The Guide ('Escort')
Is The Tourist Guide Still Required?
No. According to the previous law (before 2011) Libyan-government-approved
tour operators are required to provide Libyan visa in conjunction with a
tour guide. The update we have in today's Libya is that we have contacted the
immigration authorities in Tripoli regarding this matter and we were given "verbal
that the guide is now a "discretionary" matter;
which could only mean that the guide is now 'optional' and no longer 'compulsory'.
We have also tested and confirmed the whole process a number
of times in 2012 without any issues. As a result, we are not including this service
until it has been officially decreed by the concerned authorities in the capital,
or unless specifically requested by visitors. Please keep in mind that if new
regulations are issued by the tourism department before your arrival date, which
we will publish if and when they become available, visitors already through the
visa process will be informed and accordingly notified of the new costs.
Due to erroneous translation the word مرافق came to
be known as 'guide', when in fact it means 'companion' or 'escort'. These
are not necessarily experts in tourism and most of them have no professional
qualifications as guides; and hence some visitors express dissatisfaction when
they arrive in Libya to discover their official escort knows nothing about Leptis
Magna or Mori's mummy. Basically the escorts are employees of the tour operator
or the travel agent who must (according to the old law) accompany tourist visitors
during their tour in Libya. The guide is not required for business visa holders.
How much does the escort cost?
On average, "companions" charge around 50 Libyan
Dinars, plus 40 more for their accommodation and meals, giving a total of 90
Libyan Dinars per day. This total does not include the cost of transport, which
is provided either by the tour operator or by the visitor. While professional
archaeological guides, hired directly from archaeological sites on the day, cost
a flat fee of 50 Libyan Dinars. Each archaeological site visited requires a separate
guide, but some sites do not require professional guides and therefore are
free -- for example, the Berber archaeological site of Qasr Alhaj is free.
Is the "companion" (or the escort) a good idea?
Without a doubt the escort does provide assistance with route
finding, language, information about Libya, handling disagreements that
might arise in dealing with "some" locals, and, of course, the current
uncertainty effected by the war and the wide-spread of arms among the Libyans
of the "revolution" may also add another reason for the guide's services
being 'recommended' for the time being. But having said this, we do understand
the restrictions imposed by the previous government, and we sincerely hope the
new transitional rulers will abolish this requirement, or at least recommend
it to the forthcoming permanent government, to allow Libya's visitors the freedom
they enjoy worldwide and to encourage free tourism in Libya.
There is a good reason for the previous government
to impose the guide requirement, as we have stated elsewhere in this website
and that is the desecration of Libya's archaeological
and priceless heritage; but it seems certain that such restrictive policy had
failed to achieve its objective, and even fell to 'corruption' and 'abuse'; resulting
in the weak system being exploited to accumulate further financial gains rather
than implement its intended objective.
Due to the fact that many of our visitors specifically request
from us to include a guide in their itineraries, while others clearly are distressed
by having to waste so much money just to "violate their privacy", it
seems quite reasonable to abolish the compulsory status of the guide and instead
have it as an option travellers can choose. The issues of 'protection' and 'national
security' however are other aspects of government that must have their own 'program'
and 'budget' to implement, effectively, once proper officials to carry out the
task are well-prepared before they were installed.
On The Alternative!
To allow integration with the rest of the world, one possible
solution to explore is to allow free tourism along the coastal sites and Nafusa
Mountain, while at the same time implement 'proper' and 'strict' security procedures
to safeguard Libya's entire archaeological heritage. Tourism and Security are
two different departments, confused by the previous regime's advisors. Some desert
sites extend for hundreds and hundreds of miles and therefore such areas may
require the company of the compulsory Tourism Police for the time being, until
alternative security measures were implemented.
Establishing checkpoints at certain locations along desert
routes, and most important of all tightening security at airports and land borders,
will also prevent most of the stolen items from being smuggled out of the country;
and also could work as a deterrent once antiquities' dealers know there is no
possible way to smuggle such items out of the country.
These rigorous border checks must also apply to all Libyans,
and not just to foreign visitors, since organised criminals most often find ingenious
ways of bypassing security systems including employing indigenous assistance.
The technology to implement such checks (including complete scanning of vehicles)
is there, but most often is used only in privileged airports, leaving land borders
wide open as back doors.