Lebanon Basics

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The Basics


Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 Apr - Oct)

Electricity: Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. The European round two-pin plug is standard (type C), but a variety of other plugs are used.

Money: The official currency is the Lebanese Pound (LBP), which is divided into 100 piastres. The Lebanese Pound is locally known as the Lira. ATM machines are widely available in Lebanon except in isolated towns and cash can be withdrawn from banks during business hours. Credits cards are widely used.

Currency Exchange Rates

LBP100.00 = USD 0.07GBP 0.05CAD 0.09AUD 0.10ZAR 0.97EUR 0.06NZD 0.10
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: Arabic is the official language, however, Lebanese Arabic is its own dialect, often a patois including at least one other language. French and English are the most common European languages and most people are bilingual.

Entry requirements for Americans: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond their estimated duration of stay in Lebanon. A visa is required for all travellers and can be obtained on arrival at Beirut International Airport for one month. However, some visas do require prior arrangments with the Lebanese government to ensure longer stays.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond their entry date into Lebanon. A visa is required for all travellers and can be obtained on arrival at Beirut International Airport for one month. However, some visas do require prior arrangments with the Lebanese government to ensure longer stays.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond their estimated duration of stay in Lebanon. A visa is required for all travellers and can be obtained on arrival at Beirut International Airport for a maximum stay of one month. However, some visas do require prior arrangements with the Lebanese government to ensure longer stays.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond their estimated duration of stay in Lebanon. A visa is required for all travellers and can be obtained on arrival at Beirut International Airport for a maximum stay of one month. However, some visas do require prior arrangments with the Lebanese government to ensure longer stays.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond their estimated duration of stay in Lebanon, and need a pre-arranged visa to enter Lebanon. When prearranged, they can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of six months.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond their estimated duration of stay in Lebanon. A visa is required for all travellers and can be obtained on arrival at Beirut International Airport for a maximum stay of one month. However, some visas do require prior arrangements with the Lebanese government to ensure longer stays.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond their estimated duration of stay in Lebanon. A visa is required for all travellers and can be obtained on arrival at Beirut International Airport for a maximum stay of one month. However, some visas do require prior arrangments with the Lebanese government to ensure longer stays.

Passport/Visa Note: Most foreign nationals can obtain a visa on arrival in Beruit (BEY), Lebanon, provided that: (i) they are holding confirmed return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination; and (ii) they can supply a valid address and telephone number for themselves while in Lebanon; a familial or corporate sponsor are good examples of appropriate sponsors. These tourist visas are either free (for stays of up to one month), or will be charged according to the nature and duration of the visit (for a maximum of up to six months). Visa extensions are possible from within the country. Business travellers and large tourists groups (min. 8 people) registered with a local tour operator can get visas on arrival for up to six months. Note that holders of passports containing a visa for Israel (whether valid or expired, used or unused), or containing any Israeli stamps or endorsements, will not be allowed to enter Lebanon. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Lebanon, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: Health risks for travellers to Lebanon are not excessive. Update routine vaccines such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, chickenpox vaccine, and polio vaccine, as well as flu shots. There is no risk of yellow fever, but a vaccination certificate is required for travellers arriving from an infected country. Typhoid vaccinations are recommended to all travellers, with the exception of those who intend to stay in Lebanon for only a short period and take their meals in major restaurants and hotels. This is especially applicable around the rainy season, when contaminated water may filter into the cities. Medical facilities and healthcare in Lebanon are good but expensive and all payments are expected in cash, regardless of insurance. Make sure medical insurance covers any possible expenses and consider provision for medical evacuation.

Tipping: Tipping is customary in Lebanon and service staff are usually tipped around 10 to 15 percent of the bill. Porters, hotel staff, valets, and doormen usually receive a nominal fee, depending on the area, service, and establishment.

Safety Information: Safety warnings change regularly and Lebanon is unpredictable at best, featuring on numerous consular warning lists. Most recently, twin suicide bombings in November 2015 killed 43 people and wounded 239 others in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Vigilance is essential, as family, neighbourhood, and factional violence is spontaneous, sporadic, and often lethal. Certain areas must be completely avoided, particularly at the Syrian and Israeli border. Any travel south of the Litani River is discouraged. Politically or economically motivated kidnappings occur, and other crimes, such as burglary, petty theft, vehicle theft, and break-ins, are present in Lebanon, but are low by international standards. Visitors should be streetwise and exercise normal precautions otherwise.

Local Customs: Lebanon is largely conservative and predominately religious, with Islam and Christianity the two largest. While more liberal than surrounding nations, modesty in dress and behaviour is important during Ramadan and other religious holiday, and when visiting religious sites. However, cosmopolitan areas in places like Beirut are far more liberal than the rest of the country and wider region, with a relaxation in terms of dress and behaviour. Possession, use, and trafficking of controlled drugs are serious offences, carrying custodial sentences. Most jurisdictions consider homosexuality a criminal office. Overstaying without the proper authority is a serious offence. Photographing military personnel or installations and government buildings may lead to confiscation of photographic equipment, and possibly even imprisonment.

Business: Many businesspeople speak English, but an interpreter may be required. Work attire in Lebanon is formal and conservative. Local business customs may prevail over an increasingly Westernised business environment, especially for smaller companies. An attempt at familiarity and pleasantries over tea or coffee often precedes any business talk. Business negotiations before these formalities are considered rude. Direct eye contact, physical closeness, and friendliness is often a major part of gaining confidence in a business meeting. Cross-gendered greetings and negotiations will be more reserved and may involve little to no physical greetings. Gift giving is common and it is important to check on the legal limitations involved thereof with a legal consultant. The working week runs from Monday to Saturday, but some Muslim businesses may be closed on Fridays. Business cards are widely distributed.

Communications: The international dialling code for Lebanon is +961. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City codes are in use, e.g. (0)1 for Beirut, (0)6 for Tripoli. Internet services are provided at places like Starbucks. There is good mobile phone coverage and many networks have international roaming agreements.

Duty Free: Duty free allowances for travellers to Lebanon over 18 are 800 cigarettes/50 cigars/1kg of tobacco, two litres of spirits and four of other alcoholic beverages, and perfume for personal use. All currency should be declared on arrival, and a valid import licence is required for any arms or ammunition. All prescription medications should be accompanied by a Dr's letter and check a list of contraband medication prior to travel.