Syria Killer: Border Crossing Visas Not Granted to Americans


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

Kim and Clark Kays
Kim & Clark Kays quit their jobs for an uncertain trip around the world. Originally from St. Louis, they relocated to Chicago after getting married in 2005. After working for five years in middle school and the Fortune 500, they realized there was more to life than the 9-to-5, so made the crazy decision to exchange money for time rather than the other way around.

Their hobbies include fighting over writing styles and searching for gelato. They think food, beer, architecture, and photography are some of the best things about travel—especially when combined. Their travel blog, To Uncertainty and Beyond, includes long-term travel tips as well as humorous anecdotes from their journey through Europe and Asia. They invite you to experience their journey and learn from their adventures and mistakes.
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0 Responses to Syria Killer: Border Crossing Visas Not Granted to Americans

  1. Henn August 25, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

    I have done that border crossing a couple of times. I was under the impression that you can only get a visa if you do not have Syrian representation in your country. So for me having a NZ passport, I can get the visa at the border as we don’t have a embassy in NZ.

    Yes US – Syrian relations are frosty, but having spent a bit of time in Syria, I was constantly reminded of how lucky we are with our invincible go-anywhere passports.

    A good Syrian friend of mine was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to the US. Problem is that he can’t get a US student visa, even as a Fulbright scholar and even when applying months in advance.

    He like most people in that part of the world face epic barriers- time, costs, bereaucracy, to even leave their country, yet i would float in and out as i pleased. I really took for granted my passport.

    It doesn’t justify you guys not getting a visa and you are not represtantive of US policy, but perhaps can offer some solace.

    Understand the commitment to overland travel. I can draw a line, a messy roundabout one that has started and stopped from Belgrade to Brisbane – with only having taken a flight over Burma.

    Its hard and its a tough choice to fly.

    I felt like I was selling out, but hey, it just proves that you can get across mountains and seas, but policy and international relations – impossible!

    Have a primo trip!

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