Libya travel guide
Travel to Libya is ill-advised at the moment due to the ongoing civil war. And that’s a shame, because this beautiful land has much to offer the intrepid traveller.
One of the largest countries in African, Libya boasts a stunning Mediterranean coastline, gorgeous desert landscapes and no fewer than seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These ancient sites are a reminder that Libya’s history has always been tumultuous: before Gaddafi’s regime and the ensuing civil war, the country endured Greek, Roman and Italian rule.
But Libya has more to offer than war stories. From the mystical desert town of Ghadames to the stunning Sahara Desert, this is a land of empty beaches, ancient mountain trails and shimmering oases. It is a land where sand dunes stretch to the heavens, palm trees reflect in desert lakes and prehistoric rock carvings decorate the dramatic Akakus Mountains.
Rural Libya is characterised by neatly cultivated olive groves, fat lemons dangling from trees and remote Berber settlements. In the cities, merchants sell wares in rose-scented souks, flogging silver, spices, henna, hijabs and Tuareg scarves. The smell of spicy lentil soup and Benghazi seafood hangs deliciously in the air.
The population of Libya is mostly of Arab and Berber descent. Berbers make up about 10% of inhabitants and live in more remote areas. The rest of the population lives largely in coastal cities like Tripoli and Benghazi, although recent fighting has forced many to flee.
Libyan hospitality is legendary and its people love showing travellers around. But tourism faltered after the Arab Spring and has been paralyzed by the ensuing Civil War. At the time of writing, tourist visas were not being issued and most tour companies have closed their doors – many guides now work as fixers for war reporters instead.
It’s impossible to say how current events will pan out, but, like many travellers, we hope the doors to Libya will swing open again soon.
1,759,500 sq km (679,347 sq miles).
6,330,159 (UN estimate 2016).
3.6 per sq km.
General National Congress (transitional government) since 2012.
Aqilah Salah Issa, President of the House of Representatives, since 2014.
Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj since 2015.
127/230 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs used are European-style with two circular metal pins and South African/Indian-style with two circular metal pins above a large circular grounding pin.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Libya Political Agreement was signed by a majority of the Libyan negotiating parties at a ceremony in Skhirat, Morocco on 17 December 2015, paving the way for a new unified Government of National Accord (GNA). On the whole reaction to the arrival of the GNA’s Presidency Council in the capital of Libya on 30 March has been positive and the GNA are supported by the majority of Libyans. But the security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable as the GNA works to restore stability and security to Libya.
Conflict involving small arms, tanks, artillery and aircraft is ongoing in several areas, including Benghazi and parts of central Libya. This fighting includes pro-GNA forces, troops under the control of General Haftar who doesn’t recognise the GNA, as well as local militias and extremist groups such as Ansar Al Sharia and affiliates of Daesh and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M). Fighting can break out anywhere without warning, including between local militia groups, and many civilians have been killed in outbreaks of conflict in residential areas.
There is a high risk of civilians, including journalists, humanitarian and medical workers, being caught in indiscriminate gunfire or shelling, including air strikes, in all areas where there is fighting, putting those in the area at risk.
On 18 September 2016, there were clashes between Petroleum Facilities Guards and the Libyan National Army at the Es Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil facilities in the central oil crescent, after LNA forces had seized the facilities the previous week.
Heavy fighting continues in residential areas of Benghazi city, and civilians have been killed in air attacks on Dernah. There have been ongoing violent clashes in the southern cities of Ubari, Sebha and Kufrah. During 2016, there were a number of clashes between militias in the Tripoli suburbs of Abu Sleem, Ghoat Shaal, Bab Ben Gashir, and Zawia. GNA-aligned forces clashed with Libyan National Army forces in central Libya in January, including on 1 January 2017 at Barak al-Shati and Sabha, and on 3 January 2017 at Jufra.
Reports of violence, reprisal killings, looting and human rights abuses continue across the country. If you choose to travel to Libya against FCO advice, you should monitor the local security situation carefully. Political events may impact on the security situation.
There are reports of increased crime levels in Libya, including robberies, muggings and carjackings at gun and knife point. There is limited police capacity to deal with street crime.
On 27 July 2014, a British diplomatic convoy was subject to an attempted car-jacking on the road between Tripoli and the Ras-al Jadir border crossing with Tunisia. Like many other parts of Libya, roads in this area are vulnerable to criminal gangs. You should plan your route carefully and avoid travelling at night.
Since December 2013, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya. Foreigners are also increasingly targeted for kidnappings by both criminal and extremist groups.
If you travel to Libya against FCO advice, you should regularly reassess your security arrangements and carefully plan your movements. Take security advice from competent security experts before any travel within the country. Close security protection and/or a military escort are extremely important. In the event of a further deterioration of the security situation, routes in and out of major cities and towns may become blocked and airports closed or inaccessible at little or no notice. Don’t advertise your travel or other plans through social media. Avoid routine, vary your travel routes, and keep a low profile at all times.
Foreign nationals including journalists are vulnerable to mistreatment by armed groups in Libya. Intimidation, attacks, detentions and kidnapping of local journalists are a serious problem, and a number have been killed. There is a real risk of hostility from those who object to media reporting.
Road travel within Libya remains highly dangerous. There continues to be a risk of being caught up in outbreaks of hostilities. There is also a high risk of carjacking and robbery. There is a risk of striking unexploded ordnance off-road.
Road traffic accidents are frequent and often result in fatalities.
Chad closed its border with Libya on 5 January 2017, in response to the activity of armed groups in the area.
On 13 July 2014, Tripoli International Airport was closed following clashes that broke out between armed groups in the area surrounding the airport. Other airports may change their flight schedule without notice. Contact your airline or travel company for further information before travelling.
Benghazi airport has been closed since May 2014.
Due to a number of ongoing safety concerns, the European Union has agreed with the Libyan authorities to continue a voluntary restriction on Libyan airlines flying into the EU. However, some Libyan airlines operate flights to the EU using aircraft leased from other airlines. The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
Contact your airline or travel company for further information before travelling.