Deciding where to rest our heads plays a big part in calculating our budgets. Though cheap food is easily found alongside more expensive eating options and enjoying a beer or glass of wine isn’t the decadent choice it is in Jordan, budget accommodation is limited. For this reason, compared to some other countries in the region, Lebanon is not a budget destination.
If we had to take one picture of Beirut to symbolise the city and the country as a whole it would be of a crane. High rise buildings, often hotels, are going up everywhere. Both government and the private sector here seem to be underscoring a statement that, despite a destructive past and a still uncertain future, Beirut is open for business.
Downtown is in the closing stages of regeneration from battle pocked Parisian scene to modern shopping centre. Calven Klein will soon be the latest brand encouraging the rich and aspiring to take their credit cards out from designer purses.
But while expensive hotels welcome wealthy tourists backpackers and other travellers with pockets not quite so deep are less encouraged to visit.
Arriving in Beirut’s Charles Helou bus station from the airport, we asked directions to our initial choice of accommodation. With heavy backpacks we walked a considerable distance twice walking past Talal’s New Hotel. Later we asked owner Talal why he didn’t put a sign outside.
He told us, after moving from a site nearby, he was only able to open his new hotel in a building that previously housed budget accommodation. He wasn’t allowed to put up a sign because officially his hotel retains the name of the previous establishment housed in the building.
In a town where motorbikes frequently feel emboldened to race away from changing traffic lights on one wheel the enforcement of this bureaucracy seems to indicate backpackers are, if not discouraged, certainly not welcomed to quite the extent wealthier travellers are.
As the city rebuilds its reputation demand for budget accommodation increases but supply stagnates. Though big brand hotels are going up all over town budget options are limited to around half a dozen small hotels.
Other factors pushing up costs are the generators hostel owners need to buy to cope with frequent power cuts. In summer not inconsiderable numbers of private water tanks are required to deal with the cuts in this utility and supply us with hot shower water. Staying in small hotels, us backpackers and budget travellers pay a far higher price per person than those staying in larger, more expensive accommodation.
Our double room in Beirut costs US$50 per night. This is higher than we would normally pay but, despite visiting Beirut before the official start of Spring the alternatives were scarce: US$34 for two dorm beds or a similar price for a tent on a dark, cold roof. When I look at the solid roof above our heads and enjoy the privacy within the four walls of our room I think the additional US$16 worth it.
As bloggers we have often been fortunate on this trip to have our accommodation costs offset by trading advertising for accommodation. This post is, from this point at least, a way to say thank you and as such should be considered to be a bit of an advertorial. Without the kindness of the Doctor, owner of the Regis Hotel, we could not have afforded to stay so long in Beirut, a city we’ve come to like a great deal. I like the place so much I could happily move here.
Within sight of the sea and a couple of minutes walk to the Corniche, the Regis Hotel’s location is its biggest selling point. When we first arrived in Beirut we had intended to stay Gemmayzeh area but are glad we ended up in Ain el-Mreisse, close to the cheap eats around the American University of Beirut and within walking distance of all the sights and major areas of the city.
All 20 rooms have ensuite bathroom, 24 hours hot water, air con and heating, and satellite TV. Most room have fridges and there is WiFi in the lobby and a laundry service.