Traveling to Algeria is possible without a tour agency and isn’t very difficult. If you just go through this survival guide, I will tell you all you need to know before going to Algeria. You will see that you can travel in Algeria by yourself, and you don’t need to spend extra money for organised tours!
Traveling to Algeria
May I have your attention please? Do I have it? Yes?! OK! Announcement: traveling in Algeria does not mean you will be moving on camel or donkey all the time. It’s a civilized country! They have planes, trains and buses as well as cities with buildings and cars. They really do.
A point of this silly joke was to show that Algeria is much more developed then most of the people think! You may laugh, but some people really don’t know where is Algeria, even though it’s the biggest country in Africa. Others know where it is, but the only thing they know about it is the Sahara desert. True is that, the desert occupies four-fifths of the Algerian territory. Nevertheless, traveling in Algeria is not just the desert experience. They also have a beautiful coastline, ancient Roman Empire ruins, stunning heritage of Ottomans, Spanish, French and much more. Articles about beautiful destinations in this country are in the section: ALGERIA. In this post I will mention several practical aspects you need to know before traveling to Algeria.
Safety in Algeria
Lots of tourists are afraid to come to Algeria. No wonder why, if the last news most of the people had about this country, is the terrorism back in 90′. The knowledge about Algeria abroad is very little and outdated. Hence, there are many issues concerning safety in Algeria I would like to discuss. For instance terrorism, kidnaping, pickpocketing, safety for girls traveling to Algeria, dress code, where to go and where better don’t go and general informations. Therefore, I decided to devote a separate article for this important matter – Safety in Algeria – Survival Guide 2.
Language in Algeria
The official language in Algeria is Arabic (Algerian dialect) plus people speak French as it was a French colony. For those who can speak the classic Arabic – it’s totally different, but you can survive. For those who cannot speak either French nor Arabic? Yyyy, well… you will have a hard time due to the communication barrier.
English? Most of the young people learn English at school so should speak. In practice, it’s not easy to find people speaking English, to be honest. Prepare some handy dictionary in French or use the translator to survive in Algeria.
In Algeria you have to use local currency which is Algerian dinar. There are not many places in the whole country where ATM accepts international bank cards. First option is the airports in Algiers or Oran. Second one, is ATMs in a huge hotels like Sheraton. Third, would be trying the regular banks, but I think it’s a waste of time, they will most likely refuse your card.
ATMs on the airports accept foreign cards as VISA or MasterCard, however, please note that it’s not sure that it will work. For example, right now, while I am writing this, one of my readers contacted me and asked for advice: where to withdraw money in Oran? She went to the airport and to Sheraton to try, and both ATMs which accept foreign cards had no money. When she asked around nobody could tell, when the ATM will work… Welcome to Algeria! She went through the city, checking some banks and finally succeded in AGB bank in Oran. Gulf Bank Algeria ATM had money, accepted Visa and all the story finished happily.
As you can see, you can be left without money in Algeria if you count on the ATMs. The same with paying by card – foreign card will not be accepted. Therefore, you need to bring cash with you in dollars or euro and exchange.
If you have been to Algeria, and know other places where ATM worked for your foreign card, please write it down in the comment. It may be a huge help for people being suck with no cash in Algeria, looking for solutions.
Money Exchange in Algeria
When I am traveling around Europe, I would never think about exchanging money on the street or some black market, because I would be afraid that they will cheat me. I remember traveling in Bulgaria, and hearing some offers on the street to exchange money. Thankfully, I had read before, that I should always exchange money in the bank or exchange office while in Bulgaria. In Algeria, things work differently, and it’s more profitable exchanging money on the black market.
The exchange rate on the black market in Algeria is much higher than you would get in the bank. The difference is significant. For example, for end of 2018 1€ in the bank was 137 da, while on the black market you got 210 da! One US dollar was 118da in the bank and 185da on the black market. See the huge difference? I ended up having much more money than I was expecting!
I understand that you may have problems in finding a black market in Algeria as a tourist. For some reason there is no arrow showing the direction. Just joking. It can also happen that they will try to cheat you as you are a tourist, you never know. Therefore, I highly recommend going there with a local person. What if you don’t have friends in Algeria? When I travel, I tend to meet local people thanks to Couch Surfing and it’s always a huge help for me.
I will never forget this moment when going with a couch surfer in the city of Oran to the black market. A ordinary street, with old men sitting in front of the shop, drinking coffee. There were few stores in a row, and we entered the jewellery shop, with a door behind to another small room. A man was sitting there, ready to exchange what we had. All looked like a scene from a movie.
Navigation / Maps in Algeria
The mobile app which works the best for maps in Algeria is Waze. You can find your way to historical places, hotels or restaurants.
Where to sleep in Algeria
Hotels in Algeria are very expensive, in compare with living costs in the country. As mass tourism does not exist in Algeria, competition is low and hotels can impose the price they wish. They host a lot of people coming for business or tourists from organised tours. Those don’t really mind the price, as their stay is pre-covered.
Prices of the hotels in Algeria start from around 30€ and go up to 200€, where most of them are over 50€ a night. It may sound a decent price, if you are from France or Australia but mind that Algeria is a cheap country. 50€ was actually the budget I was spending in one week there! But I never stayed in a hotel and was traveling with locals.
This reminds me of situation in Timore Leste – another not touristic destination I travelled to, nota bene, just before coming to Algeria. In Timor, prices of the hotels were extremely high and often there was no other option to choose. Thankfully, in Algeria there are other solutions.
There are hostels or rather youth hostels, which offer a very basic condition. You can stay cheap indeed, like 2 € per night in a dorm style room. Of course, girls and boys in a separate part of the building. If you are lucky, you will have fresh sheet and clean room. I wasn’t. I was stuck in a hot room with no AC and with no water in the shower. Toilets are always common in the youth hostels and not necessarily clean. You will find some of them using the Waze app and typing in hostel or auberge des jeunesse – youth hostel in French.
The best middle-price option will be airbnb, which you will easily find in the big cities. Prices are very convenient for a room or even for renting the whole apartment.
Again, I recommend Couch Surfing as a great way to stay with a local host family. Is it risky? Of course, it always is, no matter the country. However, if you choose the person with many positive references, trustable profile description, preferably living with family (what is very common in Algeria), you will most likely have a great time. If you don’t have experience in this community, I wrote a guide depicting first steps in Couch Surfing. Higly recommended as the best way to explore the culture, see the country and have memorable experiences with locals.
Camping is Algeria is an option too. Lots of locals put a tent on the beaches or in some green areas. There are also authorized camp sides in the places which are famous for local visitors.
Sim Card & Internet in Algeria
Wi-fi? What is that? I haven’t heard about it in Algeria. OK, I am exaggerating, it does exist in a big hotels, some people’s apartments or offices. The fact is, that for few weeks in Algeria I never got a chance to use it, to be honest. Hence, if you want to have Internet in Algeria, you need to get local sim card with data. The prices vary depending of the internet data but it will be around 5-10€ per month. There are 3 different networks. From my experience, I don’t recommend getting Djezzy due to a very poor signal out of the big cities. Much better range had Mobilis.
Transportation in Algeria
As I mentioned on the beginning, Algeria has variety of means of public transportation. They have buses, planes, trains, trams in five cities, taxis and metro in the capital city – Algiers.
Moving with public buses or trains around the country is very cheap. For example train from Algiers to Oran – was around 7€ for ~ 400km. Trains are fine, and they are faster than the bus, which may stop in many cities. Both – trains and buses, are very convenient, well, depends with which country you compare… From my traveling experiences, transportation in Algeria was quite good. The condition of the main roads in Algeria is fine, so you can move around quickly.
Going far south to the desert, I advice checking the prices of the planes. Inside Algeria you can find cheap flights and skip spending 2 days in the bus.
Taxis are relatively expensive in comparing with other means of transport, however, local people use them a lot for few reasons. First, city buses are slow and their schedule is unpredictable. Second, because it’s common to share the taxi ride, so it’s much cheaper. Taxi drivers tend to cheat tourist, so be careful! What I would recommend, is to download Yassir mobile app, which is an equivalent to Uber. You can see the price prior the ride and follow the road with navigation. It’s cheaper than taxis and much more convenient.
Driving in Algeria
Visitors traveling in Algeria are allowed to drive on their national driver’s license, if the maximum stay is three months. Only visitors coming for more than 3 months should obtain international driving licence.
Renting a car is possible on the big airports, but the price is much higher than taking a cab to the city and renting a car from the agencies there. Prices vary, for the cheapest possible car, which is Renault symbol – common car in Algeria – should be around 15-17€ a day. If you want to go to the desert and looking for 4×4, price can go up to 50€ or more per day.
While preparing the itinerary for Algeria and planning your trips remember that Algeria (still) has a lot of fuel resources and it’s cheap as water. Hence, it can be reasonable cost to rent a car, if you plan to go to places where you will have to get a taxi anyway. Here comes the price: for 1 € you will get 6-7 liters of fuel, 11 liters of Diesel.
Food in Algeria
Traditional food as couscous do exist but it’s not easy to find. Wherever you go in Algeria you will just see fast-foods all around. God! I have just came super-skinny after surviving Indonesian food and my stomach has another challenge! For me impossible to survive on shawarma and fries all the time. I struggled a lot in finding something other than fast-foods. Unfortunately, food wasn’t the best part of traveling in Algeria… I tried good food while staying with a host families, beautiful food! But rather than that, I had a hard time.
Food in Algeria is very cheap, though. You can eat fast-food for 1-2 € or buy ingredients on the market for cheap, if you have where to cook them. Restaurants with good food, where tourists or expats come, can cost as much as restaurants in western Europe…
Drinking alcohol in Algeria
Alcohol is not allowed in Islam, therefore it’s not so easily accessible in Algeria. There are plenty of liqueur stores, though. Their appearance is often not so obvious, they may be hidden in a small street. Apart from the liqueur stores, you can buy alcohol in the hotel, if there is a bar.
Drinking alcohol in public is forbidden as religious people would not like to see people drinking. You can bring it to your hotel or flat.
How to get to Algeria?
The most popular airports are in Algiers and Oran. If you are coming from Europe, the cheapest way is to get to Spain or South of France and fly to Algeria with Voeling. Voeling are Spanish cheap airlines and normally you can fly one way for as cheap as 30€.
If you are coming from other parts of the world, check Turkish Airlines or any airlines from UAE, which have connecting flights to Algeria.
By land you can get to Algeria from Tunisia, the border with Morocco is closed! If you want to take your car with you to Algeria it’s possible to come also by ferry from Spain, Italy and France.
Visa to Algeria
In general, the visa to Algeria is not the easiest one and is required for most of the countries in the world. Because it’s an important issue and I don’t want to make this article any longer, I decided to devote another post concerning the visa to Algeria.
I hope this article provided you with lots of tips on traveling to Algeria. Some of the information may be changing and improving quickly, as for example ATMs accepting foreign cards. Therefore, please comment below if you find out something has changed, to help the other travelers. Don’t hesitate to suggest another issue you would find useful before traveling to Algeria, which I forgot to mention.