- For other places with the same name, see Lebanon (disambiguation).
Since the end of the Lebanese Civil War, the country has been in a state of flux; the country continues to face numerous economic difficulties and it is often regarded as one of the most politically unstable countries in the Middle East.
Negative facts aside, the country has plenty to offer to the traveller: vineyards, nightclubs, ski resorts, and numerous historical and cultural attractions. Some of these attractions aren't found in other parts of the Middle East, making Lebanon an even more appealing destination.
Lebanon is rich in diversity and history. It has been the site of the Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Ottoman Empire, and was, for a period of time, controlled by France. The majority of Lebanese people are Arabs, but there are small communities of Assyrians, Armenians, Kurds, Palestinians, and Syrians. Lebanese cuisine is loved by many and it is often considered to be the most famous of all Middle Eastern cuisines.
Lebanon can be divided into five regions:
The area surrounding the city of Baalbek near Lebanon's eastern border (with Syria).
|Mount Lebanon |
A heavily mountainous area including the cities of Byblos and Jounieh.
|North Lebanon |
On Lebanon's northern coast; its largest city is Tripoli.
|South Lebanon |
An area of Lebanon bordering Israel and containing the cities of Tyre and Sidon.
Many cities in Lebanon have names in English which are significantly different from their official Arabic or French names; the Romanised versions of the Arabic names for some cities are given in parentheses below. Note that signs in Lebanon are in Arabic or French only, and so spellings in Latin script can differ from how a place can be spelled in English.
- 1 Beirut (بيروت/Beyrouth)— the cosmopolitan capital city, and largest city in the country, with a mash-up of all the country’s religious sects, as well as historic Franco-Mediterranean architecture, serving as a major luxury shopping centre, a free press, and possessing the liveliest nightlife scene in the Arab world.
- 2 Tripoli (طرابلس/Tripoli or Trípol) — the second-largest city in the country and the ‘capital of the North’, this port city was heavily built by the Islamic Mamluk dynasty, holding the second highest amount of Mamluk architecture after Cairo, giving the city a ‘medieval Islamic feel’. It is also home to the major Crusader site of “Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles”. The city was deeply scarred and almost completely destroyed by the Lebanese Civil War, and as such the city has never really recovered; it is nowadays extremely impoverished, with architecture that is severely crumbling and destroyed from the war. However, it is also unspoilt by mass-tourism.
- 3 Sidon (صيدا/Sidon or Sayette) (Romanised as Saida in English) — The third-largest city in the country. The city is known for its beautiful view of the Mediterranean, as well as being home to a lot of historic Crusader and Ottoman architecture, including the “Khan al-Franj” (“Caravanserai of the French”) caravanserai (Ottoman guest house). It is also home to plenty of other medieval remains, as well as a fascinating museum about the local soap industry here and the art of Levantine soapmaking.
- 4 Tyre (صور/Tyr)(Romanised as Sour in English) - a medium-sized, ancient city, famed for its strong Phoenician heritage, with many Phoenician sites and a rich history of being a Phoenician cultural centre. The city is also famed for its beautiful coastline, with wide expanses of sandy beaches that saw a mass-scale construction boom of luxury resorts during the “Golden Age” years of the 1960s and early-1970s. It is home to many ancient Roman and Phoenician sites, including its Roman Hippodrome which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 5 Byblos (جبيل/Byblos or Gibelet) (Romanised as Joubeil in English) — one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world, believed to have been first occupied between 8800 and 7000 BC , this historic city is home to dozens of historic Phoenician, Roman, Crusader and Ottoman remains, Crusader castles and culturally rich museums. It is also home to a beautiful harbour and a souk.
- 6 Jounieh — known for its seaside resorts and nightclubs
- 7 Jezzine — main summer resort and tourist destination of South Lebanon
- 8 Zahle — capital of Bekaa Valley
- 1 Jeita — known for its grotto with spectacular caves
- Kadisha Valley — visit the home of the (now deceased) Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran
- 2 Deir el Qamar — traditional village in Chouf district.
- 3 Baalbek — a Phoenician and Roman archaeological site
|Currency||Lebanese pound (LBP)|
|Population||6.1 million (2018)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 50 hertz (NEMA 1-15, NEMA 5-15, Europlug, AC power plugs and sockets: British and related types, BS 1363)|
|Time zone||UTC+02:00 to UTC+03:00 and Asia/Beirut|
|Emergencies||140 (emergency medical services), +961-175 (fire department), 112 (police), 160 (police)|
|edit on Wikidata|
The country is marked by two mountain ridges that run parallel to the Mediterranean coastline. The Mount Lebanon ridge is close to the sea, and is cut across from north to south by transverse valleys and canyons. The landscape is mostly mountainous and sometimes very rugged, with steep cliffs and gradients. Streams are frequent and provide ample resources for cultivation and natural vegetation.
The Anti-Lebanon runs parallel east of the Mount Lebanon ridge, and forms part of the border with Syria.
The Bekaa valley, with ample flatlands traversed by the Orontes (Nahr al-Aasi) and Litani rivers, runs between the two ridges.
Lebanon has a long and complex history since the Neolithic age. The most important Phoenicians cities (Byblos and Tyre among others) were founded here and have been thriving since then. The area was under the sphere of influence of Egyptian, Mesopotomian, and Persian ancient civilizations. Lebanon has a rich heritage of Hellenistic and Roman monuments, including among others the temples of Baalbek and Tyre. After the Byzantine and Umayyad rule (which left behind the ruins of Anjar), the area of today's Lebanon was conquered by the Crusaders and the Mamluks, with many significant monuments (fortresses and places of worship) scattered over the country, and notably in Tripoli.
Four centuries of Ottoman rule (1516–1918) with significant degrees of autonomous rule were ended with the creation of the French Mandate after World War I. Lebanon became independent in 1943. For a period of time, Lebanon was referred to as the "Switzerland of the Middle East". Under a free-market economy, Lebanon enjoyed three decades of prosperity and many moved to Lebanon in search of a better life.
Three decades of growth were crippled by a long civil war (1975–1990), which ended with a power-sharing agreement and a complicated process of reconciliation and reconstruction. The civil war forced many Lebanese people to move abroad.
Political tensions and regional conflicts with Hezbollah (such as the July 2006 war and the ongoing civil war in Syria) have affected the country, which remains nevertheless resilient.
The people of Lebanon comprise a wide variety of ethnic groups, religions and denominations, with the two main groups split between Christian (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek-Catholic Melkites, Armenians, Protestant, Syriac Christians) and Muslim (Shi'a, Sunni, Alawites), and Druzes. The Maronites are a branch of Eastern Catholicism; they celebrate their liturgy according to the Eastern (specifically West Syriac) Rite like Oriental Orthodox Christians, but recognise the Pope as their leader like Roman Catholics. There are more than 250,000 Palestinian refugees in the country, who fled their homeland in 1948. There are also around two million Syrian refugees and displaced persons due to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
One of the rare things that most Lebanese religious and political leaders will agree on is to avoid a new general census, for fear that it could trigger a new round of denominational conflict. The last official census was performed in 1932, when Christians were once a majority in Lebanon. Estimates today are academic and unofficial, due to this sensitivity. A power-sharing agreement among the Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims and Maronite Christians ensures that important posts in the government are divided among the three communities; under that agreement, the position of prime minister is reserved for Sunni Muslims, the position of speaker of parliament is reserved for Shia Muslims, and the presidency is reserved for Maronite Christians.
The population increases in the summer months (June to September), due to the large influx of returning members of the Lebanese diaspora and Lebanese citizens working abroad.
People are generally very easy-going and welcoming. Many people are multilingual and highly educated, particularly in Beirut and its suburban areas. Attitudes and behaviours tend to be more conservative in the Bekaa Valley and rural areas of the north and south.
Lebanon has a temperate Mediterranean climate, with hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters.
Summer is usually the most popular time for people to visit, as there is virtually no rain between June and August, and the temperatures ranges between about 20-30°C (68-86°F). However, there can be occasional heatwaves with the temperature rising, and generally, it can be very, very humid along the coast line during the summer months. It is somewhat dryer and somewhat cooler in the mountains, and many Lebanese tend to visit and vacation in the mountains during the summer if they wish to escape the heat and humidity of the coastline.
Autumn and spring are also good times to visit, with a bit more rain, but without the tourist crowds attracted in summer, and also with considerable less humidity.
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), although it can fall much lower than that and has on many occasions.
Lebanon is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and observes daylight saving from the end of March to the end of October.
Lebanon has a number of Christian and Islamic holidays. Holidays that are observed by the Lebanese Government are indicated in bold letters.
- New Year's Day (January 1)
- Epiphany & Armenian Christmas (January 6)
- St. Maroun's Day (February 9)
- Prophet Muhammad's Birthday (variable according to the Islamic calendar)
- Feast of the Annunciation (March 25)
- Good Friday (Catholic) (variable according to the lunar calendar)
- Easter Sunday (Catholic) (variable according to the lunar calendar)
- Good Friday (Orthodox) (variable according to the lunar calendar)
- Easter Sunday (Orthodox) (variable according to the lunar calendar)
- Labor Day (May 1)
- Liberation Day (May 25) (anniversary of the liberation of the South from Israeli occupation in 2000)
- St. Elias' Day (July 20)
- Assumption of Mary Day (August 15)
- Ramadan (variable) (variable according to the Islamic calendar)
- Eid al-Fitr (variable according to the Islamic calendar)
- Eid al-Adha (variable according to the Islamic calendar)
- Ashura (variable according to the Islamic calendar)
- Independence Day (November 22)
- Eid il-Burbara or Saint Barbara's Day (December 4)
- Christmas Day (December 25)
- New Year's Eve (December 31)
Citizens of Turkey get a free 3-month visa that can only be renewed before one month passes since their entry.
Citizens of Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, Mauritania, the Comoros, Nigeria, Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire get a free one-month tourist visa provided they have a return plane ticket, a hotel reservation/place of residence and US$2,000 (the cash conditions can be waived if you get the visa from the Lebanese embassy beforehand).
Citizens of India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, and several other "labor exporting" countries not otherwise listed in this section cannot get a visa directly at the airport or at a Lebanese embassy. Instead, a visa needs to be arranged by a Lebanese sponsor in Lebanon through the General Security head office in Beirut. This is a convoluted process that can take months, so start early. Visas issued this way are valid for 1 month but can be extended until 3 months at General Security once in Lebanon.
Three-month visas are free for nationals from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Jordan. Other nationals can obtain a 15-day visa or a three-month visa). These visas are single-entry; nationals of many countries can also obtain multiple-entry visas. 48-hour free-of-charge transit visas (valid for three calendar days) are available 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. The cost for a visa at the airport is US$17 (2021), it is for one entry and valid for 3 months.
A free, single-entry, 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, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China (People's Republic), Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong (SAR), Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau (SAR), Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey (exclusively at the airport), Turkmenistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
For more information, visit the General Security page.
Beirut International Airport (BEY), is 5 km (3 mi) south of the city centre). Middle East Airlines [dead link] has daily flights from Abidjan, Abu Dhabi, Accra, Amman, Athens, Cairo, Cologne, Copenhagen, Dammam, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Istanbul IST, 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 the following foreign airlines:
Middle East (Arabic countries)
For flights from the United Kingdom try Turkish Airlines , Cyprus Airways  or Czech Airlines . These three airlines are often cheaper even than MEA direct from Heathrow. Czech airlines are consistently the cheapest bet from Manchester.
Buses leave Damascus every hour. The trip is normally 4–5 hours, depending on traffic at the border. When leaving Syria, you must pay an exit fee and must acquire a Lebanese visa on the other side of the border, payable in Lebanese pounds only. Money changers can exchange currency.
Taxis leave Damascus for Lebanon.
Reaching Lebanon by ferry is quite a challenge, the only regular passenger ferry is a twice-weekly service from Tasucu, just outside Mersin, Turkey to the northern city of Tripoli by the Lebanese company MedStar. Apart from that single passenger ferry, only way of reaching Lebanon by sea is by cruise ship or — for the more adventurous traveller — freighter travel.
Due to the relatively small size of the country, the best way to get around the country quickly is by car.
A trip from Tyre to Beirut will easily take you 1½ hours, depending on traffic and security conditions. This is not to say that it's entirely safe — Lebanese roads are not in perfect condition and drivers aren't known for being very cautious. Still, travelling by car is your best bet.
The majority of travellers 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. Depending on the type of vehicle, each taxi carries between 4 (inside metropolitan areas) to 6 (longer distances) passengers, who share the fare between them. The fare increases depending on distance to be travelled, 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. Never get in a taxi or "service" without agreeing on the fare first.
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-coloured licence plate.
Beirut has Uber which offers competitive prices and no hassle negotiating a price with taxi drivers. Both a passenger and a driver get a fair price. However, ordering Uber requires an internet connection and might be expensive to use international roaming. In this case, international chains like Starbucks or McDonald's provide free wifi around their shops so you could book Uber.
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).
There has been no passenger rail service in Lebanon since before the Civil War.
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. Fuel is not cheap, with fuel prices being among the most affected by inflation.
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. 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. Traffic, especially in major cities like Beirut and Tripoli, and on the highway from Beirut to Kaslik, can be extremely crowded and time-consuming, turning a normally 20-minute trip into over an hour during peak times.
Some mountain villages don't have public transport links between them hence hitchhiking is a way to get around. The distances between villages are not huge so one might start walking along the road and wave cars down if any is approaching. The fewer cars pass the bigger chance is it that someone will stop.
The hitchhiking concept is well understood among the people and locals are keen to pick up travellers even if they don't speak any foreign languages. Wait times are low usually less than 10 minutes or if the traffic is low than the first few cars would pick you up.
Contribution for the ride or any other payment is not expected, locals would not even take cash if you hand them in.
The official and national language of Lebanon is Arabic. The local vernacular is Lebanese Arabic, which is closely related to the Arabic spoken in Syria, Jordan, among Israeli Arabs, and in Palestine.
Know that Modern Standard Arabic is rarely spoken in everyday conversations, and among younger Lebanese it may not be even understood. However, most Lebanese people have knowledge in MSA, so if you wish to improve your Arabic skills, you shouldn't have any problems. You're not expected to know the local dialect, which makes use of code-switching between Arabic, French and English and uses the Latin alphabet, but if you make an attempt to learn a few words of the local vernacular, you will impress the locals!
French also has official status as a co-official language and is widely spoken, a reminder of the country's colonial heritage. Note that older Lebanese people know more of French than English, and it is often used in schooling and popular culture in Lebanon. A Francophone shouldn’t have trouble using French in Lebanon.
English is widely spoken by the younger generation, some in areas such as Beirut using it as a major language.
Street and place signs are in both Arabic (first) and French (second).
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 (although it is impossible to actually do that because of traffic). This is only possible for a few days in the year, usually in the few days when winter shifts to spring and/or summer shifts to autumn.
Beirut Downtown Visitors from all around are astonished by its beautiful downtown. At Place de l'Etoile, tourists can 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. There are also many nightclubs, bars, cafes, and restaurants, catering to a diverse amount of styles and budgets.
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 aqueduct as well as the largest and best preserved Roman Hippodrome found to date.
Jeita Grotto is a compound of crystallized caves in Lebanon 20 km north of Beirut in the Valley of Nahr al-Kalb (Dog River). This grotto is made up of two limestone caves, upper galleries and a lower cave through which a 6230-m-long river runs. Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river. In this cave and galleries, the action of water in the limestone has created cathedral-like vaults full of various sizes, colors and shapes of stalactites and stalagmites, majestic curtains and fantastic rock formations. The total length of the cave is more than 9000 m and there is one among the biggest stalactites in the world hanging 8.2 m. The grotto accommodates a huge hall with a distance of 108 m from the ceiling till the water level.
Beiteddin One of the most authentic Arabic architectural jewels is the palace of Beiteddine. This historic monument comprises 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, it is full of countless caves, chapels, and monasteries.
Byblos also known in Arabic as "Jbeil", is an ancient Phoenician city that had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its touristic attractions include a medieval castle and a Roman amphitheater, as well as many seaside cafes and restaurants serving fresh seafood.
Anjar is a city in the Beqaa Valley with many local restaurants where you can enjoy the unique Lebanese cuisine. The city is home to the unique ruins of an 8th-century Umayyad city.
Lake Qaraoun is an artificial lake located in the Beqaa valley which is popular during late spring and summer. Restaurants are located on the western side of the lake and boats operate for lake viewing.
The Lebanese people have had to adapt to the political turmoil. Lebanon is easily the party capital of the Middle East. Beirut features a range of distinct nightlife neighbourhoods, such as Gemmayze district, mostly full of bars and restaurants, or the Monot Street which features nightclubs and bars. Lebanon is also known for its open-air nightclubs such as Sky Bar, White, and Iris. Greater Beirut is a sleepless city, as the great majority of it open 24 hours a day.
Lebanese nightclubs are widely diverse, as one can find both the "oriental" and "occidental" style, and in some cases, a mix of both.
Lebanon also has a huge beach party scene having exquisite beaches and beach resorts including Sporting Club, Oceana, Laguava or Edde Sands and Janna Sur Mer. However, these places can be very expensive, especially for the budget traveller.
- Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) – a more than 350-km national hiking trail extending from Al Qobaiyat in the north to Marjaayoun in the south. The Trail is not well marked and it is recommended that you get a guide because you will get lost. The guides can be expensive but it is worth talking them down on price. If you do decide to go alone, the country side is populated and you are never very far from people. This is by far the best way to see wild Lebanon!
- See also: Skiing in Lebanon
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.
Lebanon has some of the oldest sites of wine production in the world and today enjoys a burgeoning industry producing award-winning wines for worldwide export, though 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[dead link], Chateau Ksara, Chateau Kefraya, Domaine Wardy, Vin Héritage, Chateau Fakra[dead link], Domaine de Baal, Chateau Nakad[dead link], Massaya, Domaine des Tourelles, Clos Saint Thomas, Cave Kouroum[dead link], Clos de Cana [dead link], Nabise Mont Liban, Chateau Khoury,
Exchange rates for Lebanese pound / lira
As of January 2023:
Actual exchange rates
Sayrafa rate: US$1 ≈ LL75,000
The Lebanese currency is the Lebanese pound, which is most commonly known in Lebanon as the Lebanese lira. It is denoted by the symbol "ل.ل., " or "LL" (ISO code: LBP). After the Lebanese Civil War ended, its value was kept stable relative to the US dollar for decades, at a value of LL1,500 to US$1, but has been in free fall since October 2019, resulting in a major economic crisis that has paralyzed the country. Credit card and ATM card use are charged at the "Sayrafa rate", which is about 20% below the black market rate. You can get the best rate by bringing cash to exchange at the money shops. Though due to the financial crisis, you have to assume you can't use your debit/credit card in Lebanon at all. In most cases, you cannot use it to purchase stuff, you cannot use it in restaurants or hospitals and you cannot use it in the ATM to withdraw money. Cash is the key to paying in Lebanon at the moment.
Lebanese lira and US dollars are accepted almost everywhere, and it is common to pay in dollars but receive change in lira (in which case, make sure you don't get short-changed). Since the financial crisis began, there are two types of US dollars talked about in Lebanon: “lollars”, which are US dollars stuck in Lebanese bank accounts frozen by the banks, and such are worthless, and "fresh dollars", which are in huge demand in Lebanon. As a visitor carrying fresh dollars, you may run the risk of being scammed. Since October 2019, banks have been running short of US dollars, and a black market has emerged with rates that have drastically diverged from the official (fixed) exchange rate. The currency has continued to fall in value.
Bills used are LL1000, LL5000, LL10,000, LL20,000, LL50,000 and LL100,000. You may find two forms of LL1000 and they are both accepted.
There are LL250 and LL500 coins. LL25, LL50 and LL100 coins are virtually never used.
- See also: Middle Eastern cuisine
Lebanon fosters exquisite cuisine ranging from a mezza of vegetarian dishes such as tabouleh, fattoush, and waraq ainab to delicious dips like hommos and moutabal.
Must haves include Lebanese barbeque such as shish tawouq (barbequed chicken) – usually consumed with garlic, lahm mashwiye (barbequed meat), and kafta (barbequed seasoned minced meat).
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 is rolled in Lebanese thin bread. 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 look like folded pizza, the most common toppings being zaatar (a mixture of thyme, olive oil, sesame seeds), jebneh (cheese), or minced meat (this version is more properly referred to as lahm bi ajin).
Another traditional breakfast food is knefeh, a special kind of breaded cheese that is served with a dense syrup in a sesame seed bread. It is also served as dessert.
Lebanon is also very famous for its Arabic sweets which can be found at leading restaurants. The city of Tripoli, however, is considered to be "the" city for Lebanese sweets, and is sometimes even referred to as the "Sweet Capital" of Lebanon.
International food chains are widely spread across the country. Italian, French, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines, as well as café chains (such as Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, etc.), are particularly popular across the country, with a higher concentration in Beirut and the urban sprawl north of the capital.
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 accompaniment to Meze.
But the grapes have also historically been used to make wine. This used to be predominantly white and sweet, but the soldiers and administrators that came to administer the French mandate after World War I 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, 25 km (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 is beautiful to pass through.
Lebanon is full of hotels, with a range in price and quality, from USD10/night to many hundreds of dollars per night, and the quality ranges just as much. Many international hotel chains, such as Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, and Crowne Plaza, can be found here. In Beirut, in coastal cities, and around the historic site of Baalbek, many luxury hotels built in the “Golden Age” boom of the 1960s and early 1970s can be found all over and stayed in for a luxurious and nostalgic experience. They offer a variety of services, including pools and restaurants, amidst the ongoing financial crisis they, although expensive, are your best bet for staying somewhere in Lebanon, as 24-hour electricity is generally nowadays only found in these hotels.
If you want something more affordable, although be prepared to suffer electricity and wifi outages for long hours each day, you can also stay in the many “mom-and-pop” style hotels and boutique hotels found in the country. The best way to save money if you are staying for a long visit is furnished apartments or all-suite hotels, as they come with cleaning and other services.
French-language private schools (and some English-language schools) dominate the education system, due to the widespread inefficiency of the Lebanese state education system since 1975. As such, most schooling is held in either French or English, though students typically learn (Modern Standard) Arabic as a second language in these schools.
A handful of private schools, such as the Lycée Français (several branches over the country), the Collège Protestant Français, Collège Saint Joseph Antoura [dead link],Lycée Abdel Kader, Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour and Collège Elysée among others follow the official French curriculum. The official French Baccalaureate exams can be taken in Lebanon, but prove highly competitive.
Some schools (such as ACS) teach English as a first language and follow an English or American 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 Baccalaureate.
French-language or English-language universities also dominate given the inefficiency of Lebanon’s state university system since 1975. These universities have operated as a major hub of Lebanese cultural, political and social life for decades.
The American University of Beirut - AUB is considered the best American university in the Middle East, and enjoys a highly prestigious reputation in Lebanon. The teaching language there is in English. Other Anglophone private universities include: Antonine University - UPA [dead link] | 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.
If you wish to enroll in the Lebanese state system, the Lebanese University is a recommended state-owned/public university, teaching in Arabic, French and English, and is the largest learning institution in the country. It offers virtually free tertiary education.
Lebanon continues to face numerous problems, including the 2020 explosion in Beirut, which exacerbated the situation. The scarcity of basic supplies, such as food and water, has made them difficult to access for many Lebanese people. Offering sympathy whenever possible is appreciated by the Lebanese people.
If you really want to make a difference in Lebanon, you can donate to or help out with the following charities:
- Nusaned - Lebanon's largest NGO
- Lebanese Food Bank - A non-profit organisation established to eliminate malnutrition in Lebanon
MTC Touch  [formerly dead link] Mobile phone operator offers a GSM card for US$15 including a $10 credit (the START plan). Internet access starts at $10 for up to 100 MByte in a month. Alfa  [dead link] is another mobile phone operator which offers several prepaid plans ranging from $10 to $68. Like MTC Touch, internet access starts at $10 for a 500 MByte bundle per month.
Though many foreign visitors fear widespread violence and destruction upon arrival in Lebanon, since the end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1990 Lebanon has remained relatively peaceful. The vast majority of Lebanese are friendly, and most tourists experience no problems. Nevertheless tensions with neighbours Israel and Syria sometimes erupt (but are usually confined to South Lebanon) and therefore travellers should follow the independent press while in the country.
Like in any country, it is preferable to be accompanied when visiting certain locations. In general, immediate proximity to the borders with Syria and Israel, and any Palestinian or Syrian refugee camps should be avoided.
Some areas in Lebanon are likely to be dangerous for tourists, such as the town of Arsal in the Northern Bekaa, known for kidnapping expats for ransom. In the 2010s, Arsal was also known for the activities of ISIS cells in the area fighting in neighbouring Syria, and some may still operate in the area. As such, you should generally avoid the town of Arsal.
Since the end of the war, in Southern Lebanon, the pro-Iran Shi’a militia Hezbollah holds complete dominance over everyday life, with virtually no government presence and no army presence. As such, the region has been described as “lawless”. You should avoid making any kind of criticism of Hezbollah or Iran while in Southern Lebanon, or any praise of Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Western countries as you can land in serious trouble. Though many locals in the region are angered by Hezbollah’s dominance over politics, economics, and civil life in Southern Lebanon, do not be tempted to join them in anger as you could be used as a political bargaining chip if unlucky.
Visitors should always register with their respective embassies once they enter Lebanon and keep up-to-date regarding any travel warnings regarding Lebanon.
Useful phone numbers:
- Police: 112 or 911 or 999 (it is common that if you call them for small-scale infractions e.g. pick-pocketing or sexual harassment they will not come).
- Fire brigade: 175 (metropolitan Beirut only)
- Civil defense: 125 (outside Beirut)
- The Red Cross (Medic Response): 140
- Information: 1515
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.
- Saint George Hospital, Ashrafieh area: +961-1-441000.
- Tel Shiha - Zahle, Beqaa
- Nini Hospital - Tripoli, North Lebanon: +961-6-431400.
- Hopital Albert Haykel - Koura, North Lebanon: +961-6-411111.
- 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.
It's recommended to drink bottled water rather than tap water.
Lebanon is a country of many different religious sects, 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. Sectarian attitudes, although widespread during the war, have largely decreased, especially in the wake of the recent financial crisis, which has seen large sectors of Lebanese society come together in unity. However it has not fully disappeared in areas such as the South.
Even in Beirut, some areas (notably the Shi’a-majority southern suburbs) are more conservative than others, thus visitors should bear that in mind when exploring the city. Overall, however, clothing considered 'western' is largely acceptable, with a large number of Lebanese women not wearing hijab in stark contrast to neighbouring Syria, and with a huge cosmetics, plastic surgery, and beauty industry. But to hedge your bets, keep your dress generally modest. Bear in mind, however, that as open and western as Beirut is, this is not Europe; "topless" at any beach, whether private or public, is not recommended at all.
In Tripoli, especially in the old city, it is recommended that women dress conservatively. The same applies on most traditional "souks" in the country. In general, Lebanese are accustomed to different lifestyles and some do not take offense easily, especially with matters related to dress. The Lebanese are people accustomed to diversity and are therefore quicker to accept different lifestyles, though not all Lebanese are so open-minded.
- The Lebanese are indirect communicators. They are tempered by the need to save face and they will avoid saying anything that could be construed as critical, judgmental, or offensive. This said, the Lebanese value transparency and openness and they take words at face value.
- The Lebanese value sincerity and openness. Expect a Lebanese person to do exactly what they say they will do. To them, their word is their bond. Don't say something if you don't mean it. Don't say "next time" if there isn't going to be a "next time".
- The Lebanese respect their elders. You are expected to act politely around someone older than you, and it would be seen as rude if you attempt to challenge someone older than you.
- Never beckon a Lebanese person directly, even if they have done something wrong in your opinion. The Lebanese are quite sensitive to being beckoned directly, and it is considered very rude manners.
- If a Lebanese person asks you for a favour, try to follow through with it. It's completely normal for the Lebanese to try to help each other out as much as possible. Being reluctant to accept favours is considered extremely rude.
Lebanon has been facing a large-scale, multi-dimensional economic crisis since 2019, resulting in the majority of citizens losing their life savings due to banks' refusal to allow withdrawals. Furthermore, a failed "Revolution" (Thawra) in October 2019 has caused the country to unite against the government.
While discussing politics is not a social faux pas, it is worth noting that many Lebanese people are incredibly frustrated with their government and hold them responsible for the country's dire situation. This sentiment is widespread, and foreigners are likely to observe it firsthand.
To avoid being culturally insensitive, simply listen, ask questions and learn something new.