COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: 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. Read the Department of State’s Fact Sheet on Lebanon for additional political and historical information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Lebanon, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here is the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
U.S. citizens enrolled in STEP can receive updated information and emergency messages via e-mail by subscribing to our Message Service. U.S. citizens without Internet access may enroll directly with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Information on consular services and enrollment in STEP can also be found on the Embassy’s website, by contacting us via email, or by phone at the telephone numbers shown above between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday local time.
Routine services, such as passport renewals, for U.S. citizens are available Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. by appointment only. U.S. citizens who require urgent assistance outside these hours may contact the Embassy by telephone at any time.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Passports and visas are required. U.S. citizens coming to Lebanon for tourism can purchase a short-term one-month visa at the land border with Syria, the port of Beirut, or Beirut International airport. However, official U.S. government travelers need to arrange for a visa in advance of their travel. U.S. citizens also holding Lebanese citizenship are subject to the requirements and responsibilities of that citizenship under Lebanese law. Travelers holding passports that contain visas or entry/exit stamps for Israel will likely be refused entry into Lebanon and may be subject to arrest and imprisonment. Persons seeking entry into Lebanon who have previously traveled to Israel may face arrest and/or detention even if the travel documents they are currently using do not have Israeli stamps or visas. Note that the Government of Lebanon has the authority to refuse admission to U.S. citizens and to detain U.S. citizen travelers for further inspection. Travelers who have overstayed their entry visa validity in Lebanon must adjust their status with the Central Department of Sûreté Générale (Department of Passport and Immigration), and receive an exit visa, prior to their departure. Note that individuals who are detained pending deportation are expected to pay the cost of their own airline ticket and will remain under detention until they have gathered the necessary funds.
Due to security concerns, unofficial travel to Lebanon by U.S. government employees and their family members is discouraged,
strictly limited, and requires prior approval by the Department of State. This is also true for U.S. government employees
planning to transit through Beirut, whether for official or unofficial travel.
Further information on entry/exit requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Lebanon, 2560 28th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20008, tel. (202) 939-6300. Travelers may also contact one of the following Consulates General:
Consulate General of Lebanon in Detroit
New Center One Building
3031 West Grand Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 758-0753 to 55
Consulate General of Lebanon in Los Angeles
660 South Figueroa St., Ste 1050
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 243-0990 and (213) 243-0999
Consulate General of Lebanon in New York
Nine E. 76th Street
New York, NY 10021
Additional information on Lebanese Consulates General and Honorary Consulates in the United States can be found within the Consular Affairs section of the Embassy of Lebanon website.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors although individuals applying for a work permit to Lebanon must submit to a laboratory exam in order to prove that s/he is free of HIV/AIDS. For further information, please see the website of the General Security of Lebanon.
THREATS TO 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.
Stay up to date by:
CRIME: 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.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Lebanon is 112.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 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.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In addition to being subject to all Lebanese laws, U.S. citizens who also possess Lebanese nationality may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on them as Lebanese citizens. Lebanese citizens who are discovered to have associated with Israeli citizens or officials or traveled through Israel are subject to arrest and detention. Any citizen arriving at a Lebanese point of entry with an Israeli stamp in their passport may be detained, arrested, or denied entry. Penalties are especially harsh if the traveler is of Arab origin or a dual national. Travelers have also been detained if they have a family name that may be considered of Israeli or Jewish origin.
Travelers who have previously entered Lebanon illegally, whether as refugees or for transit to a third country, may be denied entry into the country even if they are or have since become U.S. citizens. In most cases, travelers are returned to their point of origin on the first available flight. If a U.S. citizen is detained for questioning and then subject to deportation, they are expected to pay the cost of their own airline ticket and will remain under detention until they have gathered the necessary funds.
U.S. citizens planning to travel between Lebanon and Syria should consult the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Syria. U.S. citizens planning to travel to Syria from Lebanon in spite of the Travel Warning are strongly advised to travel only via legal border crossings and to obtain a Syrian visa before leaving the United States, as they may have difficulty securing one while in Lebanon. U.S. citizen travelers who also hold Syrian nationality and are travelling via land borders to Lebanon should be aware that if they enter Lebanon on their Syrian ID, Lebanese law mandates that they must exit on their Syrian ID via the land border and are not permitted to depart from the airport. To ensure the ability to transit Lebanon and depart via the airport, U.S. citizens holding Syrian dual nationality should apply for a Lebanese entry visa in their U.S. passport at the Lebanese border.
Lebanese law does not protect consensual same-sex relations in Lebanon. Current Lebanese legislation prohibits “unnatural sexual intercourse,” an offense punishable by up to one year in prison. While prosecutions are rare, the U.S. Embassy is aware that prosecutions have occurred for same-sex relations. For further information on LGBT travel, please review the LGBT Travel Information page.
U.S. citizens living in or traveling to Lebanon have occasionally been denied permission to leave the country because a criminal, civil, or family court has imposed a travel hold. For example, a head of household can place a travel hold against a spouse and children in family court even before the family arrives in Lebanon. Travel holds can be easily initiated and may remain in place for a substantial period of time. While the U.S. Embassy can direct U.S. citizens to options for legal representation, it cannot have travel holds removed, even in times of crisis.
As of June 1, 2013, the Lebanese government is requiring registration of all devices (i.e.: cellphones) using Lebanese SIM cards. Temporary visitors to Lebanon usingLebanese SIM cards on their personal roaming devices will need to register their devices. Visitors should visit Alfa and Touch stores or Help Desks located at the Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, bringing their passport containing the entry stamp into Lebanon. Registration should be done within one month of the entry date stamped on the passport.
A separate registration with Customs is required for all brand new cellphones brought into Lebanon; used devises do not require Customs registration. Only one brand new phone per-person is allowed to enter the country via the airport. Individuals may register this one new phone with Customs at the airport, and Customs will give the individual a receipt for the phone which will allow them to register the phone with Alfa or Touch.
Only three brand new or used devices for personal use can be registered within a period of six months with Alfa or Touch.
U.S. citizens who come to work in Lebanon should ensure that their Lebanese employer arranges for proper documentation to remain in the country. This includes professional athletes, who should make certain that their sponsoring club/team arranges for them to receive the correct visas valid for the duration of their stay. Travelers coming to Lebanon as professional athletes should ensure that a written contract is in place before traveling as many athletes have experienced problems with scams and false offers of employment.
Mandatory military service in Lebanon was abolished on February 4, 2007. However, travelers with questions about prior military service, desertion, or failure to register in the past should contact the Military Office of the Embassy of Lebanon, 2560 28th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, or call (202) 265-2335 or fax (202) 667-0063 for details prior to traveling to Lebanon. Information about military service can also be found at the Lebanese government website.
Lebanese Customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning import and export of items, such as firearms, military paraphernalia, professional camera equipment, other communications equipment, or antiquities. You should contact the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington, D.C., or one or one of Lebanon's consulates in the United States, for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our information on customs regulations.
Accessibility: While in Lebanon, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what is found in the United States. Lebanon has passed laws that make it illegal to discriminate against those with disabilities but the laws are not uniformly enforced. These laws include sections on building accessibility, but building codes have yet to be updated accordingly.
Most public transportation, including taxis, is not accessible. Roads are often in disrepair and there are few sidewalks or road crossings. Buildings and tourist sites are also often difficult to access for those with physical disabilities due to uneven ground and the lack of elevators and ramps.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: In 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.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You cannot assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, including Lebanon, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your insurance does not cover you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another policy for your trip. Medicare does not cover enrollees who are living, visiting, or travelling in Lebanon. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
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.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Lebanon the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Lebanon’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Lebanon dated May 21, 2013, to update the section on Special Circumstances.