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Libya travel guide

About Libya

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.

Key facts

Area:

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

Population:

6,330,159 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

3.6 per sq km.

Capital:

Tripoli.

Head of state:

Chairmen of the Presidential Council Muhammad Younes al-Menfi, since 2021.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, since 2021.

Travel Advice

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Libya on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Libya.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in Libya

Libya has announced a number of measures and restrictions to limit the spread of the virus. Implementation of these measures has been relaxed but they may be tightened again at short notice.

Consular support is not available from the British government from within Libya, as consular operations remain suspended. If you need to speak to a consular officer, call the FCDO in London on +44 (0)20 7008 1500 or email Tunisconsular.enquiries@fco.gov.uk.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Libya

We will update this page when the Government of Libya announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Libyan national vaccination programme started in April 2021 and is using the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, Sputnik Light, Sinopharm and Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) vaccines. The Government of Libya has stated that British nationals resident in Libya are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme. Further information on the vaccination programme is available on the Department for Health and National Centre for Disease Control websites.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Libya, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Political situation

The political situation in Libya remains fragile and the security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable.

Since April 2019 there has been a significant build-up of militarised forces across western and central Libya. Regular and heavy armed clashes took place to the south and west of Tripoli.

Reports suggest that between April 2019 and July 2020 there were over 3,300 deaths, including over 330 civilians.

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’s 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.

In May 2020 there was significant fighting in and around Tripoli, including at Mitiga Airport, and indiscriminate fire into residential areas in Tripoli including near the Italian Residence and Turkish Embassy. There were airstrikes on both Al-Watiya airbase and Abu Qrain, with reports of large quantities of mines and IEDs that have been left in Tripoli and the surrounding area by the retreating forces.

Reports of violence, protests, reprisal killings, looting and human rights abuses continue across the country. If you choose to travel to Libya against FCDO advice, you should monitor the local security situation carefully. Political events may impact on the security situation.

Humanitarian crisis

The ongoing political impasse and conflict has seriously affected public infrastructure and services, resulting in power cuts, water, fuel, food and cash shortages, absence of medicines, and high inflation.

The UN High Commission for Refugees assess that more than 1.3 million people – including internally displaced people (IDPs), as well as vulnerable Libyans, host communities, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers – are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Power outages can last for 18 hours per day in Tripoli and several days in the South and are affecting mobile phone and internet signals.

Crime

There’s a very high risk of criminal kidnap for ransom in Tripoli and coastal towns to the West of Tripoli. There’s an elevated risk of kidnap for ransom and arbitrary detention by local militias throughout Libya.

Ongoing conflict and the proliferation of armed militias has led to a rise in crime in most areas, including violent robbery, carjacking and kidnapping.

In recent years, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya. Foreigners are also increasingly targeted for kidnappings by both criminal and extremist groups. See Terrorism

Local travel

If you travel to Libya against FCDO 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 is 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.

Travel for media/journalism purposes

If you’re entering Libya as a media representative, you should get press accreditation from the relevant Libyan authorities.

Journalists, including foreign nationals, 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. Regular, semi-regular and irregular detention of foreign nationals occurs regularly in all parts of Libya.

Road travel

Road travel within Libya remains highly dangerous. There continues to be a risk of being caught up in outbreaks of hostilities. There’s also a high risk of carjacking and robbery. The coastal road between Zawiyah and Tripoli presents an elevated risk. There’s a risk of striking unexploded ordnance off-road.

Road traffic accidents are frequent and often result in fatalities.

All land borders into Libya are subject to closure at short notice.

Air travel

Flights to and from all airports in Libya are likely to be cancelled at short notice.

Inter-militia fighting poses significant risks to air travel in Libya. It has periodically caused the temporary suspension or closure of airports. All airports are vulnerable to attack.

  • Mitiga airport, Tripoli’s only functioning civilian airport, has been regularly shelled by artillery. An attack on 9 May 2020 involving 70 rounds caused considerable damage.

  • Tripoli International Airport has been closed since July 2014, following clashes that broke out between armed groups in the area surrounding the airport. Other airports may change their flight schedule without notice.

  • Benghazi airport is currently closed.

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 FCDO 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.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Libya.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Extremist groups including Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) are responsible for the majority of attacks, which have targeted foreign and diplomatic personnel and premises, international hotels, commercial and oil installations, and government and other official security institutions.

Although government - aligned forces, supported by U.S. airstrikes, declared the end of operations against Daesh in Sirte in January 2016, Daesh remain a serious threat to security in Libya.

Daesh claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack on the High National Election Commission in Tripoli on 2 May 2018, in which at least 13 people were killed and many injured, and further attacks on the National Oil Corporation in central Tripoli on 10 September 2018, in which at least 2 people were killed, and on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tripoli on 25 December 2018, which killed at least two people. In August 2019, a car bomb explosion in the eastern city of Benghazi killed five, including three foreign nationals.

On 24 November 2018, Daesh claimed responsibility for an attack on the central Libyan town of Tazerbo, in which at least 9 people were killed, 5 injured and 20 others kidnapped.

On 4 October 2017, at least 4 people were killed and many were wounded in a Daesh suicide bomb attack at the main court building in the city of Misrata. On 23 August 2017, at least 11 were killed in a Daesh attack on a checkpoint in the central Jufra region. On 2 October 2016, a Dutch journalist was killed in Sirte, while reporting on the fighting between pro-government forces and Daesh. In Dernah, there’s an ongoing conflict between the Libyan National Army and local armed groups.

Terrorist groups in southern and south-west Libya are also of concern and are using the area as a safe haven and transit route. Attacks have been launched in Libya and across the wider region, for example the In Amenas attack in Algeria in January 2013. Armed groups remain largely autonomous due the unstable political and security situation across large areas of Libya.

Travel in border regions is especially risky. Regional extremist groups, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, operate in the border areas of northern Mali, Niger and Algeria. They have a proven capability of travelling long distances to carry out attacks, including in neighbouring countries and Libya.

Kidnap

There remains a continuing high threat of kidnap from criminal groups, armed groups and terrorist groups across the whole of Libya. Security precautions do not mitigate the threat.

Terrorist groups including Daesh, Al Qaeda and their affiliates routinely use kidnapping as a tactic and are capable of conducting kidnapping across borders. Terrorist groups within Libya have both intent and capability to carry out further kidnappings. It’s a realistic possibility that they will target foreign nationals. Criminal gangs also carry out kidnappings, and there’s a realistic possibility that they would sell hostages on to terrorist groups. Foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Libya in the last 12 months. Four foreign nationals were kidnapped in south-west Libya in November 2017 and most recently, 4 foreign nationals were kidnapped in south-east Libya in July 2018. See our Sahel page for information on the regional threat.

There is a threat of kidnapping by groups operating in North Africa, particularly from Libya, Mauritania and groups originating in the Sahel. This includes Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-IM) and Daesh-affiliated groups, who may travel across the region’s porous border. There is a heightened risk of kidnap in border and remote desert areas of North Africa. Terrorist groups have kidnapped foreigners, government officials and civilians in the region for financial gain and for political leverage. Further kidnaps are likely.

Those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors are viewed as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

If you do choose to travel to Libya against FCDO advice, you should pay careful attention to your safety and security. Security precautions don’t remove the threat and FCDO advice remains against all travel to the country.

There’s a very real threat of kidnap to westerners in the Sahel and surrounding region. The Sahel region includes Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The kidnap threat extends to other countries including Algeria, Cameroon, Libya and Nigeria. There is a continuing threat of kidnap following the military intervention in Mali which began in January 2013. Further attacks are highly likely.

There are several hostages still being held in the Sahel and surrounding region, some of whom have been held for 3 years. Victims in the region have included construction workers, NGO workers, tourists and diplomats of various nationalities, primarily European. Some hostages have been killed, including 9 British nationals since 2009.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking and finances terrorist activity. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Who are the terrorists?

The terrorist threat in the Sahel and surrounding region comes from a number of groups, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) and Al Murabitun, a merger of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s group. These terrorist groups aspire to establish Islamic law in the region and to attack Western interests. Some extremists in Libya are now aligning themselves with Daesh. In February 2015, one such group murdered Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been abducted in kidnappings in Sirte in December 2014 and January 2015.

The groups carry out kidnappings of Westerners for financial gain, prisoner exchange and to exert political pressure on governments. Kidnapping for ransom is AQ-M’s primary source of finance.

AQ-M and regional Islamist groups operate in the border areas of northern Mali, Niger and Algeria. They have proven capability of travelling long distances to carry out attacks, including in Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Criminal gangs also carry out kidnappings for terrorist groups in return for financial payment.

Since 2013 terrorist groups in the region have also kidnapped westerners in Cameroon and Nigeria. The main terrorist threat in the region comes from Boko Haram and Ansaru.

Boko Haram is an Islamist extremist group in Nigeria that has been proscribed by the UK as a terrorist organisation.

Boko Haram regularly mounts attacks in northern Nigeria. Most attacks occur in the north east, particularly in Borno and Yobe states where Boko Haram has its operating base. There have, however, been a large number of attacks in other Nigerian states and further attacks could occur anywhere.

Ansaru is an Islamist terrorist organisation based in northern Nigeria, and is proscribed by the UK.

Ansaru have carried out a number of kidnap attacks in Nigeria. Boko Haram have taken hostages from neighbouring Cameroon and are consistently kidnapping local nationals and Cameroonians.

Rally racing

If you’re taking part in a cross-country rally that travels through the Sahel and surrounding region, you should be aware of the high risk of kidnapping in parts of the region.

Some rallies in the 2012-13 season were cancelled or rerouted because of the risk. One of the most famous rallies in the region, the Paris-Dakar Rally, now takes place in South America due to the threat of kidnap. However, other rallies may go through areas where the FCDO advise against travel. You should consult our country travel advice when planning your route.

If you do choose to take part in a rally that travels through areas where the FCDO advise against travel, make sure you:

  • regularly consult our travel advice for all countries you will be going through
  • take particular care in remote regions and border areas where there’s a higher threat of kidnap
  • don’t share your route publicly as this could make you more vulnerable to attacks
  • satisfy yourself with your individual security arrangements
  • maintain a high level of vigilance at all times
  • have adequate insurance cover; medical evacuation from a remote location could cost you thousands of pounds if you’re not covered

You should also be aware that the ability of the FCDO to provide consular assistance in some countries in the region is limited.

You must get permission before taking any photographs or interviewing at or near military facilities.

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

A Libyan visa issued overseas may not be recognised in some areas, due to the current political conflict.

Previous travel to Israel

Passports showing previous travel to Israel are not accepted for travel to Libya.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK emergency travel documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Libya.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s Travel Health Pro website

Registering with the Libyan authorities

All short stay visitors must register with the police within a week of arrival. This is usually arranged by the company you’re visiting or the local travel agency you’re travelling with. If you don’t register, you may be fined when you leave the country.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Libya on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Libya.

If you choose to travel to Libya against FCDO advice, at least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Healthcare in Libya is on the whole below the standard available in the UK and suffers from acute shortages in skilled personnel and medical supplies, particularly for chronic conditions such as diabetes. COVID-19 has put further pressures on the healthcare system, with hospitals struggling to cope with the influx of patients. There are private clinics in Tripoli. If you need treatment you may be evacuated to Malta or mainland Europe. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Medical help in remote areas may not be available. Even if your travel or insurance company has arrangements with an international air ambulance provider, they may not be allowed to carry out a rescue operation within Libya. The current status of Libyan rescue services is uncertain.

Libya is a cash society. Although the GNA have made efforts to maintain the supply in cash in banks, there continue to be severe shortages of cash and restrictions on bank withdrawals throughout the country.

Credit cards are not widely used although Visa and Mastercard are accepted in some places.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Finance

There is a range of financial support from the government that you can access while you are unable to return due to coronavirus restrictions.

For further UK government guidance on support you can access whilst abroad, visit our waiting to return guidance. This includes guidance on finance, health, and staying connected.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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