A Mini Guide to Beirut, Lebanon
Beirut, a fascinating city on the Mediterranean, offering culture, a place where old and new unite, where energies are heightened, and a feeling of belonging is found. Everyone that visits Beirut falls in love with its history, hospitality and everything that is uniquely offered. It’s a place you’ll always want to go back to. If you’re thinking of visiting, here is a mini Beirut guide to help you.
The main entry point is Beirut Hariri International Airport. Plenty of Airline’s fly into Beirut which include Middle East Airlines (Lebanon’s own carrier), Emirates Airlines, Fly Dubai, Air France, British Airways, Air Italia and few more.
Lebanese lira (L.L) and US Dollars ($) are used everywhere. There are plenty of ATM machines and foreign exchange places on almost every road within the cities. With a usual exchange rate of $1USD = 1,500L.L.
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What to wear
Having quite a diversity of religious belief systems, means people would be dressed differently in different areas. In central Beirut shorts and a T-shirt are fine during the summer, but as a general rule in more Muslim and traditional areas it is common sense to cover up (this is for women). If visiting a mosque make sure to have legs, arms and hair covered. There is no dress code in Lebanon. However, if thinking of walking out with a bikini top and shorts you will surely give yourself unwanted attention and get yourself in trouble.
Common Sense: Lebanon is generally safe but you should always you use common sense, as you would travelling anywhere in the world. Dress appropriately. Don’t go off with any strangers. If female, dressed inappropriately and travelling solo try not to take taxi’s alone off the street (use your hotel to book you a private taxi). Refrain from going into areas outside of Beirut on your own without a proper guide or a local that you know (this would still be the same as anywhere else in the world).
Every so often there has been travel warnings on Lebanon from embassies. The majority of the time it has been down to false media. Always double-check with the embassy and ask them reasons why there is a travel ban. It is also worth asking a lebanese person (if you know any) on whether it is safe. Most of the time it is.
Check Points: These are often done by either the army or the police. They are just regular check ups to keep an eye on seat belts, overall vehicle safety, and if anyone in the vehicle is suspicious, but nothing to really worry about. They will not ask you to come out of the car, but may ask for proof of identity if at all. Keep a copy of your identification with you at all times, for when and if you do get asked questions.
Beirut Guide to Getting Around
Word of warning, Beirut and trips in certain directions at rush hour and certain hours on weekends can be over congested! There are speed limits, road signs and police monitoring roads, however, this does not mean that everyone respects the roads rules, so always be vigilant.
Car hire is Highly recommended if you are looking to go outside Beirut to visit mountains, and other coastal cities. There are plenty of places to park for free. Valet parking services are available everywhere you go as well. Make sure to bring your valid International driving license. Hiring a car with a driver would be a better option as google maps and GPS systems may not be up to date. Make sure you negotiate with the rental company in advance on rates. Plenty of rental companies are at the airport.
Taxis are available throughout Lebanon. At the airport they are metered taxis, but in the main cities they’re not. It is always better to ask how much it would cost to a specific area before entering the taxi, but usually the tariffs are fixed anywhere within the city. Note that majority of the services are shared so better ask them whether you want to be in a shared one or to be driven straight to your destination (costs vary). Public bus work on a 15-20 minute interval. You would need to head to an intersection and wave to one to stop. Ask them if they’re going in your direction or ask someone from the shops to direct you. You can also go to Charles Helou Bus Station, Cola Bus station or Dowra, whatever is nearest to you to take bus if visiting an area in or outside of Beirut. Unfortunately a bus route map has not yet been launched, but one is on its way. Uber works just fine but of course depends on whether you are connected to WiFi.
Places to stay in Beirut:
Vendome Boutique Hotel located short distance from Zaytouna Bay, Raouche, and the famous La Plage Pool lounge & Restaurant Club
Four Seasons Hotel Beirut– Offering incredible sunset views, immaculate service, rooftop bar, and is walking distance to downtown Beirut
Movenpick Hotel & Resort Beirut– offering incredible views of the Mediterranean, this family friendly resort is in the center of the coast of Beirut with direct access to the beach
Kempinski Summerland– the newest addition in Beirut. Offering water sports, direct access to the beach. A little out of the center of Beirut so a 10 minute taxi is a must to get to Verdun or Raouche.
Beirut City Center:
Hotel Albergo a perfect place for romantic stays, candle lit dinners and a walk around the Ashrafieh neighborhood. Look out for some boutique shops for one-off shopping pieces.
Le Grey Hotel is in downtown and is one the ideal places to brush shoulders with some of Lebanon’s elite. If you’re lucky you may even spot famous people.
Four Points by Sheraton Verdun would be ideal if you want to be in an area near high street shopping district and if you love people watching. 2017 saw the new opening of the ABC Mall which has taken over an entire block in Verdun.
Saifi Suites located across from downtown by a 2 minute walk. Is walking distance from Gemmayze street and Mar Mkhaeil the nightlife areas.
Highly Recommended restaurants, In and around Beirut
Liza Beirut the latest addition to Beirut’s eateries. A contemporary restaurant that started in Paris and opened in Beirut offering a great ambiance with incredible architecture. The food is of course impeccable. Located in Ashrafieh. To reserve call +961717 17 105. More information at www.lizabeirut.com $$$
Em Sherif is not the place for people who don’t eat. Expect to have the entire menu on the table, so brace yourself, enjoy your company, and eat slow. You will be in one of Lebanon’s most popular Lebanese spots! There's 3 branches, Em Sherif Seaside, Em Sherif Cafe, and Em Sherif Ashrafieh. To reserve call +961 709 19 119. More information at www.emsherif.com $$$
Babel Bay perfect for sea food lovers who enjoy the sunshine while people watching, and admiring yachts lined up in front of them one after the other. Located at Zaytouna Bay. To Reserve call +961 1 370846 . More Information on www.babelrestaurant.com $$$
Tawlet an exceptional place bringing local ingredients from Souk El Tayeb markets and inviting Chefs from all over the country to talk about the different delicacies of their villages. A great place if you want to also learn to cook authentic Lebanese dishes. For more information visit www.tawlet.com $$
Other Main Coastal Cities in Lebanon
The cities of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, and Tripoli all offer incredible history and would need to be given their own time. Some cities, date back to 7000 BC!
Discover more about Lebanon by checking out 60 Reasons why Lebanon should be on your bucket list! If you know of anyone interested in visiting Lebanon please feel free to share with them this Beirut Guide
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