Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon  Belly dancers 

Why Lebanon?                                                                 Click here to view video

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.
 
With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.  The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.  Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

  • When should I travel?
Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate - hot and dry in summer (June to August), cool and rainy in winter (December to February). In summer humidity is very high along the coast and daytime temperatures average 30°C, with night temperatures not much lower. Winter is mild, with daytime temperatures averaging 15°C. In the mountains, summer days are moderately hot (26°C on average) and the nights cool. Winters are cold, with snowfall above 1300m.  Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November), when the climate is warm but not uncomfortable, are the best times to travel in Lebanon. In winter, the rain and cloud can spoil sightseeing and snow can close some of the higher roads. Not all the budget hotels have heating either. But if you fancy trying Lebanon's ever-developing winter sports it's a good time to go.  Travellers on a budget may prefer to avoid the high season (mid-June to mid-September), when prices of hotels and restaurants go up considerably.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
The vast majority of Lebanese are friendly, and most tourists experience no problems. Nevertheless tensions with neighboring Israel can erupt (but are usually confined to South Lebanon) and therefore travellers should follow the independent press while in the country.  Like in any country, it is preferable to be accompanied when visiting certain locations. In general, the Israeli borders and any Palestinian refugee camps should be avoided.

  • What money should I take?
Currency is the Lebanese Pound (LBP). All major credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are widely available in Beirut and larger cities. ATMs are widely available in Beirut and larger cities. Acceptance of travellers cheques are limited as major banks only accept certain types of travellers cheques. Travellers cheques also require up to two weeks to clear and are therefore generally not recommended and exchange can often be problematic.

  • What language will they understand?
The majority of Lebanese people speak Lebanese Arabic, while formal Arabic is mostly used in magazines, newspapers, and formal broadcast media. English is used as a secondary language in much of Lebanon and is increasingly used in business interactions.

  • How about my health?
Health insurance is essential. Private healthcare in Lebanon is expensive. Lebanese hospitals are very modern and well equipped and many doctors are highly qualified. All doctors speak either English or French. The majority of hospitals in the region are private and require proof of the patient's ability to pay the bill before providing treatment (even in emergency cases).

  • Public Holidays

2012
01 January New Year's Day
06 January Orthodox Armenian Christmas
05 February Mawlid al-Nabi (Prophet's Birthday)
09 February Feast of St Maroun
06 April Good Friday
08 April Easter Sunday
15 April Orthodox Easter
01 May Labour Day
06 May Martyrs' Day
25 May Resistance and Liberation Day
15 August Assumption of the Virgin
19 August Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
26 October Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
01 November All Saints' Day
15 November Islamic New Year
22 November Independence Day
24 November Ashoura
25 December Christmas Day

2013
01 January New Year's Day
06 January Armenian Orthodox Christmas
24 January Milad un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Muhammad)
09 February St Maroun's Day
29 March Good Friday
31 March Easter Sunday
01 May Labour Day
05 May Orthodox Easter Sunday
06 May Martyrs' Day
25 May Resistance and Liberation Day
08 August Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
15 August Assumption
15 October Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
01 November All Saints' Day
04 November Islamic New Year
13 November Ashura
22 November Independence Day
25 December Christmas Day

  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders require a visa for Lebanon which must be obtained prior to arrival. Entry will be refused to citizens of Israel and travellers with any evidence of visiting Israel: not just Israeli entry stamps, but Egyptian / Jordanian neighbouring land borders with Israel, any products with Hebrew labelling, etc.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
A yellow fever certificate is required if coming from an infected area.