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Travel to Beirut

Flying to Beirut

British Airways and Middle East Airlines offer direct flights from London to Beirut. These can be expensive compared to flights to other destinations a similar distance away however, so it's worth considering indirect flights. Airlines offering an indirect service via other cities include Pegasus Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France and Alitalia.

Flight times

From London - 4 hours 30 minutes; New York - 12 hours 30 minutes (including stopover); Los Angeles - 17 hours 30 minutes (including stopover); Toronto - 12 hours 30 minutes (including stopover); Sydney - 20 hours 30 minutes (including stopover).

Travel by road

Driving in Lebanon can, quite frankly, be a terrifying experience thanks to the dodgy condition of the roads and the maniacal drivers. Taxis are plentiful and very cheap, so are usually the best bet, but if you do decide to get behind the wheel, there are plenty of rental cars available. Rental cars (and fuel) are expensive and can be in poor repair and you will need a valid International Driving Permit and a carnet de passage to hire one.

Traffic drives on the right. Speed limits are 50kph (31mph) in urban areas and 100kph (62mph) on major highways.

Roads within Beirut are usually choked with traffic, particularly during rush hour, and it can take as long as an hour just to complete a 20-minute journey. Beirut’s roads often contain potholes, even in restored areas, while outside of the city, things are even worse.

Emergency breakdown services

Sodepex (SOS Auto) (tel: +961 4 400 678).

Routes

There are three major highways that lead to Beirut: the first is the road to Tripoli on the northern tip of Lebanon. It cuts through the Christian towns of Byblos and Jounieh. To the south is the road to Tyre, which passes through the historic port of Sidon. Finally, the most commonly used road is the scenic Beirut-Damascus route, which winds along the Lebanon Mountains. The latter is extremely hazardous and in very poor condition.

Coaches

Regular bus services which connected Beirut with the Syrian capital, Damascus, used to arrive and depart from an intersection next to Cola Bridge in the southern Mazraa district. However, due to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, this service is currently suspended.

Time to city

From Tripoli - 1 hour 30 minutes; Sofar - 40 minutes; Damascus - 3 hours; Amman - 5 hours.

Travel by Rail

Services

Although Lebanon once had excellent railways courtesy of its French overlord during the colonial period, subsequent strife and political neglect has left the country without a functioning railway system. The last train to use Lebanese tracks (it carried cement from Chekka to Beirut) was decommissioned in 1997 and in consequence, there are no commercial rail services in or out of the city. Ambitious plans to connect Beirut with the Syrian capital, Damascus, are currently on hold pending the outcome of the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Travel by boat

There is no regular public sea transportation to and from Lebanon, although some cruise ships do stop in Beirut during the summer months. Thomson Cruises (tel: +44 20 3451 2682; www.thomson.co.uk) includes Beirut on a couple of its itineraries. 

The rest of the traffic through Beirut’s harbour is mainly cargo with most ships arriving in Lebanon from Cyprus. The nearby Port of Jounieh (tel: +961 9 933 818), approximately 15km (9 miles) from Beirut on the Beirut-Tripoli highway, accommodates cruise ships and ferries.

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Featured Hotels

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Casa d'Or

The Casa D'Or is a welcoming, comfortable alternative to functional budget hotels or the home-stays that dominate the lower end of the market. It's not especially glamorous but rooms are clean, comfortable and well appointed, and a decent breakfast is included in the price. It also offers low season discounts.

Talal Hotel

Talal Hotel offers bright, clean rooms complete with comfortable beds for next to nothing. Better still, it's within striking distance of Gemmayzeh and Place des Martyrs. The atmosphere is lively and the hotel also has a communal kitchen. The result is friendly but a bit like living as a student.

Regis Hotel

At first look, you could be forgiven for thinking that you'd just pitched up at the Lebanese Fawlty Towers. However, staff are warm and welcoming, rooms are clean and the breakfast is excellent. All rooms have modern air-con, fridges and TVs, but better still is Regis' proximity to the Corniche.

InterContinental Phoenicia Hotel

When you're looking to rub shoulders with Beirut's A-list, this prestigious hotel is the play to stay. It certainly looks the part with acres of marble floor, draped silk curtains and gold gilt fitting. Plus, it has some of the best facilities in town, including an excellent gym and pool area.

Hotel Albergo

If nothing but the finest will do, make Hotel Albergo your base. With just 30 rooms and a swimming pool, everything screams opulence, including the excellent rooftop bar, complete with fabulous views of the city. Rooms are themed in European, Oriental, colonial and Mediterranean styles, and the lovely Italian restaurant is also well worth a visit.

Pension al-Nazih

Close to the main sites, including the Place des Martyrs, Pension al-Nazih is a small 10-room budget hotel offering pleasantly comfortable rooms complete with cable TV and 24-hour hot water – neither guaranteed in Beirut. Rooms are plane and a little dated, but it's still an excellent budget option. Wi-Fi and breakfast cost extra.