Expat Life in Libya – Keeping in Touch
Internet in Libya
Please also note that the Internet is censored in Libya and some pages which don’t seem to contain sensitive content are blocked… not sure why. Goes without saying that content of a sensitive nature (i don’t need to draw you a picture) are banned. This can be bypassed by installing one of those program that tricks the computer into thinking it is actually located in a different country (sorry not my field of expertise sorry). I’ve been adviced to try those 2: ZenMate and Hola…
Mobile Phones in Libya
In terms of mobile technology, there are 2 service providers in Misurata (and the rest of Libya) and all you can get is a PAYG (pay as you go) SIM card. You will need to top up every time you run out of credit. Top ups are available in 5 or 10 Dinars, that’s all. It is also important to note that up to this day, you still need a valid passport to buy a SIM card in Libya. Remnants of the old regime still affect every life and you cannot simply go to a shop and buy a SIM card. You’ll need to go to the service provider office and register your passport to get a SIM card. There are some blackmarkets SIM cards too but not easy to get when you’ve just arrived.
A word of advice to Blackberry lovers (like me), I’m afraid that you won’t be able to use your phone to its full potential. Blackberry email services and other great features will not work here as the services providers offer very very limited access to mobile internet. Besides Blackberry are not commonly sold in Misurata and you’ll have trouble having them fixed. More or less the same for iPhones, they are more easily available but forget about the powerful features.
And don’t forget, if you are bringing a phone from your own country, have them unlock BEFORE you arrive in Libya, as unlocking phones is very expensive here, almost as expensive as a handset.
On the plus side, most handsets sold in Libya are Dual SIM card, even the most basic handset will allow you to use 2 SIM cards in the same time.
Finally, the application Whatsapp works here without internet connection. Instead credit from your phone is taken for communications, which means that you’ll be able to keep in touch with the rest of the world for much cheaper than text messages. I’m not sure how much messages cost but I can send loads of written messages and picture messages and my credit doesn’t go down too much. I don’t use it myself but Viber also works.
For those who are still fond of “snail mail” or postal mail, forget about it. In Misurata you will find that most places do not have an address, people simply do not send mail so even though there are (very few) post offices, don’t count on sending letters. I tried once in Tripoli to post a letter to France. They sold me a stamp but as of today, the letter never reached its destination.
Courrier services such as FedEx are available but without the usual high standards. We once asked for a courrier to pick up some documents to be sent to the UK, a young man turned up with no uniform, no ID, no receipt book and a spaced-out look on his face. Of course we didn’t give him anything and instead had to drive to the main office in Tripoli to post our documents. Those arrived safely and in due time however.
Not my first time saying it on this Blog but in Libya things are not quite like back home so better ask. I’m always happy to answer questions and help out. If you want to know about Western Union in Libya i have written a separate post on the topic HERE.