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Travel Guide: Lebanon

Featured hotels in Lebanon »

Radisson BLU Martinez Hotel, Beirut

Price (US$):
$119 - $180 / night

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Location. Located in Beirut, Radisson BLU Martinez Hotel, Beirut is near the airport and close to Planet Discovery, Pigeon Rocks, and Beirut… more »

Crowne Plaza Hotel Beirut

Price (US$):
$169 - $170 / night

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Location. Crowne Plaza Hotel Beirut is a business friendly hotel located in central Beirut, close to American University of Beirut Medical Center,… more »

Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun

Price (US$):
$145 - $330 / night

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Location. Located in central Beirut, Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun is near the airport and close to Pigeon Rocks, Beirut Municipality Stadium,… more »

Le Commodore

Price (US$):
$95 - $335 / night

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Location. Le Commodore is a business friendly hotel located in central Beirut, close to American University of Beirut Medical Center, Pigeon Rocks… more »

Four Seasons Hotel Beirut

Price (US$):
$325 - $1500 / night

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Location. Located in central Beirut, Four Seasons Hotel Beirut is near the airport and close to Planet Discovery, Pigeon Rocks, and Beirut… more »

About  •  Understand  •  Regions  •  Cities  •  Other Destinations  •  Get In  •  Get Around  •  See  •  Do  •  Buy  •  Eat  •  Drink  •  Sleep  •  Learn  •  Stay Safe  •  Stay Healthy  •  Respect  •  More »

About

For other places with the same name, see Lebanon (disambiguation).

The Republic of Lebanon (لبنان) 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 being 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 east, a much shorter (and currently "hot") border with Israel to the south.

Understand

History

Lebanon is a country with a long and rich history. Roman ruins are scattered about the country and are easily accessible. Byblos, Beirut, and Sidon are among the oldest continuously populated cities in the world. There are Roman baths in Beirut, as well as the Cardio Maximus - to name a few. Byblos is also rich in Roman ruins and for a small fee you can view them (they are located near the bazaar). There are a lot of ancient mosques, synagogues, and churches in Lebanon. Also be sure to visit the Place des Martyrs (Martyrs' Square) in Beirut, a statue erected in memory of the Lebanese nationalists who were hanged by the Ottomans for revolting during World War 1 (the statue is now riddled with bullet holes from the civil war, but is still beautiful).

People

The people of Lebanon comprise a wide variety of ethnic groups and religions, with the majority split between Christian (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek-Catholic Melkites, Armenians, Protestant, Coptic Christians) and Muslim (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Alawites). Other smaller groups include a large number (over 250,000) of Palestinian refugees in the country. The population increases dramatically in the Summer months (June to September), due to the large influx of tourists and the temporary return of a large number of the Lebanese diaspora.

People are very easy-going and welcoming. You should not be scared of talking to people on the streets and asking information, since most of them will do their best to help you. In general, though, avoid any comment on politics and religion.

Lebanon is populated by a very open and highly educated people. They are known for their love of life, generosity and wild spirit. They tend to neglect regulation and insist on respecting all others.

Lebanon had once been called Switzerland and Paris of the East. The recent wars have diminished this status but the Lebanese have always acted in unexpected ways. Their pursuit of happiness and fun overshadows their financial capabilities and political problems.

Climate

Lebanon has a temperate Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and cooler, wet winters.

Summer is generally considered the best time to visit, as there is virtually no rain between June and August, and the temperatures range between about 20-30°C (68-86°F). At this time it is very humid on the coast, but dryer and somewhat cooler (but not cold) in the mountains.

Autumn and spring are also good times to visit, with a bit more rain but without the tourist crowds attracted in summer.

Snow falls for a large part of winter in the mountain regions that form a large portion of the country, and there are numerous ski resorts. However, the coast is still relatively mild, with maximums rarely falling below 13°C (55°F).

Time zone

Lebanon is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and observes daylight savings from end-March to end-October.

Talk

The official language of Lebanon is Arabic. The Lebanese dialect is similar to other Arabic dialects, like those of Syria and Jordan. However, The Lebanese dialect of Arabic is very different from some other dialects, particularly the dialects from Arabic Gulf countries.

Many Lebanese are bilingual and even trilingual. English and to a lesser extent French is widely spoken and understood and street and place signs are in both Arabic (first) and French (second), 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, and among the younger crowd. Most young people will understand English and to a lesser extent French, which is more prevalent among the older generations. Generally, signs and outdoors are written in at least two languages Arabic and English and/or French.

See also: Lebanese Arabic phrasebook

Holidays

Lebanon has a number of both Christian and Islamic holidays. Holidays that are observed by the Lebanese Government are indicated in bold letters.

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • St. Valentine's Day (February 14)
  • St. Maroun's Day (February 9)- Christian religious observances.
  • Prophet's Day (March 9)- Islamic religious observances
  • Easter (A Sunday in March or April)- Christian religious observances.
  • Labor Day (May 1)- most businesses and schools closed.
  • Liberation of the South (May 25)
  • St. Elias's Day (July 20)- A lot of fireworks and festivals.
  • Assumption Day (August 15)
  • Ramadan (variable)-Islamic religious observances
  • Eid el Fiitr (variable)-Islamic religious observances
  • Independence Day (November 22)- All businesses and schools closed.
  • Eid il-Burbara or Saint Barbara's Day (December 4)- Christian religious observances.
  • Christmas (December 25)- Most businesses and restaurants closed the evening before and all day; family gathering, exchanging gifts, Christian religious observances.
  • New Year's Eve (December 31)

All in all, Beirut, Lebanon's capitol city, is a vibrant, stylish metropolis with all of the fun fashion and flare that any city lover would look for ranking it among the world's top tourist destinations. Being perched on the shore of the marvelous Mediterranean Sea, Beirut has a special climate that is perfect for year round visits. Beirut has something to offer that no other world capitol has. The exuberant Lebanese people who enjoy a variety ranging from roadside a la Parisienne coffee shops, to rooftop open air cafes, with cutting edge fashion and the latest in world trends hosting the world class Lebanese designer boutiques such as Issam Chammas, Elie Saab, and Bassil.(Lebanese designers have dressed stars such as Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Brad Pitt, Anne Hathaway, Katy Perry, Paula Abdul, Carrie Underwood, Helen Mirren, Halle Berry, and Beyonce for the Oscars, Cannes Film Festival, Grammy Awards, and many others). Boss, Teddy Smith, Paco Rabban, Marc Jacob, Valentino, Christian Louboutin and any other name that might come to mind - Lebanon's got it!

Don't forget exploring the treasures of the country's national museum or dancing till the break of dawn at one of the many many Lebanese trendy clubs or lounges or even relaxing away at one of the country's numerous relaxation spas or leisure clubs.

Regions

Lebanon can be divided into five regions:

Beirut
 
Bekaa
 
Mount Lebanon
 
North Lebanon
 
South Lebanon
 

Cities

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

  • Beirut - the capital and largest city
  • Baalbek - a Phoenician and Roman archaeological site
  • Byblos (Joubeil) - another city with plenty of remains, castles and museums
  • Jezzine - main summer resort and tourist destination of South Lebanon
  • Jounieh - known for its seaside resorts and nightclubs
  • Sidon (Saida) - plenty of medieval remains
  • Tripoli (Trablus) - still unspoilt by mass-tourism
  • Tyre (Sour) - has a number of ancient sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Zahle - capital of Bekaa Valley

Other Destinations

  • Barouk
  • Bcharre
  • Jeita - Known for its Grotto
  • Kadisha Valley and visit the home of the (now deceased) Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran."Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country"
  • Batroun— an old city on the mediterranean shore

Get In

Visas

Visa Restrictions:

Entry will be refused to citizens of Israel and travellers with any evidence of visiting Israel: not just Israeli entry stamps, but Egyptian / Jordanian neighbouring land borders with Israel, any products with Hebrew labelling, etc.

Three-month visas are free for nationals from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Jordan. 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 ($75 valid for six months). The 48 hour free of charge transit visas (valid for three calendar days) are still issued, but only if you enter by land and leave via the airport or vice-versa.

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

A free one month valid visa, renewable till 3 months, is granted to the citizens of these countries who are coming for tourism: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados,Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, USA, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

An updated visa requirements text can always be found on the visa to Lebanon page .

By plane

Beirut International Airport (BEY), is located 5 km (3 mi) south of the city centre) - Middle East Airlines services daily to Abidjan, Abu Dhabi, Accra, Amman, Athens, Cairo, Cologne, Copenhagen, Dammam, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Istanbul-Ataturk, Jeddah, Kano, Kuwait, Lagos, Larnaca, London-Heathrow, Milan-Malpensa, Nice, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Riyadh and Rome-Fiumicino, [{Warsaw}]-Okęcie.

In addition the Airport is served by foreign airlines

Middle East (Arabic countries)

  1. Air Algérie (Algiers)
  2. Air Arabia (Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Alexandria-Borg Al Arab)
  3. EgyptAir (Cairo, Alexandria-El Nohza)
  4. Emirates Airline (Dubai)
  5. Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi)
  6. FlyDubai (Dubai)
  7. Gulf Air (Bahrain)
  8. Iran Air (Tehran-Imam Khomeini)
  9. Jazeera Airways (Dubai, Kuwait)
  10. Kuwait Airways (Kuwait)
  11. Oman Air (Dubai, Muscat)
  12. Qatar Airways (Doha)
  13. RAK Airways (Ras Al Khaimah)
  14. Royal Air Maroc (Casablanca)
  15. Royal Jordanian (Amman)
  16. Saudi Arabian Airlines (Jeddah, Riyadh)
  17. Tunisair (Tunis)
  18. Wataniya Airways (Kuwait)
  19. Yemenia (Amman, Sanaa)

Europe

  1. Aeroflot (Moscow-Sheremetyevo)
  2. Air France (Paris-Charles de Gaulle)
  3. Alitalia (Rome-Fiumicino)
  4. Armavia (Yerevan)
  5. BMI (Khartoum, London-Heathrow)
  6. Bulgaria Air (Sofia)
  7. Cyprus Airways (Larnaca)
  8. Czech Airlines (Prague)
  9. LOT Polish Airlines
  10. Lufthansa (Frankfurt)
  11. Malév Hungarian Airlines (Budapest)
  12. Olympic Airlines (Athens)
  13. Tarom (Bucharest-Otopeni)
  14. Turkish Airlines (Istanbul-Ataturk)
  15. Viking Airlines (Stockholm-Arlanda)

Asia

  1. Malaysia Airlines (Dubai, Kuala Lumpur)

Africa

  1. Ethiopian Airlines (Addis Ababa)

For flights from the United Kingdom try Turkish Airlines , Cyprus Airways or Czech Airlines . These three airlines are often cheaper even than MEA or BMI direct from Heathrow. Czech airlines are consistently the cheapest bet from Manchester.

Direct flights from the U.S were again permitted by the U.S Government effective June 9, 2007; however, at present no airline offers direct service to the Americas from Beirut.

By bus

Buses leave Damascus every hour and typically cost 400 or 500 SYP. The trip is normally 4-5 hours, depending on traffic at the border. Note that when leaving Syria, you must pay an exit fee of 550 SYP and must acquire a Lebanese visa on the other side of the border (48 hrs Transit Visa is free, 15 day Transit Visa is LL25,000 (US$17), single-entry 30 day Tourist Visa is LL50,000 (US$34), payable in Lebanese Pounds only. Money changers can exchange currency, typically with a $1 exchange fee).

By taxi

Taxis leave Damascus for Lebanon.

By ship

There are no such services available, but there are many companies that offer visits to Lebanon on a cruise.

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.

By 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 1750 LL (Lebanese Lira),although since most don't have change it is expected to pay 2000 which is about $1.33 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).

Taxis and "service" taxis are basically the same, and the mode of operation depends on the availability of passengers and their demands. The majority of "service" taxis in Lebanon are 1975 Mercedes cars that roam the streets searching for passengers using their car-horns. Newer car models working as mainly "service" taxis are appearing on the Lebanese streets with nevertheless the same price tag as their elder sisters.

All types of public transportation vehicles in Lebanon (taxis, buses, mini-vans and even trucks) can be recognized by their Red-colored licence plate.

By bus

City link bus routes are available and cheap. Most buses for north Lebanon depart from the Charles Helou Station (east of downtown), while most buses to regions south or southeast of Beirut (including Damascus and Baalbek) depart from the Cola "Station" (which is really an intersection adjacent to the Cola bridge\overpass).

By train

No trains in Lebanon.

By 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 easy to get.

Lebanon's roads are generally in quite poor condition and Lebanese drivers are not known for their caution. Exercise extreme caution when driving in Lebanon. Note that even in central Beirut, even in areas undamaged by the Israeli assault, there can be massive potholes on busy multi-lane roads.

Driving in Lebanon should be considered an extreme activity for Western drivers accustomed to safe driving. Street names are virtually non-existent. Mountain driving is particularly hazardous, often involving 1-car roads in 2 way streets.

See

Lebanon is a country rich in natural scenery from beautiful beaches to mountains and valleys. Lebanese people take pride that Lebanon is one of the few countries that gives you the opportunity to go skiing in the morning and going to the beach in the afternoon.

Beirut Downtown Visitors from all around get astonished by the beautiful downtown. Beirut also has a vast array of nightclubs, restaurants and other entertaining places, including the famous Place de l'Etoile, where hundreds of tourists pass by and enjoy a delightful meal or a cup of coffee at the outdoor cafes. In addition to those, the capital provides other restaurants and hangouts that people of all ages can enjoy and have a wild time with Electronic, Oriental, Pop, Blues, and Jazz Music provided by many fine bars, nightclubs and live music venues.

Baalbeck Roman Temples in the city of Baalbeck are among the largest and most beautiful Roman ruins.

Al Bass Archaeological Site, Tyre, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the largest and best preserved Roman archeological sites in the world. The site is made up of a huge Necropolis, a massive monumental arch leading to a Roman Road, alongside which there is an excellent example of an acqueduct as well as the largest and best preserved Roman Hippodrome found to date.

Jeita Grotto Jeita Grotto is nominated to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Jeita Grotto is the jewel of tourism in Lebanon offering to its visitors qualified modern services and accommodation in harmony with a fascinating nature. It creates a magical trip which enables them to spend a day of wonder-filled adventure by being carried away from a tangible world to a wonderland where are found 2 fabulous grottoes full of an unimaginable beauty and of a magical fascination! It is a source of attraction for whole the families wishing to discover a mysterious world in the heart of the earth.The “Touristic Site of Jeita” gathers all elements of nature such as stone, water, trees, flowers, air and animals in a venturous environment and with a touch of Lebanese cultural heritage. It is one of the most impressive and interesting natural sites in the world.

Beiteddin One of the most precious Arabic architectural jewels is the palace of Beiteddine. This historic monument comprises of two large courtyards: the “midane”, a vast rectangular place for visitors, and a smaller one for the royal private apartments, with a magnificent fountain in its centre.

Qadisha Valley (Holy Valley) Located in north Lebanon, the “Holy Valley” spreads from Bcharreh to the coast. Classified under UNESCO's world heritage, its countless caves, chapels and monasteries as well as its luxuriant vegetation transformed it into the most famous natural site of Lebanon.

Byblos also known in Arabic as "Jbeil", is a must-see ancient Phoenician city that had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its touristic attractions are truly representative of Lebanon's most ancient civilizations.

Anjar is a city in the Beqaa Valley with tens of local restaurants where you can enjoy the unique Lebanese cuisine. The city is home to the unique ruins of an 8th century Omayyad city.

Do

Night-Life

The Lebanese people know how to live despite political turmoil. Lebanon is a world-class party destination and has been rated by the New York Times as the number 1 tourist destination in the year of 2009. This is partly due to its spectacular nightlife. It features several clubbing locations such as the thrilling Gemmayze district or the Monot Street where people party far past dawn. It boasts several renowned DJs but it has also been visited by some of the world's most famous such as Tiesto, David Guetta, Armen Van Buren, Paul van Dyk who frequently visit Lebanon in tribute to its party animals. Many world famous bands and performers have performed in Lebanon (or have shows planned)as well such as Keane, Mika, Deep Purple, The Pussycat Dolls, Akon, Snoop Dog and Gad Elmaleh. Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton have both hosted parties in Lebanon and The Pussycat Dolls spent a night in the lebanese nightclubs. Lebanon is also known for it's sky-high rooftop bars such as Sky Bar, White and Beiruf. Not to forget the beautiful island centered in Beirut called Riviera. Lebanese clubs and bars are world-class, marvelous, and fascinating destinations. Greater Beirut is a sleepless city, as the great majority of it open 24 hours a day. For those who like trendiest arabic songs, the one-man show places will entertain you till dawn like Cassino, Concerto, Richello and many others.

Lebanon also has a huge beach party scene having exquisite beaches and beach resorts such as Oceana, Laguava or Edde Sands and Janna Sur Mer.

Lebanese locations are widely diverse and exhibit "occidental" life style that is omnipresent to the degree that you will no doubt commit the mistake of thinking you're in a grand European capital in one moment and Las Vegas in another.

Hike

  • Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) - 350-plus km national hiking trail extending from Al Qobaiyat in the north to Marjaayoun in the south.

Ski

Lebanon has six ski resorts with groomed slopes, catering to skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Beyond the ski-able domains await you kilometers of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails waiting to be explored; Lebanon has something for everyone. Each of the ski resorts has a different flavor.

Wine-tasting

Lebanon is one of the oldest sites of wine production in the world and today enjoys a burgeoning industry producing award-winning wines for export throughout the world, mainly in the UK, Europe and the United States. Wine Tasting is an absolute must with any visit to Lebanon. Below are some wine producers in Lebanon for you to keep an eye out for: - - * Chateau Musar - * Chateau Ksara - * Chateau Kefraya - * Domaine Wardy - * Vin Héritage - * Chateau Fakra - * Chateau Nakad - * Massaya - * Domaine des Tourelles - * Clos Saint Thomas - * Cave Kouroum - * Clos de Cana - * Nabise Mont Liban - * Enotica - * Chateau Khoury - * Couvent St. Sauveur

Buy

Currency

The Lebanese currency is the Lebanese pound, abbreviated "LBP" or "Lebanese Lira" abbreviated "LL", which is the most common abbreviation. 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).

Bills used are LL1000, LL5000, LL10,000, LL20,000, LL50,000 and LL100,000. p.s: you may find two forms of LL1000 and they are both accepted.

Bills not used are LL1, LL5, LL10, LL25, LL50, LL100, LL250, LL500.

There are LL25, LL50, LL100, LL250 and LL500 coins. LL25, LL50 and LL100 coins are virtually never used.

Exchange rates

Correct as of November 2009:

$ US Dollar USD$1 = LL1,504 LL1,000 = USD$0.67
£ Pound Sterling £1.00 = LL2,529 LL1,000 = £0.40
€ Euro €1.00 = LL2,251 LL1,000 = €0.44
$ Australian Dollar AUD$1 = LL1,407 LL1,000 = AUD$0.71
$ New Zealand Dollar NZD$1 = LL1,126 LL1,000 = NZD$0.89
$ Canadian Dollar CAD$1 = LL1,435 LL1,000 = CAD$0.70
¥ Japanese Yen ¥1.00 = LL16.87 LL1,000 = ¥59

Money transfer

You may transfer money from/to Lebanon through Western Union. For more information about locations offering Money transfers you may contact BOB Finance - Bank of Beirut Group on the number 1262 from inside Lebanon or +961-5-955262 from outside with 24/7 Customer Service Support

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 (barbequed seasoned minced meat).

A full meal at an Arabic restaurant can cost as little as 15 us dollars (22500 LL) depending on where you go.

"Lebanese fast food" is also available as sandwiches offered in roadside shops, such as shawarma sandwiches (known in other countries as doner - or gyros in greece. Shawarma, as opposed to doner is seasoned with tarator sauce based on sesame oil, vegetables and is rolled in lebanese thin bread)the best place to eat "Lebanese fast food" is at BarBar Restaurant in Hamra . Various barbequed meat sandwiches are also available, and even things such as lamb or chicken spleen, brains, lamb bone marrow or lamb testicles can be served as sandwiches.

Breakfast usually consists of manaeesh which looks like a folded pizza, most common toppings are zaatar( a mixture of thyme, olive oil sesame seeds)which should only be taken as 'Extra' (say yes to the tomatoes onions and mint leaves), jebneh (cheese) and lahm bi ajin (minced meat). Some new trendy places such as "zaatar w zeit" and "Leil nhar" experiment with new toppings, such as "halloum and bacon." Both places stay open 24 hours a day and partygoers often go there for a bite at 4 in the morning.

Another traditional breakfast food is knefeh; a special kind of breaded cheese that is served with a simple syrup in a sesame seed bread. It is also served as dessert, but somehow it tastes better in the morning; it is also extremely filling!

Lebanon is also very famous for its arabic sweets which can be found at leading restaurants. The city of Tripoli, however, is THE city for Lebanese sweets. Many critics refer to it as the "Sweet Capital" of Lebanon, the Hallab sweets is the place to visit when making a trip to Tripoli.

If taking a trip to the Bekaa, the restuarants known as the El-Wadi restuarants in Zahle serve exquisite Lebanese food. In Beirut, Abd el-Wahab in the "Monot" area also serves excellent lebanese food in a traditional setting.

International food chains such as KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Burger King or Domino's pizza and many other are widely spread and easily found across the country. French Patisseries, Chinese, Italian, American and Japanese cuisine are also widely spread and are found in virtually all of the country's malls (such as Chopsticks, Sushi-ko, Bob's, Creapaway, Water Lemon, you should try Biscuit in Mansourieh for the best in Bakery foods and patisseries etc.). Cafes also exist virtually everywhere (Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Moka and more).

Drink

Lebanon's wines have an international reputation. Grapes have been grown since antiquity, and the vineyards, largely in the Bekaa Valley, produce the base wine for distillation into the national spirit Arak, which, like Ouzo, is flavoured with aniseed and becomes cloudy when diluted with water. Arak is the traditional accompniment to Meze.

But the grapes have also historically been used to make wine. This used to be predominantly white and sweet, but the soliders and administrators that came to administer the French mandate after World War One created a demand for red wine, and large acreages were planted especially with the Cinsault grape. Over the last 20 years these have been supplemented with the most popular international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Wineries often offer wine tasting and are very welcoming. The highly individual, old fashioned, Chateau Musar, is based at Ghazir, 15 miles north of Beirut, and trucks in the grapes from Bekaa. In Bekaa itself, wineries include the large Kefraya, Ksara, the oldest winery of all, Massaya, a fashionable new producer in Tanail, and Nakad in Jdeita, which like Musar has stuck with an idiosyncratic old fashioned approach. Kefraya, in the West Bekaa region, also has a nice restaurant attached and the region itself is beautiful to pass through.

Lebanon and specially Beirut is famous for its excellent night life. The choice can vary from international nightclubs such as the famous "Buddha Bar" or "Crobar" to many local clubs that cater from teens to seniors.

Favourite areas to go out are "Monot" and "Gemmeyzeh" Streets in "Ashrafieh" area of Beirut and the newly built "down town" area. The downtown area is popular with tourists, particularly Arabs from the Gulf. As for Westerners the Gemmayzeh area would be more appealing, Monot has died down in recent years and all of he pre-clubbing activity is mostly centered in Gemmayzeh.

It is worth mentionining that in Beirut, one would usually have dinner aroung 9, go for a few drinks in the pubs in Gemmayzeh at 11, and then go to a club at around 1AM and then continue to B018 at aroung 3:00 to 4AM. If amazing night life does not interest you, or you prefer to get to bed earlier then have a drink in Gemmayzeh where most of the pubs are done in very good taste and it will give you the opportunity to get a good idea of Lebanese culture.

For adults and especially the 30 plus,"Crystal" (Monot Street) used to be the place but now it turned into "Palais". Many Lebanese enjoy frequenting "Element" (Ashrafieh), which tends to rarely play any Arabic music. "Al Mandaloun" (Ashrafieh) focuses more on Arab-pop music than Western dance music and is a good place to more typical lebanese society. If you are going to Lebanon in the summer then you cannot miss going to Skybar and White which are two rooftop clubs in the downtown area of Bierut, White is more laid back and I would say it is an excellent place for an older crowd. Skybar is phenomenal, a must-see in the months it's open (June to September/October). Situated on the top of the Biel exhibition centre it offers an exquisite view of Beirut's coast and the mountains around it. It does not get very crowded early in the night and is, therefore, good for a more quiet drink at 9 to 10PM but after that you will encounter a line, a crowd of impeccably dressed lebanese, more upbeat music and during the weekend you usually need to have connections in order to get in.

Sleep

Lebanon is full of hotels in most of the areas across the country from $10. The best way to save money if you are staying for long is furnished apartments which comes with cleaning and other services.

Learn

A handful of private schools, such as the Lycée Français (several branches over the country), the Collège Protestant Français ,Collège Saint Joseph Antoura ,Lycée Abdel Kader, college notre dame de jamhour and college elysee amongst others follow the official French curriculum. The official French Baccalaureate exams can be taken in Lebanon.

Some schools(such as "ACS")teach English as a first language and follow the english curriculum.

Beirut is also home to one of the most prestigious schools in the region, the International College(IC) which teaches both french and english as first languages among many others.Furthermore, IC offers a variety of baccalaureate programs such as the French,Lebanese,High School, and International Baccalaureat(IB).

The American University of Beirut - AUB is considered the best English university in Middle East. The teaching language there is English. Other anglophone private universities are: Antonine University - UPA | Notre Dame University - NDU | Lebanese American University - LAU ...

Some private universities have French as the main teaching language. Université St.Joseph - USJ is one of these, it is an old and respected institution in Lebanon, and probably offers the best price/quality ratio among private universities in the country. It is the private university which has enrolled most of the Lebanon students as well as foreign students from other countries in Middle East, Africa and Europe. Other francophone private universities are USEK and Balamand.

The Lebanese University is the state owned / public university and is the largest learning institution in the country. It offers virtually free tertiary education.

Stay Safe

Since a new president has been elected in April 2008, the political situation has been stable, and travellers have returned. The vast majority of Lebanese are friendly, and most tourists experience no problems. Nevertheless tension with neighboring Israel can erupt (but are usually confined to South Lebanon) and therefore traveller should follow independent press while in the country.

Like in any country, it is preferable to be accompanied when visiting certain locations. In general, the Israeli borders and any Palestinian refugee camps should be avoided.

Despite its inclusion in most travel warnings lists, Lebanon is not in the same category as places like Somalia, the eastern DRC and Chechnya. Ever since the political situation became stable, you should not hesitate to visit the country; general common sense and consistent communication with your embassy will eliminate all dangers.

Useful phone numbers:

  • Police: 112 or 911 or 999
  • Fire brigade: 175 (metropolitan Beirut only)
  • Civil defense: 125 (outside Beirut)
  • The Red Cross (Medic Response): 140
  • Information: 1515

Stay Healthy

As a key destination for health tourism in the region, Lebanon has a professional and private healthcare system. Located mainly in Beirut , key hospitals include:

  • AUH (American University Hospital), Hamra area: +961-1-344704.
  • RHUH (Rafic Hariri University Hospital), Bir Hassan area: +961-1-830000.
  • Hotel Dieu de France, Ashrafieh area: +961-1-386791.
  • Rizik Hospital, Ashrafieh area: +961-1-200800.
  • Mont Liban Hospital, Hazmieh area: +961-1-955444.
  • Sacré Coeur Hospital, Hazmieh area: +961-1-451704.
  • Tel Shiha - Zahle, Beqaa
  • Sahel Hospital - Airport Ave Area: +961-1-858333
  • Jabal Amel Hospital - Jal Al Baher Area, Tyre: +961-7-740343, 07-740198, 07-343852, 03-280580
  • Labib Medical Center - Abou Zahr Street, Sidon Area: +961-7-723444, 07-750715/6
  • Bahman Hospital - Beirut, Haret Hreik Area: +961-1-544000 or 961-3-544000

It is extremely important that you get travel insurance prior to your departure to Lebanon. Hospitals in the country can be very expensive and, with the lack of insurance, cash payments may be expected beforehand.

Respect

Lebanon is a country of many different religious sects and so, it is wise to respect the religious differences of the Lebanese population. It is recommended to wear modest clothing when visiting religious sites (Churches, mosques, etc) and when visiting rural towns and villages. However, Beirut is very much a cosmopolitan city. Clothing considered 'western' is generally acceptable, thus Westerners would probably feel more comfortable in Beirut and Aley a nice city in the mountains not far form Beirut, and along the coast, which is dotted with sea-resorts where thongs and "topless" are not uncommon. In Tripoli, especially in the old city, it is recommended that women dress conservatively. The same applies on most traditional'souks" in the country. The Southern Suburb of Beirut, known as 'Al-Dahiye' in Arabic, is a Hizbollah stronghold and hence there too it would be advisable that women travellers dress modestly. In general, Lebanese are accustomed to different lifestyles and some do not take offence easily, especially with matters related to dress. The Lebanese are people accustomed to diversity and are therefore quicker to accept different lifestyles.

Because of political tensions and the conflict with Israel and tension with Syria, tourists should definitely avoid discussing politics!