Places in Libya

Top events in Libya

November
16

Families get together and slaughter a sheep to commemorate Abraham's sacrifice and mark the time of the pilgrimage to Mecca.

December
31

Festival celebrating traditional Tuareg culture with a concert held on New Years Eve.

April
01

Berber music and dance festival held every in the 700-year old fortress of Kabaw.

Sabratha, Libya
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Sabratha, Libya

© 123rf.com / Clara Natoli

Libya Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,759,500 sq km (679,347 sq miles).

Population

6 million (2013).

Population density

3.4 per sq km.

Capital

Tripoli.

Government

General National Congress (transitional government) since 2012.

Head of state

Nouri Abusahmain, President of the General National Congress since 2013.

Head of government

Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani since 2014.

Electricity

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.

Although Libya has become best known for its part in the Arab Spring and the revolution that swept across the country from east to west, climaxing with the death of Moammar Gaddafi, there is much more to this beautiful land than suppression and conflict. One of the largest countries on the African continent, Libya has a stunning Mediterranean coastline, desert landscapes and ancient sites - and they all have their own stories to tell. History has admittedly given the country a rough ride; it has lived through Greek and Roman rule and suffered through Italian colonialism and Gaddafi's regime.

But if you think it's only the war stories that will take your breath away, think again. Better yet, head to the mystical desert town of Ghadames, charter a camel across the Sahara or stop for a picnic in the shadow of Leptis Magna. There are stunning ancient cities, beautifully-preserved, and not a tourist in sight. There are atmospheric souks to wander through, scented with rose and sandalwood. There are sand dunes that stretch to the heavens, palm-fringed desert lakes, collections of colourful Byzantine mosaics and dramatic Akakus mountains with prehistoric rock carvings. There are prehistoric caves, empty beaches, age-old mountain passes, hilly hikes and city souks selling everything from silver jewellery and Tuareg desert scarves to artisanal perfume, football shirts, local spices, henna and hijabs. There are olive groves, fat lemons hanging from trees, bowls of spicy lentil soup and fresh Benghazi seafood.

Libyans used to love showing travellers around - a good thing, given Gaddafi's rule which banned independent travel and meant only escorted tours were possible. But since the revolution, tourism has faltered and the industry has yet to recover. At the time of writing, tourist visas were not being issued by embassies except in rare cases. Travellers who can provide a letter of invitation from friends or organizations inside Libya may be able to get around the rules by purchasing a business visa, which does allow for independent travel. Tour companies - once obligatory for travellers to Libya - closed their doors during the revolution, and many guides started to work as fixers for international journalists instead. Expect the tourism industry to pick up again, as the country stabilizes and international confidence is restored.

Most Libyans are warm and friendly; in their eyes hospitality is viewed as a duty and a pleasure. Most of the population is a mix of Arab or Berber descent. Berbers, including Tuaregs, live in the more remote areas and form about 10% of the population, while most of the rest lives in the cities on the coast, such as Tripoli and Benghazi. Options for public transport are limited in Libya, since most Libyans travel by private car. Until the revolution, tourists travelled by coach and bus tours. Gaddafi invested a lot in infrastructure, so expect fast roads and drivers who love to play loud music as they career down the highways; under Gaddafi, there was officially no speed limit in Libya. ATMs are available in Tripoli, Benghazi and most large towns. Libya is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), in the same time zone as Egypt and Italy.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 20 August 2014

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 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Libya due to the more intense and more widespread fighting in Tripoli, and greater instability throughout the country. British nationals in Libya are strongly urged to leave immediately by commercial means.

Commercial departure options are still available. A limited number of flights are leaving Misrata and Maitega airports for Cairo, Malta, Tunis, Istanbul and Sfax but availability is limited. As flight schedules may change without notice, you should contact your airline or travel company for the latest information before travelling.

Land routes remain open but the security situation can change very quickly. There may be some delays and temporary closures at the border crossing. You should check the situation at the border immediately before intended travel.

The British Embassy in Tripoli has now temporarily closed, and is no longer able to provide consular assistance. If you are a British national remaining in Libya and need to speak to the FCO urgently you can call +44 (0)20 7008 0000.

In early August, sporadic but sometimes intense fighting between militias has spread in a fairly fluid manner northwards in Tripoli, including into the area where the British Embassy is situated. There have been an increasing number of other security-related incidents in Tripoli; and the risks of being caught in crossfire have markedly increased in those areas to which the fighting has spread.

On 27 July 2014, a British diplomatic convoy was subject to an attempted car-jacking on the road between Tripoli and Zawiya. Shots were fired but no one was injured.

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.

There is a widespread shortage of petrol and lengthy queues at fuel stations are common.

Since December 2013, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya. Further attacks against foreigners are likely and could be opportunistic.

There is a high threat from terrorism including kidnapping. Since January 2014, a number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped, including in Tripoli.

Avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. If you become aware of any nearby violence you should leave the area immediately. Violent clashes between armed groups are possible across the country, including in Tripoli, particularly at night. Fighting can break out in many places and at short notice. It can become serious quickly putting those in the area at risk. You should remain vigilant at all times.

Keep a low profile and try to limit travelling around as much as possible, particularly at night. There is a high threat from crime.

If you’re entering Libya as a media representative, you should get press accreditation from the Libyan authorities. You must get permission before taking any photographs or interviewing at or near military facilities. If you are entering Libya for work or business, you should get the right visa, or risk deportation.

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