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Visas may be available at the border for those without a Syrian embassy in their country of residence.
As of July 19, 2010 all United States & UK citizens absolutely must have a valid visa prior to arriving in SYRIA.
Otherwise you will need a visa, preferably from your home country, before travelling to Syria. Americans may, depending on current tensions in the Middle East, have problems getting in even if they do have a visa.(I.E. if you have any evidence in your passport of having visited Israel.)
It is possible to apply for entry visas delivered at the airport at the immigration desk, but they must have been requested before through your local consulate, such that you can show a faxed copy of the application (this might not apply for all nationalities). Take note that such a visa will cost you at least 50 USD, to be paid upon entry. As there is no ATM before immigration in Damascus airport, you should carry the money with you.
You must have absolutely no evidence of having visited Israel in your passport before applying for a visa. This includes exit stamps from borders that lead to Israel (so even if the Israelis stamp a piece of paper rather than your passport you may be found out). A recently issued passport with no stamps is suspicious to the consulate that you are trying to hide evidence of a visit to Israel.
Crossing the land border from Turkey
Firstly you go to the passport desk, fill in an entry card, get your passport stamped in. No fees required. Then, if you are crossing with a vehicle, you will need to pay $100 for 1 week's 'diesel tax' if your vehicle is diesel (this is because diesel in Syria is so cheap it's virtually free), also $45 for compulsory third party insurance. If you have a Carnet this will need to be stamped too (no fee).
If you are crossing with a vehicle from Turkey at the Bab-Al-Hawa crossing, beware of a short, bald, fat insurance agent possibly wearing a leather jacket, who will try and extract lots of additional money out of you in the process of 'helping' you with the paperwork. He has successfully scammed a number of Westerners with cars and motorbikes crossing at this border crossing. The only official fees are those above. Insist on a receipt for all fees. A stamp on your Carnet is not a receipt, there should be a separate receipt for each payment. The receipts will be in Arabic, if you can learn your Arabic numerals this will help you.
Getting out of Syria
If you are leaving Syria via Damascus Airport, you will have to pay an 'exit' airport tax right before passport control. As there is no ATM available at this point, you must make sure you have the Syrian money with you otherwise they won't allow access to the plane. The tax in early 2009 was 1,500 SYP per traveler older than 12 years old.