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

2014-11-25T17:11:25+00:00: Latest update: Summary and Air travel section - airports have been subject to recent bomb attacks and remain vulnerable

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Libya due to the ongoing fighting and greater instability 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 currently unable to provide consular assistance.

Limited commercial departure options are still available. Flights are leaving Misrata and Maitega. Al Abraq airport (currently serving Benghazi) and Tobruk but availability may be limited. Airports have been subject to recent bomb attacks and remain vulnerable. Flights to Egypt and Tunisia from Misrata and Maitega airports have been suspended. Tripoli International Airport has been closed since 13 July 2014. The schedule of some flights are published on the Afriqiyah facebook page. However, as flight schedules may change without notice, you should contact your airline or travel company for the latest information before travelling.

Land routes remain open but the security situation can change very quickly. There may be some delays and temporary closures at the border crossing. You should check the situation at the border immediately before intended travel.

The British Embassy in Tripoli has temporarily closed, and is no longer able to provide consular assistance.

Since September 2014, there has been intense fighting and shelling between militias in the Warshafarna and surrounding areas, south west of Tripoli. Intense fighting has also continued in Benghazi. There is a very high risk of being caught in indiscriminate gunfire or shelling in all those areas to which the fighting has spread. Violent clashes between armed groups are possible across the entire country, including in Tripoli, particularly at night. Fighting can break out in many places and at short notice. It can become serious quickly putting those in the area at risk.

There is a high threat from terrorism including kidnapping, indiscriminate gunfire, and bomb attacks. In November 2014, there were casualties after a number of car bomb attacks in public areas in Tripoli, Tobruk and Benghazi. Since January 2014, a number of foreign nationals have been kidnapped, including in Tripoli. See Terrorism

On 27 July 2014, a British diplomatic convoy was subject to an attempted car-jacking on the road between Tripoli and Zawiya. Shots were fired but no one was injured.

On 13 July 2014, Tripoli International Airport was closed following clashes that broke out between armed groups in the area surrounding the airport.

Since December 2013, a number of foreign nationals have been shot dead in Libya. Further attacks against foreigners are likely and could be opportunistic.

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 are entering Libya for work or business, you should get the right visa, or risk deportation. See Entry Requirements

Avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. If you become aware of any nearby violence you should leave the area immediately. 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.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Safety and security

Political situation

Since the 2011 revolution, the political and security situation has been unstable and constantly evolving. 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. Political events may impact on the security situation.

On 6 November the Libyan Supreme court ruled issued a ruling on the legality the Libyan House of Representatives. This has increased political tensions and divisions between the East and West of Libya.

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.

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

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. Access to the Tunisian and Egyptian land borders may also be temporarily restricted without notice. The land borders with Chad, Niger, Sudan and Algeria have been temporarily closed.

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 and have been subject to recent bomb attacks. 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.

Contact your airline or travel company for further information before travelling.

Terrorism

There is considered to be 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. You should be vigilant at this time.

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

Since 9 November there have been a series of car bomb attacks across the country, including in Shahat (East of Al Beida), Benghazi, Tobruk and Tripoli, causing indiscriminate casualties.

There were a number of attacks against diplomatic premises during 2012 and 2013, including an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi in September 2012 which resulted in a number of fatalities including the US Ambassador.

There were a number of attacks against diplomatic premises during 2012 and 2013, including an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi in September 2012 which resulted in a number of fatalities including the US Ambassador.

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. Armed groups remain largely autonomous and this has led to a lack of security across large area of Libya.

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. Since January 2014, foreign nationals are increasingly being targeted by both criminals and extremist groups.

The kidnap threat is not confined 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.

Since 2013 terrorist groups in the region have also kidnapped westerners in Cameroon and Nigeria.

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.

In 2015, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 18 June and finish on 18 July. See Travelling during 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.

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
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