Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Travelling to Lebanon from the UAE: flights, what to see and getting around

UAE nationals are now able to travel freely to Lebanon after renewed government advice

For the first time since 2016, UAE nationals are able to freely travel to Lebanon.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, met Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the UAE capital on Monday, before making the official announcement.

The move is set to improve relations between the two countries and boost tourism.

Gulf tourism was once a mainstay of the Lebanese economy, but after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, many countries including the UAE advised its residents not to travel.

Why visit Lebanon?

It might be a small country, but Lebanon is home to some of the world’s most historical sites. Its history predates written records, and has seen the country occupied by many different civilisations.

Its landscapes range from the bustling capital city of Beirut to the plush rocky terrain of Tannourine, and thanks to the size of the country, tourists can easily experience both during the same trip.

When should you visit Lebanon?

Located in westernmost Asia, Lebanon boasts 225 kilometres of Mediterranean coastline and a cooler climate than the UAE, making it the perfect summer escape. While in the winter, snowsports fans can take advantage of its many ski resorts. During the spring months, tourists have been known to ski in the morning and drive down to the beach to surf in the afternoon.

Beirut is known as a cosmopolitan city where the old and new blend seamlessly to create a buzzing vibe. Its food offering is famous around the world and widely regarded among the best in the Middle East, while its lively nightlife scene attracts visitors from around the globe.

The Castle of Byblos in the ancient city of Byblos (Jbeil), was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century. EPA
The Castle of Byblos in the ancient city of Byblos (Jbeil), was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century. EPA

Travelling to Lebanon from the UAE

Lebanon has only one commercial airport - Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport – and it is served well from the UAE. The flight time is between three-and-a-half and four hours.

From Dubai (DXB), Emirates operates 18 weekly flights to Beirut with morning (7.30am) and afternoon (3.10pm) departures available seven days a week. There is also an evening flight (8.55pm) departing every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Fly Dubai operates 21 weekly flights between DXB and Beirut. A daily flight leaves DXB at either 6.45pm or 6.55pm.

Other airlines offering regular direct flights from Dubai include Middle East Airlines, while Gulf Air and Royal Jordanian fly with one stop.

From Abu Dhabi, Etihad operates two direct flights each day, one departing at 9.55am and one at 8.45pm, in partnership with Middle East Airlines.

From Sharjah, Air Arabia flies daily at 10.45am, with extra flights on Thursdays and Saturdays at 6.05pm.

You can also fly with Royal Jordanian, Turkish Airlines and Gulf Air, each with one stop from the capital.

Do you need a visa?

Emiratis can travel to Lebanon visa-free, and stay for up to six months.

Getting around

Transport options in Lebanon are fairly limited, with most people travelling by car. As a result, the traffic can get very busy, particularly around Beirut.

Minibus services do run between Beirut and most of Lebanon’s other major towns, and taxi services cover most areas of the country, although are notoriously pricey. Most tourists in Beirut use Uber.

The other option is to hire a private driver, which is a good idea if you are planning to stop off at a number of spots during your trip. Many tour operators and taxi services can assign drivers for a day or days at a time. Prices start from $100 (Dh367) a day.

Must visit spots

Mar Mikhael – This is place that’s happening in Beirut right now. It is a residential neighbourhood with a number of nice restaurants and lounges, in addition to a number of boutique-style villas and homes to stay in.

Byblos (or Jbeil in Arabic) – The ancient coastal city is absolutely wonderful to visit and has many wonderful food options to choose from.

Downtown Beirut (or Centre Ville) – This is a must visit. The area, which was left in ruins following the Civil War, was renovated in recent years.

Raouche Rocks – You would have seen the large famous sea rock from popular images of Beirut. It's a beautiful to see by the Courniche side.

Baalbeck – This is for those who really love history. It’s possibly Lebanon’s greatest archaeological treasure.

Jeita Grotto – The ancient cave dates back to thousands of years and is considered one of the region’s natural wonders.

Our Lady of Lebanon or Harissa – You can take the cable cart up to Harissa, which offers spectacular views of the city of Jounieh. Best to visit before sunset and enjoy an authentic Lebanese dinner at one of the cafes in the area.

Updated: October 8, 2019 04:52 PM

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