Algerian desert
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Algerian desert

© 123rf.com

Algeria Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

2,381,741 sq km (919,595 sq miles).

Population

38.1 million (2013).

Population density

16 per sq km.

Capital

Algiers.

Government

Republic. Gained independence from France in 1962.

Head of state

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika since 1999.

Head of government

Acting Prime Minister Youcef Yousfi since 2014.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. The European two-pin plug is standard.

For the intrepid traveller, a trip to Algeria is an adventure in waiting. Its troubled reputation may put off anyone looking for the quiet life, but for those who take the time to explore, Algeria offers culture and adventure in spades.

Here, a beguiling blend of cultures spans a vast chunk of land - taking in everything from whitewashed fishing ports, verdant hillsides and olive groves to the unmatched dramatic landscapes of the Sahara Desert and the Hoggar Mountains.

As the largest country in Africa, Algeria’s terrain – from the cities of the north, to the desert of the south – is hugely varied. Many never get past the northern port cities of Algiers, or Oran, and for good reason. Colonised by the Phoenicians and the Romans and covered with fascinating ruined cities, the north is green and fertile, and the imposing capital Algiers (‘the White City’) has a fascinating medina to explore and offers and interesting perspective on modern Algerian life. Tackle the sights and sounds of the UNESCO heritage Casbah, the walled city where neglected crumbling ruins sit adjacent with renovated homes. Despite its shady reputation, it’s well worth seeing, but taking a guide is essential.

Oran’s history is similarly colourful, having been the stopping point on the trade route between Spain and Morocco, due to its convenient geographic location. That legacy is reflected in the city’s altogether European feel, with evidence of a Spanish and French colonial past never far away. Tour the soaring Sacré-Cœurcathedral – now a library – or get involved with the numerous events going on at the Palais de la Culture.

With more than four-fifths of its territory covered by the Sahara, the desert is Algeria's most striking feature and the biggest draw for travellers. It’s the territory of nomadic Berbers and the source of myriad tales, but whilst the security situation makes independent travel difficult, tourists can still make it to the country’s accessible attractions under the guidance of reputable tour operators. Stop off at oasis towns like Ghardia and Timimoun or travel deep into the heart of the desert to see the prehistoric rock art in the Hoggar Mountains and Tassili N’Ajjer National Park.

Its recent sufferings through war and political strife have no doubt turned tourists away from Algeria, towards neighbouring Morocco. But if you’re looking for something more than souks and surf, Algeria makes an excellent start.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 31 March 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Political situation

Sector specific protests are a daily feature of Algerian life. In general, demonstrations are peaceful but a low number involve clashes between police and demonstrators. While the April 2014 elections passed peacefully, further unrest is possible. You should take precautions for your personal safety, avoid political gatherings and demonstrations and take local advice. Always observe instructions given by the local security authorities.

Crime

While most visits to Algeria are trouble-free, in certain areas of larger cities incidents of robbery and thefts do occur. Avoid areas that you don’t know, especially after dark. Avoid carrying large amounts of money or valuables around with you. Do not accept lifts from people you do not know - use a taxi service recommended by the hotel.

Local travel

Seek the advice of your hosts about appropriate security measures. You should arrange, if possible, to be met on arrival in Algiers and, if travelling alone, should stay at one of the main hotels where proper security precautions are taken.

Where possible, make journeys by air and stay in pre arranged accommodation at your destination. Business visitors without established contacts should seek advice in the first instance from the British Embassy, Algiers or the Algeria desk in UK Trade and Investment.

Tourists should confirm travel arrangements before arrival in Algeria, using a reputable guide with good local knowledge.

It’s generally safe to move around the centre of Algiers during the day. Ideally, travel around with someone who knows the city well. Avoid areas that you don’t know, particularly in the suburbs of the city and especially after dark. Don’t carry large amounts of money or valuables around with you. If you plan to tour the Casbah area of Algiers, use a good local guide and make sure local police and your hosts/hotel know about your plans. Use a taxi service recommended by the hotel - do not accept lifts from persons you do not know. 

There have been regular incidences of violence between Arab and Berber tribes in the town of Ghardaia since December 2013. You should exercise extreme caution and avoid large gatherings if visiting Ghardaia.

Road travel

For short stays in Algeria, you can drive using a UK licence. You should avoid road travel outside major cities at night. Algeria has a high road traffic accident rate. More than 5000 people were killed and over 12,000 injured in road traffic accidents in 2012. If possible travel in a convoy of at least 2-3 vehicles outside the main towns.

If you are taking a taxi, ask your hotel to phone a reputable firm and don’t allow other unknown passengers to join you during the journey. Arrange with the driver to collect you for the return journey as taxis are not widely available, particularly after dark. Do not accept lifts from people you do not know.

Newsletter