Beirut Travel Information
GMT +2 (GMT +3 Apr - Oct)
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. The European round two-pin plug is standard (type C), but a variety of other plugs are used.
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.
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 - especially around the rainy season when contaminated water may filter into the cities - 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. 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 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 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, and certain areas, particularly at the Syrian and Israeli border, must be completely avoided. 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.
While more liberal than surrounding nations, Lebanon is largely conservative and predominately religious - Islam and Christianity are the two largest religions. Modesty in dress and behaviour is particularly important during Ramadaan and other relgious holidays, as well as at religious sites, but is generally encouraged. Cosmopolitan areas however, most notably in Beirut, are far more liberal than the rest of the country and wider region, allowing more leeway in terms of dress and behaviour. Possession, use and trafficking of controlled drugs are all serious offences in Lebanon and carry custodial sentences, and homosexuality is considered a criminal offence in most jurisdictions. Overstaying without the proper authority is also considered to be a serious offence. Photographing military personnel or installations and government buildings may lead to confiscation of photographic equipment, and possibly even imprisonment.
Many businesspeople speak English, but an interpreter may be required and work attire in Lebanon is formal and conservative. Local business customs may prevail over an increasingly Westernised business environment, especially for smaller companies. Thus, an attempt at familiarity and pleasantaries over tea or coffee often preceed 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. Business cards are widely distributed and English is spoken by many local business people. The working week runs from Monday to Saturday, but some Muslim businesses may be closed on Fridays.
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 cafes are widespread in Lebanon, particularly in Beirut and major cities. Internet services are also provided outside traditional internet cafes, e.g. Starbucks in Beirut provides a wireless internet connection. There is good mobile phone coverage and many networks have international roaming agreements.
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.
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