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FACTFILE


Time: GMT+2
Dial code: 00 96
Area: 10,452 sq km
Elevation: Lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0m | Highest point: Qurnat as Sawda' 3,088m
Population: 4,224,000 (2009
Capital: Beirut
Government: Confessionalist Republic
Language: Arabic (Lebanese dialect), French, English

LEBANON COUNTRY GUIDE


Lebanon is located at the crossroad of Europe, Africa and the Middle East and due to it’s strategic location, good travel links and the countries wealth of tourist attractions, Lebanon is becoming a very fashionable tourist destination in its own right or an exciting bolt-on when taking a tour to Israel or Jordan.

Lebanon offers many archaeological sites and an interesting history. The east of the country borders the Mediterranean Sea and with over 200km of coastline this part of the country is becoming very popular. As with much of the Middle East, Lebanon enjoys a sunny climate for much of the year as well as snow capped peaks in the mountains around Mount Lebanon. The diverse landscapes and weather variations make Lebanon an ideal tourist destination throughout the year with sightseeing, beach holidays and activity based holidays in both the summer and winter and unlike most of the middle-east, Lebanon also offers ski opportunities during the winter months.

Beirut, the countries capital suffered greatly from Lebanon's long-running civil war, but following a remarkable and ongoing process of reconstruction, the city is now poised to become of the Middle East's most popular destinations. Outside of the capital several UNESCO World Heritage sites wait to be explored!

Highlights

  • Beirut - Cosmopolitan and Historical capital city
  • Byblos - Crusader castle and pretty fishing harbour
  • Tripoli - Ancient Lebanese port town
  • Harissa - Important Lebanese pilgrimage site
  • Baalbek - Exquisitely detailed Roman Temple ruins
  • Anjar - Remarkably well preserved Umayyad ruins
  • Palm Islands - Enjoy a day trip to these beautiful islands off of Tripoli

When to go

Generally, the best times to visit Lebanon are in the spring or autumn when the climate is warm but not uncomfortable however, tourist numbers at the popular tourist sites will be much greater. Travelling during the summer months can be less expensive and quieter, however, it may be uncomfortable for some tourists, temperatures can reach the high 30's. The winter months often bring a lot of rain and sometimes snow which can spoil sightseeing and close some of the higher roads. If you fancy trying Lebanon's rapidly developing winter-sports then the winter season is an excellent time to travel.

Ramadan falls at a different time each year, and you shouldn’t be put off travelling during Ramadan as this can be a very interesting time to travel in the Arab World. Generally, you will find that there is festival feeling within the country with decorations lining the streets. Fasting takes places during daylight hours (for those of the Muslim Faith) and the evening meal (Iftar) is generally a very special occasion. During Ramadan, some tourist sites may close earlier than at other times of the year and we will take this into account when arranging your itinerary.

Geography

Lebanon covers an area of approximately 10,452km² and shares borders with Syria in the North and East and Israel to the South. The West of Lebanon borders the Mediterranean Sea, the coastline stretching for 225km.

The country has four main geographical areas which run, pretty much parallel to one another. These regions are - (From West to East), The Coastal Plain, Mt Lebanon Range, The Bekaa Valley and finally, the Anti-Lebanon Range. Lebanon's terrain is varied however much of it is mountainous. The Bekaa Valley lies between The Mount Lebanon Range and The Anti-Lebanon mountains and this area is the countries main agricultural centre.

Weather & climate

Due to its location on the eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate with four distinct seasons.

The summer is usually very hot on the coast making this season ideal for sun worshippers and water sports enthusiasts. During the summer the mountainous regions enjoy a slightly cooler temperature which ideal for mountain walks. Temperatures on the coast during summer range from 20-32°C (68-90°F) and in the mountains typically 6-22°C (45-70°F). Winter is generally very rainy with snow in the mountains. This is Lebanon's ski seasons with many ski resorts opening their doors to skiers and snowboarders of every level. Lebanon’s mountain ranges also offer kilometres of cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails to explore. During winter temperatures range from -5°C-5°C (25-40°F) Spring and Autumn are pleasant and warm on the coast (typically 15-28°C (60-85°F) and in the south whilst the mountains are crisp and cool (typically 5-20°C (40-68°F).

Click for Beirut, Lebanon Forecast
Beirut
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Rain (mm)
191
133
111
46
15
2
0
0
2
60
101
164
Sun (hrs)
5
5
6
8
10
12
12
11
9
8
7
5
Temp (Max)
17
17
19
22
26
28
31
32
30
27
23
18
Temp (Min)
11
11
12
14
18
21
23
23
23
21
16
13
Days of Rain*
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Hum (%)
71
71
70
69
66
64
62
61
60
63
64
69
* denotes number of days with at least 1.0 mm of rainfall

Money

Lebanese Pound (L£)

1 L£ = 100 Piastres
1 US$ = 1,511 L£ (April 2017)
1 UK£ = 1,885 L£ (April 2017)

Common Coins

  • 50 L£
  • 100 L£
  • 250 L£
  • 500 L£

Common Notes

  • 1,000 L£
  • 5,000 L£
  • 20,000 L£
  • 50,000 L£
  • 100,000 L£

The Lebanese Pound isn't a restricted currency however if may be difficult to obtain Lebanese Pounds outside of Lebanon, but Sterling and US Dollars can easily be exchanged upon arrival. Bank hours are generally 0800-1400 Monday to Friday and 0800-1230 on Saturdays. Some banks may stay open until 1700. You should try to avoid travellers' cheques if possible as these are generally difficult to exchange as only certain banks will accept them. US Dollars are the preferred currency and very often don't need to be exchanged as they are accepted in many shops. Pound Sterling can also be exchanged but is less desirable. ATM Machines are readily available in Beirut and other large towns. Major credit and debit cards are now widely accepted however it is advisable to check with your bank prior to departure regarding merchant acceptability and fees.

Holidays

Fixed Public Holidays

New Years Day - 1st January
Orthodox Armenian Christmas - 6th January
Feast of St Maroun - 9th February
Labour Day - 1st May
Martyrs’ Day - 6th May
Liberation Day - 25th May
Assumption of the Virgin - 15th August
All Saints Day - 1st November
Independence Day - 22nd November
Christmas Day - 25th December

Variable Muslim & Christian Holidays (2010 dates)*

Good Friday - 14th April
Easter Sunday - 16th April
Ramadan - 27th May - 25th June
Eid Al-Fitr (Feast at the end of Ramadan) - 25th June
Eid Al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) - 1st - 5th September
Al-Hijra (Muhammads Fight for Mecca) - 21st September
Milad un Nabi (The Prophet's Birthday) - 1st December

*These religious festivals have no fixed dates and vary each year. 

For exact dates of holidays and festivals for the coming year please click here.

Religions

Islam and Christianity are the main religions in Lebanon. Islam (Mainly Shi'ite) account for approximately 59%, whilst Christianity (Mainly Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Armenian and Protestant) account for approximately 39%. Other religions account for the remainder which includes a small Jewish community.

Vaccinations

We do always recommend that you seek professional medical advice when considering holiday vaccinations but the ones that are normally recommended for travel to Lebanon are listed below:

  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow (A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required when arriving from an affected area)

For direct, up-to-date information on vaccination requirements for Lebanon please click here

Customs

  • As with much of the Middle East, it is recommended that you should dress conservatively when visiting religious sites of places where a lot of local people may be gathered (such as markets and bazaars). Beirut may be an exception to this rule as the city is very cosmopolitan and 'western' clothing is generally accepted. Many of the countries coastal resorts are also becoming very westernised.
  • A warm way to greet a person is generally a big smile followed by a handshake whilst saying Marhaba. Due to the countries past many French customs remain in Lebanon and you will often see friends greeting each other with three kisses on the cheek (alternating cheeks in the French style).
  • When dining with local people you will normally be urged to take second or third helpings as this shows your host that you are enjoying their food. A good tip for this is to ensure you eat less on your first course so a second course will be possible!
  • As with other countries in the Middle East, haggling is an integral part of Lebanese life and you should expect to knock off around 20-30% of the original price. When shopping in larger shops prices tend to be fixed.
  • Tips are always appreciated in Lebanon (not just from foreigners) and in many establishments, expected (when good service has been provided). In restaurants and other nightspots, a service charge of 16% is generally added to your bill however it is customary to still leave a tip of 5-10% of the total bill amount.

Security

We advise you check your local consular advice for up to date security information before you travel. Lebanon is a friendly and generally trouble free country with little crime affecting tourists. Tensions can rise suddenly though following changes in the whole Middle Eastern situation.

Know before you go

In association with the ‘Know Before You Go’ Campaign, we are working with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to do all that we can to help British travellers stay safe overseas. Before you go overseas, check out the FCO website at www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo. It is packed with essential travel advice and tips, and up-to-date country information.

Know before you go

Visas

Most British, European (excluding much of Eastern Europe), American, Australian and New Zealand citizens can obtain their visas on arrival in Beirut airport or the border crossing from Syria to Lebanon. We always recommend that you check visa regulations with your nearest embassy, if you are in any doubt, or for peace of mind, we advise you to obtain your visa before leaving your home country.

If you intend to or have visited Israel prior to travelling to Lebanon then you will not be permitted entry into Lebanon if you have an Israeli passport stamp. For passengers who don't have an Israel stamp but still possess an exit stamp from Taba (Egypt) and an entry stamp from Aqaba (Jordan) you will also not be permitted entry into Lebanon as the authorities will be able to tell from these two stamps that you travelled through Israel even if you don't have an Israeli Stamp.

The Lebanese tourist visa is generally issued free of charge, however, this depends on nationality. The visa is usually valid for 1 month from the date of issue.

How to get there

By air

There is just one main international airport in Lebanon; this is located in the country's capital city - Beirut. All scheduled flights fly in and out of Beirut, with a wide range of European and international airlines flying every day. We start most Lebanon tours in Beirut, though we also combine Syria, Jordan and Egypt or a combination of the four in many itineraries, and there are good options to fly or travel overland between these countries. It is possible to fly from Damascus (Syria) to Beirut with Syrian Airlines however as the journey by road is only approximately 3-4 hours, travelling overland does tend to be the preferred option. Flights between Cairo and Beirut operate daily with Egypt Air and Middle Eastern Airlines (MEA) and flights between Amman and Beirut are also operated daily with Royal Jordanian and Middle Eastern Airlines (MEA).

Flying from the UK:

If you are flying from the UK, then the only direct flights to Beirut are from London Heathrow, with either BMI or MEA. The flight takes around 5 hours. Fares range from around £400 if you book well in advance, but do increase significantly during busy periods. Prices are often cheaper if you choose an indirect flight with a European airline such as Cyprus Airways, Czech Airlines and Turkish Airlines are also a good option when considering flights from regional airports such as Manchester.
In general, the earlier you book the better, as flights tend to get more expensive closer to departure. Flying from regional airports such as Manchester, Newcastle or Glasgow will require a stop-over in London or Europe and normally is a little more expensive than flying from London.

Where to book:

We hold an ATOL, and you are welcome to book your flights with us. Please discuss your ideal dates and departure airport with our sales staff, and we will send you a selection of airlines, flight times, and prices. You can then choose whether to book your flights through us, or to make your own arrangements. If you book your own flights, we will still include both your arrival and departure airport transfers.

By land

Jordan

The drive from Amman in Jordan, to Beirut in Lebanon, takes around 6 hours including border crossings and routes via Syria. If you arrive in Jordan from Egypt (via the borders at Taba/Eilat and Eilat/Aqaba) then you will not be able to enter Lebanon or Syria as the authorities will see that you have entered Israel from the entry and exit stamps in Egypt and Jordan (even if you have no Israeli Stamp). If you intend on combining Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon then we will use a ferry to travel from Nuweiba to Aqaba and miss out Israel completely.

Syria

Damascus in Syria has excellent road connections with Beirut via the Damascus-Beirut Highway. The journey by road takes approximately 3-4 hours and your visa can normally be obtained at the border (however this may differ depending on your nationality).

Turkey

For those looking to enter Lebanon from Turkey, your journey will route via Syria. Turkey and Syria share 8 land borders but the most convenient and most popular border is the Cilvegözü/Baba al Hawa border which provides good links between the cities of Antakya in Turkey and Aleppo in the north of Syria. Once in Syria, you can then travel south to Homs and onwards across the border to Lebanon (normally Tripoli). The journey from Homs to Tripoli takes 3 – 4 hours including border crossings.