A week in Lebanon 🇱🇧 -- Spring 2019 Road Trip


Our spring break this year is very well spend in Lebanon. Lebanon is a beautiful country, the coastline is amazing especially during sunset and the mountains are stunning.

We were there for 9 days 8 nights. Minus the first and last day where we did not do much except airport and a meal, we were there for a full 7 days. To be honest, we take it slow and there are days when it was raining and we just stayed at hotel and chill. So one can definitely see most of Lebanon in 5 days or so. 

The weather in Spring is cooling, and some parts of the mountain are still covered in snow so if you are planning to drive into the mountain, a 4 wheel drive is advisable. Due to the snow and weather condition, the road to the Cedar of God is closed so we did not manage to see that. If that is a MUST for your trip, it is best to go in summer. 

Some TIPS before heading to LEBANON:

1. VISA
Most nationalities can visit Lebanon and obtain a visa at the airport or country border with no fees. Kindly check their WEBSITE and see if you need visa to visit. Usually the visa at airport will allow you to stay for 30 days. 

2. CURRENCY
The official currency is Lebanese Pound (LBP) but most shops take USD, the change however will be in LBP. The rate is 1 USD to 1500 LBP.  In restaurant, credit card is usually acceptable as well. 
* During our visit, the only place that doesn't take USD or credit card is The National Museum so do prepare some LBP for the museum.

3. DRIVING IN LEBANON
It is left hand drive in Lebanon and you can rent a car if you have international driving license. It is not expensive to rent a car but it is not easy to drive in Lebanon. The traffic is very congested in Beirut city centre and the road condition is poor. I would suggest taking Uber in city centre or walk, sometimes walking can be faster than taking a cab. Going out of Beirut, we drove but be very careful as traffic light doesn't really mean much to drivers or pedestrian so keep your eyes sharp if you plan to drive. Consider 4WD if planning to drive in the mountain area. 

4. 3G
The 3G signal in Lebanon is quite poor and there are times where we could not load the maps for GPS. Do download offline map before heading to Lebanon just in case the 3G doesn't work. 

5. SAFETY
Although many has concern with regards to the safety in traveling in Lebanon and there are many army checkpoint throughout the country but during our trip we had no issues and the people are generally nice. Most hotel have security at their door and all items brought into the hotel is scanned. 

6. SPURTS OF ELECTRICITY 
There are spurts daily and electricity will be cut off for a couple of minutes. We got used to it by the end of our trip.  

ACCOMMODATION:

We stayed in Phoenicia Intercontinental in Beirut for 3 nights when we first touch down to Lebanon. It is located near Zaytona Bay and very convenient to explore the city. Walking distance to Beirut Souk, Roman Bath Ruins and there are many nice restaurants in the hotel itself and by Zaytona Bay which is just across the road. Hamra is about 20 mins walk away and when the weather is nice, we walked to Hamra to explore the streets. If you are driving, parking is chargeable at USD 20 per day.

Rooms are comfortable and they have both indoor and outdoor pool. However their kids club is chargeable at USD 8 an hour and the selection of toys aren't great. 

Our next 4 nights are spend in an AirBnB apartment in Byblos (Jbeil). Byblos is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the alleys are great to explore. Our AirBnB apartment is wonderful and I would highly recommend to those who wanted to stay in Byblos. It is called PAPIRO (https://www.airbnb.ae/rooms/31689533?guests=1&adults=1) and they have the whole building hosted by the same host. 11 units are available and all are beautifully decorated. They have kitchenette, washer and 2 proper sofa bed that opens up to 2 very comfortable single bed. They have a janitor on site 24 hours and own parking. The host is very welcoming and we communicated via WhatsApp and gotten lots of great recommendations. The location is wonderful, walking distance to Byblos Castle, Byblos Port and many great restaurants. 

Our last night is spend in Staybridge in Beirut. The location is near Hamra and it is a self contained studio apartment. There are kitchenette in the room and breakfast is provided to guest. There is also a snack for guest to get to know one another every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They serve beer, wine, sandwiches and some small bites. Parking is chargeable at 20,000LBP per day. They have washing machine and dryer in the basement level and it is complimentary use for guest who stays in the apartment. 

RESTAURANTS:

Lebanon is food haven and the food are generally very delicious. When you are in Lebanon, do try their famous lemonade, coffee, Lebanese sweets (baklava, kunafe, ghazal banat-->cotton candy made with ghee), Lebanese kaak--bread.

Some restaurant that we feel worth trying when in Beirut:

1. KAHWET ZAYTONA

The location is at Zaytona Bay and it is great. The view is amazing and the restaurant is nicely decorated, lots of flowers inside the restaurant.

Service is great and their complimentary free flow bread is so good. Crispy and delicious.

We also love their chilli potatoes and their ice cream is very nice and creamy too. Overall a pleasant experience. We paid USD 51 for food, drinks(beer) and dessert. They take both cash and credit card.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g294005-d15110909-Reviews-Kahwet_Zaytouna-Beirut.html

Awet Zaytona
2. CAFE HAMRA

There are a few outlet for CAFE HAMRA in Lebanon. We had our dinner at the one located on Hamra Street. The food is generally very yummy and we were not disappointed. We had sushi, sashimi bowl, crepe and hamburgers and they are all really good. The meal cost us USD 57. 

Cafe Hamra
3. PAUL CAFE

For breakfast or afternoon or anytime if you are craving for a bite, head down to PAUL and you won't be disappointed. We had ours at their branch in Zaytona Bay. I love their chocolate tart, croissant and their hot chocolate is to die for.

Its nice to chill by the Zaytona Bay enjoying a cuppa. 
Paul @ Zaytona Bay
4. CASCADE LOUNGE AND BAR

To end the a hectic day of sightseeing, head down to CASCADE BAR AND LOUNGE at Phoenicia Hotel Beirut for a glass of cocktail, wine or beer whichever suits your taste. They have a wide selection of cocktails and you will be spoilt for choice.


If you headed to Deir El Qamar, a quaint UNESCO village an hour away from Beirut, you can enjoy your meal at Country Gate Restaurant that has great views of the mountains. The food is generally good, we had prawn, chicken liver, baked fish with chilli potato etc. Cost us USD 60. They do take credit card or cash.

Some other restaurant outside of Beirut that we would recommend: 

1. BURGER BROS @ BYBLOS

This is highly recommended if you love burger. I don't really like burger and even I am amazed how good burger can taste. There are great selection and the salad, cheese dip and fries are refillable for free. How cool is that!

We spend USD 33 for 3 sets for burger. Very good price too!


Burger Bros
2. MON MAKI A MOI @ JBEIL

If you are looking for something different that Lebanese, Italian or American, pop by MON MAKI A MOI and their sashimi and sushi is very nice. We were famished and did not take any photo here. 


3. HALLAB 1881 @ TRIPOLI

A trip to Lebanon is not complete without tasting Lebanese sweets so for brunch one day, we head up to Tripoli and had sweets at HALLAB 1881

We tried their Kunafe platter, baklava platter and kids enjoyed a classic banana boat that even have banana ice cream in it. It is not overly sweet and very yummy indeed.

Hallab 1881
So as I mention before, you could probably see the whole Lebanon in 5 days or so. Here is a proposed itinerary but it will be packed. If you wish to enjoy it more leisurely, a few extra days would be recommended. 

DAY 1
ARRIVE EARLY AIRPORT--> HOTEL IN BEIRUT-->ZAYTONA BAY FOR LUNCH-->CENTRE VILLE--> BEIRUT SOUK--> ROMAN BATH RUINS-->EVENING WALK AT PIGEON ROCK--> DINNER AT HAMRA AREA

DAY 2
SIDON SEA CASTLE--> DEIR EL QAMAR--> BACK TO BEIRUT--> NATIONAL MUSEUM OF BEIRUT

DAY 3
CHECK OUT OF HOTEL-->  IXSIR WINERY--> CHEZ HILMI LEMONADE IN BATROUN-->TRIPOLI --> CHECK IN HOTEL IN BYBLOS-->DINNER AND EXPLORE OLD TOWN

DAY 4
DAY TRIP--> CEDAR OF GOD--> BAALBEK ROMAN RUINS

DAY 5
CHECK OUT HOTEL-->BYBLOS CASTLE-->JEITA GROTTO---> BACK TO BEIRUT CITY FOR NIGHT FLIGHT

OTHER THINGS YOU CAN DO:
Al Chouf Cedar Reserve, explore town of Tyre, Jounieh (Lady of Lebanon), Chateau Ksara, Beittedine. 

Magnificient Baalbek Roman Ruins

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