Syria

Syria

Map above shows you what route we took in Syria

We were very surprised, but even we spent only a day in this country, we seriously happy we could experience what we experienced. Below some of our thoughts

  • People are amazing, very friendly and helpful. Even during hard times they will share with you and help you.
  • Diesel tax was expensive and fuel not really accessible
  • In the Northern part of the country we saw lots of women and girls, who were wearing more Western culture cloths. Their shoulders and legs were obviously covered, but they didn’t wear any scarves or hijabs
  • The main highway was in a really great condition
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SYRIA Part 1

Many of you asked us, how we managed to cross Syria as situation inside the country hasn’t  been clear. We were in Syria only one day, but it was one of the most unforgettable days, we are going to remember for long…

Visas

Our adventure with Syria started actually in Syrian Embassy in Warsaw. We knew that political situation there wasn’t ideal and getting visas wouldn’t be the easiest things to apply for, but getting through that country was for us the only option to get on the African continent. Before we applied for visas we were properly interviewed. Even Syrian Consul came to see us and asked some questions. After those meetings we sort of got permission to apply or visas.

We filled lots of applications plus we wrote letters with explanation that driving through Syria was the only way for us to get to African land by car (as at that time there was no ferry or other option of getting across from Europe/Turkey to Eastern part of Africa)

Our applications were sent to Damascus. We were waiting over a month when we finally got a phone call with good news – we were allowed to apply for visas. We paid 25 Euros and within 2 days we picked our passports with freshly pasted Syrian Visas.

Before crossing the border

Everybody knows that nowadays Syrian political situation inside the country in not really good! When we were crossing Syria, we seriously didn’t really know what was there, what to expect…But we took a risk, which turned into a very unforgettable experience.

Before we entered to the country, we had done lots of research. We spent more or less a week driving around the Turkish- Syrian border, checking out the situation and considering the best for us border crossing. We also called 3 different Embassies (Syrian in Warsaw and Polish and Hungarian in Syria) as we thought they would have good information about the situation, but what we only heard was: “do not go there – you will be killed”. It didn’t give us positive feelings. We were driving from one border crossing to another, asking questions. Firstly we went close to Kasab, but there was too quite. We went towards bigger border called Reyhanli. However, while we driving along Syrian we saw lots of smoke rising over the country. We got scared and using our lens as a binocular we were trying to figure it out whether it was smoke coming from cities or uninhabited areas. According to us smoke was rising above forests, but anyway the vision of going through Syria was not really optimistic. When we arrived to Reyhanli, Charlie was stopping and kindly asking drivers coming from Syria, how actual situation looked like and how safe that route was. Syrians were very helpful, some of them said the same what we heard from Embassies, but some of them said that situation is not that bad, however everybody didn’t recommend route via Idlib as that city was not safe and it was not secured by army. We decided to come back to our “first choice” border crossing – Kasab. In opposition to Reynhanli, Kasab was very, very quite – one car per one, two hours… no buses, no noise, no trucks, almost no people…Nevertheless, our welcome back  in Yaylagadi (name of Turkish border) was not really promising neither as first thing we saw were clouds of smoke rising over border, which were coming towards Turkey. We didn’t know what was going on – but when we drove closer, we saw that forest nearby border was on fire. Turkish firemen quickly managed to put the fire out and we could park our car just next to the Turkish border control. As we already mentioned – Turkish hospitality is amazing, therefore even on the border we met really helpful and brilliant people. Firstly, we could spend a night there – we basically were parked just next to the border (It was probably one of our safest places to stay), secondly one of the border controls was so friendly and nice that he gave a us a can of hummus and thirdly, probably most importantly for us – A nice border control supervisor did us a favor as Charlie was able to go to the Syrian border controls and ask whether we would be able to enter Syria with visas and documents we had – without stamping our Turkish visas out…. Turkish people are seriously amazing!!!!!!!!!!

 1Syria on fire

2Syria on fire

3Turkish-Syrian border

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SYRIA part II

On the border

Decision had been made – we decided to cross Syria via Kasab. The first thing we heard from the first guy we met on the Syrian border was:  “Welcome to Syria and ohhh…. how do they say..God bless you”… The welcome part was not really encouraging, rather scary…

On the border we spent over 3 hours doing all paper work. In the meantime officials were checking our car. We were advised by Syrian Embassy in Warsaw that we should have declared all of our electronic stuff, while our friends suggested that we should have hidden our camera, GPS and other things properly. What we did was something in the middle. We didn’t go to declare what we had but we also didn’t hide anything. We drove with GPS attached to the windscreen, laptop and camera were visible. One guy wanted to see some photos in the camera, so we needed to show him…photos from Antakia and little trip to Harbiye with our new Turkish friends (Cleverly, we downloaded the photos which you can see on this blog, and deleted from memory card earlier). Car inspection was quite quick and went smooth and as a bonus Charlie got some coffee and bananas for his breakfast.

Now in some points I will write about paperwork and issues connected with it:

1)      We got visas for 15 days, but time of being on Syrian territory for us got shorten to 3 days – due to not stable political situation

2)      It was the first country our carnet de passage was used

3)      We needed to pay around 150 – 160 USD (that price included: road tax, 3rd part car insurance and very expensive diesel tax). Firstly we pay around 210 USD or so, but they were confused and they were counting many times how much we were supposed pay for that tax and finally they gave us 60 USD back, which was very honest(!)

4)      Unfortunately, our Laos Visa from previous trip made us a trouble. The main official supervisor was not convinced about the background of it. He thought that visa was coming from Israel and we were trying to hide something. We were trying to explain and show him where Laos was situated, but the guy was stubborn and he started comparing Laos letters with Israeli ones.

5)      They didn’t want to speak with me (Ada) at all. I was ignored most of the time and whole paperwork took twice long as Charlie was called to do everything.

After more or less hours we could finally move on…..

On the way

When we left border post, I was going to text Charlie’s mum that we were in Syria and everything seemed to be fine. When I was just about to send it, I dropped the phone as we got stopped by first check point, and it was no army! We got seriously scared. We saw four guys – 3 of them looking quite normal like clerks or teachers and one of them with long beard and gun (I don’t know what was longer??) and not friendly face expression. They told us to get off from the car, but only Charlie left and opened our back door for them. When they saw that we didn’t transport any guns only duvet and camping stuff, and noticed stamps from our previous trip to Morocco – they converted themselves into very nice guys and one of them said: “ohhh u have been into Morocco, isn’t a lovely country. Nice to see you and welcome to Syria” We got confused, but when they told us “you can go”, we didn’t have to hear it second time.

Next stops or check points were only by army, but when they stopped us, they only waved to us, asked whether we were fine or just thanked us for being in their country.

To get to the highway from the border we needed to drive through one city called Latakia. Unfortunately, finding that motorway wasn’t an easy task due to road works and congested streets. We lost there an hour, but finally somehow we found the proper way. During our 500 km drive in Syria we didn’t hear any shot guns or bomb explosions, however we saw some smoke coming from main cities (Homs and Damascus) and as I already mentioned lots of army and tanks.

We didn’t want to refuel the full in Turkey as it was not really logical!!! Turkish diesel and petrol prices were insane! We wanted to fuel up in Syria, not only because we paid diesel tax, but also due to a price for that good – around 0, 50 USD per liter(!). Unfortunately, diesel in Syria was not that accessible as we thought and we were in trouble as in our tank wasn’t enough of fuel. Almost every petrol station was abandoned and closed. Very rarely we saw like 10km queue of cars and trucks which, was leading to a gas station, where was a small possibility that some day, soon, maybe someone delivers some fuel. On the first petrol station we stopped, people didn’t really bestow us trust, but after our explanation that we were trying to get to Africa they really wanted to help us. Those men were showing us their empty tanks. One of them decided to pour us 10 liters, which allowed us to drive to a next petrol station. On the second place, queue was even bigger, but again those people were absolutely amazing and that time they poured diesel to the full from their generator and they charged us the actual price of 0, 50 USD/liter. Moreover, manager of this petrol station asked me to follow him to his small shop and gave me two cold cans of coke. He didn’t want any money, it looked that he was pleased, because he could help us.

syria notr

When we finally arrived to the Jordan border, everyone was sort of surprised seeing a van with the UK number plate and two independent travelers. Everyone was staring and saying to us: “Welcome to Syria”… It seemed that no one could realize that we had just driven through the country, I guess even we had problem in believing in that fact🙂…Paper work  this time went very quickly and we also needed to pay some little money for exiting the country4

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