Road Block etiquette in Lebanon

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.

Police checkpoint in Sidon in Lebanon

Police checkpoint in Sidon in Lebanon

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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This photo was posted for Photo Friday – hosted at Delicious Baby – head over to see all the oher Friday photos.

This post has been submitted to the Blogsherpa carnival over at Todd’s Wanderings

More Lebanon stories to enjoy

Sea-castles, Souks and Soap in Sidon
The cedars of Lebanon – Tannourine Cedars Reserve Video
St Anthony’s Monastery in Qozhaya in Lebanon

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  • Reply
    April 30, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Polite and courteous is what I’d describe our experiences through roadblocks in Lebanon. Most of the time, they waved us through. Passing through from Lebanon to Syria, we were stopped and they inspected the boot. Again, just a formality and non-threatening.

    Taking photographs is definitely not advised. I went a step ahead and made sure any cameras/video camera were out of sight as we approached roadblocks.

  • Reply
    Amy @ The Q Family
    April 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    I grew up in the Southern part of Thailand where the political situation has always been and is still fragile. So we are used to road block. And actually we quite welcome the road block knowing that the soldier/police are doing their best to keep the situation as peaceful as they can.

  • Reply
    April 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Why is there so much trouble in the world? What a pity that such a beautiful place is blighted by checkpoints and security forces everywhere.

  • Reply
    April 30, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I went to college in Belfast in the late 80s/early 90s. Plenty of roadblocks there 🙂
    But you’re right, it’s amazing how easy it is for locals to ignore them + just get on with their lives.

  • Reply
    April 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    It puts the reality back into the country. I’ve come across roads checks through Myanmar and southwest China, but had no probs since my paperwork was in order.Although it was a little scary at first as I couldn’t understand their orders. Always good to share posts like this to keep us alert.

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    May 1, 2010 at 2:38 am

    It sounds a bit like Egypt! You could only travel with a secure caravan in Egypt which I really disliked. But – you had to abide by the rules!

  • Reply
    May 1, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    This is a great reminder how fortunate we are in the U.s. – despite the PIA nature of security at the airport. At least we don’t have to deal with checkpoints.

  • Reply
    Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels
    May 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Heather I’m finding very much the same thing here in Mexico. I was even patted down before being allowed to board a bus in Mexico City. But I take it as a safety protection, rather than an alarm. Good tips!

  • Reply
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    May 9, 2010 at 5:30 pm

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  • Reply
    May 13, 2010 at 12:02 am

    What’s it like for women traveling in Lebanon? Western women often say there’s difficulty in traveling around the Middle East. Did you find that to be the case?

    I’d love to feature one of your posts on Pink Pangea (www.PinkPangea.com), a travel site specifically geared towards women travelers. Submit a photo of yourself in one of the great places in Lebanon or anywhere else you’ve traveled and write a post about your experiences. You might also want to provide some tips for other women travelers to that country. We will be sure to link back to your site.

    Looking forward to hearing from you,
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Becoming a Man in China =-.

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