After a drawn-out and vicious armed conflict that wreaked horrific devastation on Syria and its people for many years, the country is once again open for travel and considered safe enough for tourists and expats. We would, however, recommend that any travellers or expats thinking of travelling or moving to Syria research the status of their destination carefully and consult their consulate for updated info on the region.
Cities such as Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, Latakia and Tartus are now considered much safer, though we'd still advise caution and, again, thorough research before travelling to these. There are places in Syria that are still off limits, such as the city of Idlib, which is the last actual war zone. Travellers and expats should avoid these at all costs.
The conflict started in 2011, when Syria was thrown into a state of political upheaval that began with protests and demonstrations against the government. The region was for years embroiled in a complex war involving powerful international allies on both sides. As a result, safety and security have been major concerns for expats living in Syria. The expat population is therefore considerably smaller than it once was, but it seems expats and travellers are slowly starting to brave this once-beautiful country once again.
In the past, Syria was a popular destination for expats who were relocated to work in its petroleum industry or as diplomatic personnel. The country had therefore been well prepared to cater for expats with a range of international schools to educate expat children and some excellent private hospitals, and these are sure to start operating again as expats start returning.
Syria is a fascinating country full of history, natural beauty and historical architecture, and as peace and hope return to this vibrant destination, expats will hopefully soon be able to take full advantage of it without fear of terrorism and war.
Population: Around 17 million but prone to fluctuation as refugees return from neighbouring countries
Capital city (and largest city): Damascus
Neighbouring countries: Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel
Geography: Most of Syria is arid plateau, with a green strip in the northwest along the Mediterranean Sea. The Euphrates River crosses Syria in the east.
Political system: Unitary dominant-party semi-presidential republic
Major religion: Islam
Main languages: Arabic
Money: Syrian pound (SYP), subdivided into 100 qirsh
Time: UTC+2 (UTC+3 from late March to late October)
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz
Internet domain: .sy
International dialling code: +963
Emergency contacts: 110 (ambulance), 112 (police), 113 (fire)
Transport and driving: Drives on the right.