Talking about safety in Algeria, I have to admit that the knowledge about this country abroad is very little, often outdated. If you Google safety in Algeria, you may find only information about terrorism, kidnaping, discrimination of women and overall, that better not to go there. In this article I will try to clarify which aspects you should be concern about, before traveling to Algeria.
Terrorism in Algeria
How can people be not scared to come to Algeria if the last media news most of the them had about this country, is the terrorism in 90′. Back than Algerian terrorist groups have been trying to overthrow the Algerian government. Algeria was into a serious civil war. Of course, media didn’t say that it finished a long time ago.
Terrorism in Algeria does exist. However, the terrorist groups concentrate on borders with Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Niger. These are absolutely no-go zones in Algeria. Terrorist activities are also in some remote areas of the south of the country, in the Sahara Desert.
Kidnapping in Algeria does exist too and can happen in these dangerous zones. Terrorist attacks have focussed on the Algerian state, but attacks can include foreigners.
Should this scare you? Of course, not. Remember that Algeria is a huge country, the biggest in Africa. These areas are far from all touristic attractions, and the Sahara Desert is huge. Borders with these countries aren’t open anyway, so why would you go there? While visiting Algeria you will be very far from those zones and there is no way you will ever get there. A similar situation, with misleading informations about safety people have about Iran, due to the lack of information. Traveling in Iran is safe as long as you don’t go near the border with Pakistan or Afghanistan, where terrorist group may appear.
Where not to go in Algeria
First of all, the borders area with Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Niger, which are the most dangerous. Secondly, some remote or mountains areas, far from cities, may be dangerous. Going to the Sahara is safe, as long as you know where to go. Tourists should rather follow the touristic path and visit places which are prepared for visitors.
Traveling on the North of Algeria is safe. I would advice skipping the night trains or buses, just in case. My friends got attacked in the night train in Algeria, when they were coming from Tunisia. Some group attacked them with a knife and wanted all money. The 3 boys spoke Arabic (they were from Tunisia) and managed to call for help. Police took a very good care of them and dealt with the bandits.
Where to go in Algeria?
Apart from above, you can go pretty much everywhere in Algeria. The border with Morocco is closed, you cannot cross by land. The area near to the border is safe. I went there to visit the historical city of Tlemcen. The North-west part of Algeria, close to the border with Morocco is very beautiful and worth visiting. The border with Tunisia is safe in the North, but may be dangerous on the south, close to the border with Libya.
Lastly, there may be some areas in the cities or regions which are considered not safe. As in many countries in the world, Algeria also has districts which have bad reputation. One of them is historical place in Algiers – The Kasbah. The old city has bad reputation as it was an area of the terrorist group back in 90′. Nowadays, this place is safe to visit by tourists, groups as well as individuals. However, do not go there at night. Narrow streets of the Kasbah of Algiers may be dangerous.
Safety in Algeria in general
Safety in Algeria is not an issue. The issue is lack of the current knowledge about it. Paris is the most visited by tourists city in the world. I bet everyone heard about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris or how dangerous it can be in some districts of the city or outskirts. And people still go there a lot! I wouldn’t say, traveling in Algeria is more dangerous than Paris. In Algeria – there are some dangerous areas, where you don’t go, but terrorist attacks finished a long time ago.
Police and gendarmerie forces are all around, they have zero tolerance when it comes to violence. What’s more, they take extra care of tourists and all foreigners, especially “Westerners”. Tourists are not even allowed to go to areas which are not protected.
How to stay safe in Algeria?
I didn’t feel in danger when traveling in Algeria. It’s one of those countries about which media talk only when some disaster happens. From my experience and knowledge, Algeria is relatively safe country for tourists.
In general, I can give advice to take safety precautions as you would take in many other countries. Try to stay on the track, don’t go to remote places you have no idea about. Don’t walk alone at night, especially in a dark and spooky places or neighbourhood you don’t know. Try to keep close your an eye on your belongings as pickpocketing is a common issue in Algeria.
Above all these general rules for staying safe in Algeria, I remind you that it’s a Muslim country. Try to respect the culture and beliefs.
Girls traveling in Algeria
Here comes the topic of catcalling. If you have ever been to Egypt or Morocco, you know that North African nations are famous for catcalling. Except Tunisia, where catcalling was forbidden by law, as tourism became the main industry. Government understood that catcalling is something annoying and sometimes even scaring tourists. Tunisians can now spend one year in prison for catcalling.
In contrary, Algerians don’t realise that, and they are masters in catcalling. This depicts all women, not only tourists. One Algerian girl said, she gets even 20 comments per day while walking on the streets of Algiers. And she is one of those covering the hair, shoulders and legs. So what do they comment? Clothes, glasses, shoes, whatever visible. Just imagine how much catcalling the tourist can get!
This all changes when you walk with a man! Seriously! While even for a moment I walked alone I had the impression that suddenly all the men eyes are on me. And here the comments were starting…
When I posted on my Facebook complains about catcalling in Algeria, I had a feedback from Algerian men immediately. They asked what is my problem to complain, if while catcalling they are telling me only good things: that I am beautiful or sexy. Pfff…… Here comes again, the culture difference which so enormous, that it’s impossible to understand and convince.
Algerians! Don’t you guys understand it’s annoying and exhausting and makes difficult to have as positive experience in the country, as I could have? If you don’t understand, than good luck in picking up Algerian girls. Because in my opinion catcalling makes “Western” girls disgust rather than admired. Concusions?
I don’t recommend girls to travel alone in Algeria
Unfortunately, I have to say that I don’t recommend girls to travel alone in Algeria. I am not saying it’s impossible, I went there alone too. But I admit that I was all the time hanging out with locals. What I am trying to say is that, if you decide to go alone to Algeria, do it only if you have friends there, so you are sure you won’t have to move a lot by yourself. Again I repeat, I am not saying it’s impossible to do or to have a positive experience. But you will be chased by catcalling and put in a risk of unpleasant situations, if you travel alone.
Is it dangerous for a woman in Algeria?
I was in Algeria for few weeks and did not encounter any dangerous situation. Therefore, from my experience or what I have heard from the others, I cannot say Algeria is a dangerous country for women. I think the risk of being raped or attacked appears everywhere in the world, and I don’t have information if it’s significantly bigger in Algeria than in other places or not. If you have this kind of informations, please share in a comment.
Nonetheless, harassment in Algeria is something you can experience as a tourist, as seeing a “western girl” is not common. Especially, knowing how girls in the “Western culture” are shown in the video clips, MTV and damn American movies.
I got chased by one guy when I went to the public toilet on the bus station. This part of the station was completely empty, and I was even afraid he would come to the toilet after me. He wanted my phone number and kept following me. An Italian girl, traveling in Algeria at the same time as me, went out without her boyfriend only once, during the whole trip. Here is what happened. It was during the day, the man sticked to her in the metro. He was talking to her, making pictures of her face and kept following.
Algeria is a strict Muslim country. Most of the women in the country are covered with a veil. Therefore, seeing the “Western” girl will surely grab attention of men.
Women in Algeria should never walk alone when it’s dark. This might be understood as a provocation. I saw a women walking alone in the center of Algiers in the evening. She had shorts and top showing the shoulders. I didn’t find it weird as in my country, Poland, when the temperature is 30 degrees plus, we also wear tops and shorts and we don’t mind walking like that alone at night. What was weird, though, was that she was answering the catcalling. My friend explained, that she is a prostitute…
Dress code in Algeria
Despite Algeria is quite conservative Muslim country, there are no government rules about the dress code. Unlike in Saudi Arabia or Iran where every woman has to cover hair and shoulders, no matter if she is a visitor or not. In Algeria, the dress code can be imposed by social rules, though. However, this does not depict tourists which can wear whatever they want. Every girl has to cover head and shoulders only in the religious places.
When I was in Algeria, I was trying to wear modest clothes as I have been told that it’s better for me. Even though it was the hottest part of the year, all my skirts or pants were long and I had t-shirts covering my shoulders. I recommend modest clothes just to pay less attention on the street.
It also depends in which part of Algeria you are. Oran is considered the most liberal city in the whole country and you can see that on the streets too. Because of the night life and liberal views, Oran is called the Paris of Algeria. Girls wear shorter skirts, as I noticed, and it’s generally accepted by society. However, I witnessed one was called a bitch on the street, wearing a knee long skirt. Another case, one Algerian girl (which was the only one wearing neckline blouses I have seen in the whole country) said that even though she lives in the so-called “most liberal city in Algeria” she heard many times these offensive comments. Going south of Algeria, it will be just more and more conservative.
The final conclusion would be: prepare clothes wisely, while packing to Algeria. Algerians will tell you that you can wear whatever you like. Because it’s true! However, you can witness unpleasant situations when you encounter someone who will not like your outfit. When traveling we have to respect other cultures, so I recommend to wear modest clothes and it’ll be fine. It’s more about your own comfort rather then a serious matter of safety in Algeria.
The dress code on the beaches in Algeria is liberal. Some girls wear bikini, some long pants and t-shirt, some are fully covered.
Crossing the street in Algeria
Talking about safety in Algeria, the biggest worry you may have in the country can be crossing the streets. It may be a challenge, as the traffic is crazy. It wasn’t as bad as India, but still, if you are not used to, you better be very careful. One way to cross the street when you are scared is to close your eyes and just go! I am joking, guys. But I was doing that in Iran, while crossing with a local couch surfer. I just couldn’t stand seeing cars coming straight towards me, and stopping in the very last moment.
Now seriously, the first way to cross is easy – wait for the gap between cars or look for the traffic lights. In Algeria, that will not happen often and most of the times you will just have to cross in between the passing cars. The way to do it, is to make the eye contact with the driver and rise your hand like you would express “stop” and than cross the street. Try it out!
Showing affection in public
As Algeria is a Muslim country, expressive affection on the streets may not be socially accepted by some people. You can hold a hand of your partner, you can also hug in public, but kissing will grab a lot of attention. You won’t go to jail for being too expressive, as you might in Iran or countries of the Persian Gulf. In Algeria it’s not forbidden by law, but the more south you go, the more risk that you will get chased with swords appears. An Italian couple was admonished when they just hugged. The man found it disrespectful for Algerian culture.
Homosexuality is illegal in Algeria, and convictions can result in prison sentences for Algerians. However, if you don’t want to pay too much attention or hear insults, just in case, better don’t even hold hands.
All you need to know before going to Algeria
This article, about safety in Algeria is a second part of the survival guide on All you need to know before going to Algeria. Please, share your experiences from Algeria. Let’s make people see that this is not a terrorism filled nation and traveling in Algeria is possible without bigger risk then in most of the world.
Here, I would like to use one of my favorite travel quotes by Aldous Huxley: “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” You must go and see Algeria with your own eyes to believe.