Choose good timing
Summer in Lebanon is usually tourist season and many flock to enjoy the numerous beach parties, resorts and nightlife events. Coming in the summer will leave you vulnerable to inflated prices and lack of cheap accommodations. Instead, try visiting in the spring to enjoy the country’s nature or in the winter to go skiing in the Cedars or Faraya.
Aim for hostels or boutique hotels
While the price of accommodations may be a problem in Beirut, you should always aim for small, family-owned hotels and possibly hostels (not widely available) for a place to stay. Not only are the locals very friendly and helpful, but the experience will be more authentic. You’ll be losing the chain hotel experience but you’ll be gaining the Lebanese one. For example, you can stay at Hostel Beirut, which is more of a community, rather than just a place to stay, and it will only set you back around US$25 a night. Or, you can book a room at the Via Mina Hotel in Mina (Tripoli), which will cost between US$80 and US$130 a night.
Mina Hotel, Farah Antoun St., Al Mina, Tripoli, Lebanon, +961 6 222 227
Try to stay in one city
Travelling between cities in Lebanon can be inconvenient and expensive. The only three ways to commute are either to rent a car and drive, to pay a service car/taxi or to take the Connexion (referred to as Connex by locals) bus, which connects cities between Tripoli and Beirut. While the bus ticket only costs about US$54, Connex timing can be inconvenient (the last bus from Tripoli is at 5:00 PM and at 8:00 PM towards Tripoli) and is subject to change on holidays. If you’re visiting Lebanon for a short while and are on a budget, try sticking to one or two cities – there’s tons to explore!
Use taxis or walk
Lebanon is small, and its cities and towns are even smaller. This makes walking from one location to another within the same city possible, if not more convenient. Some routes may be on the longer side, but the sights are usually worth it! If you’re not a fan of walking, opt for a taxi, rather than car service. However, to be safe, make sure the license plate is red, as this is an indication that the car is registered as an official taxi.
Eat street food
In Lebanon, street food is practically synonymous with “local food” – it’s part of daily life for the Lebanese and it’s an essential part of the travel experience. Lebanese street food is not only delicious but it’s also extremely cheap! A Man’ouche from a small shop will probably only cost 1,000 LBP (US$1 is 1,500 LBP) and your average Falafel sandwich with a drink will cost about 10,000 LBP (which is around US$7). Don’t be afraid of local food stands and small shops, especially crowded ones. The number of people will tell you how popular the shop is.
Opt for small restaurants
If you don’t want to settle for a food stand or on-the-go sandwiches, choose small restaurants instead of big names. Don’t be afraid to go in and ask about the menu. In small restaurants, you’ll discover a more authentic experience and you’ll savour typical cuisine. Moreover, you’re likely to pay less for better food. For example, Akra in Tripoli is the place to have a traditional Hummus based breakfast and it will not cost more than US$10.
If shopping in Lebanon is part of your budget make sure that, if the store is expensive, it offers a return service. Taxes on imported merchandise in Lebanon are really high because of high customs fees. As a tourist, however, you can shop tax-free by filling out forms and collecting your money upon departure. Don’t miss out on this cash return as it can add up to a big sum!
Do your research
As with any country, tourists are prone to scams and price inflation. Avoid this by researching the prices of basic items, services and activities. For example, a small bottle of water should cost 500 LBP in small shops (it can be more expensive in certain spots and restaurants), a short taxi ride should not cost more than US$3, and if it does, kindly ask your driver to explain why. Finally, street food should not set you back more than US$7 per person. If all else fails, try to ask the locals around you what to expect before you walk into an establishment.