Lebanon travel guide
Fringed by golden beaches, peppered with World Heritage Sites and home to the Middle East’s premier party city, Lebanon has all the hallmarks of a classic traveller’s destination.
Yet the reality, alas, is not quite so rosy. Still recovering from a brutal civil war (1975-1990), the conflict in neighbouring Syria is spilling across the border and the Bekaa Valley remains a stronghold for the militant group Hezbollah. Suffice to say, cautious tourists have stayed away.
Nevertheless, for now, a fragile peace prevails in Lebanon, which extends a warm welcome to foreign visitors. Nowhere is this clearer than in the capital, Beirut, a friendly party town sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and the foothills of Mount Lebanon.
Characterised by its affable inhabitants, dramatic coastline and delicious cuisine, bustling Beirut sits at the crossroads between Europe and Arabia. Influences from east and west abound – it is not uncommon to hear the call to prayer competing with DJs in some of the livelier parts of town.
Although buildings still bear the scars of past conflicts, the city is a forward-thinking capital where the biggest danger nowadays seems to be the traffic – crossing the road can feel like an extreme sport.
Though small in size, Lebanon boasts five UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the city of Byblos, one of the oldest Phoenician ports, and the haunting remains of Baalbeck in the Hezbollah-run Bekaa Valley, one of the finest examples of Greco-Roman architecture in existence.
Other highlights including the magnificent cedar forests and Christian monasteries of the Holy Valley, as well as the ancient cities of Tyr and Tripoli, home to one of the oldest seaports in the world.
And if that’s not enough, there’s always skiing in Mount Lebanon. Granted, it might not be an obvious place to hit the slopes, but there are few places in this world that can offer sun, sand and skiing in one day. But then Lebanon is not your average destination.
10,452 sq km (4,036 sq miles).
5,988,153 (UN estimate 2016).
591.7 per sq km.
Vacant. The president's duties are currently being carried out by the prime minister and his cabinet.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam since 2013.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs with two or three round pins or three square pins are used.
Last updated: 19 September 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:
- Palestinian refugee camps
- the Hermel Area, including Arsal, Baalbek
- the Bekaa Valley east of the Baalbek El Hermel high way to the Syrian border and to the east of the main road which runs south through Rayak, by-passing Masnaa, Rachaiya, Hasbaiya and Marjayoun and El Khaim, to the border
- Akkar district
- areas of Liban-Nord district north of the southern city limits of Tripoli (Trablous) and east into the Bekaa Valley
- southern suburbs of Beirut east of the airport road, defined as: south of the sports stadium to the airport, to east of the main airport highway including the neighbourhoods of Ghobeiry, Chuya, Haret, Hraik, Burj Al Brajne, Mraije, Er Rouais and Laylake
- southern suburbs of Beirut west of the airport road, defined as: west of the airport highway to the coast, south from Adnan El Hakim Road to Abbas El Mousawi Road.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:
- Bekaa Valley west of the Baalbek El Hermel high way except for the towns of Zahlé and Chtaura, and the main road between both towns and to Beirut
- Saida (Sidon) except for the road that runs through the city directly alongside the coast (referred to locally as ‘the coastal road’)
- south of the Litani River except the main Naqoura-Tyre-Saida-Beirut highway and all areas to the west of it, up to the Lebanese Armed Forces check point, roughly 5km south of Tyre (Sour).
On 14 September 2017 the US Embassy in Lebanon issued a security alert to its citizens regarding ongoing threats in Lebanon, including in Jounieh. Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Lebanon. You should be vigilant at all times, avoid crowds and crowded places and follow the advice of the Lebanese authorities.
You should be particularly vigilant at this time following the Lebanese Army’s announcement on 19 August that it has launched an operation to remove Daesh extremists from Lebanon’s north east region. Daesh and other extremists may attempt retaliatory attacks throughout Lebanon.
The security situation in parts of Lebanon can deteriorate quickly. There is potential for further violence, which could restrict departure options. The ability of the British government to provide assistance with departures may be limited. Keep up to date with developments, be vigilant, follow local advice and avoid any protests or demonstrations. Roads can become blocked due to protests.
There’s a heightened risk of terrorism against aviation. Additional security measures which restrict electronic devices on-board planes have been in place on flights departing from Lebanon to the UK since March. You should co-operate fully with security officials. For more information about how this may affect your flight, including if you’re transiting through Lebanon on the way to the UK, read this guidance page and contact your airline or travel company if you have further questions.
You should regularly monitor local and international media and this travel advice.
You can contact the emergency services by calling 112.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
The risk to tourists from petty or violent crime is moderate. There is a risk of vehicle crime and bag snatching. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
There have been incidents of armed robberies and physical attacks against passengers in shared taxis (known locally as service taxis) with passengers being attacked by either the driver or other passengers. Don’t use shared taxis or taxis hailed on the street. Only use taxis from recognised companies. Hotels can advise on firms with cars that are recognised as being safe and well maintained.
There have been clashes in recent years between Lebanese security forces and militants in Tripoli (Trablous) and in areas north of Tripoli (Trablous), including in Minyeh and Banine resulting in civilians, soldiers and militants being killed and/or injured.
In August 2014 clashes between extremist groups and Lebanese security forces in and around the town of Arsal resulted in the deaths of 18 soldiers and over 50 gunmen. A number of soldiers are still held captive. Armed incursions and shelling across the Syria border have resulted in casualties across several locations including Wadi Khaled, Al Qaa, Hermel, Baalbek and Aarsal in the Bekaa Valley.
Palestinian refugee camps are volatile environments where the Lebanese state has limited capacity to impose law and order. There has been a long pattern of violent clashes in particular in Ein El Helwe camp near Saida (Sidon) in southern Lebanon.
There was an attack on the Israeli military in the Shebaa Farms area on 28 January 2015 with reports of cross-border shelling near the towns of Majidiyeh, Kfarshouba, Abbasiye and Wazzani. A UN peacekeeper was killed and further casualties were reported.
There is a UN peacekeeping presence in the area south of the Litani River. Although de-mining operations have been carried out unexploded ordnance, including cluster bombs, remain in remote areas.
Roads, including the Beirut airport road, are subject to closure without notice.
You must hold an International Driving Permit to drive in Lebanon. This must be certified by the Lebanese authorities on arrival.
Driving standards are poor and the accident rate is high. Traffic lights are not always observed. It may be better to hire a car with a driver if you’re inexperienced. You must wear a seat belt (if fitted). Avoid travelling at night outside towns if possible. Vehicles with diesel engines are banned.
Carry ID with you at all times and be prepared to stop at check points to show your papers. The army have set up temporary check points on major and minor roads.
Celebratory gunfire into the air is common throughout Lebanon, including in response to speeches and messages by political leaders. If you find yourself in an area where there’s celebratory gunfire, take cover in a building and move away from windows.
The security situation can deteriorate quickly. Demonstrations and other forms of civil unrest can occur at short notice and often turn violent. Lebanese issues or regional and international developments can have an impact on the local security situation. Monitor local media and avoid all protests.
Radio One 105.5 FM
Voice of Lebanon 93.3 FM
Radio Orient 88.3- 88.6 FM
Sawt El Ghad 97.1- 96.7 FM
BBC Arabic 93.1 FM
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Lebanon. Islamist extremist groups will seek to target the Lebanese state, security services, and civilians, and have the intent to target foreigners inside Lebanon. Attacks could take place in areas visited by foreigners, in Beirut and elsewhere, including hotels, restaurants and bars, markets, tourist and religious sites, large outdoor events, western-style shopping centres and supermarket chains. If you plan on visiting these places, you should make sure your security arrangements are sufficient.
Lebanese security authorities are at a high state of alert and conducting security operations across Lebanon. If you notice or suspect a security incident is underway, you should immediately leave the area. You should be vigilant at all times and follow the advice of the Lebanese authorities, in particular following the Lebanese army’s announcement on 19 August of its assault against Daesh extremists. Daesh linked extremists and others could attempt retaliatory attacks throughout Lebanon in response to the army’s actions.’
On 28 and 29 June 2017, 4 attackers exploded suicide belts in a refugee settlement in Arsal. Follow-up security investigations are ongoing.
On 31 August 2016, an explosion at the Ksara roundabout near Zahle resulted in one death and 11 injuries.
On 27 June 2016, a series of suicide bomb attacks in Al Qaa resulted in 5 deaths and 21 reported wounded.
On 12 April 2016, a car exploded outside Ain El Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Saida (Sidon), causing at least 1 death.
On 12 November 2015, there were explosions in Burj-al-Barajneh, in the southern suburb area of Beirut, 43 people were killed and 239 injured.
Suspects have detonated explosions to avoid arrest. If you notice that a security operation is underway you should immediately leave the area. You should be vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities. Bystanders have been killed in a number of terrorist attacks in recent years.
Politically motivated terrorist attacks remain likely. A number of attacks have taken place in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Extremist groups have also been known to operate within Palestinian refugee camps and areas close to Syria, including the city of Tripoli, the Hermel area and within 5 km of the Syrian border. Monitor media reports and keep up to date with the travel advice covering your location. Avoid large crowds, demonstrations, political gatherings and the use of shared public transport. Remain alert to regional tensions given Lebanon’s links and proximity to Syria, and to the potential for sectarian attacks. Keep clear of affected areas in the immediate aftermath of any attacks.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
There’s a threat of kidnapping in Lebanon. The Lebanese authorities have warned that foreigners, including westerners could be targeted by kidnappers and other militant groups. Kidnappings have occurred in the Bekaa Valley, the Syrian border regions and Beirut, but could take place anywhere in Lebanon.
In 2013, 2 Turkish pilots were abducted near Beirut’s international airport and held in exchange for Lebanese nationals kidnapped inside Syria. The pilots were later released.
In September 2014, Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) kidnapped members of the Lebanese security forces, and a number have been killed. Daesh and other terrorist groups view those engaged in humanitarian aid work or journalism as legitimate targets.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and making concessions increases the risk of further hostage-taking.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Lebanon is part Muslim, part Christian. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure they do not offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June.
In many areas you will find dress codes more relaxed than in other countries of the region, but you should still dress modestly when visiting religious sites and when it’s clear that local people expect it.
Possession, use and trafficking of illegal drugs including small quantities are all serious offences in Lebanon. You can expect a prison sentence if you are caught.
Photography should be limited to tourist sites. Photographing military sites may result in your arrest.
The Lebanese Criminal Code includes a general provision concerning ‘every sexual act against nature’. Lebanese courts consider that this provision includes homosexuality. A criminal offence under this provision is punishable by a prison sentence of up to a year.
One of the most common requests for consular assistance in Lebanon is from British mothers seeking help in overturning travel bans placed on their children or themselves by their fathers or husbands. Lebanese family law is very different from UK law and particular care is needed if child custody becomes an issue.
If you have concerns about child custody you should seek advice before travelling to Lebanon about ‘travel bans’ that can be imposed by male heads of family. Even if you or your child holds a British passport you may be Lebanese automatically by descent and subject to Lebanese laws and regulations.
Any child travelling without their father (even if the mother is accompanying them) may need to provide proof that permission to travel has been given by the child’s father.
If you’re a British national involved in international parental child abductions or custody disputes, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for consular assistance. This leaflet on International Parental Child Abduction includes information on how the FCO can help, and contact details. The FCO strongly advises against attempting to remove your child yourself, as this may be considered abduction (or ‘re-abduction’). This may be illegal and can put your child at risk.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British citizens can apply for a free single entry tourist or family visit visa on arrival. British Overseas Citizens and British Protected Persons will need to get a visa before travelling to Lebanon. Entry requirements are subject to change, so you should check with the Lebanese Embassy before you travel.
Overstaying without the proper authority is a serious matter. You may be refused permission to leave until a fine has been paid.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into Lebanon.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, transit and exit from Lebanon.
If your passport is lost or stolen and you need an ETD to leave the country you’ll need to report the loss or theft to the police in the area where it took place and obtain a police report before an ETD can be issued. This is mandatory in all cases where the original passport showing the entry stamp into Lebanon isn’t available. Once the ETD has been issued you’ll need to visit the General Security office in central Beirut to obtain an exit visa before you can depart. You should factor the time this will take into any new travel plans.
Previous travel to Israel
If your passport contains an Israeli stamp you may be refused entry to Lebanon even if you hold a valid Lebanese visa.
Lebanese Immigration Authorities check all visitors’ names on arrival against a database of those wanted for, or convicted of, offences in Lebanon. If a name matches against an entry on the database the individual may be detained (or on occasion allowed entry upon surrender of their passport) until they can prove that the record does not relate to them. It’s often possible to do so by producing a copy of a birth certificate or other official documentation that allows parents’ names to be checked against the database. You should consider carrying this kind of supporting documentation.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Medical treatment in Lebanon can be expensive. Most hospitals are well equipped. Doctors are generally well qualified though nursing standards vary. The majority of medical staff speak French and English. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Lebanon is in an earthquake zone, but there have been no damaging tremors in recent years. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.