Doing Business In Lebanon

  1. Lebanon’s overall Doing Business 2013 ranking is 115 out of 185 economies, recording a decline of 3 points compared to last year. This decline reflects lower scores for seven indicators.
  2. According to the latest Enterprise Surveys (2009), Political Instability, Electricity and Access to Finance as the three top obstacles to running a business in Lebanon. As regards to Lack of Electricity, firms reported that 29.9 outages per month is typical, compared to 17.0 for the region and 7.4 overall.
  3. In the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators (2010), Lebanon ranks below the 10th percentile for the Political Stability indicator, but it ranks above the 50th percentile for the Regulatory Quality indicator.
  4. Lebanon’s economic freedom score is 60.1, making its economy the 90th freest in the 2012 Index. Its score remains unchanged from last year, with small gains in labor freedom and the control of government spending offset by small declines in business freedom and monetary freedom. Lebanon is ranked 10th out of 17 countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, and its overall score is just above the world average.

Source: World Bank


Visa Information

People of all nationalities require a visa for Lebanon bar Gulf countries (but not Yemen). Nationals of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) countries, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA can get a tourist or business visa on arrival at Beirut International Airport, or at the border with Syria.
Lebanon denies entry to travellers with evidence of a visit to Israel in their passport. Look out for the question 'Have you ever visited Israel or Occupied Palestine?' on some visa application forms - a 'yes' will put paid to your application.
Note that visa rules and regulations can - and do - change in Lebanon; always check the latest information with your embassy/consulate.
At the airport, visa stamps are sold at a window on the right (open 24 hours), just before passport control. Visas for 48-hour transit and one-month visas are issued free of charge; a three-month visa costs US$34. Note that the 'three-month' visa requires you to extend this before the end of your first month. Visas (including multiple-entry visas, which are useful if you're planning to go in and out of Lebanon from Syria) can also be obtained in advance at any Lebanese embassy or consulate.
Those wishing to study in Lebanon can apply for a student one-year residence visa (LL250, 000) with a letter from the school, two passport photos and two copies of your passport details.

Business Etiquette

Meeting and Greeting
  • Lebanese can be somewhat formal in their business dealings. At the same time, they will strive to be hospitable and will go out of their way to be generous and gracious hosts.
  • Greetings should not be rushed. It is important to take time to exchange social pleasantries during the greeting process.
  • The most common greeting in business is the handshake with direct eye contact.
  • The handshake may be more prolonged that in Western countries.
  • Very religious Muslims may not shake hands across genders. In such cases, the foreign business people should simply nod their heads as a way of acknowledging them.
  • If someone is introduced with a title, use that title when greeting them. If the title is given in Arabic, it is appended to the first name. If the title is in English or French, it will be added to the surname.
  • Business cards are given without formal ritual.
  • Having one side of your card translated into French or Arabic is a nice touch but not essential.
Present and receive business cards with two hands or the right hand.
Communication Styles
The Lebanese are very “touchy-feely”. Direct eye contact with a lot of physical contact is the cornerstones of Lebanese communication. If you are from a culture where eye contact is less direct and contact not so prevalent, this may feel uncomfortable. Try not to break the eye contact as this conveys trust, sincerity and honesty. However, interestingly the situation is reversed when dealing with elders where prolonged direct eye contact is considered rude and challenging. 
Lebanese have an indirect and non-confrontational communication style, which relates to the need to maintain personal honour. They rely heavily on the context to explain the underlying meaning of their words. The listener is expected to know what they are trying to say or imply. Non-verbal cues and body language are crucial to learn so you can more fully understand the responses you are given. 
For the most part, Lebanese try not to lose their tempers publicly since such behaviour demonstrates a weakness of character. They strive to be courteous and expect similar behaviour from others. However, if they think that their honour has been impugned or that their personal honour has been challenged, they will raise their voice and employ sweeping hand gestures in their vociferous attempt to restore their honour. 
Business Meetings
The business culture in Lebanon is multi-faceted and also rapidly changing. The country is eager for foreign investment and many companies have adopted a Western approach to business. At the same time, smaller companies may retain many Middle Eastern aspects to their business culture. 
Punctuality is generally expected for business meetings. 
Meetings generally begin with the offer of tea or coffee. While this is being sipped, it is important to engage in some chitchat. This is important in order to establish rapport and trust. 
Meetings are not necessarily private. The Lebanese tend to have an open-door policy, which means that people may walk in and out, telephone calls may be answered or the tea boy may come in to take drink orders. It is best to be prepared for frequent interruptions. 
Meetings are generally conducted in French, Arabic or English. It is generally a good idea to ask which language the meeting will be conducted in prior to arriving. You may wish to hire your own interpreter. 

General Business Hours

Unlike the rest of the Middle East, Lebanon's 'weekend' (when government offices and schools close) is Sunday, not Friday. During religious holidays (such as Ramadan) and the summer, hours may vary. The following is a general guide only:
Banks Open 8.30am to 2pm Monday to Friday (a few open to 4pm) and Saturday morning.
Government offices Open 8am to 2pm from Monday to Saturday, except Friday when they open 8am to 11am. Some offices close at noon on Saturday.
Museums and monuments Most close on Monday.
Private offices Open from 9am/10am to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm/9pm Monday to Friday and some on Saturday morning too.
Restaurants Between noon and midnight daily. Some close on Sunday. Cafés open from around 7am (or earlier) to around 7pm.
Shops Open from 9am/10am to 6pm/7pm from Monday to Friday and Saturday morning. Some also open for a few hours on Sunday.