If you visit Lebanon, you’ll probably be wowed by the buzzy atmosphere of Beirut, get lost in the Souks of Sidon or love the gorgeous mountain scenery on the Lebanon mountain trail, but you may just be a little taken backs to find a number of roadblocks and police check points as you travel around the country.
It’s a reminder that although Beirut is currently a safe place to visit, it’s not always been so, and that political stability in this part of the world can sometimes be a little fragile. But you shouldn’t worry unduly about passing through army road-blocks and check-points. They’re a fact of life for the locals who take them in their stride and you should see them as a sign that the government wants to protect you and the local population from harm.
I was surprised to find how easy it is to drive around Lebanon, with road signs mostly in English and Arabic, good roads and maps, and although I was driven by a friend who lives in Beirut, I wouldn’t have minded hiring a car to get around. If you do a tour of the country like we did, you’ll inevitably pass through some road checkpoints, in which case you should slow down or stop until waved on by the guards.
If you’re in a hire car or are obviously a tourist it’s unlikely that you’ll be stopped, but you should always travel with your passport just in case, even when driving around Beirut (although with the mad traffic, I wouldn’t recommend that). If you’re walking around the downtown area of Beirut you may also pass through police points and may have your bag checked. A polite smile doesn’t hurt and you’ll find that some guards will studiously ignore you and keep a stern face while others appear more relaxed – remembering they’ve got a serious job to do. It’s obviously not advisable to take any photos of the guards or checkpoints either.
I suppose that when travelling with my friend, two ladies in a car with diplomatic plates were unlikely to receive the full stop and search treatment, while younger guys or men in groups may come in for more attention.
Have you been to any places where armed road blocks and police checks were common and what were your experiences?
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