I’ve dreamt of Lebanon for a long time. So when I finally found a scandalously cheap first-minute ticket, I booked it without thinking. I mean, I booked a flight to the Middle East ten months in advance without telling anyone. I know, I know. This region is like a box of matches. Something might always happen to your plans. It might, but it didn’t. I spent ten incredible days as a solo female traveller in Beirut.
Beirut is not exactly a popular tourist hub. Western media have been working on its bad reputation for decades. It’s time for a change, I said to myself while strolling around Gemmayze two months ago. So many pictured Beirut as a grey zone worn off by the Civil War. But it is a vibrant metropolis with a fascinating street art scene and numerous galleries hidden in narrow alleys.
While wandering around, I kept asking myself questions. Where are all the tourists? Is it really that underrated? Are people really scared to pay Lebanon a visit? Was it silly of me to come? No, it wasn’t silly. I loved my time in Lebanon and recommended it to other female travellers. Here are some tips.
Solo female traveller in Beirut: Do your research first
I’m not that naïve; I won’t tell you the Middle East is always safe because we all know it might not be. Before planning your trip, research the situation. Western media and your embassy website shouldn’t be your only sources. Try to talk to a local to get a big picture. If you decide to buy a first-minute ticket, check on the situation once more before departure. I cancelled some of the planned day trips, as my local friends advised me not to go to the areas bordering Syria. I really wanted to see the magnificent monuments of Baalbek, but I decided to listen to the locals. Someone who lives in a country is always wiser than you.
Solo female traveller in Beirut: Choose a central location
I chose a hostel by the harbour, a ten-minute walk to the downtown and my very favourite Gemmayze area. I must say Beirut is not the most walkable city in the world. Be prepared; crossing streets here is not as simple as you might think. Also, the drivers won’t stop honking, no matter how many times you curse them.
I’d also recommend you to stay in a hostel. Beirut doesn’t offer many budget accommodation options. Still, you can find a hostel downtown for around 15 USD/night in a female-only dorm. Hotels in central districts are ridiculously overpriced. As I said, location is the key to comfort in Beirut, so I guess the choice is easy.
Solo female traveller in Beirut: Eat, eat, eat
I swear Lebanon has the best food on this planet. A vegetarian will be happy there, too. I could easily eat falafel from Araz three times a day, and I would be content enough. However, I’d do anything to have a scoop of ashta ice cream right now. And the coffee, it’s so strong and delicious; it will keep you going through the day. If you are into street food, I’d recommend a culinary detour to the Bourj Hammoud area, aka Little Armenia. I know, I tend to get overexcited about all the things Armenian. Still, I promise you that you won’t be disappointed this time, even If you don’t have emotional ties with that tiny, landlocked republic in South Caucasus. One more reason you should go for street food: eating out is expensive.
Lebanon is modern
I grew up in Europe. I pictured Lebanon as a warzone (well, it was a warzone back then). I never heard of all the gems of architecture Lebanon offers. I could never imagine how fabulous the nightlife is. I would never guess how good the contemporary art galleries are. I never thought I’d be so comfortable strolling around downtown late in the evening. I got fooled into seeing one side of the coin, which media in my region wanted to show me.
Solo female traveller in Beirut: Check out the art scene
You like art? Good. Beirut is a place for you then. The city offers a vibrant street art scene and a rich choice of contemporary art galleries. A street art lover should explore Gemmayze and Mar Mikhail. Beirut is home to too many galleries to explore in the limited time I could spend in the city. Still, I put together a shortlist of places that can serve you as a point of reference while there. I linked the websites for you, so it would be easier to find exhibitions you might be interested in. Check out these places:
- Beirut Art Centre
- Art Lab
- Art Lounge
- Ashkal Alwan
- Beirut Exhibition Centre
Solo female traveller in Beirut: Enjoy the nightlife
Beirut could easily be a party destination. Honestly, I have no idea why it isn’t. Partying might be a bit pricey, but a nightlife culture is definitely something you should experience. All the pubs and bars are on Mar Mikhail street; Gemmayze might be worth checking out, too. I’d recommend you to take a stroll there one evening, and just enter any pub that catches your eye. There is too many of them to even list any. Also, remember that many pubs in the area have a happy hour from 7 PM to 8 PM. 50% off, does it sound good to you?
Solo female traveller in Beirut: Take advantage of one-day trips
Lebanon is small, which means that you can go on a day trip from Beirut to practically any other place in the country. Some of the most popular spots, like Byblos and Harissa, are right outside Beirut, and you can visit them in one afternoon. If you fancy a longer trip, I truly recommend Saida and Mleeta.