AlgeriaAlgeria (Arabic: الجزائر) is a country in North Africa on the Mediterranean. Algeria's fantastic diversity of landscapes and extremely rich cultural legacy (boasting no less than 7 World Heritage sites), combined with its high level of economical and social development (at least by African standards), could easily make it one of the most popular tourist spots in Africa. Unfortunately, the country still has a number of security issues, such as armed terrorist groups, which often target foreigners.
- — with nearly 3 million inhabitants, Algiers is the capital of Algeria, and the nation's political and cultural center.
- — a town with 200,000 inhabitants in the east of the country next to the border of Tunisia.
- — small city in the Sahara, not far from the Moroccan border.
- - Algeria's 3rd largest city with a canyon going down through it.
- — Algeria's 2nd largest city after Algiers, also called "second Paris" by Algerians, with many impressive buildings from colonial times.
- — the trade capital of Algeria, Setif El- Ali (The High) is the capital of high plateaus, with quite moderate temperatures and occasional snow falls in the winter.
- — largest town in the south and starting point for expeditions to the Sahara and the Hoggar Mountains.
- — a small Saharan oasis town which makes a good base for trips to the desert.
- Roman ruins at Timgad - outside Batna
- El-Oued with its domed architecture & nearby Grand Erg Oriental—the Sahara's second largest dune field
- Hippo Regius, 2 km south of Annaba, an ancient Numidian city once an early center of Christianity with well preserved Roman baths and forum
- The fantastic architecture of the M'zab Valley
- Tassili N'Ajjer
Algeria had a long history of colonization by the French. It won its independence in the famous revolution of the First November 1954, quite a bloody war that left scars. In spite of the brutality of the fighting and French attempts to suppress the independence movement, Algeria and France still maintain close ties, with many Algerians and people of Algerian descent in France and French still commonly spoken as a second or third language in Algeria today.
Algeria has a Mediterranean Sea coastline in the north. It is surrounded by Morocco to the northwest, Tunisia to the northeast, Libya to the east, Niger to the southeast, Mali to the southwest, Mauritania and Western Sahara to the west. It is the largest country in Africa and also the most developed country in continental Africa according to the United Nations' Human Development Index.
ElectricityOfficially, 220 V 50 Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko", or the compatible, but not always grounded, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types. Canadian and US travellers should pack an adapter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment in Algeria.
Visas are required for most nationalities, except for citizens of Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Western Sahara, Seychelles, Tunisia and Yemen. Issue of a visa seems to be unpredictable, it could be granted easily, but it could also take several weeks or even be rejected. It is highly recommended to give your application to a visa agency that has some experience with Algerian consulates. In general, it is required to provide proof of income, health insurance, flight and hotel reservations etc. The Algerian government does not make it easy for travellers who want to travel on their own. However, if you get a visa, you can easily travel to any other places not mentioned in your visa application without getting any problems. Also, there seems to be no problem with travelling to the south alone (except for, maybe, the border regions and the very far south), despite the consulates state clearly that trips to the south must be applied for and accompanied by an authorized travel agency.
Houari Boumediene AirportMost major European airlines such as (Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, Iberia, Alitalia, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines) fly daily to Algiers but there are also some long-haul routes such as (Beijing, Montreal, Doha)
From the United Kingdom flying via Barcelona or Madrid can be cheaper than flying direct.
From the United States the cheapest way to get into Algiers is via London (British Airways), Paris (Air France) or Frankfurt (Lufthansa).
The national airline, Air Algerie, flies to many destinations in Europe, especially France but also to some cities in Africa and the Middle East. All destinations served by Air Algerie from Algiers: Abidjan, Alicante, Bamako, Barcelona, Basel, Beijing, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Casablanca, Dakar, Damascus, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Milan, Montreal, Moscow, Niamey, Paris, Rome, Tripoli, Tunis.
By trainThe Algerian train company is named SNTF and tickets can be bought at train stations. On-line booking does not appear to be possible any more; timetables are subject to changes; the best way is to ask at the train station. The network in the north is dense. You can reach Algeria by train from Tunisia, although you will have to change trains at the border post. All border points with Morocco are closed.
If you can, try to catch the newer trains as they are more comfortable and climate-controlled.
The realistic and most secure way to reach Algeria by car is across the Tunisian border.
The Mauritanian and Malian borders present some security problems, and the Moroccan border is closed.
Note that, if you want to get into Algeria from Niger or from the Tozeur border post in southern Tunisia, you'll have to contract an official guide to accompany you across the Saharan routes; otherwise, police will not allow you to get into Algeria with your car.
There are no problems if you want to get into Algeria from the Tunisian border posts in the north. As of July 2017 the border to Morocco is still closed.
By boatThe prices are usually cheaper than flying so if you can and have no car take a plane. Most connections are offered by Algerie Ferries.
- Alicante to Algiers and Oran
- Almeria to Ghazaouet
- Barcelona to Algiers and Oran
- Marseille to almost every Algerian harbor (Annaba, Skikda, Bejaia, Jijel, Algiers, Oran)
- Napoli to Tunis & take a road for 1 hour
- Roma (Civitavecchia) to Tunis & take a road for 1 hour
By planeFrom Algiers you can reach almost every major Algerian city by plane, and it is highly recommended to take a flight when travelling longer routes and to Saharan cities. Houari Boumediene, in Algier, is the only modern airport in the country; the other airports are more like airfields and lacking infrastructure.
Air Algérie is the national carrier with many flights to almost all Algerian cities with an airport. The prices vary regarding of the length of the flown route; airfares to smaller and Sahara ci: Applicants must provide with their application an invitation from their host in Algeria and notarised at the city hall of the place of residence of the Algerian host. The Embassy will not accept invitations faxed or sent separately.
Spouses of Algerian Citizens should submit a copy of the valid Consulate Registration Card of their spouse and a sponsorship letter signed by the Algerian spouse.
Return of passports: Applicants may pick up their passports at the Embassy or send a prepaid self-addressed envelope. The Embassy is not responsible for the lost or delays of document by the post office or other visa services.
- Complete documentation is required. Any incomplete documentation may extend the processing time or returned to applicant at cost.
- Processing of an application may be delayed, if prior agreement by Algerian authorities is required. Furthermore, the Embassy reserves the right to request additional documentation from any applicant. It is not the responsibility of the Embassy if there is any delay in the processing of the visa application.
- Applicants should make travel arrangements to Algeria based on the date of entry indicated on their visa. Applicants should not arrive in Algeria before that date; they will not be allowed to enter. In case of change in travel plans, applicants must obtain a new visa.
Cities tend to be pricier than between bigger cities (such as Oran to Algier). The airline uses Houari Boumediene Airport as its hub, and almost all flights start or land there. There are seven daily flights to Oran from Algiers and five daily flights to Annaba and Costantine. Other destinations served from Algiers daily or several days weekly are Adrar, El Oued, Tebessa, Batna, Biskra, Sétif, In Ames, Tindouf, Timmoun, Tlemcen, Tamanrasset, Tiaret, Tebessa, El Goela, Ouaragla, Hassi Mesaoud, Bejaia, Ghardaia, Tlemcen, Illizi, Djanet, Touggourt, and Béchar.
By taxiIt's usual to take a taxi to travel between near cities or in cities, the prices are pretty moderate but when travelling between bigger cities with large distances taxis are the same or more expensive as flying. Try to avoid unofficial taxis since it's very likely the driver will rip you off. Most Taxis have no taximeter so arrange a price in advance. Many drivers will try to take advantage of your lack of knowledge but never pay more than 30 DA per km regardless of what you are told. Tipping is not necessary but you can round up to the next 10 DA.
By carThe road network is well developed in the north, the Algerian government has made much improvements in the last years regarding road building, new highways were built to replace the already marod roads. The most important highway is the 1200 km long N1 (Route est-ouest) from Annaba to Oran, almost all bigger cities in the north are connected to this highway including Algiers.
A car is not absolutely necessary because of the well running public transportation system, but could be sometimes useful to reach more remote areas. Keep in mind that driving habits are completely different compared to western norms and that rules and prohibitive signs are more seen as guidelines, even by the police! It would be a wise decision letting a local Algerian do the driving for you in the first days to get an impression of the driving style, if this is not possible it's recommended to stay on the highways.
Do not try to reach Saharan areas with a car other than a 4x4, occasional dunes on the roads and extreme temperature changes will offer a challenge for the driver and the car.
As of 2018, fuel will not cost more than 50 DZD a liter.
By trainAlgerian railways are operated by SNTF; the trains and lines are being modernised. Ten comfortable high-speed trains named Autorail were bought, two of them are in operation. Tickets can not be bought on-line, only at the train stations, prices are quite moderate but more expensive than buses or taxis but in return you will have more comfort and enjoy wonderful landscapes.
- Algiers to Oran, the train takes 4 hours and departs each day at 15:00 from Algiers Central Station and arrives in Oran at 19:30, 2nd Class: DA 1 000, 1st Class: DA 1 500.
- Algiers to Annaba, on this route there's a only a slow and less comfortable nighttrain, departing each day at 20:45 and taking all the night for the way to Annaba. As an alternative you can catch the daytrain to Constantine and take from there a cheap taxi to Annaba.
- Algiers to Constantine departing each day at 06:45 and arriving in Constantine at 13:30, make sure that you get a window seat because the train will take you through the scenic kabilyan mountains and wonderful landscapes, 2nd Class: DA 1 200, 1st Class: DA 1 800.
The Mediterranean beaches in Algeria are woefully underdeveloped, despite excellent potential, owing to the country's poor security situation scaring off almost all tourists. But if you are in the country for a while, a bit of relaxation will at some point be in order, and there is no need to fly over to Tunisia. Oran (urban) on the Turquoise Coast, Annaba, and particularly Skikda and Ghazaouet all have nice beaches. The spot to go near Algiers is undoubtedly the resort town of Sidi Fredj.
Of Algeria's major cities, you may be surprised at just how little of interest there is to see—Algeria's more exotic locales are a much bigger draw than its modern culture (stifled by conflict and abysmal government), Islamic heritage, and colonial legacy. Algiers, the famed White City, is actually a much less touristic city than one might expect, given its central role in the country's economic, political, and cultural life. But all visitors will pass through anyway, so the Casbah—Algiers' historic seventeenth century center—is certainly worth a visit. There are a few nice, more laid-back large cities in the northwest, particularly the country's second largest city of Oran and the historic city of Tlemcen. In the northeast, Constantine is the one major city that deserves a spot on your itinerary.
- South Algeria, Tassili-National Park
- Visit the Roman Ruins located in Tipaza.
The Arabic spoken in the Maghreb Region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) is quite different from the Arabic spoken in other parts of the Arab World, so don't be surprised if you don't understand anything said to you even if you are competent in standard Arabic. Algerian Arabic contains many French words. All Algerians learn to speak standard Arabic in school, but it's not used as the main communication language; if you don't understand someone, just ask the person to speak standard Arabic (al-arabiyya al-fus'ha). Egyptian Arabic is also widely understood because of the popularity of Egyptian cinema.
Berber is also spoken by many people in Algeria, mainly in rural areas, the largest of which is the historic Kabylie region, which includes large parts of central and Northeast Algeria, near the capital.
French, the colonial language, is not the main communication language, but it is widely spoken and understood as Algerian schools teach it starting from the third grade.
Generally, only the younger generations in Algeria can understand and speak some English (starting from the first year in high school, some students can speak and understand English very well), but most people are able to communicate in French.
Some common phrases in Algerian Arabic:
- Washrak— How are you ?
- Mlih — Good
- Shukran — Thank you
- Y'Semoni or wasamni .... — My Name is ....
- Shehal — How much ? or how much it cost ?
Algerian currency is the Algerian dinar, denoted by the symbol "د.ج" or "DA" (ISO code: DZD). There are coins of DA5, DA10, DA20, DA50 and DA100. Banknotes are issued in DA100, DA200, DA500, DA1000, DA2000, DA5000 denominations.
Money can be exchanged at banks or post offices. Make sure that the exchanged bills are in good condition; people tend to be picky with accepting ripped and older bills. Be careful with currencies other than euros or US dollars - it could be hard to find a bank that exchanges less common currencies.
A better exchange rate can usually be found by exchanging money through unofficial money changers on street corners. There are locations where this is incredibly common practice. The exchange rate offered is generally greatly better than the official rate. It seems to be a very safe practice, and is often done in view of police, who don't seem concerned.
ATMs are widely available and can be found in every post office or larger bank where you can withdraw Algerian dinar with any major credit card and Maestro cards. If a pin with 6 numbers is necessary just enter two zeros before your pin. A lot of Algerian branded ATMs don't work for foreign cards (even when showing that they support Mastercard or Visa). You may have luck with Societé Générale ATMs.
Please note that Algeria has had a parallel currency exchange market for several years, e.g. with exchange rates in August 2018 being 215 DZD to the Euro at the parallel market, versus around 140 to the dollar at the official Forex market. Thus, travellers willing to exchange Euros will be roughly 50% more purchasing power. However, please take care if exchanging on the parallel market, both for your safety and beware of the possibility of fake bills.
CostsLiving in Algeria is very cheap compared to western conditions; for an example DA300 will get you a full meal or a bus ride from Algiers to Oran (400 km). Renting a mid-sized apartment will normally cost about DA60,000 per month, payable 6 months in advance; an underground metro ticket is DA50.
- Fettate (Sahara speciality, in Tamanrasset)
- Taguella (bread of sand, a nomad speciality)
- Couscous (steamed semolina with sauce containing meat and/or potatoes, carrots, courgette, and chick peas)
- Buseluf (cooked lambs head)
- Dowara (stew of stomach and intestines with courgette & chick peas)
- Chorba (a meaty soup)
- Rechta (hand made spaghetti, usually served with a clear chicken broth, potatoes & chick peas)
- Chakchouka (normally, it has green peppers, onions and tomatoes; egg may be added)
- Mechoui (charcoal grilled lamb)
- Algerian pizza
- Tajine (stew)
Desserts and snacks
- Qalb El Louz (dessert containing almonds)
- Baklawa (almond cakes drenched in honey)
- Ktayef (a kind of baked vermicelli, filled with almonds and drenched in sugar, syrup, and honey)
Finally, you can buy your own bottle of Algerian wine to take home in discreet shops that sell alcoholic drinks. It is better to buy it at the Algiers airport, though expect to pay per bottle. In smaller towns, buying alcoholic drinks can be challenging; you usually find them at the edge of the towns in sketchy areas and the conditions in which the alcohol was kept are sometimes questionable. Some Muslims drink but they consider it a sin. It is in private but socially. If someone invites you into his home and does not offer alcohol, he expects you not to be drunk or smell of alcohol, and does not expect you to bring your own bottle or even discuss drinking alcohol in front of his wife and children.
- Mediterranean juices (grenadine, orange)
- Very sweet green tea
- Strong coffee
Language courses are available in all large cities: they offer mainly French and English.
Despite high unemployment 'generally who stopped going to school', the government encourages foreign investment in different sectors. Unemployment is, however, one major problem in Algeria. In fact, it is very difficult to identify the phenomenon in the absence of a real substantive work, able to give an exact idea of the exact extent of the phenomenon. What we know, for cons, is that the informal economy and undeclared work occupies a vast majority of Algerians and spares no industry. Some sources estimate that about 40% of the part played by the informal sector in the country's economic activity, and the phenomenon has never been considered in the evaluation of the unemployment rate in Algeria.
Terrorists are highly active in southern Algeria.
Do not travel after nightfall; travel by plane if you can, instead of by car; avoid minor roads; ask the police or gendarmes if you are unsure about your surroundings. Check the travel advice on the Australian, Canadian, Irish and New Zealand government websites.
Mosquitoes are also a problem in Algeria, but they are just a nuisance, as malaria is not common 'they don't transport diseases'. In urban areas, there is periodic city-wide spraying against mosquitoes.
Do not expect very good water quality, for drinking you can buy bottles of water instead of drinking tap water, they are cheap at DA 30 for 2L, so 5L of good water costs less than US$1.
As in all of North Africa, the dominant religion in Algeria is Islam, and appropriate religious prohibitions and attitudes should be in order. If visiting a mosque, for example, be sure to be dressed conservatively and remove your shoes before entering it. Alcohol policy is not the same all over the country, with some cities prohibiting bars and/or liquor stores. Keep in mind to drink only at home or in a bar; never in public.
Also, given the ongoing political strife, talking politics is not advisable.
Though many Algerians speak French (usually as a second language), do not act as if Algeria is French.
SmokingAll cigarettes are sold freely.
Smoking in the presence of someone who is not a smoker in a public place requires his permission. If someone does not like the smoke, coughs, or asks you not to smoke, just stop and say sorry. This is what the locals do. If you are invited to someone's house, do not smoke unless the host does and after he does, you can ask for permission to smoke.
If you are in a restaurant or coffee terrace where people smoke, you can smoke, but if you are with locals who are not smokers, ask them first if it is okay. Fewer and fewer people smoke, because of a global health awareness. It is also culturally unacceptable for women to smoke, and women who do so are stigmatized.
If you are a European non-smoker, you will still find it unpleasant in many public places because of smoking.
Mobile phone connectionsThere are 3 main mobile services in Algeria - Mobilis, Djezzy and Ooredoo "Nedjma before". It is easy to procure a pre-paid sim card for one of these operators at any airport. Mobilis offers a pre-paid card for DA 200 which includes DA 100 in calling credit. There are several general stores all over the country which will sell you refill cards for these carriers. 3G services were launched on 1 December 2013, and 4G is available in a selection of major cities by all carriers.
The only internet provider is the government owned Algerie Telecom which offers ADSL internet with speeds that vary from 1 Mbps to 20 Mbps and prices of 1600 DA to 7200 DA respectively. 4G LTE is also available, but speeds are very slow and service is not very good in rural areas.