Algerian desert
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Algerian desert

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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, adventure awaits in Algeria. A beguiling blend of cultures, landscapes and traditions, this vast chunk of land contains everything from tranquil fishing ports and bustling cities to the unmatched drama of the Sahara Desert and Hoggar Mountains.

As the largest country in Africa, Algeria’s terrain is hugely varied yet underexplored: few visitors travel beyond the country’s Mediterranean port cities (namely Oran and the capital, Algiers), which lie amidst fertile land and the scattered vestiges of Phoenician and Roman colonies.

Sometimes called ‘Algiers the White,’ the capital’s bustling showpiece is its UNESCO-listed Casbah. This whitewashed medina encompasses both crumbling ruins and newly-renovated spaces and is well worth a visit despite its shady reputation (taking a guide is recommended).

The ancient port city of Oran has a decidedly European vibe: French colonial influences are evident in everything from the soaring Sacré-Cœur Cathedral (now a library) to the richly ornamented Palais de la Culture. The city has long been a popular trading post and remains one of the busiest ports in North Africa.

The Sahara Desert is Algeria’s defining feature and one of its biggest drawing cards. It covers more than four-fifths of the country and is the source of myriad myths and legends. Nomadic Berbers still live here, eking out traditional lives in difficult conditions.

The security situation makes independent travel difficult in the Sahara, but under the guidance of reputable tour operators, travellers can visit attractions like the oasis towns of Ghardia and Timimoun, or venture deep into the heart of the desert to view the prehistoric rock art in the Hoggar Mountains and Tassili N’Ajjer National Park. 

The desert is also home to the world’s most remote film festival. FiSahara takes place annually in the Wilaya of Dakhla, a Western Sahara refugee camp, to highlight the plight of the Sahrawi people.

War and tumultuous politics have deterred many from visiting Algeria – rerouting them towards Morocco instead – but if you’re looking for a North African destination with a difference, this country has much to offer.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 25 May 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.

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