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I bought my tickets!! Input for Syria, Lebanon, Jordan?

I bought my tickets!! Input for Syria, Lebanon, Jordan?

Jul 1st, 2009, 02:34 PM
  #1  
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I bought my tickets!! Input for Syria, Lebanon, Jordan?

Feels like I've been planning my fall trip forever, although I only got back from France at the end of April! Still, it's changed some - the original idea was Eastern Turkey - Georgia - Armenia - Azerbaijan - Iran. Between Ramadan, a new requirement for an expensive LOI for Azerbaijan, and the situation in Iran (it's not clear I could get a visa right now for either a UK or US passport), the trip is now Georgia - Armenia - Syria - Lebanon - Jordan. With a couple of nights in Istanbul, and a few in New York.

I just stopped procrastinating and bought the long haul tickets - JFK-IST-BUS leaving 9/13 and IST-JFK on 11/12! I still have to buy the short haul ones - I'm going to fly Yerevan-Aleppo instead of spending a couple of weeks going overland through Turkey. So now I have to get serious about the itineraries (roughly four weeks for the Caucasus and four weeks for the Middle East).

Any feedback on this outline:
Aleppo - Hama - Damascus - Beirut - Byblos and Baalbek (or can I get to Baalbek from Hama?) - Damascus
Irbid - Madaba - Dead Sea - Petra - Wadi Rum - Aqaba - Amman

(I posted the Caucasus section on the Asia board.)
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 1st, 2009, 03:30 PM
  #2  
 
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This sounds like such a fantastic trip - some of my favorite cities - Istanbul, Damascus, Beirut! I'm envious....
I'm sure Michael might have some thoughts since he was just there but let me think about it a few days - I've been to all of those places except Aqaba, Irbid and Baalbek. Are you traveling independently?
maxwell is offline  
Jul 1st, 2009, 03:44 PM
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I'm not exactly sure what you are asking, but I did your first leg this May, all easily and by public transport. The Syrian bus system is efficient, punctual, comfortable and inexpensive, and will take you simply between Aleppo, Hama and Damascus and then to Beirut. To me, Byblos was unimpressive, although its nicely situated around a picturesque, very tiny harbor. You can get to Baalbek easily from Beirut by minibus from the Cola station (it may require a change of minibus, but the driver will make sure you are handed off to the correct minibus). The only people that I met that had traveled overland from Hama to Baalbek, through the Bekaa Valley, did so with a hired, shared taxi.

Three of my favorite Syrian sites, which you did not list, were Palmrya, Apamea and the Dead Cities -- but you would have to have an interest in ruins to dedicate the time for research and exploration, although a cursory visit could prove enjoyable.

I'd be happy to answer any specific questions.
thit_cho is offline  
Jul 1st, 2009, 03:46 PM
  #4  
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"Are you traveling independently?" - that's the current plan. I'm an older female, and I've done a fair amount of independent travel, in places where I don't speak the language, so I'm hoping this won't be too challenging.

I am thinking I may need some kind of pre-arranged driver, if not guide, for Wadi Rum. What do you think? I figure I need at least one overnight there, if not two. I'm also thinking at least three nights for Petra.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 1st, 2009, 03:54 PM
  #5  
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"I'm not exactly sure what you are asking" - at this point I'm just asking whether this sequence makes sense, and whether I've left out places that others really enjoyed. I'll probably be back soon asking about places to stay. I'd also be interested in suggtions for how long to spend in different places - I'll be spending at least two, and possibly three, but maybe some places deserve more?

Palmyra is a bit of problem for me - the photos (including yours, thanks!) are enticing, but I can get "ruined-out" (I've seen a lot of Greek and Roman ruins over the last few years) and it does seem to be a bit of a detour.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 1st, 2009, 05:26 PM
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Cool trip!
Femi is offline  
Jul 18th, 2009, 05:47 AM
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This probably won't be too helpful but make sure to see Jerash while you're in Amman. Fabulous. And just my opinion but maybe 3 nights is too long in Petra?
Leslie_S is offline  
Jul 18th, 2009, 06:06 AM
  #8  
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From what I've been reading it seemed like I needed two days at Petra - you don't agree?
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 19th, 2009, 08:42 AM
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I know there's more than just the Petra site there -- Little Petra is nearby, which we didn't do.
But as for Petra itself, to me one full day would be enough. I know there are different opinions posted here - but we spent 6 hours and although I could've stayed a bit longer and done some more exploring, I didn't feel the need to go back a second day.

We drove down from Amman in the afternoon, spent one night at the Petra Marriott (great views), spent the next morning/afternoon in Petra and drove back to Amman late afternoon evening. So if we had spent a second night I still don't think we'd have needed 3. But if you have unlimited time and no need to rush around there are, I'm sure, tons of other things we missed out on in that area. We only had 4 days in Jordan.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jul 20th, 2009, 05:19 AM
  #10  
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Thanks Leslie. I'll have 10 days, maybe longer, in Jordan, so I'll be traveling more slowly. I'm also likely to move slowly while I'm at Petra - between getting older and taking too many photos.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 20th, 2009, 07:59 AM
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There are certainly lots of photos to take. We didn't climb beyond the Monastery where the High Sacrificial spot (something like that) is - wish we had.

I plan to go back in a year or 2 and take my husband. My mom did slow things down a bit - had to highjack a donkey near the end of the day to get her back to the Siq. We were there in late May so it was hot. If you're there near the end of your trip in Nov it might be a more pleasant temp.

The picture in my profile was taken in Petra.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jul 26th, 2009, 03:50 PM
  #12  
 
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Hi, Thursdaysd,

Palmyra is definitely a must-see destination in Syria -- I don't think you will get "ruined out", as it is so much more striking than other sites one might visit in Turkey, Greece, etc. The surrounding scenery is also amazing (desert and hills). I took a regular bus from Homs to Palmyra in a one-day trip and it was not extremely tiring (and that was in June).

I went to Serjilla (one of the dead cities) and although I did like it, it was more complicated to get there than to Palmyra. Considering that you will be leaving from a major city such as Aleppo, Hama or Damascus, you will have to switch minibuses a couple of times to get there.

It is important to know that it is VERY rare to find people who speak English in Syria and that destinations and timetables printed out in minibuses and buses stations are almost always in Arabic only (I visited Syria in 2007 -- I don't believe things have changed since then). It is very useful to learn the Arabic letters and numbers and know a few words. The good thing is that this linguistic complexity is more than made up by the Syrians, who are *extremely* nice!

In Syria, I also visited Krak des Chevalier, which is a beautiful place if you like castles, but less so than Palmyra.

Aleppo is wonderful and its souk is one of the most authentic I have ever seen (as the whole country is). I went to Syria right after visiting Turkey and it is amazing how less touristy Syria is.

Hama is a very charming place. I used it as a base to visit Palmyra and Serjilla, as Homs (an important transportation hub to those places) is just 30 minutes away.

On a final note about Syria, being a woman I believe you should be cautious if you are travelling by yourself. People are really extremely nice but the country is very conservative (much more than Jordan, where you won't find any difficulties I believe). When I was there (June 2007), an American girl had been kidnapped and there were several pictures of her all around. I didn't see many tourists and even fewer Western women.

Regarding Jordan, I would stay at least two nights in Petra. There are lots of people that spend 5 days or a week there (I stayed for 3), so two nights is really the minimum in my opinion. There are nights in which people can walk to the Treasury (that classical picture of Petra) at night, with thousands of candles all around, and that's so beautiful.

I didn't spend a lot of time in Jordan so I just visited Petra, Amman and the Dead Sea. Amman doesn't have much but you will probably end up going there because of the minibuses/buses/taxis network. The Dead Sea was worth the visit in a half-day trip.

Baalbek was also nice as a half-day trip. I spent the whole day there but mainly because of transportation constraints. I took the same minibus from Cola station as someone pointed out. It got me there, but the minibus stops frequently and took a lot of time before leaving the station.

Have a nice trip! You will enjoy it!
alex_ is offline  
Jul 26th, 2009, 04:00 PM
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I have always wanted to go to these places, but am hesitant to because it will be difficult to travel around independently.

thit-cho, where did you research the information for you trip?

thursdaysd, just a though, have you considered going to Isreal, you can't do this until you have been to Syria and Lebanon, you can make a side trip from Jordan to Isreal if you have the time.
retiredinflorida is offline  
Jul 27th, 2009, 06:11 AM
  #14  
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alex - thanks so much for the info.

I hadn't realized I could do Palmyra as a day trip, I'll definitely bear that in mind.

"destinations and timetables printed out in minibuses and buses stations are almost always in Arabic only" - thanks for the heads-up. I managed in OK western China, but Arabic actually looks worse than Chinese characters! Lonely Planet does have place names in Arabic as well as English, so I can always just show the book to someone. I'm more concerned about menus, maybe I'll be eating a lot of kebabs!

"being a woman I believe you should be cautious" - I'm in my 60's (though I'm told I look younger) and dress conservatively, do you still think I'm likely to have trouble? I do wear a money belt and don't travel with more than I can carry.

I was thinking of over-nighting at the Dead Sea and treating myself to a splurge hotel and some spa treatment - I suspect I may need it my then!

Interested that you enjoyed the night visit at Petra, I read a post from someone who hated it! Did you also do the chariot "experience" at Jerash?

retiredinflorida - there are some tours that go to both Syria and Jordan, but it looks to me like public transport, plus private and shared taxis, will be adequate for getting around. I've decided not to go to Israel on this trip.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 27th, 2009, 08:13 AM
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retiredinflorida, I primarily relied on the Lonely Planet guides to Syria/Lebanon and their new guide to Jordan, which was released shortly before my trip. Its a very easy trip and can be done safely, independently and inexpensively by public transport. I posted photos, but did not do a detailed trip report, that, if you are inclined, you can find if you click on my name and look at trip reports.
thit_cho is offline  
Jul 27th, 2009, 07:33 PM
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Ok just double checking here. I am doing Jordan and Syria next may and now I am thinking of doing Israel on my way home. This is the proper order right? Jordan, Syria and THEN Israel???!!!!

Also once I have the Israel stamp in my passport will I have any future problems traveling to other countries on other trips and if so which ones????

My passport is not up till 2013.

Thanks all for your help!
LEANNA is offline  
Jul 27th, 2009, 08:47 PM
  #17  
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LEANNA - You need to check the regulations for any Arab or Muslim country you're interested in visiting, but I'm pretty sure the list includes Iran, Lebanon and Pakistan, and Syria but not Jordan - so the order should be Syria, Jordan, Israel.

You need to get the Israeli stamp(s) on a separate piece of paper, not in your passport, but you also need to make sure that your passport doesn't have other stamps that show that you may have visited Israel (e.g. exit from Jordan, entry to Jordan, nothing in between). If it's your last stop before going home, and you fly into Israel, you should be OK, or, according to Lonely Planet Jordan, you can ask the Jordanian officials at the King Hussein Bridge crossing (not others) not to stamp your passport (but then you'd need to go back to Jordan to go home so you'd have a Jordanian exit stamp). Getting into Israel at the King Hussein Bridge seems to be a big hassle, though, requiring at least three hours. (LP Middle East is good on how to travel between countries.)
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 28th, 2009, 03:53 AM
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thursdaysd -

I just wanted to allay any concerns that were raised about you being a female traveling alone in a comment above. It is true that a woman was kidnapped there in 2007, however that's the only incident I've heard of in the recent past. For what it's worth, I found Syria to - hands down - be the easiest place I have ever backpacked alone in terms of the hassle factor...as there was none.

The bus stations can indeed be confusing, but as Alex points out, people are so friendly they will help - without asking (it's not hard for people to notice the western woman standing alone with a confused look on her face!)

When do you leave? I had some suggestions - especially for Syria - but just need time to organize my thoughts.
Linda
maxwell is offline  
Jul 28th, 2009, 05:15 AM
  #19  
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maxwell - thanks for the reassurance. I've done a lot of solo travel, and so far the only times I've had anything approaching trouble have been on overnight trains in Siberia and Ukraine, so I'm really not worrying. (Hmmm, I'm thinking of taking an overnight train in Georgia this time, wonder if I'm seeing a pattern there!)

I leave home mid-September, I expect to reach Syria mid-October - still need to get my visa and buy the Yerevan-Aleppo flight.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 28th, 2009, 06:16 AM
  #20  
 
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Thursdaysd,
- Night visit to Petra: yes, I enjoyed the night visit to Petra. But I can relate to people that get disappointed if they expect a bigger portion of the site being open at night. Really, it is just the Treasury and the path to it (which, again, I found worth the separate night ticket you have to buy). I didn't go to Jerash.
- Regarding travelling solo as a woman, I would trust maxwell's comment, as everyone is so nice in Syria and I didn't feel threatened at any time.
- As for the alphabet, in my opinion Arabic is more difficult than Chinese if we are talking about memorizing cities' names, as so many sounds between the letters are missing (and you have to know them by heart or just figure it out). I also relied on the Arabic names in Lonely Planet a lot. But you can learn the numbers very quickly!
alex_ is offline  

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