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Quick Facts
Capital Tripoli
Government Jamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, a military dictatorship in practice
Currency Libyan dinar (LYD)
Area 1,759,540 sq km
Population 5,900,754, incl. 166,510 non-nationals (July 2006 est.)
Language Arabic, Italian, English, all are widely understood in the major cities
Religion Sunni Muslim 97%
Electricity 127V/50Hz or 230V/50Hz
Country code +218
Internet TLD .ly
Time Zone UTC +2

Libya is a country in North Africa. In the north it has a Mediterranean Sea coast, with Egypt to the east and Tunisia to the west. It also has land borders with Algeria, Chad, Niger, and Sudan. More than 90% of the country is desert or semidesert.


Map of Libya


Other destinations

  • Leptis Magna - Another highlight is the old Roman city of Leptis Magna. In its time, this site was the second largest town of the Roman Empire, after Rome.


Get in

Passports and visas are required for entry into Libya for most nationalities. Those who have passports indicating travel to Israel will not be allowed to enter. It is now legal for Americans to travel to Libya and spend money there. Although the US State Department website claims that US citizens cannot obtain visas from the new Libyan Liaison Office [1] in Washington DC, the office appears to provide and process visa applications for US citizens.

By plane

Tripoli is served by most major European and Arab airlines and of course by Libyan Airlines [2] which uses the airport as its main hub. Essentially one may expect daily flights to the major regional airports such as Heathrow, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome, Cairo and multiple flights per week to Milan, Manchester, Vienna, Alexandria, etc.

A new private Libyan airline, Afriqiyah [3], provides services to many European and African cities with Tripoli as a hub. It uses new Airbus aircraft and seems to be expanding its route map rapidly.

Another new private Libyan airline, Buraq, provides domestic services as well as some limited international flights (example to Istanbul). It should be noted that some of Buraq's fleet (though not all of it) recently appeared on a list of unsafe airlines published by the EU.

There are also some international routes between Libya's second city Benghazi to destinations such as Alexandria and Cairo (according to the LAA website London and Casablanca are planned from Benghazi). These tend to be more seasonal and one should check schedules ahead of time.

Of course there are many direct flights from places such as Amsterdam to small oasis towns in the middle of the Sahara but these are operated by the oil companies for private purposes (i.e. to ferry the foreign oil workers directly to the oil fields).

By train

Libya has no international train connections and no significant domestic train infrastructure.

By car

One may travel to Libya overland. There are bus and "shared taxi" (accommodating 6 people in a station wagon) services from such places as Tunis, Alexandria, Cairo, Djerba, etc.

There are many online blogs showing people having done the trip in their own 4x4s or using their own dirt bikes, campervans, etc. It would seem that they encounter quite some difficulty at the border (1-2 days to clear paperwork type problem) but considerable hospitality once in the country.

By bus

There are bus services to both Tunisia and Egypt.

By boat

Get around

By plane

Libyan Airlines [4] has many domestic air routes and they are relatively inexpensive. The same goes for the new private Buraq airlines (see "Get in").

By train

Libya has had no train system since 1965. There are various plans to rebuild some lines.

By road

There are many weblogs showing people having done the trip in their own 4x4s or using their own dirt bikes, campervans, etc. It would seem that they encounter considerable hospitality once in the country. In fact it is not uncommon to see SUVs with Texas plates on them in Tripoli (most likely US oil workers of which approx 5-10,000 live in Libya). It is also not uncommon to see convoys of European campervans on Libya's highways. One German citizen recently back from a dirt bike tour of the dessert explained how it was nearly impossible to get gas station attendants to accept payment for gas fill-ups since he was quite the novelty. In fact gasoline in Libya is typically cheaper than bottled water.

Some self-drive car rental services are available in the large cities but the rates are typically high and the cars unreliable.

There are many bus services between the major cities and it is certainly a cheap way to travel. The larger bus companies use modern air conditioned touring buses which are relatively comfortable. This is important on the longer journeys (such as Tripoli to Benghazi which takes about 14hours by bus). The buses make stops for meals and the very important tea (shahee) breaks along the way. A faster method is to take the "shared taxis" but some of the drivers tend to be more reckless in order to cut the travel time.


Arabic is the main language though some more localised languages such as Berber and Touareg are used in many small town. English is somewhat widely understood in the major cities. Libya's Italian colonial past and access to Italian television in the 1980s makes that language relatively well understood. However this is no where near the level of, for example, French in Tunisia or Morocco.



The Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which contribute about 95% of export earnings, about one-quarter of GDP, and 60% of public sector wages. Substantial revenues from the energy sector coupled with a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, but little of this income flows down to the lower orders of society. Libyan officials in the past four years have made progress on economic reforms as part of a broader campaign to reintegrate the country into the international fold. This effort picked up steam after UN sanctions were lifted in September 2003 and as Libya announced that it would abandon programs to build weapons of mass destruction in December 2003. Almost all US unilateral sanctions against Libya were removed in April 2004, helping Libya attract more foreign direct investment, mostly in the energy sector. Libya faces a long road ahead in liberalizing the socialist-oriented economy, but initial steps - including applying for WTO membership, reducing some subsidies, and announcing plans for privatization - are laying the groundwork for a transition to a more market-based economy.

The exchange rate in 2005 was about 1.30 Libyan dinars per US dollar.



The most common drink in Libya is tea. Green tea and "red" tea are served almost everywhere from small cups, usually sweetened. Mint is sometmes mixed in with the tea, especially after meals.

Coffee is traditionally served Turkish style: strong, from small cups, no cream. Most coffee shops in the larger cities have espresso machines and will make espresso, capuccino and such. Quality varies so ask locals for the best around.

Alcohol is officially banned in Libya though some rumors are heard that the government plans to introduce alcohol sales in some resorts planned for mass western tourism in the future. In reality alcohol is very readily available through a local black market (anything from whiskey to beer to wine). It should be noted that penalties for unlawful purchase can be quite stiff and travellers should always exercise appropriate common sense with respect to local laws and, more importantly, local sensitivities and traditions.


Major cities have a range of accommodations available from shabby hotels to true five-star ones. Prices vary accordingly.

While it seems to be diminishing with the arrival of more tourists every year, Libyans have a strong tradition of taking travellers into their own homes and lavishing hospitality on them. This is certainly true in the smaller towns and villages.

Youth Hostels associated with the IYH Federation (HI) are available. Please contact the Libyan Youth Hostel Association T.+218 21 4445171.


there is only deserts in this orthodox country not much to learn otherwise


Stay safe

Stay healthy

It is important that you bring your own bottled water. This is because not all of the water in Libya is sanitary.


97% of the population is Sunni Muslim.


Libya does not currently maintain an embassy in the US but a new "liaison office" +202-944-9601, [5] opened in 2005 in Washington DC, and the US State Department announced a normalization in US-Libyan relations, thus one may expect full diplomatic representation in the near future. The US suspended all embassy activities in Tripoli in 1980, but a U.S. Liaison Office [6] opened in Tripoli in 2004, to be upgraded to Embassy status in the near future.

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