The public transport is not well-organized around the country, but you can get to most places by buses or minibuses. Be aware, they drive like crazy, speeding, over-taking other cars and so on. You don’t need American mountains, the minibuses provide all the adrenaline 😊
By the way, the minibuses are not usually used by the few tourists who visit the country. By the way, we were the only non-Lebanese during all our travels in Lebanon, with the exception of the way back from Baalbek to Beirut, where we saw one other tourist. As a result of this, it was extremely difficult to find any information about public transport. The hotel staff also was not able to help us even with the information about which bus station to use for what direction.
How to Get to Beirut City Center from the Airport?
There are various airlines flying to Beirut. The cheaper option is Ryanair, which flies from some European cities. There is also FlyDubai, which we took.
The airport is located south of Beirut and is not served by any public transport. So, your only bet is to either hire a taxi in advance or haggle with the ones outside. We opted for the first option, ordered Allotaxi and paid 20 USD. That’s a rip-off for a 15 min ride, but the options are limited. Their service was good, they met us with a sign at the airport and their cars are good.
If you try to take one of the taxis parked outside, they will try to get double or triple this price. So be aware and don’t pay more than 20 USD, which is a more or less fixed price.
There is also an option to get an Uber. They are officially banned from the airport, but they still manage to get in. But the main issue with this is that many mobile operators don’t provide roaming in Lebanon and you would have to get an expensive sim card at the airport. So, we got Uber on the way back from Beirut to the airport. It costs about 13-14 USD to the airport from Hamra.
Transport in Beirut
In Beirut itself, there are small that are cheap, however they drive like crazy – even more so than the minibuses to other parts of the country. We got on one once and he was driving with huge speed, which was scary considering the very old age of the bus. So I would honestly not advise to take these buses.
There is another quite cheap option – a shared taxi. As of 2019 the price was equivalent of about 1.5 USD per person to go anywhere in Beirut. The catch here is that you need to tell the taxi driver “Servees” before getting into the car and make sure that he (we didn’t encounter any female taxi drivers in Lebanon) agrees. Otherwise, he will want to charge full price for the car. We used this option quite often inside Beirut – to and from Bus stations, as well as between the districts.
You can also get Uber taxi, but that is certainly more expensive than Servees, unless you travel in a group.
How to Travel from Beirut to Southern Parts of Lebanon
In order to travel to Sidon (Saida) and Tyre (Sour), you should go to Cola intersection in Beirut, a place where minibuses stop. When you reach the area, you won’t miss the right minibus you need to take, as the drivers are constantly shouting “Saida, Saida”. It takes about 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on the speed to get to Sidon.
You mostly can’t go directly from Beirut to Tyre (unless late at night). You will need to get to Sidon, where you will find minibuses going to Tyre (Sour). It’s another 1 hour or so to get to Tyre from here. It’s difficult to tell the exact price at the time you would be visiting, as local currency fluctuates, but when we visited in 2019, each section was about 4 USD.
On the way back from Tyre to Beirut, there are often direct minibuses stopping at Sidon. We got pretty late and arrived to the Tyre bus stop area by about 8.30pm. We actually had to wait almost an hour for the minibus to get full and leave. But at least we didn’t have to change minibuses and got directly to Beirut.
How to Travel from Beirut to Baalbek
To travel to Baalbek, also go to Cola intersection and ask the drivers. As we found out, there are no direct minibuses (or maybe we couldn’t find them), so you should go to Chtoura first, where you will change to another mini-bus going to Baalbek. The minibuses stop very close to the archeological site. Overall this will cost around 6-7 USD (depending on the lira exchange rate at the time).
How to Travel from Beirut to North of Lebanon
Travelling to Byblos, Batroun and Tripoli is nowadays possible from downtown area. You will need to head to the Martyr’s square and hop on a bus from there. This is due to the fact that Charles Helou station has been closed for a while now (no idea if they will reopen it). There are big buses all the way to Tripoli, stopping at several spots, including at Batroun, the white beach area, Byblos, etc. The price in 2019 was about 4 USD. The price was the same notwithstanding where you were going.
You will also find smaller buses, which are slower, but have many more stops across the coast.
To get off at the small coastal towns – like Byblos or Batroun – you have to ask the driver to stop on the main highway. Similarly to go back to Beirut, you will have to wait at any spot where buses can stop. This is certainly not very comfortable but it’s doable.
Note: one thing we noticed is that the Servees taxis to Charles Helou don’t work at the same rate. They wanted far more. We didn’t understand why, so we decided to find a point near this Bus station and tell them to get us there. After that we walked a few minutes to the bus station. Similarly, from Charles Helou we would get on the main road and get the Servees from there.
How to Travel from Beirut to Jeitta Grotto and Jounieh
Travelling to Jeitta Grotto is somewhat more complicated. You can take one of the buses going north, get off at Nasr El Kalb and take an Uber or taxi from there, as no public transport goes up the Grotto. It was too much hassle, so we ordered Uber, which delivered us there from Beirut for 16 USD. From the Grotto to Jounieh teleferic Uber was 8 USD.
Rest of the Country
We decided not to go to Bsharri and to the forests, as it was impossible by public transport. Your only choice are the tours, which would be about 100 USD per person.
Beiteddin and Mousa castle also can’t be reached by public transport, so Uber would be an ok option, rather than more expensive tours.