Update safety Lebanon January 2020: Today, we need to take two things into consideration when it comes to traveling to Lebanon: 1) In October 2019, thousands of demonstrators took over the streets of Beirut. Back then, Lebanon wasn’t unsafe but demonstrators blocked the roads randomly, so it was very difficult (and unpredictable) to travel around. 2) The problem with Iran is making things even tenser. However, I got recent reports from travelers who say that everything seems normal, from a traveling point of view at least, and the only strange thing they notice is that the Lebanese Pound is fluctuating like crazy.
Today, many people are continuously asking me:
Is it safe to travel to Lebanon? Is Beirut safe?
That’s because, unfortunately, many travelers believe that safety in both Beirut and Lebanon is an issue.
But guess what! Lebanon, including Beirut, is one of the safest countries in the Middle East. The only reasons why it’s not considered as such are the media and inaccurate Government travel advice and warnings.
With one of the lowest crime rates in the world today, Lebanon can brag about having the lowest number of Islamic extremists in the Middle East. This article aims to tell you the reasons why.
In 2019, I traveled from Beirut to Syria and spent 1 week around the country. I highly recommend you read: Tips + How to travel to Syria – Everything you need to know
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Is it safe to travel to Beirut? And how safe is Lebanon?
Non-safe areas you should not travel in Lebanon
Lebanon travel advice and tips on how to visit the sensitive areas of Hezbollah
The isolated case of Tripoli
Extra: Lebanon and Beirut safety tips
Do you know what a VPN is? A Virtual Private Network allows you to access blocked sites when you travel, as well as it lets you access content only available in your home country (like Netflix), plus it prevents hackers from stealing your personal data. Learn here why you should always use a VPN when you travel
Are Beirut and Lebanon safe?
Contrary to what people say, there is no war in Lebanon and Beirut
For some reason, people in the West tend to associate Lebanon with war. And I wonder: ”Why?” Whereas it’s true that the country did suffer 25 years of Civil War, this ended in 1991. It was more than 25 years ago!
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Furthermore, the Lebanese-Israeli war took place in 2006, but it lasted for one month only. For the past 10 years, the country has been able to enjoy peace!
Read: A travel guide to Beirut
In Lebanon, there’s no place for extremism. Did you know that more than 40% of the population are Christians?
Lebanon is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world and today, several different religious groups coexist peacefully.
Did you know that more than 40% of the population are Christians? No? Did you know that Sunni Muslims (the branch of Islam that ISIS draws its followers from) only make up 25% of the population?
In this country, there’s no place for extremism. Have you ever heard of any Lebanese who has radicalized and joined ISIS? Normally, they come from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or even Turkey. Lebanon is so culturally cluttered, that the chances of a person radicalizing are low.
The most liberal country in the Middle East
On the other hand, although religion plays an important role in the life of most families, from a religious point of view, Lebanon is the most liberal country in the entire Middle East.
It has the largest number of atheists (especially among young people), beer is available everywhere and drinking alcohol in the street is allowed (and quite common). Surprised?
In December 2018, I went to Saudi Arabia because for the first time in history, they started issuing tourist visas. Read: Tips + How to travel to Saudi Arabia
It shares a border with Syria. OK, so what?
Lebanon shares border with Syria. Yes, so what? They are two different countries. The border between them is highly guarded and controlled. The chances of the Syrian conflict moving into Lebanon are non-existent.
The investment in military security is huge
We can’t forget that Lebanon is located in a highly turbulent region. The military presence aims to prevent any sort of potential conflict.
Soldiers and checkpoints are found in absolutely every corner of the country, especially in Beirut. The Lebanese people love the army. They are accepted in society because it makes them feel safer.
Crime rate and kidnappings are non-existent
As in most of the Arab countries, the crime rate is practically zero. No robberies, no violence. In Lebanon, you can walk around without a worry anywhere at any time, even women.
NO-GO zones when traveling to Lebanon
I just told you the reasons why Lebanon and Beirut are safe places to travel to.
Does it mean that you could wander freely across the whole country? No, absolutely not.
Whereas it’s true that 95% of the country is safe, the remaining 5% might not be. Why?
Because the few radicals who live in the country are found in those areas. These areas are dangerous, not only for the simple fact that you may meet some extremists, but, since the area is so close to Syria, it also suffers from spillover from the Syrian conflict.
Where are these no-go zones? Basically, the north-eastern portion highlighted in red. Don’t even get close to this area. The rest of the country is safe. Please note that the below map is an approximation.
Update 2018: The army managed to kick out many of the ISIS troops. The security in this tiny part of Lebanon has also improved.
Safety in Lebanon & Beirut: Visiting the sensitive areas of Hezbollah
There are a bunch of areas which, even though they are not classified as dangerous, are considered sensitive. Why? Because they are controlled by Hezbollah. What does ”sensitive area” mean? Hezbollah areas have always been the target of terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State.
In fact, the last suicide bombings that occurred in Lebanon (don’t worry, there is one attack per year) happened in Hezbollah areas. They are partially restricted and no journalism of any sort is allowed.
To understand it better I recommend you read: The day I was accused of being an Islamic State spy in Lebanon
Which Hezbollah areas are sensitive?
- Shia Muslim neighborhoods of Beirut, for example, Bourj el-Barajneh
- Some refugee camps, for example, Ain al-Hilweh in Saida
- Hezbollah territories located in the south of Lebanon, close to the border with Israel
Things to keep in mind when visiting a Hezbollah area
Don’t even think of taking pictures or let anyone see you with a camera
Some locals may be hostile and you might be kicked out for no reason. If you have the chance to go with a Lebanese, then do it
Foreigners will always be treated as suspicious. You’ll pass through several checkpoints where you’ll be checked and interrogated over and over
In these areas, there are no tourists. Many of the residents can’t understand why someone would to come to their area for tourism purposes. Repeatedly, you’ll be asked by the locals: ”What are you doing here”? Simply, answer: ”Nothing, I am just a tourist and I am walking all around the city”.
Today, Hezbollah areas are relatively safe. I say relatively because there’s one suicide bombing per year, approximately. To be safer, stay away from crowds.
Before heading to any of those areas, check the current situation with a local Lebanese. The areas close to the Israeli border require a special permit. To get it, go to any police station in either Saida or Beirut. You will get it instantly. Keep in mind that this permit gives you access to the area, but it doesn’t allow you to take pictures or do anything silly.
Important to mention: These areas have no appeal for tourists. The only reason why you would want to go there is that you are tremendously curious and need to know what the hell is going on in there. I visited everything. In the border with Israel, I was detained by the authorities. In the Shia neighborhood of Bourj el-Barajneh, some locals kicked me out, pacifically, but for no reason. However, I didn’t experience any issues when I visited the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila. If you are as freaky and curious as I am, the experience is definitely worth it.
Read: Visiting Bourj el-Barajneh by Offbeat Travelling
The isolated case of Tripoli
The UK travel advice to Lebanon says that Tripoli is not safe.
Tripoli is a city located in the north of Lebanon and the second most important one. Why do governments consider it dangerous? Since the Civil War, there have been one-off clashes between Sunni and Alawi Muslims who reside in the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, respectively. Throughout the years, these clashes have killed several people.
This is a one-off conflict happening in a specific area, far away from the city center. It’s a fight between two small districts and doesn’t go beyond them. The rest of the city is totally cool and safe. I spent four days in Tripoli, and to be honest, it was one of the highlights of my trip.
I also have to admit that, since I’m an extremely curious human being, I also went to Jabal Mohsen. And what can I say? Life there was merely normal. Again, clashes and bombings happen once a year, not more.
Extra: Beirut and Lebanon safety tips
Consider going on a tour
I always encourage people to travel independently but I can also understand why some travelers may prefer to travel on a tour, especially in a place like Lebanon.
I recommend you book them via GetYourGuide, as they always work with a wide range of local guides and tour operators, and you can book your tour with just one click.
So far, these are the tours they offering for traveling in Lebanon:
- Beirut city tour – Explore one of the most fascinating cities in the Middle East. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
- Jeita, Harissa and Byblos – Trip to one of the most stunning caves in the world and historical cities. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
- Wine tour – Lebanon is well-known for its wine and, in this tour, you will visit 3 different wineries from Beqaa Valley. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
- Baalbek – Some of the most outstanding Roman ruins outside of Rome. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
Stay safe by planning your trip ahead – Best books for traveling to Lebanon
The best way to travel to Lebanon safely is to plan your trip properly. For this, I recommend the following books:
Lebanon Travel Guide by Bradt – This is the most updated book guide about Lebanon. Bradt is my favorite brand because they always provide plenty of local insights and travel tips for independent travelers.
The Middle East Lonely Planet Guide – It has only one chapter about Lebanon but the information is updated, so it might prove useful.
English-Arabic phrasebook – Extremely useful when you are outside of Beirut. If you can communicate with the locals, you will, of course, be safer.
Get proper travel insurance
Lebanon is safe but, truth to be said, it is not the easiest country to travel around because, like many Arab countries, things can become pretty wild.
I always recommend World Nomads. Why?
- It is the only company that provides unlimited medical coverage
- You can buy while you are already on the road
- It covers the largest amount of adventure activities
In Beirut, Couchsurfing is a big deal and there are plenty of events every week. I suggest you look up for these weekly events and get to know some Lebanese people. Actually, there is a group of local attendants who are organizing trips for foreigners almost every week.
Do you use a VPN when you travel? Remember that, in this type of countries, some websites might be blocked and your online activity might be monitored by the Government. Therefore, in order to navigate safely, you should use a VPN. Read my tutorial: How to find (and why use) the best VPN for traveling
As I mentioned previously, don’t go to the northeast of the country and watch out when you are in Hezbollah areas.
And remember to check my other all my other guides about Lebanon:
For more content to the region, don’t forget to check all my travel guides to the Middle East
And don’t forget to check my Syria travel guide!
Is Lebanon safe? The answer is yes, but you need to keep in mind that this country has gone through several conflicts and is located in the heart of the most turbulent region in the world.
Travel safe and cautious. If you have any question, leave a comment below. I’ll be happy to answer. Cheers.
I also recommend reading: Is it safe to travel to Iraq?
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