travel in algeria Djemila Rach

Algeria, one of the most underrated countries in Africa. It was also one of the most difficult visas to obtain from my travels around the world. After extensive travels to nearly all 54 countries in Africa, independent travel in Algeria isn’t nearly as straightforward as it should be for visitors.

Tourism isn’t really a thing here. For many passport holders to be able to travel in Algeria, you will most likely need the assistance of a local Tour Operator to first help you get the visa to enter and to facilitate permission to explore many regions of this country. 

There are many things to know before you travel to Algeria. This guide will help you arrange a visit to Algeria and provide you with knowledge and tips once you’ve arrived.

Why Travel to Algeria?

travel in algeria constantine

Constantine, the city of bridges.

Algeria is one of the most underrated countries in Africa. If you do decide to go through the often difficult process of obtaining a visa (more on this below), you will discover that Algeria is a very diverse country. It boasts incredible landscapes, the Sahara desert, Mediterranean coastline and beaches, stunning colonial architecture (don’t miss visiting Oran, Algeria’s most beautiful city), beaches, fascinating Roman ruins, bustling cities and more. Also, the Algerian people are some of the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world. They seem very eager and proud to share their culture with visitors.

Algeria also has an incredibly rich history with 7 World Heritage sites – if only more tourists could gain entry to this country to enjoy these wonderful places. And it may come as a surprise to most, but Algeria is one of the most socially developed countries in Africa. 

How to Obtain a Visa for Travel in Algeria

travel in algeria visa

As I mentioned above, Algeria doesn’t encourage tourism at all. From what I’ve gathered from speaking with locals on the ground in Algeria, the country is so rich in natural minerals (oil & gas being the main exports) that tourism isn’t considered as being a major industry for boosting the economy. Either way, for many nationalities, arranging a visa for travel to Algeria is a difficult, long and expensive process. You need to submit flight reservations, hotel reservations and itinerary for the entire duration of your stay in Algeria, travel insurance details, proof of income and a list of other documents just to lodge your application. And most importantly you might need a Letter of Invitation from someone in Algeria approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

To remove some of the headaches for you, I’d recommend reaching out to an Algerian Tour Operator to help to facilitate an LOI (letter of invitation). This will make things much easier to obtain a visa and in some cases, quicker. A Tour Operator can submit other documents to the Ministry of Tourism in Algeria to support your request to enter the country.

We requested visa assistance and booked some day tours and hotels in Algeria with Wassim from AlgeriaTours16. You can read some fantastic reviews from past guests of AlgeriaTours16 on Tripadvisor, where they currently rank #1. We’d agree that they offer great customised tours of Algeria with fantastic guides all over the country.

Note: The visa will fill an entire page of your passport.

Is it safe to travel in Algeria?

travel in algeria is it safe to travel in algeria

Is it safe to travel in Algeria? Yes!

If you mention your intentions to visit Algeria, the first question many people ask is, “Is it safe to travel in Algeria?” Bordering these countries, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Mauritania, Niger and Mali, it’s a fair question to ask.

If you ask anyone, Algeria has been tainted with a bad reputation. In the past, armed terrorist groups often targeted foreigners from the civil war which finished 20 years ago, back in 2002. Algeria is still perceived as an unsafe destination due to a lack of updated information on the internet. Most government travel advisories (including my home country of Australia) still recommend that visitors avoid travelling to the southern areas of Algeria. Furthermore, the border areas that are shared with Tunisia and Libya are deemed as extremely high risk of danger in these regions.

In saying all this, Algeria is a huge country, in fact, it’s the largest country in Africa. Based on my visit (in Mar 2022), I felt safe the entire time, Algerians are extremely curious and welcoming to foreigners. My answer to the question of whether it is safe to travel in Algeria is yes, it is.

Currency in Algeria

travel in algeria algerian dinar currency

Algerian Dinar is the currency used when you travel in Algeria.

The currency used in Algeria is the Algerian Dinar (DZD). 

We travelled to Algeria in early March 2022. The prices quoted in this itinerary for Algeria are in local currency, Algerian Dinar (DZD). Obviously, exchange rates fluctuate depending on when you may travel in Algeria.

Prices are mentioned here at the black market rate. 

At the time of writing, 1 USD = 192 DZD OR 1 EUR = 215 DZD.

Travel in Algeria – 10 Things to Know Before You Go

1) Bring Cash

travel in algeria bring cash

Bring cash when you come to travel in Algeria

Algeria is a ‘cash’ type of society. If you want to save at least 30% on everything you buy inside this country, I’d recommend bringing enough Euros or USD in cash to change on the black market. We experienced difficulty trying to pay anything on Visa/Mastercard and trying to withdraw local currency at an ATM. We’ve heard many other international visitors have had a similar experience.

The official rate to change cash in the bank is 1 EUR = 156 DZD, however, the black market rate was 1 EUR = 215 DZD. The official rate to change 1 USD = 143, the black market rate was 1 USD = 192. This is a significant difference and you will certainly save a considerable amount of cash changing on the black market.

Just be careful when changing your currency, as it’s not entirely legal. Try and do it out of the view of others if possible or ask a local friend if they have someone they trust to exchange it with you at a good rate. We found shops to exchange our Euros in the back office of ‘shops’ that appear to be selling souvenirs etc. 

Trust us, Euros or USD cash will be helpful once you discover how diverse this country is. You’ll most likely want to extend your stay to see the 8 most amazing places to visit in Algeria! Obviously, this all depends on your visa dates/conditions.

2) Language in Algeria

Arabic and Berber are the two official languages in the country. But French is also spoken by almost everyone. We spoke our ‘survival French’ to travel in Algeria, the same limited French skills we used when we travelled overland across West Africa in 2019We know enough French to have small conversations, understand numbers when paying for things and have a good concept of reading French on menus. It was enough to get by in Algeria, and to be honest many people spoke quite a lot of English in Algeria. They would apologise to use because they couldn’t speak more of it, such humble people.

I recommend learning some French or Arabic with Babbel, a fantastic language app to learn new languages on the go. If not then at least download Google Translate on your phone in these languages so you can communicate when you get stuck. 

RELATED POST: 17 things to know before travelling to West Africa

3) The food in Algeria is great

travel in algeria the food

You will discover that the food is fantastic if you travel in Algeria

Algerian food is a mixture of many cultures. Since Algeria was a French colony for over 130 years, the food here takes influence from French cuisine.

But you will find influence from Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Arab and Berber cuisines as well. You will notice there are many fast-food places selling shawarma, pizza, crepes, burgers and savoury pastries. If you want to travel in Algeria on a very low budget, it can be achieved by just eating the street food, it is very cheap.

I wanted to try as much of the local Algerian cuisine as possible during my visit and taste some delicious food. My favourite local dishes were couscous with chicken or lamb, Rechta, steamed marinated meats or barbeque brochettes (skewered meats), tasty soups such as lentil and Chorpa soup and freshly cooked bread dipped in the spicy harissa paste and olive oil. Trust me, Algerian food is good!

4) Drink Only Bottled Water or Bring a LifeStraw

Avoid drinking the tap water in Algeria and stick to bottled water. Large bottles of water (1.5L) can be purchased from small shops and supermarkets for about 35 DZD or $0.18c.

Better yet, bring along a LifeStraw filtered water bottle. Not only will you be helping the environment to reduce plastic waste, but you can take it with you on your future travelling adventures.

5) Download Maps.me App to help you navigate

One of the best tools to get around Algeria is the Maps.Me app. You can download offline maps of the country which means you never have to use mobile data to get around. The map also shows hiking trails and walking paths, something that Google Maps doesn’t have. 

Although Algeria has a great train network between cities as well as buses and trams, it is much faster to use shared taxis. Shared taxis are small vans that connect all cities and towns. You go to the dedicated station in town, buy a ticket from the ticket office and take a seat in the van that fits up to 8 people. Once the van is full, it departs directly to the final destination. It is one of the fastest ways to get from A to B in Algeria if you’re not flying or taking the train.

6) Domestic flights are cheap – but book them once you’re here

travel in algeria air algerie domestic flights

Air Algerie domestic flights are really affordable way to travel in Algeria

There are 18 airports in Algeria, the most popular airports are located in Algiers and Oran. We flew into Oran from Marseille, France with Volotea. This airline has some great deals if you book early through Skyscanner.com.

Once you’re in Algeria, domestic flights with Air Algerie are very reasonably priced, but the trick is to book them when you’re in the country. If you use the black market rate and pay cash, you will save a fair chunk of change. Book your ticket at any local travel agency (Agence de voyage) or at the Air Algerie counter at any airport. It’s always busy with locals lining up to do the same thing, but it’s worth the wait to get some good fares to travel around in Algeria.

Note: There are many destinations within Algeria that independent travellers cannot access without a guide or written permission from the Ministry of Tourism. Check with a Local Tour Agency, (we recommend AlgeriaTours16) which destinations these may be and if you would still like to travel there, perhaps book a customised tour with them to facilitate your visit.

7) Get a Sim Card for travel in Algeria

Try and get a Sim Card at the airport upon arrival in Algeria. You will soon discover that the internet connection at hotels isn’t very good. Furthermore, friends or family who wonder whether is it safe to travel in Algeria or not will feel better knowing you have a functional phone if you get into trouble.

We bought a local Ooredoo Sim Card for 1200 DZD, it included 10 GB internet usage and call time. To get up to 40GB of data, I believe it’s only an additional 300 DZD. We had at least a 3G connection anywhere we travelled and it was incredibly handy to be connected at all times.

Travel in Algeria will be much easier if you’re connected. It means you can access the YASSIR Ride-sharing app and order a ride, book hotels on the go with Booking.com, find reviews on the best places to eat in Algeria and access maps on your phone to navigate around cities. 

8) Use Yassir Taxi Ride Sharing App

Download the YASSIR App before you arrive, (or when you’re here). It will save you time and money. You will need an Algerian local number to access YASSIR, so that’s why I recommend buying a Sim card on arrival. If your French or Arabic language skills are non-existent, this app will help you to get from A to B without any hassle. 

It’s a useful tool to learn what fares typically costs from A to B and it works similarly to Uber. The main difference is that you must pay cash (Algerian dinar) for your fare directly to the driver once your ride is complete. Taxis are cheap in Algeria, so it’s a recommended way to travel around.

9) Algeria was colonised by France for 132 years

travel in algeria oran french buildings

You will notice the French colonial buildings as you travel in Algeria. This is a street in the beautiful city of Oran

Algeria was part of France from 1830 to 1962. With the influence of France for that long, cities here do look much more French, than say African. As you travel in Algeria you will notice all of the grand colonial buildings that show the influence of France to date. You will also find many great patisseries where you can eat delicious French baguettes, biscuits, cakes and sweets.

10) Get a Bank Account that doesn’t charge International Transaction Fees 

There is no good reason why you should still be paying International transaction fees or ATM withdrawal fees in 2022. Banks have come a long way over the years. If you haven’t signed up for a bank account with ING Direct yet, then you’ll most likely be paying for unnecessary bank fees when you travel to different countries. 

I highly recommend bringing Euros (the best option) or USD to exchange on the black market to save a lot of money during your time in Algeria, but if you do want to rely on using a Debit Card to withdraw funds, then this bankcard is essential. 

For example, during my trip to Tunisia (read our 14-day itinerary for Tunisia here) I was charged 12 TND ($4.20) each time I withdrew local currency from an ATM. But, because I have a bank account with ING Direct, every ATM bank fee was reimbursed to me. It’s fantastic! I’m also refunded for any foreign transaction fees charged to me whilst I’m travelling abroad with this bank. For more information about ING and why it’s the best debit card for travellers, read our post with more information.

11) Exchange your Algerian Dinars before your departure 

Before departing Algeria, ensure you convert all of your Algerian dinars to Euros/USD (or another hard currency) before you depart. Algerian Dinars are nearly impossible to exchange once you’ve departed the country.

12) Everything is closed on Friday in Algeria

travel in algeria friday is weekend

Friday is the weekend in Algeria, but it’s a great day to capture photos with beautiful buildings and empty streets.

Algeria is an Islamic country and they observe the weekend on Friday and Saturday. Each Friday everywhere in Algeria will be closed, nobody works or opens their stores. It is intended to be a day of rest, time for prayer and to spend with family. It’s good to plan ahead for this if you wanted to eat out, visit some attractions or go shopping. Saturday is still the weekend in Algeria, but it is much busier in the markets and people are out and about.

13) Travel Insurance

We recommend getting a good travel insurance policy for travel to Tunisia. SafetyWing Travel Insurance is created by travellers, for travellers. These guys offer Travel Medical Insurance that covers people from all over the world, while outside their home country – The best part is that COVID-19 coverage is included in their very affordable plans.

Use the box below to get a SafetyWing travel insurance quote 

If you ask us, this huge North African nation is underrated and perhaps misunderstood. We hope this guide is useful if you do plan to travel in Algeria. If you’re travelling afterwards to Tunisia, the fantastic country that is just next door, don’t miss our 10 best tips for travel in Tunisia and our detailed 14-day itinerary for Tunisia.

TRAVEL PLANNING RESOURCES  

✈️ Flights: Skyscanner and Expedia are the best sites to search for the cheapest flights and great deals from your home country.

🏨 Accommodation: Booking.comAgoda, and HotelsCombined are the top platforms to search for fantastic hotels and accommodation options at the best price.

🛌 Homestays: Airbnb is an ideal platform to book a local experience. We use Airbnb to reserve entire apartments for long-term stays. 

🏥 Travel Insurance: Don’t forget travel insurance! We recommend World Nomads or SafetyWing.

🚌 Transportation: To book trains, Trainline is the best and cheapest website. To book transport in Europe, USA & Canada, we use Omio & FlixbusUS. For travel in Asia, we use 12Go. For all other countries, we use BookaWay to compare and book Bus, Ferry, or train tickets to get around.

🚘 Car Rental: Rentalcars.com, & Europcar are reliable platforms to book rental cars.

👫 Group ToursG Adventures or Expat Explore offers the best group adventures around the world. Use our promo code VERYHUNGRYNOMADS at checkout to receive 5% off your Expat Explore Trip!

📸 Day Tours & Trips: Get Your Guide & Viator are the only platforms you will need. They offer everything at unbeatable prices.

🎒 LuggageOsprey Farpoint 40L Backpack or any suitcase from Nomatic Travel Gear.

🛄 What to Pack: To help you get started on packing, here is our ULTIMATE Packing List for all Travellers.

🐶 Become a House Sitter: Join Trusted Housesitters and enjoy FREE accommodation around the world. Use our personal invite to receive 25% off your new membership.

💰 Send Money Anywhere: WISE is the best online account that lets you send money, get paid, and spend money internationally. It’s so easy to use and way cheaper than any bank transfer.

📶 Stay Connected: Airalo eSIM allows you to get connected the moment you land at your destination and you can avoid those expensive data roaming charges. We LOVE this product!

✅ Check out our Travel Resources Page for more Useful Tips to Save you Money!