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You don’t need to bring too much cash with you when you come to Lebanon. If you have an ATM card that works internationally you can get cash here when you arrive. Bigger stores accept credit and debit cards, but for many transactions it’s easier to use cash – including paying your rent.
There are ATMs in every neighborhood and you are able to withdraw either US Dollars or Lebanese Lira at most ATMs. You can shop or eat at a restaurant with either currency and you will get your change back in US Dollars, Lira, or both.
Note: One US Dollar is fixed at 1,500 Lira.
Getting around Beirut, or Lebanon, by bus is pretty easy and cheap. Busses in Beirut usually cost 1,000 LL ($ 0.66 US). There are just a few things you need to know. Busses have a fixed route – check out the map for details. However, there are no bus stops. You can get on and off whenever and wherever you want.
Here are the three steps to a successful bus trip
1. Stop the bus
Raise your hand just a bit and it will pull over
2. Confirm this is the right bus
by saying “Does this bus go to ___________? in Arabic, for example,
Does this go to Hamra?
btuSal 3a l7amra?
بتوصل عَ الحمرا؟
Does this go to Achrafieh
btuSal 3a lashrafiyyeh?
بتوصل عَ الأشرفية؟
3. Stop the bus when you arrive
Say “Please stop, I’ll get out here”
3mol ma3ruuf baddy inzal hown or just 3mol ma3ruuf will get the bus stopped.
عمول معروف بدي إنزل هون أو بس عمول معروف
Check out the bus map to see what areas are covered. Busses are usually a bit ta3ban and crowded, but are a very easy transportation option with no negotiating needed.
Bus 2 takes you from near Bar Bar in Hamra (5 min walk from ALPS) through Mar Elias, Sodeco, Sassine and Dora
Img Cred: http://www.bus-planet.com/bus/bus-asia/Lebanon/files/midibuses/Frame-01.html
Bus 4 goes right by the ALPS building in Hamra and will go within walking distance of downtown and Gemmayzeh, Sodeco, Tayoune, Beirut Mall and Dahiyyeh.
Img Cred: http://www.bus-planet.com/bus/bus-asia/Lebanon/files/midibuses/Frame-01.html
Note: this post is by Andrew and is based off of his experience with airbnb. ALPS Beirut cannot endorse or guarantee airbnb listings.
Have you tried airbnb yet? This can be a great option if you are looking for short term lodging and are staying in Beirut for a month or less. There are also some renters who will give you a discount if you are staying longer. It can be a little intimidating to use airbnb the first time, but here are a few tips I have learned when using airbnb in different countries.
1. Decide if you want to share an apartment or have your own place
If you are looking to practice your Arabic by staying with someone Lebanese, sharing an apartment can be a good option. Make sure to look closely to see if you will be staying with other foreigners or with someone Lebanese.
Here I am looking for a private room in Beirut:
If you want more time and space to yourself you can easily search and rent an entire apartment in Beirut.
If you have any questions about neighborhoods or how long it would take to get to ALPS Beirut please email us. ALPS Beirut is a private Arabic Language Center located in Hamra near the American University of Beirut.
2. Look at the number of reviews
I personally never stay at a place with less than 5 reviews. If an option has only a few reviews it means they are either just getting started or for some reason no one is staying there. Either way, I don’t want to take the risk and that’s why I only book with people who have proven experience.
Which place would you rather stay at?
3. Read the comments carefully
Because airbnb is a personal experience most people are hesitant to give anyone lower than a 4 star review. In fact, about 95% of places listed on the site have 4.5 or 5 star raitings. It is true that airbnb does provide a consistently good experience, but I don’t think the star rating is the best signal that this is a good apartment for you. Instead, take a look at the comments.
Comments should be specific, long, and give details about a great experience. This means the host and the place are remarkable and you will have a better chance of getting what you expect. A lot of short and general comments can mean that the experience was less than expected and the reviewer is just being polite.
Safety: Lastly, it’s easy to use the airbnb app to chat with someone before you book a place to make sure you get a good vibe from them. No matter where you are staying, it’s aways smart to bring your mobile phone and get a data plan in Lebanon as soon as possible in case there are any emergencies.
If you want to book a place with airbnb make sure to go to the site from this link to get $25 off.
Want to become a host?
airbnb is still pretty new to the Middle East and hopefully each month there will be more listings. If you are Lebanese, and are interested in hosting with airbnb, use these tips, make sure to provide an accurate listing, and then do a little extra something to increase your chances of getting good feedback so that your listing can stand out.
Are you looking for an opportunity to speak Lebanese? Stop by ALPS Beirut for a cup of coffee and conversation with our Arabic teachers and other students. Make sure to bring any questions you have about the language, culture and what to do and see in Lebanon.
Every Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 12:00 (starting March 18)
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do you have to be a student at ALPS Beirut?
What if I don’t know how to Speak Lebanese?
This time is for people who are already conversational in Arabic. If you are just beginning, check out our classes for beginners and then join us later on.
Is it really free?
Yes completely free!
How do I get to ALPS Beirut?
ALPS Beirut is in Hamra near the American University Hospital. Here are the directions: https://alpsbeirut.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/how-do-i-get-to-alps/
How slow is the Internet in Lebanon?
Despite the recent improvements, be advised that the Internet speed is still slower than most of the world. All over the city there are coffee shops and restaurants where you can enjoy free internet when you purchase a coffee. This is usually good enough for checking your e-mail but too slow for most other tasks.
What are your internet options for in your apartment?
- ishtirak-Each neighborhood has someone who will install shared internet in your apartment. Just ask a neighbor or a local store owner for the person in your area. This is a small, local operation that is cost effective, but slower since one connection (and IP) is shared among your neighbors. You can get it started easily and be done in a day.
- 3G/4G – Just use 3G or 4G on your phone while you are here and as long as you don’t download or watch videos this can be a reasonably priced option. 3.9 G is Lebanese for “Sounds faster than 3G, but is actually slower than 3G.” Check out MTC Touch’s 3.9G pricing. If your phone and the type of SIM card you purchase can use 4G, then you will have access to 4G speeds at the same price. Check out Alfa’s 4G prices. If you want, you can also get a dongle to connect to your laptop or just make a Personal Hotspot. This option is quick and easy to get started, but is the most expensive.
- DSL-If you are planning on being in Lebanon for years, you could get DSL in your home. This will take 3-6 months to set up, especially if there isn’t already a phone line in your home. This is the fastest and cheapest option, but involves the most paperwork and you need to keep a local phone line as well. You can easily stream videos with DSL, but neighborhoods outside of Beirut can drop downloads due to poor wiring. Sodetel is one DSL provider in Lebanon.
Next time you are at ALPS Beirut, stop by Falafel Abuzziz, a local falafel shop that exclusively specializes in falafel. It’s right near the Arabic language center and offers fresh falafel sandwiches or falafel by the half-dozen or dozen. Falafel is a great vegetarian option and is made from a mixture of hommos (chick peas) and fuul (beans), boiled, ground then fried.
Here’s what you need to know before you go:
1. It’s about a 2 minute walk from ALPS Beirut
Just follow these directions: http://goo.gl/maps/LmxHw
2. Place your order
3 Hand your receipt to the guy behind the counter
Like most local take away restaurants, you order at the cash register and then hand your receipt to the person who prepares the food.
4. How do you like your sandwich?
Tell them if you want it regular “3aadi” or you can order it without any ingredients that you don’t like by saying “bala... ”
The standard ingredients for a falafel sandwich at Falafel Abuzziz are:
In Spoken Lebanese and English:
- banadura – tomato
- kabiis 7arr – pickled peppers
- ba2doness – parsley
- khass – lettuce
- kabiis – pickled turnip
- na3na3 – mint
- Tarator – a sauce made of T7iineh (sesame seed paste), lemon and water
Other common ingredients are green onions, white onions and garlic (basal 2abyad, basal 2akhdar w tuum)