If you are moving locally, i.e. changing from one apartment to another within Lebanon, it's advisable to go to your nearest mini market, bar or café and ask the patrons there if they know any movers with a big enough truck. Call the movers and make a deal and a time for the move. Depending on how much stuff you have and from where to where you will be moving, the truck fee including the driver and workers should be around $100 -200. In addition to this, include the tip for the movers, around 10,000 LL (6 $) each (minimum three people). This is usually much cheaper and easier than to find a moving company online.
If you are shipping over your whole household from abroad it's advisable to use a Lebanese or international moving company to help with the freight, shipping and customs. Beirut has a big international seaport, so if you prefer boat shipping it's definitely an option instead of land or airfreight. There are different options when it comes to the size of the freight container, the main ones being the 20 and 40-foot containers taking approximately 30 respectively 60-70 cubic meters. For smaller shipments there is the option of groupage (shared container). Please bear in mind that it is not uncommon for a container to be left waiting in the seaport for custom clearance for quite some time. To speed things up, it is recommended to use a respected moving firm that has the right connections and expertise in this specific matter.
As with (almost) everything else in Lebanon, when it comes to building, renovating or fixing something in your house it will definitely not be ready on time, it will not be done right and to survive it without going crazy and bankrupt you should know someone.
So before you hit the yellow pages of Lebanon trying to find a plumber to fix your pipes (which will be leaking and will not stop no matter how much you fix it) you should ask your friends and neighbors for a good, reliable handyman that they have used before so they can tell you the pro’s and con’s with the guy in question. If you’re so new to the country that you don’t have any friends or neighbors yet, ask the friendly bar man or café host. They will know.
When the handyman finally arrives, offer him a cup of coffee and don’t pay until the job is done. He is probably not going to run away with your money and never come back, but just face it; in this situation money is your only leverage when it comes to getting the job done before next Christmas. If you really want to get into details with the handyman, chances are 40-60 that he will not understand English very well, in which case you might consider having an Arabic speaking friend (or just over the phone) for the handyman occasion.
If you prefer to “fix it yourself” there are many hardware stores around that will be able to provide you with any tool or product you might desire.
By Helena Forsell, a 30 something who left her native Sweden for Lebanon 6 years ago. Now she is reinventing life in Beirut.