Algeria the largest country in Africa and by far the most challenging country I have ever visited when it comes obtaining the visa. But it was definitely worth the hassle.
Algeria has a fantastic diversity of landscape with the Sahara desert in the south, beaches along the Mediterranean sea to the north, mountains that offer excellent hiking during the summer and skiing opportunities in the snow during winter.
Algeria also has an extremely rich history with 7 World Heritage sites and is one of the most socially developed countries in the whole of Africa
Algeria was known as French Algeria for 132 years (1830 to 1962), so it´s no surprise that some Algerian cities will make you feel more like you are walking around France than wandering around an African country.
Algeria has had a bad reputation in the past of armed terrorist groups often targeting foreigners from the civil war that only just finished in 2002. However today those problems are long gone. Algeria is now a very safe country to visit.
There are, unfortunately, no English Guide Books for Algeria, no Lonely Planet, no Bradt Guide. So I always decide to do it the hard way, with going out myself to see what the country has to offer.
I was also planning to visit far southern Algeria but the weather in July was just too hot, every hotel and driver I tried to contact in southern Algeria told me they were shut down during July. Even in Taghit, the temperature reached +48C/118F in July.
The Algerian visa has proven to be the single most challenging visa for me ever to obtain; two times have I gotten my application rejected without any reasons before, 3rd times the charm right?
Visas will be refused to citizens of Israel and anyone with stamps and proof of visiting Israel, which includes stamps of Egyptian/Jordanian neighbouring land borders with Israel
Everyone needs to Obtain Visa in advance from an Algerian embassy/consulate; you can only apply in your home country or country of residence.
You are required to provide proof of income, health insurance, flight and hotel reservations. It´s not stated on the embassy website, but I was also required to provide an Invitation from a government licences Tour Agency.
I can highly recommend Omar and Fancy Yellow.
I also needed a signed letter from the company I work for that I worked there, signed by the director. A signed letter and proof of income were requested by the embassy almost two weeks after I first applied.
The whole process took nearly five weeks. The visa takes a full page in your passport.
It´s important to know, that the visa starts running from the day of issue NOT the day of entry.
Getting To Algeria.
There are three ways to currently arrive in Algeria, by land from Tunisia, The land border with Morocco, Libya, Mali and Mauritania is closed. With ferry from Spain, Frace or Italy (boats are more expensive than flying.
And most common and easiest flying. I flew to Algeria with AirFrance through Paris and left with Qatar Airways through Qatar.
There are 18 International airports around Algeria!
They are currently building a brand new Airport outside the capital Algiers; it´s scheduled to open within a few months. So expect there to be even more flight´s here in near future.
When Arriving in Algeria, get ready for a long wait; all baggage will get scanned upon arrival, also check-in baggage.
When leaving Algeria, you have to declare ALL money you take out of the country, also the USD/EURO etc. that you took with you into the country. This process was a real pain in the ass
Getting Around Algeria.
Since Algeria is the largest country in Africa, flying is the apparent choice if travelling from one corner of the country to another. Flying domestically is very cheap. I had three domestic flights during my trip to Algeria, they all left on time without any problems.
Bus: The road quality in Algeria is excellent, and the highways are just as good as the main highways around central Europe, there are regular buses to every destination around Algeria.
So if your planning to travel anywhere else than the far northern part of Algeria train travelling will not be an option.
The currency in Algeria is Algerian dinar (DZD).
There are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 dinar coins. Banknotes 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 2000.
ATM´S are widely available in big cities, Visa and MasterCard accepted in all! I didn’t get changed any fees for withdrawal.
1 USD = 119 DZD.
1 Euro = 137 DZD.
If changing money on the black market, you will be offered a much better rate, so Algeria will be much cheaper if you exchange hard currency than withdrawing cash from ATM´S
During my visit was 1USD = 200DZD and 1 Euro =220 DZD on the black market. So you would get a staggering 60% more for your money when you change it at the black market. When changing money this way, Algeria will become a very cheap country compared to western standard.
Sim Cards with a 4G connection is easily available at the airport. I bought an Ooredoo Sim Card for 3000 DZD, with 7 GB internet usage, I had at least a 3G connection anywhere I travelled. All hotels and restaurants offered free wifi, but it was normally very slow, so I ended up using my Sim Card most of the time.
Arabic and Berber are the two official languages in Algeria. But French is also spoken by literally everyone. I don’t speak a single word of the three mentioned languages. As I always do, I stick to English, and even in Algeria, it was easy to get around with just English. I wouldn’t lie if I said that I was highly impressed by the amount of English speaking people I came across during my ten days in Algeria.
Even shopkeepers in small local stores spoke basic English.
Menus in restaurants were only in Arabic and French; I never saw a menu written in English. So it´s recommended to learn some basic French, so you know what you order.
Saftey is one the biggest concern for travellers and the main reason why a lot of travellers don’t visit Algeria, at least if you are reading various travel forums and Facebook travel groups online. Algeria is today considered a very safe country except along the borders with the neighbouring countries. The official Travel advice from the UK government is: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to areas within:
- 30km of the borders with Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Niger
- 30km of the border with Tunisia in the provinces of Illizi and Ouargla and in the Chaambi mountains area.
Except for those areas, Algeria is considered to be a safe country. You will see a lot of police when travelling in Algeria, none of them ever bothered me, and they were always smiling and friendly, I felt 100% secure absolutely everywhere during my visit to Algeria.
Every local I met was super friendly and welcoming.
Algerian food is a mixture of a lot of cultures. Since Algeria was a French colony for 132 years, there is no surprise that there´s a big French influence when it comes to food here. But you will also find food from Berber, Italian food, Spanish, Turkish, and Arab cuisines.
Couscous and BBQ chicken/lamb are available everywhere. When visiting southern Algeria, the most common meat I had was camel meat.
I found the Algerian cuisines to be delicious and surprisingly good, I don’t think I had a single bad meal during my ten days in the country.
Drinks & Alcohol.
Algeria was a big producer of wine when part of French but these days most of the wind farms have been transferred into Olive oil farms instead.
Algeria is a Muslim country, though a pretty liberal one, so can you not find alcohol everywhere. You will have to know where to find it. High-end restaurants and hotels sell it. Also a few unmarked bars around the big cities. I did find a few bars in around Algeria, but none of them was obvious. They are all behind big black metal doors where you had to ring a doorbell for a guard to open the door.
Just be aware, Algerian bars have the highest destiny of smokers I have ever experienced.
I managed to find four local produced beer during my visit plus one made in Cameroon, and as always was international brands like Becks, Heineken, Kronenbourg 1664 also for sale. I Also tried four of the locally produced wine.
If you want to bring some locally produced wine home, there´s a significant section for sale in duty-free at Algiers international airport.
Tap water is considered not drinkable although its quality is better than before. Once boiled, there is no problem with drinking it. Bottled water is available in every shop and restaurant for a very low price. The local soft drink Hamoud is well worth a try.
Algeria use European standard 230V power plugs.
Things you should pack!
Algeria is a very modern country, at least in the big cities, so it´s no problem finding accessories if you forget something at home, but there was one thing I couldn’t find, and that was sunscreen when having a staggering +48C/118F during my visit was it essential to have proper sunscreen.
It´s also important to bring a proper hat and sunglasses to protect you from the sun.
Overall Experience of Algeria.
I really liked Algeria; I would put Algeria into my top 10 countries I have visited in the world. The people were super friendly, food was good, it was easy to get around, and the country had endless sites to discover. My only mistake was that I only had ten days here and that I visited the country in July when it´s way to warm to visit big parts of the country. I’m already planning to return for a second trip here, it´s so much more to explore. Hopefully, the visa process will be easier next time.