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Libya an Alternative Travel Destination - For the Audacious Traveller

Aug 17, 2007
In the western World, Libya is best known for its eccentric dictator - Colonel Gaddafi and this is a shame as the country has so much more to offer the visitor. It has some great classical remains, vibrant city life and some of the most unusual prehistoric rock art in the Sahara region.

It does remain a difficult part of the World to visit, but with good preparation a visit should be problem free and well worth the effort. Whilst in the country, you must remember that it is an alcohol free area and the penalties if you are caught are extremely high. You must also remember not to speak too freely about the governing authorities, this is not the west and they do not take kindly to criticism.

The best time to visit is winter and spring when the temperatures are not so high and stay at a moderate level. The summer time brings 30C on the coast and as high as 50C in the desert interior, a little too hot we think!

Health-wise - Malaria is a risk in the extreme south west of the country in the spring/summer time and Schistosomiasis is evident in the rivers and streams, so take care not to swim in them. Again, precautions against sunburn and dehydration should be taken, as the sun can get very hot here, as you can imagine.

Visas and Documents - A visa is needed for travel to Libya for all western citizens and they are not the easiest to obtain as there are not many Libyan Embassies around. Visa applications need to be translated into Arabic and this can be done at the Embassy for a fee. Independent traveller visas are notoriously difficult to get, though things are getting easier.

Cost - Libya is not the cheapest destination in North Africa and the official exchange bureaus do not give a good conversion rate. Unofficial currency changers on the streets offer a much better rate, but you will attempt this at your own risk. The Libyan authorities look dimly on these kinds of "criminal activities". Daily costs for the budget traveller will have to be at least $80 a day to be realistic; this will include local transport, food and a nights accommodation.

The Sights - Tripoli, the capital of Libya is a fascinating place with some lovely examples of the traditional architecture and culture of the region. Everyone who visits Libya will visit the city for at least a while and this is no bad thing as Tripoli is its heart and it really gives you an inside look into the odd totalitarian regime that runs the country.

There are two famous classical sights in Libya, Leptis Magna was a Roman ruin close to Tripoli and Cyrene is a ruined Greek settlement to the east of Benghazi. Both are captivating day trips and the well preserved sites are refreshing when compared to similar sights across the Mediterranean, which are usually packed with tourists. While the chances are you will share your experience with a tour group, it is still possible to find yourself alone in your exploration, surely a dream for Hellenistic and Roman history buffs.

The superb desert scenery around the country is enough to make you want to visit on its own, the best examples being around Ghadames, a charming Oasis town close to the Tunisian border. The mud brick housing around the town really takes you back to the days of old and is a great place to escape the crowds of the capital.

Further to the south by the Niger and Algeria borders, is the Acacus Mountains which has some of the best prehistoric art in the whole of Africa. Organised tours can be organised in Ghat, the gateway town. Please note permits will need to be organised in Tripoli to visit the extreme south.
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