Transportation - Get In
Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport , is the country's only international airport and the hub of Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA). Most international airlines have daily flights between Beirut and the major European capitals. The airport is located 7 km south of Beirut, and is roughly a 10 to 15 minute drive from the city center.
Car parking is available at the airport for around 2.5 USD per hour. Please note that when the parking time is rounded to the upper hour (i.e. 1.1 hours ~= 2 hours).
At the moment, there is no public transportation to or from the airport. The following options are available for transportation.
They are plentiful and comfortable taxis that are authorized by the airport are parked next to the terminal in the arrivals level and have an airport logo on the side (official airport taxi fares ). Although these taxis claim to be regulated by the airport authorities, they are definitely not honest in their rates.
They are also available and are located a little farther from the airport, but these are not guaranteed and are to be used at your own risk. The approximate rate Airport - Hamra street is LL 25000. However, the so-called regulated taxis' drivers, will ask you anywhere between $30 to 50 for any downtown locations. So, start bargaining from $10 and stop at $15 as the upper limit, both ways to and from the Airport. Also bear in mind, Uber works in Lebanon, and as of February 2016 they had a $14 fixed rate to/from the airport. Considering this is only a 7 km long drive, and gas price is approx $1.5 / litre in Beirut, this price is definitely a rip off that taxi drivers would not miss. Taxi types are wildly changing, so pick the best and newest looking ones to guarantee aircon, and collision safety in Beirut traffic.
They depart from the 2nd (departure) level. These are white small buses (majority are Kia Besta) with red plates, which pickup airport service people and bring them to Beirut. The fare between the Airport and Martyr's square (Downtown) is LL 2000 (May 2011)
All major car rental companies have booking offices inside the airport. More information can be obtained through the airport's webpage on the issue.
Beirut is linked with all coastal cities through the coastal road. Entrances/exists off this road connect it to districts adjacent to the coast such as Maten and Kesrwen (and others). Beirut is linked to Zahle and Baalbeck (and the rest of Bekaa) through Dahr Al-Baydar road (linked to Emile Lahoud highway at the entrance of Beirut].
There are four border crossing points between Lebanon and Syria:
- Masnaa (on the Beirut-Damascus Highway)
- Qaa (at the northern edge of the Békaa Valley)
- Arida (north of Tripoli along the coast)
- Aboudiyeh (northeast of Tripoli).
You can travel between Lebanon and Syria by private/rental car, bus, private taxi, or service taxi.
Note: Please stay updated with safety conditions in Syria if coming from there. There are no reports so far that border points were closed; however, check the news to stay up-to-date.
Buses connecting Beirut with the south of Lebanon arrive at an intersection next to the Cola bridge. The bus stop is known as "Cola" among the locals. This place is in the southern part of Beirut - in area known as Mazraa. Buses connecting Beirut with the North of Lebanon as well as Aleppo in Syria leave from the Charles Helou Bus Station just north of the city center.
As of April 2014 most buses to and from Damascus in Syria has been relocated to the Charles Helou station. Be sure to check the security situation in Syria before leaving.
Taxis to Damascus, Syria are lined up at the Charles Helou bus station. The security situation between Beirut and Damascus has improved significantly in early 2014 (as of April 2014), but this does not mean that the trip can in any way be considered safe. If you must go, see war zone safety. Taxis in Beirut will drive you to anywhere along the coastal road, but may be reluctant to drive to Tripoli given the security situation there. It is also possible to rent a taxi for the whole day for about the same prices at renting your own car.
Transportation - Get Around
There are two types of taxis in Beirut; the old (often) battered hail-taxis, and the prebooking taxis.
- Hail-taxi - The most convenient form of transport in Beirut, as they are absolutely everywhere. Those taxis are predominantly Mercedes Benz cars (though recently, due to increasing petrol prices, taxi drivers are opting for more economic forms or transport) and can be quite easily identified by their yellow illuminated taxi sign on the roof and red number plate. Fixed meters aren't provided so it is recommended to ask how much your trip will cost before hopping in. The fare will be charged per destination and not per distance traveled (which is an advantage since traffic is a big problem in the city). A typical journey from one side of Beirut to the other (roughly 3 km) may cost LL10 000 (€5.00). Many taxi drivers speak at least a few words of English and French. Knowing the name of your destination in the local language may solve any misunderstanding.
Keep in mind the names of the landmarks around the city, as they will come in handy when traveling by public transport (some drivers aren't that good at orienting!).
- Prebook taxi - These require that you call them and book a ride, they generally cost more but are much more luxurious and are normally air conditioned. All hotels should provide you with a taxi directory, if you wish to use this type of service. Taxi prices are considered cheap if compared to US and European taxis. Major taxi companies are: Geryes Taxi (+961 1-332747), Taxi Premiere (Tel 1260 or +961 1-389222). Allo Taxi (Tel 1213 or +961 1-366661),
The more common form of transport, especially with daily commuters, as they are cheaper than the taxis, but ironically, are in fact the same. Service[ser-vee-s] are shared-taxis, the same taxis as above but shared between four or more people. The biggest advantage with the Service system is that the price of the ride is fixed at 2,000 L.L (€1). They come with drawbacks of course, and apart from having to share a small car with three other complete strangers (great for meeting new people actually), Service drivers may choose not to take you if you are not going in the same direction as them. Hailing a service or taxi usually entails yelling your destination to the driver if he slows down, then chasing the name of your destination with either 'taxi' (for private taxi 10,000 L.L. should you want one.)
It is important to remember that if you want a service, give the name of the general district you want and not a specific address. When you get close the driver will ask you where you want to get out. If you recognise the area you want to be in say just ask to stop. AFTER you have paid you and the driver asks you, can give a more specific address like "Crowne Plaza" (a landmark on Hamra St.)and the driver will drop you as near to it as he is going, often pointing out where you have to walk to get there. When you get in to a service pay the 2000L.L. for each person right away. If you fail to do so, the driver will assume you asked for taxi, and will overcharge you at taxi-rate when you want to get out. However if the driver stops to ask for other fares or picks up another passenger only pay the Service rate of 2,000 L.L.
Taxi drivers in Beirut are notorious for overcharging tourists much more so than neighboring Syria. Most will demand absurd fares and demanding 2-3 times the service rate is very common. If you're pressed for time paying 2 service may be a compromise (4000 LL), otherwise you may have to wait a bit to find an honest cab driver willing to take you for 2000 LL. Always get a price BEFORE leaving otherwise the driver will most definitely rip you off. Also, virtually no one tips cab drivers unless some extraordinary service has been rendered, like a very long wait time while you run an errand or something. Some drivers will ask you for a tip particularly near holidays. Payment is usually at the end of the journey.
Driving in Beirut is not to be recommended for much of the day, particularly in the city center. Traffic is heavy, and impossible during rush hour. There is so much to see and being stuck in a traffic jam is the last thing anyone would want to spend their time doing. Walking around the city is much more of an experience, and is in fact necessary in the very center since that part of the city is a pedestrian area.
It can be difficult to find parking other than in multi-story and off-street car parks. On-street parking, if you are lucky enough to find one, is allowed for a short time of two hours. Tickets must be purchased through the parking meters usually located at either end of a street. They can be paid by either cash or card. Overstaying your time may get you a ticket. Enforcement of the parking limit isn't done very efficiently, but obviously the last thing anyone would want to find is a ticket that will ruin their day and set them back financially.
Renting a car is recommended if you're planing to visit neighboring towns and cities such as Jounieh, or if you're planing to go out late at night when public transport isn't operating, or maybe simply to enjoy the Lebanese "see-and-be-seen" lifestyle. Car rental prices range from economical 40.000L.L/day (€20.00/day) to luxury and exotic standard prices. Those can change according to season, so make sure you contact the car rental company beforehand to check prices as well as pickup/drop-off locations.
If you are traveling to the country during high season make sure to book your car rental in advance since it is normal to find that all rental companies are completely booked.
Driving in Beirut is on the right-hand side of the road.
Road rules. What road rules? The flashiest most expensive cars rule the road.
It is common that drivers use one-way street in the wrong direction, and motorcycles are the most to breach one-way streets.
Only the central areas of Beirut have traffic lights operating, though plans have been made to cover all of the city.
There are currently two public transport companies. The OCFTC that operates a fleet of blue and white city-buses, and the LCC with a fleet of red and white minibuses; Bus fares cost either 500LL (OCFTC bus 24) or 1000LL ($0.33 to 0.67). The service is very efficient and the buses come very often, to get onto a bus you must stand at the side of the road and signal with your hand as a bus approaches; the buses will stop anywhere.
As the city is quite compact, walking is the best way of getting around, and perfect for getting off the beaten track to find unexpected surprises. Most people however will not walk throughout the city, rather they will walk within certain districts and take cars/taxis to get from one district to another. Streets are generally well signposted, but few Beiruti locals would know how to navigate according to their names, directions are usually given by building placement ("straight down the road until you reach building X, turn left there, then right..."), and many streets have local nicknames that wouldn't match the map. That said, if you find yourself lost in the streets, simply ask any passer-by for directions; no one will refuse to help! Otherwise you can stop at the nearest hotel or shop and ask. Hotel concierges and shop keepers will most definitely speak some limited English.
Some roads in Beirut are in poor condition. Not so much in the center, but the farther you get from downtown the more road works you will most probably find. So take care!
You can always check out a Beiruti-run walking tour called Walk Beirut. They offer weekly tours around the city.