping and editing photographs and that we couldnt connect to the Internet. They laptops did cause quite a stir at the time and we started to think we would get turned away. If you have something really sensitive keep it on your person, they rarely search people unless you look like you are a proper smuggler. The guy in front of us had his back seats ripped out and then half heartily replaced. Then comes the questioning, a high ranking official asked us various questions like who we were, what are we doing here, where do we plan to go and when do we plan to leave. We had to show our route out to the official and where we planned to stay in Syria. He had difficulty with our nationality, about whether we were British or Irish as our British passport says “Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. (This came up again when we were entering Egypt.)  Once he was satisfied with our answers he let us go on to the normal border processes of visas, entry stamps, car insurance and the like. They key to getting through many borders is just keep things simple, all sing of the same hymn sheet and speak in slow simple english. The amount of times things got lost in translation is incredible. While in Syria you’ll come across check points on the entry and exit of every town and you simply need to stop, answer a few questions and show your passport before you can move on. Dont take pictures of the security forces, our camera memory cards were checked for pictures of the military on our exit to Jordan. Apart from that, enjoy yourself! Syria is a fantastic country with the friendliest people I have ever encountered. There are plenty of old Roman ruins and crusader castles doted about the country and since this is pretty much the off season for tourists you have the place mostly to yourself. Food is cheap and so is fuel, the only problem is how to get it easily. We spent 3 hours every time we went to the petrol station to fill up. You simply need to queue up and wait your turn. If you have jerry cans you can go up to the hose and add them to the jerry can queue the locals are using. Its pure insanity but once you do it once you’ll get the drift of how it works. If youve any questions drop us an email! Happy overlanding!

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One Response to “The overlander’s guide to getting into Syria!”

  1. Ruth Beasant Says:

    Greetings from Sydney, Australia….Sounds like you guys are having a ball. Keep the blog up, its great to hear the stories. What an adventure… definately a book in the making, Praying for a safe journey for you all (and Doris). Ruth

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