The Lebanese are known for being easy-going, welcoming, and helpful towards foreign visitors. This vibrant society at the crossroads between East and West is a destination for tourists and businessmen alike, who enjoy the lively people and culture, despite consistent political tensions.
Lebanon has a temperate Mediterranean climate, cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers, usually considered the best time to visit.
Visitors should note that they will be refused entry into Lebanon if evidence is found of having visited Israel, including passport stamps.
Lebanon is a very small country and can be crossed in a car from north to south in less than 3 hours. Taxis are a popular means of transportation among visitors, whether in or between cities. Taxi services often operate on fixed routes, but can also be hired to take alternative routes. Taxis take on several customers at the same time who share the fare, usually only if headed in the same direction. Fares are determined through negotiation.
Cheap intercity buses are available. Buses heading in southern directions from Beirut can be found at Kola Station and buses heading north can be found at CharlesHelou Station. There is no train system in Lebanon.
Car rental is expensive compared to other countries in the region. Many of Lebanon’s roads, even in cities, are in poor condition, often pocked with potholes, and drivers are often aggressive. Motorists should use caution and be aware of other motorist’s unpredictable behavior. Driving in the mountains is particularly hazardous.
The official language of Lebanon is Arabic. However, many Lebanese speak fluent English and French, and a visitor can easily communicate with just English in most cases, especially in Beirut. Lebanese are often heard mixing French, English, and Arabic in a single sentence.
The Lebanese currency is the Lebanese Pound, but the dollar is accepted almost everywhere.
Lebanon offers traditional cuisine and Western style cafes and restaurants in addition to a variety of Western fast food chains.
Hostels are available but not abundant, while hotels spanning the rest of the budget range can be easily found. ATMs and money exchanges are widely available and credit cards are widely accepted.
With a strong security presence and low crime rates, Lebanon is generally a safe country to visit. However, the political situation is always precarious, and tensions with Israel can sometimes erupt into violent conflict. Travels should check if their government has issued any travel warnings and be aware of the political situation before departing. The Israeli borders and Palestinian refugee camps should be avoided.
Sanitation usually meets Western standards, especially in cities. Water is generally considered safe to drink, but bottled water may be preferable to those who are unsure. Medical care in Lebanon is of high quality, but expensive, making travel insurance a must.
Lebanon is a mix of a variety of Muslim and Christian sects, so respect for religious traditions is important on the part of the foreigner. It is recommended to wear modest clothing when visiting religious sits, although in some areas, especially Beirut, standards of modest do not differ greatly with Western countries. In sea-side resorts there is more or less an “anything goes” dress policy. However, in the more conservative Tripoli, especially in the old quarters, visitors should dress more modestly. In Hezbollah dominated areas in the south, modest dress is a must. Avoiding political discussions is absolutely essential in this politically volatile country.
Because of its religious diversity, Lebanon has a variety of national holidays of which the traveler should be aware.