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With the Mediterranean caressing its rugged coastline, Algeria promises an escape from all things. Sun-touched cities tempt visitors in. Snow-capped mountains hint at greater mysteries that only first-hand experience can reveal. The journey begins in the enchanting north and leads on to many treasures.
The capital, Algiers, projects its turbulent history through its architecture. French-built boulevards come together with socialist-era monuments and elegant apartments, weaving a textured tale of destruction and rebirth. The Casbah citadel watches from its hillside, as it's done for centuries. All told, culture, sapphire seas, and green ravines draw visitors to the Bay of Algiers, parting the sheer veil over Algeria's charm.
Those who venture on discover more. Laid-back Tlemcen provides a change of pace from the capital. Surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, it's a wonderful destination for leather and textile shopping. Hikers can explore the lunar landscapes of the northwestern mountain ranges. Timgad, Djemila and other beautifully preserved Roman towns offer a glimpse into the area's past. Farther south, the Saharan region extends over a sea of sand to mountains that are as beautiful as they are unyielding. Their caverns contain rock paintings that date back over 10, 000 years.
Unlike neighbouring Morocco, Algeria has yet to become an established tourist destination. But, given its natural beauty, history and rich culture, its standing may change. Much depends on whether some fascinating parts of the country become safer. At present, visitors should avoid travelling to rural areas within 31 miles (50km) of the border with Tunisia due to terrorist and criminal activities. The same is true for regions within 155 miles (250km) of the borders with Libya, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania. Also, terrorist and criminal groups operate in parts of the Sahara Desert. Travellers venturing there should travel by air rather than overland.
Algiers has a Mediterranean climate characterised by hot, dry summers and warm, wet winters. Summer temperatures can be exacerbated by hot, dry sirocco winds that carry the desert heat northwards from the Sahara. Average high temperatures during the warmer months (June to October) are around 89°F (32°C), while in the cooler months (December to March) average lows are around 48°F (9°C). Spring and summer are the best times to visit Algiers.
Algeria holds all the hallmarks of a Mediterranean climate. Warm but wet in the winter along the coast while extremely cold on the higher plateau. Summers are dry along the coast and downright arid as you progress inland. The hot sirocco wind can make for an unpleasant summer.
The unit of currency is the Algeria Dinar (DZD), which is divided into 100 centimes. Algeria has a cash-based economy. Although ATMs are available in the bigger cities most won't accept international cards. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change, and the larger hotels. Credit cards are only accepted at large hotels.
Arabic and Berber are the official languages in Algeria. The most widely spoken foreign language is French, followed by English.
Electrical current in Algeria is 230 volts, 50Hz. European two-pin and Schuko plugs are standard.
US nationals: US nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from the arrival date. Visa required.
UK nationals: UK nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from the arrival date. Visa required.
CA nationals: Canadian nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from the arrival date. Visa required.
AU nationals: Australian nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from the arrival date. Visa required.
ZA nationals: South African nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from the arrival date. Visa required.
IR nationals: Irish nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from the arrival date. Visa required.
NZ nationals: New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from the arrival date. Visa required.
Passports must be valid for at least six months after intended stay. Visas are required for all visitors except when in transit and spending less than 24 hours without leaving the airport. A transit visa for up to 48 hours can be obtained from airport authorities. Visitors may be required to produce return/onward tickets, other documents for next destination, and proof of sufficient funds. Those arriving from yellow fever risk countries must carry proof of vaccination.
Travellers visiting Algeria should get vaccinated for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid fever, tetanus and yellow fever. Travellers should also include rabies as the disease occurs in some parts of the country.
A 10 percent tip is expected but may be factored into the price at more upmarket venues.
Algeria's president has lifted the two-decade state of emergency, however this is widely believed to be an attempt to pacify growing unrest within the country. Travellers to Algeria should always be vigilant and check with their tour operator or travel agent before embarking. Travel to most of the southern part of Algeria is advised against by most Western governments, including: Tamanrasset, Tindouf, Boumerdès, Bouira and Tizi Ouzou. Long trips and overland travel should be avoided, as well as crowds and protests. Terrorism is a big problem in Algeria, taking the form of kidnappings, bombings and cross-country ambushes.
Greetings and hospitality are very important to Algerians. Male tourists should shake hands with Algerian men, though wait for women to offer a handshake. Female tourists should use their own judgement as to whether a handshake or a polite hello is the right greeting.
As Algeria is a predominantly Islamic country, visitors should avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public during the month of Ramadan. For the same reason, drinking alcohol is generally frowned upon.
Women are expected to dress conservatively. Homosexual activity is illegal and punishable by imprisonment. Photographing of police or military personnel or establishments is strictly prohibited.
Pleasantries are considered essential to business dealings in Algeria. Ask after one another's health and demeanour. Do not back out of a handshake too hastily. Closeness is an expression of warmth and familiarity to Algerians. Business cards are used, if possible though, have them translated to Arabic and/or French.
The international access code for Algeria is +213. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). The area code for Algiers is 21. Mobile coverage and internet access are steadily improving.
Travellers over the age of 17 do not pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 400g of tobacco. The same applies for 250ml of Eau de Cologne, 0.15g of perfume in opened bottles, and 1l of alcoholic beverages per person. Narcotics and gold are prohibited.
National Tourist Office, Algiers: +213 21 43 8060
Algerian Embassy, Washington: +1 202 265 2800
Algerian Embassy, London (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7299 7077
Algerian Embassy, Ottawa: +1 613 789 8505
Algerian Embassy, Canberra (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6286 7355
Algerian Embassy, Pretoria: +27 12 342 5074
United States Embassy, Algiers: +213 770 082 000
United Kingdom Embassy, Algiers: + 213 770 085 000
Canadian Embassy, Algiers: +213 770 08 30 00
Australian Embassy, Paris, France (also responsible for Algeria): +33 1 4059 3300
South African Embassy, Algiers: +213 21 484 418
Embassy of Ireland, Berne, Switzerland (also responsible for Algeria): +41 31 350 0380
New Zealand Embassy, Cairo, Egypt (also responsible for Algeria): +20 2 246 16000
Getting around Algiers is relatively easy. Taxis are plentiful and are the easiest means of getting around the city. They can be hailed directly off the street or found at taxi stands, and most are metered; there may be surcharges for travel at night. Shared taxis, which operate specific routes, are also common in Algiers. Municipal buses and trams operate in the city, although these are not as popular with tourists. A Metro system opened in 2011 and provides a good mode of transport for locals and visitors alike.
Central Algiers is quite easily navigated on foot; with movement in the Casbah largely restricted to pedestrians. Car hire is available from the airport or through a hotel, although those unfamiliar with the city may find driving a hair-raising experience due to local driving conditions. If driving outside Algiers, a four-wheel drive vehicle is essential. Public ferries also operate from Algiers to other main coastal towns, including Ghazaouet, Oran, Annaba and Bejaia.
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