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Latest travel advice for Syria including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2017-03-22T14:57:20.391+00:00: Latest update: editorial amendments throughout

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Syria. British nationals in Syria should leave now by any practical means. The FCO is not able to provide consular services, and won’t be able to help your evacuation from the country. The UK has suspended all services of the British Embassy in Damascus and all diplomatic personnel have been withdrawn from Syria.

The situation remains extremely volatile and dangerous. There is widespread fighting throughout Syria, including in Damascus and its suburbs. Full scale military operations involving the use of small arms, tanks, artillery and aircraft are ongoing. The Syrian government no longer exercises control of large parts of Syria, notably the north, south and east of the country. Areas of eastern Syria are under the effective control of the Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), which is fiercely hostile to the United Kingdom. In September 2015, Russia embarked on a military campaign in Syria in support of the Syrian regime. Since December 2015, the UK has been involved as part of the Global Coalition in carrying out air strikes in Syria and Iraq against Daesh.

A number of chemical weapons attacks have taken place across Syria. The UN’s Joint Investigative Mechanism has confirmed that the regime used toxic chemical weapons in Syria on 3 occasions during 2014 and 2015 and that Daesh used sulphur mustard in Marea in 2015. The most recent estimates suggest that over 470,000 people have been killed in the Syria conflict, including over 55,000 children.

Fighting has caused the temporary suspension of commercial flights, closed roads, impeded access to land border crossing points and led to the closure of some border crossings.

There is a high threat from terrorism. There are continued attacks across Syria including in major cities, leaving large numbers of people dead or injured.

There is a very high threat of kidnapping throughout Syria. There have been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals and other Westerners, including by Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL).

If you choose to travel to Syria against FCO advice, you should make sure you and any dependents have valid exit stamps on your travel documents if you need one and take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance.

As a result of the ongoing political and security instability and the implementation of sanctions against some Syrian institutions, financial transactions have become significantly more difficult. See Money

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Safety and security

Civil Unrest/Political Tension

The situation remains extremely volatile and dangerous. There is widespread fighting throughout Syria, including in Damascus and its suburbs. Full scale military operations involving the use of small arms, tanks, artillery and aircraft are ongoing. The Syrian government no longer exercises control of large parts of Syria, notably in the north, south and east of the country, as well as parts of Damascus. Areas of eastern Syria are under effective control of the Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), which is fiercely hostile to the United Kingdom. into Syria. In September 2015, Russia embarked on a military campaign in Syria in support of the Syrian regime.

Since December 2015, the UK has been involved as part of the Global Coalition in carrying out air strikes in Syria and Iraq against Daesh.

There is a reduced number commercial flights due to the implementation of sanctions, the security situation and the high level of violence. This severely limits options for air travel and seat availability. Fighting in the vicinity of airports has caused the temporary suspension of flights. Road networks have been blocked without warning. Several major highways including Tartous-Latakia, Tartous-Homs, Latakia-Aleppo, Homs-Hama, Homs-Damascus and Damascus-Jordan continue to be intermittently closed. There are security force checkpoints on major road routes.

Fighting and road closures have affected access to some land border crossing points. Some border crossings are in the hands of opposition groups, vulnerable to attack, and/or closed. If you or your dependents travel to Syria against FCO advice then you should check the status of all routes. Don’t attempt to enter Iraq via the Syrian border, which is subject to restrictions on both sides.

All foreign journalists entering Syria need special permission from the Syrian authorities. Those journalists and other foreigners in opposition-held areas are vulnerable to mistreatment by the armed groups there. A number of foreign journalists have been killed. Others have been detained by the Syrian security forces or other armed groups during the crisis. The security forces have confiscated phones, cameras and video cameras.

Be particularly vigilant in public places and keep a low profile. Don’t film or take photographs of public gatherings, military activity or any other sensitive matter.

There are severe restrictions on unlicensed political and religious activity in Syria. The 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 the local authorities, you will not be able to return to Syria.

Crime

The escalating conflict has led to a rise in crime in most areas, including violent robbery, carjacking and kidnapping.

Road travel

Road travel remains very dangerous in many parts of the country due to fighting. Driving standards and traffic systems are poor, and the accident rate is high. When there is a car accident with a pedestrian, the car driver is always legally responsible. You should avoid driving at night.

Humanitarian crisis

Humanitarian needs in Syria have increased significantly since the beginning of the crisis with over 13.5 million people in dire need of humanitarian aid and 4.9 million refugees in the region. The ongoing conflict has seriously affected public infrastructure and services. This widespread destruction has led to high unemployment, scarcity/prohibitive cost of food, lack of water, sanitation, health services and fuel.

Terrorism

Terrorists are very likely to attempt 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 that operate in Syria, including Daesh and Jabhat Fatah al Sham (formerly known as Al Nusrah Front).

These groups target a wide range of places, including official installations, airports, border crossings, public transport and civilian spaces like public squares, hospitals, places of worship and learning institutions.

Methods of attack have included shootings, bombings, suicide bombs and vehicle bombs. Terrorist groups have also claimed responsibility for kidnappings in Syria.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

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

Kidnapping

There is a very high threat of kidnapping throughout Syria. Kidnappings can be for financial or political gain, and can be motivated by criminality or terrorism. 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. Westerners continue to be targeted and any western presence in Syria would be at high risk. Many terrorists in Syria view those engaged in humanitarian aid work or journalism as legitimate targets. If you’re detained by a terrorist group, there’s no guarantee that explaining the reason for your presence in Syria will serve as protection 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 increases the risk of further hostage-taking.

Local laws and customs

Syria is a multi-faith country. Alongside the majority Sunni population, there are large practicing 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.

The punishment for possession of drugs is life imprisonment. For drug trafficking, the death penalty applies.

If you choose to travel to Syria against FCO advice carry a photocopy of your passport (the information page and the page displaying your visa and entry stamp) as proof of identity at all times.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

In June 2013, the Syrian government issued a new law stating that individuals who enter Syrian territories illegally will be punished by a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and/or a fine of 5 to 10 million Syrian pounds.

Visas

If you choose to travel to Syria against FCO advice, you will need to get a visa before you travel.

Passport validity

If you choose to travel to Syria against FCO advice, your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into Syria.

Previous travel to Israel

If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport or Emergency Travel Document it is highly likely that you will be refused entry into Syria, regardless of your nationality.

Health

If you choose to travel to Syria against FCO advice visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

The quality of health care has deteriorated significantly during the conflict with many hospitals no longer operating and 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.

Money

As a result of the ongoing political and security instability, there have been a number of restrictions placed on financial transactions in Syria. Some of these restrictions are the decision of the Syrian Government, while others are the result of international businesses and banks being unwilling to invest or trade with Syria in the current environment.

The situation is unclear, but the information below may help you to manage your own finances more effectively.

Currency exchange bureaux are no longer able to exchange dollars or receive transactions on your behalf, but exchange offices and money transfer offices like Western Union (telephone: +963 11 334 5555 may be able to help depending on the circumstances.

Travellers’ cheques are not accepted at most banks in Syria. In the rare cases where they are accepted, the handling process is complicated and time-consuming.

It is illegal to change money on the street. Only change money in recognised exchange shops, banks and hotels.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send us a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

See also

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  • DFID Syria Crisis Response

    Title:DFID Syria Crisis Response
    Email:enquiry@dfid.gov.uk
    Address:

    22 Whitehall
    London
    SW1A 2EG

    Contact: Tel. : 0845 300 4100
    Fax: +44 (0) 1355 84 4099
    Visiting:
    Services:
  • British Embassy Damascus

    Title:British Embassy Damascus, main contact
    Email:
    Address:

    Any British nationals requiring urgent consular assistance can visit the Embassy of any EU Member State in Damascus, or in an emergency call the FCO in London on (+44) 20 7008 1500.
    Damascus
    Syria

    Contact:
    Visiting:
    Services:

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The latest news, travel advice, and information for Syria, updated regularly for all British travellers by the UK Foreign Office. Including British consulate and embassy addresses in Syria (Damascus).

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