Lebanon is hands down my favourite country in the Middle East. Lebanon does, however, have a bad name when it comes to safety, and especially tourist safety in Lebanon. Many people ask themselves whether Beirut is safe or Lebanon is safe as it sometimes seems that the safety in Lebanon is not great.
As someone who has travelled to Lebanon and would love to live in Beirut sometime, I can attest that Lebanon is safe and that you can safely travel through Beirut and most of the rest of the country.
In this article we will talk about safety in Lebanon and safety in Beirut, what to think about when travelling to Lebanon in terms of safety, and what to do when you find yourself in an unsafe situation.
Why do people think Lebanon is not safe
When talking about travelling to Lebanon and Beirut, I noticed a lot of friends and family were surprised we would travel to Lebanon. Why? Because the country is known to be unstable and received a lot of bad press in the past. A civil war raged through the country from 1975 until 1990. Additionally, a lot of Syrian and Palsetinian refugees live in camps in Lebanon, and the terrorist organisation of Hezbollah still has a firm grasp on the Bekaa valley in Lebanon.
As a tourist, however, the chances of you experiencing anything negative ontowards are very low. Not only are people in Lebanon incredibly proud of their country, Beirut is very safe and the Lebanese are always there to help. Around the city there are army posts set up and, although this might seem a bit scary at first, these army posts keep crime down.
Safety in Lebanon - what are the crime rates in Lebanon
When looking at the crime rates in Lebanon we can see that these are actually very similar to countries such as Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, countries where we would travel to or live in without batting an eye. Walking around in Lebanon is very safe and at night you need to avoid dark alleyways – just like you should when walking around in London or Athens.
As an example I will show you Lebanon’s crime rate index in comparison to other countries we love to travel to!
Crime Rate Index
War and safety in Beirut
The civil war ended in 1990, and although the country is sometimes plagued with civil unrest, there is actually no war in Lebanon. Why people think that a war is still raging in this mediterranean country is honestly a mystery to me, but the government is relatively stable and apart from at the borders with Israel, it is safe to travel to Lebanon and especially Beirut.
When walking through the city you will see signs of conflict such as bullet holes in buildings or even ruins in the middle of the city, however, this is mostly damage from during the civil war which ended 20 years ago.
Extremism in Lebanon
Sure, it is true that radicalIslamist terrorist group Hezbollah still has its claws into the Bekaa valley, but other than a couple of military checkpoints set up by the Lebanese government and vendors trying to flog Hezbollah T shirts at tourist attractions such as Baalbek, you will not notice anything different between the Bekaa valley and Beirut.
When looking at the Lebanese Government we even see that the government is arranged in such a way that every single religion in Lebanon needs to be represented. The president of Lebanon must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister of the gouvernment a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of Parliament must be Shia. This pact was put in place in order to keep the peace between the religious factions as the country is pretty evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. Lebanon is, in other words, not strictly a Muslim country!
Refugees in Lebanon and traveller safety
It is true that there are a lot of displaced people and refugees in Lebanon. These people are mostly living in camps close to the Palestinian and Syrian border. When traveling to Baalbek and Anjar from Beirut you will probably drive past shabby little villages and houses made of corrugated steel. These will be little camps and settlements of refugees – people who have been displaced from their country for years now. Although the area in and around these refugee camps are safe the consensus online is that you need to watch your belongings when deciding to visit a refugee camp or help out at one of the Palestinian Refugee Camps although I think it is always a good idea to mind your belongings and possessions, especially since our short experiences thought us that these people are incredibly nice and kind.
Is Lebanon safe as it shares a border with Syria
One of the big concerns when travelling to Lebanon is that the country shares a border with Syria, a country that is still suffering from extremism and war. However, it is important to note that Syria is incredibly big and that Damascus is fairly safe. You can easily arrange a visa for Syria in Lebanon and hire a driver to take you up to Damascus safely as the area around Damascus is safe.
Is Lebanon safe everywhere
Although I am convinced Lebanon is incredibly safe, it is not necessarily safe everywhere you go. Most gouvernments ask you not to travel to the border with Syria around Al Qusayr as this part of Lebanon can be pretty unsafe because it is held by a radical Islamist splinter cell of Hezbollah.
Additionally, Beirut’s outskirts are specific parts where it is not necessarily safe to walk around alone, especially as a female traveller. I don’t see why you would have to travel to these areas of the city anyway.
Is it safe to travel to Baalbek
On your travels to Beirut and Lebanon, you will probably want to travel to Baalbek en in the Beqaa valley. Although many governments ask you not to travel to the Beqaa valley, there is no danger in doing so. Whether you decide to hire a driver in Beirut or whether you want to explore the ancient city with a tour company, as long as you keep to Baalbek and have a knowledgeable guide or driver that speaks both English and Arabic, you should be fine. I have written a complete guide on travelling to Baalbek and a review of the tour my husband and I took to visit Baalbek, which you can read here. If you are travelling to Lebanon and Beirut, I would highly recommend taking the time to see the ruins of Baalbek as it is still one of the best experiences of my life.
What if I want to explore the dangerous parts of Lebanon
If you would like to hire a car in Beirut to explore the ruins of Baalbek on your own, or if you would like to explore the more dangerous parts of the country, you can do so, but at your own risk. If your country’s travel advisory has put out travel advice that warns you against going to these areas, they will not be able to help you when something goes wrong. Kidnappings are indeed incredibly rare to non-existent in Lebanon as a whole, but you would not want to be the exception to the rule. If you want to visit these dangerous parts, you should hire security at extra costs as in the current situation; your security cannot be guaranteed. I would honestly only recommend this for experienced travellers who have visited Lebanon before.
Is Lebanon a good destination for newbie travellers
Lebanon is very safe but might not have a lot of travel infrastructure outside of Beirut and Jbeil. In fact, I would not necessarily recommend Lebanon for backpackers who are new to travelling because of this lack of travel infrastructure and the fact that not everyone outside of the capital will speak English.
However, suppose you are looking to stay in the city center of Beirut and want to visit UNESCO world heritage sites. In that case, you can easily book popular tours online to Baalbek and Jeita Grotto and get around the city using Uber. As I said before: Lebanon is my favourite countries in the Middle East – maybe because it feels like Greece rather than a Middle Eastern country.
Can I travel to Jeita Grotto safely
If you would like to visit areas close to Beirut, such as Jeita Grotto or even Jbeil, you can do so very safely. There is no need to book a tour as you can flag down a taxi driver, take one of the many day tours, or even by Uber.
Should I get travel insurance when travelling to Lebanon
It would be best if you always got travel insurance when travelling. However, when buying travel insurance, you should read up on whether or not you will be insured in Lebanon as there are travel insurance companies that do not insure in countries in the middle east bar Egypt and the UAE.
Extra tips for travelling to Lebanon and Beirut Safely
Want to book a trip to Lebanon? Great! I am sure you will love your time in Lebanon. As mentioned before, it is my favourite country in the Middle East. There is a lot to see and do in the country, and they have some of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Baalbek and Anjar.
Before travelling, I would, however, check out the current situation and scour different government websites to read up about the travel warnings, any travel documents you might need, and what areas are marked essential travel only (bar the Beqaa valley).
Conclusion and some last tips for travelling safely in Lebanon
Although Lebanon is not one of the safest countries, it ranks on the same page as the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries in the area such as Egypt, Morocco and Greece. Overall I have always perceived Lebanon as a safe country. My travel experience was always very positive, from arriving at the Beirut International Airport to getting to our Beirut airbnbs. If you would like to travel within Lebanon, it is a good idea to hire private drivers or download the uber app and call up an uber driver.
When travelling abroad, I always keep the number of my embassy saved in my phone for emergency situations. I would do the same when travelling to Lebanon if the security situation changes – although I doubt it will.
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