Beirut, Countries, Guides to, Lebanon

14. March 2018

A not so complete guide to Lebanon’s public transport

Public transportation in Lebanon is an adventure to say the least. Here’s how you keep your nerves, get to where you want to go – or at least survive your trip eventually.

Traffic is war

One of the things I’ve remembered for a long time after my first trip to Lebanon is the traffic: the constantly vibrating sound of cars accelerating, performing a never ending stop-and-go. The closeness and smell of cars emitting their gassy leftovers into the air, horns blustering, brakes squeeking and people shouting.

Frankly I couldn’t even enjoy strolling amongst the precious architecture of Old Beirut during the first couple of days, my mind being preoccupied with noticing every sound and every move in the chaos around me in order to survive.

I’ve had my experiences with chaotic driving in other places in the world especially in the Middle East. In Lebanon, though, traffic really is war! In that constant struggle it seems natural that everyone is trying to make

If anything as a pedestrian you are an interference factor to the “driving tribe” and most likely to end up as collateral damage of reckless maneuvers.

Here’s the good thing: The network of busses in Lebanon is quite extensive and amazingly cheap. You will even find busses or service taxis that will take you to some of the more remote areas within the country.

Map of Lebanon
Map of Lebanon

Prepare yourself

As if the rude driving manners of Lebanese drivers and the sheer chaos on the streets weren’t enough, moving through the country by public transport can be quite a challenge: Different companies operate numerous busses on varying routes and schedules.

So if you’re living in a country with a modern, well planned system of public transport and think it sucks whenever there is train or a bus or a tram running 2 minutes late: think again!

“One of the trickiest aspects of bus travel in Lebanon is figuring out the best and most efficient spots to transfer between different bus routes with little or no walking.”

4 facts to know about Lebanon’s public transport
  1. The national railway system was destroyed during the civil war and has not been restored.
  2. There are no fixed bus stops, busses basically stop wherever you need them to do.
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  4. There used to be a train service running to Tel Aviv in Israel.
  5. You can still take busses to Syria from Lebanon today.

Choosing your transportation

You might have heard about glorious times when there was extensive national railway system running through Lebanon and even going down to Tel Aviv, which nowadays is part of Israel.

These times are long gone, so today you basically have three different options of public transport in Lebanon: taxis, service taxis and busses. All coming with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Taxis
Recognisable through their red plates; their conditions reaching from junk car to brand new.

They work like in any other city in the world: If you want to take a ride just wave down a taxi on the street or walk up to one. Make sure to know your ways around or at least pretend you do, since taxi drivers especially in Beirut might use. Even better: agree on a fixed price before you get in!

Service Taxi in Beirut
Service Taxi in Beirut

Service taxis
The cheaper alternative to regular taxis: Usually mini busses or vans, picking up as much passengers as they possibly can alongside the way.

Wave one down, ask the driver for “Service” and your destination and you’re good to go. A trip within Beirut is 1.000 to 2.000 LL, a trip between cities is 2.000 to 4.000 LL.

Don’t let the driver charge you extra for anything. If you’re uncertain about how much to pay for the ride, simply ask one of the other passengers. People will be happy to help you out!

Starting your journey

As I mentioned before there are no fixed bus stops in Lebanon – or let’s say: almost none.

In fact your life as a traveller is a bit easier if you are staying in Beirut (which I assume you do), since there are some fixed points where you will find busses and service taxis to several destinations in Lebanon and even Syria.

Charles Helou bus station

Once you have managed to find this well hidden place you will have access to busses running to almost every direction within Lebanon. Since Charles Helou bus station is closest to the city center I recommend you to start your Lebanon-wide journeys from here.

Although this rund down bus stop below a parking lot might seem scary to some it is a perfectly save place throughout the day.

Once you’re in you will find numbered bus lanes for the different lines as well as small booths to obtain tickets and of course ask for the right lines.

For your journeys along the coastal highway (to Jounieh, Jbeil or even Tripoli) I recommend the Conexxion busses heading to Tripoli; prices are around 3.500 LL (as of June 2017). The same will get you to basically any other city along the Coastal Highway like Jounieh or Batroun.

Dowra interchange

Not quite the place to be, this huge roundabout in the west of Beirut is one of the places you should remember: It is most likely that a lot of your bus trips will end here, because especially the service taxis coming from Byblos and other places in the north will end here.

It is quite easy though to grab your service taxi or mini bus for your onward journey from here: Various lines to the City Center, Hamra and Gemmayze start from here:

  • lines 6 and 15 in direction of Cola Interchange will take you back to Charles Helou bus station
  • line 2 will bring you directly to Gemmayze, Achrafié (entering on Chafaka and heading west then) and all the way back to Hamra
Cola interchange

Quite rundown and more

“One of the trickiest aspects of bus travel in Lebanon is figuring out the best and most efficient spots to transfer between different bus routes with little or no walking.”

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