As a non-Arab “westerner” field engineer going on a work visit to Libya for the first time, it is very important to have some useful information that will ensure a successful trip.
This article features Darren Hunt looking at different points to consider when you visit Libya as a field engineer.
Tips and advice when visiting Libya
I am by no stretch of anyone’s imagination an expert on working in Libya. Although I am here right now, and I have been here for 5 months so I have a few “insider” tips which might help.
There are two visa options for working in Libya the classic embassy visa or a visa you can obtain at the airport – airport visa.
To obtain an Embassy visa you will need four things.
A letter of invitation from the sponsoring company which has a unique number allowing you to book an appointment.
An application form typed in Arabic.
The fee, which in Dubai is 1200 dirham for a standard waiting time (up to 10 days) or 2400 dirham for next day for a 6-month multiple entry business visa.
This is primarily handled by the sponsoring company.
It can, potentially, cause you a bit of a delay at the airport both in departing and arriving at the airport.
This will give you a single-entry visa valid for 30-60 days. It seems like the duration of the visa depends on whatever the issuing agent feels like giving you (or so it seems to me).
I flew from Dubai to Istanbul then on to Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli.
From Dubai to Istanbul the flight was fine as usual. However, the delay, further delay, and more delays I faced in Istanbul were not funny. I was flying with Libyan Wings. Finally, 15 hours later we departed on a really old really packed very basic aircraft. So, this wasn’t a pleasant 3.5-hour flight.
Other colleagues flew from Dubai via Tunis then onto Mitiga without any delays. Although the initial flight to Tunis is slightly longer than the flight form Dubai to Istanbul, the next leg to Libya is only 1 hour which is nothing even in the same basic aircraft.
I would highly recommend Dubai-Tunis-Libya route, although Tunis airport is ancient and can be a nightmare in comparison to Istanbul.
Westerners are not allowed to leave the airport without a security detail. By now, you’ll be fully aware of this fact as it’s part of the preparing for Libya experience. It will all be sorted for you.
Arrival at Mitiga is/can be very lengthy as there is a line for non-Libyans which can take over an hour. It seems to be completely pointless as the passport is passed back and forth between several people for unknown reasons. The sponsoring company will generally have a local fixer there to smooth out any wrinkles (which certainly helps if you are a non-Arabic speaker).
The experience is very inefficient and requires a good dose of humour especially in the summer when it’s quite warm inside the terminal.
A positive I must add is that at no point does anyone expect or ask for a “tip”.
Final top tip for arrival regarding phones. If you need to get a local SIM, then there is a stand selling SIM cards just to the right as you exit through the airport doors. This is the easiest way to buy a local SIM. If you don’t buy a SIM card at the airport it can be a hassle for the security team to obtain one for you later. Topping up the SIM credit is really easy as you can buy top up cards from almost every shop.
Libya generally day to day
Listen to the security and there will be no issues!!! They say 😊
During this trip it has been unusually calm and relatively quiet which is a dramatic difference from last year. When I was in Libya last year, there were running gun fights in the street some days and we had to stay confined in the security accommodation.
The political situation is improving and hopefully moving towards a more peaceful existence. I’m not saying it is perfect because it’s not. Occasionally militias clash and cause a problem for a few days, but it is small scale and often away from our areas.
Right now, I would say if you have ever been to Egypt then it is very similar to Libya.
I have a 6-month multiple entry visa allowing 30 days maximum in the country. After this time, I take a day trip to Tunis, overnight in a hotel, get some better food and return to Libya for another 30 days. Depending on which country you come from this type of visa on arrival might not be available for you. My Egyptian colleague had to go to Istanbul for his day trip due to the visa he had.
Darren Hunt started his career in the RAF (UK) and is now a Senior Gas Turbine Mechanical Engineer for Siemens Energy. He has worked in a great many places including Libya, Dubai, the USA, Iraq, Nigeria, all of Europe, Australia, Togo, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Russia, Greece, Bosnia, Croatia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, and Barbados.