Algeria travel guide
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.
2,381,741 sq km (919,595 sq miles).
40,375,954 (UN estimate 2016).
16.6 per sq km.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika since 1999.
Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia since 2017.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. The European two-pin plug is standard.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
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.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to areas within:
- 30km of the borders with Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Niger
- 30km of the border with Tunisia in the provinces of Illizi and Ouargla and in the Chaambi mountains area
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to within 30km of the remainder of the border with Tunisia.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Algeria, including kidnappings. Terrorist attacks have focussed on the Algerian state, but attacks could be indiscriminate and include foreigners. There’s also a risk that lone actors could target foreigners. You should be vigilant at all times and take additional security precautions, especially in: towns and cities; the southern, Libyan and Tunisian border areas; rural and mountainous areas in the north; and the Sahara.
The threat from terrorism is higher in some parts of the country:
- the southern border (where the kidnap risk is concentrated)
- the Libyan and Tunisian borders
- rural, and particularly mountainous, areas in the north and between Tunisia and Algiers
- the Sahara
The Algerian authorities devote considerable resources to the safety of foreign visitors. In cities there’s a clear security presence, which can feel intrusive. Authorities will want to know your travel plans when travelling outside major cities and may assign police or gendarmes to protect you.
If you’re travelling independently you should notify the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or local authorities of your plans. Your hotel should be able to help you with contacting local authorities. This doesn’t apply if you have dual Algerian nationality. You should accept any security escort you’re offered and co-operate with authorities.
When moving around Algiers and the other main cities, you should avoid areas that you don’t know, especially after dark. Travelling in rural areas and at night is particularly risky and it’s always advisable to travel with a reputable guide or companion in these areas. Avoid travel by road at night outside the major cities and motorways.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
You should take precautions for your personal safety, avoid political gatherings and demonstrations and take local advice. Outside major towns, small protests or strikes can affect transport. Observe instructions given by the local security authorities.
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.
Seek the advice of your hosts about appropriate security measures. If possible you should arrange to be met on arrival in Algiers. You 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 tour operator 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. Don’t accept lifts from people you don’t know – use a taxi service recommended by the hotel.
For short stays in Algeria, you can drive using a UK licence. While the major road system has improved, take particular care on minor roads and at night. Algeria has a high road traffic accident rate. 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.
Algerian family law is different from UK law. If you’re a dual British-Algerian national, take particular care if child custody or forced marriage is likely to become an issue during your stay. Children (aged 18 or under) leaving Algeria need written authorisation from their father to travel if they’re travelling alone. If you have any concerns, seek advice before travelling to Algeria or agreeing to family members travelling to Algeria.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Algeria, including kidnappings. Terrorist attacks have focussed on the Algerian state, but attacks could be indiscriminate and include foreigners. There’s also a risk that lone actors target foreigners. You should be vigilant at all times and take additional security precautions.
The main terrorist threat is from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) and other regional Islamist groups including Al Murabitun and Daesh-affiliates. There’s also a threat from individuals inspired by Daesh. These groups have been active across the country and pose a threat throughout Algeria, including in Algiers and other major cities.
The Algerian authorities continue to conduct effective counter terrorism operations to disrupt terrorist activity but there’s a continuing threat of further terrorist attacks. You should be vigilant at all times.
There have been attacks against Algerian government interests and security forces:
- on 31 August 2017, 2 police officers were killed during a suicide attack on the regional police headquarters building in Tiaret, 130km south-west of Algiers. Daesh is reported to have claimed responsibility.
- on 26 February 2017, 2 police officers were injured during an attempted suicide attack on a police station in central Constantine.
- on 28 October 2016 a police officer was killed, also in Constantine. Both this and the 26 February 2017 attack were claimed by Daesh.
Foreign and economic interests, including oil and gas facilities, have also been attacked:
- on 18 March 2016, AQ-M attacked the In Salah Gas Joint Venture in central Algeria with explosive munitions fired from a distance. There were no injuries or casualties.
- other incidents have included the AQ-M attacks on Algerian armed forces in Ain Defla on 17 July 2015 and Tizi Ouzou on 19 April 2014.
- on 16 January 2013 Al Murabitun attacked a gas plant near In Amenas killing 40 foreign workers, including 6 British nationals.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
There’s a kidnap threat to visitors, particularly in the southern and eastern border areas. Terrorist groups have kidnapped foreigners, Algerian government officials and civilians in Algeria and the wider Sahel region for financial gain and for political leverage. Further kidnaps are likely.
The long-standing policy of the British government is to not make substantive concessions to hostage-takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risks of further hostage-taking. This is also the position of the Algerian Government.
The presence of violent extremist groups in northern Mali continues to fuel mounting insecurity across the Sahel. AQ-M and its network of Mali based affiliates remain the dominant force within this region. 2016 witnessed an increase in attacks, which is likely to continue through 2017 as the group remains intent on demonstrating capability and increasing influence across the region. This has been demonstrated by the recent merger of AQ-M Sahel, Ansar al-Dine and al-Murabitun into the new group “Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen”. The threat to western interests in the region remains.
For full information on travelling to the Sahel please refer to our Sahel region advice.
Local laws and customs
Local laws reflect the fact that Algeria is a Muslim country. Respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
The weekend is on Friday and Saturday. Not all restaurants serve alcohol and alcohol is not served anywhere during Ramadan.
Women dress in a wide variety of styles in Algeria, including European, and don’t have to cover their head unless visiting a mosque. To avoid unwelcome attention, women may wish to dress modestly, particularly outside of the main towns.
Possession, use and trafficking of controlled drugs are all serious criminal offences in Algeria and carry custodial sentences.
You don’t have to carry your passport at all times, but take it with you if you are making a longer journey. You will need your passport if travelling internally by air. Keep a photocopy somewhere safe.
Homosexuality is illegal in Algeria. Sexual acts between people of the same sex are punishable by imprisonment.
Don’t attempt to take photos of any government building or security installation. This includes police and police checkpoints.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Before you travel, you will need to get a visa from the Algerian Consulate in London. This can take up to 4 weeks so plan ahead. You can’t get a visa on arrival. You should check the details of your visa, including validity dates, before travelling. You may be asked to provide an invitation letter as part of your application.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Algeria.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for airside transit and exit from Algeria. You would still need a valid entry visa to enter Algeria using an Emergency Travel Document.
Travel with children
Any child under the age of 18 whose father is an Algerian citizen will be regarded as Algerian if the father’s name is on the birth certificate. Any such child leaving Algeria without the father will only be able to travel if the father signs an ‘Autorisation Paternelle’, giving his authority for the child to leave the country. For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration, contact the Algerian Consulate in London.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Facilities at private clinics are usually better than at government hospitals. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial (0)21711414 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Parts of Algeria are prone to severe flood damage. Northern Algeria is also within an earthquake zone. In May 2003, a severe earthquake struck the Algiers area. There were over 2,200 dead and more than 10,000 injured. Smaller earthquakes occur regularly. In July 2014, an earthquake killed 6 people and injured 420.
You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see this advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The use of ATMs and credit cards is confined to a limited number of hotels and other businesses in the larger cities. Only exchange money at bureaux de change in the international airports and larger hotels, or at banks in the main cities. Don’t change money on the streets. Algeria has strict foreign exchange laws and the Dinar can’t be exported.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.