Lebanon is located right beside the countries involved in the recent world's most serious conflicts. Although this little strip of land along the Mediterranean sea is so attractive for potential tourists, it might seem that tourism has virtually died out due to the civil war in the neighboring Syria. But is it true? Do you plan to visit Lebanon in spite of the fact that most of government websites discourage to do so? Find out if Lebanon felt safe for us - from a point of view of an ordinary traveler.
How we ended up in Lebanon
When we look for destinations, we always try to find the best deals on all possible travel search or comparison websites or airline websites (Wego offers cheapest flight tickets). This way we encountered an amazing deal for a flight to Beirut. Then, we started to dig out more to see what Lebanon has to offer. And we got completely hooked up. The Mediterranean Sea coast, amazing cosine, beautiful mountains, ancient history and magnificent city of Beirut were all so tempting. Not to mention amazing prices for hotels (we stayed in a suit in a 4 star hotel for a fraction of the price we would have to pay in Europe). And the fact that practically no one goes to Lebanon added even more excitement as we love to discover the most unpopular destinations.
Safety in Lebanon - what you can find online
Checking the information online, you might get conflicting data. Most of western government websites discourage to travel to Lebanon with some parts that are marked red as "avoid all travel". These are the areas along the Syrian border - where the spectacular ruins of the ancient Roman city of Baalbek are located.
Then, when you read accounts from actual people who went there - everything seems fine. Lebanon was the first country we traveled to that it was discouraged or advised against all travel by all government websites.
How safe is Lebanon then?
So how safe was Lebanon for us? Well, we are still alive and well, so it turned out fine. But of course, if you read so many things online, then you get a bit concerned. We were concerned a bit, too.
Besides the parts bordering Syria, the government info sites also advise against all travel in the areas between the airport and central Beirut. So how do you get to Beirut without actually going through those areas? You can't. But the best way is to arrange a transport with your hotel. There's a highway leading to the city center and there are no problems to use it whatsoever - in half an hour, you are in the city. You don't have to worry about it.
We arrived in Hamra in Beirut at night and went to a restaurant for a meal. If I hadn't read all the stuff online, I would have had no idea that this place is in any sense dangerous. We walked along the promenade and central Beirut at night, took many photos and felt way safer than in Western Cities! There were way more attacks in London or Paris recently than in Beirut and no one wonders "Oh is it safe to go to London?". You can find police at every corner. I didn't see any dodgy or drugged people that you can spot almost in every big city in Western Europe. Also, while in Beirut, you can see that contrary to popular belief, there are thousands of tourists coming in but the seaside area was so lively and cheerful. It's true that few of them are Westerners though.
In some smaller villages and in the mountains, it is perfectly safe. No worries whatsoever - everyone was extremely nice and helpful. The story changes a bit when you cross the mountains and head towards the Syrian border - we went there to see the aforementioned Baalbek. (The ruins are one of the most impressive I have seen - the Temple of Bacchus is unimaginably large - it was an unforgettable experience - I will describe the whole trip in detail in one of the future post.) Here, there were more and more soldiers and random checkpoints on the road. The shops advertised: buy 2 guns, get 1 for free. That was pretty strange for us - I must admit that we felt a bit uncomfortable then.
While visiting the ruins, you can hear some shots - but there is no way of saying that they are coming from Syria - although it's just a couple of miles away. The area is very quiet - not many tourists, although there are some - mostly from the Middle Easy and they seem not to care at all about the fact that just three miles away there's a country with a full blown civil war.
Overall, all went well and to be honest, had we not known about the conflict or read about the advice "against all travel", we would have not noticed anything particular. Without the exception of the presence of soldiers in Beirut and checkpoints on the way to Baalbek. But it's up to you if you want to see Baalbek - if you don't, you can stick to Beirut, Qadisha Valley Baatara Gorge, Jeita Grotto or Byblos (I'll describe all of them soon - see Related Posts below). These places are all as safe as anywhere else in the world as along as you monitor the situation. Lebanon was one of the most exciting, beautiful and surprising destination. If you're planning or wondering whether to go or not - do - just use your common sense and you will be fine!
Author: Tom @ Adventurous Travels
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