Updated August 2017
You can get visas but as things stand, parts of Libya are among the more dangerous places
in North Africa. More here. A trouble-free 2014 transit here – the last one for a while.
The information below predates the current situation.
Money In 2012 it was said: ‘Forget about banks for money changing, everybody uses the gold shops, of which there are many. We are getting about 130 LYD for new $100 bills. You will get a lower rate for small bills. Euros/Sterling may also be possible to change.’
Notes come in 10, 5, 1, half and a quarter with the numbers written in English as well as Arabic.
Price of fuel Along with Egypt and Algeria, fuel in Libya was about as cheap as it gets in the Sahara. Petrol was about 0.20D/litre dinars. Diesel 0.15 LD/litre.
Useful languages Arabic and English. Road signs names are in Arabic but the distance numbers are in Roman (‘English’) script. Nevertheless it helps to learn the ten cardinal Arabic numerals (read from left to right, unlike Arabic script which is read from right to left).
It January 2014 it was rather optimistically reported that tourist visas were being reintroduced. No prices were given but the new regulations required a scanned copy of your passport to be sent to your chosen agency or visa provider along with an itinerary. Visa were approved (or not) within 48 hours. As before, this ‘pre-authorisation’ enabled you to obtain a visa on arrival without the need to visit the embassy.
Up to that point ‘business visas’ cost from €250 with an ‘invitation’ supplied. The visa could be authorised from 10 days after submission at an embassy (possible extra fee) and was available at the Tunisian Ras Adjir border, though it might be considered more of a ‘collection’ with an authorisation in advance. The usual coastal crossing at Ras Adjir from Ben Guerdane in Tunisia was intermittently open to foreign vehicles. Last heard, with a ‘business visa’ you didn’t need an escort to transit the coast route between Tunisia and Egypt, but with lots of checkpoints run by different militias it’s a good idea. The bilingual stamp in your passport is no longer required for tourist visas, but they may change the rules back.
In the UK the Libyan Consulate is at 61-62 Ennismore Gardens, SW7 1NH.
Border costs – all approximate
- €250 visa / person
- From 6LD a fortnight for insurance
- 150LD’ fixed charge’ per car. Motorcycle 75LD
- 70LD to rent an Arabic number plate with a refund at the other end
- Around €35 / day for the guide in your car
Libya is no longer listed on foreign carnets and the local permit is not available. So it’s one less document. Of course if you’re going right across Africa you may as well get a proper FIM carnet. Finding a reliable Libyan tour operator used to be tricky but was getting better. almuheettours.net have been recommended, as have tidwa.com. The transparent http://www.temehu.com web page seems to inspire confidence too. All the websites are there at this update, but you wonder if they’re still doing business.
Border formalities Show green form and passport. Rent number plate and buy local carnet and insurance at another hanger further up. Allow at least two hours. You can change money at the kiosk in the hanger or use the ATM. Account from February 2013 and October 2013 and December 2013.
Desert pistes Nothing doing nor likely to change soon: the south of Libya has become like north Mali was a while back – a haven for jihadists and smugglers. The main area of interest was the fabulous Fezzan in the southwest, and particularly the amazing Akakus mountains east of Ghat (rock paintings – sadly nearly all vandalised by an irate local in 2009). The engravings at Wadi Mathendous were also worth a visit. The piste over to the mosquito-ridden crater at Waw el Namus was also popular, as was a visit to the dune lakes in the erg between Ubari and Idri. Eastern Libya was a bit more off the map but the whole area has not seen tourists since 2010.