The Republic of Lebanon is a parliamentary republic. The country is emerging from a long period of civil war which has damaged the economy and the social fabric. The population is composed of both Christians and Muslims from a variety of sects. Although the Government of Lebanon has made efforts to expand its control, several areas of Lebanon remain outside of effective government control. The U.S. Government still considers the situation so dangerous that U.S. citizen employees of the American Embassy live under a very strict security regime. They live inside the Embassy’s secured compound, travel only to certain areas of the country, and then only in Embassy motorcades, escorted by armed bodyguards employed by the Embassy.
Hizballah has not been disarmed, and maintains a presence in several areas of the country, including in training camps in the Biqa’ Valley. In addition, outside forces still control portions of Lebanon and impinge the authority of the Lebanese government. There are about 25,000 Syrian troops in the country. Israel exerts control in a self-declared "security zone" in the south with 1200 troops and through the Army of South Lebanon (SLA). Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the U.S. operate largely autonomously inside refugee camps in different areas of the country.
Passports and visas are required. Travelers holding passports which contain visas or entry/exit stamps for Israel may be refused entry into Lebanon. Travelers whose passports contain Israeli stamps or visas and who also hold an "Arab nationality" according to Lebanese law may be subject to arrest and imprisonment. Further information on entry requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Lebanon, 2560 28th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20524, telephone (202) 939-6300. Additional information can be found on the Embassy of Lebanon's web site http://users.erols.com/lebanon/. Travelers may also contact one of the consulates general of Lebanon, located at 7060 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 510, Los Angeles, CA 90028, telephone (323) 467-1253; 1959 E. Jefferson, Suite 4A, Detroit, MI 48207, telephone (313) 567-0233; and 9 East 76th Street, New York, NY 10021, telephone (212) 744-7905.
The Government of Lebanon does not have effective control in certain areas of the country. Syrian military forces, Israeli military forces, the South Lebanon Army, and Hizballah vie to control parts of Lebanese territory, including the southern suburbs of Beirut, sections of the Biqa' Valley, and south Lebanon. Hostilities can occur in Lebanon with little warning, including attacks by Israeli military forces and random or planned criminal acts. A cycle of raids and counterraids in the south continues between Hizballah and its allies on one side, and Israeli military forces and the SLA on the other. Civilians in the south continue to suffer artillery and aerial attacks, bombings, and abductions. Occasionally these raids extend as far north as Ba'albak and the Naameh Hills 9 miles south of Beirut.
While the crime rate in Lebanon is moderate, both car thefts and house break-ins occur. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Useful information on safeguarding valuables, protecting personal security, and other matters while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Middle East and North Africa. They are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
In Beirut and the surrounding areas, basic modern medical care and medicines are widely available. Such facilities are not always available in outlying areas. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more.
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.
Safety of Public Transportation: good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: poor
Drivers often maneuver aggressively, and pay little regard to traffic lights and stops signs. Lanes are generally unmarked. Pedestrians especially should exercise great caution, as parked cars often obstruct the sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Lebanese customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning import and export of such items as firearms or antiquities. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington or one of Lebanon's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport and Lebanese visa with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.
DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. consular protection - when available - is severely limited for dual nationals traveling on a foreign passport.
COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE: Lebanese males 18 to 30 years old are subject to mandatory military service of one year. Dual nationals who visit Lebanon are not exempt, except as allowed by Lebanese law. Dual nationals should contact the military office of the Lebanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. for details prior to traveling to Lebanon.
BUSINESS DISPUTES OR EMPLOYMENT: Travelers who enter Lebanon on work visas under the sponsorship of a Lebanese company or individual may face problems and be unable to leave the country before the completion of their contract without the agreement of their employer. In cases of a business dispute, if jurisdiction falls under local law, the Lebanese party to a contract may obtain an injunction to prevent the departure of a foreign party from the country until the dispute is settled. In such cases, the U.S. Embassy can provide a list of local lawyers to assist U.S. citizens, but ultimate responsibility for the resolution of a dispute rests with the parties.
Lebanese fathers of minor children (under 18 years of age) may legally prevent their children from leaving or being taken from Lebanon. Likewise, a Lebanese husband may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality. Once such legal orders are in place, the Embassy cannot assist American citizens to leave Lebanon. For further information on children's issues, please consult the following Internet address http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html.
U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Lebanon are encouraged to register and obtain updated security information at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Contact with the U.S. Embassy on the specific requirements for registration should take place by phone, fax, or mail. The U.S. Embassy is located in Antelias, P.O. Box 70-840, Beirut, Lebanon. The telephone numbers are (961-4) 543-600 or 542-600, fax (961-4) 544-209.
As there is no direct commercial air service at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Lebanon, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lebanon's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Lebanon's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873 or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at 618-229-4801.
AIRPORT SECURITY: The Federal Aviation Administration has not certified Beirut International Airport as secure for U.S. carriers. U.S. carriers may not fly into Beirut, and the Lebanese national carrier, Middle East Airlines, is prohibited from flying into the United States.