Make a plan
It’s essential to make a plan before visiting Lebanon. If you don’t want to spend your vacation wandering the streets of Beirut aimlessly, you need to figure out what you want to see and do. Public transportation in Lebanon really only consists of taxis, and taxi services and clear maps aren’t necessarily helpful for obscure spots. Research well and make sure to refer to local sources for plan ideas.
Figure out accommodation before you arrive
Hotels tend to be grouped in the same area, but make sure to do your research so you’re not too far away from where you want to be. We would suggest either staying in Hamra, along the coast, or if you want more luxury in Downtown Beirut.
Figure out transportation before you arrive
Again, figuring out transportation is essential. If you plan on leaving Beirut, the best option is renting a car. In the city, always opt to walk if the venue is close, and make sure your hotel provides you with numbers for a taxi service for safety.
Take account of the seasons
If you’re not into beaches, don’t come in the summer. While Lebanon has milder weather than other countries in the region, summer can still be really hot and you will find yourself gravitating towards the beaches. Of course, summer on a Lebanese beach is amazing, but if you want to explore other sites comfortably you should visit another time.
A similar thing can be said for winter. The weather can become very cold and rainy, so if you’re not interested in skiing, visit Lebanon in the spring or fall.
Beirut specifically, and Lebanon in general, can be expensive. Between hotels, transportation and food you’ll find yourself spending a lot of money. Don’t underestimate how much money you’ll be spending, because although you can travel Lebanon on the cheap, you’re more than likely to overspend.
Carry some cash
Many places take credit and debit cards but always make sure to carry some cash with you because smaller stores and street food vendors will only accept this. Unless you’re planning a trip purely to the center of Beirut, you’ll need cash. Almost all stores accept U.S. dollars, but know the exchange rate and the prices of some key items so you don’t get overcharged. For example, one U.S. dollar is usually 1,500 Lebanese Lira, and a small bottle of local water should be 500 Lebanese Lira (maybe more expensive at restaurants and tourist sites).
City development is behind in Lebanon generally, and Beirut specifically. While places like Downtown are designed for pedestrians, many areas are not. Pack a couple of outfits for dining out or attending events, but keep the rest of your clothing functional. There aren’t any strict dress codes in Lebanon, so don’t fret about this too much.
Know the mechanics of tax-free shopping
You’ll notice that everything in Lebanon seems to be substantially more expensive than in other countries. This is because of the large customs fee imposed on imported goods. However, don’t be afraid to shop, because as a tourist you get to do so tax free. Beirut is one of the best places to shop (especially for luxury) in the region, and European brands seem to dominate the Lebanese market. You can get your tax back at the airport if the store you’re shopping in offers that service.
Beirut shouldn’t be your only destination
While it is the capital, Beirut should not be your only destination if you’re a more daring traveler. Places like Tyr, Byblos and Tripoli are must-sees. Tyr has a Roman history, Byblos Phoenician and Tripoli is the country’s second biggest city. Beirut tends to be the most popular destination because of the abundance of hotels and accommodation. However, other cities suffer a catch-22: there aren’t a lot of hotels so tourists don’t visit, but tourists don’t visit, which means there aren’t many hotels.
Do plan to see the touristy sites
Lebanon is a small country — in fact, it’s the smallest in the region. The “touristy” sites are really worth seeing. Of course, locals will have their favourite spots that tourists don’t know about, but don’t skip the touristy sites.
Don’t make assumptions
A lot of tourists make assumptions about visiting the Middle East. Lebanon will surely defy all your expectations, so try not to assume anything about it. There is no strict dress code, no constant war or excessive danger. In fact, in terms of tourist safety, Lebanon tends to be a good choice as the locals are extremely helpful and it’s a small country. Unless there is overt political unrest, don’t assume a Lebanese city is unsafe, but of course exercise a normal level of caution.
Don’t be afraid
Lebanon has been plagued by strife, but the locals have tried to overcome problems. Beirut tends to be a cosmopolitan place with open-minded, helpful people. Tripoli, despite what the media may convey, is not full of extremists but a small residential city full of worthwhile places to explore. Do your research and rely on local guides to help you around Lebanon, and we trust you won’t regret it.
Do be careful though — Lebanon has been known to make you fall in love and visit again.