These days, most of us cannot live without our smartphones and Internet. So my first question at the hotel was where I could get a sim card. The receptionist was very helpful. He told me that a prepaid sim card should cost USD25, including USD22 credit enough for 2GB. Armed with this information off I went to the mobile shops recommended in the Beirut Municipality building.
Well, the first one tried to rip me off. He “ran out” of the USD25 and is left with the USD50 with USD25 credit inside. So I checked out my roaming plans from Singapore sim card (they suck for Lebanon) and proceeded to ask the shop guy to call my hotel. Even after the receptionist spoke to the shop, I had no luck. So I moved onto the next door shop.
The next shop quoted me usd15, usd35 and usd45 (with the latter two being eligible for data plans). He told me to come back in an hour because Touch (the best mobile provider I was told) system was down. I asked him again about the prices. He got pissed off and told me to go to Touch shop itself located further down the road and to the right. I figured with an hour to kill there was no harm to try to find it. The direction was not that clear but I got lucky. The first person I asked was at the right intersection, so he just pointed down the road. At the end, I managed to find the shop. 1GB data and the sim cost me USD8.80 incl 10 percent VAT! Phew!
Lesson of the story, always ask from a trusted person(s) information you can use as reference and never give up! Haha! I have an extra USD40 for dinner now.
Jokes aside, fortunately, I had been warned that there will always be people trying to take advantage of tourists. I was prepared! And that even made me more eager to get my data plan so that I can be more independent getting around Beirut. Before I forget, apparently the shop in the Airport arrival area operates similarly. I was lucky they ran out of Sim Card when I arrived. Check it out yourself but be wary when you hear very high price.
This mentality does not bode well if Lebanon wants to attract back more independent tourists. The mobile companies and the relevant Government bodies do not seem to regulate the pricing of the different dealers apparently. So, until then we just have to survive on our wits and ingenuity.
Final note: this incident does not reflect on the majority of the Lebanese that I have chanced to meet. They are friendly, empathetic, hospitable, and helpful. And I am still looking forward to get to know the country, regardless of this experience on the first day.