Depending on your needs there are different types of housing and ways of finding them in Lebanon. Most expats either rent a villa in the mountainous areas around Beirut or find an apartment for rent inside Beirut. Lebanon is a small country and no matter from where you go, it will not be more than a two hour car ride to reach the capital of Beirut.
The expats in Lebanon are mostly consisting of Western NGO workers, journalists and University students, as well as expat blue collar workers from Asia and neighboring Arab countries, or rich Arabs from outside of Lebanon who wishes to have a second, or third, home in "easy-going" Lebanon. The expat housing market caters to all three of these categories.
If you are planning to stay for a shorter period of time (less than three months) there are options to renting a house or apartment. Especially in Beirut that has a lot of expats, it is not too hard to find a flat to share with roommates or to find a fully furnished hotel apartment or women only dorms.
These two are offering fully furnished service hotel apartments in Hamra, Beirut;
Most Lebanese don't move out if their parent’s house until they are married (even though this is starting to change in some areas / families) so if you are looking for roommates you will most probably find yourself in a flat filled with other expats, not local born and raised Lebanese. This tradition has also created a housing market mainly catering to families, with the few one bedroom / studio apartments that are available sometimes being as expensive as a two or three bedroom flat.
In general, Beirut and the Northern Christian Mountains are usually more expensive than other cities that have less expats, such as Tripoli in the north or Saida and Tyre in the southern parts of Lebanon.
If you are very lucky you might find a small one bedroom apartment in a less fancy area in Beirut for around $350-450 a month. The price for sharing a room is usually the same. For a 2-3 bedroom apartment in an old building without concierge or parking you will most probably pay no less than $800 a month.
There are many different real estate brokers offering their services to expats moving to Lebanon to be found online. If you want to try your luck without the middleman, read the classifieds and Beirut Craig’s list (or Facebook) that features apartments, villas and rooms to share.
If you prefer to start looking for your new home after you have arrived on Lebanese soil, a tip is to walk around in the neighborhoods of your liking and ask for available apartments (try talking to the staff in the mini markets and cafés first.) This is an easy way of getting to know the area as well as to get an idea of the atmosphere and of the people already living in that neighborhood. This is especially important in Beirut since most neighborhoods there are very different from each other.
You could also try a visit to classical expat "hangouts" such as the many bars of Beirut, the different language schools and the two major universities LAU and AUB. In these locations there most probably will be flyers and other information for expats looking for a new home or roommates.
The most popular expat bars and cafés in Beirut are located in Hamra and Gemmayzeh (as of June 2012). De Prague, Starbucks, café Costas, café Younis and Dany's Bar are all to be found in Hamra. In Gemmayzeh they are Torino Express, Demo, EM Chill and café Em Nazim (a part of Saifi Arabic School.)
By Helena Forsell, a 30 something who left her native Sweden for Lebanon 6 years ago. Now she is reinventing life in Beirut.