Lebanon

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Friday, 22 August 2014.   This advice contains new information in the Summary and under Civil unrest/political tension (updated information on the unpredictable security environment in Lebanon) and Laws (crimes under Lebanese laws may not be considered offences in Australia. Religious law has the same standing in Lebanon as civil law. Research local laws before you travel). We continue to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Lebanon overall because of the unpredictable security and political situation. The situation could deteriorate without warning.

Lebanon overall

Southern suburbs (Dahiyeh) of Beirut, including the area west of the airport road

South of the Litani River, with the exception of the city of Tyre. Palestinian refugee camps.

Tripoli, regions within five kilometres of the border with Syria and all regions in the northern Beka'a Valley

Summary

  • We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Lebanon at this time because of the unpredictable security situation as a result of the conflict in neighbouring Syria and ongoing political and sectarian tensions. The situation could deteriorate without warning. If you do decide to travel to Lebanon, you should exercise extreme caution. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media and other local information sources for new security risks and political developments.
  • Terrorist attacks could occur at any time throughout Lebanon. Security services remain on a high state of alert following a recent increase in terrorist attacks.
  • There has been an increase in attacks since late 2013, including multiple bombings in the southern suburbs of Beirut in 2014, a car bomb assassination in downtown Beirut in December 2013, and an explosion outside the Iranian embassy in November 2013. Bystanders were killed in these attacks.
  • In the current environment where terrorist attacks are highly likely, security services are at a heightened state of alert and continue to carry out operations across Lebanon to prevent attacks. In some recent cases, suspects have detonated explosives to avoid arrest, resulting in casualties, including in areas that have not previously been the target of attacks (such as the Duroy Hotel in Raouche, west Beirut, on 25 June). If you notice a security operation is underway, you should immediately leave the area.
  • In the event of a crisis, departure options may become severely limited. The primary road between Beirut and the international airport can be blocked without warning. If the security situation deteriorates, access to the airport may be cut off, potentially for extended periods. You are responsible for ensuring you are able to depart Lebanon and that your travel documentation remains up-to-date. You should not expect that the Australian government will facilitate your departure.
  • We strongly advise Australians not to travel to the southern suburbs of Beirut (including Dahiyeh) at the present time due to the possibility of rocket attacks and car bombs. The southern suburbs are defined as the area south of the Camille Chamoun Sports Stadium to the airport and east of the main airport road including the suburbs of Chiyah, Ghobeire, Haret Hreik, Bir el Abed, Borj el Barajne, Mraije, Roueiss, Lailake, Hay el Sellom and Tahouitit el Ghadir; also west of the airport road, defined as the area west of the airport highway to the coast, south from Adnon El Hakim Road to Abbas El Mousawi Road.
  • We strongly advise Australians not to travel to Tripoli due to fighting between rival factions. Further violence and armed clashes are likely. For more information see Safety and security: Civil unrest/political tension.
  • We strongly advise Australians not to travel to all regions in the northern Beka’a Valley extending east and north to the Syrian border from Rayek and including Britel, Baalbek, Aarsal, Ras Baalbek, Qaa and Hermel.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel south of the Litani River, with the exception of the city of Tyre, due to the danger posed by landmines, unexploded ordnance, cross-border artillery strikes and the uncertain security environment.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to regions within five kilometres of the border with Syria. Tensions in this area are ongoing and further cross-border clashes are likely. See under Safety and security: Civil unrest/ political tension for more information.
  • We strongly advise you not to travel to Palestinian refugee camps. Extremist groups are known to operate inside the camps. The Lebanese state has no formal security presence in the camps.
  • Since July 2012 there have been regular reports of kidnapping for ransom, including some foreign nationals, mainly in the Beka’a Valley.
  • There are significant numbers of unexploded ordnance, including cluster bombs, and landmines in Lebanon, particularly in southern Lebanon. Australians are strongly advised to keep to well-travelled paths and travel with local guides.
  • You should avoid any large gatherings, protests and demonstrations as they could turn violent. In the event of protests or civil unrest you should pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information affecting your safety and security.
  • You should ensure that you carry personal identity documentation at all times.
  • Crimes under Lebanese laws may not be considered offences in Australia. Religious law has the same standing in Lebanon as civil law. Under Lebanese law, Lebanese nationals and non-nationals may prevent family members from leaving Lebanon, even if they are Australian citizens. Australians, including mothers with children, have been prevented from leaving Lebanon when relatives have legally placed border alerts (known as 'stop orders') on them. The Australian Government cannot prevent or overturn the issue of a 'stop order' on an Australian citizen.
  • See also our general advice for business travellers.
  • Given the volatile security situation, if you choose to travel to Lebanon, we strongly recommend that you:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details with us, so we can contact you in an emergency.
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive free email updates each time it's reissued.
    • follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Lebanon for the most up-to-date visa information.

It is against Lebanese law to travel to Israel. If you have any evidence that you have travelled to Israel, or that you intend to travel to Israel, you will be refused entry to Lebanon, or deported. This includes Israeli exit or entry stamps in your passport, and Egyptian or Jordanian stamps from border crossings with Israel, and travel itineraries or tickets that include Israel as a destination. Citizens of Lebanon and other Arab nations, including dual nationals, may be arrested and imprisoned. Other citizens may be held for questioning for lengthy periods (up to several days) before being deported.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/political tension

We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Lebanon at this time because of the unpredictable security situation as a result of the conflict in neighbouring Syria and ongoing political and sectarian tensions. Australians could be caught up in violence directed at others. You should pay close attention to your personal security, monitor the media for updates and follow the directions of local authorities. If you are in Lebanon, and have concerns for your safety, you should consider departing.

Avoid large gatherings and demonstrations: You should avoid any large gatherings and demonstrations as they may turn violent. You should stay indoors during celebratory gunfire, which often occurs during and after political speeches. Australians are advised to stay away from areas where violence is known to have occurred or is likely to occur. If you are in an area affected by clashes, you should stay indoors and monitor local information sources for updates on the security situation. If you become aware of nearby clashes, you should leave the area immediately if it is safe to do so.

Political developments elsewhere in the region and international events may prompt large demonstrations or outbreaks of violence. Both planned and spontaneous demonstrations related to the domestic and regional situation do occur.

Be prepared to depart Lebanon quickly: You should be aware that in the event of a crisis you are responsible for ensuring you are able to depart Lebanon. You should ensure that your travel documentation remains up-to-date to allow a rapid departure. This includes obtaining passports for children born in Lebanon and ensuring that any family members that wish to travel with you have a current passport. If violence escalates, roads and highways could quickly become blocked, including access routes to airports and borders. Heavy demand for available flights could lead to a lack of availability of seats. As a result, your departure options may be severely limited. You should not expect the Australian Government will facilitate your departure.

The ongoing conflict in neighbouring Syria is having a destabilising effect on Lebanon. Violent incidents related to the situation in Syria – including car bombs, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and rocket attacks – have occurred in various parts of Lebanon and are likely to occur in the future. Violence may spill over without warning.

Beirut: On 27 December 2013 a car bomb assassination in the downtown area of Beirut killed eight people, including the former Lebanese Finance Minister, and injured around 70. The attack occurred in an area popular with international visitors. On 19 October 2012, a car bomb assassination in Achrafieh, Beirut, killed three people and led to violence and disruptions to road access, including to the international airport in Beirut. Main highways, including between central Beirut and the international airport, have been subject to sporadic closure by groups seeking to protest against Government policies, the situation in Syria, or to destabilise the security environment.

Southern suburbs (Dahiyeh region) of Beirut: We strongly advise Australians against travelling to the southern suburbs of Beirut, as defined by the area south of the Camille Chamoun Sports Stadium to the airport and east of the main airport road including the suburbs of Chiyah, Ghobeire, Haret Hreik, Bir el Abed, Borj el Barajne, Mraije, Roueiss, Lailake, Hay el Sellom and Tahouitit el Ghadir; also west of the airport road, defined as the area west of the airport highway to the coast, south from Adnon El Hakim Road to Abbas El Mousawi Road. Multiple rocket attacks and car bombs targeting the area in recent months have prompted this warning. Further attacks are highly likely. See Terrorism for information on recent incidents.

Sidon: Violent clashes occurred on 23 June 2013 in Sidon, particularly around the eastern suburb of Abra, between the Lebanese Armed Forces and local militias. The use of heavy weapons, as well as sniper activity, resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.

Tripoli: We strongly advise Australians not to travel to Tripoli at the present time due to regular occurrence of violence and armed clashes. Fighting between rival factions has resulted in numerous deaths and injuries and spread to a large number of suburbs throughout Tripoli. Further violence and armed clashes are likely to occur within Tripoli and can flare without warning. See Terrorism for information on bombings of 23 August 2013.

Northern Beka’a Valley extending east and north to the Syrian border from Rayek and including Britel, Baalbek, Aarsal, Ras Baalbek, Qaa and Hermel: We strongly advise Australians not to travel to all regions in the northern and north-eastern Beka’a Valley at present. As a result of the conflict in Syria, there have been regular violent incidents in the region, including suicide bombings, air raids, rocket attacks, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and kidnappings. Two separate suicide bombings in Hermel in early- 2014 killed six people and injured dozens more. Arsal has also been targeted in cross border attacks, including air raids by the Syrian regime. In August, there were several days of clashes between the LAF and armed militants in and around Arsal resulting in deaths, injuries and abductions. More violence is highly likely to occur.

Regions within five kilometres of the border with Syria: We strongly advise Australians not to travel to regions within five kilometres of the border with Syria (especially the regions of Wadi Khaled, Hermel and Arsal). Tensions between communities in this area as a result of the conflict in Syria have led to repeated violent incidents. Cross-border clashes have been occurring since 2012 and intensified in late-2013, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians due to shells and rockets fired from the Syrian side of the border. In January 2014, eight people were killed and 15 injured in Arsal by rockets and mortar shells fired from Syria. Further cross-border clashes and exchanges of fire are likely.

Southern Lebanon: We strongly advise you not to travel south of the Litani River, with the exception of the city of Tyre. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) maintains peacekeeping activities south of the Litani as a result of the 2006 conflict and ongoing tensions in the region. The city of Tyre has experienced few major security incidents in recent times. However, visitors should continue to pay close attention to personal security, monitor the media for developments which could affect your safety and follow the advice of local authorities. When entering and exiting Tyre you should not stray from the main highway from the north.

Israeli forces remain in the southern border town of Ghajar and there are ongoing tensions in the surrounding region. In July 2014, a number of rockets were fired into Israel from southern Lebanon. Israel responded with artillery fire. While the presence of the LAF and UN forces in southern Lebanon has led to a general improvement in the security environment, further clashes could occur. As highlighted by the conflict between Israel and Hizballah in 2006, the security situation could change without notice and Australians could be caught up in violence directed at others. You should avoid any areas where military activity is ongoing and be ready to depart the area at short notice.

Palestinian refugee camps: We strongly advise you not to travel to Palestinian refugee camps in any part of Lebanon. Extremist groups are known to operate inside the camps. The security situation in the camps is unpredictable and could deteriorate without warning. The Lebanese state has no formal security presence in the camps and they experience high levels of crime. There are frequent armed clashes between rival factions within some of the camps.

Terrorism

Terrorist attacks are highly likely and could occur anytime throughout Lebanon. Security services remain on a high state of alert following a recent increase in attacks since late 2013. You should monitor local media for developments and exercise a high degree of personal security awareness.

In the current environment where terrorist attacks are highly likely, security services continue to carry out operations across Lebanon to prevent attacks. In some recent cases, suspects have detonated explosives to avoid arrest, resulting in casualties, including in areas that have not previously been the target of attacks (such as the Duroy Hotel in Raouche, west Beirut, on 25 June). If you notice a security operation is underway, you should immediately leave the area.

Recent attacks have targeted the southern suburbs of Beirut and are related to the involvement of Lebanese nationals in the conflict in Syria.

On 25 June 2014 an explosion at the Duroy Hotel in the Raouche neighbourhood of Beirut killed one person and injured many others. On 20 June, there was a car bombing at the Dahr al-Baydar checkpoint on the main road between Beirut and the Bekaa valley, which killed one person and injured over 30 people. On 24 June, a suicide attack at the Tayyouneh checkpoint in the southern suburbs of Beirut killed one person and injured up to 20.

On 19 February 2014, two suicide bombers detonated bombs in the vicinity of the Iranian Cultural Centre in Bir Hassan, killing at least eight people and injuring over 100 others.

On 3 February 2014 a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in Choueifat in southern Beirut, killing the bomber and injuring two others.

On 21 January 2014, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb in Haret Hreik in the southern suburbs of Beirut, killing four people and injuring 35.

On 2 January 2014, a car bomb exploded in Haret Hreik, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, killing five people and injuring 77.

On 27 December 2013, a car bomb assassination in the downtown area of Beirut killed eight people, including the former Lebanese Finance Minister, and injured around 70.

International hotels, embassies, fast-food outlets, restaurants and other commercial and public places, including western-style shopping centres and grocery chain stores are possible targets. Australians could inadvertently be caught up in attacks directed at others. Targets associated with the Lebanese Government, such as government institutions, senior politicians and officials, and infrastructure, including airports and public buildings, could also be attacked.

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)have been high priority terrorist targets. LAF facilities and vehicles and places frequented by their personnel may also be targeted. In the past, there have been a number of attacks, some fatal, against the LAF. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has also been targeted in the past.

In planning your activities, consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided. In addition to the possible targets listed above, other targets could include commercial and public areas known to be frequented by foreigners such as buildings associated with foreign governments and companies and international organisations, embassies, hotels, clubs, restaurants, shopping centres, markets, promenades, bars, schools, places of worship, cinemas, outdoor recreation events, public transport and tourist areas.

Extremists have mounted attacks in the lead-up to and on days of national and religious significance, but attacks could occur at any time.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Kidnapping

Since July 2012, there have been regular reports of kidnapping for ransom, including some foreign nationals, mainly in the Beka’a Valley. There have been several politically motivated kidnappings of foreign nationals in Beirut and the Beka’a Valley as recently as August 2013.

For more information about kidnapping, see our Kidnapping threat travel bulletin.

The Australian Government’s longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers paying ransoms increases the risk of further kidnappings.

Crime

Although crime in Lebanon is moderate by international standards, crime rates have increased significantly recently, particularly the incidence of vehicle crime, petty theft such as bag snatching, including by youths riding motorbike), home break-ins and armed robberies.

We recommend against travelling in service (shared) taxis. There have been an increasing number of reports of armed robberies of foreign passengers travelling in service (shared) taxis in which victims were diverted to isolated locations where they were robbed at gunpoint. It is advisable to only use taxis from recognised companies and not to use service (shared) taxis or taxis hailed on the street, particularly late at night.

Money and valuables

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.
Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Both US Dollars and Lebanese Lira (also known as Lebanese Pounds) are accepted throughout Lebanon.

Local travel

You should pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for updates.

Roads, including access routes to the airport and border crossings, may be blocked during demonstrations and civil unrest. The airport may also close at short notice. If this occurs, you should check with your airline for up-to-date information and departure options.

There is an armed security presence throughout Lebanon, including at road check points. You should ensure that you carry personal identity documentation at all times and obey the instructions of security personnel.

Driving in Lebanon can be dangerous due to inadequately maintained roads. Snow and ice compound the danger in winter. Traffic conditions and poor local driving habits pose a danger to drivers and pedestrians alike. For further advice, see our road travel page.

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including adventure activities, are not always met. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Don’t be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements with tour operators.

Unexploded ordnance, including cluster munitions, and landmines are numerous throughout Lebanon with the highest concentration in the south of the country, especially south of the Litani River. Minefields are not always clearly marked and those that are can shift away from signage. You should inform children of the risk, seek advice from local residents, stay on paved roads and avoid walking or driving cross-country.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in x country.

Please also refer to our generalair travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

Crimes under Lebanese laws may not be considered offences in Australia. You should be aware that religious law has the same standing in Lebanon as civil law. Under Lebanese law, Lebanese nationals and non-nationals may prevent family members from leaving Lebanon, even if they are Australian citizens. Australians, including mothers with children, have been prevented from leaving Lebanon when relatives have legally placed border alerts (known as ‘stop orders’) on them. The Australian Government cannot prevent or overturn the issue of a ‘stop order’ on an Australian citizen.

All family law matters, including child custody and divorce decisions are based on local religious laws. If you are involved in custody or other family disputes you should ensure you consult a lawyer before you leave Australia for advice on how religious law may impact upon your family circumstances. Lebanon is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

When you are in Lebanon, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before you travel.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include mandatory prison sentences.

Serious crimes, such as murder and treason, can carry the death penalty.

Under Lebanese law, homosexual acts are illegal and penalties include imprisonment. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Access to some areas of Lebanon is restricted. Photographing or filming military personnel or installations, government buildings and major civilian infrastructure (such as power stations) may result in detention and/or the confiscation of photographic equipment.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australians risk prosecution under Australian law if they fight in other countries.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Local customs

There are modest standards of dress and behaviour in parts of Lebanon, particularly at religious sites. You should take care not to offend. If in doubt, seek local advice.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin in mid-June 2015. During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims. For more information see our Ramadan travel bulletin.

Public displays of affection may cause offence in conservative and religious areas.

Some hotels may refuse accommodation to couples who are unable to provide proof of marriage.

Information for dual nationals

Lebanon recognises dual nationality, but Lebanese citizenship takes precedence over the second nationality. If you are an Australian/Lebanese dual national you will be treated as a Lebanese national by Lebanese authorities. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Lebanese dual nationals who are arrested or detained.

Dual citizens re-entering Lebanon on their Lebanese passport/identity document should ensure their Lebanese documentation is in order and that all entry requirements are met. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Lebanon for the most up-to-date information.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities and care in many of Lebanon's large hospitals is of comparable standard to those in Australia. Doctors and hospitals usually expect immediate cash payment for services. Treatment can be very expensive.

Cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been reported in a number of countries in the Middle East, including Lebanon. Other countries outside the Middle East have also reported imported cases from returned travellers. See our MERS-CoV travel bulletin.

A decompression chamber is located at the American University Hospital in Beirut.

It is recommended that all drinking water be boiled or that you drink bottled water.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance. If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police.
The Australian Embassy in Downtown Beirut may be temporarily closed to the public at short notice due to demonstrations and concerns about security in the vicinity of the Embassy. If this occurs, you should call ahead for advice before going to the Embassy. Australians requiring emergency consular assistance can contact the Embassy or the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305.

Contact details for the Australian Embassy are:

Australian Embassy, Beirut

Embassy Complex
Serail Hill
Downtown Beirut
LEBANON
Telephone: (961 1) 960 600
Fax: (961 1) 960 601
See the Embassy website www.lebanon.embassy.gov.au for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Lebanon, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Lebanon is in an active earthquake zone.

Bush and forest fires often occur during the summer months in Lebanon (usually June to September), particularly in heavily forested areas. You should avoid fire affected areas and monitor the media for the latest information.

Sand and dust storms are common and may pose health risks, especially to people with respiratory problems.

Information on natural disasters can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service. If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.