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From UK and Europe
Syria’s national carrier, Syrian Air, services London and Manchester in the UK, as well as Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, and Vienna. These are the cheapest flights you’ll find, but most planes are old, so you might want to consider other options. These include Air France and Austrian Airlines; coming from London, you could use these to get a free stopover in Paris or Vienna on the way. Or you could fly via Egypt, Turkey or the Arabian Peninsula (see below).
From Egypt, Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula
Emirates, Etihad, Egypt Air, Gulf Air, Royal Jordanian, and Turkish Airlines all fly to Damascus from Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Cairo, Dubai, Amman and Istanbul. There are also plenty of excellent low-cost airlines flying to Damascus, Lattakia and Aleppo from all of the Arabian Peninsula cities, including Air Arabia, Jazeera, and FlyDubai, making flights via cities such as Beirut, Dubai, and Doha a good option if you want to mix things up a bit.
Within Syria, Syrian Air runs regular flights between Damascus and Aleppo, Lattakia and other destinations. Flights are cheap and can be bought until the day before, easily booked on the phone (also possible on the web). You’ll be catching old Russian planes, wonderful if you’re a plane buff, but not so great if you’re scared of flying.
There are plenty of cheap, comfortable buses from Damascus to destinations all over Syria, including Aleppo. Buses run from lots of different stations, so ask your hotel to point you in the right direction and organize your taxi to the station. The Damascus-Aleppo route is very popular (buses leave almost hourly and take around 4 hrs); you get a/c, cold towels, drinks, sometimes a snack, the only problem is the TV is often blaring with a Syrian soap opera, so best to take an iPod.
This is an option for the Damascus-Aleppo route - a little slower than the bus (about 6 hours journey time) but probably comfier, and certainly cheaper. All trains have a/c, and there is an overnight train with 1- and 2-bed compartments; consider paying the extra for first class. Check Syrian train times and fares at www.cfssyria.org (in Arabic only, but you can use Google to translate); or see Seat 61.
Hiring a driver and car is a fantastic and surprisingly affordable option if you’re not keen on the plane or bus, and can be booked through your hotel or through major car rental companies. See our car rental recommendations.
Alternatively, you can drive yourself, but it’s not advisable if you’ve never driven in the Middle East before. There is a good highway north from Damascus to Aleppo, to the coast to Lattakia, south from Damascus to Bosra, and out to the desert to Palmyra and beyond to the Euphrates, with sign-posting in English. However, getting out of Damascus can be a nightmare, and heading off the highway you’ll encounter few signs in English; good paper maps, a GPS and a Syrian SIM card are essential!
Two weeks before travelling, you should check with the Syrian Embassy if you need to apply for a visa in advance. Some nationalities can get a visa at the airport, but rules change all the time.