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There are numerous places to visit while driving in Lebanon. It is possible to traverse this small country from north to south in less than three hours. From the capital city of Beirut, travel along the Mediterranean coast and encounter such historical cities as Byblos—believed by some to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world—before continuing north to the famous historical city of Tripoli. To the east of Beirut are a number of ancient Phoenician and Roman archaeological sites.
The road conditions in Lebanon are quite poor and Lebanese drivers are infamous for driving recklessly. Traffic rules often appear to be at the discretion of each individual driver so exercise caution when driving here.
Driving licences: an International Driver’s Permit along with a valid UK driver’s licence is required.
Which side does the Lebanon drive on: the right.
Town and city: 30mph (50kph)
Motorways: 60mph (100kph)
Alcohol limits: the same as in the UK at 0.08 per cent.
Driving age: 23 years.
Seatbelts: mandatory as long as they are fitted in the vehicle.
Mobile phones and GPS: using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited with the exception of a hands-free device. GPS may come in handy as the locals, although friendly, often give erroneous directions.
Cost of fuel in Lebanon: cheaper than in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: credit cards are widely accepted for car hire and fuel. Having some cash on hand is a good idea in the event a credit card cannot be used.
Insurance: included in the cost of car hire, with collision damage waiver available as an extra.
Traffic and parking: traffic in large cities such as Beirut can be bad. Lebanese drivers are notorious for parking anywhere they like, including on roundabouts and at traffic lights. Double parking is normal.
Most people use service taxis while visiting Lebanon. Service taxis operate in a similar way to buses, on set routes between towns and cities. Each car takes up to four passengers for local routes and up to six passengers for longer routes. These taxis, as well as all other public transportation in Lebanon, can be easily identified by their red–coloured licence plates. Service taxis can also be hired, for a negotiated cost, to visit other places.
Buses connecting cities throughout Lebanon are inexpensive and offer an excellent way of getting around. For example, a trip from Beirut to Tripoli costs about £1. Buses servicing northern areas of Lebanon from Beirut originate from the Charles Helou Station. Those travelling to south and southeast Lebanon are able to take one of the buses departing from Cola Station—which is really just an intersection next to the Cola Bridge.
There are ferries that service Lebanon from Turkey. There are also cruise companies that offer visits to Lebanon via the Mediterranean Sea.
The only international airport in Lebanon is Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, which is also a military air base. Flights from the UK’s London-Heathrow and Manchester are available through a number of providers, including Turkish Airlines and Czech Airlines. A free one-month tourist visa can be obtained by UK nationals ahead of travel from a Lebanese embassy or consulate. Persons who have passports showing previous travel to Israel—or even neighbouring land border countries such as Egypt of Jordan—my be refused entry.
Lebanon has a plethora of historic sites to visit as well as a good supply of entertainment and leisure destinations. Jounieh is a seaside resort equipped with both sun and a vibrant nightlife, while Jezzine in south Lebanon is the main tourist destination and summer resort. Brummana is another popular summer resort with accompanying nightlife.
In terms of activities, there are the Jeita caverns, located north of Beirut, that are ripe for exploration. Underwater archaeological remains may be explored by divers near the city of Tyre. There is even skiing in the mountainous regions of Bakish, The Cedars, Faqra, Faraya, Laklouk and Zarour. Some of these areas also offer excellent hiking opportunities.
Visiting Lebanon gives travellers access to several UNESCO World Heritage sites: Baalbek, located in the Bekaa Valley east of the Litani River; Anjar, located in the Bekaa Valley; Byblos, in the northern Mount Lebanon region; Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God, in the north Lebanon region; and Tyre, 50 miles (80kms) south of Beirut in southern Lebanon are all popular with travellers.
Lebanon has four distinct seasons; spring lasts from April to May, with temperatures from 0-15°C in the mountains and 15-25°C along the coast. This is generally the best time to visit. Summer lasts from June to September and sees readings from 6-22°C in the mountains and from 20-32°C along the coast; this is an excellent time to visit one of Lebanon’s beaches. Winter is from December to March and offers ideal skiing temperatures of -5-5°C in the mountains and of 10-20°C along the coast.