Foreign travel advice

Lebanon

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

From 5 November to 2 December 2020, travelling away from home, including internationally, is restricted from England except in limited circumstances such as for work or for education. Different rules apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You must follow all the rules that apply to you.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides guidance on COVID and non-COVID risks overseas. The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to many countries and territories on the basis of COVID risks. You should check the travel advice for your destination.

Travel disruption is possible worldwide. Other countries may bring in new measures with little notice such as border closures, movement restrictions or quarantine rules. Travellers should be prepared to stay overseas longer than planned.

Safety and security

Political situation

Lebanon faces serious economic, financial and political challenges. Protests which began on 17 October 2019 are ongoing, and take place periodically. The protests have centred on Beirut and Tripoli, but have occurred at various locations nationwide, often with little notice. Violent confrontations between protestors, security forces and supporters of political groups havebeen known to occur , sometimes resulting in large numbers of casualties and the widespread use of tear gas and rubber bullets by the security forces, and clashes. There have been a number of deaths in the context of the protests.

Violence between the security forces and protestors is highly likely to reoccur, including at short notice, in particular at existing flashpoints. You should remain vigilant, avoid protests, demonstrations and large political gatherings, and keep up to date with developments via this travel advice and local media, including:

As a result of the protests, major roads in and out of Beirut and across the country have become blocked at short notice, including the roads to and from Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport. If you’re travelling to or from the airport, check your flight status before leaving, allow extra time for your journey and ensure that you have adequate medical supplies if required. If roads from the airport are blocked, wait there until the authorities confirm access roads are open.

The economic situation may affect your ability to pay for goods and services. In recent months, the value of the Lebanese Pound has fallen rapidly against the US Dollar. Prices have increased accordingly. Banks and exchange houses have closed for long periods during the protests, and have been the target of attacks. 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.Some companies are becoming increasingly reluctant to accept credit/debit cards so you should ensure that you have adequate cash.

Currently some basic commodities (fuel, medicines, food) are subsidised but the Central Bank Governor has warned that this cannot be sustained. Supplies may become increasingly scarce, including at pharmacies and supermarkets. You should therefore bring any medicines you need with you to 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. Fuel stations continue to supply petrol, but there have been closures and restrictions of supply at short notice.

Security situation

The security situation in Lebanon can deteriorate quickly. As well as ongoing protests related to internal Lebanese issues, regional and international developments can have an impact on the local security situation This includes a conflict with Israel, which could spark with little warning with a rapid escalation in violence. Events in Syria and Iraq may also impact Lebanon. You are therefore advised to monitor the regional situation whilst in Lebanon.

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. Violence can therefore quickly escalate. There have been protests that target UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon. Celebratory gunfire into the air is common throughout Lebanon, including in response to speeches and messages by political leaders, as well as at weddings. If you find yourself in an area where there’s celebratory gunfire, take cover in a building and move away from windows.

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.

Crime

The risk to tourists from petty or violent crime remains moderate - however crime has increased due to the declining economic situation. This includes bag snatching, including by criminals on motorbikes, vehicle crime and theft of mobile telephones. 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.

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 at night.

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, saying “I call in your name on all Lebanese not to use this Uber transport service because we do not consider it to be safe and there are taxi offices to use instead”.

There are reports of criminal gangs operating in parts of the Beqaa Valley, especially northern Beqaa, involved in drug cultivation and smuggling. Car theft gangs are prevalent and will 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, occur in these areas. There are also frequent armed clashes between gangs, and operations by the security forces. In February 2020, five Lebanese Armed Forces soldiers (LAF) were killed in clashes with gangs in Hermel.

On 4 October 2020, a revenge killing sparked an increase in tension between rival criminal families in the Baalbek area, which has resulted in heavily armed groups and convoys taking to the streets. The LAF has temporarily deployed a large contingent of armoured troops to conduct operations and diffuse tension. The situation is volatile and unpredictable at present. You should therefore follow the advice of security agencies, and avoid Baalbek and surrounding areas whilst operations continue.

You can report suspicious activity to the police by dialing 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.

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.

Ongoing protests and roadblocks may mean that travel is restricted at short notice. For more information see the section on Political situation.

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. Although de-mining operations have been carried out, unexploded ordnance, including cluster bombs, remain in remote areas.

There is a military checkpoint located approximately 7km south of Tyre on the Naqoura-Tyre-Saida-Beirut highway. A pass from the LAF 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 to which the FCDO advises against all but essential travel, you should carefully consider whether your need for a pass is essential before you travel.

Land mines 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’re unsure.

Road travel

The government may restrict movements, including at short notice, to control the spread of coronavirus. See information on measures introduced in Lebanon. Roads, including the Beirut airport road, are subject to closure without notice. Following a decision from the Ministry of Interior, motorcycles in Beirut are banned from 4:59 pm until 6am. See Political Situation above.

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.