In Antakya take a dolmuş to Reyhanlı – 3.5TL per person for a 45-minute ride. When you get to the dolmuş terminus in Reyhanlı tell the driver you are going to the border. In Turkish “Sinire gidiyoruz”. He will either find a taxi to take you, or take you himself, as ours did, for all of 10TL. Total so far 17TL for two, and we are at the border.
A Turkish man in civilian clothes at the entrance to the border directs you to a numbered Passport Police slot. There the Turks stamp you out of Turkey. One of our policemen then asked a Turkish businessman driving a very sleek Toyota Rav4, to take us to the Syrian border post across about 4km of no man’s land. There are also taxis available for this journey but, as we got a lift, we don’t what a taxi would cost.
The fun starts at the Syrian border post.
In theory everyone entering Syria obtains a visa in their country of origin/residence. For us foreign residents of Turkey that means going to the Syrian Consulate/Embassy in Istanbul/Ankara respectively.
In practise the vast majority of people turn up at the border without a visa and buy one there. We did. It is cheaper to buy your visa at the border and we can’t understand why Syria continues to insist you should apply in advance through their consulates/embassies. It cost £33 per person and gives you 30 days in the country. Until recently the visa was only valid for 15 days and cost less.
The Syrians are still using the old stamps that say “15 days” but do tell you that actually it is valid for 30.
The Syrian official issuing visas gives you a tiny scrap of paper on which he has written $52 (he only works in dollars). You go to the Bank in the same building and pay your $52 in whichever currency is convenient (the Bank is even happy to take Turkish Lira), get a receipt and go back to the visa man with your passport and receipt.
When we got back to the visa office it was packed with a party of 6 Japanese, a young Canadian couple and a Turkish man handcuffed to the radiator for some smuggling offence – due to lack of Arabic we never found out exactly what he had done.
The other foreigners had all arrived on the direct Antakya – Aleppo bus. After around an hour’s wait, during which time our visa man seemed to fill out endless forms, we were all sent outside to form a queue and eventually receive our passports with visas.
Whilst queueing we negotiated to join the luxury big bus, and were brought from the border to Aleppo for the Syrian equivalent of a further 16TL for two. So the entire journey from Antakya to Aleppo cost 33TL for two of us plus the cost of the visa.
Aleppo is lovely and articles with photos will be appearing soon.