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Damascus Airport Mini Guide
Who Visits Damascus?
Plenty of people visit the city each year, evidenced by the increasing number of passengers that use the international airport outside the city. Often it’s Arab travellers visiting families or making a pilgrimage to the Umayyad Mosque which houses the body of John the Baptist, the prophet they call Yahya or people coming here on business. Syria is trying to promote the tourist element of the world’s oldest continually inhabited city and so tourists are forming an increasing proportion of the visitors. There are a lot of fascinating historic and cultural experiences within the city for the adventurous traveller so why not join them?
How do I get to the City?
You need to fly into Damascus International Airport. There are flights there from all over the Middle East, North Africa and Europe including a bmi flight from Heathrow
. Once at the airport you should be aware that the only means of transport to the city is by taxi and the monopoly means that rates are exorbitant. Instead pre-book a hire car; this is essential, as if booked at the airport you’ll also be expected to pay over the odds. From the airport it’s around twenty minutes to the centre.
What’s the Airport Like?
It was appalling having had no work done on it since it was built in the seventies but a slow programme of upgrade works is making inroads into the poor conditions. You will need to have your wits about you and be assertive at many of the points of contact with people in the airport as customer service is not high on their list of priorities.
What do I do Then When I Arrive?
The information desk is usually crowded or choked with staff simply chatting to each other. Passengers are seen as somewhat of an inconvenience if you need to ask anything. Rely, if you can, on your fellow passengers for help. If you haven’t pre-booked a hire car and intend taking a taxi into the city buy a prepaid voucher from the desk next to the car hire desks. Give this to the taxi driver but beware, they will try many ruses to ask for extra such as saying it’s only for one person or doesn’t include luggage. It does and the voucher is for the taxi not the passengers.
Pre-booked car hire is generally problem-free but again beware of extras. The airport exchange desks only accept dollars so don’t bring sterling or euros. The ATMs at the airport are also unreliable and so you may have to wait until you get to the city centre. Help for passengers with reduced mobility is almost non-existent and you’ll need to rely on the goodwill of other travellers to help.
What About When I am Going Home?
The washroom facilities at the airport are very basic so you might be best to wait until you board if you can. The information boards are also in English but not all of the passenger announcements are. The duty free shops have a limited range of goods which are quite cheap. Good buys are the Lebanese wine and tobacco products. Three restaurants cater for the traveller but with basic hot and cold fare plus typical hot and cold Middle Eastern snacks. There are no Wi-Fi facilities in the airport as yet but a first class lounge is available for those that want more peace.