Travel guide to Lebanon

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Before the war Lebanon was known as the Paris of the Middle East; and this is a title they would love to regain. Lebanon is both Western and Middle Eastern at the same time. The best from both worlds combines here - the charm of old Beirut, long promenades, expensive shops and the Western oriented Lebanese people. You can experience a Middle Eastern bazaar and stroll among the several thousand-year-old world famous cedar trees. These were reputedly the trees from which Noah built the ark, and from which Solomon built the first Jewish temple. You can also be amazed by one of the most magnificent of ancient sights - the temple in Baalbek - or even fritter away your money at the casino in Jounieh.

Facts

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Local name
Al Jumhuriyah al Lubnaniyah
Capital
Beirut (1.500.000)
Size
10.452 km2
Principal Languages
Arab and French
Principal Religion
Islam and Christianity
Inhabitants
3.000.000
Government
Republic
Geography
With Syria to the north and west and Israel to the south, Lebanon is one of the worlds smallest countries (180 km from north to south). But despite this size there is great variety - with bathing beaches and Mediterranean climate by the coast - and mountains including the more than 3000 metre tall Qornet as-Sawda. In the Bekaa valley on the side of the mountains towards Syria, wine and crops are grown. The climate by the coast has both wet winters and hot summers. The mountains have a typical alpine climate and the Bekaa valley has hot, dry summers and cold winters with plenty of snow.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

The summer is sunny and very hot. Along the coast the heat is humid. May is beautiful because all the flowers blossom. Autumn is also a lovely season and the climate is still warm. In the winter skiing is possible

Literature

Lonely Planet Lebanon Jordan, Syria and Lebanon Handbook

Local conditions

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Currency

Lebanese lira (LL)

Net cafes

In all of the bigger cities there are Internet cafés and the prices are cheap. Several of them offer free coffee or something alike to tempt the customers.

In case of emergency

To call for help in Lebanon, use the following numbers: Police (16) Tourist police (01) 343209

Tipping

At the more expensive restaurants they apply tips to the bill themselves, but still they would appreciate if you add a bit if you have been satisfied. Other places it is expected that you tip them yourself.

Timezone

When its 12 p.m. in UK, its 2 p.m. in Lebanon.

Weight and Measures

In Lebanon, the following measurements are used: Length: Metre Weight: Kilo Liquid: Litre

Photography

There are many beautiful scenarios in Lebanon. If you wish to photograph the locals, ask in advance. In the country, be a bit more careful about photography.

Drinking water

The water is not exactly unhealthy - but there are bacteria in it other than you will be used to, so it is best to buy water in a bottle. However its not a problem to brush your teeth using the tap-water.

Electricity

In Lebanon the following power source is used: 220V, 50 Hz

Behaviour

In Beirut it is no problem how you dress - but when in Muslim dominated areas do be careful not to wander around half-naked. At public beaches it is not appropriate for girls to bathe in bikini or a bathing suit. A T-shirt works wonders. If you wish use the expensive private beaches where dressing is less important. But even if you're bathing on an expensive Christian beach, they are still not used to women being publicly topless.

Business Hours

Shops are open from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. (Monday to Saturday) Offices are open from 8.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. (Monday to Saturday, Friday however from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Banks are open from 8.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. (Monday to Saturday)

Food and drink

Lebanese food can be delicious. The most common order is mezze, which means 'small dishes'. You can order different small first courses. For example humus, tomato salad, aubergine salad or kebbe (bulgur ball with stone pine seeds, beef-flesh and onions). There are a vast number of these sort of dishes. Served with it is bread and different flesh dishes as the main course such as lamb, chicken, fish or beef. Kebab and falafel are widespread as fast-food. Sweet tea and Turkish coffee are common drinks among the locals.

Disabled travellers

The expensive hotels are more often prepared for disabled visitors - unlike museums or restaurants. Also bear in mind that no thought has gone into city and town design - such as kerbs - with regard to disabilities.

Holidays

New Years Day, 1st of January Mar Maroun, 9th of February Qana Day, 18th of April The workers day, 1st of May Assumption, 15th of August All Saints Day, 1st of November Independence Day, 22nd of November Christmas Day, 25th of December Moveable holidays Good Friday and Easter Monday, March or April

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

Its possible to camp in various places but the facilities at the different camping sites vary a lot.

Hotels

There are many hotels in Lebanon. Quite a lot them are at the expensive end of the price scale but you can also manage to find hotels at the more reasonable end.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

In some cities its possible to spend the night in private homes, which have been made into hotels. For example try the super-clean Pension Haddad in Tripoli.

Local transport

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Planes

There are no domestic flights at the moment.

Bus

Buses are cheap and comfortable. Buses drive to most cities and its a very cheap mode of transportation

Taxi

There are taxis everywhere in Lebanon. Not all drivers want to drive with a taximeter so it is a good idea to settle on a price in advance

Car rental

In Beirut it is possible to rent a car. Its an excellent way to see the country - though it is not cheap. You will need an international drivers license.

Other Transport

Share-taxis are a fast and an excellent way to get around. At the taxi rank, share-taxis for different cities wait. Its does not take a long time to fill up five seats - and off you go.

Find your travel arrangement to Lebanon here

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