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Travel Info


Location
Quick Facts
CapitalBeirut
Governmentrepublic
CurrencyLebanese pound (LBP)
Areatotal: 10,452 km�
water: 170 km�
land: 10,230 km�
Population3,826,018 (2005 est.)
LanguageArabic (official), French, English, Armenian
ReligionMuslim 70% (including Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 30% (including Maronites, Orthodox Christian, Catholic, Protestant), Jewish NEGL%
Calling Code961
Internet TLD.lb
Time ZoneUTC +2

The Republic of Lebanon is a small country (10,452 sq km or 4076 sq mi in area with 3.7 million inhabitants) within the Middle East region with its capital at Beirut. It has a long coastline on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and shares a long land border with its much larger neighbour Syria to the north and the west, a much shorter (and currently "hot") border with Israel to the south.

Regions

Lebanon can be divided into 5 regions:

  • North Lebanon
  • South Lebanon
  • Mount Lebanon
  • Bekaa
  • Beirut

Cities

Many cities in Lebanon have English names which are significantly different to their Arabic names; the romanized versions of the Arabic names in given in parentheses below.

  • Beirut - the capital and largest city
  • Baalbek
  • [1] (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_2123.html).


Visas

Non-nationals must have a visa to enter Lebanon. Three-month visas are free for nationals from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Other nationals can obtain a 15-day visa for LL25,000 (US$17), or a three-month visa for LL50,000 (US$35). These visas are single-entry; nationals of many countries can also obtain multiple-entry visas (which cost more).

Visas can be obtained at Lebanese embassies and consulates in other countries, or upon arrival at Beirut airport and other points of entry.

If your passport contains evidence of entry into Israel (such as visas or entry/exit stamps), you will be refused entry into Lebanon.

By plane

A steadily increasing number of airlines service Beirut International Airport (code BEY, located 5 km (3 mi) south of the city centre), which has frequent connections to Europe, Africa, Asia and the rest of the Middle East. Both Air France and British Airways (http://www.britishairways.com/) have regular services. The Lebanese national carrier, Middle East Airlines [2] (http://www.mea.com.lb/), flies to a network of European, Middle Eastern and African cities. The American ban on travel to Lebanon was lifted in 1997; however, the US continues to maintain a ban on non-stop flights between the two countries. It should be noted that Air Canada has repeatedly attempted to begin Montr�al - Beirut services since 2003 but has been blocked by the Canadian government from doing so, owing to "reasons of national security" (many believe this is due to diplomatic pressure from the American administration).

The departure tax on flights from Beirut is approximately US$51.

Get around

Lebanon is a small country and it is possible to drive from north to south in under 3 hours. The main means of transport are service taxis, bus and car.

Taxi

The majority of travelers use service taxis to get from place to place. "Service" taxis often operate like buses on set routes between towns and cities, though they can be hired to visit other places with some negotiation. Each taxi carries between 4 (inside Metropolitan areas) to 6 (farther distances) passengers, who share the fare between them. The Fare is 1000 LL (Lebanese Lira) which is a little less than 0.70 USD $ for short distances of a couple of Kilometers/miles, and increases depending on both distance to be traveled, traffic on that specific road and of course, like everything in Lebanon, persuasion/negotiation skills. A private Taxi ride, without having to share with other passengers is similar to a "Service" Taxi, in that the same pre-negotiation is required to determine the fare, and as a rule of thumb, costs the same as a fully loaded "Service" Taxi (the fare * number of passengers). Taxi's and "service" taxi's are basically the same, and the mode of operation depends on the availability of passengers and their demands. The majority of "Service" Taxi's in Lebanon are 1975 Mercedes cars that roam the streets searching for passengers using their car-horns. Newer car models working as mainly "Service" taxi's are appearing on the Lebanese streets with nevertheless the same price tag as their elder sisters. All types of public transportation vehicles in Lebanon (Taxi's Buses, mini-vans and even trucks) can be recognized by their Red-colored licence plate.

Bus

Buses travel on set routes between Beirut and most other major towns, though service is infrequent and usually not scheduled. Plans exist to resurrect Lebanon's inter-city bus service, but are yet to be fulfilled.

Train

The Lebanese train system is virtually inoperable since the Civil War. Get a taxi instead!

Car

Car rental is relatively expensive in Lebanon compared to elsewhere in the region. Reasonable, if not exactly cheap rates can, however, be found with perseverance and negotiation and - once you have your rental - fuel is cheap and easy to get.

Lebanon's roads are generally in quite poor condition and Lebanese drivers are not known for their caution. Road rules are practically non-existent (apart from driving on the right - well, mostly....), traffic is often jammed in big cities and there are no speed limits. Exercise extreme caution when driving in Lebanon.

The dangers of driving in Lebanon can't be emphasized enough. Driving in Lebanon should be considered an extreme activity for Western drivers accustomed to safe driving. Law enforcement, traffic lights, traffic control, road markings, street names and rights of way are virtually non-existent in a country of 3 million people but 4 million cars. Mountain driving is particularly hazardous, often involving 1-car roads zig-zagging back and forth up the mountain over shear valleys with no safety barriers. The Lebanese call the valleys along these mountain roads "Wadi Jamajim" (Skull Valley).

Simply trying to park a car is a discouraging activity. The ability to park a car in Lebanon is a tourist attraction in itself, often accomplished in non-existent spaces while under pressure from traffic.

By foot

As a pedestrian, walk as far from the road as possible and exercise vigilance.

Talk

The official language of Lebanon is Arabic. The Lebanese dialect of Arabic is very different from some other dialects, particularly from Gulf countries; however, all Lebanese will understand most other dialects of Arabic.

French is widely spoken and understood, owing to Lebanon's period as a French mandated territory after the First World War. English is increasingly more widely used, especially in the cities. Most young people will understand French, English and Arabic.

See also: Lebanese Arabic phrasebook

Buy

Currency

The Lebanese currency is the Lebanese pound, abbreviated "LL". Its value is kept stable relative to the US dollar, with a value of about LL1,500 to US$1. Either Lebanese pounds or US dollars are accepted almost everywhere, and it is common to pay in dollars but receive change in pounds (in which case, make sure you don't get short-changed).

Notes in use are LL1000, LL5000, LL10,000, LL20,000, LL50,000 and LL100,000. There are LL250 and LL500 coins which are rarely used.

Exchange Rates

Correct as of 5 September 2005:

$ US DollarUSD$1.00 = LL1,514LL1,000 = USD$0.66
£ Pound Sterling£1.00 = LL2,790LL1,000 = £0.36
€ Euro€1.00 = LL1,898LL1,000 = €0.53
$ Australian DollarAUD$1.00 = LL1,159LL1,000 = AUD$0.86
$ New Zealand DollarNZD$1.00 = LL1,069LL1,000 = NZD$0.93
$ Canadian DollarCAD$1.00 = LL1,274LL1,000 = CAD$0.78
¥ Japanese Yen¥1.00 = LL14LL1,000 = ¥72

Eat

Lebanon fosters exquisite cuisine ranging from a mezza of vegetarian dishes such as tabouleh, fattoush, and warak anab to delicious dips like hommos and moutabal.

Must haves include Lebanese barbeque such as shish tawouk (barbequed chicken)- usually consumed with garlic, lahm mishwe (barbequed meat, and kafta (another form of barbequed meat).

Lebanon is also very famous for its arabic sweets which can be found at leading restaurants especially in the Beirut Central District area.

Drink

Lebanon and specially Beirut is famous for the excellent night life. The choice can vary from international nightclubs such as the famous "Buddha Bar" to many local clubs that cater from teens to seniors. Favourite areas to go out are "Monot" Street in "Ashrafieh" area of Beirut and the newly built "down town" area. For teenagers and as anywhere else, the cool clubbing spots vary by the day but a classic is to see the "B018" in the "Karantina" area of Beirut or the various clubs at "Monot" Street. For adults and specially the 30 plus,"Crystal" (Monot Street) is the in place in addition to the "Buddha Bar" (down town) and for a sample of clubs that locals frequent "Al Mandaloun" (Ashrafieh).

As to hardcore drinking lounges "Zync" is one classic example in "Ashrafieh"

Sleep

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Stay Safe

As a pedestrian, walk as far from the road as possible and exercise vigilance. Lebanese driving conditions are hazardous.

Respect

Lebanon is a country of many different religious sects. It is recommended to wear modest clothing when visiting religious sites (mosques, churches, etc) and when visiting rural towns and villages. However, Beirut is very much a cosmopolitan city. Clothing considered 'western' is generally acceptable.