FAST FACTS about LEBANON
HOW TO GET THERE (By Air, Sea & Rail)
- Beirut has an international airport. The national carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA), operates flights to most European capitals, the Middle East, Africa, Singapore and Australia. There is no domestic air service within Lebanon.
- Beirut, Tripoli, and Sidon are the major ports, and a government owned railway connects Beirut with Tripoli and Damascus.
- It is possible to travel to Beirut by sea: a three and a half hour boat trip from Lanaca, Cyprus.
- Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate -- hot and dry summers and cool, rainy winters. The sun shines 300 days a year. The annual rainfall on the coastal plain is around 35in, and more than 50in in the mountains.
Humidity is high along the coast in summer and daytime temperatures average 30°C with night temperatures not much lower.
- Beirut in summer becomes a commuter society as families move to the mountains to enjoy the cool dry climate. Winters on the coast can be dry and mild one day and wet and chilly the next.
- Winter daytime temperatures average 15°C. In the mountains summer daytime temperatures average 26°C and the nights are pleasantly cool. Winters are cold and it snows at the higher elevations. The snow ensures good skiing from December through April.
CURRENCY & BANKING
- The unit of currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese pound (LL), known locally as the lira. There are only notes (LL 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000, 10,000) in circulation as the currency lost much of its value during the war. Most shops, restaurants and hotels will accept US dollars.
- The currency fluctuates according to the international market and to political developments in Lebanon and the Middle East. Most banks will only change US dollars and UK pounds in cash and travellers cheques, but moneychangers will buy and sell almost any currency.
- Visitors are allowed 200 cigarettes and one litre of alcohol.
- The import and export of foreign currency is not restricted.
- The export of antiquities is prohibited without an export licence.
- There is a US$15 departure tax for visitors leaving the country by boat, or economy class air ticket. First class airline passengers must pay US$30.
- Lebanon is a republic with a president, a cabinet and unicameral National Assembly.
- Until 1990 an unwritten agreement known as the National Pact specified that the president had to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim and the Armed Forces Chief of Staff a Druze.
- Parliamentary seats were apportioned among the various sects in accordance with a six to five ratio of Christians to Muslims, as were cabinet, judiciary and military posts. The parliament has legislative powers and elects the president for a six-year non-renewable term.
- Under constitutional reforms set by a peace accord in 1990, many of the powers of the Christian president were shifted to a half-Christian, half-Muslim cabinet, and the Muslim prime minister was to countersign presidential decrees. No parliamentary elections have been held since 1972.
- Beirut is full or shops and markets selling everything from hand woven rugs to electronic equipment, including fashionable clothing. Locally produced handicrafts include pottery, blown glass, embroidered materials, caftans, copper and brass ornaments, mother-of-pearl inlaid trinkets and furniture and rugs.
- A good selection of handicrafts is offered at La Maison de l'Artisan opposite the French Embassy. They sell work by artisans from around the country for a reasonable price.
TAXIS & SERVICE TAXIS
- The best way to get around is by taxi or a shared taxi known locally as "service taxi". Taxis and service taxis are distinguished by red number plates, and on some cars a red and white TAXI sign.
- Service taxis follow a pre-set route and will stop wherever you want. To signal the driver just say "indak" (here). Payment is usually a standard charge and can be made at any time during the trip, though most people tend to pay when they get in. If your destination is not straightforward, you may have to take more than one service taxi.
- Although the fares are not listed anywhere the driver will usually ask for the correct fare. If there are no other passengers in the car, it is advisable to inquire if it is a service taxi before getting in to avoid being charged the higher rate taxi fare.
- The same service car can be come a taxi, if you pay the fare of the other four seats. This avoids stopping and starting to let other passengers in or out and you will be deposited right outside your destination.
- The taxi service in Lebanon is efficient and there are numerous cars always available. Taxi drivers will take you anywhere in the country and some will even go across the border to Jordan and Syria. Visitors are advised to negotiate the fare before beginning any long journey.
- Lebanon has been actively pursuing a policy of infrastructure reconstruction, especially of its telecommunications systems.
- The Lebanese PTT has recently:
- replaced analogue equipment by state of the art digital technology
- upgraded the national transmission network with new copper cables, fibre-optic cables and microwave systems
- upgraded the international transmission network through new earth stations and fibre optic cables
- migrated the existing signalling network based on R2 and CS for international networks to CCS7
- implemented a GSM cellular network
- The new telecom infrastructure is now able to handle up to 1.5 million potential subscribers.
- All foreigners except nationals of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) must have a valid visa to enter Lebanon. Passports must be valid for at least three months beyond the estimated duration of stay in Lebanon. GCC nationals are issued a three-month visa on arrival.
- Refugees must hold travel documents according to the London Convention of 1946 and the Geneva Convention of 1951, issued by any country other than Israel.
- Single and multiple entry visas can be obtained from any Lebanese consulate or embassy.
- The government of Lebanon refuses entry and transit to holders of Israeli passports.
- Entry is also refused to:
- Residents of Gaza holding a Laissez-Passer issued by Egyptian authorities unless the holder has obtained a visa from a Lebanese representative abroad.
- Holders of passports containing a visa for Israel, (valid, expired, used or unused). They may only transit Lebanon on the same aircraft within 24 hours and without leaving the airport. Exceptions are members of travel groups (organized by travel agents and comprising more than three persons) who are holding a passport with a visa for Israel.
- Nationals of India need a return or onward ticket, if their profession gives rise to the suspicion that they may look for employment in Lebanon (e.g. manual labourers).
- Passports of USA nationals must be validated prior to departure from the USA stating that travel to Lebanon is authorized by US Secretary of State in Washington DC. This is a US government regulation.
- As visa regulations are subject to change, visitors should check with their nearest Lebanese embassy or consulate prior to making travel arrangements.