COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Libya witnessed a popular uprising against the regime of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi that lasted from February to October 2011 and included fighting throughout the country. Libyans cast ballots July 7 in elections deemed to be free and fair according to election observers. Libya’s General National Congress replaced the Transitional National Council in August 2012 and will lead the country until elections are held on the basis of a new constitution. Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs, laws, and practices. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Libya for more information.
The U.S. Embassy in Libya resumed operations on September 22, 2011. Consular services for U.S. citizens resumed August 27, 2012. Please visit the Embassy website for additional information on services provided.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Libya, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
U.S. Embassy Tripoli
Walee al-Ahad Street
Airport Road District
Telephone: 218 91 220 3203
For emergencies involving U.S. citizens only: telephone 218 91 379 4560
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: Passports and visas are required for all U.S. citizens traveling to Libya. Currently, Libyan embassies abroad are operating under varying conditions; travelers are encouraged to reach out to the Libyan embassy in the country in which they reside to obtain the latest information on visa procedures. Libyan immigration officials sometimes require endorsement letters from the Transitional National Council as well.
The Government of Libya does not allow persons with passports bearing an Israeli visa or entry/exit stamps from Israel to enter Libya.
Tourist Visas: After halting the issuance of tourist visas to U.S. citizens for several years, in June 2010 the Libyan government again began issuing visas to U.S. tourists. Like European tourists, U.S. citizens must apply for tourist visas through tour operators licensed in Libya, who will file the necessary paperwork for the visa with the Libyan authorities. Through licensed tour agencies, tourist visas can be obtained for U.S. tourists within 4 to15 days. Fees for obtaining the visas vary between tour companies. Upon completion of the process, the tourist will receive a letter in Arabic listing his/her passport number and authorizing the issuance of a visa at the Libyan port of entry. This letter must be obtained prior to travel to Libya. Once the tourist is in Libya, he/she must obtain a registration stamp in his/her passport from the Libyan tourist police; this procedure can also be handled by tour agencies. Libyan authorities informed the U.S. Department of State in November 2010 that Arabic passport translations are not required for U.S. citizen tourists. Most European tourists now travel to Libya without the passport translation, and since June 2010, U.S. tourists have entered Libya without having the translation.
Note that these new procedures apply only to tourist visas and should not, under any circumstances, be used for business travel to Libya. Using a tourist visa to travel to Libya for business purposes contravenes Libyan law, and places the traveler at risk of arrest.
Business Visas: U.S. citizens traveling to Libya on business visas require an invitation from/sponsorship by a company operating in Libya. U.S. citizens who apply for Libyan business visas often experience significant delays, regularly waiting several weeks or months for their visas. All visas are vetted and approved by Libyan immigration departments in Tripoli and are only issued by the appropriate Libyan Embassy upon receipt of that approval. There may be an additional wait for actual visa issuance once approval has been received by the Embassy.
The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli cannot provide assistance to U.S. citizens seeking Libyan visas.
Inquiries about obtaining a Libyan visa should be made through the Libyan Embassy in Washington, D.C. The Embassy is located at 2600 Virginia Avenue NW, Suite 705, Washington, DC 20037; 202-944-9601, fax 202-944-9606. Libya’s land borders with Egypt and Tunisia are subject to periodic closures even to travelers with valid Libyan visas. Short-term closures of other land borders may occur with little notice. Within three days of arrival in Libya, visitors must register at the police station closest to where they are residing or they may encounter problems during their stay or upon departure.
The Libyan government requires all its citizens, including dual nationals, to enter and depart Libya on Libyan documents. In some cases U.S. citizens of Libyan descent have entered Libya on an old or expired Libyan identity document and then discovered that they cannot depart Libya without obtaining a valid Libyan passport, which can be a time-consuming, cumbersome process.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Libya. Please verify this information with the Libyan Embassy in Washington, D.C., before you travel.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: After the February 2011 uprising, various militias have supplanted the police in maintaining internal security. Militia members operate checkpoints within and between major cities. Libyan militia members are poorly trained and loosely affiliated with the interim government, which has not yet fully reconstituted the national army and police. The Embassy receives frequent reports of clashes between rival militias and occasional reports of vigilante revenge killings. Foreigners have been detained by militia groups, often for arbitrary or unclear reasons and without access to a lawyer. U.S. citizens are advised to carry proof of citizenship and valid immigration status on them at all times. The Embassy has extremely limited capacity to assist U.S. citizens who have been detained by militia groups. Because the Libyan government does not recognize dual citizenship, dual Libyan-U.S. citizens are not afforded access to U.S. embassy officials when they are detained.
Public demonstrations occur frequently in Libya in the central squares of cities, such as Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli and Freedom Square in Benghazi. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid these demonstrations and take cover if they hear celebratory gun fire.
Recent worldwide terrorism alerts, including the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution, have stated that extremist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East region. In June 2012, an unknown group of attackers detonated an improvised explosive device outside the compound of the U.S. embassy’s office in Benghazi. There have also been attacks on diplomatic vehicle convoys. Any U.S. citizen who decides to travel to Libya should maintain a strong security posture by being aware of surroundings, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, and varying times and routes for all required travel.
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to exercise caution and comply with local regulations when traveling in desert and border regions of Libya. Terrorist attacks in Algeria, the June 2009 murder of a U.S. citizen teacher in Mauritania, kidnappings of Western tourists in desert regions of Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 and 2012, northern Niger in 2010, and Mali in January 2009, and the terrorist activity of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa are indicative of a continued threat in the region.
Filming or taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with the Libyan authorities.
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CRIME: Crime levels in Tripoli have significantly increased since the fall of the Qadhafi regime. There have been increased reports of armed robbery, carjacking, burglary, and crimes involving weapons. The Libyan police and internal security institutions have not fully reconstituted themselves since the revolution, and the majority of the 16,000 criminals released from prisons by the former regime remain at large. Hundreds of thousands of small arms looted from government storage facilities are now in the hands of the local population, which has also contributed to the rise in violent crime.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Libya is 1515. This number is generally monitored only in Arabic.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Libya, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Libya, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Persons violating Libyan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Libya are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Alcohol is also prohibited in Libya, and possessing, using, or trafficking in alcohol can carry severe penalties.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Libya's economy operates on a “cash-only" basis for most transactions, even though U.S. law now permits the use in Libya of credit cards and checks drawn on U.S. banks. A few hotels, restaurants, and major airlines are the only businesses known to accept credit cards (Visa is accepted more often than MasterCard). It is recommended that travelers consult their credit card entity prior to travel to ensure that transactions from Libya can be accepted by that entity. A number of ATMs are in service at a few large hotels, major office complexes, the airport, and one or two markets, although their availability is sporadic. Foreign visitors should be aware that the penalties for use of unauthorized currency dealers are severe. The Libyan workweek is Sunday-Thursday.
A number of Libyan entities have assets frozen by economic sanctions. For further information, please contact the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department.
Libyan customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the introduction into Libya or removal from Libya of firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and currency. The importation and consumption of alcohol, pornography, and pork products are illegal in Libya. Please see our Customs information.
In addition to being subject to all Libyan laws, U.S. citizens of Libyan origin may also be subject to laws that impose special obligations on Libyan citizens. The Government of Libya considers all children born to Libyan fathers to be Libyan citizens, even if they were not issued a Libyan birth certificate or a Libyan passport. Dual Libyan-American nationals may not enter or leave Libya on their U.S. passports and must obtain a Libyan travel document before traveling to Libya. Persons with dual nationality who travel to Libya on their Libyan passports are normally treated as Libyan citizens by the local government. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide U.S. consular assistance to those traveling on Libyan passports is extremely limited. For additional information, please see our information on dual nationality.
Accessibility: While in Libya, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States.
Libyan law provides for the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, and provides for monetary and other types of social care. A number of government-approved organizations care for persons with disabilities and protect access to employment, education, health care, and other state services. Few public facilities have adequate access for persons with physical disabilities.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: While some health care providers have been trained in the United States or Europe, basic modern medical care and/or medicines may not be available in Libya. Many Libyan citizens prefer to be treated outside Libya for ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
Most health care facilities in Libya expect payment in cash at the time of service even if you are hospitalized. They will not bill your insurance. It will be up to you to file the necessary paperwork with your insurance company. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Libya is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Libya can be hazardous, and there is a high accident rate. Enforcement of traffic laws is rare. As a result, it is often difficult to anticipate the actions of other drivers on Libyan streets and highways. Wind-blown sand can reduce visibility without warning. Road conditions are poor, and public transportation, which is limited to occasional bus service, is poor. Taxis are available, but many taxi drivers are reckless and untrained, and English-speaking drivers areextremely rare. The sidewalks in urban areas are often in bad condition and cluttered, but pedestrians are able to use them.
Paved roads in rural areas are satisfactory; however, many rural roads are unpaved (i.e., dirt roads). Also, major highways along the seacoast and leading south merge into single-lane highways once they are outside the cities. These roads are heavily trafficked and can be precarious to navigate, especially at night and during the winter rainy season. The presence of sand deposits, as well as domestic and wild animals that frequently cross these highways and rural roads, makes them even more hazardous.
The availability of roadside assistance is extremely limited and offered only in Arabic. In urban areas and near the outskirts of major cities there is a greater possibility of assistance by police and emergency ambulance services, although they are usually ill-equipped to deal with serious injuries or accidents. Very few streets are marked or have signage, and highway signs are normally available only in Arabic.
Please refer to our Road Safety Overseas for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Libya, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Libya’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page. In addition, the FAA maintains prohibitions on flight operations over or within Libya by U.S. air carriers, commercial operators and airmen under a Special Federal Aviation Regulation. More information is available on the FAA website.
In general, aviation safety conditions have not yet returned to pre-revolutionary levels. A number of airlines have instituted additional security checks, such as passenger screening at the gate and additional screening of all passenger luggage. U.S. government direct-hire personnel are instructed to travel on commercial airlines that utilize these additional security measures. U.S. citizens departing Libya should contact their airline directly to determine what secondary screening procedures, if any, are in place.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Libya dated August 27, 2012 to update the section on Aviation Safety Oversight.