Places in Libya

Top events in Libya

April
01

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

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.

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: 26 March 2015

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.


Political situation

UN-brokered peace negotiations are ongoing. The political and security situation remains volatile and has led to an increase in fighting throughout Libya. Full scale military operations involving small arms, tanks, artillery and aircraft are ongoing in several areas including South West of Tripoli, Benghazi and other areas. 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.

Crime

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.

Local travel

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. Check your routes in advance of travelling. 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

Road travel

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

The standard of driving in Libya is very poor, but the roads are generally in reasonable condition. Take care when driving anywhere in Libya, particularly at night. Always wear a seatbelt and drive defensively.

You should avoid all off-road driving due to the risk of unexploded ordinance. Violent incidents have occurred on some desert routes. Take great care in remote areas, travel in a group and make sure you are well prepared with enough fuel, water and food.

Air travel

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.

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