| ||GETTING THERE|
Getting There Getting Around
Travel to Lebanon could not be easier these days. A growing number of airlines service Beirut, which has frequent connections to Europe, Africa, Asia and the rest of the Middle East. The national carrier, Middle East Airlines, also flies to Australia and Canada. The US recently lifted its ban on travel to Lebanon, so direct flights from the US should begin in the near future. Flights between Beirut and Tehran also resumed in 1999 after a 20-year absence caused by the Iranian revolution and the Lebanese civil war. Beirut airport is 5km (3mi) south of the city centre. The departure tax on flights from Beirut is US$51.
Syria is the only country which currently has an open land border with Lebanon - the border with Israel is likely to stay closed for some time. Visa rules have changed slightly and these days you can get a visa when entering Lebanon from Syria, at the border. The compliment, though, is not returned and you can't get a Syrian visa in Lebanon or at the Syrian/Lebanese border. Buses run between Beirut and Damascus half-hourly from 5.30am-7pm and there are buses and service taxis from Beirut to Lattakia and Hama (as well as Aleppo and Homs). From Tripoli there are buses to Hama, Aleppo and Damascus (as well as Lattakia and Homs). If you're planning to drive into Lebanon, be prepared to pay a hefty fee at the border - it's refundable when you leave, but it can be very steep.
Lebanon is a tiny country: you can drive from one end to the other in about three hours. Most people use service taxis to get around, a huge number of which run like buses on set routes; they carry around five passengers, each of whom chip in for a fifth of the fare. The other system, private taxis, have a more traditional approach with the taxis taking you where you want to go for a negotiated fare. There are also many 'pirate taxis' cruising for fares. These are more expensive than service taxis, but look exactly the same, so it's best to ask before you get in.
Buses travel between Beirut and other major towns, but service is infrequent and un-timetabled. There are plans to restore the country's inter-city bus service, but those plans are still on the drawing board. It's far less likely that the country's rail service will ever be restored.
Car rentals are fairly expensive in Lebanon but if you shop around you can find surprisingly reasonable prices. The country is notorious for the bad condition of its roads and the hair-raising style of its drivers. Road rules are effectively non-existent, traffic jams are ubiquitous and there are no speed limits. On the up-side, in theory everybody has agreed to drive on the right, and fuel is cheap and easy to get.
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