12 Days In Algeria – A Practical Guide. Compared to its northern neighbors of Egypt, Tunisia, or Morocco there is not a lot of information for travelers when visiting Algeria. In this post, I want to share with you some practical advice and information as 12 Days In Algeria – A Practical Guide well as a sample itinerary.
DAY ONE – Algiers
My journey began with a short direct flight on Air Algiers from Barcelona to Algiers. Of course, prior to my flight as an American I needed to get a visa. This was a fairly straight forward yet expensive task. Living in Bangkok, with no local Algerian Embassy, I mailed my 2nd passport to my father in the US. Most Americans are required to send their passport with supporting documents to the Algerian Consulate in NYC. At the time I applied, I was required to provide an application, passport photos, flight information, hotel information, and bank statements in duplicate. Since I did not know my actual agenda at the time of applying, I created temporary hotel and airline reservations. The Consulate responded to my emails in a reasonably timely manner. Here is their email: email@example.com. The cost of the visa was $160, plus of course all of the shipping costs. The consulate required a money order from the US Post Office. The turnaround was under 7 business days.
Upon exiting in Algiers, there is the usual scrum when passing through immigration. Make sure you find an Entry Card when you get to this area. FYI this card is written in French and Arabic, so bone up on your French before you visit Algeria. The immigration officer was professional and after a couple of minutes I had received my entry stamp.
Algeria is fond of X-raying your bags whether leaving or entering the airport. Virtually every time I was stopped for additional yet friendly questioning. I carry a large amount of camera equipment. I was often asked if I was a “jounaliste?”, but of course the response is “touriste”.
Algeria can be a very inexpensive country assuming you take advantage of the black market. One dollar will get you at best 175 Dinars and a Euro, 185 Dinars. Make sure you bring enough US Dollars or Euro so you do not have to use ATMs and get the official exchange rate of 110 Dinar to the dollar. Same thing, avoid using your credit card since the calculation will take place at the official rate.
Make sure you exchange your money on the black market.
At the airport I exchanged 20 Euro, since I wanted to get a local SIM card. In the airport were two SIM card options, and I opted for Ooredoo. In moments I was equipped with a 4 GB SIM card. The speed and coverage was far from perfect, but in most cases did the trick. Do not expect to watch Stanger Things on Netflix.
I then exited the airport and proceeded to the taxi queue. After a brief negotiation, we had settled on a 10 Euro ride to my hotel, which is the standard price. The taxi driver was happy to get the hard currency. No tip necessary.
In Algiers, I stayed at the AZ Hotel Kouba. This is a newer “boutique” hotel. The room was new/great, the labneh at breakfast fantastic, the internet worked well, and some of the staff spoke English. The room is 12,500 Dinar a night. The neighborhood was not touristy, and was about a 15 minute taxi to Algiers Centre. FYI, the hotel will help you exchange money with a “trusted” taxi driver. The driver will not rob you, but he will rip you off, charging you triple of taxi fares and giving you a bad exchange rate.
The first afternoon/evening I spent by myself in Algiers Centre (read about my visit to Algiers here), walking around and taking in the atmosphere. I felt completely safe and secure and was not bothered by anyone. You will notice many police officers in light blue and white patrolling the area. Two things I had been warned about did not come to fruition in regard to my passport or photos. During my entire trip I was only once asked for my passport by the police when visiting a Roman ruin. And had no issues when taking photos in Algiers. No policemen approached me to delete photos. Taking photos of people is somewhat challenging. In general the culture is not fond of getting their photos taken.
This area is full of shops, cafes and restaurants. I found a café and had a chicken shawarma and falafel sandwich for 200 Dinar each. So take your pick and enjoy the afternoon. After dark I waved down a shared taxi (meaning there are other people in the car) who brought me back to my hotel for 100 Dinar.
The next day I took a city day tour with Fancy Yellow owned by Omar. Omar was out of town, so instead I was escorted by his brother, Amine, and his friend Zak. There was also a car and driver. Our first visit was the famed Casbah neighborhood, which I had read multiple times not to visit without a local. I visited twice with locals, and it appeared I would have managed fine on my own, but of course you do not know until you know. The Casbah is a lived-in neighborhood and apparently some of the locals are not fond of tourists traipsing through their neighborhood. We spent the day together visiting the highlights of the city, also enjoying lunch and crepes. I was dropped off in the evening back to my hotel. The cost for the day is $100, inclusive. Amine is also a great resource and helped me with some contacts later in my trip. Amine and Zak are great guys and incredibly hospitable. I really enjoyed my day with them. A note, I spent my day with them on Friday, the day of prayer. The benefit was there was little traffic, but when visiting the Casbah it was nearly empty and not that interesting compared to my second visit. You can reach Omar and Amine at firstname.lastname@example.org. And a shout out to Ramblin Randy who made the introduction.
Befriending a taxi driver, I hired him to drive me to Tipaza, a nearby Roman Ruin (read bout visiting Roman ruins in Algeria), about an hour drive from Algiers. For a roundtrip drive and two hours at Tipaza the cost was 5000 Dinars. I have read of others on Thorntree paying less. I then spent the rest of the day with him walking the Casbah on my second visit. I gave him another 2000 Dinars for the second part of the day.
My French language skills ends at around 100 words. In general, most people you meet will be speaking Algerian or French. I got by with my very, very limited French, a pen and paper, and Google Translate on my phone (make sure you have the offline version downloaded).
DAY FOUR – El Eluma
I checked out of my hotel and proceeded to the taxi collectiff station. The private taxi ride to the station cost me 500, which I am sure I overpaid, but was much cheaper than the 1000 the hotel’s taxi driver attempted to charge.
The station was a large expense…and after several “ou es El Eluma?” I found the taxi. For those who do not know, a taxi collectif is a shared taxi, where the driver waits for every seat to be filled in his car and then you all proceed together. I believe the true cost to El Eluma is 800, but I was charged 1,100. Since I was one of the last to arrive for the ride, I got one of the worst seats, the benefit is I did not have to wait for 7 passengers to show up who wanted to go to El Eluma. This very snug car was very claustrophobic, as I was in the third row in the corner, having to bend my neck the entire journey due to the low clearance of the roof. The journey was about 4 hours with a brief break for food and toilet.
I was dropped off at the station in El Eluma and was provided with a free ride to my hotel by a gracious taxi driver. My hotel was only a km away. I stayed at the RIF Hotel which on Google Map shows as Countryside Hotel. I did not have a reservation. The cost was 5,500 Dinar a night. The internet was OK, the breakfast a piece of bread.
The hotel than made a call and I was provided with a driver to visit the Roman Ruin, Djemela. For 3000 Dinar, I was provided a roundtrip ride with a two hour wait. The ride is about 45 minutes away.
For dinner, I walked back to the station, and found a street side restaurant, where I munched on a four cheese pizza with a coke for 900 Dinar.
DAY FIVE – Constantine
I checked out of my hotel, and dragged my bag to the station. I quickly found the taxi collectif proceeding to Constantine with a very reasonable 300 Dinar cost for the 90 minute ride. I was then dropped off at the station and a local taxi brought me to the IBIS Hotel. I did not have a reservation for the IBIS, but was charged 8,200 Dinar with no breakfast. The location of the IBIS is perfect, the rooms are clean and neat, and the wifi was very mediocre. The service was a bit disappointing.
The town is easy to navigate via walking and the occasional taxi. There are many shops and restaurants to choose from. I ate at my hotel twice, once for the dinner buffet for 3000, and another time for lunch.
Off to my third Roman Ruin, Tiddis. The IBIS offers trips to xx, but it double the rate you can negotiate on your own. In front of the hotel, is a long line of taxis where I met my driver. For 3000 Dinar, I visited the ruin with a two hour wait.
DAY SEVEN – Ghardaia
I checked out of my hotel and proceeded to the airport for 300 Dinar (again do not use the 600 Dinar hotel option). I then boarded my afternoon flight to Ghardaia. I was able to buy my flight on the AirAlgiers website, but was told if I bought the tickets in Algeria, they would have been cheaper.
Ghardaia is one of the most fascinating places I have traveled to (Read about my Ghardaia visit here), but holds some challenges when visiting. First, there is not a lot of information online and also not many options booking hotels online either. Some of my emails to hotels went unanswered. I then found a phone number for a local guide named Rostom on Tripadvisor Forum. I had Amin from Fancy Yellow in Algeria call Rostom to set up a hotel and guide for me. Rostom was busy so I was set up with Ibrahim who met me at the airport when I arrived at Ghardaia.
Ghardaia (the biggest village and the capital) or the Mzab Valley is comprised of five villages. As far as I can tell, the hotel options for tourists are all guest houses located away from the villages. In other words, you are very isolated. The guest house I stayed in was down a dirt road, and a twenty minute drive to the nearest village. In other words, there was nothing there.
In addition, when visiting these 5 villages you are required to have a local guide. They do not want you to explore independently. So in short, you need a guide with a car to be able to explore the Ghardaia area.
The cost for my traditional guest house which included both breakfast and dinner, and a room with a private bathroom was 4,835 a night. Aesthetically the guest house was a pretty cool place. My room was a bit snug and the bathroom even more so. I was the only guest at the hotel during my stay. The staff did not know any English.
DAY EIGHT AND NINE
I spent two full days exploring this area with Ibrahim. He was an excellent host and spoke great English. We typically started at 9am and finished at 2pm, where I rested at the guest house. During my visit in April was quite hot, nearing 100 degrees in the afternoon. Also, be prepared with sand storms. And then we went out around 430pm, finishing off the evening drinking sweet mint tea at one of Ibrahim’s friend’s garden.
Ibrahim cost was 20,500. This included two transfer and all of his guide services during my three night stay. I would recommend Ibrahim. 0554023664
While I found Ghardaia to be immensely fascinating, I was frustrated with my guest house’s isolation and with the challenge in regard to photography. When exploring the villages it as expressly explained and signed that photos with people were not allowed. In other words, if there was a market, you were not allowed to take a wide angle picture of the market since there were people in the market. So be aware, for avid photographers, you will be missing out on incredible photos due to this restriction.
A lot of rules in Ghardaia.
DAY TEN – Timimoun
Ibrahim dropped me off at the bus station after arranging my bus ticket to Timonium (read about my Timimoun trip here). The cost was 1000 Dinar for this 8 hour ride that departed at 11am. The bus was a full sized coach. At the bus station in Timonium I found a taxi for 100 Dinar to bring me to the Ksar Messine Hotel.
I emailed this hotel to make my reservation. The hotel charged 6000 Dinar a night including a basic breakfast and slow wifi. The hotel is very isolated with nothing nearby. Omar at the front desk, speaks limited English but was a very good guy. The room was clean, but the hotel in some ways was dilapidated, but it did the trick for two nights. I ate dinner here the first night for 500 Dinar.
My buddy, Omar.
I was picked up at 9am by Yussein for a desert adventure called the Sebka Cicuit, with a cost of 10,000 Dinar for the full day. This trip was arranged by the hotel. Make sure you bring your own food and water, none if provided. That evening I went to Hotel Gourara, which is the luxury hotel option in town, with a beautiful pool and view, where I had dinner for 1,800.
In general, I would categorize Algeria as being conservative, and this also applies to dress. I wore jeans and a shirt the entire time I was in the country until I got to Timimoun when I threw on a pair of shorts. In Ghardaia, I saw one European attempt to wear shorts in the village, he was required to change before entering. Some Algerian women wear scarves others do not and are dressed in more western styles in the north. In the south, Timomoun and Ghardaia it is much more conservative. You might be a bit surprised seeing how the women in Ghardaia dress. For a female tourist, I would suggest dressing conservatively, no showing your legs or shoulders. Head scarves not required.
I took a brief ride to explore the center of Timimoun for 200 Dinar. Virtually impossible to take photos of the locals after I was rebuffed nearly 20 times.
Departing Algeria….! A 200 Dinar taxi ride brought me the airport. Before proceeding to the airport we stopped at the Gendarme (military) station where my passport was registered. I then received a military escort to the airport at no charge. My taxi driver explained “beaucoup terrorists dans Timimoun”. I was a bit surprised by his comment and not sure of the accuracy of the statement. Throughout my stay in Algeria I felt safe and welcomed.
My military escort to the ariport
At the airports including the domestic ones, I noticed my movements were being tracked and recorded. So for instance, when I arrived at the Ghardaia airport, a Gendarme approached me and said “American?” He knew the passenger manifest, and Ibrahim had to provide the Gendarme with his ID and other details.
In retrospect, I question whether I was allowed to travel independently on the bus between Ghardaia and Timimoun after the Gendarme concern when departing to the airport.
I then flew back and arrived at the domestic terminal in Algiers. I then walked ten minutes to the international terminal to fly to the next stop!
And check out my friends at The Crazy Tourist with their top 15 places to visit in Algeria
12 Days In Algeria – A Practical Guide