Lebanon Stories and Tips

Driving in Lebanon

Laura and Francis have been in Lebanon for a year and a half, so they've grown accustomed to the driving experience -- though they might never truly get used to it.

There is a book, "Driving in Lebanon: A User Manual," that sums up the experience quite nicely. Hilariously, actually, because chances are if you've spent a couple of days in Lebanon you will have experienced many of the author's illustrations for yourself. Laura had it on her shelf; I read it after I had already spent several days in Lebanese traffic.

Where to begin...

There are lanes, sometimes, but they are ignored. So on a road with three official lanes, you will probably find five actual rows of cars. Which is practical, really, especially during rush hour.

Parking happens wherever parking can. This includes the sidewalk and double parking on the street, especially on the corners -- where sometimes the inner car will drive away, leaving a car parked essentially in the middle of an intersection.

Ah, intersections. This is a free-for-all. You enter the intersection until you are stopped by a car, at which point you continue to inch forward, stopping other cars who are also inching forward, until you work your way through.

It's not unusual to see an accident, but you'll see far more cars on the road that have long scratches down the side than cars with big dents. During one of our driving adventures, we bumped the mirror of another car as a traffic cop urged us to keep moving despite the tight squeeze. The driver of that car simply adjusted his mirror and went about getting to his destination. It doesn't seem that scraping another car warrants an exchange of insurance information as it would at home.

If you're brave, renting a car is a great way to get around -- and probably safer than many public transportation options. Just drive boldly, without hesitation, even though you might be doing something you'd get pulled over for at home.

Although traffic isn't really patrolled, Lebanon did just install radar detectors along highways and in the cities to catch -- and fine -- speeders. So watch the spedometer!

Good luck.

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