Currently, Lebanon is off the travelers’ radar. Most people consider it dangerous and/or not worth visiting. Travel advisories of many countries recommend avoiding all but essential travel to the country, indicating that some parts, like Tripoli and Baalbeck, as the areas, where you should not travel at all. But, then again, some countries, where so many tourists disappear, are considered safe to travel. So take these advisories with a grain of salt and decide for yourself. After reading the advisories and news, we decided that the country was worth it and we were not disappointed. Certainly, yes, there are some dangers involved, as with most travel, but this is as safe as it gets in gets modern age.
The country is beautiful with wonderful seaside, Phoenician castles, Roman ruins, Ottoman remains, etc. but to see all this and stay within the budget, you need to plan everything thoroughly.
There were many difficulties with planning the trip, as not many people travel there and I could only find a couple of people on travel forums, who knew anything about, for instance, public transport. But in the end, after all the efforts, we had a wonderful time there. So here are some tips that can help you get an idea and plan.
When to Go?
We decided to go in May, which was Ramadan in Lunar/Islamic calendar. Ramadan didn’t affect our trip in any way, all relevant places were open and we didn’t find any restrictions during out stay. The weather seemed perfect, not extremely hot not to be able to walk at all (although it was really hot at times) while also allowing us to get into the sea. I believe June and September are also great for this.
Lebanon has a free Visa on Arrival for over 80 countries, if you have a return ticket and have booked accomodation. You should double check it with their consulates. The process is very fast and hassle-free. One major thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t have any Israeli stamps or visas in your passport.
The Lebanese have linked their currency to US$ and you can pay in US$ almost everywhere, including cafes, shops, etc. 1 US$ is 1500 Lebanese Lira (or pound). The only thing I would suggest to have lira for are the taxis (have exactly 2000 to pay for shared taxi) and buses, as well as maybe entrance fees (in some places they only accept cash and liras).
Where to Stay
The country is small and you can get anywhere from Beirut within 2 hours. We decided to stay in a Beirut hotel the whole time, so that we didn’t need to drag everything with the mini-buses to another location. The only thing that would be better was to stay a couple of days at the nice seaside area, like Tyre, Batroun or near the white beach.
Hamra is the most popular area for tourists to stay at. It is safe and has a number of food options. It also is about 30-45 minutes away from downtown, it’s near Raouche and the seaside walk. I looked at the other options around the city, but they seemed to be either very expensive or very far.
Get a Sim Card!
Many operators don’t provide roaming for Lebanon, so if you constantly need to be connected and occasional WiFi isn’t enough, getting a sim card is the only option. We didn’t try getting it at the airport as we heard a number of stories, that the stall is often closed and they charged far bigger price than in the city. Some people managed to get it easily though, so it’s worth trying, if you know the prices, so that you aren’t scammed. It’s quite expensive, we paid 15$ for 1GB internet for a week. Yes, you get a certain amount of data for certain amount of days (and actually hours), which we don’t get why. However, it was very useful for getting Uber whenever we needed it.
Transport in Lebanon
Please read here a dedicated post for transport in Beirut and around Lebanon.
Cafes and Food
Here is a small selection of the places that we have tried.
A 9 Day Sample Itinerary
Need advice? You can check out our itinerary here.