Best time to go: April-May and September-November.
Key attractions: Damascus, Aleppo, the Roman ruins in Palmyra, Apamea, and Busra, Crak des Chevaliers, Hama, the Christian town of Maalula and the Euphrates Valley.
Visas: are essential. They cost £32.50 from the Syrian Embassy. Group visas can be arranged on arrival.
Getting there: Air Mediterranean and Syrian Arab Airlines fly direct to Damascus and Balkan carriers via their respective capitals.
Language: Arabic. English and French are second languages with Russian understood by many merchants in Aleppo.
Time difference: GMT +2 winter, GMT +3 summer.
Cost of living: beer £1; shawarma (spitted lamb) sandwich 50p; two-course restaurant meal with meat/chicken, salad and a soft drink £5-£6; 500grms sweetmeats about £1.20; three-star hotel from £12 single; museum entrance £3.
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