World Travel Guide > Guides > Middle East > Syrian Arab Republic

Syrian Arab Republic travel guide

About Syrian Arab Republic

Until the recent civil war, Syria was a diverse destination that revelled in its antiquity. Inhabited for tens of thousands of years, the country accumulated all the cultural riches afforded by such a long history and was rightly considered one of the Middle East’s top destinations. Sadly, the war-ravaged nation is now struggling to preserve its ancient relics, which document the rise and fall of myriad civilisations.

Like its history, Syria’s landscapes are varied. Vast steppes cover much of the country, but mountains soar in the west, deserts stretch in the east and volcanic fields spread across the south. Meandering through this dusty land is the great Euphrates River, which also flows through neighbouring Iraq.

Syria was once regarded as a frontier region, bordered to the east by Persians and west by the Arabs. The country fell to the Persians in the sixth century and though it retained Christian and Jewish populations, Syria was from then on a Muslim nation.

The country’s story is littered with dramatic episodes. Syria was subsumed by empires from Babylon to Canaan, Assyria to Phoenicia; it was conquered by the Ottomans, endured a campaign by Napoleon and was invaded by the Egyptians. During the height of pan-Arabism in the 1950s, the country briefly joined with Egypt in the United Arab Republic, but seceded to form the Syrian Arab Republic in 1961.

The battles and territorial scrambles of the past have translated into a catalogue of staggering cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo, which are chock-full of stunning monuments and ancient mosques.

The uprising against the ruling Baath Party in 2011 gave way to a civil war, which continues to rage and is further complicated by the formidable presence of the jihadist militant group Islamic State. Travel to Syria is ill-advised (it is probably the most dangerous country on the planet right now) and the future remains uncertain.

Key facts


185,180 sq km (71,498 sq miles).


18,563,595 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

92.2 per sq km.





Head of state:

President Bashar al-Assad since 2000. 

Head of government:

Prime Minister Hussein Arnous since 2020.

Travel Advice

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

FCDO advises against all travel to Syria

FCDO advises against all travel to Syria due to the ongoing conflict and unpredictable security conditions.

If you are a British national in Syria, leave the country by any practical means.

UK government support

There is no UK government support available in Syria, as all British Embassy services in Damascus are suspended. If you need help, call the FCDO in London on +44 (0)20 7008 5000.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel against FCDO advice, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

FCDO provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, who choose to travel against FCDO advice. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel.

The relevant authorities in Syria set and enforce entry rules. 

Passport validity requirements

To enter Syria, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the date you arrive.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Previous travel to Israel

If your passport shows previous travel to Israel, it is likely you’ll be refused entry to Syria.

Visa requirements

You must have a visa and relevant security clearance for the area of Syria you want to travel to.

Applying for a visa

If you choose to travel to Syria against FCDO advice, ensure you have the right visa or you may be refused entry. Contact the relevant Syrian authorities for further information.

Penalties for illegal entry

If you enter Syria illegally, you could get a fine of 5 to 10 million Syrian pounds and a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years.

Journalists travelling to Syria

All foreign journalists entering Syria need special permission from the relevant Syrian authorities.

Vaccine requirements

For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Syria guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Syria. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times. 

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Syria                

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Syria.

There have been many terrorist attacks across Syria including in major cities, resulting in large numbers of casualties.

There are a number of terrorist groups operating in Syria, including Daesh, formerly known as ISIL, and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, formerly known as Jabhat Fatah al Sham and Al Nusrah Front. Daesh continues to carry out regular attacks, especially in north-east Syria.

Terrorism attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreign nationals, such as:

  • public transport and transport hubs, such as airports
  • border crossings
  • public squares and other crowded places
  • religious sites and ceremonies, and places of worship
  • hotels, cafes and restaurants
  • commercial venues, including markets and stores
  • residential buildings and compounds
  • sports venues and stadiums

Attacks could also target:

  • military sites, security forces and institutions
  • oil facilities
  • government buildings and embassies
  • political offices and events
  • police stations
  • maritime facilities
  • hospitals, schools and universities

Terrorist groups continue to pose a significant threat to civilians living in Syria and have shown they can carry out co-ordinated attacks against military and security targets, and civilians. Types of attack include shootings, large-scale co-ordinated bombings designed to cause mass casualties, suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, rockets and mortars.

Take particular care during periods of national or religious significance and on public holidays.

Prosecution in the UK

If you travel to Syria to fight, and your activities amount to offences against UK terrorism legislation, you could be prosecuted when you return to the UK.

Terrorist kidnap

There is a very high threat of kidnapping from terrorists throughout Syria. Kidnappings can be for financial or political gain. There have been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals and other westerners. Some hostages have been killed.

Terrorist groups operating in Syria routinely use kidnapping as a tactic. This includes British nationals who are seen as legitimate targets, including tourists, humanitarian aid workers, journalists and business travellers. If you are kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to protect you or secure your safe release. 

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Security situation

The situation in Syria remains volatile and dangerous after over a decade of conflict and insecurity.

The Bashar al Assad regime does not control parts of the country, notably in the north-west where fighting has caused significant civilian casualties and displacement. There are many armed groups, both internationally backed and domestic, controlling huge swathes of the country.

The security situation across Syria is fragile and can deteriorate into armed clashes without warning. Civil unrest and violent clashes between armed groups are common throughout Syria, including in areas of north-west Syria under Turkish control, and areas of south Syria.

In the north-west, a ceasefire between Assad’s regime and opposition forces has been in place since March 2020. However, violence continues with small arms, artillery and sporadic air strikes.

In north-east Syria, the situation remains highly unstable with regular terrorist attacks, violence between tribal and local forces and ongoing militia group activity.

Fighting has at various times led to the temporary suspension of commercial flights, road closures, and the closure of some border crossings. Some border crossings are in the hands of non-state armed groups.

Journalists in Syria

Journalists and other foreigners in opposition-held areas are vulnerable to:

  • mistreatment by armed groups
  • death or injury from abandoned unexploded weapons, improvised explosive devices or bombardment of the area
  • detainment by regime forces or other armed groups
  • confiscation of phones, cameras and video cameras by security forces

Political activity

There are severe restrictions on political activity in Syria. You could be detained if you take part in unlicensed political activity. Thousands of people have been detained, and in many cases tortured and executed, because of actual or perceived involvement in political activity.

Syrian authorities have detained and deported several British nationals for unauthorised activity. Activity in opposition-held areas will also attract attention. If you are deported by local authorities, you will not be able to return to Syria.

Basic services

There is a humanitarian crisis in Syria. Public infrastructure and services are seriously affected by the conflict including lack of water, sanitation and health services. Electricity, internet and cellular services are intermittent in many parts of the country. Food supplies are extremely limited and what’s available is often prohibitively expensive. It is often difficult to get or pay for basic goods and services, including food and fuel.


The UK has sanctions in place on Syria. Sanctions started in 2011 as part of an EU initiative. See the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, HM Treasury and UK sanctions on Syria for more information.

Red Sea military activity

There is a military response to Houthi militants’ attempts to disrupt international shipping in the Red Sea. The military activity is limited to the Red Sea and Yemen, but travel advice for nearby countries could change at short notice. Monitor travel advice and follow instructions from local authorities.


The conflict has led to a rise in crime in most areas in the country, including extortion at checkpoints, violent robbery, carjacking and kidnapping.

Criminal kidnapping

There has been an increased number of kidnaps for ransom. There is an increased threat to westerners in Syria. Foreign nationals are high-value hostages.

Laws and cultural differences


Syria is a multi-faith country. Alongside the majority Sunni population, there are large practising Shia, Christian, Druze and Alawite communities, as well as other smaller sects and religions. As the conflict continues, divisions along sectarian lines have increased. Communities have been displaced and levels of religious tolerance can vary considerably. There are restrictions on unlicensed political and religious activity, particularly political Islam.

Personal ID

You must carry copies of your passport photo page and visa for identification.

Illegal drugs penalties

There are severe penalties for drug offences in Syria. The penalty for drug possession is life imprisonment, and the death penalty applies for drug trafficking.


As a result of the ongoing conflict there are restrictions on financial transactions in Syria. Prices for certain items may be listed in US dollars. However, Syrian authorities have warned against carrying or using currencies other than the Syrian pound, and penalties are severe.

Transport risks

Road travel

Road travel is very dangerous in many parts of the country due to fighting, the fragile security situation and unexploded weapons.

Driving standards and traffic systems are poor, and the accident rate is high. Driving at night is particularly dangerous.

If you are driving a car and are involved in an accident with a pedestrian, it is likely you’ll be held legally responsible.

Road networks may be blocked without warning. There are security force checkpoints on major road routes.

Air travel

Fighting near airports can cause flights to be suspended.

Extreme weather and natural disasters


Earthquakes are a risk in Syria. These can be high magnitude, cause damage to infrastructure and put lives at risk. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Emergency services in Syria have been severely impacted by the conflict and are often unresponsive.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment. 

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in Syria, including:

  • cholera
  • malaria

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Syria. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

Healthcare in Syria

The quality of healthcare has deteriorated significantly during the conflict. Many hospitals are no longer operating and there are shortages of even the most basic medicines and medical supplies. The destruction of infrastructure means there are regular outbreaks of infectious diseases across the country.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Syria

Due to the conflict, there are no effective emergency services in Syria.

Contact your travel provider and insurer 

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do. 

Refunds and changes to travel 

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first. 

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including: 

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

There is no UK government support available in Syria, as all British Embassy services in Damascus are suspended and all diplomatic and consular staff have been withdrawn. If you are a British citizen in Syria and need help, call the FCDO in London on +44 (0)20 7008 5000

Find out about call charges

A digital image at

Book a Hotel