Crime and Law in Lebanon: How to Stay Safe

Lebanon experiences a moderate level of crime despite the political tensions in the Middle East region, and some laws are stricter than what you may be used to at home.

Beirut downtown cityscape and Mohammad al amin mosque Photo © Getty Images/ramzihachicho

Crime in Lebanon

The majority of Lebanese locals are friendly and willingly extend their hospitality to travelers. Most trips are trouble free however travelers may experience petty crime such as pickpocketing, bag snatching and theft from vehicles. As you would anywhere, always be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables secured at all times. Don't leave anything of value in your hire car and keep valuables out of sight while driving around. Keep your bag away from the roadside if walking around in case of a drive-by snatch and grab.

If using a taxi whether hailing from the street or booking one, make sure it's from a licensed, reputable company. Ask your hotel or hostel which are the best ones. There have been reports of people being assaulted and/or robbed in share taxis, try to avoid using these services.

On occasions, kidnappings of foreign nationals have occurred in the Bekaa Valley area, Beirut and border regions. Be aware of who is around you and your surroundings as you travel.

7 local laws in Lebanon

In the excitement of mapping out your itinerary, do not neglect the necessity of familiarizing yourself with the local laws.

Remember that when traveling abroad, you are always subject to local laws. Serious violations may result in jail or death sentence. The sentences are served in local prisons with long delays for foreigners requesting legal assistance from their home country.

Always carry your ID with you when traveling throughout Lebanon as there are often security check points.

Politics and religion

First and foremost, it is critical that you take care to avoid any discussions centering on politics or religion. Consider that Lebanon is home to a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups and any comment, although innocent in nature, might be taken as an offense.

Israel

Issues between Lebanon and Israel are deep-rooted and complex. With this in mind, it is essential to note that it is considered a very serious offense for anyone of Lebanese descent to have visited Israel. Additionally, if your passport contains Israeli stamps you may be refused entry to Lebanon even if you hold a valid Lebanese visa.

Child custody

Parents traveling with children should consider the risks involved in visiting Lebanon, particularly in cases where one or more family members hold Lebanese citizenship. A "stop order" can be utilized by Lebanese authorities at the request of family members to prevent children from leaving the country.

Lebanon is not a signatory to the Hague Convention regarding International Child Abduction and your home country laws are not recognized in Lebanon.

Keep in mind that if children are traveling without their father (even if the mother is accompanying them) the Lebanese immigration authorities may ask for proof that permission to travel has been granted by the father of the children.

Dress and behavior

Lebanon is comprised of a mix of Muslims and Christians. In many areas of the country, you will find dress codes more relaxed than in other countries of the region especially at the coastal beach clubs, but in other parts of Lebanon it's not acceptable.

Always dress conservatively when visiting sites of religious significance such as mosques or churches, and be mindful of the expectations of the local people, particuarly in more rural areas. Sleeveless garments, short skirts and shorts should be avoided.

During Ramadan, eating, drinking or smoking in public places between the hours of sunrise and sunset may be considered offensive.

Photography

It's prohibited to photograph or videotape any government buildings or military personnel, equipment and installations. Taking photographs in areas with a Hezbollah presence may lead to detention and questioning. To be on the safe side, limit your picture taking to tourist areas only.

Drugs

It's illegal to buy, sell or possess any sort of drug. Doing so may result in a lengthy jail sentence. Additionally, those charged with drug offenses can expect to be denied bail while awaiting prosecution.

Homosexuality

Homosexual activity is illegal and anyone caught engaging in such behavior could face a jail sentence of up to a year.

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