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Get around in Lebanon

Posted by in on 6-5-13

Lebanon is a small country and it is possible to drive from north to south in under 3 hours. The main means of transport are service taxis, bus and car.

By taxi

The majority of travellers use service taxis to get from place to place. “Service” taxis often operate like buses on set routes between towns and cities, though they can be hired to visit other places with some negotiation. Each taxi carries between 4 (inside metropolitan areas) to 6 (longer distances) passengers, who share the fare between them. The Fare is 1750 LL (Lebanese lira) although since most don’t have change it is expected to pay 2000 which is about $1.33 for short distances of a couple of km, and increases depending on both distance to be traveled, traffic on that specific road and of course, like everything in Lebanon, persuasion/negotiation skills. A private Taxi ride, without having to share with other passengers is similar to a “Service” Taxi, in that the same pre-negotiation is required to determine the fare, and as a rule of thumb, costs the same as a fully loaded “Service” Taxi (the fare * number of passengers).

Taxis and “service” taxis are basically the same, and the mode of operation depends on the availability of passengers and their demands.

The majority of “service” taxis in Lebanon are 1975 Mercedes cars that roam the streets searching for passengers using their car-horns.

Newer car models working as mainly “service” taxis are appearing on the Lebanese streets with nevertheless the same price tag as their elder sisters.

All types of public transportation vehicles in Lebanon (taxis, buses, mini-vans and even trucks) can be recognized by their Red-colored licence plate.

By bus

City link bus routes are available and cheap. Most buses for north Lebanon depart from the Charles Helou Station (east of downtown), while most buses to regions south or southeast of Beirut (including Damascus and Baalbek) depart from the Cola “Station” (which is really an intersection adjacent to the Cola bridge\overpass).
By train

There are no trains in Lebanon.

By car

Car rental is relatively expensive in Lebanon compared to elsewhere in the region. Reasonable, if not exactly cheap rates can, however, be found with perseverance and negotiation and – once you have your rental – fuel is easy to get. Be warned, however, that fuel is not cheap, with fuel prices being among the most affected by inflation.

Lebanon’s roads are generally in quite poor condition and Lebanese drivers are not known for their caution. Exercise extreme caution when driving in Lebanon. Note that even in central Beirut, even in areas undamaged by the Israeli assault, there can be massive potholes on busy multi-lane roads.

Driving in Lebanon should be considered an extreme activity for Western drivers accustomed to safe driving. Street names are virtually non-existent. Mountain driving is particularly hazardous, often involving 1-car roads in 2 way streets. Traffic, especially in major cities like Beirut and Tripoli, and on the highway from Beirut to Kaslik, can be extremely crowded and time-consuming, turning a normally 20 minute trip into over an hour during peak times.

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