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Damascus to Beirut and back --- Travel? Visas??

LoliaK

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  • Added on: September 24th, 2008
Hey guys,

My friends and I are visiting Syria for two weeks and we are thinking of doing a 2-3 day trip to Beirut.

Can anyone give us advice on (1) how to get from Damascus to Beirut -- taxi or bus, which is better? any other suggestions? and (2) the visa situation -- We were planning to get multi-entry Syrian visa before our trip, but do we need to get Lebanese visas too? There are three of us - one American, Australian, and Finnish.

Finally, we are going to Syria as a group of three girls. Do you guys foresee any issues we may have as there are no guys joining us?

Thank you fro your insight!!
Kristin
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” - Maya Angelou

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

2wanderers

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  • Added on: October 2nd, 2008
I have been wanting to touch on your question, but unfortunately, not having been to Lebanon, I have been hoping that someone more knowledgeable might pipe in.
quote:
Can anyone give us advice on (1) how to get from Damascus to Beirut -- taxi or bus, which is better? any other suggestions?
I don't really know what the best transportation option is. Syria has a robust luxury bus network, and it's easy to catch buses going to everywhere from Damascus, so I would probably favour that option. Syria is so cheap that even a luxury bus halfway accross the country should run less than $3 per person.
quote:
(2) the visa situation -- We were planning to get multi-entry Syrian visa before our trip, but do we need to get Lebanese visas too? There are three of us - one American, Australian, and Finnish.
The Lebanese government says that for the nationalities you mention, a one month visa can be obtained at the border at no cost.
quote:
Finally, we are going to Syria as a group of three girls. Do you guys foresee any issues we may have as there are no guys joining us?
I don't see this being a problem. It is a very gender segregated part of the world, so you will have a different experience travelling as a group of girls than my girlfriend and I had travelling together. But I don't foresee safety issues. People are incredibly friendly, and there's very much a culture of putting everyone's best foot forward to foreign tourists.

Cryinmercy

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  • Added on: October 9th, 2008
I went that route a couple of years ago. Get a multiple entry visa for Syria in advance and the Lebanon visa at the border. From Damascus it's very easy to catch a shared taxi. You just go to the taxi station that goes to beirut (ask at the hotel where it is) and find a driver and bargain. I was with 3 others and we each paid $8 U.S.D. for the ride. I'm sure it's a little cheaper on the bus, but you won't feel rushed at the border where you'll get your visa (remember to use the non-arab line) and have all your paperwork in order (bring a couple copies of your passport, a couple of pics, etc.) I think you have to go through a couple of lines, but just look stupid and someone will help (btw, it's hard not to look stupid at those borders). Once you're in beirut I'd head to Gemmayzeh (sp?) where there's some bars and relatively safe away from the Hezbollah neighborhoods and close to the taxi/bus stand under the highway. Lebanon is wonderful and crazy and safe. The men and women are extremely friendly and you'll make lots of friends. Have fun!

jv

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  • Added on: October 13th, 2008
I did that route in the other direction (Lebanon to Damascus), and shared taxi was the best option -- quick while still cheap. However, I was coming from near Baalbek, not straight from Beirut.

As for the hassle factor: you will undoubtedly be hassled a bit. It even happened to my wife, and she was traveling with me (and was pregnant, in fact!).

It probably helps that there's three of you, but generally Western women can see a good amount of "unwanted attention" in Syria. (Slightly less so in Lebanon) Keep in mind that it's usually nothing serious in terms of fearing for your safety -- the people are actually great. But you may tire of it.

It of course helps to take the usual precautions: Don't show a lot of skin, don't wear tight clothes, etc. Also, some cities are worse than others. Damascus wasn't too bad; Aleppo and Hama were worse.

tsftd

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  • Added on: October 13th, 2008
sorry if this is too stupid to even post but, if you have an israeli stamp in your passport, syria and lebanon won't let you in. just a heads up.

Aussie JP

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  • Added on: October 15th, 2008
i did the amman to beruit via damascus about 6 weeks ago. i did a shared cab and it was pretty easy to get one. i paid 20JOD but think i got ripped off. i didnt really care and half expected it anyway. i got my visas very easily at the border - dont know if you realise you also have to pay to leave syria? id check with your embassy about visas and altho the aussie embassy told me it was free, i paid for mine - who am i to argue the customs guy?

gemayzeh (sp?) is a great spot and there are some great beaches around too. if you can get to jbeil and balbeck then i would and dont worry too much about the hezbollah around the area - i didnt have any dramas there at all in the week i was in lebanon.

not sure about problems travelling as women cos all the girls in lebanon are dressed to kill. the beaches were just like home - cept you could drink legally. i loved it!!

enjoy your trip - i loved lebanon and recomend it to everyone
Get me a ticket and im there!

xoom

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  • Added on: October 20th, 2008
this info is one week old:

i was in a group with polish, UK, australian, and canadian. we went to several travel agencies in damascus and we all got the same answer.

for polish, UK, and australian citizens, they cannot go into lebanon and back into syria. americans can exit syria and enter lebanon fine, but there is a CHANCE we can't enter back into syria. i would have had to make my way to jordan via public train (which i wouldn't have been comfortable with). the only way i could have gotten back into syria is if i have a tourism agent (which is different from a travel agent) write a letter of invitation to get me back into the country. but since you guys are getting a multi-entry syrian visa (i went in on a group visa), it may be easier. also, what i know is just for getting visas on arrival.. i don't know if you'd have more luck arranging everything before you leave on your trip.

in case you can make it:

my canadian friends hired a private driver that took them from damascus to beirut and belback. the cost was $225USD, and it was a full day tour (8am to 9pm).

don't woryr about covering your hair. there is a big christian population in lebanon. but try to cover up down to your elbows and knees.

definitely visit belback! judging from my friends' pics, they put palmyra and jerash to shame.
Freedom lies in being bold.

blog: http://sybaritestory.wordpress.com/

LoliaK

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Joined: November 3rd, 2007

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2008
Thanks for the advice!

We just got back from our trip and it was amazing!! I highly recommend both Syria and Lebanon for an authentic taste of middle eastern culture (Syria) and a lesson in middle eastern current affairs (Beirut). Also, make sure you take time to meet the local people. They are incredibly friendly and very safe. If someone invites you to your home for a meal in Syria, accept! It will be a meal you will always remember.

For those considering this trip in the future, I thought I may give a few tips from my trip:
- you will need a multi-entry visa for Syria prior to your arrival, but can easily get a visa for Lebanon at the border.
- Keep in mind that the exit tax for Syria has recently increased a lot. It now costs 500SP ($10) to leave by land and 1500SP ($30) to leave by air, which means you will have to keep some money on the side. I suggest you ask your hotel prior to heading off to their airport or taxi stand to be sure it doesn't change again.
- We took a bus from Damascus to Beirut, which was nice because the price was fixed (400SP / $8), so we knew we wouldn't get ripped off. There tends to be less ripping off in Syria than Lebanon.
- From Lebanon back to Beirut, we struggled to get a fair price, but ultimately paid 600SP ($12) each to ride in a taxi.
- At the border from Damascus to Beirut, there are about four different places where you will have to get out of your car / bus. First, you will have to pay the exit tax, then get your exit stamp, then get your entry visa for Lebanon, then get your entry visa checked. As a warning, when we paid our exit tax the "official pay place" was actually a cigarette vendor -- not what we expected.
- When you enter Syria (by land or plane) they should give you a green or yellow entry card. You will have to keep that during your stay. If you don't have it at exit, they could fine you 200SP ($4), although in our case they just let us go.
- When getting your Lebanese visa, you will have to pay the fee (~$20) in Lebanese lira, which means you will likely have to change your money at the border. There are several men walking around offering to change your money, or there is one currency exchange. They all give roughly the same price, so take whichever one you find first.
- Finally, as a bit of advice for the whole trip, always save some extra USD money for emergencies. For example, if you forget to save the money required for the exit tax, no matter where you are you will always be able to find somebody to change USD. Its better than having extra SP or LL when you go home.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” - Maya Angelou

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” - Ralph Waldo Emerson



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