Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Guest Post - Driving in Libya: The Thrill of the Chase

The following is a guest post by: Expat

Driving in Libya: The Thrill of the Chase

Driving in Libya is just short of a spiritual experience. Each innocent road trip is equivalent to something that resembles divine judgement – passengers bowing their heads before the scales of life and death.

Libya racks up more than 2,300 road deaths a year, a stunning statistic that is second highest in the world, and five times the EU average.

Expats moving to Libya and visitors coming to cleanse their souls in the desert should realize that driving is the country’s most dangerous contact sport; basic regard for safety is disregarded; law enforcement is lackadaisical; and the activity of getting from point A to point B is a time to do everything EXCEPT concentrate on the road.

It’s commonplace to look to the car beside you and see no driver, his head buried in the seat below looking for the cigarette he’s dropped. Or perhaps, you’ll pass a small-pick up cruising at break-neck speed around hairpin curves with a camel or pint-size pony waving to and fro on the bed in the back. There are also the veiled women that veer left and right without notice, their head scarves and burkas restricting peripheral vision, but not limiting their movement across the highway with little notice.

In one regard, these observations can be charming indicators of Libyan culture, on the other hand, they can be glaring examples of just how unsafe driving in Libya can actually be.

Though the roads in urban areas are paved and up to standard, as soon as drivers start to venture outside major centres the quality of the driving surfaces greatly deteriorate. The major highway along the seacoast merges into a single lane highway once outside a metropolis and drivers take the opportunity to put the pedal to the metal and reach top speeds with the beauty of the scenery turning into a blur of colour outside.

Wind-blown sand can often reduce visibility, and at night, drivers in Libya are also competing for road space with the odd camel, the domestic animal who’s been inspired by a bit of wanderlust, and the massive pothole.

The lack of law enforcement also acts as a directive for drivers to take risks and openly disregard the vague traffic regulations that do exist.

If driving in Libya there are certainly some Do’s and Don’ts that expats and visitors should be aware of:


  • Make sure you have all the necessary documents to drive in Libya (a license and yellow car booklet)
  • Check the state of your vehicle often, especially prior to longer trips
  • Enroll in a ‘Defensive Driving’ course locally
  • Research your route beforehand, create as much of a calm driving experience as possible
  • Be alert, anything can happen
  • Double check intersections even after the lights turn green


  • Start driving without the necessary papers and insurance
  • Leave home without a spare tire or a vehicle in questionable condition, road side assistance is easily accessed and is often entirely in Arabic
  • Begin a long journey without letting a third party know
  • Lose your cool and get frustrated
  • Be in a hurry
  • Try and predict another driver’s actions


  1. Thanks I enjoyed the post. I have seen it all since coming here. The babies/toddlers in the front seat balanced on the passengers and sometimes drivers lap; the kids sitting on the window sill with only their legs inside the car while holding onto the window frame; the trucks loaded with unsecured carpets that fell out and damaged our car (thank God didn't kill us), and saw a 12 year old driving a car yesterday around the neighbourhood. There needs to be better enforcement of some basic road safety. You mentioned the number of people who die every year, but countless others are injured, and paralyzed. If 5 planes loaded with people were to crash every year in Libya, we would take it seriously. But when the equivalent number of people die every year from driving accidents, little is done.
    Also, I would warn any expats or tourists, even if you are not driving, be very careful while walking. At times the roads ore very narrow, and there are often no sidewalks outside the main areas. Also, have seen too many trucks loaded with items that have not been properly tied down. Trust no one, and keep your eyes peeled!!!

  2. Hi Khadija,
    I am so glad you tell it as it is, and I wish others stop being in denial, the people of Libya need to move with time and start to practice save driving, it's only a common sense specially when there is kids in the car. I believe the LAW is a good start and no favour for certain individuals.


  3. That kind of describes the driving here in Tunisia as well.. I'm so NOT looking forward to taking my drivers license here. Scary!

  4. Oh my friend!
    You are totaly correct! Here in Tripoli I realized that there is God! Yes, it's true. I understood it when I got a taxi from Green Sq. to my home. Albert Einstain was in my mind during that ride; in velocity close to this of light the mass and the time are changing their forms. There is no other explanation who a car with a width of 1,7 m was able to pass between 2 trucks with distance less than the cab!!! So, I closed my eyes for a second and when I opened them again I was out of my home! Thanks to God I 'm still alive. And I will never get taxi again. At least here, at Tripoli.

  5. Hi Khadija,
    i really enjoying your blog and i thought it was very good,but i'd have to disagree with you on one thing,i've been driving in Libya for years and never felt that my head scarve blocks my vision in any shape or form.
    i would agree that burka might block vision,but i really don't see that being an issue in Libya since very little population of Libyan women wear burka,and most of them don't drive.
    Thank You


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