Libya Travel Guide
This is a Libya Travel Guide from taste2travel.com
Date Visited: July 2023
I have wanted to visit Libya for many years – decades actually!
However, any effort to gain a visa in the past was thwarted by either the reclusive Ghaddafi regime, who were not welcoming of tourists, or ongoing civil wars and other unrest.
In recent times, it seems that something resembling peace has returned to Libya and that the country is now creaking open the door to tourism.
Currently, all tourists need to apply for a visa through a Libyan-registered tour company and tourists must be fully escorted by the tour company during their stay in Libya.
I toured Libya with Tidwa Tours who I would highly recommend. Tidwa offer bespoke itineraries for independent travellers, starting from just two days. I have included full details for Tidwa Tours in the Tour Companies section below.
I was told that currently, there are four companies offering tours to Libya and that maybe 30 tourists per month visit Libya.
An additional requirement, at the moment, is that all tourists must be escorted by a police escort.
My escort was friendly, wore plain clothes and carried no weapon. He played ride-along and ensured our path was smooth and clear which is helpful in a country with many police checkpoints.
All the Libyans I met, including the police, were very friendly, welcoming and respectful. In one town, we even had a police escort through town (including flashing lights) just as a courtesy.
The most surprising and unexpected things can happen during a trip to Libya!
As for security, at no stage did I feel threatened or in danger. I was always treated with kindness and respect. The Libyans were truly happy to meet a tourist in their country and they are keen to show their ancient treasures to those willing to visit.
Strategically located on the Mediterranean Sea, sandwiched between the vast African continent to the south and Europe to the north, Libya has been an important centre of trade and commence for many millennia.
Due to its location, every major empire has occupied Libya at some stage, from the Romans, the Greeks, the Ottomans, up to modern day occupiers such as the Italians.
All of these occupiers have left their mark, none more so than the Romans who built the impressive cities of Leptis Magna and Sabratha. The ruins of both of these sprawling ancient cities are now listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Leptis Magna is considered to be the best-preserved Roman city anywhere in the Mediterranean, while the Roman theatre at Sabratha (cover photo) is considered to be the most fully intact Roman theatre anywhere in the world.
Libya offers a multitude of incredible sights, both along the Mediterranean Sea, and further inland in the Sahara Desert, where Berber tribes have existed for thousands of years.
After decades of Ghaddafi, and then more than 10 years of the Libyan Civil War, the country is very much broken and on its knees. It’s currently dusting itself off and attempting to get back up on its feet!
The process of rebuilding Libya, from the broken infrastructure, government, institutions, and a society which has suffered so much loss, will take decades.
While Libya has experienced its share of political challenges, it boasts a wealth of attractions for those seeking a unique and off-the-beaten-path travel experience.
For those intrepid travellers who don’t mind being in a gritty, edgy environment, now is a perfect time to visit. You will have the country, and all those world-class sights, to yourself!
I enjoyed my time in Libya and look forward to visiting again!
Libya is located in North Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Tunisia to the west, Algeria to the southwest, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast and Chad and Niger to the south.
The Mediterranean coastline stretches for approximately 1,770 km (1,099.8 mi) which has, historically, made Libya an important country for trade and transportation. The coastline features the ruins of several ancient Roman cities.
Much of Libya’s interior is dominated by the Sahara Desert, the largest hot desert in the world. The Sahara covers a significant portion of the country, featuring vast sand dunes, rocky plateaus, and arid expanses.
Home to 6.7 million souls, Libya has been inhabited since at least 8000 BCE.
I found the Libyans to be friendly, respectful and welcoming! They were very happy to meet a tourist in their country and they related to me that they hope tourism can finally develop now that the situation in the country has become more stable and (relatively) safe.
While the population is primarily Arab, there are sizeable Berber and Tuareg communities, who primarily inhabit the interior desert regions.
The Arab majority rule the roost in Libya, with the official language being Arabic and the politics being dominated by Arabs. Islamic traditions, customs, and values also hold sway in the daily lives of most Libyans.
While Arabs make up the largest ethnic group, there are also notable Berber and Tuareg communities in Libya. These indigenous groups have their own languages, cultures, and traditions.
In some regions, particularly in the western mountains, you can find Berber-speaking communities that have retained their distinct cultural practices.
Islam is the predominant religion in Libya, with the majority of Libyans adhering to the Sunni branch of Islam.
Islamic values influence various aspects of daily life, including family structure, social norms, and legal matters.
The national flag of Libya was originally introduced in 1951, following the creation of the Kingdom of Libya.
The flag consists of a triband red–black–green design, the central black band being twice the width of the outer bands. A white star and crescent are located in the centre of the flag.
The crescent is symbolic of the beginning of the lunar month according to the Muslim calendar, while the star represents hope.
The horizontal stripes represent:
- Red Stripe: symbolises the sacrifices made by Libyan martyrs during various struggles for independence and freedom.
- Black Stripe: represents the dark period of oppression and colonisation that Libya and its people endured.
- Green Stripe: signifies the hope and promise of a brighter future for Libya as a free and sovereign nation. Green is also associated with Islam and is often considered a color of prosperity.
The official currency of Libya is the Libyan dinar, which is often abbreviated as “LYD” which is also its international currency code.
The Libyan Dinar is further subdivided into smaller units called dirhams. The currency is issued and regulated by the Central Bank of Libya.
The Libyan dinar is not freely tradable outside of the country so it’s essential that you spend all of your dinar before leaving the country.
While all banknotes are printed on paper, a new 5-dinar polymer (plastic) banknote is now in circulation and makes for a great souvenir!
The exchange rate at August 2023 for US dollars is:
US$100 = LYD 480
To check the current exchange, please click here.
There is a very lively currency exchange market in Tripoli old town, where traders carry their Libyan dinar around in wheelbarrows. Truly impressive!
While a currency black market does exist, the unofficial rate is not much higher than the official rate.
During my stay, the official exchange rate was US$1 = LYD 4.8, while the unofficial rate was US$1 = LYD 5.5!
ATMs do not exist in Libya!
Credit cards cannot be used in Libya!
Libya is a cash society!
Travel costs to Libya are not cheap since visitors need to pay for a fully inclusive, fully guided tour.
An added expense comes from the current government requirement for a tourist police escort. A police officer is required to accompany all tourists, including a single traveller such as myself, from arrival until departure!
My police escort was friendly, wore plain clothes, and was unarmed!
Additionally, flight costs to Libya are not cheap.
You can expect to pay around US$2,000 for a tour of just a few days, which also includes the airfare and all tour costs.
Currently, the only way to visit Libya is through a Libyan-registered tour company, who will arrange a tourist visa as part of a package tour.
You will be fully escorted from the moment you arrive until the moment you depart. You will also be accompanied by a police officer!
A tour of Libya isn’t cheap but it’s all inclusive. As part of a tour, you will be collected from the airport, taken to your accommodation, which will be arranged by the tour company, then fully escorted during your time in the country.
It seems all visitors to Libya are accommodated at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel which is located on the seafront in downtown Tripoli.
Despite being the best hotel in the country, the Sheraton had no power from the city grid during my entire stay. The hotel was powered by one generator the whole time. Please refer to the Accommodation section for more information on this hotel.
I toured Libya with Tidwa Tours who I would highly recommend. Tidwa offer bespoke itineraries for independent travellers, starting from just two days.
For more information you should contact Masoud at Tidwa Tours:
- Website: https://tidwa.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tidwatours/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tidwa.Tours/
- WhatsApp: +218 91 15 21 561
Known in ancient times as Oea, modern day Tripoli was founded in the 7th century BCE by the Phoenicians who were probably attracted to the site by its natural harbour.
The city then passed to the Greeks who named it Oea. By the latter half of the 2nd century CE, Oea was conquered by the Romans, who included it in their province of Africa, and gave it the name of Regio Syrtica.
Around the beginning of the 3rd century CE, it became known as Regio Tripolitana, meaning “region of the three cities” – i.e., Oea (modern Tripoli), Sabratha and Leptis Magna.
Security in Tripoli Old Town
As I entered Martyrs’ Square, accompanied by my guide and police escort, I could sense that we were being shadowed by a young man who was busy talking on a walkie-talkie.
My guide explained that there is a dedicated tourist police unit who are responsible for escorting tourists around the square and the old town and that he would accompany us during our walk. He actually accompanied us all the way back to our car!
As I walked around the old town, guided by my guide Masoud, we were followed by two police officers. We were quite the posse!
Arch of Marcus Aurelius
The one remaining vestige of the Roman era in Tripoli is the Arch of Marcus Aurelius which was erected in 165 CE.
Built entirely from marble, the arch, which has been partially buried over the course of the centuries, was damaged during WWII and today is suffering from the effects of acid rain and damage from tourists.
Originally constructed by the Italians during their occupation of Libya, Martyrs’ Square is a downtown landmark in the heart of Tripoli old town.
Tripoli Old Town
Leading off of Martyrs’ Square, the walled old town (medina) is distinguished by a warren of narrow laneways which are lined with all sorts of shops selling everything from gold jewellery to appliances, clothing, shoes and household goods.
Also tucked away inside the old town is an Ottoman-era prison and clocktower, an old Turkish hammam (bathhouse) and a Catholic church.
During its history, Tripoli has been occupied by most major empires, including the Ottomans who ruled from 1551 to 1911.
Several notable examples of Ottoman-era architecture can be seen in the old town, including an impressive 5-story, 30-metre-high, clocktower, which was built between 1901 and 1902.
What is known as the Wall Street of Tripoli is a section of the medina comprised of many money traders who gather on the street, in the shadow of the clock tower.
This open, informal money market can be very busy with people buying and selling currencies. The traders tend to cart their Libyan dinar in black garbage bags, inside wheelbarrows.
For those seeking an invigorating scrub and massage, the Dargouth Turkish bath is an antique Ottoman-era hamman.
The Red Castle is a major landmark on the waterfront, bordering Martyrs’ Square. It has been the home of the Red Castle Museum since 1919, and of the Libyan Department of Archaeology since 1952.
Located 130 km east of the Libyan capital city of Tripoli, Leptis Magna, was once a prominent city of the Carthaginian Empire and an important city of the Roman Empire.
One of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Libya, Leptis Magna is an immensely important and significant site to visit.
It is considered to be the most important Roman site in the world, as it is widely recognised as the best-preserved Roman city outside of Italy, and, unlike most ancient ruins, its well-preserved remains give a clear picture as to what a complete Roman city would have looked like.
Leptis Magna was founded by a group of local Berbers and Phoenicians sometime around 1000 BC. In 42 BC, the city became under the rule of the Roman Empire.
This once grand city stretches for many kilometres along the Mediterranean coast.
We travelled between some of the sites by car which was appreciated in the searing 45-degree Celsius heat.
There is so much to see at Leptis Magna and I could have easily spent two days slowly exploring the site, but the baking heat, and complete lack of shade, became too much after just a few hours. Best to plan your visit during winter!
This vast ancient Roman metropolis actually started life as a 7th-century (BCE) Phoenician village.
Under Roman emperor Tiberius, Leptis Magna and the surrounding area were formally incorporated into the Roman empire in 46 BCE as part of the province of Africa.
It soon became one of the leading cities of Roman Africa and a major trading post. The 3rd Augustan Legion was stationed here to defend the city against Berber incursions.
After the legion’s dissolution under Gordian III in 238 CE, the city was increasingly open to raids in the later part of the 3rd century.
Diocletian reinstated the city as provincial capital, and it grew again in prosperity until it fell to the Vandals in 439 CE.
It was reincorporated into the Eastern Empire in 533 CE but continued to be plagued by Berber raids and never recovered its former importance.
Leptis Magna eventually fell to the Muslim invasion in 647 CE and was subsequently abandoned.
This pearl of the Roman empire was one of the most beautiful cities in the entire empire, complete with imposing public monuments, a harbour, a theatre, an amphitheatre, market-place, storehouses, shops, a bathhouse, residential districts and much more.
For many centuries, Leptis Magna lay abandoned, forgotten and long covered by desert sand, soil, dust and mud.
Previous excavations, notably by Italian archaeologists after WWI, have uncovered just a small fraction of the site.
Under the Ghaddafi regime, there was little interest in cultural sites, so Leptis Magna remained untouched for many decades.
Then the Libyan Civil War came, and now something resembling peace has prevailed.
However, the task of excavating such a huge site is daunting and currently there are no plans to commence excavations.
Leptis Magna is regarded as one of the next preserved Roman sites anywhere in the Mediterranean region, which is thanks in large part to the fact that it has remained buried and undisturbed for so long!
Site Expert/ Guide
I did a walking tour of Leptis Magna with a local guide and expert – Mahmoud. On the day of my visit, the mercury topped out at 45-degrees Celsius. It was a hot walk!
Mahmoud has published two guides on Leptis Magna and is a real expert. He was able to describe in detail how the city functioned under the Romans. He was able to effectively bring history to life.
I highly recommend Mahmoud as an authoritative guide to Leptis Magna.
Arch of Septimius Severus
Leptis Magna was enlarged and embellished by Septimius Severus, who was born there and later became emperor of the Roman empire.
At the entrance to this vast site, visitors are greeted by the very impressive Arch of Septimius Severus, a triumphal arch which was commissioned by Septimius Severus.
When first discovered in 1928, the arch was in ruins, but was pieced back together by Italian archeologists.
While the exact date of construction is not agreed upon, it is generally accepted that the Arch of Septimius Severus was erected on the occasion of Severus’ African tour in 203 CE.
Located adjacent to the Severan Forum, the Severan Basilica is one of many highlights of Leptis Magna.
After the Arch of Severus was offered to the emperor, Septimius Severus, on the occasion of his visit in 203 CE, the emperor responded by offering the basilica.
The entrance to the basilica is marked by pairs of very ornately carved Columns of Dionysus.
Separate from both of the city’s forums, the Roman food market of Leptis Magna was built in 8 BCE.
Leptis Magna’s market is a particularly well-preserved feature of the Roman city. Along with typical porticoes of shops, the structure had two central circular stalls.
The market was contained in a walled rectangular courtyard raised above the street level, reached by steps from the street, with the entrance barred at night.
There are many notable features in the market, including stone blocks which had carved niches for holding weights and measures.
I especially liked the ingenious double columns which allowed the Romans to construct an octagonal portico.
The ancient Roman city of Sabratha, now located in the Zawiya District of Libya, 70 km west of Tripoli, was the westernmost of the ancient “three cities” of Roman Tripolis, alongside Oea (Tripoli) and Leptis Magna.
An impressive, sprawling Roman city, if Sabratha was in any other country, it would be the #1 tourist attraction. However, in Libya, Sabratha plays second fiddle to the incredibly impressive Leptis Magna.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sabratha was founded by the Carthaginians as a trading post, it was first permanently settled in the 4th century BCE.
Sabratha had a modest natural harbour, later improved by the Romans, and together with Oea (Tripoli) it served as an outlet for the trans-Saharan caravan route through Ghadames.
After a period of semi-independence following the fall of Carthage in 146 BC, it passed under Roman rule and thereafter enjoyed considerable prosperity.
The city was annexed to the Roman Republic as the province of Africa Nova in the 1st century BC.
It was subsequently romanised and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE.
The Emperor Septimius Severus was born nearby in Leptis Magna, and Sabratha reached its monumental peak during the rule of the Severans, when it nearly doubled in size.
The city was badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th century which led to its decline. It fell under control of the Vandal kingdom in the 5th century, with large parts of the city being abandoned.
Highlights of the site include the Roman theatre which retains its three-storey architectural backdrop.
Many colourful mosaics have also been uncovered, including one mosaic at the entrance to a bathhouse which features a pair of sandals, a vessel of olive oil (used for massage in Roman baths) and a pair of strigils (a curved metal scrapper which is used to cleanse the body by scraping off dirt).
Unfortunately, coastal erosion over the centuries has led to some of the former residences falling into the sea.
Site Expert/ Guide
I did a walking tour of Sabratha, again in searing 40-degree Celsius heat, with a local guide, Tareq.
Besides being an expert on Sabratha, Tareq also knew all the good photography positions around the site which was very much appreciated by this photographer.
A highlight of Sabratha is the spectacular roman theatre which lies on the city’s outskirts, beyond its Byzantine walls.
Originally built in the 2nd century CE, the theatre appears so complete because of its reconstruction by Italian archaeologists in the 1930s.
After its reconstruction, the theatre was re-inaugurated by Mussolini and once again used to hold plays.
The seating and stage of the theatre are relatively intact, as are the backstage rooms, making it the most complete Roman theatre in the world.
Sabratha’s theatre had 25 entrances and could seat approximately 5000 spectators. Its 3-storey stage backdrop is 25 metres high, consisting of 108 Corinthian columns arranged in three stories.
A truly impressive site!
An interesting trivial fact regarding the Roman Theatre at Sabratha:
In the 2021 documentary The Beatles: Get Back, directed by Peter Jackson, it was mentioned that the Sabratha Theatre was considered as a possible location where the Beatles could hold their final live concert as a group.
They instead performed their last concert on the rooftop of their Apple Corps headquarters.
They say it’s the oldest profession in the world!
Prostitution was not only alive and well in ancient Sabratha, but there was a street dedicated to brothels, with a penis sign installed at the corner of the street as some sort of phallic road sign.
Gasr Al-Hājj is a large, circular-shaped, fortified granary built in the 13th century CE by Abdallah Abu Jatla. It is located in the Libyan desert, about 130 km west of Tripoli, towards the Tunisian border.
Gasr Al-Hājj was built to serve as a secure granary for families from the surrounding area, in return for a quarter of their crops, which, it is said, the owner had endowed as a waqf for teaching Qur’an and Islamic related subjects to the people of the area.
The building originally comprised 114 chambers, each allocated to a single family.
It is also speculated that the number 114 was used symbolically to reflect the number of Sura in the Qur’an.
The number of chambers as of now, is 119, as a result of splitting 10 chambers due to inheritance disputes.
Other changes to the original design include the addition of 29 cellars.
Gasr Al-Hajj Tank Monument
Located on the highway, 130 km west of Tripoli, at the turnoff to the village of Gasr Al-Hājj, lies a truly bizarre sight – a tank monument, which could also be considered ‘tank art‘.
The three tanks, two of which are planted upright in the ground, were captured, by rebels, from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces during the Libyan Civil War.
Located in the Nafusa Mountains, west of Tripoli, the Berber village of Kabaw is home to another fortified granary, which is constructed from a combination of rock, gypsum and mud-bricks.
This impregnable, hilltop fort, which is more than 700 years old, served as both a strategic stronghold and as a granary.
The circular-shaped fort consists of 360 rooms which are built on six floors.
Stone steps and wooden planks provide access to the upper rooms.
Food, such as dates, olive oil, figs, wheat, and barley were stored here for use between harvests.
Due to the complete lack of tourists in Libya, most sights are unattended.
Each time, as we approached a sight, my guide, Masoud, would call ahead to ask the responsible attendant to meet us at the sight. In the case of the Kabaw fort, we were greeted by two uniformed tourist policemen who are responsible for the sight.
They open the sight for us, then closed it again once we were finished with pour visit.
They then provided an escort through town, which was not out of any security concern, but rather as a courtesy. They escorted us to the edge of town, and then bid us farewell!
The Libyans are incredibly kind and welcoming.
The abandoned mud-brick village of Tormisa is located on the edge of a dramatic escarpment in the Nafusa Mountains, west of Tripoli.
Offering panoramic views of the surrounding desert plain, this former Berber village is more than 2,000 years old.
Decorative markings on the houses indicate that the dwellings were once occupied by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Some of the interiors of the houses have been left just as they once were.
In one building, the remnants of an ancient olive oil press, including giant mill stones which were used to crush the olives.
Located in the Nafusa Mountains, 100 km south of Tripoli, the city of Gharyan is famous for its Troglodyte (which means ‘cave dweller’) underground houses.
The troglodyte houses of Gharyan are reported to have first been made during the 16th century CE by Jewish refugees.
While most troglodyte houses in Gharyan are no longer in use, one enterprising local, Mr. Al-Arabi Belhaj has turned his former family cave home into a show home for visiting tourists.
In 1510, Tripoli was captured by the Spanish, which caused the Jews living there to flee from the city. Some migrated southwards, seeking shelter in various mountain towns such as Gharyan.
In Gharyan, the new Jewish residents began to build their dwellings by digging into the mountain’s soft limestone.
The troglodyte cave houses of Gharyan come in different forms.
Some, for example, are simple cave-like homes made by digging horizontally into the slopes of hills.
Others are more elaborate, with a network of rooms clustered around a central pit serving as a source of light.
These dwellings are produced by digging vertically into the ground, and then forming the adjacent rooms by digging horizontally underground.
In each of the rooms, different floor levels indicated sections for different members of the household. A dividing curtain separated each section, with the parents occupying the rear section, children in the middle section and guests greeted at the front of the room.
One of the advantages of such houses over conventional ones situated above ground is that they are kept insulated during the winter, and remain cool during the summer.
There are many hotels in Tripoli which cater to all budgets.
Hotel bookings are organised by the tour company, based on the requirements of their clients.
During my time in Libya, I stayed at the 4-star Four Points by Sheraton Hotel which seems to be the hotel of choice for most visitors.
Despite currently being rated as the top hotel in the country, the hotel received no power from the power grid during my entire stay.
The hotel instead was powered by one, inadequate, generator. This meant that the air-conditioning, which consumes so much power, had to remain off – a big problem considering the country was in the grip of a heatwave with daily temperatures in the mid-40 degrees Celsius.
As can be expected from a Sheraton, the hotel includes a swimming pool, gym, café and one restaurant. The hotel restaurant provides a decent buffet breakfast and buffet dinner but no a la carte menu.
Sheraton Hotels and Resorts had big plans for their extensive waterfront site at Tripoli and, prior to the civil war, were busy building a mega-hotel complex.
Sitting alongside the existing Four Points by Sheraton Hotel tower, the much larger Sheraton Tripoli Hotel is a partially-completed luxury hotel which has laid abandoned for the past 13 years.
A structure with many hundreds of rooms, the hotel was incomplete when the Libyan Civil War broke out in February 2011. At the time, construction was halted and the structure has remained in a state of limbo ever since.
Likewise, on the other side of the Four Points by Sheraton tower, a marina complex, which is surrounded by luxury villas, also remains unfinished and abandoned.
Abandoned Construction Sights
The streets of Tripoli are lined with many such abandoned construction sites, including one waterfront, three-tower, high rise complex.
Most projects were being built by foreign companies, who withdrew from Libya at the commencement of the civil war in 2011. These companies have yet to return, due to ongoing security concerns.
Libyan cuisine reflects the country’s diverse cultural influences. Staple foods include couscous, rice, and bread, often accompanied by various meats (such as lamb and chicken), vegetables, and aromatic spices. Local specialties and street food are an essential part of experiencing Libyan culture.
Restaurants / Cafés
Due to its close proximity to Bella Italia, and following its time as an Italian colony from 1912 until 1947, Libya has inherited an excellent coffee culture.
From the finest cafés in Tripoli, to small town establishments, cappuccinos are always served with a firm, silky crema that would meet the approval of any Italian barista.
Libyans tend to drink espresso but are also partial to cappuccino.
Alcohol is forbidden in Libya!
The Visa Policy of Libya is very straight forward – almost all nationalities require a visa!
Only nationals of Tunisia and Jordan can enter Libya visa-free.
Nationals of six countries (Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) are banned from entering Libya, while nationals of Israel, and anyone bearing proof of having visited Israel, are also banned from entering Libya.
Tourist visas must be organised through a Libyan-registered tour company.
Recently introduced, visa-on-arrival (VOA), is available at Tripoli Airport (currently Mitiga International Airport) and at the Tunisian land border.
VOA’s can only be issued to those visitors who are in possession of a Visa Authorisation letter.
The letter is issued by Libyan Immigration services, following an application from a Libyan-registered tour company.
It took one month for my via authorisation letter to be issued!
Another requirement is that a representative from the tour company meets each visitor at the immigration desk at the airport (or land border) and that the tour company facilitates the issue of the visa.
There is nothing for a visitor to do, other than to wait for the visa to be issued, which took one hour in my case!
I visited Libya with Tidwa Tours, who I would highly recommend. They took care of the entire visa process!
Tripoli International Airport (currently closed)
As critical infrastructure, airports in Libya were heavily bombed during the Libyan Civil War. In 2014, the main international gateway, Tripoli International Airport (IATA: TIA), was heavily damaged in the Battle of Tripoli Airport.
TIA reopened for limited commercial use in July 2017 but was again closed in 2019 following further damage sustained during the Western Libya campaign. TIA is now currently being completely rebuilt by an Italian consortium.
Mitiga International Airport
In the meantime, all international flights to Tripoli arrive at the much smaller Mitiga International Airport (IATA: MJI) which normally only serves domestic flights.
Mitiga airport has a colourful history, being first established in 1923 by the Italians as an Air Force base. During WWII, the Germans used the base for their operations in North Africa.
During WWII, the British captured the base, which they then transferred to the United States military. In 1969, the US military abandoned the base following a coup d’état in Libya. The Americans then bombed the base in 1986 during Operation El Dorado Canyon.
In 1995, the air base was converted to a second civilian airport for Tripoli, and was given its current name.
During the 2019–20 Western Libya campaign, the airport was frequently targeted with airstrikes from the opposing Libyan National Army. Following repairs, the airport was finally reopened in May 2021.
While connections to Tripoli are limited, more connections are slowly coming online. During my visit, ITA Airlines (the reborn Alitalia) started flights between Rome and Tripoli.
Also, during my visit, Fly Oya commenced flights to Dubai International Airport (IATA: DXB).
The Libyan airline which has the best reputation for reliability and punctuality is Libyan Wings, which connects Tripoli to Istanbul International Airport (IATA: IST) and Tunis International Airport.
I flew with Libyan Wings from IST and would recommend them!
The following airlines operate scheduled services to/from Mitiga International Airport:
- Afriqiyah Airways – flies to/ from Alexandria, Benghazi, Cairo, Istanbul, Khartoum, Niamey, Sfax, Tunis
- Air Libya – flies to/ from Benghazi
- Berniq Airways – flies to/ from Benghazi, Istanbul
- Buraq Air – flies to/ from Alexandria, Benghazi, Istanbul, Tobruk
- Egyptair – flies to/ from Cairo
- Fly Oya – flies to/ from Dubai, Istanbul
- Ghadames Air Transport – flies to/ from Istanbul, Tunis
- Global Aviation and Services Group – flies to/ from Benghazi
- ITA Airways – flies to/ from Rome
- Libyan Airlines – flies to/ from Alexandria, Amman–Queen Alia, Benghazi, Cairo, Istanbul, Jeddah, Niamey, Tunis
- Libyan Wings – flies to/ from Istanbul, Tunis
- Tunisair – flies to/ from Tunis
- Tunisair Express – flies to/ from Djerba, Sfax
All visitors will be met at immigration by their respective tour company and transferred to their accommodation.
There are many taxis at the airport, should one be needed.
I flew to Libya from Istanbul with Libyan Wings.
It should be noted that you are unable to purchase a ticket online from the Libyan Wings website. You can book flights using an OTA such as Expedia or Skyscanner but they charge much more than the airline. I was quoted US$1,200 for a return airfare from Expedia! Ouch!
I contacted Masoud at Tidwa Tours who was able to book me on the same flight for US$520!
I highly recommend using Tidwa Tours for your tour of Libya, and I especially recommend asking Masoud to book the flight for you.
Currently, the coastal land border between Tunisia and Libya at Ras Ajdir is open.
Visitors wishing to enter Libya overland from Tunisia can make arrangements through a Libyan tour company, such as Tidwa Tours, who will organise a visa and meet their clients at the border crossing.
While taxis and mini buses operate in Libya, all visitors are fully escorted by their tour company.
That’s the end of my Libya Travel Guide if you wish to leave feedback, you can do so using the form below.
Author: Darren McLean
Darren McLean is an Australian full-time digital nomad who has spent 36 years on a slow meander around the globe, visiting all seven continents and 229 UN+ countries and territories.
He founded taste2travel to pique one’s curiosity and inspire wanderlust.