What makes Lebanon a unique country to travel to?
The Republic of Lebanon is a parliamentary republic. Political power is concentrated in the office of the President, Speaker of Parliament, and Prime Minister, each representing one of Lebanon's three largest religious sects (Maronite Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, respectively). Since 1973, Lebanon has been in a state of war with Israel; UN peacekeeping forces are present in Lebanon to monitor the ceasefire that went into effect with the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
The crime rate in Lebanon is moderate, and both car theft and burglaries occur. Violent crime and sexual assault are rare, but do happen. The Embassy receives regular reports, however, of domestic abuse. Petty theft -- such as pick pocketing and purse snatching -- is common in crowded public areas. Police are responsive but often unable to affect a positive outcome. There are no special concerns with regard to targeted victimization of U.S. citizens in scams or confidence schemes.
There have been incidents involving a theft ring that appear to target foreigners using service cars. Service cars are privately owned vehicles bearing red license plates that act as public transportation for multiple passengers at one time. Typically, a service car that already contained two people (the driver and one passenger), picked up the potential passenger. The driver then took the victim to a more isolated area or the freeway where the first “passenger” robbed the second passenger by threatening him/her with a gun. Because of the risks inherent in using any unknown transportation, U.S. citizens should be wary of these service cars and carry the number of a reputable taxi company in case of emergencies.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Lebanon, you are subject to all Lebanese laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. For example, you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have your passport with you. It is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings, including some government buildings. In some places, driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States; for example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Lebanon your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not where you are going.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
n Beirut and the surrounding areas, modern medical care and medicines are widely available. Modern facilities are not always available in outlying areas, although no location in the country is more than three hours from the capital. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services, and without such payment, may deny service even in emergency cases. A list of doctors who speak English and a list of hospitals are available from the U.S. Embassy and at the Embassy's website.
Safety and Security
The current Department of State Travel Warning advises U.S. citizens against travel to Lebanon. U.S. citizens who visit or reside in Lebanon despite the Travel Warning should be aware that there are a number of serious security concerns, and should consult the Travel Warning for up-to-date information.
U.S. citizens traveling to Lebanon should also be aware that personnel from the U.S. Embassy are not able to travel in all areas of Lebanon. In the case of an emergency involving a U.S. citizen in areas where it is unsafe for Embassy personnel to travel, the Embassy may not be able to render assistance.
In the event that the security climate in the country worsens, U.S. citizens will be responsible for arranging their own travel out of Lebanon. U.S. citizens with special medical or other needs should be aware of the risks of remaining given their condition and should be prepared to seek treatment in Lebanon if they cannot arrange for travel out of the country.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Lebanon is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
An international driver’s license is required for visitors to Lebanon. Drivers in Lebanon often maneuver aggressively and pay little regard to traffic lights and stop signs. Lanes are generally unmarked and roads outside the capital may be poorly lighted. Pedestrians should exercise particular caution. Intercity directional signs and street markers are slowly improving throughout the country, but side roads are often not signposted at all. Public transportation is generally safe.
While there is limited enforcement, the laws of Lebanon prohibit both drunk driving as well as cell phone usage when driving.
Emergency services in Lebanon are adequate. In case of a road accident, emergency numbers are “140” for the Red Cross and “125” for the emergency civil police.