It's business as usual in Beirut, the Paris of the Middle East

Is Lebanon and its capital, Beirut, safe to visit? It's a question often asked on expat forums and the like and the answer which resoundingly comes back every time is yes. It's as safe as you want to make it. Take the usual sorts of precautions when visiting any large city anywhere in the world and you'll be just fine.

A forum member on the expat blog website neatly sums it up, saying, “I find Beirut to be as safe as any big city and my family visit here regularly! From time to time, they have a few demonstrations which can occasionally get out of hand but that can happen anywhere nowadays and they are over within hours. I would not listen to the opinions of people who have never been to Lebanon, especially in the last two years. Like every country, there are risky areas but you would not go there in your own country so it is a no-brainer!”

Says it all. And yet traumatic images of war-torn Beirut live long in the memory, triggered in part by the current conflict raging in neighbouring Syria. So much of what happened in the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war, which claimed an estimated 120,000 lives, is reflected there, including similar sectarian tensions. The Lebanese government has moved quickly to distance itself from the conflict even while opening its borders to some half-a-million refugees fleeing the fighting.

In essence then, life in most other parts of the country, including within Beirut itself, carries on as usual. Local markets, shops and malls are as busy as ever raking in the money. ATMs, credit cards, current accounts and personal loans from HSBC, Barclay's and a string of major banks are as available as they've always been. And the “Paris of the Middle East” – as Beirut is often dubbed – continues to live up to all the hype with its fabulous night-life, theatres, restaurants, pubs and so much more. So who wouldn't want to visit or live and work in Lebanon given the chance?

Here's a fact or two about Lebanon which you might find interesting:

  • Lebanon is divided into eight regional administrative districts, or Mohafazaat – Beirut, North Lebanon, Mount Lebanon, the Beqaa, Nabatiyeh, South, Akkar, Baalbeck.
  • Visit during winter and enjoy some skiing! Yes, Lebanon has lots of snow with something like half-a-dozen ski resorts to choose from. The season begins in December and continues through until April.
  • If you can't live without the Internet then there are numerous Internet cafes available throughout the country. High-speed Wi-Fi access is also on offer in many of the larger hotels.
  • Arabic is the official language of Lebanon. However, English and French are widely spoken.
  • Shops and businesses are usually open from Monday through to Saturday, 9am to 6pm. Banks are open from Monday through to Saturday, 8.30am to 12.30pm.
  • All visitors must have a valid passport and visa in order to enter the country.
  • Lebanon's only international airport is Beirut International Airport which is located about four miles south of the capital.
  • Mains electricity is 220 volts at 50Hz and two-pin plugs with round pins are commonly used.

For more on Lebanon, check out the forums.

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