The convenient thing about Lebanon is its size. With Beirut right in the middle of the country, a trip to the north or south is an easy day trip. I was very excited to take the local buses and explore southern Sidon (Saida) and Tyre (Sour) to see the Roman Ruins and ancient cities. If you’re interested in the practical details and need some inspiration for a day trip from Beirut to Tyre and Sidon, continue reading!
Easy Tyre and Sidon Day Trip from Beirut with Local Transport
Help Beirut and the people of Lebanon after the harbor explosion of August 4, 2020
Tyre and Sidon also called Sour and Saida
When you walk around Beirut, sipping on your soy latte you see modern skyscrapers mixed with pastel colored colonial buildings and a mixture of people. You might think that this is Lebanon. It is, but it is isn’t. Located 80 km (50 miles) south of Beirut lies the city of Tyre. This ancient harbor town is stuffed with history and ruins and together with nearby Sidon, it makes for an excellent day trip from Beirut.
Below I’ll outline why I think you should go and the things to see in Tyre and Sidon. After that, I’ll go into detail about the practicalities of arranging your day trip from Beirut yourself.
Video of my Day Trip to Tyre and Sidon
Check here the little video I made from my day trip to Sidon and Tyre from Beirut with local transport. If you like my video content, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to find more travel-related content.
I traveled in April 2019 and the prices reflect what I’ve paid myself at that moment. Of course, prices can change over time, so if money is a restricting issue, check before you go.
This post reflects my own experiences and opinions. I was not paid or sponsored. This post does contain affiliate links. If you purchase something via one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
At the time of writing, 1.500 LL is roughly 1 US $ or €0,89.
Why go to Tyre (Sour) in the south of Lebanon?
Only located 80 km (50 miles) from Beirut along the Coastal Highway, Tyre is an easy day trip. It mixes history with ruins and more leisure some and typical Middle Eastern pace of local life. In Arabic, the city is called Sur or Sour. I’ll follow Tyre as a name as this is what the city is known for in English and on the internet, but once you’re in Lebanon, refer to the city as Sour.
History of Tyre
The ancient Phoenician city was founded around 2750 BCE and legend has it, it is the birthplace of Europa and Dido. The harbor of Tyre was once the most important harbor of this part of the Mediterranean Sea. Famous for her purple dye, the Tyrian purple, exclusively used for royalty, the city flourished in Phoenician times.
Conquered by Cyrus the Great (Persians), Alexander the Great (Greeks) and the Romans, each left their marks on the area. After the Byzantine and Mamluk area, the Crusaders made Tyre the see of their Roman Catholic Archbishopric of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
In modern Lebanon, Tyre suffered enormously from the conflict between the PLO and Israel. Mixing it with Hezbollah interference and international forces (the USA and France), the city and surroundings were under attack, leaving the area shattered, and the local population suffered immensely. Economically, the area is no comparison to wealthy Beirut but local tourism is stimulated to change that. Although the conflict is fresh and the border not too far away, I felt 100% safe during my visit to both Tyre and Sidon. Read more about the safety situation below.
Things to see in Tyre
With so much history and complex layers of civilization, I was drawn to Tyre like an archaeology nerd to some stones in the sand. Below the things, you cannot miss when you visit Tyre on a day trip from Beirut.
Tyre Necropolis and the largest Roman Hippodrome
One of the main sights in Tyre and part of the Unesco World Heritage Site is the Necropolis and Hippodrome. These Tyre ruins are spectacular. You enter the parking lot from the main road and immediately find yourself among tombstones, ancient coffins, and references to the Necropolis. Walking around the green surrounding, following the ancient road was already impressive, but once you arrive at the Triumphal Arch, you really think you’re in ancient Roman times.
Walking under the arch, admiring the impressive aqueduct and continuing to the Hippodrome will leave you speechless.
The Tyre Hippodrome is said to be the largest Hippodrome in ancient Roman times. It was built in the 2nd century CE and measures roughly 480 by 90 m. It had stands lined around it, holding somewhere between 20.000 and 40.000 spectators at a time. Take a walk around the tracks and take in the size and scale of the ancient chariot racing arena.
Ancient Roman Ruins of Tyre
Once the school children had vanished from the ancient site and I took enough pictures of the Hippodrome, I went back to the main road and took a service taxi to downtown Tyre. It is roughly a 30-minute walk but it was quite hot and the roads looked hectic. For only 2.000 LL I took a taxi ride to the other ruins of Tyre.
Located were once the Egyptian harbor was, a small surrounded patch of land near the ocean offers you stunning history. Roam around the site with her Roman columns, remains, ramparts and bath complex. I especially enjoyed the backdrop of modern day Tyre and the sea with the Roman Ruins in front of them.
Harbor and the old souk
From the 2nd Roman Ruins in Tyre, you can easily walk to the old Tyre Harbor and souk. Just follow the street and go left and you’ll find yourself soon as a cross-section of traffic, shopping people and commerce. The distinct smell of the harbor will greet you long before you see it. The old souk of Tyre fulfills all your basic shopping needs but with historic buildings and cute masonry.
I had a brilliant tawouk lunch here. Sitting under a bunch of umbrellas for shade, I ate my little roll stuffed with grilled chicken and let the everyday life of Tyre pass me by. At 3.500 LL it was my cheapest lunch in Lebanon, but it was also my most tasteful lunch!
Why go to Sidon (Saida) south of Beirut?
Only 40 km (25 miles) from Beirut, Sidon or locally called Saida or Sayda, is the 3rd largest city in Lebanon (after Beirut and Tripoli). Early prehistoric remains were found around the city, Homer referred to the glass embroidery of Sidon and the Bible tells us Jesus walked the lands between Tyre and Sidon.
Sidon is claimed to be the oldest Phoenician settlement and experienced the same rulers as Tyre. Plenty of Roman and Byzantine remains were found in Sidon, but what remains today of a traveler’s interest, are the Crusader castles and historic Saida.
Things to see in Sidon/Saida
When you visit Sidon on your day trip from Beirut, there are several historic sites to see in and around the city. But also the city itself is interesting with her old souk and harbor. Check below the things to see in Sidon.
Sidon Sea Castle
Built by the Crusaders in the 13th century, Sidon’s castle is located right next to the harbor. The old fortress was built on a small island and consists today of an 80-meter long causeway towards the castle, and two remaining towers. The entrance fee is 4.000 LL and you can climb to the roof and enjoy the views of Sidon, the harbor and the sea.
In all fairness, the best view of Sidon’s Castle is from the causeway, which you can also see without going in.
Sidon’s Soap Museum
Have you ever wondered how olive oil soap is made? And would you be surprised to know the process today doesn’t differ that much from the process in the past? You can learn everything about soap at Sidon Soap Museum. Also, a perfect place to shop for a deliciously fragrant souvenir of Sidon.
Sidon’s Souk & harbor
Dive right into the souk of Sidon. Shop for local produce or some textiles. Stock up on spices and soap or just take in the smells and noises of Sidon’s commerce area. If you wander the souk, you will get lost. But that is part of the experience. The harbor of Sidon is especially nice in the morning when the catch of the day is hauled in and the harbor is at its busiest.
Temple of Eshmun/ Eshmoun
I took a taxi to the ancient temple of Eshmun, 2 km (1.2 miles) north of Sidon. This is the site of the ancient healing god of the Phoenicians. Occupied from the 7th century BCE until the 8th century CE you’ll find different building styles across the site.
What I liked most about my visit the Eshmun was its location in the green countryside near the river. You’ll see the remains of the ancient pyramid style altar and the main road with Roman columns to the temple. In the furthest outer corner, you’ll find a covered piece of mosaic that is well preserved.
You can visit the site for free but it does lay outside of Sidon so you need public transport and a walk or a taxi.
Safety concerns in southern Lebanon
The south of Lebanon is a no-go area for travelers. This applies to the area south of Tyre/Sour towards the border with Israel. You can only go if you obtain a special permit from the permit office in Sidon/Saida. The area is monitored by the UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon. Unless you’re very curious about off-limit borders and the local conflict, there is no reason to travel on your own further south. For this day trip from Beirut to Sidon/Saida and Tyre/Sour, you do not need the permit.
During my day trip, we passed one checkpoint and I saw the vehicles of the UNIFIL once. Other than that, it was a normal road trip with no special safety precautions (besides crossing the street). Do keep in mind the area is much more underdeveloped than Beirut, which is reflected in the price level. Therefore, I didn’t haggle at the souk or with service taxis.
Next to Tyre is a huge refugee camp, but there is not really a reason to go there for a visit. It is also not allowed.
About me: I’m a white female solo traveler in Lebanon. I’m in my mid-thirties and have blond hairs and bright eyes. My experiences are personal and what I experienced as easy and safe, might feel different to you due to different circumstances or references.
Practicalities for a day trip from Beirut to Tyre and Sidon
Of course, you can hire a driver for the day or join a group tour to explore Tyre, Sidon and the region from Beirut. But it is cheaper to arrange it yourself by local transport and also super easy. I’ll list below the steps to follow to do the same day trip as I had and practical tips.
Cola intersection in Beirut
In Beirut, there are 2 major intersections where buses to other places in Lebanon leave. Located in the south of Beirut, the Cola intersection is the place to catch the local bus to Sidon. Just flag a taxi on the streets of Beirut, say “service” and ask for “Cola”. The driver will then bring you, and any other passengers he picks up, to the Cola intersection. Probably, he will ask where you are going, so he knows where to drop you off. Just say “Saida” and he will park near the right bus.
A shared service taxi in Beirut to Cola intersection is 2.000 LL.
Bus to Saida
Once at Cola, people standing around small mini-vans will yell all kinds of destinations. They will probably ask you “Saida? Saida?”. The mini-vans come in all sort of states, from fairly old to ancient to “I can’t believe it is still capable of driving”.
Once the bus is full, it will leave. But in my personal opinion, it is best to take your seat right away, to secure a good spot. There is the back seat, which is really tight and fits 3-4 adults. The other 3 seats will fit 2 adults and have a foldable chair for the 3rd person. These chairs are in even worse condition and every time someone behind you wants to get out of the van, you need to get up and out too.
The bus from Beirut to Saida costs 2.000 LL and you’ll pay when you exit the bus. Once full, the drive will take between 40 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic.
Bus from Saida to Tyre (Sour)
Once in Saida, the final stop is some sort of small bus station (near Nejmeh Square) where you get out and take the next bus to Tyre. Locals will call is Sour (or Sur) and it is the same procedure as before. Wait until the bus is full and then it will leave.
The bus from Saida to Sour will cost 2.000 LL and takes roughly 30 to 40 minutes.
Getting around Tyre
Once in Tyre, the bus will have its final stop at a major roundabout at the Tyre-Saida Highway near Bass Police station. You can mark it on your Google Maps or Maps.me to see if you’re there or not (coordinates 33.275002, 35.214047). In my case, the driver asked where I wanted to go and dropped me off at the Tyre Necropolis and Hippodrome site, which really is only a 5-minute walk along a very busy road.
Once I was done sightseeing at the first ruins of Tyre, I hailed a service taxi to bring me to the other Roman Ruins in Tyre. The taxi driver didn’t speak any English and didn’t know “Tyre Ruins” or “Unesco”. I showed him my Google Maps, indicating the route, but nothing looks familiar to him. He just started to drive and ask me where we needed to go. As the traffic was terrible, we moved slowly so it was easy for me to point left or right (the ruins are at the corner of Cheikh Abbas Nasser and Jaafar Charafeddine).
Once I visited the ruins, I walked towards the old harbor of Tyre and the ancient bazaar where I had lunch. Another taxi brought me back to the main intersection for the bus back to Saida.
A service taxi in Tyre will cost you 1.500 to 2.000 LL. I didn’t have the heart to ask for 500 LL back from the drivers, so I paid 2 x 2.000 LL which saved me half an hour of walking.
Bus from Tyre to Saida
Along the side of the road, another minibus was waiting to go to Saida. It seemed to take forever to find enough customers to fill it up and we could leave. The state of this minivan was horrible with very low seats and not enough room to leave my long European legs. We stopped at the same point in Saida as earlier that morning. You can also ask the driver to let you out earlier in Saida if you see anything of interest.
This bus ride was again 2.000 LL and took 35 minutes.
Walking around in Saida
Saida or Sidon can be easily explored on foot. I walked to the castle by the sea and had a look around the harbor. I took some time browsing the souk which was quite elaborate. As I was a bit tired from all the smells, impressions and waiting, I decided to go to my final stop of the day instead of exploring more of Saida.
Taxi to Temple of Eshmun
I really wanted to visit the Temple of Eshmun, which is located outside of Saida. At the Sports Complex, you need to follow the river inland and somewhere in the fields is the ancient site. I did have a hard time to find a taxi who would take me there.
In the end, I decided to head back to the little bus station of Saida, and some local men who were hanging around helped me.
The main problem was that nobody seems to understand what I’ve meant by “Temple of Eshmun”. No matter how I pronounced it, it was not familiar to any taxi driver. I showed the spot on the map, where it had the Arabic writing next to it too, but they didn’t know it.
In the end, we found a taxi driver who didn’t really care and said he could go there, regardless if he know where it was or not. We agreed on a price of 10$ (15.000 LL) to go there, waiting and come back.
In the end, we found the place, thanks for me giving directions by using Google Maps, but when I got back to Saida, the driver got really upset and demanded more money. As he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic, it was quite a frustrating ordeal.
I’m 100% sure we agreed on 10$ as this was easily communicated by putting up 5 fingers on each hand and saying dollars. But I think the driver realized when we got back it took longer than he thought and he wanted more money. He did pick up several others along the way, so it wasn’t a private taxi. In the end, he frustratedly waved me out of the taxi, which left me with quite a bad feeling.
Bus back to Beirut
After this “argument” with hands and trying to talk with each other, I wanted to leave. It had been a very long day and I was ready to head back to Beirut. At the little bus station of Saida, I found the minivan to Beirut and this journey took a bit longer as it was later in the day. It was also 2.000 LL and I was happy to be back in Beirut. Another service taxi in Beirut took me back to my hotel.
Costs of a day trip to Tyre and Saida from Beirut by local bus
As you can see from above, the day trip with multiple stops was done by various different buses and paying 2.000 LL each. Below I list my total costs for the day trip from Beirut.
Keep in mind, 1.500 LL is roughly 1$. So 2.000 LL is $1.35 which is peanuts for an hour’s bus ride.
- Service taxi Beirut to Cola intersection: 2.000 LL
- Bus from Beirut to Saida: 2.000 LL
- Bus from Saida to Tyre: 2.000 LL
- Entrance fee to visit Tyre Necropolis and Hippodrome: 6.000 LL or $4
- Service Taxi in Tyre: 2.000 LL
- Entrance fee to visit Ruins of Tyre: 6.000 LL or $4
- Tawouk lunch with 7up with harbor view at the souk: 3.500 LL (the cheapest and the best meal I had in Lebanon)
- Service Taxi in Tyre: 2.000 LL
- Bus from Tyre to Saida: 2.000 LL
- Entrance Sidon Castle: 4.000 LL
- Service Taxi to Temple of Eshmun: 15.000 LL or 10$. (allocate more money for this)
- Entrance at Temple of Eshmun: free
- Bus Saida to Beirut: 2.000 LL
- Service Taxi in Beirut: 2.000 LL
I recommend having enough local Lebanese money to pay for all the buses. At the sites, you can pay with US Dollars, but it is better to ask for LL back.
Total cost for this Tyre and Sidon day trip from Beirut: 50.500 LL. At the moment this is 33$ or 30€.
Beirut Day Tour to Tyre, Saida and more
In the end, my day trip was fulfilling as I’ve seen a lot and it was fairly easy to catch one bus after the other.
But it was also a long day trip with a lot of waiting for the minibusses to fill up and I was quite tired at the end of the day.
Another option would be to take a day tour, with a tour company and a guide to see and do the exact same thing, without the waiting and hassle to arrange everything yourself.
Guided Tour vs Local Transport?
Advantages of taking a guided group tour instead of arranging everything yourself with local transport are plenty. Yes, with a day tour you’ll spend more money, but it does come with its perks:
- Everything is arranged for you. No worries, just show up on time and follow the itinerary.
- You’ll have a tour guide that will explain everything that you see.
- Door to door round trip. With hotel pick-up and drop off and a set itinerary. No waiting for minibusses to fill up.
- You’ll meet other people on a group tour. As a solo traveler, not speaking the language, I didn’t say that much during the day. In a group tour with other travelers, it is easy to connect and make new friends.
The reason I didn’t take a tour was that it didn’t run on the day I wanted to go. And believe me, I looked for it.
Also, at roughly €82 (or 91$) a tour is considerably more expensive than my self-arranged day trip with local transport.
Are you looking for a guided day tour to Tyre, Sidon and Eshmun? Check out rates and availability here.
- Tyre Sidon and Eshmun Day Trip from Beirut
- Sidon and Tyre from Beirut Tour
- Sidon, Tyre and Maghdouche Trip
The Best Hotels in Tyre Lebanon for Staying Overnight
I stayed in Lebanon for 10 days and I had a packed itinerary. That is why I visited Tyre and Sidon on a day trip from Beirut. If you have more time to allocate, I definitely recommend staying overnight in Tyre. Pick one of these outstanding boutique hotels in Tyre so you can explore the city and you can also include a dip in the Mediterranean to your travel itinerary.
Asamina Boutique Hotel: This boutique hotel is located right at the tip of Tyre. Close to the ancient harbor and the souk, the hotel oozes charm and Middle Eastern details. The rooftop terrace offers stunning views of the sea. Pick one of their suites for extra charm and comfort. Check prices and availability here.
El Boutique Hotel: Another classy hotel filled to the brim with oriental details and class. Overlooking the Mediterranean, this hotel offers the best sunset in Tyre. Close to the old town and ruins, this is the perfect spot to explore the city and surrounding beaches. Check the prices and rooms here.
Rest House: This place doesn’t have the fancy appealing name, but it does offer resort style accommodation with a stunning swimming pool, waving palm trees and direct beach access! Obviously, you need to pick a room with a seaside view as that is what this resort is all about. Check the view and prices and availability here.
Tyre and Saida: Must Do Trip from Beirut
Looking at those affordable hotel options in Tyre, I have a small regret for not having more time in Lebanon as I would have loved to have more time there to explore. But in the end, I am very happy with my easy day trip from Beirut to Tyre and Saida and I think everyone who comes to Lebanon, should consider a visit. Whether it is by self-arranged day trip with public transport, or a tour from Beirut, or an overnight stay, as long as you visit Tyre and Sidon, you’ll be wiser and a great experience richer.
Have you visited Tyre and Sidon on a day trip from Beirut? How was it for you? Do you consider taking a tour or local transport? Let me know in the comment section below!