There was a time when nomads didn’t belong to any country — they would be crossing borders, seeking pasture for livestock, or making a living on the go.
Nowadays, there are still some nomads here and there — the ones that consumer society hasn’t reached yet, despite the “missions” that are sent out regularly, offering free education, medical care and support of various NGOs to help them “get better” and ultimately push them into settling.
Meanwhile, some of us retain that streak of moving from place to place, meeting, mingling, and learning about new cultures. Paradoxically, it’s the very new technologies what helps us fulfill some of the legacy that our nomad ancestors stamped into our genes.
We would still like to be free from geographic affiliation, yet at the same time work, learn and decide about our future, and even possess an ID and use internet to arrange our trips and secure a good nomad travel insurance.
Times have changed.
Me and my co-founder have made a decision to spend the next 12 months traveling the world in order to meet local entrepreneurs, university students and startups in 12 emerging countries. In every country, we are to be giving workshops on helpful and affordable tools to build and grow a business. Our goal is to share our knowledge by taking tech outside the usual close-knit startup community, away from the traditional tech hubs.
We are going to publish videos and posts from every country we visit so as to share our intense experience and to inspire other digital nomads. We hope that the series of Digital Nomad tips can help some of you to take the final leap towards leaving your desk.
Don’t hesitate to interact with us, we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.
How to stay as long as possible on your tourist visa
As of today, a tourist visa is valid for 1 month and it is extendable for another 2 months up to a total of 3 months. You can apply for other visas (e.g. work/student), but if you are a digital nomad, the best solution is to leave the country to Cyprus every 3 months and re-enter with a new visa in hand. We asked some of the officers responsible and we’ve been told that we can exit and enter the country as often as we want. However, given the precarious security situation in the region, check the latest regulations before your departure.
Where to find the best Wi-Fi connection in Beirut
Internet is quite an issue in Lebanon, as the connection is a little slow and overpriced. Yet there are a few cafes around the city — Urbanista, Dar Bistro, Dawawine, and Memory Lane — with serviceable Internet. Altcity in Hamra, co-working space and coffee shop, also has a decent Internet connection.
Where to get the best SIM-card with mobile data
Mobile data are overpriced in Lebanon. Count on around $90 for a SIM card with a 5GB data package. On the bright side, 3G connection in Beirut is more stable and faster than the one you’ll get in a coffee shop. You can easily come by a SIM-card at the airport or anywhere in the city.
Where to find people to join your team
Places like Dawawine (in Gemmayze, near Goethe Institute) and AltCity café will most likely be crowded with people who want to work with interesting people or on interesting projects.
Also, visit Nabbesh, where you can hire local and regional freelancers (Middle East and North Africa).
What are the best and cheapest places to stay in town
Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael, Ashrafieh, Sioufi area and Hamra are the best areas to stay, as they are really in the midst of things, but they are also the most expensive. You should expect prices around $500 to $900 per month. Badaro and Sodeco are nice areas that should be a bit cheaper, yet still close to the city center. Furn el Chebbak and Burj Hammoud are usually cheaper too — more suited for a long-term stay.
It is necessary to verify whether the apartment you are considering has a generator in order to cover electricity during power cuts (3 hours daily in Beirut — the specific times change from day to day).
Tip: It’s better to book a place through Airbnb or in a hostel for the first few days, then look around. Don’t count on young locals’ advice, as they mostly live with their parents until they get married. Even though they might try to help, they don’t know much about where to rent and how much it costs.
Also check these Facebook groups:
How to move around
You will need some time to get used to the local public transport. It’s possible to take a (mini) bus to move around Beirut, but there are no fixed timetables or bus stops.
The most common way of transport are “service” taxis (i.e. shared taxis), which you can recognize by their red plates and which you will hear all the time honking at potential passengers. When you hail a service taxi at the side of the road, the common practice is to tell the driver your desired destination. Either they will nod (the sign for you to get on) or they’ll simply drive off. The common price is 2000 Lebanese lira (around $1.25). Sometimes the driver will ask you to pay “servicein” (meaning: two times the price) if the distance seems too far. If any driver offers you “taxi”, it means you will be expected to pay the full price of 10,000 lira (or more) and the driver should bring you exactly to the place you negotiate without taking on any other people.
Many tourists get ripped off, not knowing the difference between “service” and “taxi” (it’s not possible to tell by the look of the car). If you are in a hurry or if you need to go to a place that is difficult to reach, call some of the established taxi companies by phone. They don’t have meters but they use a fixed system of prices.
There are numerous buses to get outside the city, which are really cheap, offering rudimentary comfort and random timetables. The best way is to tell the locals which city you want to travel to, and they will direct you to one of the main bus stations (Dora, Cola, Charles Helou).
You can also easily rent a car or join an organized tour to get to hiking trails or some of the beaches.
How about shopping
In Beirut, you will find supermarkets well-stocked with the finest selection of food (e.g. Spinneys), high-level standard pharmacies, and designer clothes shops. In short, you can buy just about anything that you can buy at home. However, don’t expect lower prices. Lebanon, in general, is quite an expensive country to live in. If you want to avoid big supermarkets, you can find small (usually cheaper) shops in every quarter, where you can buy meat, vegetables, cheese etc.
How about co-working spaces
There are a few co-working spaces around the city. Some of them are relocating, others are closing, and new ones are springing up in the meantime. Today, you can opt for a hot desk at Coworking 961 in the beautiful Sursock street in Ashrafieh, at Beirut Digital Park’s first flood called the Digihive, or in Altcity.
How to stay safe in Beirut and which places to avoid
Beirut is a safe city compared to the big European or American cities. But, like everywhere, you need to be careful and keep an eye on your stuff.
Lebanese customs to be aware of
Lebanon is home to a mixture of 18 religions and sects. People there are quite open-minded and tolerant as long as you show respect and act with common-sense.
Note for female digital nomads: In terms of clothing, Lebanon is very liberal (especially Beirut). In the center of the capital, you can wear practically anything, in more conservative parts you should try to avoid drawing too much attention (e.g. mini-skirts/shorts).
Where to go to relax
The best way to discover the city is to join one of the numerous cycling and hiking tours. It’s a safe and cheap way to discover also places outside Beirut.
Have a look here for different hikes: http://www.living-lebanon.com/hiking-lebanon.html
Going to the beach is always a good idea. There are many beach clubs where you can listen to lounge music with an expensive cocktail in your hand (e.g.Saint-George in Beirut, Lazy B in Jiyeh, Edde Sands in Byblos). Sporting Club(by the Luna Park at the end of the seaside promenade, Corniche) in Beirut is a less fancy and cheaper alternative for avid swimmers. For a true, white sand beach, try to visit Tyre (Sour) in the south of Lebanon. There are also possibilities for diving, skiing (ski resort Faraya), wine tasting (Chateau Ksara in Zahle), or sailing.
Which bars and clubs to visit for Beirut nightlife
The nightlife in Beirut, in my opinion, is better than in 80% of the European big cities. Bars and clubs in Mar Mikhael — Gemmayze (hipsters and chill people), Uruguay Street (posh people with Porsche cars) and around Hamra (mostly students) are modern, serve good cocktails, play different kinds of music and have good atmosphere. Most of these places are packed all week along.
Where to meet other digital nomads living in Lebanon
Co-working spaces, Couchsurfing events, hostels (e.g. Hostel Beirut) and startup events.
What to do in case of an emergency (such as finding an English-speaking hospital)
Most big hospitals in Beirut have staff that speaks English very well (e.g. AUH (Hamra), CMC (Clemenceau), Hotel-Dieu (Ashrafieh)).