How to Survive Driving a Rental Car in Lebanon

Most travellers I’ve talked to say that I’m crazy to be driving in Lebanon. There is no lane discipline, honking is like adding your tune to an orchestra, and the drivers are careless. I agree completely. While driving around, I’ve seen expensive cars like BMW, and Mercedes having a handful of dents. It seems like it’s a norm to have a couple of bumps around – no big deal, life goes on. On my 6 days trip with a rental car in Lebanon, I had the following incidents:

  1. In Byblos, we parked my car behind a BMW X5. A few minutes later two girls exited the pizza shop and got in the car, reversed into us. No matter how much I said to wait while I call the insurance, they said “It’s nothing”, and drove off as if nothing had happened. Luckily I took some photos of the car whilst hubby tried to deal with the insurance people on the phone – which included the number plate and the make/color which was vital for the insurance report.
  2. At Beit-ed-Dine we parked my car in safe place away from all the other parked cars – came back and someone had dislodged the corner of the front bumper.
  3. If you’re driving around South Beirut – be prepared to go through narrow streets with cars parked on both sides which is a difficult drive, and people standing on edge of cars means you run a risk of going over their feet – which almost happened as they came up to us and saw we were not Lebanese, so waved us off.
  4. While on the main highway from El Chouf to Beiut via Beekaa valley, if you encounter potholes – swerve around them – if you hit them the tires could be damaged. I paid $10 to a few kids at a petrol pump I encountered shortly after to change the tire for me, but had to get the car changed at the airport once in Beirut – wasted time!
  5. Following GPS – husband drove into a very narrow dead end which was hidden around a sharp bend – it was extremely difficult to get out.

 

Here are my tips on How to Survive Driving a Rental in Lebanon:

  1. Have a mobile phone to call insurance as a report must be produced for any accidents.
  2. Know the color of your car and numbers in Arabic (ask them while renting). French could possibly work, but English speaking insurer is a hit or a miss.
  3. Keep a Camera ready to snap the photo, and especially the number plate of the car that might’ve crashed into you in case they decide “it’s nothing”.
  4. Know your location – this can be harder in the mountains, so be extra careful.
  5. If you’re hiring an economy car which doesn’t have a powerful engine – don’t slow around bends in the mountains as they climb steeply and your car could stop. If you do slow down – be prepared to reverse back without falling off the edge to retry the curve in speed.
  6. If you’re going off the beaten track – it’s probably off the beaten track for local villagers too. Asking directions is pointless. Get GPS coordinated of places like Mleeta or Beaufort Castle.
  7. If  you’re following GPS – you might need to go towards the general direction of the location in some areas as the roads might’ve changed. If driving through villages and you can’t see around bends with no cars going in or out – pull the handbrake, get out and check if the road continues.

 

Finally, Good Luck. If you have any questions, leave a comment!

 

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