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  • Writer's picturetravelinggibson

US Dollar to Lebanese Pound: What I learned Exchanging Money in Lebanon

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Beirut February of 2023

In February of 2023 I visited Lebanon for the first time spending a couple days in Beirut. Prior to my trip, I looked online all over for information about the currency of Lebanon and what the best way would be to use my money while visiting. Besides learning that the US dollar is widely accepted throughout the country, I could not find any present up-to-date information on exchanging money or the extreme circumstances pertaining to the local currency. In this post, I intend to pass along the information I gained from my experiences exchanging money in Beirut.


Lebanon's Financial Crisis

I don't think it has been much of a secret, but the country of Lebanon has been going through an incredibly difficult financial crisis since 2019. This was only exacerbated with the Beirut Port Explosion in August of 2020. Since the 1980's, Lebanon's currency and economy has been tied deeply with the US Dollar which has helped keep it relatively stable. The issues that come from the financial crisis pertain greatly with the loss of value in the Lebanese Pound.


Lebanese Pound 2019

In 2019 the official bank rate conversion was roughly 1,510 LBP (Lebanese Pound) to $1. The official bank rate when I visited in February of 2023 was roughly 8,000 LBP to $1. The most important piece of information that was given to me that I could not find online at all came from a very helpful front desk agent at the Hilton I was staying at as well as one of my taxi drivers. This piece of information was that the conversion rate against the US dollar has up to as many as 5 different rates depending on how you are doing the conversion. I was completely unaware of this when I arrived and it provided a bit of stress being presented with various prices of things as I was only aware of the rate I had on my currency converter app.

The important thing to be aware of when it comes to the Lebanese Pound is that due to the ever increasing economic crisis, the currency conversion is changing every single day, sometimes even multiple times within the same day.


Official Lebanese Pound Rate

The official bank rate conversion at the time that I was there in February of 2023 was, as I said above, roughly 8,000 LBP to $1. This is the rate that I would be given if I used a credit/debit card or used an American bank. This was also the rate that my currency converter was providing me. There is also the official conversion rate that the local banks would provide which, at the time, would have given roughly a 25,000 LBP to $1. There was also another conversion rate explained to me by the taxi driver that would provide roughly 32,000 LBP to $1.


Lebanese Pound Market Value

The most important rate as a tourist visiting Lebanon though would be the "Market Value" rate which could in unofficial terms be considered a "Black Market" rate. This rate was the most dramatic conversion difference and was the one that the locals (especially taxi drivers) based their prices on. At the time of my visit, the market value rate was 64,000 LBP to $1. I was able to receive this market value rate by visiting the gas station across the street from my hotel and exchanging US dollars in cash for the Lebanese Pounds (they also would exchange the Euro for a similar rate as well). The daily market value rate was posted on a piece of paper taped to the side of the cashier desk.


The Financial Crisis Continues to Worsen

The reason I continue to clarify that I visited in February of 2023 is because the value of the Lebanese Pound has continued to plummet as the economic crisis worsens in Lebanon. The official bank rate in March was pegged at 15,000 LBP to $1 and the market value rate has plunged to roughly 100,000 LBP to $1. This plummeting of the Lebanese currency is disastrous for the people of Lebanon and has plunged a great number of the population into poverty. This is the sad side of currency rates in tourism, the weaker the locations currency is, the better rate and budget you as a tourist visiting will receive.


Summary

A quick summary of this would be that when visiting Lebanon, you want to have US Dollars or Euros in cash to exchange and receive the market value exchange rate from various establishments such as participating gas stations. You have the option of paying your taxi or some other small charges in US dollar, but for your hotel or restaurant charges, you would get the best rate having already exchanged to the local currency at the market value. This is a constantly changing situation so when visiting, always do your best to get advice from a friendly local/worker on the most up-to-date scenarios. I found a majority of people I met in Lebanon to be very friendly, willing to help, and easy to have conversations with and I hope things can stabilize soon. If you have any questions or thoughts, you can email me at www.travelinggibson@gmail.com or on Instagram @travelinggibson. Thank you so much for reading!


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