The vast majority of travellers have trouble-free visits to Syria. Despite labels such as “axis of evil”, Syria is not overrun with terrorists and its people are exceptionally hospitable towards visitors of all nationalities. Whatever the tensions between the Syrian government and the west, the average person is very capable of distinguishing between politics and individuals.
Personal crime rates are low although you should be aware of pickpockets and leave your passports in a safe place.
Begging and asking for baksheesh is almost non-existant and can usually be dismissed by a firm refusal.
You should dress reasonably conservatively. A headscarf is not needed for women although both male and female cyclists will want to stay away from overly revealing clothing like tank tops and once off the bike you should change out of your lycra shorts into something longer. Even while cycling, you may want to consider loose three-quarter length capri-style trousers and shirts with sleeves. They’ll help protect from the sun and be better received by Syrians.
Exercise normal caution when wild camping, taking care to find a hidden spot for tenting or asking permission to camp next to someone’s home or an official police or military post.
Syrians are very friendly and will often stop to offer you a lift in their vehicle. Normally this is no problem and offers are genuine with no payment needed . Women in particular should, however, exercise caution. Use your instincts to determine someone’s true character. Choosing to take a lift with a family is a better idea than with a single male. Some women have experienced sexual innuendo and mild harrassment from truck drivers who stop on the premise of offering a lift to the nearest town or city.
If you do find yourself being bothered in any way, your best bet is to attract attention from passing cars, who will almost certainly be happy to help. Motorists are also likely to carry mobile phones.
If travelling in less well-trodden tourist areas, it is possible that you may be given a police escort. This is rare and usually only lasts for a few kilometers as you pass through towns. You will have to be very firm to dispose of any minders who have decided to cling-on for long distances. They are unlikely to stop you from going anywhere but can drive you crazy as they hover a few meters behind your bicycle. Why the police sometimes decide to follow cyclists is unclear although passing close to sensitive military posts could be one trigger.
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