Lebanon Driving Guide
Lebanon is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit
The population of Lebanon in 2019 was at 6.1 million, and that was already including an estimated 1.5 million refugees from Syria and Palestine who fled their countries to escape political violence. As one of the seeds of civilization, Lebanon is worth visiting since it has rich archeological and historical treasures. Visitors can revel on the heritage sites and relish the celebratory culture of the locals, which are rife with music, festivities, and food that showcases the wonders of the Middle East and Arabic culture.
How Can This Guide Will Help You?
This guide will present all you need to know if you would like to try driving in Lebanon with a US license or an international driver’s license. Lebanon is a country filled with drama and history, and they have left mementos of these with relics and sculptures. The streets tell the human story. With thousands of years of unrest in a region known as the cradle of civilization, Lebanon provides a contrast to the normal Western comforts and visiting it will leave you with memories and lessons that you would never forget.
The country is best explored by car, and this guide will help you learn the important information. Would you be able to drive there with your local license? Do you need to take a driving test in Lebanon? This guide also provides the essential driving rules in Lebanon, rental car requirements, and prices.
Despite its history of being a venue of conflict for centuries, Lebanon is now known as a haven for refugees. The locals and the state recognize the importance of peace and how visitors and tourists should be treated hospitably. Lebanon has rebuilt their country and now has stable political institutions that can welcome tourists who want to satisfy their curiosity about the treasures that Lebanon holds.
The Ta'if Accord that bore the blueprint for national reconciliation paved the way for the Lebanese to have a functional and fair political system. The Muslims finally gained a more significant voice in the political process. They used this leverage to strengthen their sectarian divisions in the national government. This is evident in the various churches that were eventually converted into mosques.
Lebanon is a small country with mountainous terrain, located on the Levant coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. On the south, it shares a border with Israel and on the North through the East, while the Anti-Lebanon mountain range stretches through both Lebanon and Syria. On the West, Lebanon shares maritime borders with the island-state of Cyprus. The country is the smallest country on the Asian mainland, as it only covers an area of 10,400 square kilometers.
The official language of Lebanon is Arabic. However, Lebanon seemed to have become quite a multi-lingual country due to its multiple Western influences and geographic location. The 2nd most widely spoken languages are English and French. Lebanon has international schools wherein the medium of instruction is either English or French. So when you visit Lebanon, do not be too frightened about being able to communicate because the majority of the population, especially the new generations, are already fluent in English.
Lebanon covers an area of 10,452km2. That’s almost the same size as the Gambia and a slightly bigger size than Cyprus. The country is divided into eight (8) governorates/provinces, and this includes Akkar, Baalbeck-Hermel, Beirut, Bekka, Mount Lebanon, North Lebanon, Nabatiyeh, and South Lebanon.
When you are driving in Lebanon, you should know that this land has been inhabited by man as early as 10,000 BC. Various empires have taken over this strategic coastal land facing the pivotal Mediterranean Sea. In 2500 BC, the Phoenicians took hold of the coastal land, and they stayed for 1500 BC even as the land was ruled by different empires, including Egypt. the Hittites seized control of the Northern part of Lebanon they shared the southern part with Egypt.
Modern Lebanese history consists of the French occupation of Lebanon from the end of World War I in 1920 to January 1, 1944. Power was then transferred to the Lebanese forces, which resulted in the Lebanese Civil War (1975 - 1990). After that, the Syrian occupation took place, which eventually ended after the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1559.
In Lebanon, the Chief of State is the President, while the Head of Government is the Prime Minister. Its government system is based on confessionalism, wherein religion and politics intertwine. The number of Parliament seats is shared equally between Muslims and Christians; the President has to be a Maronite Christian; the prime minister is a Sunni; the Head of Parliament has to be a Shia. The different national agencies are also lead by different religious groups.
Lebanon is the most buttoned-up country in the Middle East — far from its war-torn neighbors. Although civil protests still occur from time to time, it's generally safe for all foreign visitors. Tourism is a major source of income for Lebanon. In 2018, the revenues generated from the tourism industry amounted to US$3.8 billion, contributing to around 7% of the country’s total GDP.
Between 1995 and 2019, the number of tourist arrivals increased by more than triple— from 450,000 arrivals in 1995 to over 1.9 million in 2019. The influx of tourists over the years did not display a steady increase. However, with thLebanon’sresent and planned improvements to its tourism sector, the numbers will inarguably continue to rise.
IDP FAQs in Lebanon
The International Driver’s Permit is a valuable tool that translates your local license into twelve different languages, widely spoken and understood globally. Thus, if you have an International Driver’s Permit, you can drive in Lebanon with a US license or any other country. It is beneficial for those whose licenses are not in the Roman alphabet since it would be difficult for officials to read what is indicated.
Is Your Local Driver’s License Valid in Lebanon?
In Lebanon, the authorities will allow you to drive a vehicle based on your local driver’s license. Your license has to be valid for two years. If your license is not in the Roman alphabet (ex. Licenses written in Arabic or characters from other languages like Japanese), an International Driver's Permit is required.
If you have a valid driver’s license issued for two years or more, you may drive in Lebanon during your stay as a tourist. The International Driver’s Permit is useful, especially if you will rent a car. If you stayed for more than three months (the validity of your tourist visa), you would need to obtain a driving license in Lebanon. Still, you can be driving in Lebanon with a UAE license or any license issued by countries with the Gulf Cooperation Council as if you had a Lebanon driver’s license.
Remember again that the International Driver’s Permit is only a translation of your local driver’s license in the most widely spoken languages in the world. It cannot take the place of your local driver’s license as a legal document for identification purposes. Always bring your local driver’s license when you are driving in Lebanon and when you're renting a car.
Can I Drive in Beirut, Lebanon with an International Driver’s License?
You can drive in Beirut, Lebanon, and even the other cities with an international driver’s license. With an International Driver’s Permit, you can drive anywhere in the world without worrying whether the police officers can understand what is indicated in your license. The IDP has saved many tourists from hassles and misunderstandings.
The International Driver’s Permit can be obtained from us. Any person with a valid driver’s license from any country can apply for an IDP. The process is quick and easy, and they have instant approval once you submit the required documents. Upon approval, just arrange the shipping location, and that’s it! All you have to do is wait for your International Driver’s Permit (IDP), and you’re free to blaze a trail anywhere in the world.
You can choose the validity of your International Driver’s Permit, whether it’s 1, 2, or 3 years depending on your travel plans. You can also request a replacement or extra copy of your IDP in case you lose it. This copy is free as long as your IDP is still valid. You only need to pay for shipping. The IDP is recognized in 150 countries worldwide, and many tourists and even students and workers have mentioned how the IDP has spared them from constant questions from the authorities.
When Can I Apply For an International Driver’s Permit?
Applying for International Driving Permits is fast and convenient, so there is no prescribed period to get it. It depends on your travel plans, precisely when and where you need to drive. You only need to consider the shipping time, as the International Driver’s Association can deliver your IDP to any of your destination countries.
If you are in a rush or suddenly need to travel on short notice, we have made it easier for you to apply online. You only need to visit our website, take a selfie and send a picture of the front and back of your local driver’s license. Have your credit card ready for the charges, and just wait for your International Driver’s Permit. Driving in Lebanon will be a breeze once you have your IDP handy.
How Long Is an IDP Valid in Lebanon?
You can choose the validity of your IDP from 1, 2, or 3 years. The International Driver’s Association gives options, so you only need to avail of the IDP as long as you travel. However, some people would rather extend their IDP validity for as long as possible since they may need to travel on short notice. Please note that if your native driver’s license expires, the IDP cannot replace it, even if it is still valid.
The International Driver’s Association has made it easy for their customers to request a replacement IDP. Travelers have a lot to take care of, and sometimes, the IDP can be lost in the mix. Simply visit the website and request a replacement copy. It’s even free! All you need to do is settle the shipping cost and just wait for your new copy.
Renting a Car in Lebanon
With the numerous archeological and historical places in Lebanon, it is best to drive around in a rental car. That way, you can make your own itinerary and spend time on the sights and sounds that matter more to you. There is public transport available in Lebanon, but nothing beats the freedom and comfort of driving in your own car. From the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, there are many car rental options available.
Many reviews encourage driving in Lebanon since the price for a rental car is fairly reasonable. What’s more, you don’t need to take a driving test in Lebanon if you have your local license and an International Driver’s Permit. Some car rental companies will require the IDP so that they can see the provisions in your license. With the mountainous terrain, renting a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) is ideal, but they need to know if you are permitted to drive vehicles of that size.
Car Rental Companies
When you need to rent a car in Lebanon, the easiest answer is the airport. Upon your arrival at the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, there are already representatives from the major car rental companies. International car rental juggernaut Hertz is here, and on average, they charge around $58 a day. Most reviews consider that as a reasonable rate.
Nowadays, you can prearrange a car rental on the company’s website. Car rental giants such as Avis, Sixt, and Europcar have their own websites, but there are also aggregator sites like Kayak.com that compiles and compares the prices of the car rental companies, giving you the freedom to choose. Most experts advise to still verify the prices listed on Kayak with the company.
The basic documents to rent a car in Lebanon are your driver’s license, identification documents, and credit card. Some rental companies would also require an International Driver's Permit so that they can see your driving capabilities and limitations. Many tourists want to drive SUVs, but the car rental companies need to know if the drivers are capable. When driving in Lebanon, a license with clear translation is always required.
A credit card or debit card is needed for payment, but some rental companies have alternative payment methods. If you have booked the rental in advance over the internet, you need to bring the receipt or transaction record.
The major rental companies have a wide array of vehicles, depending on your needs. If you mostly stay in the cities, then compact cars or sedans are good options. Lebanon has high mountains and rugged terrain on those paths, so an SUV would also be beneficial. Always confirm whether the vehicle is manual or automatic transmission--many transactions have had problems because of this.
One important thing you should note is that one-way car rental is not allowed in Lebanon. One-way car rentals are usually a practice in Europe where you can rent a car and travel past national borders without returning the car to the country where you rented it. Lebanon has borders in Syria and Israel, but car rental companies would not allow you to bring their vehicle across.
Car Rental Cost
Driving in Lebanon has a reasonable price based on the aggregator websites. There are listings of economy cars for as low as US $10/day. However, keep in mind that that is the base price. There are still numerous add-on prices depending on the car features. Automatic transmission cars are usually higher. Also, pay attention to the listed passenger and cargo capacity since exceeding it can void the insurance.
The price for renting SUVs is higher because of the demand. Compact SUVs or intermediate SUVs can start at US$ 25-35, while full-size SUVs start at US$ 40. Again, this is the base price without the add-ons.
Driving in Lebanon with a US license or any local license is allowed as long you have had the license for more than a year. For Americans, that can be as young as 18 years old. However, take note that there is a different minimum age for car rentals. Companies will require renters to be at least 21 years old. They also have a maximum age of 75 years old.
If the driver does not meet the conditions mentioned above, the companies may impose a surcharge. It’s best to have your companion at the right age to take on the rental duties.
Car Insurance Cost
Car insurance is mandatory in Lebanon. Although most car insurance laws only require a minimum of third-party insurance, car rental companies may require you to purchase additional insurance coverage. You will have to pay for your rental car insurance on a daily basis depending on how long you are going to rent the car.
Rental car insurance costs in Lebanon may range from US$10.00 – US$45.00 a day. The rates vary depending on your coverage, the type of car you are renting, and your age, saying the least. To save on your insurance expenses, it’s recommended that you research car rental companies; you should also ask about the insurance they offer.
Car Insurance Policy
If you are traveling with a US or international credit card, many include insurance (Collision Damage Waiver). There are rental companies that will still sell third-party liability insurance for collision coverage and other incidents. These would add to the cost, but drivers do not need to take a driving test in Lebanon for rental companies to entrust their vehicle to you to be a fair deal.
The processing of renting a car in Lebanon is more or less the same as what is practiced in other countries. All you need to do is submit the requirements, pay the security deposit, and return the car once you’re done.
Can You Get Your Car Rental at the Airport?
Not all car rental companies are based in the airport. So, if you arrive there, representatives may approach you, but you will have to wait for your car, or they can transport you to their site. The best advice is to book the car rental in advance and have it prearranged to be waiting at the airport. There is usually a charge for this service since they also need to pay for the parking fees at the airport.
What Are the Fuel Options in Lebanon?
Lebanon has two fuel options, diesel and unleaded. Lebanon is also in the process of becoming a legitimate oil producer. The prices of fuel are .68 Euros or US$ 0.82 per liter for Unleaded Gas and 0.46 Euros or US$ 0.56 for Diesel. Fuel prices are usually lower in the Middle East’s oil-producing region, but the prices also fluctuate depending on supply and demand. British nationals driving in Lebanon with a UK license are often astounded at the difference in gas prices.
The Road Rules in Lebanon
Lebanon is a beautiful place for adventure driving. It is like being transported to another place in time, especially if you leave the city and drive up to the high mountains. The road rules in Lebanon are not remarkably strict, but they are properly implemented. Know the driving rules in Lebanon for your upcoming trip.
Driving lessons in Lebanon also state that the hazard triangle and hazard lights are mandatory, especially during car breakdown. Always check on your rented vehicle in case the company may have overlooked providing the hazard triangle. These are just some of the rules that you’ll have to remember when driving in Lebanon like the use of a cell phone while driving. To know more, continue reading below.
Are there drink-driving laws in Lebanon? Lebanon has strict drink-driving laws, and they have checkpoints, military and police checkpoints that can detect the amount of alcohol consumed with a breathalyzer. It should be noted that there is technically a legal limit to drinking and driving, which is pegged at 0.5g/l. Lebanese authorities have applied a strict 0% tolerance towards driving after drinking. For tourists, it is better just not to drink and drive at all. Have a designated driver who will not consume alcohol no matter what amount.
Lebanon has imposed a fining system based on blood alcohol concentration levels. For those who have 0.5-0.8g/l, there are heavy fines. For 0.8-1g/l, your vehicle will be seized, and for above 1g/l, you could face a jail term. It is also prohibited to bring open alcohol containers even if you are not drinking them.
Safety is a priority for the officials in Lebanon. This is emphasized when you learn driving in Lebanon. It starts with the basic rule that seat belts are required for all passengers, both front and rear. They also have definite safety regulations for children. Children below five years old need to be secured and buckled in an appropriate car seat. Children below ten years old are not allowed in the front seat and also to ride motorcycles.
Helmets are also required for any cyclists and motor-cyclists, including electric scooters. These vehicles are also required to have side mirrors. Also, mobile phone or tablet use is prohibited while driving unless attached to a hands-free system.
Lebanon has both paid parking lots and street parking areas. Paid parking lots include open parking spaces and multi-story car parks. If you need to park for a short amount of time on the road, make sure to look for the designated parking lot that is metered. You may notice that other local drivers don’t follow this rule, but be careful not to adopt this, especially in Beirut.
The roads in Lebanon usually come in 2 carriageways (one carriageway per direction). A carriageway also has 3-4 lanes that are wide enough to accommodate trucks. The rule of thumb is if you are turning right, you have to stay in the rightmost lane before approaching the intersection. If you are turning left, you have to maneuver to the leftmost lane before approaching the intersection.
Safety officials have simplified the speed limits in Lebanon. It is 50 kph in urban areas and 100 kph in rural areas. As there are no tollways in Lebanon, you cannot exceed the 100 kph limit. If you drive over the highest speed limit by over 60 kph or engage in racing and reckless driving, you can face seizure of your vehicle or even jail time.
On the other hand, you also cannot drive at a speed slower than 20 kph. The speed limits are constant for all types of driver’s licenses that you carry and for all types of vehicles.
Lebanon is bordered almost entirely by Syria from the North to the East. Driving from Syria to Lebanon is easy as there are various entry points. One of the popular routes is driving from Damascus (Syria) to Beirut (Lebanon).
Syria to Lebanon
Here’s a sample of an itinerary of driving from Damascus to Beirut, with an average travel speed of 54kph. You can reach Beirut in about 2 hours of driving with a distance of 111 kilometers.
- Get on Almotahalik Aljanobi from Beirut Rd and 7th April.
- Follow Dimashq Beirut and Beirut - Damascus International Hwy/Route 30M to Charles Helou/Route 51M in Beirut, Lebanon. Exit from Emile Lahoud.
- Follow Route 51M to Cheikh Toufik Khaled.
Israel to Lebanon
One popular route for driving from Israel to Lebanon is from Tel-Aviv to Beirut. One caveat is that you have to pass by Damascus, Syria, because Lebanon does not allow direct entry from Israel. The distance is about 420 kilometers. A sample itinerary would look like this.
- Get on Ayalon Hwy/Route 20 from Shlomo Ibn Gabirol St and Rokach Blvd.
- Take Route 5 and Yitzhak Rabin Hwy/Route 6 to Route 65. Take exit Iron Interchange from Yitzhak Rabin Hwy/Route 6.
- Continue on Route 65. Take Route 675, Route 71, Route 25, and Route 232 to M5 in Mafraq Governorate, Jordan.
- Follow M5 to Dimashq Beirut in Damascus Governorate, Syria.
- Follow Dimashq Beirut to Beirut - Damascus International Hwy/Route 30M in Beqaa Governorate, Lebanon.
- Continue on Beirut - Damascus International Hwy/Route 30M to Beirut. Exit from Emile Lahoud.
- Follow Route 51M to Cheikh Toufik Khaled.
Traffic Road Signs
The traffic signs in Lebanon are similar to the traffic road signs in the rest of the world. The official agency in charge of the traffic road signs is the Internal Security Force (ISF). Lebanon’s membership with the Gulf Cooperation Council did not affect their road signs like the European Union countries. Driving in Lebanon with these signs can be safe and orderly.
Warning signs will notify the drivers that there will be changes in the road ahead. It also warns of pedestrian presence and possible hazards on the road ahead. This gives you ample time to be cautious and take appropriate action.
- Curve to left
- Curve to right
- Double curve
- Two-way road
- Road narrows
- Cyclist crossing
- Traffic lights
- Falling rocks
- Dangerous downward slope
- Slippery road
- Road works
- Children Pedestrian crossing
- Railroad crossing with barrier
- Railroad crossing without barrier
Mandatory signs inform drivers of the actions or directions they can or cannot make on the road they are taking. These regulations concern tourism activities that can affect traffic like “no entry to vehicles except motorcycles” on the narrow roads and roads near the coastline
- Keep left
- Keep right
- Keep left or right
- Left only
- Right only
- Straight only
- Left turn ahead
- Right turn ahead
- Left or right turn ahead
- Straight or right turn ahead
- Straight or left turn ahead
- Minimum speed limit
- Obligatory snow chain
- No through road
Prohibitive signs are designed to limit and control the movements of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians in a certain area. Usually, violations of the prohibitions entail some degree of penalty.
- Prohibitory signs
- No motor vehicle traffic
- No entry
- No vehicles
- No motorcycles
- No cycles
- No pedestrians
- No trucks
- No overtaking
- No overtaking by trucks
- No horns
- Weight limit
- Clearance width limit
- Clearance height limit
- Speed limit
- Maximum weight allowed
- No agricultural vehicles
- Axle load limit
- Clearance length limit
- No parking
- No stopping
Right of Way
If you read personal blogs of past travelers, you’ll notice that some of them declare that Lebanon has no rules on Right of Way even in intersections. So apart from watching out for unruly drivers and vehicles that suddenly overtake, you can go ahead and practice the Right of Way rules that you learned from your country. In general, the following vehicles have the Right of Way, and you should yield to them at all times:
- Emergency response vehicles (ambulance, police cars, fire trucks, etc.)
- Vehicles driving downhill
- Vehicles on the intersection
- Vehicles that are already inside the roundabout
- Vehicles that are on the main roa
Legal Driving Age
The minimum age to apply for a driver’s license in Lebanon is 18. The process starts at 18, but they would not let you rent a car until you are 21 years old. They expect that foreigners will also be at least 18 years old to possess a driver’s license for more than a year.
Laws on Overtaking
If you are in a hurry, or the vehicle in front of you is too slow (like big trucks), you can go ahead and overtake; but do it properly and safely. If you are on the main road, be aware of the lane separators and only overtake in areas where there are broken lines. Otherwise, wait until you arrive at a safer section of the road. Do not forget also to honk your horn to signal to the vehicle in front that you are trying to overtake.
Lebanese drive on the right hand side of the road. If you are driving in Lebanon with a US license, there is no need to adjust. In terms of right of way, they would expect you to give priority to vehicles that are already inside a roundabout. It is always good advice to take caution and maintain moderate speeds even if you have the right of way.
Other Road Rules
Lastly do not forget your driving license. Think of your driving license as your lifeline. As such, you cannot and should not drive your car without it.
Can a Foreigner or Tourist Drive in Lebanon?
Foreign visitors are allowed to drive in Lebanon as long as they have their valid local license. The license has to be valid for more than one year, and they would also require an International Driver's Permit if your local license is not in the Roman alphabet or Arabic language characters.
In this case, driving in Lebanon with a US license is allowed since it is in the Roman alphabet, provided the license has been valid for more than one year. It should also be pointed out that the minimum driving age is eighteen years old. So even if you have a driving license in Lebanon of more than one year, but you are still not eighteen years old (which can happen in some countries), you would still not be allowed to drive.
Driving Etiquette in Lebanon
When you drive in Lebanon, it seems easy to blend in with the crowd, and driving in Lebanon has its own distinct reputation which will be discussed later. Here is sound advice on what you should do when you are faced with certain situations, based on the road rules and laws in Lebanon and the general driving behaviors of the locals. This guide also factors in what their culture expects from foreigners.
After you check your rental car, test drive, and note that everything is in order, you are now ready for your joyride. Suddenly, your car breaks down. What would you do if you are in Lebanon with a stalled car?
The first thing you need to do is to turn on your hazard lights. The use of hazard lights is to inform the vehicles behind you that your car has broken down, and they should not expect you to keep going. The next step is to try to bring the car to the side of the road. It is a rule, and if you cannot bring the car to the side of the road, you need to bring out your early warning device. That refers to the triangle-shaped reflector, and place it about 50 meters from your vehicle so oncoming vehicles can see right away and start to change their lanes.
If there would be a police or traffic officer, approach them for assistance, either in moving the car or calling for help. If you are driving in Lebanon with a UAE license, you know that the number for emergency assistance is 112. Another option is to call your car rental company. Assistance in this situation is usually part of their services.
The police are very visible in Lebanon, and for many intersections, they would usually override the traffic lights and or overturn the right of way for certain intersections. This measure is a response to the traffic situation getting heavier in Lebanon as more and more people buy passenger cars. Police felt the need to intervene, and their presence was used to discipline the drivers. They also have mandates to fix the traffic flow and check on the condition of drivers.
When the police stop you, the best advice is to cooperate. Respond to the questions respectfully, and if they ask for your registration, be ready to show it. It is best not to hand over your passport, and check on the nameplate and uniform of the officers to ensure that they are legitimate police officers. Once you verify them, just cooperate, and you won’t have to end up in a driving school in Lebanon.
Sometimes, a road map. detailed paper maps or Google maps does not guarantee you'll get to your destination smoothly. The Lebanese are generally willing to help the tourists find their destination. Many Lebanese locals can speak English even if it is not an official language. Most citizens of Lebanon would try to help, and they are less inclined to say “no” even if they are not really sure about the directions they are giving you.
It is more advisable to ask the police or traffic authorities in a kind way, and most of them are ready to help. Lebanon has a strong police presence, so it would usually not be difficult to locate a police officer. There is also a considerable population of Syrian refugees, and some may not be familiar with the place, but in general, asking for driving directions is a pleasant experience.
To help you communicate with the locals, here are some handy phrases:
- Hello/Welcome - Marhuba
- Goodbye - Ma’assalaama
- Thank you - Shukran
- Yes - Na’am
- No - La’
- Sorry - Muta’assif
- Do you speak English? - Tatakullum ingleezi?
- I don’t understand - Ana maa afham
- How much is that? - Bekam?
- Where’s the nearest doctor? - Wayn aghrab tabeeb
As Lebanon has been the venue of multiple conflicts, there is a strong police and military presence. The military has set up numerous checkpoints, but the many tourists assure that most of the time, checkpoints have been more helpful than an instrument to sow fear. If you have your complete documents and identification, you don’t need to worry about anything. Unless they find something suspicious, it will consist of simply a visual check, and an acknowledgment on your end.
Nevertheless, when you are driving in Lebanon with a UK license, be ready to present your travel documents, rental car receipts, and any other pertinent documents. Cooperate and answer the questions respectfully. It is best not to show irritation, and it would help to understand that these people are simply doing their job which is to protect their own national security, which you are now a part of being a visitor. Most tourists would even ask and receive assistance from these checkpoints,
Hopefully, knowing about Lebanon’s driving culture will move you to drive with confidence. There are unique nuances in every country, and it is best to learn them to avoid any misunderstanding.
What if I Get Involved in an Accident?
If you are involved in an accident, the first thing you need to check is your physical condition and then, your passengers’ physical condition. Is anyone in need of immediate medical attention? The emergency number is 112. Call it immediately, and state your exact location first.
If it is a minor collision and no one in your party or the other vehicle is hurt, then you can simply report the accident to your car rental company. Get the contact details of the other vehicle and, if possible, ask help from police or traffic officers to mediate. Do not move the vehicles from the actual point of collision and take photos with your smartphone or camera. These are helpful evidence in the matter of settling liability.
Driving Conditions in Lebanon
In recent years, the driving situation in Lebanon has improved, even though the traffic has been tighter due to the notable increase in passenger cars. The public transport sector in Lebanon does not live up to high standards, so more and more people purchase passenger cars whenever they can.
The volume of passenger cars has contributed to accident incidence, but it should be noted that many of the accidents were caused by a violation of traffic rules. Driving in Lebanon, if you follow rules, is still relatively safe. Data shows that most of the people involved are young men who have negligent driving habits like drunk driving and overspeeding.
Prior to the pandemic, the Lebanese Traffic Management Center recorded 4582 car accidents in the year 2019, with 487 dead and 6101 wounded. It is notable that over 75% of the injuries resulting from road traffic incidents are male (81% killed and 76% injured), although the population of Lebanon is relatively equal between male and female. It was also recorded that half of the road accidents (50%) happened on undivided two-way roads, which is what most of the roads in Lebanon look like.
The TMC established the direct relation of driving habits and road division in the rise of accidents. A combination of over speeding and/or driving under the influence led to accidents in the two-way set-up. It should also be noted that the actual number is a decrease from last year, despite the increase in population and passenger cars. Driving in Lebanon is a test of discipline, and you can stay safe with stricter traffic-rule implementation and improvement of road conditions.
In Lebanon, because of the sandy, mountainous terrain coupled with the road conditions, most people want to buy Sport Utility Vehicles whenever they can. In the past year, the best-selling car is the Toyota Land Cruiser, with 12% of 2019 sales. The Nissan Patrol, another SUV, was the next bestseller, followed by the Toyota Corolla and Kia Picanto.
Another contributor to the rise in sales of SUVs is the relatively cheaper gas price. Lebanon is an oil-producing country, so the gas prices are low. Many prospective SUV buyers in the US and other countries hesitate because of the high fuel consumption. It does not matter much for the Lebanese. They know that driving in Lebanon has a price—you need a durable vehicle.
As of this writing, there are no toll roads in Lebanon. There is, however, a proposed toll road network on the works that will traverse through Beirut. As soon as you visit the country, make sure to bring along some Lebanese Pound change all the time in case the toll road gets implemented; or check with transport department again in case toll payments are electronic.
Most of the feedback on Lebanon’s public transport system says that it is inadequate and uncomfortable, so people in Lebanon would try to get their own car and drive. The lack of good public transportation encouraged tourists to rent cars instead. This is a continuous trend with car sales escalating except for the last two years--2019 with a decline and 2020 was under a pandemic. Many people would rather drive, even though the road conditions are far from ideal with Lebanon's numerous potholes, especially in smaller cities.
The Lebanese government is already aware of it, and the TMC has also imposed harsher penalties on habits of Lebanese drivers like double-parking and indiscriminate overtaking. The number of violations is trending downward, and they also an expected hike in the economy once oil prices rise after the end of the lockdown. Once this happens, they plan to improve road infrastructure. This might improve Lebanon's traffic and make rush hours more manageable. Just think, how is driving in Lebanon bad if more people are actually buying cars?
A common question that new drivers also ask is that whether the Lebanese are safe drivers. The Lebanese have been given negative reviews in the past decade, with claims that the driving rules in Lebanon are mere “suggestions” in reference to the lax implementation. These are blogs mostly from before 2016. Part of it is due to Lebanon opening its doors to immigrants and refugees, which makes up over 20% of the general population. Some of them may have secured driving licenses in Lebanon with low test scores.
Those are in the past, and the important thing is that the TMC has acknowledged the need for improvement, and the rising tourists attest that it is definitely worth it to drive in Lebanon for all the wonderful destinations.
Lebanon, like most countries in the world, uses the metric system for weight, height, and speed. When you’re driving in Lebanon, signs for speed limits are in Kph, and even the car speedometers are in Kph, so it would still be easy to monitor. If you are used to Mph, the numbers for Kph are higher. Don’t panic if the speedometer says 100. It’s in Kph, and that is normal highway speed.
Is It Safe to Drive at Night?
Beirut was once known as the “Paris” of the Middle East prior to the civil war because it was the city with the most liberal and progressive views. Now that the civil war is over, Beirut has reclaimed that title with a vibrant nightlife filled with fashion and music, not to mention the most active LGBTQ community in the region.
The resurgence of the Beirut art, music, and fashion scene attest to the safety of Lebanon itself. No city or country can claim to be a hub of nighttime activities if they have safety and security issues. Refrain from driving at night on mountain roads.
Things to Do in Lebanon
When you stay in Lebanon and find the challenge and adventures of driving in Lebanon as something you would like to do for a living, how will the process be like? How is driving In Lebanon like as a job? The following guide shares some insights on the process of obtaining a driving license in Lebanon.
Drive as a Tourist
You can drive as a tourist in Lebanon as long as you have your valid driver’s license. You may learn driving rules in Lebanon or even take a driving license test in Lebanon later on if you decide to stay. But as a tourist, it is often helpful to have your International Driver’s Permit. While most people and officials understand the Roman alphabet, the official language is still Arabic, and you would also need additional identification when you try to rent a car.
Work as a Driver
After getting to know the country a little bit by driving as a tourist, you might want to consider pursuing a driving job in the country. You’ll have to obtain a work permit, of course. The work permit is dependent on what kind of work you need to do. Aside from the work permit, you also need to take the Lebanese driving test.
In Lebanon, you can apply for a work permit assisted by your employer. Your employer will be the one to present your application to stay and work in Lebanon to the Office of General Security. The official rule is that your employer will have to declare that the work cannot be done by a Lebanese person, stressing the need to hire a foreign worker.
Work as a Travel Guide
If you are a people-person on the other hand, and love learning about different cultures and promoting what Lebanon has to offer to the world, you can also consider working as a travel guide. Again, you’ll need to obtain a work permit to be able to work in the country. Although the law only allows foreigners to work jobs that are not doable by locals, in actual practice, this qualification is often overlooked.
As long as you have the proper documents and are ready to pay the amount due, your work permit is likely to be approved. After getting your work permit, you can then apply for residency. This is a different process with more documents required, and it could take 10 working days for the office to grant residency for one year, unless you are a student or married to a Lebanese citizen. In that case, you can apply for permanent residency, which is actually three years.
Apply for Residency
When you’ve worked in Lebanon for three (3) straight years, you are qualified to get a permanent residence permit. If you haven’t worked in Lebanon, foreigners still have the chance to apply for a permanent resident visa that is renewable for three (3) years, as long as they have a monthly income (like pension) or are businessmen and investors.
Other Things to Do
In general, jobs are hard to come by in Lebanon for foreigners since they already have more than a million refugees as well. However, there could be higher positions not related to driving and tourism, specific to your career that you can consider. If you learn driving in Lebanon, that could be a start.
How to Apply for a Lebanon Driver’s License Application?
If you work as a driver in Lebanon, you need to have a Lebanese driver’s license. These are the requirements:
- Identity card (18+)
- Individual status record whose date of issuance should not exceed 3 months
- Criminal record status
- 2 recent photos (size = 4.3 cm x 3.5 cm) stamped from the Mokhtar (village chief)
- A medical record
- Blood type
- Proof of residence (residency and work permit)
You need to take a driving test in Lebanon. If you already have your own driver’s license, you may feel that you don’t need to sign up for driving school in Lebanon, but it depends on the type of driver’s license you’re applying for in Lebanon. If you finish the required lessons and once you feel that you are ready, you can schedule your driver’s test appointment.
If you feel that you can take the driving test in Lebanon without a co-pilot, you may proceed. The test has two parts: a theoretical part, which is Computer-based, relating more to traffic law and road signage. The practical test deals with actual driving, application of the law, parallel parking, and handing sharp turns safely. The test will be administered on a vehicle with manual transmission.
The Top Destinations in Lebanon
Lebanon is not a big country, but it is a complete destination since it has beaches fronting the Mediterranean Sea and mountains on the border of Syria. There is the legendary tourism phrase that says that in Beirut, you can “ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon.” We’ll check how that holds, but for sure, you will be driving in Lebanon with signs of exhilaration with these road trip destinations.
Tyre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the historical and archeological gems in that location. It is one of the top 20 oldest cities in the world. The main highlights are in the Al-Mina peninsula, with the Al-Bass Hippodrome as one of the most-visited venues. There are also fortresses and ancient columns, along with the remains of an arena.
From Beirut to Tyre:
- Take the Saida/Coastal Hwy/Route 51M from Airport.
- Follow Beirut - Saida/Coastal Hwy/Route 51M to Takkeyeddine El Solh in Sidon. Exit from Beirut - Saida/Coastal Hwy/Route 51M.
- Get on Coastal Hwy/Saida - Tyre Hwy/Route 51M from Corniche El Baher and Rafic El Hariri
- Follow Coastal Hwy and take Route 51M to Rachid Karami in Tyre.
Things to Do
Did you know that the purple dye was created by the Phoenicians of Tyre? This and much more interesting history await you in Tyre. However, on the other side, Tyre isn’t just about history, there are still more immersive activities you can do.
- Go Cliff-Diving
Beirut and Tyre are two (2) areas that are famous for cliff-diving. The cliffs are so high up that the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series was held here. If you want to try the adrenaline-pumping heights, go check out The Pigeon Rock.
- SCUBA Dive to the Sunken City of Tyre
Tyre was the center of Pheonician trade in the Mediterranean. Phoenicians were seafaring people so the settlements had to be along the coast. The fall of the city came during the arrival of the Crusaders. If you have a SCUBA diving license, you can check out the ruins of the ancient harbour below the surface, about 80 m of the shore.
- See the Roman Arc Triumph
The Roman Arc Triumph is one of the best archaeological ruins in Tyre. It is found within a necropolis that dates as far back as the 2nd century BC. You can find plenty of ruins in Tyre. It could even take a day if you want to visit all.
Sidon Sea Castle and Soap Castle
When you arrive in Sidon, start at the outermost tip with the Sea Castle, also known as Crusader Castle. This is historic and spectacular at the same time, rich with drama and grandeur. All around Sidon, you’ll see more historical and modern buildings. The Great Mosque and the Castle of St. Louis are other landmarks that should be on your itinerary. Sidon also has their own souks that rival those in Tyre.
The Sidon Sea Castle is about 44km from Beirut’s central business district. It will take you about 45 minutes to reach the castle by private car.
- Get on Coastal Hwy from Route 51M.
- Follow Coastal Hwy to Sidon.
- Take Maarouf Saad and Rafic El Hariri to your destination.
Things to Do
Another piece of Lebanon’s history is presented to you in Sidon. Not only will you see a castle, but you’ll see a castle overlooking the coast — almost straight out from a fairytale!
- Explore the Sea Castle
The Sea Castle is the symbolic landmark of Sidon. The crusaders built this fortress sometime between 1227 and 1228 in the wintertime. It was meant to fortify the defense of Sidon port. It was destroyed in the past, with all the battles waged in Lebanon, but it has been rebuilt, even after the British marines bombed it in 1840.
- Learn How Soap Played a Role in the History of Lebanon
The Soap Museum was a real soap factory, similar to Sarafand, until 1975 when the Civil War erupted, and was used as a shelter for refugees. It was restored in 2000 and converted into a museum. Learn how soap is made, with a dash of Lebanese history.
- Have a Medieval-themed Photoshoot
The structure you’ll see at present in both the Sea and Soap Castles is made up of the original materials. Most parts of the castles, especially the Sea Castle, are basically ruins. However, the structures still offer a magnificent, breathtaking backdrop for photographs and videos.
National Museum of Beirut
As Sursock used to be a private museum, the National Museum of Beirut is the true treasure trove of Lebanon. As the principal museum of archaeology, it houses antiques and artifacts, as many as 100,000 finds spanning the prehistoric era to the modern age. From coins, jewelry, to woodwork and everything in between, it’s like a time capsule covering thousands of years.
The National Museum of Beirut is only about 15 minutes away from the airport.
- Take El Amir Bachir, George Haddad/Route 51M and Charles Malek to Michel Bustros.
- Take George Choueri to your destination.
Things To Do
The National Museum originally opened to the public in 1943, closed by the civil war, and reopened in 1999. You can visit it from Tuesdays to Sundays, between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. You’ll have to pay an admission fee of LBP5,000 (for adults) and LBP1,000 (for children and student)
- See Original Sarcophagi Designs
If you didn’t know it yet, a sarcophagus is a stone coffin that was used to house bodies of the dead. The national museum was able to preserve more than 20 Phoenician sarcophagi and displayed them in a reconstructed tomb in the museum’s basement.
- Learn How the Thousands of Artifacts Were Preserved
The civil war in Lebanon prompted the closure of the museum. However, the management continued to care for the collections and you can learn about how they went forward with this through an audiovisual presentation.
- See the Phoenician Gilded Bronze Figurines
These figurines where found buried near the famous Byblos Obelisk Temple. You can find these in the basement along with the sarcophagi.
Mzaar Kfardebian Ski Resort
No, the “ski in the morning, swim in the afternoon” phrase is not a myth. It is possible, but there are only a handful of days in a year when this is possible, and everything has to fall into place.
Mzaar Kfardebian is a five-star ski resort, the largest in the Middle East. It’s just one hour from Beirut, and there are 80 kilometers of ski trails. This is definitely better than a driving school in Lebanon. Take ski school instead.
The Mzaar Kfardebian Ski Resort is about an hour drive from the central business district of Beirut. If you are used to driving in Lebanon roads already, you might be able reach the resort faster, depending on how fast you can complete 51km.
- Take Maroun Naccash to George Haddad/Route 51M.
- Follow Route 51M, Zouq Mosbeh - Aajaltoun Rd and Aajaltoun - Faraiya Rd to Mount Lebanon Governorate.
- Continue to Kfardebian - Aayoun El Siman Rd
Things To Do
You can visit the resort with a day pass. Full-day Ski pass rates can go between $34 and $67 for adults, and between $27 to $54 for children. Expect that weekends rates are higher because there are more visitors.
- Join the Ski-Swim Challenge
The best time to do the ski-swim challenge is in April, when there is still snow on the mountains but the temperature on Jbeil beach is no longer too cold to swim in.
- Have a Leisure Swim at Jbeil Beach
Jbeil Beach is a destination in itself, with great restaurants and hotels, even a bustling nightlife where you can go bar shopping. The beach is accessible to the public, so if you just want to drop by for short swim, you can do so.
- Of course, Go Skiing!
Why go to a Ski resort if you won’t try the slopes at least once? If you haven’t tried skiing in other places yet, you can find instructors at the resort to guide you (at a corresponding price, of course).
Lebanon has risen from the ashes, and you can now explore this historical time capsule, which is also a contemporary art and music hub in the Middle East. It is worth visiting as it also has a marvel of natural weather with the skiing and swimming challenge. Get pole position on the action with your International Driver’s Permit from us, the International Driver’s Association. Visit our pricing page now and learn about our IDP costs to apply one from us!
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