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Practical A to Z

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Practical A to Z


Eating out

Syrian restaurants serve practically only Oriental cuisine (mezze, local dishes, etc.) and very rarely international dishes (except in Aleppo and Damascus).

A meal in a working-class restaurant shouldn’t cost more than €5. A seafood dish at Tartus or Latakia will be higher.

Picturesque restaurants, opened in Damascus or Aleppo in former bourgeois homes, offer a sophisticated setting, delicious cuisine and upmarket service. The bill will however rarely exceed €10 per person without alcohol.

Tips

An institution in Syria and the staff in hotels, restaurants and other establishments expects a tip (bakchich).


Electricity

The voltage in Syria is 220V (50Hz) and sockets are compatible with most standard European two-pronged plugs.


Embassy

British Embassy – Mohd Kurd Ali Street - Kotob Building - Malki - Damascus - t 11 339 1513 - http://ukinsyria.fco.gov.uk/en/

Honorary Consul of Ireland – P.O. Box 46 - Damascus - t 11 334 2144


Getting around

Finding your way round town can be confusing to newcomers. Syrians seem to know the name of districts rather than street names.

By car

Steer clear of local rental agencies, which only have contracts in Arab because they provide no idea of the guarantees.

A car rental with chauffeur, although more expensive, is a good idea for day excursions. An air-conditioned car costs between $60-70 for a day. You can also rent a taxi by the day, which will cost significantly less.

Driving by night is not recommended.

By taxi

In town, taxis, rather than public transport, are your best option and extremely competitively priced (between €0.50 and 1 on average).

By train

Syria’s rail network is very well developed if slow and serves all the major towns.

A twice-weekly train (5 to 6 hours and one change) leaves Damascus for Amman.

By coach

Very comfortable Pullman coaches link the main Syrian towns. This is the cheapest form of transport. The Damascus-Aleppo journey takes 5hr and costs £S150.

Despite the competition, there is not much difference in price.

To get to isolated sites, take the white mini buses, generally known as “micro”.


Health

Water

The tap water is supposed to be drinkable. It is however preferable to only drink bottled mineral water.

Emergencies

- Police: t 112

- Fire brigade: t 113

- Emergencies: t 110

- Road accidents and breakdowns: t 115


Internet

Nearly all the towns now have a sprinkling of internet cafés at modest rates.


Money

Currency

The Syrian Pound (S£) is subdivided into 100 piastres (“guirche”).

Exchange

Only the Syrian Bank of Commerce is authorised to change money. Exchange offices can be found in the main towns.

Traveller’s cheques

Accepted by some banks and a fair proportion of souvenir shops, the commission rate is however somewhat dissuasive.

Credit cards

Automatic Telling Machines are slowly becoming more widespread, but remain very few and far between outside the main towns.

More and more hotels, travel agencies, souvenir shops and restaurants, however, accept credit card payments. The price is always charged in dollars.

Budget

The cost of living in Syria is very cheap, particularly for food and transport. Accommodation is also relatively low-priced.


Opening times

Friday is a day of rest in Syria and the banks, public offices and most businesses are closed. The shops in the Christian neighbourhoods are closed on Sundays instead of Fridays. Any business or shopping you may have is best carried out in the morning.

During Ramadan, office-opening hours are generally shorter.

Most monuments and museums are closed on Tuesday or Friday (except for the major sites such as Palmyra or the Krak des Chevaliers, which are open 365 days a year). Most monuments are open until 4pm (winter) or 6pm (summer).


Post

Open 8am-2pm (except Friday). Until 7pm in the large towns.


Telephone

To call Syria from abroad

From Europe, dial 00 + 963 + area code (without the 0) + the number of the person.

To call home from Syria

It can be expensive to make calls from your hotel. As there aren’t any public phone booths anymore, go to the main telephone exchange or post offices. Telephone cards are on sale from post offices.

Dial 00 + country code (UK 44, Ireland 353) + the number of the person.

To make calls inside Syria

Each zone has its own area code.

To make a call in the same zone, dial the number direct without the code.

Otherwise, dial the area code + the number of the person.

Syrian mobile phone numbers start with 09.

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