Libya Travel Information

Photo Since he took power in a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI has espoused his own political system - a combination of socialism and Islam - which he calls the Third International Theory. Viewing himself as a revolutionary leader, he used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, even supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism. Libyan military adventures failed, e.g., the prolonged foray of Libyan troops into the Aozou Strip in northern Chad was finally repulsed in 1987. Libyan support for terrorism decreased after UN sanctions were imposed in 1992. Those sanctions were suspended in April 1999.

Libya has a small population in a large land area. Population density is about 50 persons per sq. km. (80/sq. mi.) in the two northern regions of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, but falls to less than one person per sq. km. (1.6/sq. mi.) elsewhere. Ninety percent of the people live in less than 10% of the area, primarily along the coast. More than half the population is urban, mostly concentrated in the two largest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi. Fifty percent of the population is estimated to be under age 15.

For most of their history, the peoples of Libya have been subjected to varying degrees of foreign control. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines ruled all or parts of Libya. Although the Greeks and Romans left impressive ruins at Cyrene, Leptis Magna, and Sabratha, little else remains today to testify to the presence of these ancient cultures.

The government dominates Libya’s socialist-oriented economy through complete control of the country’s oil resources, which account for approximately 95% of export earnings, 75% of government receipts, and 30% of the gross domestic product. Oil revenues constitute the principal source of foreign exchange.

The United States supported the UN resolution providing for Libyan independence in 1951 and raised the status of its office at Tripoli from a consulate general to a legation. Libya opened a legation in Washington, DC, in 1954. Both countries subsequently raised their missions to embassy level.

Important: Travel to Libya may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Libya visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: none
Capital city: Tripoli
Area: 1,759,540 sq km
Population: 5,613,380
Ethnic groups: Berber and Arab 97%, other 3%
Languages: Arabic
Religions: Sunni Muslim
Government: operates under a transitional government
Chief of State: President Muhammad al-MAQARYAF
Head of Government: Prime Minister Ali ZAYDAN
GDP: 38.98 billion
GDP per captia: 6,000
Annual growth rate: 59.7%
Inflation: 15.9%
Agriculture: wheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans
Major industries: petroleum, petrochemicals, aluminum, iron and steel, food processing, textiles, handicrafts, cement
Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, gypsum
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Tunisia
Trade Partners - exports: Italy 22.8%, Germany 14.3%, France 14.2%, China 10.7%, Spain 5.2%, Tunisia 4.8%
Trade Partners - imports: Tunisia 13.3%, Turkey 9.1%, China 8.8%, Italy 8.4%, Egypt 6.7%, Syria 5.2%, France 4.9%, Germany 4.8%