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

2014-04-07T19:06:46+01:00: Latest update: Summary section: The airport has now fully reopened, however some airlines have cancelled flights.

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

The FCO advise against all travel to all other parts of Libya, including Benghazi and Derna.

On 21 March there was an attack on Tripoli International Airport which caused damage to the runway. There were no casualties. The airport was temporarily closed but has now fully reopened . However some airlines have cancelled flights. Contact your airline or travel company for further information.

Since December 2013, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya, mostly in Benghazi and Derna. 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. See Terrorism

There is currently a high risk of potential demonstrations throughout Libya. 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, particularly at night. 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. See Entry Requirements

The British Embassy in Tripoli provides full consular assistance to British nationals and eligible persons by appointment. The British Office in Benghazi has temporarily suspended operations.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Political situation

The National Transitional Council declared the liberation of Libya on 23 October 2011. Following elections on 7 July 2012, the Libyan National Transitional Council formally handed over power to the new Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan and his government on14 November 2012. There have been some protests outside government buildings. You should stay away from political demonstrations and rallies, monitor the local security situation carefully, and follow any advice or instruction from the local security authorities. Significant political events may impact on the security situation. On 10 October 2013 the Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was taken by force from the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli and released later the same day.

There is a high volume of weapons in circulation on the streets of Libya. Violent clashes between armed groups are possible across the country, particularly at night, and even in those places that have previously avoided conflict. In November 2013 violence erupted in Tripoli between armed militiamen and protesters demanding they leave the city, resulting in more than 30 deaths.

Celebratory gunfire has continued since the revolution and there have been a number of deaths as a result of rounds falling from the sky. This has reduced but in the event of celebratory gunfire you should stay indoors if possible.

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. Make sure your homes and possessions are secured. Avoid carrying large amounts of money, valuable jewellery, watches or cameras, and keep mobile phones out of sight.

Local travel

There is a higher threat from criminal activity in areas bordering Sudan, Chad, Niger and Algeria. With the exception of the official land border crossings to Tunisia and Egypt, visitors and residents are not allowed to travel in the interior of the country or border areas without an official guide and/or specific permission from the Libyan authorities.

The Libyan authorities may restrict access to the more remote parts of the country at short notice.

Land border crossing points may close with little or no notice. Check before you travel. The road to the Egyptian land border is open but has numerous checkpoints and may be temporarily restricted without notice. Access to the Tunisian land border may also be temporarily restricted without notice. The land borders with Chad, Niger, Sudan and Algeria have been temporarily closed.

Road travel

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.

The road to the Egyptian border is open but has numerous checkpoints and may be temporarily restricted without notice. Take extra care and comply with instructions given by local security officials.

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

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 ‘wet leased’ from other airlines.

Terrorism

There is a high threat from terrorism. There is a threat of retaliatory attacks following the French intervention in Mali. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. There have been a number of attacks and threats against western interests throughout Libya. Further attacks against westerners, western interests and symbolic targets are likely and could be opportunistic. These could target diplomatic interests, international hotels, the General National Congress building and other government and security institutions.

There is a high terrorist threat in Libya from extremist elements outside of state control, some of which have links to Al Qaeda, particularly in the east of the country where armed extremist groups are known to operate. South-west Libya is also of concern as an area for launching attacks both in Libya and across the wider region, for example the In Amenas attack in Algeria in January 2013. Militia groups remain largely autonomous and this has led to a lack of security across large area of Libya.

In Tripoli, there was an attack against the French Embassy in April 2013, an attack against the UAE Embassy and an Italian diplomatic vehicle in July 2013, and an attack against the Russian Embassy in October 2013.

In Benghazi, an attack on the US Consulate in September 2012 resulted in a number of fatalities including the US Ambassador. In October 2013, a car bomb exploded outside the Swedish and Finnish Honorary Consulate in Benghazi damaging the front of the building and nearby houses.

Since December 2013, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya. Incidents include: a French national and 2 Egyptian nationals shot dead in Benghazi on 2 March 2014; 7 Egyptian nationals found shot dead near Benghazi on 24 February; a UK national and a New Zealand national shot dead near Mellitah, to the west of Sabratah and north of Ajaylat, in early January; a US National shot dead in Benghazi on 5 December 2013.

Kidnapping

There is a threat of kidnapping in Libya, including around the border regions, from terrorists operating in the region. Westerners could be targeted if the opportunity arises.

Since January 2014, a number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Libya, these include: 5 Egyptian diplomats and 1 Egyptian national working at the Egyptian Embassy who were kidnapped in Tripoli on 24 January and released on 27 January; a South Korean national who was kidnapped in Tripoli on 19 January and released on 23 January; 2 Italian nationals who were kidnapped near Derna on 17 January and released on 7 February.

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 as far away as Libya.

The kidnap threat is not isolated to terrorist strongholds. Criminal gangs have carried out kidnappings for terrorist groups in return for financial reward. See our Sahel page for information on the regional threat.

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. The threat has increased following the military intervention in Mali which began in January 2013. Further attacks are highly likely.

There are currently around 6 hostages being held in the Sahel and surrounding region, some of whom have been held for 2 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.

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.

Terrorist groups in the region have also kidnapped 16 westerners in Cameroon and Nigeria since December 2012.

Working in the region

If you do choose to work in an area where the FCO advise against travel due to the high threat of kidnapping, you will need a high level of security. Make sure you:

Festivals

A number of festivals take place in the Sahel every year. If you’re planning to attend a festival in the region, you should consult the country travel advice and check whether it is in an area where the FCO advise against travel.

A British national was among a group of tourists kidnapped from the Mali-Niger border after attending a festival in Mali in 2009. He was killed some months later.

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

Local laws reflect the fact that Libya is an Islamic country. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

Dress conservatively at all times, covering arms, shoulders and legs. Avoid shorts, tight fitting or revealing clothes in public.

The sale and consumption of alcohol are against the law throughout Libya. Stiff penalties are imposed for the possession or use of alcohol. Don’t try to bring alcohol into the country. Those found in possession of any illegal drugs may receive a prison sentence.

Importing pork and pork products is prohibited in Libya. Anyone found importing such products could face legal proceedings.

Homosexuality is considered a criminal offence in Libya, for which the minimum prison sentence is 3 years. The authorities are known to charge and convict homosexuals under this law. Sexual relations outside marriage are also punishable by law.

You should carry some form of identification with you at all times.

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

Entry requirements

Visas

British nationals must get a visa before travelling to Libya. Contact the  Libyan Embassy on 020 7201 8280 for advice on how to make your application. Their consular offices are at: 61-62 Ennismore Gardens, London, SW7 1NH.

Before applying for a visa you will need a letter of invitation from your Libyan sponsor (eg a Libyan government department or registered company). You may also need to submit a letter of invitation to the Libyan immigration authorities in Tripoli. If you don’t have a sponsor, you may need to contact a Libyan visa facilitator.

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.

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

If you have a question about this travel advice, you can email the FCO Travel Advice Team:

Want to know whether your passport’s valid for travel? Don’t send an email - you can get this info now in the entry requirements section of this travel advice

TravelAdvicePublicEnquiries@fco.gov.uk

See also

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  • British Embassy Tripoli

    Title:British Embassy Tripoli, main
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    24th Floor
    Tripoli Towers (formerly Bourj al-Fateh)
    Tripoli
    Libya

    Contact: Telephone: +218 (0)21 335 1084/5/6
    Visiting:Opening hours: 08:00am to 3:15pm (Sunday to Thursday)

    Email address for consular enquiries: tripoliconsular@fco.gov.uk
    Email address for commercial enquiries: Trade.Libya@fco.gov.uk
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  • UK Trade & Investment Libya

    Title:UK Trade & Investment Libya
    Email:trade.libya@fco.gov.uk
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    British Embassy
    24th Floor
    Tripoli Towers (formerly Bourj al Fateh)
    Tripoli
    Libya

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