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Latest travel advice for Libya including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health

2015-05-29T16:10:05+01:00: Latest Update: Summary - on 10 May a cargo ship was attacked by Libyan Air Force aircraft off the Libyan coast

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Libya due to the ongoing fighting, threat of terrorist attacks and kidnap against foreigners (including from ISIL-affiliated extremists), and a deteriorating security situation throughout the country.

British nationals in Libya are strongly urged to leave immediately by commercial means. The British Embassy in Tripoli has temporarily closed, and is unable to provide consular assistance.

There is a high threat from terrorism. There have been a number of attacks and threats against westerners, western interests and symbolic targets throughout Libya. ISIL-affiliated groups have stated an intention to target foreigners. There is clear evidence that groups within Libya have both the intent and capability to carry out kidnappings and are specifically targeting foreign nationals:

Recent car bomb attacks in public areas in Tripoli, Tobruk and Benghazi have caused a number of casualties. Further attacks are likely and could be opportunistic. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. These could target foreign and diplomatic personnel and premises, international hotels, government and other official security institutions.

There is a very high threat of kidnapping throughout Libya from armed tribes, criminals and terrorists, including those who have affiliated with ISIL. In February 2015, extremists claiming affiliation with ISIL murdered a group of Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been kidnapped in Sirte in December. Egypt subsequently launched air strikes against Darnah.

Further terrorist and kidnap attacks are highly likely. See Terrorism.

There is widespread fighting throughout Libya, including south west of Tripoli in Warshafarna and surrounding areas, and in Benghazi. Ports and airports, and oil and gas installations have also been targeted. On 10 May, 1 crewman was killed and several injured after a cargo vessel was attacked off the Libyan coast by Libyan Air Force jets. In January, 2 crewmen were killed in an air attack on a Greek-operated oil tanker anchored off Libya’s coast. There is a high risk of being caught in indiscriminate gunfire or shelling, including air strikes, in all areas where the fighting has spread.

Since December 2013, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya. Further attacks against foreigners are likely and could be opportunistic. Fighting can break out anywhere without warning, quickly putting those in the area at risk.

Fighting has caused the temporary suspension or closure of airports, closed roads and led to the closure of some border crossings. All airports are vulnerable to attack. Tripoli International Airport has been closed since 13 July 2014. Limited commercial departure options are sometimes available, but you should check with your airline.

If you choose to travel to Libya against FCO advice, you should consider your security arrangements carefully and take all necessary security precautions, including contingency plans. If you’re entering Libya as a media representative, you should get press accreditation from the relevant Libyan authorities.

You must get permission before taking any photographs or interviewing at or near military facilities. If you choose to travel to Libya against FCO advice, you should get the right visa, or risk deportation. See Entry Requirements

If you choose to travel to Libya against FCO advice, you should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

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. See Terrorism

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.

Terrorism

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attacks globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

There is a high threat from terrorism in Libya. Terrorist groups, including those affiliated to ISIL have carried out attacks across Libya and have the capacity to carry out attacks at anytime and anywhere in the country:

There have been a number of attacks against diplomatic premises, most recently against the UAE and Egyptian embassies on 13 November 2014, the Algerian embassy on 17 January 2015, the Sudanese embassy on 3 February 2015, the South Korean Embassy on 12 April 2015, the Moroccan Embassy on 13 April 2015 and the Spanish Embassy on 20 April 2015.

Extremist groups claiming affiliation with ISIL have claimed control over the coastal towns of Dernah and Sirte. 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, including Libya.

Kidnapping

There is a high threat of kidnapping in Libya from terrorists operating in the region, including ISIL-affiliated groups who have murdered those they have abducted. The kidnap threat is not confined to terrorist strongholds. Criminal gangs have carried out kidnappings for financial reward and there’s a high risk that they would sell any hostages on to terrorist groups.

Since January 2014, a number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped, including in Tripoli and at oil installations. Attacks on ports and the extractive industry highlight the high risk to oil and gas infrastructure. It’s likely that attacks on this kind of infrastructure will continue. There is clear evidence that groups within Libya have both the intent and capability to carry out kidnappings and are specifically targeting foreign nationals.

See our Sahel page for information on the regional threat.

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

Sahel Region

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 ISIL. 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 FCO 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 FCO advise against travel, make sure you:

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

Recent kidnap attacks

Local laws and customs

Don’t use cameras close to military or official sites.

Entry requirements

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.

The Libyan authorities have confirmed they will accept British passports extended by 12 months by British Embassies and Consulates under additional measures put in place in mid-2014.

Yellow fever

Yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Registering with the Libyan authorities

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

Health

Contact your GP around 8 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and useful information about healthcare abroad, including a country-by-country guide of reciprocal health care agreements with the UK, is available from NHS Choices.

Healthcare in Libya is on the whole below the standard available in the UK. 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.

Although not common in Libya, there were confirmed cases of malaria in the south-eastern city of al-Kufra in 2010.

Money

Libya is a cash society.

Credit cards are not widely used although Visa and Mastercard are accepted in some places. There are a few reliable ATMs in Tripoli. Commercial money transfer services are available at Tripoli International Airport and in Tripoli. Money transfers can also be arranged through some banks.

Contact FCO Travel Advice Team

This email service only offers information and advice for British nationals planning to travel abroad.

If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the consular assistance team on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

If you’re abroad and need emergency help, please contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

If you have a question about this travel advice, you can email us at TravelAdvicePublicEnquiries@fco.gov.uk

Before you send an email, make sure you have read the travel advice for the country you’re travelling to, and the guidance on how the FCO puts travel advice together.

See also

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  • British Embassy Tripoli

    Title:British Embassy Tripoli has temporarily suspended operations from 4 August 2014
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    Title:UK Trade & Investment Libya
    Email:trade.libya@fco.gov.uk
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