Travel Guide Africa Algeria



Algiers Casbah - Algiers

Algiers Casbah - Algiers

© maykal

Tourism is a minute force in the Algerian economy, which is overwhelmingly based on natural resources (read: fossil fuels) and agriculture, but with wise investment the country could start taking much better advantage of its other natural resources (read: natural beauty) to draw the crowds. For now though, pretty much all of Algeria is off the beaten track, so if a holiday away from the hordes is your idea of a good holiday, Algeria is a pretty safe bet.



Brief History

Algeria, located as it is on the southwestern shore of the Mediterranean, a short boat trip away from Europe, has always been a contested land. The Phoenicians were the first to establish settlements in the area. They were displaced by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. Berbers took over from the 10th century to the 16th century, when the Ottoman Empire extended itself into Algeria and the rest of North Africa.

France came to power during the 19th century through a bloody war in which 1.5 million Algerians were killed. Those Algerians who remained did not fare much better, as they quickly became second-class citizens to the French settlers flocking to Algeria. The offspring of European settlers in Algeria became full French citizens, while Muslim Algerians were granted no citizenship and no right to vote.

From 1954 to 1962, Algeria fought a guerrilla war for its independence. At the end of the war, the European population (known as the Pieds-Noir) fled, which left newly-independent Algeria with a heavy loss of teachers, doctors and other trained individuals. Algeria remained an unstable land throughout most of the 20th century, suffering political corruption, conflict with Morocco and a bloody civil war.

Democratic elections were resumed in 1995, and the Civil War eventually died down in 2002. Since then, Algeria has been reasonably stable and has turned its focus to economic development.




Considering that desert covers 80% of its landmass, Algeria's Arabic name, Al Jazair, may seem a little odd - Al Jazair means "the islands". The name comes from the four islands located in Algiers' harbour. It is situated in North Africa, bordered on the east by Tunisia and by Morocco on the west. Most of the country's population lives in the northern fifth of the country, especially in the cities of Algiers, Oran and Constantine. Algeria is the largest country in Africa, the Arab world, and the Mediterranean Basin. Its southern part includes a significant portion of the Sahara. To the north, the Tell Atlas form with the Saharan Atlas, further south, two parallel sets of reliefs in approaching eastbound, and between which are inserted vast plains and highlands. Both Atlas tend to merge in eastern Algeria. The vast mountain ranges of Aures and Nememcha occupy the entire northeastern Algeria and are delineated by the Tunisian border. The highest point is Mount Tahat at 3,003 metres above sea level. Algeria lies mostly between latitudes 19° and 37°N (a small area is north of 37°), and longitudes 9°W and 12°E. Most of the coastal area is hilly, sometimes even mountainous, and there are a few natural harbours. The area from the coast to the Tell Atlas is fertile. South of the Tell Atlas is a steppe landscape ending with the Saharan Atlas; farther south, there is the Sahara desert.[citation needed]
The Ahaggar Mountains, also known as the Hoggar, are a highland region in central Sahara, southern Algeria. They are located about 1,500 kilometres south of the capital, Algiers, and just west of Tamanghasset.




  • Algiers Province is the area around the capital Algiers.
  • Northeastern Algeria is the area to the east of Algiers.
  • Northwestern Algeria is the mountainous coastal area to the west of Algiers.
  • Saharan Atlas is an inland mountain range.
  • Saharan Algeria is the large desert region in the south of the country.

Administratively, Algeria consists of 48 provinces, or wilayas.




  • Algiers - the capital and largest city, situated on the Mediterranean coast.
  • Annaba - A city with 200,000 inhabitants in the east of the country next to the border of Tunisia.
  • Batna
  • Bechar - Small city in the Sahara, not far from the Moroccan border.
  • Constantine - Algeria's 3rd largest city with a canyon going down through it.
  • Ghardaia
  • In Salah - central Algeria, in the Sahara desert
  • Oran - Algeria's 2nd largest city after Algiers, also called "second Paris" by Algerians, with many impressive buildings from colonial times.
  • Sétif - Centre of the Kabyle with quite moderate temperatures and occasional snow falls in the winter.
  • Tamanrasset - gateway to the southern Sahara desert
  • Tlemcen
  • Timimoun - A small Saharan oasis town which makes a good base for trips to the desert.



Sights and Activities

Bounded on the north by the Mediterranean and buffered by the Sahara in the south, Algeria affords visitors an impressive array of attractions. It's not hard to find a great beach along 1,200 kilometres of coastline, or a village or city infused with the country's rich historical and cultural heritage. Head down to the Sahara to enjoy what some consider the most beautiful desert in the world, featuring a variety of landscapes, from dunes to oases and mountains. Or wander around cities like Algiers and soak in the country's gastronomic diversity and traditional clothing and jewelry.

Tassili n'Ajjer National Park

The Tassili n'Ajjer is a mountain range on the edge of the Sahara desert. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its astounding collection of ancient rock art: over 15,000 drawings and engravings have been found in the region. The park is also notable for its unique sandstone formations, which holds water well and has therefore fostered plant life. There are a number of endangered plant species in the park, such as the Saharan Myrtle and Saharan Cypress. Djanet is the nearest town to the park.

Ahaggar National Park

The Ahaggar National Park mainly contains the Ahaggar Mountain range in the southern portion of Algeria in the Sahara desert. The highest point is over 3,000 metres high and the total area is a rather rocky desert landscape which is very spectacular with the sandy Sahara in the background. Because of its somewhat milder climate there is a wide range of animals living here and even some plants grow well here.

Kasbah of Algiers

The Kasbah of Algiers is one of the finest examples of medinas in the world with ancient alleys, mosques, palaces and traditional lifestyles. This medina is also one of the least visited and therefore is a truly magnificent experience to step back in time.



Events and Festivals

National Amazigh Film Festival

Held in January, this movie festival showcases full-length feature films, documentaries, shorts, and animations that celebrate the Amazigh culture in Algeria.

Ghardaia Carpet Festival

This mid-march event is centered on the tradition of carpet-weaving in Algeria. Artisans and designers come together to exhibit and sell their work, as well as participate in competitions. This event is also marked by a lively procession accompanied by traditional music.

Strawberry Festival

The Strawberry Festival of Jijel is celebrated every two years in the month of March. It brings together companies and individuals interested in strawberry cultivation and growing.

Marathon des Dunes

This annual festival gathers runners from around the globe to compete in a three-leg desert race that commences in the beautiful oasis town of Béchar. The marathon is often set in mid-April.

European Cultural Festival

One of the most interesting festivals in Algeria in early-May, this cultural event assembles artists from some 16 countries to perform traditional rhythms, jazz and flamenco. It is held in three different cities, Algiers, Tlemcen and Constantine.

Dimajazz Festival

Similar to the European Cultural Festival, Dimajazz features performances from well-known musical artists from all over the world.

Festival Internacional de Cine del Sahara

Also held in May, this festival brings film to isolated communities and refugee camps in southwest Algeria. The director of the winning flick receives a white camel as his prize.

National Day

Held on June 19 each year, National Day commemorates the anniversary of the fall of Mohammed Ben Bella in 1965.

Pan-African Cultural Festival

The PanAf festival involves performances, exhibitions, and events at different locations throughout Algeria. More than 8,000 artists, musicians, authors, and actors from the African Union congregate in Algiers, Blida, Bourmerdes, Tipaza, and other cities to promote the arts.

Festival du Rai d’Oran

The national celebration of music features performances from different artists in a colorful event about the importance of Rai to the Algerian culture. It also celebrates the contributions of local artists to uphold the country’s distinct musical genre.

Festival International Bande Dessinnee d'Alger

This festival showcases the works of cartoonists from Algeria and beyond. Comic fans flock to see exhibitions from their favorite artists, as well as participate in workshops, competitions and musical concerts.

Eid al-Adha

The Feast of the Sacrifice is held to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to give up his own son in an act of obedience to God. It is held every November 28, and is marked by large meals featuring local Algerian dishes.

S’Biba of Djanet

After the feast of Aid, the S’Biba festival is celebrated in the town of Djanet to commemorate the peace pact bestowed upon the inhabitants of Tassili N’Ajjer.




Algeria is a big country with some geographical conditions that have consequences for the local variations in climate. The northern coastline has a Mediterranean climate wit warm, sunny and dry summers (May-September) and relatively mild winters when most of the rain falls (November-March). Temperatures in summer usually are around 30 °C, sometimes more. Winters are around 15 °C to 20 °C but can drop to just a few degrees above zero at night sometimes. Higher in the mountains (Atlas) south of this coastline, even more rain falls and in winter there is even some snow at elevation of 900 metres or higher. Summers here are also hot and sunny, but nighttime temperatures are of course somewhat lower compared to the coast. Immediately south of this, there is a small transition zone of steppe with generally hot and sunny weather, but with some more rain compared to the southern deserts.

The southern half of the country is real Sahara desert, with dry conditions throughout the year, although even here the occasional flooding can happen, especially (oddly enough) during the summer months. Temperatures in summer can reach over 50 °C during the day and average 40 °C to 45 °C from June to September, but low humidity makes it not impossible to travel around in summer. Just take precautions and travel during the early mornings and late afternoon/early evening. Nights in summer are still warm, and unlike what you sometimes here (temperatures below zero), cold nights only occur during the winter months of November to March. In the higher mountain chains in the south, like Hoggar, temperatures are somewhat lower and there is a bit more rain possible.



Getting There

By Plane

Houari Boumediene Airport (ALG) is located near Algiers. Air Algerie is the national airline, flying to destinations in Algeria like Oran, Constantine, Annaba, Adrar, Ghardaia, Hassi Messaoud, Tamanrasset, Tébessa, Tlemcen and Zarzaitine. International airlines that fly to Algiers include Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Iberia, Alitalia and Royal Air Maroc.
The distance to the centre of Algiers is 20 kilometres and you can use the route N5 following directions of Bab Ezzouar. Taxis are available, but regular buses connect the airport to downtown Algiers as well. The Algiers Metro Line 1 will connect the airport with the centre of Algiers. This connection is planned to be completed by 2010.

By Train

There are no international train connections to and from Algeria.

By Car

As Algeria is becoming safer again, the country is getting its share of overland travellers having their own car. Still, a lot of borders are closed, including all border posts with Morocco. Although borders with Libya, Mali and Mauritania are generally open, sometimes (some of them) are closes as well and due to safety it's not advised to use border crossings with Libya and Mauritania. Mali is a little safer.
Most people cross borders to and from Algeria from Tunisia and Niger. From the first there are numerous crossings but the one near Hazoua is the one that's used most, it's between El Oued and Tozeur.
The route between Algeria and Niger is popular because it's relatively fast and safe and a great way to get from Northern Africa to sub-Sahara Africa. Apart from a sandy track in the south of Algeria, most of the route south to Algeria and to Agadez and onwards in Niger is tarmac.

By Bus

You can use some public transport across the borders mentioned above, mainly with Tunisia (shared taxi's) and Niger (trucks and old 4wd vehicles). You might have to split your trip in stages as distances are vast and the trip to the border from Tamanrasset (Algeria) takes most of the day already.

By Boat


  • Algerie Ferries is one of the major operators, with scheduled services between Marseille and Algerian cities like Algiers, Oran, Bejaia, Skikda and Annaba.
  • SNCM travels between Marseille and Algiers as well.
  • Cnan Maghreb Lines (website under construction) has boats from Marseille to Oran and Algiers.


  • Algerie Ferries operates services between Oran and the Spanish city of Alicante.
  • Trasmediterranea has regular ferries from Almeria to Oran and Alicante to Ghazaouet.
  • Chan Maghreb Lines (website under construction) has boats between Barcelona and Oran and Algiers.



Getting Around

By Plane

Air Algerie has flights to many destinations within the country, including Algiers, Annaba, Constantine, Oran and the smaller towns in the southern Sahara desert like Tamanrasset.

By Train

Algerian railways are run by the Société Nationale des Transports Ferroviaires (SNTF). There are daily services in the north between Algiers and Oran, Béjaia, Skikda, Annaba and Constantine. The southern routes connect once a day from Annaba to Tebessa via Souk Ahras, from Constantine to Touggourt via Biskra (twice a day) and Mohammadia with Bechar.

By Car

Remember that driving your own car or a rental car is only possible with an Algerian guide that accompanies you. Therefore, renting a car with a driver is recommended when you are with several people to share costs. A 4wd is definitely needed in the southern deserts. You need an international driving permit to drive by yourself, but still with a guide.

By Bus

SNTF is the national bus company which has connections to most major towns. It is only advisable to take the buses between the major cities in the north as distances to the south are huge and safety not always guaranteed.

By Boat

There are ferry services between several port towns, like Algiers, Annaba, Oran and Ghazaouet.



Red Tape

Visa Restrictions: Due to the Arab League Boycott of Israel, entry will be refused to citizens of Israel and to those who show stamps and/or visas from Israel

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.




See also Money matters

Dinar (DZD) = 100 centimes.
Notes come in denominations of DZD1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins come in denominations of DZD100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 centimes.




With high unemployment rates, there is little reason for travellers to work in Algeria.




The main cities all have universities.




Languages spoken in Algeria are Arabic, French and Berber. If you can speak French, you'll have no trouble but there are more and more English speakers.
Generally, only the younger generations in Algeria can understand and speak some English.




Algerian food is delicious. Some examples include:

  • 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)
  • Tajine (stew)
  • Mhadjeb

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)




You'll find many accommodation options in the main cities, including luxurious hotels, midrange places and pensions and guesthouses. More to the south, your main options will be relatively simple rooms or camping.




Thea, coffee and juices are the main drinks in the country.

Algeria produces a selection of wine (not in big volume) and also beer. Algeria was once famous for its high quality wines. The new production is also of very high quality, particularly the red wine. Locally produced beer is also of a very high standard. Algeria is a majority Muslim country, so you do not find alcohol sold everywhere, but it is not hard to find it.




See also Travel Health

Proof that you had a yellow fever vaccination is only required upon entering Algeria when you have been to an infected country within 7 days of entering the country.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Algeria. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is not widely prevalent in the country, but there are cases reported in the south. Taking malaria pills is not necessary though. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also Travel Safety

In 2005 Algeria agreed to a Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation which has helped make the country a far safer destination than in the past. In 2011, the country's 19-year old state-of-emergency was lifted. The government continues to pursue political reform and reconciliation.

As a result, the prospect of a safe and secure holiday in Algeria are now better than they have been for a very long time. This is especially true for the northern half of the country, where travelling around is considered safe these days although there are many roadblocks along the way. The south is best travelled in an organised group and stay away from the southern and eastern border area with countries like Mali, Niger and Libya.

Tere are still occasional attacks against government institutions (buildings, police forces, etc). Such attacks include suicide bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes , particularly in rural areas such as the Kabylie region of the country. Sporadic episodes of civil unrest have been known to occur.
Additionally, there is the threat of bandits and an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group (AQIM or al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb) in the south. While much of their activity has been in neighbouring Mali & Niger, the situation in southern Algeria has grown worse. Islamist rebels in northern Mali are easily capable of crossing the porous Saharan border into Southern Algeria such as when al Qaeda-backed terrorists attacked an oil field in January 2013, taking dozens of Westerners hostage.

Some routes in the Sahara may require vehicles to travel only in military/police-escorted convoys for safety.

Absolutely no attempt should be made to travel overland to Mali or Niger! Southern Algeria should also be considered too dangerous for tourism as the conflict in Mali rages and radical Islamists flock to the region



Keep Connected


There are Internet cafés in all larger towns and cities.


See also International Telephone Calls

  • The country calling code to Algeria is: 213
  • To make an international call from the Algeria, the code is: 00

There 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 200DA which includes 100DA in calling credit. There are several general stores all over the country which will sell you refill cards for these carriers.


Algeria Post offers fairly reliable though relatively slow services. Mail posted in any of the main cities along the coast takes three to four days to reach Europe; posted elsewhere, it could take much longer. Parcels sent by surface mail may take up to two months to reach Algeria. You might get better and faster deals with international couriers like DHL, TNT or UPS. Post officies are generally open from Saturday to Wednesday from 8:00am to 5:00pm and Thursday from 8:00am to 12:00pm, but the main post office in Algiers (5 boulevard Mohamed Khémisti) is open 24 hours.


Quick Facts

Algeria flag

Map of Algeria


Islam (Sunni)
Standard Arabic, French, Berber Languages
Calling Code
Local name
Al Jaza'ir


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