Tripoli, Libya Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Tripoli, Libya

Tripoli, Libya 01/08/07

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Not my first expat experience. Latin America has been my home for the last three years.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From U.S. - Austrian Air from Dulles TO Vienna, then Vienna to Tripoli.Also, BA from Dulles to Heathrow, Heathrow to Tripoli.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There is a disparity in what is available in terms of housing. There are small government-issued flats and large villas, with the exception of the occasional very, very, large villa. Most of the villas have access control gates and large fences. That being said, the housing can be very nice in town. Plan on about US$1,700 / month for something serviceable. Housekeeper - US$25/ Day; Gardener - US$25 / Day.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Bread is subsidized, and many staples are very inexpensive. Specialized and ethnic foods other than Arab / North African specialties are hard to find. The fruit and vegetable markets are fantastic. There is not a lot of good milk. Mainly powdered or reconstituted milk that has been irradiated. Baby food and pet food are hard to find as well. You will be able to find beef, lamb and chicken very easily. You will be able to buy flour, sugar, and other baking essentials with no problems.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Bring good coffee, transformers. The rest you can make up as you go along.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Not Much. See Couples/Singles above.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Inexpensive and readily available.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There are about three working ATM's in all of Tripoli, but all are from offshore banks, and charge a high-rate for use. They typically transfer you Libyan Dinars, but using whichever rate is best for the exchange to get the most out of the transaction. Credit cards are accepted at one or two hotels, and only one restaurant in town. This is a cash economy. No plastic accepted.

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3. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. Two churches. Union Church of Tripoli, and another one for the Catholics.

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

You will need to obtain a Satellite dish setup to get English programming. The showtime package here is about 800 dinars / year (including box, dish, and install) and will give you all the programming you want. Local papers - Tripoli Post is a weekly paper distributed in English (1 dinar per issue).

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need some, but will pick it up out of necessity. More and more of the locals speak some English and French.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Do not move here if you have a physical disability. It is very hard to get along here without disabilities. (No Kidding.)

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right Lane Driving...as God intended it.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are cheap, but the drivers are a mixed bag. You can get just about anywhere in Tripoli for about 5 dinars or less. This provided you can speak some Arabic, or get somebody on your mobile to give the cabbie directions.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Do not bring your new BMW or Mercedes. Bring a VW or Toyota something or other. You can find service / repair for most makes, but the roads are in poor repair, and as mentioned above, plan on having an accident or two. Don't bring a car that you don't consider disposable.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Expensive and poor quality when available.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Buy one here. Buy a Madar phone. This is the Ericson network and it works. The Libyana network is the ZTE/ Huawei network, and is wrought with network failures and dropped calls. A Madar card will run you about US$500 and is prepaid.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Prepaid mobile or internet cafes.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

No. Find a good neighbor to board your dog while you are out of town.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really. Only inside the Oil Services / Oil Companies.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative. Shorts only worn at the Beach, and only by Men.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

The air quality is good. Potable water is moderate to unhealthy. The ocean is not well managed, with dumping, hazardous materials, dynamite and over fishing. There is not unified sewer system, and waste management is poor.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Petty Crime: Tripoli is not prone to petty crime. It is a pretty safe place to walk around and meet the locals. I have been out till 2 and 3 am on the street, and had no problems with locals. Some people have reported that there is a rise in pickpocketing, but this is by no means a rampant phenomenon, and easily countered with a little foresight. For better or worse, the place is a police state.

Traffic: You will eventually have a traffic accident in Tripoli if you live here long enough. You will have cars run into you from any and all directions. Good luck. Traffic Stops: If you are a diplomat, you will be issued red plates. If you are an expat you will have local plates or commercial plates. If you do not have red plates, you will be stopped at traffic circles after about 21:00 any night of the week. The stops are routine, but make you nervous, particularly if your Arabic is not all that solid. The police are usually looking for drunk drivers and undocumented workers.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is horrendous in Tripoli. It is nearly a humanitarian disaster. There are no emergency medical facilities, and the clinics are not operated to any sort of international standard. Physicians at the facilities often introduce themselves and follow the introduction by sincerely wishing you good health, and hoping you never have to visit them. Sixty-five percent of all fatalities in Libya are attributed to Trauma from automotive accidents/incidents. Eighty-five percent of those are due to poor / nonexistent emergency medical care, and die in transport or on the scene. MRSA is rampant in local facilities. This is not a great place for medical care.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Mediterranean Climate - Mild. Rainy Season - December-February

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I have no experience with the schools, but there are several. There is a British School, an American School, and the old Oil School. The British School seems to have the best reputation in town.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I have no idea what you would need in this case. This place is not all that accommodating for the handicapped, and I am sure the school systems are probably only set up for special needs kids on a case by case basis.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Live in house-help is very affordable here. If you need a nanny, you can find great help for US$350-500 / month for all day every day care.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

135 Diplomatic Missions in Tripoli, many oil companies. This place has a fairly large expat community. If you speak French, your options double for social interaction.

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2. Morale among expats:

Poor. No one really likes this place.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

No.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families will tend to do better here, as there is no night-life to speak of. There is one movie theater that plays black and white movies, but works in Titanic once a month. There is a bowling alley with a few lanes. There were no restaurants to speak of until 2004 or so, but now there are probably 10 serviceable restaurants in the greater Tripoli area. There is a large singles community, but they mostly get together and commiserate at large house-parties. Like many other isolated locations, if you did not bring it, it isn't here. This goes for the dating pool as well. Don't come here looking for the pretty people. This is a very work-oriented, hard-charger sort of location.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. It is good to be a man. It is worse to be a boy. It is worse yet to be a woman. Women should plan on non-violent, but persistent harrasment for not covering, or for wearing revealing clothing. It is done, but make sure you are not out alone without a cover of some sort.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are few things worth writing about, but the few are very spectacular. Visit Sabratha, Leptis Magna, and Villa Sileen. These three sites are easy to find, you can go by car, and they are hands down some of the coolest Roman ruins you will ever see. Go see the desert, Ghadames, Gharyan, Nalut, et alia. There is much to be discovered out in the desert if you are the adventurous type. There are cultural / music festivals, and these are worth checking out. The festivals in Ghat and Ghadames are the most spectacular. BenGhazi and the Green Mountains are another culture-rich area worth seeing.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pottery, Copper Work, Rugs, Camel Bone Artwork, Berber crafts and any animal pelts you like.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. There is nothing here to spend your money on.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Probably not.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Guns, Pornography, Pork, Liquor, Credit Cards and sanity.

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3. But don't forget your:

Surfboard, snorkel gear, camera, GPS and lots of cash as credit cards will not get you anywhere.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Legend of the Lost (1957) - John Wayne / Sophia Loren; Lion of the Desert - 25th Anniversary Edition - Anthony Quinn. Both movies were shot on location in Libya.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Look before you leap on this one.

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