Syria Killer: Border Crossing Visas Not Granted to Americans

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Part of the fun of long-term travel is planning– planning which train to catch, city to visit, hostel to book, sight to see…. Unfortunately, sometimes plans don’t pan out.To get from Istanbul to Cairo, we had always planned to travel overland across Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. This route was popular among hippies, and we were looking forward to seeing Palmyra and Damascus especially. The problem was always getting into Syria. Despite frosty diplomatic relations, Americans could usually obtain visas at the Antakya-Aleppo border crossing. You may have to wait for five hours, but you would eventually get in.

This is no longer the case.  According to several sources, Syria just cracked down on this practice.  Americans can no longer obtain a visa on arrival. Of course, this was always the official policy but now it’s actually being enforced.  We might be able to get Syrian visas in Ankara, but I think it’s unlikely.  Plus, Ankara is out of our way. We will need a new plan.

Plan A:

1. Travel overland from Istanbul to Izmir
2. Fly from Izmir to Cyprus
3. Fly from Cyprus to Tel Aviv
4. Travel overland to Jerusalem
5. Attempt to cross into Jordan (tricky)
6. Travel south to Petra
7. Cross into Egypt at Aqaba
8. Travel across the Sinai Peninsula to Cairo

Pros: Interesting; unique; very memorable; get to see Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, and more of Egypt
Cons: Moderate risk of failure, potentially dangerous, Israeli passport stamp, border issues, cost, time (three weeks minimum)

I really like this itinerary. It would be great to see Jerusalem (not to mention the lox and bagels). I think time and cost are major obstacles though.

Plan B:

1. Fly from Istanbul to Cairo
2. Fly from Cairo to Amman

Pros: Cheap, safe, low risk of failure, fast
Kinda’ lame, no Jerusalem, more flying

I hate to say it, but I think we will probably go with the slightly lame Plan B. Otherwise, we would not reach Kathmandu until Thanksgiving.  That would cut into our Asian itinerary too much. Maybe we’ll have time for Myanmar now…

Have you traveled from Istanbul to Cairo overland? Any tips?

Posted from: Cracow, Poland

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