A weekend in Beirut!
Lebanon is a tiny little gem, 'The pearl of the Middle East' located on the Mediterranean, with historic old towns and mountains overlooking the beach
Lebanon is incredibly small and it is very easy to make your way around, either through the local bus net work or organised tours. Heading north along the coast from the capital Beirut, you will find Jounieh, Byblos and Tripoli. Some other places in this direction are the Jieta Grotto which is an underwater cavern system with fluro blue water and the view of the coastline and Beirut from Harissa are pretty spectacular but harder to access via public transport.
I found Nakhal to be the best tour company if you are on a tight time frame and want to see as much as possible. There is a tour which covers the Jieta Grotta, Byblos and Harissa, although expensive for locals, the tour is well organised an extremely convenient if you are stuck for time.
You can head to the Bekka Valley for wine tasting, you could arrange it yourself for cheaper and follow the Nakhal itinerary through Baalbeck, Anjar and Ksara or just organise through the agency. there are a number of other tours which go through to other parts in the south such as Sidon, Tyr and Maghdouche which could also be good, however I believe that the first two options mentioned would be a little more interesting.
I believe that the best place to stay in Beirut, is Hamra! It is very central, there are busy streets, lots of restaurants and bars, a short walk to the coastline and also downtown. There are lots of hotels and a couple of hostels if you are on a cheaper budget or want to meet people. I stayed at at Hamra Urban Gardens, it is in a great location, its clean, friendly and helpful staff, there is a nice cafe downstairs and a rooftop pool and bar which is definitely worth checking out.
USD and Lebanese Lire/Pound are both accepted for payment in Lebanon, just download the XE App before you go so you can convert when you are on the road. You can buy a Lebanese Sim Card for your phone at the airport, however this is a little more expensive than buying it in Beirut, either way, the price should be about $20-$30 USD for 1.5G with a 7 day expiry. A taxi from the airport to Hamra should cost about $20USD.
There are a number of different transport options ranging from taxis, uber, service, collective vans, buses and also hire cars. “Service” (pronounced servees) are an interesting and cheaper concept than your normal taxi, where you can agree on a lower taxi price, jump in then wait for more passengers heading in the same direction, or jump in an occupied taxi that is heading in the same direction as you.
I found Lebanese people to be incredibly nice, I stood out like 'dogs balls' being blonde haired and blue eyed but never felt uncomfortable, although I must admit that I did get a scare while having a beer on my final evening when the Prime Minster of Lebanon, broadcasted that he had fled the country which left me a little confused.. I asked the bar tender, does that mean I should go too? He laughed an said that this is just middle eastern politics and that Lebanon without a Prime Minster for two years before this guy. He said that it was a little concerning but Lebanese just keep getting up every day and going to work and don't let things like his bother them anymore.. He added that even during the last war, he was going out clubbing!
There are two huge American Universities which are nice to walk through. It was interesting to learn that at schools in Lebanon, students study in either French or English, and most of the young people that I met were extremely intelligent, open minded and liberal.
As for nightlife - Lebanese love to party! There are tonnes of bars and club throughout Beirut and even along the coast over summer. There is an underground bomb shelter which has been converted into a nightclub called BO-18! The places is pretty cool to check out, although a little small inside and over priced, the roof opens up at sunrise!
Famous last words, I wish that I had more time!
Hope that helps!
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