Broadband internet is finally catching on in Syria. Here’s how you can get on board.
Free is best. There are a huge number of wifi cafes in Damascus, despite what some people would have you believe. In most cases, just go in and ask for the password. They will be fine with you sitting there for hours with just a coffee. There are restrictions on YouTube and Facebook though.
The second option is to go to an internet shop. Typically you will pay 60SP per hour ($1.20). They are plentiful and fast – and they can help you with any access issues. The fastest shop in Damascus is called Delicious in Shaalan/Sibki just before Benetton. It is open 24 hours a day, but the prices are slightly higher (100SP per hour).
If you want always-on broadband access, you’ll need to get a 3G SIM card. You will soon be able to get one of these from the main Syriatel outlets (Merjeh/Fardos etc) for 1500SP – they’re not available yet because they’re still in the trial period (although the other network – MTN might be selling them). If you don’t have a USB dongle, you can buy one of these for 6000SP (although be warned – these are always in very short supply). Subscription costs 2000SP per month with a 1GB download limit (additional gigabytes cost an extra 2000SP) and there is no minimum-term contract. If you know you’re going to go above the initial 1GB then it’s better to sign up to the 5GB package for 6000SP. The speed can in theory be as high as 7Gbps. It’s likely to be a lot slower.