Safety and security

Security situation

The security situation in Lebanon is volatile and can deteriorate quickly.

Violence between the security forces and protestors, between supporters of political groups and over scarce or subsidised resources is highly likely to occur, often without warning, in particular at existing flashpoints. These confrontations have previously resulted in large numbers of casualties. Security forces may use tear gas and rubber bullets during clashes.

There were heavy clashes in the areas of Tayouneh, Chiyah and Ain el Roumanneh, within Beirut on 14 October 2021. These clashes involved exchanges of live fire and resulted in fatalities and injuries. The situation remains tense, and there is the potential for further violence.

You should avoid large crowds and political gatherings. Weapons are common in Lebanon and groups such as Hizballah retain arms that are beyond state control. Arguments can quickly escalate into violence, including the use of weapons, typically firearms and bladed weapons. Serious escalation can happen with little warning. There have been several reports over the past year of firearms being used during arguments in bars. Celebratory gunfire into the air is common throughout Lebanon. If you find yourself in an area where there’s celebratory or other gunfire, take cover in a building and move away from windows.

As well as internal Lebanese issues, regional and international developments can have an impact on the local security situation. This includes tensions with Israel, which could escalate with little warning. Events in Syria and Iraq may also impact Lebanon. You are therefore advised to monitor the regional situation whilst in Lebanon.

In the event of widespread disturbances or a deterioration in the security situation, there may be limits to the assistance that the British Embassy Beirut can provide. Read further information and advice on how to deal with a crisis overseas. Make sure that you are content with your own and your family’s security arrangements and keep yourself up to date with developments, including by regularly monitoring this travel advice. Be prepared to “shelter in place” or hunker down for several days, should the security situation require it. This means having adequate essential supplies, such as food, water and medicine, at the place where you are staying. You should ensure you have correct and up-to-date travel documentation, including a passport and visa where necessary, in case a sudden deterioration in the situation on the ground requires travel out of Lebanon. Do not rely on the FCDO being able to evacuate you in an emergency.

Shortages

Many hospitals and other medical services are affected by fuel shortages. See Local Medical Care

Basic commodities (fuel, medicines, food) have become increasingly scarce due to the economic crisis. Make sure you have supplies of any medicines you need with you in Lebanon. The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription medication you should carry a medical certificate confirming that the medication has been prescribed for a medical condition.

Petrol can be difficult to access, with restrictions of supply at short notice. There are frequent, prolonged closures of fuel stations. You should plan ahead and ensure you have sufficient fuel in your car before travelling. Arguments at fuel stations have sometimes become violent and involved the use of weapons. You should always ensure that your vehicle is positioned to be able to leave a fuel queue quickly if tensions rise.

Diesel is increasingly difficult to access, leading to frequent unplanned closures of power generators. Lebanon’s power plants continue to produce only limited electricity for the national grid. This has led to prolonged power cuts across the country, with an impact on services, such as transport, internet, water and waste collection, and shops, cafes and restaurants. You should check before travelling to a business, hotel or restaurant in case they are closed due to fuel shortages. Have a torch to hand at night and know how you would leave your accommodation in the dark in case of emergency.

Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport is sometimes affected by fuel shortages, which can cause air conditioning or lighting to be turned off in the terminal buildings. Fuel shortages may affect the reliability of taxis to and from the airport. You should pre-book and confirm prior to travel.

The economic situation may affect your ability to pay for goods and services. There is a very high rate of inflation. Banks and exchange houses can close for long periods during protests, and have been the target of a series of raids in summer 2022 by depositors in summer 2022 by depositors, see more under Crime. While ATMs are generally stocked with Lebanese Pounds, there may be limits on daily withdrawals so check with your bank before travelling. It is very difficult to access US Dollars locally. Many companies no longer accept credit/debit cards so you should ensure that you have adequate cash.

Political situation

There is a high level of tension in Lebanon due to the economic and political situation. Protests, which may become violent, can occur without warning. Protests have centred on the main cities of Beirut, Tripoli and Saida, but have occurred at various locations and may take place nationwide.

You should exercise a high degree of caution, monitor local media for developments and avoid areas where demonstrations may be held, or where there are large gatherings of people. Keep up to date with developments via this travel advice and local media, including:

  • TV: LBCI, New TV, NBN, Future News, OTV

  • Radio: 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

  • News websites: Naharnet, Now Lebanon, The 961,L’Orient Today (all in English), BBC Arabic (in Arabic)

Local travel

The government may restrict movements, including at short notice, to control the spread of coronavirus. For more detailed information see the coronavirus page.

Protests and roadblocks may mean that travel is restricted at short notice. Major roads in and out of Beirut and across the country, including the roads to and from Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport, have become blocked at short notice. If you’re travelling to or from the airport, check your flight status before leaving and allow extra time for your journey. If roads from the airport are blocked, wait there until the authorities confirm access roads are open.

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 Helweh camp near Saida in southern Lebanon.

There is a UN peacekeeping presence in the area south of the Litani River.

There is a military checkpoint located approximately 7km south of Tyre on the Naqoura-Tyre-Saida-Beirut highway. A pass from the Lebanese Armed Forces office in Saida is necessary to continue your journey further south towards the Israeli border. However, as the office is located in an area of Saida where we have specific security concerns, you should carefully consider whether your need for a pass is essential before you travel.

Land mines and other unexploded ordnance are present in Lebanon and are not always clearly marked. Use only well-travelled tracks and do not stray from their edges. Avoid remote abandoned properties. Use local guides and seek local knowledge if you are unsure.

Crime

The risk to tourists from petty or violent crime remains moderate. However crime has increased due to the declining economic situation. Incidents of theft, vehicle theft and robbery in particular have risen this year. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. Consider your route and vary daily routines. Conceal expensive looking jewellery which could draw unwanted attention. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and be aware of your surroundings when using ATMs.

A number of depositors have held up banks across Lebanon in order to access their savings, using both real and replica firearms. This may well continue. Be alert when in or near banks, and follow “run, hide, tell” guidance if incidents occur.

There has been an increase in reported incidents of sexual harassment and assault in public areas, including whilst walking in Beirut. Consider whether it is safe to walk alone, particularly in less busy areas. Due to the lack of electricity, working street lights are uncommon so streets are very dark at night. You should consider taking a torch with you when you are out of the house at night and ensure your phone is charged in case of an emergency.

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.

In December 2017, the Lebanese Interior Minister advised people in Lebanon not to use Uber taxis.

Criminal gangs operate in parts of the Beqaa Valley, especially northern Beqaa, involved in drug cultivation and smuggling. Car theft gangs are prevalent and can steal vehicles by force of arms, particularly along sections of the international highway towards Baalbek. Vehicle thefts have grown significantly and are often targeted by type. Other armed crimes, such as robbery and kidnap, can occur in these areas. There are also frequent armed clashes between gangs, and operations by the security forces.

You can report suspicious activity to the police by dialling 112. If you or another British citizen become the victim of crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest British embassy or consulate. You can find more information on how we can support you in our Support for British Nationals Abroad guide.

Road travel

Roads are subject to closure without notice.

You must hold either an International Driving Permit (IDP), which must be certified by the Lebanese authorities on arrival, or a temporary local licence to drive in Lebanon. Temporary local licences are likely to be more time consuming and expensive than an IDP.

Driving standards are poor and the accident rate is high. Traffic lights are often switched off and 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 check points on major and minor roads.