Lebanon is known officially as ‘The Lebanese Republic’, a country in Western Asia. It is a rather small but beautiful country, located on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.
An ancient land, Lebanon features in the writings of Homer and in the Old Testament. Its cities were major outposts and seaports in Phoenician and Roman times, just two of the great civilizations that touched this important Middle Eastern crossroads.
The cosmopolitan flair of modern-day Beirut, the gastronomic renown of the country's food and wine, and an educated and outward-looking population complement a country that is both traditional and progressive in outlook. For all the flavors of its storied past and rugged natural beauty, Lebanon is a well-kept tourist secret that begs exploration.
There are four main geographic regions in Lebanon, differentiated by topography and climate. From west to east, they include: the coastal plain, the Mount Lebanon Range, the Békaa Valley, and the Anti-Lebanon Range.
The Anti-Lebanon Range is a stretch of arid mountains that rise to the east of the Békaa Valley and form part of the country's eastern border with Syria.
Population: Approximately 4.0 million
Languages: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian
Area: 10,452 square kilometers
Climate: Mediterranean climate, with cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers.
Elevations: Highest point – Qornet Es-Saouda (3,090m) / Lowest point – Mediterranean Sea (0m).
Flag: The Lebanese flag is divided into three wide horizontal stripes, with red on the top and bottom and a wider white stripe in the middle. In the center of the white stripe is a green cedar tree, the emblem of the country.
Economy: Lebanon capitalizes on the initiative of its people and its geographical location to make up for a lack of natural resources. Traditionally, a substantial percentage of the country's income derives from remittances sent by the millions of Lebanese residing overseas. A service-based economy, its trading, banking, and financial facilities, as well as its free currency market, made Lebanon the region's commercial and tourist center before the war. With peace established and reconstruction underway, Lebanon is once again serving as the commercial and tourism capital in the area. About 38% of the country is under cultivation, with wheat, vegetables, fruit, tobacco, and olives the main crop categories. There is considerable livestock farming as well. Industry ranges from cement to textiles, clothing, furniture, canned goods, and light metals. Tourism, one of the mainstays of the pre-war economy, is being revived.
To help strengthen the economy, the government has initiated a low income tax schedule to provide investment incentives, increase disposable income, and expand the tax base.
Currency & Banking: Movement of currency into and out of the country and all exchange transactions are completely free of any kind of control. Gold and silver coins may be freely exchanged, imported, and exported. The official monetary unit is the Lebanese pound issued in LL50, LL100, LL250, LL500, LL1000, LL5000, LL10000, LL20000, LL50000, and LL100000 denominations.
Banking is a major industry in Lebanon with strict banking secrecy one of its important features. More than 80 banks operate in the country, and transactions are performed efficiently and at low cost.
Government: Lebanon is democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government and a cabinet headed by a prime minister. Its constitution is based on the separation of executive, legislative, and judicial power, with a president elected for a six-year term. The 128 members of parliament are elected by universal adult suffrage for a four-year term.
Administrative Divisions: The Lebanese Republic is divided into six regional administrative districts, or Mohafazaat: Beirut, Mount Lebanon, North Lebanon, Békaa, South Lebanon, and Nabatiyé.
Education: There is a nationwide network of elementary and secondary public schools, which is supplemented by many private schools. Instruction is given in at least two languages. The general educational spirit of Lebanon looks outwards, both to the East and West. Many Lebanese students pursue higher education in Europe, the United States, and Arab countries.
Today, Lebanon has seven major universities and numerous specialized colleges and schools.
1) Entry Requirements
- Visas: All foreigners must have a valid passport and visa to enter Lebanon. Passports must be valid for at least six months. Visas can be obtained in advance at Lebanese embassies and consulates around the world. Nationals of many countries can also obtain business or tourist visas upon arrival at the Beirut Airport and at other ports of entry on the Lebanese border.
Contact the Lebanese embassy or consulate in your country or see the General Directorate of General Security website for additional visa information.
Important Note: Travelers holding passports that contain visas or entry/exit stamps for Israel are likely to be refused entry into Lebanon.
- Customs: All ordinary personal effects are exempt from customs duty.
The official Lebanese currency is the Lebanese pound or lira (LL).
U.S. dollars are used widely throughout the country. Restaurants, hotels, and stores often quote their prices in U.S. dollars, and many establishments will convert and provide U.S. dollar prices for you upon request
The US$/LL exchange rate is relatively stable, hovering around US$1=LL1500. The appreciation of the Euro since early 2002 has benefited European travelers.
While Arabic is Lebanon's official language, English and French are widely spoken. Most Lebanese speak at least two or three languages, and visitors will find no problems communicating. Many establishments provide signs, menus, and information in both Arabic and English.
Lebanese time is G.M.T. +2 hours in winter (October to March) and +3 hours in summer (April to September), when daylight savings time is observed.
5) Business Hours
Shops and businesses are typically open Monday through Saturday, 9:00-18:00. Hours vary, and in summer many establishments close early. Restaurant hours vary, and many restaurants, especially in Beirut, are open late.
Banking hours are Monday through Saturday, 8:30-12:30. Working hours for government offices and post offices are typically 8:00-14:00.
- Telephones: While the telephone system in Lebanon is well-developed, there are few public pay phones, and international phone calls are expensive. Most Lebanese use mobile phones, and coverage extends throughout the country.
The country code for Lebanon is (961). This is followed by the local area code and the telephone number.
- Internet: There are Internet cafés available throughout Lebanon, and many larger hotels now offer high-speed and wireless Internet access for free or for a small fee.