Lebanon: Travel Essentials

Some of the most essential things to plan for any travel are where to stay, how to access local currency, and how to connect your cell phone with the local network. This blog has you covered with some really helpful tips. Comment below if you have any other suggestions to add for future travellers.

Where to stay?

Some of the most well-known neighborhoods in Beirut, Lebanon are Hamra, Achrafieh, Verdun, and Gemmayzeh. I stayed at the Achrafieh area which is a neighborhood with a rich cultural heritage. It’s located in the eastern part of Beirut, just outside of the Beirut central business district and 10km from the Beirut international airport.

After the independence of Lebanon in 1943, Beirut continued to grow and expand, and Achrafieh emerged as one of the city’s most affluent residential neighborhoods. This area is characterized by its large and elegant residential buildings which sit on a hilly topography, with many steep streets and slopes so stairs have played an important role in the street design and the built environment of Beirut. There are lots of places to eat within walking distance in Achrafieh so you will most likely end up climbing stairs on your way. Here’s a colorful one that I remember from my travels.

One of many colorful street stairs in Beirut, Lebanon

The price of hostels in Achrafieh can range from $10 to $30 USD per night while hotels can range from $70 to $200 USD per night. One interesting thing to note about lodging in Lebanon is that the country has a small footprint. From Beirut to the northernmost major city called Tripoli is around 80km away which is about a 1-hour travel time. From Beirut to the easternmost popular city of Baalbek is also around 80km away and a 1.5-hour travel time. From Beirut, you can go to the southernmost popular town, Bint Jbeil, in about 2 hours which is around 100km away. So you can decide to stay in Beirut for your entire trip and simply take day trips to other parts of the country. This is exactly what I did for my travels in Lebanon.

Where to exchange money?

As I have explained before, exchanging money at the right place is particularly important for travelling in Lebanon (check out my blog to learn more about the currency situation in Lebanon). Make sure you don’t use your credit card or your debit card for any transactions in Lebanon else you will get charged at the official exchange rate. You should avoid the official exchange rate and go for the black-market rates. The black market rate is always changing, even multiple times on the same day! So it’s essential to keep track of the most up-to-date exchange rates. There is a useful mobile app called Khod which will help you to compare the rates that you are offered when you go to exchange your money. So where are the black market currency exchange providers? Don’t worry, these places are not too hard to find as this has become a common practice in Lebanon. I exchanged my money at a Western Union which is walking distance from the Achrafieh area.

What SIM card to get?

It’s always a good idea to get a local SIM card if you will be exploring on the go. Conveniently, the Western Union place where I exchanged my money were also selling SIM cards. I picked up a Touch SIM card which is $17 USD for a prepaid connection and additional costs for loading a data plan. I loaded a 6 GB data plan for around $9 USD. So total costs for a local prepaid phone plan cost me around $26 USD which is not the cheapest of all phone plans around the world but you can get less data at a cheaper price if you are not a heavy user.

Picked up a Touch prepaid SIM card

With your accommodation sorted, cash in hand, and cell phone set up, it’s time to explore the delicious Lebanese cuisine. Next up, a Lebanese food blog coming in hot straight to your social media plate. Stay tuned…

Key Takeaways

  • Achrafieh is a convenient area to stay in Beirut. Hostel prices are $10-30 USD per night and hotel prices are $70-200 USD per night
  • Lebanon has a small area so you can stay at the same place for your entire trip and make day trips to nearby places
  • Download the Khod app for up-to-date black-market exchange rates
  • Always use cash to make transactions in Lebanon
  • A Touch prepaid SIM Card costs around $25 USD with a 6 GB data plan

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