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Moving to Libya

*Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) declared a state of emergency in early 2019. Several foreign governments, including the US, UK and Australia, have advised on their websites that citizens should not travel to Libya.

Expats moving to Libya will find a country still recovering from a violent civil uprising against the regime of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi which began in February 2011. Despite the end of the conflict in October 2011 following al-Gaddafi’s death, the security situation in Libya remains uncertain and protests and violent clashes between opposition groups and clan factions continue to occur sporadically across the country.

Needless to say, Libya is not the expat destination that it once was. Although some foreign companies and expats who left Libya at the height of the conflict have slowly trickled back, the situation remains uncertain and jobs are not guaranteed. Expats seeking work opportunities in Libya should consider their options carefully and continue to monitor developments closely. 

Libya is a Muslim nation, and it follows that it’s a conservative society in which nightlife is limited, alcohol is banned and eating out is nowhere near as frivolous an experience as in the Western world.

Most expats moving to Libya are concentrated in Tripoli, nearby Janzour, or in Benghazi. Misurata and Zawia also attract their fare share of expats. It’s rare that foreigners relocate to Libya without confirmed employment, most of which is in the hydrocarbon or construction industries. As a result, many expats have their accommodation, visas, healthcare and even their children's education arranged by a relocation agency or by their employer. The demand for university ESL teachers is also high across Libya and attracts many expats.

Expats may find that the public education standards in Libya are well below what they're used to. It is only in recent years that more options have become available for expat children – although choices remain few, the handful of international schools available are generally well organised and reputable. 

Libya is a developing country and one that has been severely impacted by a devastating conflict. Libya will not suit someone looking for a vibrant modern country, replete with cultural, retail and nightlife opportunities. Added to this, the uncertain security situation is certainly a major deterrent to any expat seeking to live and work in Libya.


Fast facts

Population: About 6.4 million

Major religion: Islam

Capital city: Tripoli

Legal system: Transitional council

Main languages: Arabic (official), English (tourist centres, business)

Time: GMT +2

Electricity: 127/230 volts, 50 Hz. Round 3-pin plugs are used.

Money: The Libyan Dinar (LYD), divided into 1,000 dirhams

Tipping: Not common, may be offensive. However, tipping tour guides is appreciated.

International dialling code: +218. City codes include (0)21 for Tripoli and (0)22 for Tripoli International Airport.

Emergency numbers: 193 (police), 190 (fire), 191 (ambulance)

Internet domain: .ly

Drives on the: Right

Weather in Libya

Libya is a large country with weather patterns that vary by region. Most travellers are drawn to the Mediterranean coastline. This region has hot and dry summers and mild winters. The desert that dominates most of Libya has severe weather – days are extremely hot and nights are cold. 

Rainfall in Libya is sporadic. Autumn and winter mostly have days of drizzle. Humidity is also generally low.

In spring and autumn, Libya experiences the ghibli which is a hot, dry and dusty desert wind that can blow for up to a week, raising temperatures on the coast to 122°F (50°C).

The best time to visit Libya, particularly to the coastal areas, is June to October, as temperatures have a more benign average temperature of 80°F (27°C).

Embassy contacts for Libya


Libyan embassies

  • Libyan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 944 9601

  • Libyan Embassy, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7201 8280

  • Libyan Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 842 7519

  • Libyan Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6290 7900

  • Libyan Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 3902


Foreign embassies in Libya*

  • United States Embassy, Tripoli: +218 91 220 3239

  • British Embassy, Tripoli: +218 21 335 1084/5/6

  • Canadian Embassy, Tripoli: +218 21 335 1633

  • Australian Consulate-General, Tripoli: +218 21 335 1468/69

  • South African Embassy, Tripoli: +218 21 333 7006

* Foreign diplomatic relations in Libya may be suspended due to instability in the country

Public Holidays in Libya

 

2020

2021

Revolution Day

17 February

17 February

Labour Day

1 May

1 May 

Eid Al-Fitr

24 May

13 May

Arafat Day

30 July

19 July

Eid Al-Adha

31 July - 2 August

20 - 23 July

Hijri New Year

20 August

10 August

Martyr's Day

16 September

16 September

Liberation Day

23 October

23 October

Prophet's Birthday

29 October

19 October

Independence Day

24 December

24 December

*Islamic holidays are based on sightings of the moon and dates on the Gregorian calendar are therefore subject to change.

Safety in Libya

Expats should note that travelling to Libya is not recommended. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Libya due to the ongoing fighting, threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping of foreigners (including from ISIL-affiliated extremists), as well as a dangerous security situation throughout the country.

Political contestation at the highest levels of government and continued militia presence in some areas, including Tripoli and Benghazi, are major medium-term obstacles. Ethnic tensions, stirred up by the 2011 civil war, have resulted in severe internal instability and conflict at times. Clashes between rival groupings are frequently reported in the country’s central and southern areas, while a growth in the presence of Islamist-leaning militia groups in eastern Libya, specifically around Benghazi, are worrying signs.


Crime in Libya

The crime rate in Libya is growing and has been fuelled by the easy availability of weapons, high levels of unemployment, a poorly resourced police force and presence of numerous non-state militia groups.

Serious armed crime, such as carjacking, robbery and burglary, is common in major cities. Petty street crimes are also a concern. The possibility of being affected increases if common sense precautions are not adopted or if property is left unattended in public or in plain view, such as in a vehicle. Expats should invest in adequate residential security measures.


Kidnapping in Libya

There is a very high threat of kidnapping throughout Libya from armed tribes, criminals and terrorists, including those who have affiliated with ISIL. In many cases, it is foreigners who are targeted. 


Protests in Libya

Protests in Libya are motivated by local disputes and concerns and political developments. Libya is likely to remain susceptible to unrest in the future. During periods of unrest the threat to expats is considered incidental only.


Road safety in Libya

Driving standards in Libya are poor and the country has a high traffic-accident rate. The situation is exacerbated by lax enforcement of traffic laws and poor road conditions, particularly outside of main cities and towns, and poorly maintained vehicles. The threat of accidents increases further at night and during sandstorms when visibility is greatly reduced. 

Checkpoints are a common feature across main towns in Libya. These can be manned by former rebel fighters, as well as interim government troops and police. These checkpoints are designed to stem the flow of weaponry in the respective cities and ensure that anti-government elements and former regime supporters are not able to transit into the respective cities to conduct attacks.

Many of the checkpoints are manned by inexperienced and poorly trained personnel, which raises the possibility of misunderstandings and security threats. 

Working in Libya

With political tensions high, expats moving to Libya are those with secure job offers already in place. Expats often place emphasis on salary when approached with a job offer in Libya. The money offered to Westerners will certainly make the country a more attractive option. Most expats are employed in the petroleum industry which Libya’s economy depends heavily on. 

Expats working in Libya will find themselves in a conservative Muslim country, and business will often be conducted in accordance with this. Arabic is the official language of Libya. Expats will do well to have at least a basic understanding of the language. English and French are also widely spoken in business circles.


Industries in Libya

Expats considering working in Libya will almost certainly be pigeon-holed into employment by one of the hydrocarbon companies that dominate the economy.

In a country where the majority of export earnings are attributed to the country’s oil resources, foreigners may find working opportunities in Libya of varying description and degree. However, employers and sponsors will most likely be concentrated in sectors that seek to satisfy energy consumption.

Construction is another main sector of employment in Libya. This industry supports projects commissioned by the Organisation for the Development of Administrative Centres and other arms of government, such as the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Infrastructure. Other important industries including mining, agriculture, and tourism.


Finding a job in Libya

Expats wanting to move to Libya should secure an employment contract before arriving in the country. All foreigners require a visa to enter Libya. Expats should not arrive in the country with the intention of trying to find work.

There are a number of websites focused on employment for expats in Libya. A good starting point is sites like expatcareers.com. Newspapers such as the Libya Herald, which is available online in English, may also be useful resources. Ultimately, most expats will be approached by international companies or even transferred through the company they are already working for.

Visas for Libya

Expats should note that tourist visas for Libya are only available through tour operators. Also be aware that visitors holding travel documents containing a visa (valid or expired) for Israel or any evidence of entry in Israel, will be refused entry. A number of governments including that of: the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Hungary, Latvia, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Norway, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Russia, Denmark, Slovakia, Estonia, Italy and Poland advise their citizens against all travel to Libya.


Work visa for Libya

Everyone entering Libya needs a visa to do so. Most of the burden of proof for business visas and work permits for Libya falls on the hiring company. Prior to entering the country, applicants need a letter of invitation from the sponsoring company. This can be a time-consuming process. Since Libya's civil uprising, the processing times for visas and work permits may take even longer than usual as Libyan embassies and consulates are working under varying conditions. It's therefore best to apply as early as possible to avoid delays.

The sponsoring company for a visa or work permit will initiate the application process by formally requesting the visa from within Libyan borders. Expats will need to supply their future employer with basic details to facilitate this process. At this point, expats should advise whether or not their family will be following. In some cases their visas can be processed together, and the extra administrative hassle of completing the process again can be avoided. If this is not feasible, then they can only formally apply for their visas once an expat has migrated to the country and invites them.

Once the employer applies to the Libyan Embassy, a reference number is issued and the application is officially recorded in the system. At this point, expats should contact the Libyan Consulate in their country and request a visa application form. They will cross-check the reference number and email the necessary document.

The documents that need to be sent to the consulate vary, but may include a formal letter of invitation, passport photos, round-trip air tickets, the visa fee, and the complete visa application form. The application process can take up to six months.

Lastly, it is a good idea to have personal identification documents, like birth and marriage certificates, officially translated into Arabic as well.


Exit and Re-Entry Visas for Libya

If leaving Libya for a holiday or a business trip, expats have to visit the police station within the first week of arrival and have their passport stamped. Expats living in Libya on a resident’s visa must formally obtain an exit/re-entry visa each time they depart and return to the country. The only exception to this rule is if the expat is in possession of a multi-entry resident’s visa – thus, it is best to apply for this category in the beginning.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Libya

The cost of living in Libya is relatively cheap, especially if expats choose to prepare their own meals with local produce and avoid spending money eating out or purchasing Western gadgets and luxuries.

Expats should expect to pay unusually high prices for personal care items like cosmetics and toiletries. As these are still relatively small expenses, it does not create a major dent in one's finances. Telephone rentals and internet connections are also on the expensive side for a country with a low cost of living. Again, these payments are not overwhelming when compared with larger expenses.

Transport, local groceries, furniture and appliances, and clothing are all very reasonably priced, and serve to keep day-to-day expenses for expats at a minimum. 


Cost of public transport in Libya

Public transport in Libya is limited to taxis and buses, and is very cheap. Many expats prefer to hire a car and driver on a wet lease. This means that fuel, servicing and the driver’s wages are all included.


Cost of electricity in Libya

Libya's political, economic and social crisis has been having an effect on its electricity supply. It is not uncommon for electricity to cut out unexpectedly. Some businesses and private citizens rely on generators to supply electricity. This can be a big expense.

Expats should try and negotiate an accommodation allowance that covers the cost of utilities like electricity and water.


Cost of internet and television in Libya

For personal internet use, connection speed is slow and video streaming is a painful process in Libya. If working from home and in need of a connection for one's business, then vast and microwave-based VoIP systems are available. This includes the cost of the modem, switch, router and antenna.

The most popular satellite TV service provider in Libya is Nilesat.


Cost of living in Libya chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Tripoli in October 2019.

Accommodation (monthly)

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

LYD 791

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

LYD 1,500

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

LYD 455

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

LYD 650

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

LYD 4

Dozen eggs

LYD 5

Rice (1kg)

LYD 4

Loaf of white bread

LYD 0.40

Chicken breasts (1kg)

LYD 22

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

LYD 9

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

LYD 12

Coca-Cola (300ml)

LYD 2.20

Cappuccino

LYD 2

Non-Alcoholic local beer (500ml)

LYD 5

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

LYD 50

Utilities

Mobile call rate (per minute)

LYD 0.15

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

LYD 85

Basic utilities (average per month for standard household)

LYD 72

Transportation 

Taxi rate per km

LYD 2

City centre public transport

LYD 1

Petrol (per litre)

LYD 0.15

Culture Shock in Libya

Libya is an Islamic country, and the majority of its population are devout Muslims. That being said, Libya provides a mild-mannered dose of the Middle Eastern religious culture that often challenges the Westerners adapting to it.

As long as expats remember to remain respectful of the tenets of Islam during their time in Libya, they should find friction rare and easily reconciled. 

In fact, the root of the largest source of anxiety and nervousness in expats moving to Libya is the lack of information available to prepare for the move. People are often taken aback upon their airport descent, to be in the company of shop fronts boasting Western-style clothing and supermarkets coloured with the ripe, fresh produce. Though the country has one of the strictest bans on alcohol and drugs in the world, its attachment to other areas of conservative extremes has waned over the past decade.


Women in Libya

Women are now able to drive, though society still remains gender segregated – necessitating that expat women have male companions for many daily activities that would normally be carried out independently in a Western setting. For security reasons, it’s best for a woman to show that she is married or “protected” by a male when out in public.

Shopping alone is allowed but not common. Most women shop in groups or with male relatives. A women going alone to a sidewalk café is frowned upon – although women are not banned from doing so, these are generally reserved for men. When eating out, women will go as a group, or better still, with their male relatives.


Dress in Libya

Dress code in Libya is largely dependent on the area of the country  – the larger cities nurturing more freedom, the smaller desert towns adhering to a more conservative nature. 

In the cities, men are free to wear t-shirts and shorts below the knees. Women are accepted in three-quarter-length pants and skirts, t-shirts and long sleeves, with no need for head scarves. There are even a number of designated expat beaches where Western-style bathing suits are accepted. Nevertheless, women should avoid wearing anything too revealing, as this may attract unwanted male attention.

Once journeying a fair distance outside city limits, expat numbers decrease and the dress code becomes understandably more modest. Long sleeves and full-length skirts or trousers are recommended for women. Women may also want to always carry a light shawl in anticipation of unexpected situations begging further modesty. 


Language barrier in Libya

With Arabic being the official language, the language barrier can be the cause of a good deal of consternation and confusion. However, expats will find that people do speak some English and are eager to practice their skills. 

The majority of all signs and postings are also written in Arabic. Thus, at the very least, learning to read the language is beneficial. Do remember, though, that there are many dialects of Arabic, depending on the region, so it’s best to research this beforehand.

In Tripoli, the Dawa Islamia Centre in Maidan Jazeera holds free language classes and IH-Elite School in Hai-alandulus or ALTEC in Benashur have classes as well.

Lastly, fifty percent of expats living in Libya speak French as a first language, so knowing some French will make adaptation into social circles much easier. Knowing Italian can also be quite handy.


Ramadan in Libya

Ramadan, the month in which Muslims believe the Quran was revealed, is a period where followers of the Islamic religion abstain from all food, drink and all other sensual pleasure between sunrise and sunset. The fast aims to instil discipline and self-restraint in believers. 

As a Muslim country, Libya is accordingly affected. Working hours are adjusted to allow employees to return home and make the necessary arrangements for their daily fast-breaking meal. Businesses and shops remain open for most of the day, close shortly before sunset, and then reopen after evening prayers late into the night.

Most importantly, expats living in Libya should take note that restaurants close during the day and eating in public is largely taboo – even for non-Muslims.

The dates for Ramadan vary every year according to the Islamic lunar calendar. These are usually publicised well ahead of time.

Accommodation in Libya

Accommodation in Libya for expats has evolved over the years as demand has increased. Now, many more options for fancy facilities or modern villas exist within the major cities of Tripoli and Janzour. In many cases, employers arrange accommodation for their expat employees prior to their arrival in Libya. Housing prices vary depending on the area one chooses to live in.

Except for citizens from Malta, it isn’t possible for foreigners to own property in Libya.


Types of housing in Libya

The housing market in Libya has seen great development over the last few years. Expats who choose to find accommodation on their own have a wide variety of housing options to choose from.

Apartments

Libya’s capital city, Tripoli, has an abundance of apartments. Apartment blocks can range from smaller two- or three-story buildings to large 10-story buildings.  Apartments are very popular and usually don’t stay on the market very long. 

Villas

In Libya, the term “villa” refers to what most Westerners would think of as a typical house. There is no standard size or layout for villas. In cities like Janzour, villas with multiple levels, large yards and landscaping are typical. Some may even have private swimming pools. In larger cities like Tripoli, yards will typically be much smaller, but will still be enclosed by a wall or fence.

Traditional Houses

Expats hoping for cheaper accommodation may consider renting a traditional house called a hosh. These houses tend to be older and rarely stand alone. A hosh may lack the luxurious finishes associated with villas; however, they stay much cooler during the hot Libyan summers.

Gated Communities

Finally, the most expensive option for foreigners are the gated communities. These can range from large communities, such as Palm City, to smaller compounds that contain 10 to 15 villas. Gated communities often have their own shops, restaurants and supermarkets as well as shared facilities like swimming pools.

Gated communities are usually preferred by expats as it has a built-in feeling of safety. It also gives expats an area where they can freely mingle with other foreigners and can decrease feelings of alienation.


Finding accommodation in Libya

At first, finding accommodation in Libya may seem a daunting task. If at all possible, expats should ask their employer to help them find safe and suitable accommodation. If an expat doesn’t speak Arabic or French, the language barrier may make the process even more difficult.

The best approach to finding accommodation in Libya is by approaching a real-estate agent. There are many established companies who have experience with helping foreigners find housing. Expats should ensure they understand the agent’s fees and conditions before they start looking for properties. Typically, an agent’s commission is the equivalent of one month's rent on a one-year lease and half a month's rent on a six-month lease.

Word of mouth is also a popular way of getting things done in Libya. Expats who have friends or colleagues already living in the country should not be shy to use these contacts to find housing. Alternatively, in recent years, Libya has seen an increase in online property sites. Expats should note though that many of these sites don’t keep their listings current and many properties may already have been rented out. 


Renting property in Libya

Rental contracts in Libya vary quite dramatically. It is important that expats fully understand the terms of the lease they are signing. It is recommended that expats ask a friend or colleague who understands Arabic to look over the contract before signing anything. Most housing contracts in Libya are for six months and above, though one-year leases are preferred. Home owners also appreciate payment of the entire contract in advance. However, there are possibilities to negotiate alternative payment plans. 

Renters are usually required to pay a security deposit to secure the property and compensate for any damage. The deposit is returned at the end of the lease, provided that the property is left in a suitable condition.

Healthcare in Libya

A healthcare crisis currently exists in Libya due to the ongoing conflict. The vast majority of foreign health workers have left the country, which has left hospitals severely understaffed. Militarisation of healthcare facilities has also affected access. The looting and destruction of medical facilities have led to medicine and equipment shortage and overall increases in the price of medicines.

With the healthcare system in such a state, organisations like Doctors Without Borders are the main providers of health services to the public. It has set up mobile clinics in Tripoli and surrounding areas. These clinics mostly focus on infections, diarrhea and skin diseases.

Libyan locals often pursue medical facilities abroad for the more chronic conditions that plague the country’s population – such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Thus, it is highly recommended that expats consider medical options abroad if a serious condition arises. That means a medical insurance package should provide for emergency repatriation.


Medical facilities in Libya

Medical facilities in Libya are limited and it is essential for expats to become a member of a private clinic.

The Medilink Clinic in Tripoli is staffed by English-speaking expat doctors, and is a popular choice of those accustomed to Western standards of healthcare. The clinic offers family services and ER services. Medilink is a “members only” private clinic that functions according to either a basic membership and pay-as-you-go service fees, or all-inclusive style membership. Many of the oil company and other corporate employees and their families are known to be paying members.


Health insurance in Libya

It's important that expats have private health insurance while in Libya. Nonetheless, many times doctors will expect payment in cash immediately. Still, private healthcare provides safety and superior service to the ailing public services.

Expats should negotiate private health insurance as part of their employment contracts.

Soon after arrival in Libya one should register at a clinic of one's choice. Carry the clinic card on one's person as a means of identification in case of an accident.


Recommended healthcare facilities in Libya

Medilink International

Website: www.libya.medilinkint.com 
Address: Shara Hasi Messaoud, Suq El Gbub, Ghirgharesh, Tarabulus, Libya 

Swiss Diagnostic Clinic

Address: Shari Bin Ashour, Tripoli, Libya 

Saint James Hospital 

Website: www.stjhlibya.com 
Address: Wesayat El Bderi Nofleen, Tripoli, Libya 

Education and Schools in Libya

Libya uses education as a tool of development. The curriculum in public schools is often set according to skills that are required in the working sector. Incentives are also created to encourage students to study those fields. All of this is done in the hopes of replacing foreign workers by skilled Libyan workers. 

Finding a school in Libya that upholds the standard of education expats expect for their children can seem like a daunting task. Choosing the appropriate school will have a significant impact on the child’s transition to expat life in Libya. 


Public schools in Libya

Basic education is free and compulsory in Libya. Children attend primary school between the ages of six and 12. Typically this phase of education will focus on classes like Arabic, Islamic languages, Jamahiriyi society, mathematics and natural sciences. Children in Libya complete the final three years of basic education in middle school. After middle school, at the age of 15, they are awarded a basic education certificate. They then have the choice between finding work or going on to secondary school.

Classes in public schools are taught in Arabic. This language barrier often makes public schooling inaccessible to foreign children. The strong focus on religion and Islam may also lead to large degrees of culture shock for children not raised in the Islam faith.


Private schools in Libya

There are a limited number of private schools operating in Libya. These schools charge high fees but offer a better standard of teaching with smaller classes. However, they still follow the national curriculum as determined by the Secretariat of Education and Culture. Typically, the language of instruction is also Arabic in these schools.


International schools in Libya

In the last decade, corporations who have cultivated the expat community in Libya have attempted to improve the transition when it comes to expat children's education. Though choices still remain few, and waiting lists can cause frustration, there is a handful of international schools available that are well-organised and reputable.

Most international schools are found in Tripoli. Schools typically start from preschool and run through to the end of high school. The curricula of these schools range from German, to French, to the esteemed International Baccalaureate regime. The language of instruction will follow the curriculum being followed. Classes are small and the standards are high.

Because of the high standards and limited spots available, expats should register their children as early as possible to ensure proper enrolment. There is almost always a non-refundable application fee to be paid for this service. Admission procedures vary from school to school.  Fees tend to be expensive and often do not cover things like books and uniforms. Expats should attempt to negotiate a schooling stipend as part of their contract.

See and Do in Libya

Expats should note that many areas have become occupied by rebel forces, and therefore any sightseeing should be done with safety precautions. 

Contrary to popular belief Libya is not just one big desert, and expats will find that with a little effort and ingenuity there’s certainly some options to see and do many things of interest.

Throughout its history Libya has been selected by many great and ancient empires as a centre of trade across the north of Africa, consequently the nation is home to a large collection of not-to-be-missed Greek, Roman and other classically inspired ancient ruins.

This rich historical influence paired with thousands of miles of untouched Mediterranean coast and the endless poetry of sea siding up against the Sahara desert makes Libya a destination ripe with the potential for expat sightseeing and exciting weekend breaks.


Recommended sightseeing in Libya

Cyrene

Second in significance only to Leptis Magna, Cyrene is a must-see. It ranks as the best preserved of the Greek cities of Cyrenaica, with its temples, tombs, agora, gymnasium and theatre originally modelled on those at Delphi. Apart from the fabulous Greek ruins, its high location overlooking the sea is mesmerising.

Sabratha

In the Zawia region in the north-western corner of current Libya, Sabratha was the westernmost of the "three cities" of Tripolis. It lies on the Mediterranean coast about 65km (40 miles) west of Tripoli. The archaeological site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

Leptis Magna

If one can only see one archaeological site in Libya, make it Leptis Magna. Regarded as the best Roman site in the Mediterranean, Leptis Magna's magnificent architecture and enormous scale will amaze even the most ruin-weary traveller.

Ghadames

Ghadames is one of Libya's most popular tourist attractions. It is considered by some as the best part of the whole of Sahara, often referred to as “The Jewel of the Sahara", and in 1982 was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Jebel Acacus

The Jebel Acacus is an astonishing landscape of shadowy basalt monoliths rising up from the sands of the central Sahara. This World Heritage-listed area is home to unique natural rock formations, as well as prehistoric rock paintings and carvings, some of which date back 12,000 years. One can only visit the region with a guide, who can be organised in Ghat.

~by LiveLibya.com

Keeping in Touch in Libya

Libya may have been the first African country to reach 100 percent mobile phone penetration, but the nation’s poor telecommunication infrastructure still limits an expat's ability of keeping in touch in Libya. 

A large portion of Libyan internet access is still relegated to the slow dawdle of dial-up. Additionally, the telecommunication system is state-owned, and the service is notoriously poor. 


Internet Service Provision in Libya

Both the internet and telecommunications domains in Libya are largely micro-managed by government through Libya Telecom and Technology (LTT), a semi-private communications company. Other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) include AlFalak and Modern World Telecom, but these are overshadowed for the most part by LTT’s pseudo-monopoly.

LTT has been the primary communications provider in Libya since 1997, and currently offers internet services in dial-up, ADSL, broadband and satellite forms. 

The only document required for opening an account is a copy of one's ID or passport. Though ADSL tends to be the cheapest and fastest connection, some expats have reported situations where the signal is not accessible within homes and villas. WiMAX is a pricier alternative, but also has the added benefit of larger bandwidth allowances and the convenience of mobility.

Telecommunications in Libya

It is also recommended that expats install a wireless-based telephone line rather than a landline. This facility can be used in a prepaid manner, where phone cards are purchased with designated amounts of credit, and calls can be made abroad at cheap rates. Using a prepaid card allows expats to avoid the hefty and usually unwarranted phone bills that tend to arrive otherwise. 

Prepaid cards can be purchased in phone shops or in local supermarkets.


Censorship in Libya

Much of the filtering that takes place in Libya is the result of self-censorship.

The government does not play an active role in filtering sites that deal with social, security or internet tool topics. However, political opposition sites and pages that offer critical evaluations of the president do undergo censorship. Official rules cite that all Libyan domains “must not contain obscene, scandalous, indecent, or contrary to Libyan law or Islamic morality words, phrases nor abbreviations”.

This type of filtering does not affect an expat’s ability to communicate via applications like Skype, messaging and webcams.

Internet users have also reported that many internet cafés closely monitor their users, as a result of security personnel that have shut down businesses in some situations.

Frequently Asked Questions about Libya

Is it safe to pursue jobs in Libya now?

The security situation in Libya remains uncertain and is subject to change. Currently, foreigners are warned not to travel to Libya for any reason. Infrastructure and basic services are limited in Libya’s main towns. Many international schools closed during the conflict, and some have yet to reopen. 

Should I live within an expat compound in Libya?

Accommodation for expats moving to Libya is usually organised by an employer or sponsor. Depending on the company, they may opt to put all employees in one of the expat compounds usually situated just outside the main city, or they may choose rather to give employees an allowance with which they can select their own accommodation. Although expats can rent a villa or an apartment from a Libyan landlord within city limits, they should be mindful to make sure that all appliances, structural components and amenities are in order. Libyan landlords can prove neglectful once they’ve received the annual payment up front.

The expat compounds are great options for families given the on-site facilities, security and presence of other children. They also cultivate a sense of camaraderie among fellow foreigners who have moved abroad.

Does Libya have a reliable healthcare system or should I consider looking abroad for treatment?

Due to Libya’s long-time international sanctions, the country’s healthcare system was forced to develop without any type of global influence. As a result, facilities are not up to par, and hospitals are often understaffed and ill-equipped. It is highly recommended to seek treatment for serious complications abroad – so, a healthcare provider that covers emergency evacuation procedures is best. There are some private clinics manned predominately by expats that have elevated levels of care, but again, these are not prepared to handle grave situations.

What do I need to get a business visa in Libya?

It's not possible to get a business or work visa for Libya without sponsorship from an employer. Once a business endorses an expat and initiates the application process from within Libyan borders, the expat must formally request a visa application form the Libyan Consulate in their country of origin. They should then send the completed form and all necessary documentation to the consulate for processing. Then be prepared to wait.

Can my child attend state schools or are there international schools available in Libya?

There is a smattering of international schools in Libya. Many of these are endorsed by corporations, and thus tuition may even be subsidised, depending on your employer. Space is extremely limited due to the small amount of institutions, so children should be enrolled as early as possible.

I’ve heard driving in Libya can be dangerous, is there any way to avoid this?

Libya has one of the highest road-death rates in the world. Driving in Libya is extremely dangerous, and should be undertaken with the utmost caution. Libyan traffic officers poorly enforce laws, and Libyan drivers are erratic and unpredictable. Always exercise extreme caution and defensive driving techniques. Furthermore, it’s best to avoid driving at night, when police are known to set up roadblocks to trap drunk drivers.

As a woman moving to Libya, what do I need to keep in mind?

Women in Libya are entitled to a greater degree of individual freedom than many of the country’s Middle Eastern Islamic counterparts. Most national legislation does not discriminate against women, but equality is still nonetheless skewed. Women have freedom of dress, but still, most appear conservatively clothed and often carry a light scarf for a situation that may require more modesty. Though they have the right to appear in public alone, it is not recommended for a woman to appear solo after nightfall.

Are Western items available in the shops?

Increasingly this is the case, but the range of stock is still very limited. It is advisable to bring electronic items and transformers and any Western luxury items along when moving to Libya. The local fruits and vegetables are of a high quality and also very reasonably priced. The most difficult Western amenities to find are cosmetic products. 

Banking, Money and Taxes in Libya

Because of the ongoing tension, the banking infrastructure in Libya is unreliable. Due to this instability, many international banks have also been withdrawing from the country. This leaves most banks in Libya being run by the state. Though it is possible to open a bank account, most foreign workers prefer to have their salaries deposited into off-shore bank accounts.

When leaving Libya to go to another country for a vacation, be sure to get a receipt for any money exchanged at the bank. Sometimes, in an attempt to minimise money laundering, the airport authorities will ask if an expat is taking any Libyan currency or even other currencies out of the country.


Money

The currency in Libya is the Libyan Dinar (LYD), which is divided into the following denominations:

    • Coins: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 dirhams and ½, ¼ dinars

    • Notes: 1 LYD, 5 LYD, 10 LYD, 20 LYD, 50 LYD


Banking

The Central Bank of Libya (CBL) is the monetary authority in Libya. This bank issues currency and oversees all the other state and private banks. Several commercial banks have branches located throughout Libya.

Though it is possible for expats to open a local account with their residency papers and passport, most opt to use their international accounts instead. Money can easily be wired into Libya using Western Union and MoneyGram, although transaction limits apply.

Interest rates at banks in Libya as well as banking services offered vary greatly. It’s best to compare institutions when choosing where to bank. Factors to consider include fees and the number of branches and ATMs available in the country.


Credit cards and ATMs

Libya is a cash economy and credit cards are seldom used. There are a number of ATMs in Tripoli and Benghazi. Many of these ATMs aren’t very reliable and banks charge high rates for use. Some of these machines accept only Visa while others will take both Visa and Mastercard.

Expats withdrawing money in Libya from off-shore banks will want to arrange accounts with major international players; many of the small credit union banks have trouble connecting with the ATMs in Libya. Furthermore, it is advised to set a maximum daily limit on the ATM card before relocation as a precaution against theft.


Taxes

Anyone working and receiving a salary in Libya is liable to pay personal income tax. Most foreigners working in Libya hire a tax expert to ensure that they pay their taxes correctly. An expat’s employer may also be able to help them establish their tax liabilities.
 

Expat Experiences in Libya

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real life stories from other expats who are lived there. Here is our first interview - please contact us if you live or have lived in Libya and would like to share your experience.

Jameela is a French expat living in Libya with her husband and two sons. A seasoned expat, she lived in the UK for 10 years before relocating to Libya in 2013. Jameela and her husband are both English teachers in the coastal city of Zawia. Read more about her expat experiences in Libya.

Jameela - A French expat living in Libya

Sarah Micallef lives in Libya and is the author of a new website on her adopted country. This is her experience of life in Libya.

Sandy Bain is a first-time expat in Libya, having moved here from Scotland, far away from his beloved Hibs football club. He is an IT professional, and has enjoyed his first posting despite working long hours - only two breaks in nine months! Get his views on expat life in Libya.