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Syria

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Summary

  • Do not travel to Syria because of the extremely dangerous security situation. Military and other armed conflict is ongoing and air strikes, kidnappings and terrorist attacks are common.

  • If you're in Syria, depart immediately by commercial means while it is possible to do so.

  • Australia doesn't have an embassy or consulate in Syria. The ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australians in Syria is extremely limited. We can't evacuate you. See Where to get help.

  • It is illegal under Australian law for Australian citizens, including dual citizens, to provide any kind of support to any armed group in Syria. This includes engaging in fighting, funding, training or recruiting someone to fight and supplying or funding weapons. See Laws.

  • Widespread fighting in many parts of Syria causes disruptions to essential services and may limit your options for departure. See Safety and security.

  • Since 2014, there has been an increase in the number of reported kidnappings, particularly of aid workers and journalists. Hostages are often killed. See Safety and security.

  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Entry 

If you enter Syria, despite our advice, you must register with Syrian immigration authorities before your 15th day if you'll stay in Syria for more than 14 days.

 

Exit

Depart Syria immediately by commercial means.

Some commercial airlines have ceased flying to Syria. Other commercial aviation services and airports could suspend operations indefinitely at any time, without notice. Civilian airports could come under attack at any time, including in Damascus and Aleppo.

Evacuation options may be limited by telecommunication and travel restrictions:

  • Ground transport options to airports and the availability of seats on aircraft may be limited.
  • Roads may close or be blocked with little or no warning, affecting access to border crossings.
  • Major highways, including Tartous-Latakia, Tartous-Homs, Latakia-Aleppo, Homs-Hama, Homs-Damascus and Damascus-Jordan, may become, or are already, blocked due to the conflict.
  • Border crossings can be closed with little or no warning.
  • Conflict can limit practical access to all border crossings.

Plan your exit carefully to minimise risks to your safety.

  • Seek local and expert advice.
  • Make contingency plans.
  • Check the status of access routes to airports and borders before travelling.
  • Carry a current passport or travel document at all times.

Exit formalities

If you've been in Syria for more than 14 days, you'll need to get an exit visa before you can leave.

If you or your children are Syrian with Australian citizenship, you may leave Syria within three months from the date of your entry without obtaining an exit visa, but:

  • children under 18 years of age born in Syria must have their father's permission to leave Syria
  • a Syrian husband can legally prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality
  • unmarried women in Syria can also be subject to strict family controls and may be prevented from leaving the country.

If you have stayed more than three months, you need to obtain an exit visa for you and your children before leaving.

If you have been issued with a Syrian Residence Permit, you will also need to get an "exit and return" stamp before leaving Syria.

Border crossings

Entry into Lebanon from Syria is restricted. You may need to prove you have an appointment with the Australian Embassy in Beirut before being granted entry to Lebanon from Syria. Contact the Australian Embassy in Beirut on +961 (0)1 960 600 or at Lebanon.embassy.gov.au.

Avoid the Tal Kalakh/Hdaideh crossing to north-east Lebanon because of violence in Tal Kalakh.

All border crossings from Syria to Turkey are currently closed. Turkish authorities have occasionally opened border points to allow Syrian nationals to travel back to Syria, but no entry is permitted from Syria to Turkey.

Both main border crossings into Jordan (Jaber/Nasib and Ar Ramtha) are officially closed following fighting and violent incidents. They could reopen at short notice.

Do not attempt to enter Iraq from Syria by land.

Australians of Arab origin have been detained by Syrian border authorities for long periods without charge.

Other formalities

You must declare all foreign currency and electronic equipment on arrival in Syria. If you don't, you could face delays when you try to depart the country.

Passport

If you travel to Syria despite our advice, make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money and valuables

The currency of Syria is the Syrian pound (SYP). Declare all amounts in excess of $US5,000 on arrival and departure.

It is illegal to change money on the streets. Money can be changed in government banks or recognised exchange bureaux. However, many exchange bureaux are no longer able to exchange currency. Syrian pounds cannot be converted into US dollars on departure.

As a result of international sanctions, financial institutions in several countries have suspended their transactions with Syrian counterparts. Credit cards may not be accepted in Syria and you may not be able to access your money via ATMs. Carry enough cash to cover your needs in either $US or Euros.

Safety and security

Armed conflict and terrorism

Ongoing military conflict including air strikes, very high levels of violence, political disorder, terrorist attacks and large numbers of kidnappings involving foreign nationals, create an extremely dangerous security situation in Syria.

There have been several instances of chemical weapons use during the conflict in Syria. Further use of such weapons is possible.

The security situation means access to food, water and fuel can be difficult.

Since April 2011, the Australian Government has recommended that Australians in Syria depart immediately by commercial means while it is possible to do so. See Entry and exit.

If, despite our advice, you're in Syria:

  • leave Syria as soon as possible
  • seek professional security advice
  • adopt effective personal security measures
  • make contingency plans, including keeping ample stocks of water, food, toiletries, fuel and any prescription medications
  • secure a valid exit visa in your passport in case you need to depart quickly
  • position yourself in a safe place and limit your movements as much as possible
  • be vigilant at all times
  • maintain a low profile
  • vary your routines so patterns in your behaviour and movements don't become apparent to observers
  • avoid possible targets for terror attack
  • wherever you go, have a clear exit plan for if there is a security incident
  • if there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately, if it is safe to do so 
  • avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks
  • monitor media for any new or emerging threats.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Kidnapping

Many foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Syria in recent years. Hostages are often killed. Since 2014, reported kidnappings of aid workers and journalists has risen significantly.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

More information: Kidnapping

Civil unrest and political tension

Large public gatherings and demonstrations can turn violent. Syrian authorities have arrested people in the vicinity of demonstrations, regardless of their citizenship.

Civil unrest may limit your ability to travel by road.

If you're in Syria:

  • Avoid rallies, protests, demonstrations and crowds. 
  • Avoid funerals and mourning processions.
  • Avoid areas where people congregate after Friday midday prayers. 
  • Monitor the media for any new safety and security risks, including political events that may inflame existing tensions.

Crime

Breakdown in law and order has led to an increase in crime, including violent robberies, kidnapping and carjacking.

If you're in Syria:

  • drive with your vehicle's doors locked and windows up at all times
  • carry only what you need - leave other valuables in a secure location
  • secure your accommodation against intruders
  • be alert to your surroundings at all times.

Local travel

Travel within Syria is dangerous. If you're in Syria, take into account the security environment before contemplating any travel within the country. See Safety and security.

Basic needs

Conflict has led to breakdown in government services and shortages of staple goods in conflict-affected areas. You may not be able to access sufficient food, water or medical care.

Road travel

Roads can be blocked or close with little or no warning. Roadblocks, road closures and fighting may limit access to international border crossings.

Major highways, including Tartous-Latakia, Tartous-Homs, Latakia-Aleppo, Homs-Hama, Homs-Damascus and Damascus-Jordan, may become, or are already, blocked due to the conflict.

If you need to travel by road, first:

  • seek local advice on possible routes
  • seek professional security advice
  • adopt effective personal security measures
  • make contingency plans.

Sea travel

Do not seek to travel to Syria by sea due to the extremely dangerous security situation.

Air travel

Civilian airports could come under attack at any time, including in Damascus and Aleppo.

Commercial aviation services and airports could suspend operations indefinitely at any time. Some commercial airlines have stopped flying to Syria. Ground transport options to airports and seat availability on planes may be limited because of the extremely dangerous security environment.

Australian officials have been advised against travelling on flights that cross over Syrian airspace, due to the conflict in Syria.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Syria.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Syria. If you're arrested or jailed, the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance is extremely limited.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include the death penalty.

Other laws

Seek professional advice if you might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody and child support). Be aware of your rights and responsibilities.

The death penalty can be imposed for serious crimes such as murder.

The following activities are illegal in Syria:

  • homosexuality - more information: LGBTI travellers
  • photographing military or government installations or other sensitive infrastructure
  • failing to carry identification documents, if you're a traveller.

If you wish to preach a religion other than Islam, seek local advice as restrictions can apply.

Australian laws

It is illegal under Australian law for Australian citizens, including dual citizens, to provide any kind of support to any armed group in Syria. This includes engaging in fighting, funding, training or recruiting someone to fight, and supplying or funding weapons. Australia has imposed sanctions against Syria, including an arms embargo. More information: Sanctions in relation to Syria

Between 5 December 2014 and 28 November 2017 it was an offence under Australian law for Australians to enter or remain in the Syrian province of al-Raqqa without a legitimate purpose. On 27 November 2017 the Minister for Foreign Affairs revoked the declaration of al-Raqqa province. The revocation took effect from 29 November 2017. More information: National Security

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Syria recognises dual nationality, but Syrian citizenship takes primacy over the second nationality. If you're an Australian-Syrian dual national, you'll be treated as Syrian by Syrian government authorities.

Children of Syrian men acquire Syrian citizenship at birth.

Syria has compulsory military service. If you're a dual national resident in Australia, Syrian authorities may allow you to enter Syria and stay for up to 3 months before you become liable for military service. Contact an Embassy or Consulate of Syria to check your status and eligibility for this exemption before you travel. Payment of fines in place of military service is possible in certain circumstances.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Syria, particularly around religious sites. If you're female, wear loose-fitting clothing which covers the arms and legs and a headscarf. Take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between mid-May and mid-June 2018. During Ramadan, take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. Avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Health

Travel insurance

Before you depart, get comprehensive travel insurance  to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. You're likely to require a specialised insurance policy for travel to Syria as a 'do not travel' destination. Some travel insurance policies may not cover you for 'do not travel' destinations.

Regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Due to the ongoing conflict, medications are in short supply in Syria. Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Polio

Syria is vulnerable to the international spread of polio. If you're staying in Syria for more than 4 weeks, you need to carry documented evidence of having received a dose of polio vaccine within 12 months prior to departure from Syria. If you don't, you may be required to be vaccinated prior to departure from Syria.

More information: Polio (Department of Health)

Insect-borne diseases

Insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis) are prevalent in Syria. Malaria occurs in the northern border region, particularly Al Hasakah Province. 

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light-coloured clothing
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information: Infectious diseases

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including brucellosis, typhoid, hepatitis and tuberculosis) are prevalent. More serious outbreaks occur from time-to-time. 

  • Use good hygiene practices including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Avoid unpasteurised dairy products.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

Access to hospitals may be limited due to the ongoing conflict. The quality of healthcare in Syria has deteriorated significantly.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation is very expensive and may be difficult to arrange due to the security situation.

Natural disasters

Syria is subject to earthquakes. Dust and sand storms also occur.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

More information:

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 113
  • Medical emergencies: phone 110 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: phone 112 or visit the nearest police station

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Australian Government

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Syria. The ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australians in Syria is extremely limited. Under a consular assistance arrangement, the Romanian Embassy in Damascus may be able to provide limited emergency consular services to Australians in Syria, in conjunction with the Australian Embassy in Beirut.

Romanian Embassy, Damascus

8, Rue Ibrahim Hanano,
PO Box 4454, Damascus, SYRIA
Phone:  +963 11 332 75 72
Facsimile: +963 11 332 75 71
Email: consulara@gmail.com or damasc@mae.ro

Australian Embassy, Beirut

Embassy Complex
Serail Hill
Downtown Beirut
Lebanon
Phone: (961 1) 960 600
Fax: (961 1) 960 601
Website: lebanon.embassy.gov.au

In a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources