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Lebanon

 
Author kintante
Partaker
#1 | Posted: 21 Jan 2019 07:38 
Freshly back from Lebanon I thought I write down some general tips about visiting the country and what impressed me most.

Driving in Lebanon
I rented a car, which allowed me to visit all WHS, 4 TWHS and Beirut in 3 full days without getting crazy on the pace (rather relaxed for me). If you consider self-driving just be warned that Lebanon was probably the craziest country I drove so far and my list of countries is not too short. Apart from the crazy drivers, the country is also full of badly maintained streets, loads of military checkpoints and tiny mountain roads.

Beirut is not a good location to locate yourself. Try to avoid Beirut whenever possible. Traffic is terrible and you will lose hours crossing the city. If you have to cross the city, try early morning, evening after 6 pm or on Sundays.

Be aware of the snow in winter. I planned to drive from the cedars of god to Baalbek. 1h15mins on google maps. Unfortunately the road over the mountains was closed due to heavy snow fall and I had to take the route all the way back to Beirut to use the Beirut-Damascus high way that is always open. Baalbek itself was also covered in snow and hotels there

Money and internet
Credit cards are accepted in some hotels and some restaurants. Make sure you always have some cash. Gas stations and smaller restaurants only accept cash. You can pay in Lebanese Pounds or USD.

Internet proofed to be a major problem for me as I tend to adjust my plans ad hoc, using mobile data. Neither my travel SIM nor my Swiss provider had a package or even a price plan for Lebanon. Only bigger restaurants, hotels and malls offer Wifi and sometimes a Lebanese phone number is needed. So I was mostly offline. Download all you need before you get there.

Safety
I arrived to a summit of the Arab League and Beirut was flooded with soldiers. In general, there are so many soldiers and police around that I never felt unsafe. The UN is also present, especially in Tyre. Probably the biggest safety issue in Lebanon is to get into a car accident. Else than that I could drive and walk around whenever and wherever I wanted. I didn't see too many foreigners so people are happy to see a tourist and what you mostly hear is "welcome".

Visiting Beirut
Beirut is mostly a huge, chaotic and messy place. The national museum however I would highly recommend. It has very interesting displays from Tyre, Byblos and Baalbek and helps to complete the picture. The Hamra district is probably the authentic part of Beirut, with normal prized shops and restaurants. The Corniche (Paris road) attracts a lot of locals but has next to nothing but the sea view to offer. If you want to show pictures of the city at home that don't make others feel sorry for you for having been there, go to the zone around Place d'étoile. There is a parking lot next to the statue of martyrs. All buildings there are reconstructed, the streets are clean and there is a variety of international brand shops, expensive hotels and restaurants. It felt rather unreal for me after having visited the rest of the country. Much like Disneyland. At least you will find some well-embedded archaeological sites like the Roman baths there.

Author meltwaterfalls
Partaker
#2 | Posted: 22 Jan 2019 06:49 
kintante:
If you want to show pictures of the city at home that don't make others feel sorry for you for having been there

:) That feels very familiar.

Thanks for this run down it is rather useful to have these, even if Lebabon isn't in my current plans. Were you travelling solo on this one?

Author Zoe
Partaker
#3 | Posted: 22 Jan 2019 10:58 
kintante:
Lebanon was probably the craziest country I drove so far

THAT feels very familiar :/ only places where you don't self-drive beat it (Bangladesh, India). Iran is close second. Surprised didn't damage the car in either country though.

Author kintante
Partaker
#4 | Posted: 23 Jan 2019 03:51 
meltwaterfalls
Yes, was alone this time. Flight times from Switzerland are not kid friendly (return on Monday 03:05-06:30 am). But I would not have safety issues to bring my family.

Author sveinh
Partaker
#5 | Posted: 17 Mar 2019 11:37 
Would you be so kind to bring us your itinerary Kintante?

Author kintante
Partaker
#6 | Posted: 18 Mar 2019 03:39 
sveinh
Arrival Friday 1:45am – driving directly to Byblos (no traffic at night)
Friday: Byblos in the morning, next Batroun T. Rest of the day for Qadisha Valley (Cedars and the one monastery accessible by car). In the evening, drive to Baalbek. Had to drive all the way back via Beirut at night due to pass closure for snow. In summer you should be able to cross the mountain and save lots of time.
Saturday: Baalbek, next Anjar, next Echmoun T, next Sidon T. Drive from Anjar to Echmoun via Beirut, where I lost a lot of time in traffic. Night close to Sidon. Hotels in Tyros were too expensive.
Sunday: Tyre in the morning, then Deir El Qamar (Beit ed Dine palace really nice) and the rest of the day in Beirut (National Museum, town center). Flight back the same night.

Author Sjobe
Partaker
#7 | Posted: 18 Mar 2019 07:43 
I will be in Lebanon from 21st to 26th of March. I can also write a short report. My itinerary will be a bit different because I don't rent a car.

Author elsslots
Admin
#8 | Posted: 18 Mar 2019 15:01 | Edited by: elsslots 
Here's my itinerary of 2012. Much slower than kintante, but with public transport & day tours from Beirut:

Day 1: Flight to Beirut via Paris. Staying overnight at Hotel 35 Rooms, Beirut (recommended) for the whole week
Day 2: Visit National Museum & take part in city walk of Walk Beirut
Day 3: Day tour to Baalbek and Anjar. Including lunch and wine tasting in Ksara. With Nakhal Tours
Day 4: Public bus to visit Byblos
Day 5: Spare day in Beirut
Day 6: To Sidon and Tyre by public bus
Day 7: Day tour to Qadisha-valley
Day 8: Half-day tour to Beiteddine Palace and Deir al-Qamar
Day 9: By public bus to Tripoli
Day 10: flight back home

P.S.: I was there in early April, and there still was snow on the mountain pass crossing to Baalbek. But it was passable.

Author sveinh
Partaker
#9 | Posted: 21 Mar 2019 16:04 
Thanks for the itinraries kintante and Els (and I will look forward to your Sjobe).
Els stayed in Beirut the whole time, but what hotels can you recommend (or mayby not recommend) kintante?

Author Sjobe
Partaker
#10 | Posted: 30 Mar 2019 10:25 
Just got back from Lebanon a few days ago. My itinerary was very simple:

Day 1: arriving Beirut at 2.35 AM, just wandering around Beirut center
Day 2: day tour to Baalbek, Anjar and Ksara winery, with Nakhal Tours
Day 3: Qadisha Valley, guided hike tour, with Living Lebanon
Day 4: Byblos, with public transport
Day 5: Tyre, with public transport
Day 6: flight back at 4.05 AM

I would have wanted two to three days more to cover all the places I wanted but at that point there were not chances for longer trip. And didn't want to rush from place to place. So there were not any TWHS visits as I originally planned.

I stayed at Beverly Hotel which is quite nice hotel with very good location. The only disadvantage was that there were some problems with hot water in my room.

Visiting WHS (without rental car)
Baalbek and Anjar are reasonable to combine to a day trip. There are lots of offerings for Baalbek and Anjar day tours which always include Ksara winery visit. While the Nakhal Tours day tour was quite well organised, I don't recommend these day tours. In my opinion there are not enough time to spend especially in Baalbek which needs minimum two hours. We had only over an hour at Baalbek and some half an hour at Anjar. With my current knowledge I recommend spending a night in Zahlé and having a taxi from there to both sites.

While I little bit regret my day tour to Baalbek and Anjar, I enjoyed my guided hike at Qadisha Valley. In my opinion the best way to experience Qadisha Valley is by hiking. That is because of the great views and because many monasteries and churches could be visited only by foot. We visited 3/4 of the main monasteries of the Valley and one church. Of course the same route could be done without a guide but there are not that many signs along the path network so finding your way could be difficult.

Byblos and Tyre are best and easiest visited by public transport. Take a bus for Byblos from Charles Helou bus station. It takes 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. The only difficult thing is finding an entrance to the Charles Helou bus station which is crammed under the road bridge. For Tyre take a taxi to Cola intersection and jump to one of many minivans. Contrary to what many guidebooks tell, the trip takes only one hour.

Safety
For anyone who hesitate visiting Lebanon for safety reasons, don't hesitate. I didn't feel unsafe or any kind of threat. In Beirut I felt safe even during late evenings. Of course I wouldn't want to spend too much time in Bekaa Valley area near Baalbek. There were lots of military checkpoints and Hezbollah hegemony.

The only place I felt a bit unpleasant was Tyre around Al Bass roundabout where minivans from Beirut arrive. There were lots of serious looking men that stared me intensively and sometimes shouted at me. After visiting nearby Al Bass archaeological site I tried to take a shortcut to Al Mina archaeological site but soldiers stopped me. They said that Americans or Europeans are not allowed to pass the street. I thought that it was because of numerous Hezbollah flags along the street, but later I realized that it was because of Palestinian refugee camp located just beside WHS. But as soon as you get to the christian quarters near the old port, the atmosphere is much more relaxed and friendly as it usually is in Lebanon.

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 Lebanon

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