Tours and Travel in Algeria

A Traveler’s Handbook to Algeria: Practical Matters

Weather

Algeria has two distinct climates: Mediterranean coastal climate and interior desert. Algeria has an arid to semiarid climate with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers along the coast. The high plateau is drier with cold winters and hot summers. A sirocco is a hot, dust/sand-laden wind especially common in summer. The highest monthly average high temperature is 30 °C (86 °F) in August, and the lowest monthly average low temperature is 9 °C (48 °F) in January and February.

Algeria receives an average of 691 mm (27.2 in) of rainfall per year, or 58 mm (2.3 in) per month. On average there are 120 days per year with more than 0.1 mm (0.004 in) of rainfall or 10 days with a quantity of rain, sleet, snow etc. per month. The driest weather is in July when an average of 2 mm (0.1 in) of rainfall occurs across 3 days. The wettest weather is in December when an average of 117 mm (4.6 in) of rainfall occurs across 15 days.

What to Wear

Dress for the heat: light cottons, breathable materials, protection from sun. Algeria is a Muslim country and the general dress code is conservative. Women are not required to be covered, but should still dress conservatively (no sleeveless shirts or shorts), and men should not wear shorts except at the beach. A hat and sunglasses are a necessity.

Electricity

Electricity service uses a standard 230V power system. But please note that adapter plug sizes might vary, it is advised that you bring a set of adapters with you. A set of travel plug adapters are available at all travel accessory shops, airports, drugstores, REI, etc. Also, to look up the plugs and electrical outlet information for all countries, visit the website: http://electricaloutlet.org

Business Hours

Generally Sat-Wed 0800-1200 and 1300-1600.

Communication, Post, News

Mobile phone: Roaming agreements exist but coverage is mostly limited to main towns.

Internet: There are Internet cafés in all larger towns.

Post: Mail posted in any of the main cities along the coast takes three to four days to reach Europe; posted elsewhere, it could take much longer. Parcels sent by surface mail may take up to two months to reach Algeria.

Post office hours: Generally Sat-Wed 0800-1700; Thurs 0800-1200; but the main post office in Algiers (5 boulevard Mohamed Khémisti) is open 24 hours.

Media: Algeria’s TV and radio stations are state-controlled, but there is a lively private press which is often critical of the authorities. Although there is no overt censorship, legislation sets out prison terms and fines for insulting or defaming the president, MPs, judges and the army.

Press: Daily newspapers are printed in Arabic or French. The main French-language dailies are El Watan, Liberté, Le Quotidien d’Oran and La Tribune. El Khabar is one of the leading Arabic-language dailies. Another daily, Horizons, has an English section.

Television: Enterprise Nationale de Télévision (ENTV) is state-run. The use of satellite dishes is widespread; some satellite TV stations, such as BRTV, a Berber station based in France, target viewers in Algeria, and European channels are widely watched.

Radio: Algerian Radio, operated by state-run Radio-Télévision Algérienne, runs national Arabic, Berber and French networks and several local stations.

Money: The currency of Algeria is known as the Dinar (DA). Exchanging currency is rather difficult in Algeria, although it has improved a little over the years. Foreign currencies can be exchanged at most banks and at some luxury hotels. Travelers checks are not accepted in Algeria.

In rural areas, merchants might give prices in centimes rather than dinars (there are 100 centimes in a DA1). To confuse matters further, they might also drop the thousands, so a quote of ‘130’ means 130, 000 centimes (ie DA1300). Credit cards can only be used in the larger hotels, where they still use the manual credit card imprinters. Merchants and smaller hotels are not likely to accept credit cards so it is best to carry cash for your day to day expenses and souvenirs. Also note that most foreigners may have difficulty using ATM cards.

Photography: Many sites in the North Africa charge photo fees. These can range from as little as $1 tup to $5 per site. Generally these are not included in the tour price and Photographing anything related to the military or police is forbidden and could result in the confiscation of your camera. Photographing individuals should only be done with their permission. It will be quite likely you will receive that permission when you ask, but on occasion your request will be declined. Please respect this and do not photograph the person.

Food: Traditional Algerian food has been influenced by Berber, Arab, Turkish, and French tastes. It can be mild or very spicy and many flavorings are used. Algiers and popular coastal towns have a fair selection of good restaurants, serving mainly French and Italian-style food, though even classic dishes will have an unmistakable Algerian quality. Fish dishes are exceptionally good.

Specialties:

  • Stalls sell brochettes (kebabs) in French bread and covered in a spicy sauce.
  • Couscous, semolina-like pasta made from cracked wheat, is a staple food in Algeria and throughout North Africa.
  • Chickpea-cakes make a cheap and tasty accompaniment for food.
  • Stews like shakshuka, with vegetables, and tajine, with lamb or chicken, are popular everyday dishes.
  • The traditional diet of desert nomads is based on couscous and the meat of the sheep or goats they herd. When travelling, desert people carry pressed dates or figs, and hard cheese, which keeps for a long time.

For beverages you will find the popular North African standard of mint tea, and Turkish coffee served just about everywhere. Also, there are some very good local wines that you should try if you enjoy wine.

Packing Tips

Here are some general guidelines for packing for a Caravan-Serai Tour. We have partnered with Travel Smith, a catalog and online retailer of travel clothing and accessories. Their products are ideal for travel: lightweight and easy to pack, wrinkle resistant, easy to care for, comfortable, and versatile. As a Caravan-Serai client, you can receive a 10% discount off your purchase. If you did not receive a catalog from us with a KEY CODE on the cover, call us for the code and shop online.

First and foremost be comfortable! Pack clothes that can be worn in layers and colors that allow you to mix and match. Note that in many holy sites shorts and sleeveless outfits are not permitted. Consider the following ideas when you pack:

Clothing:

  • Your favorite pair of comfortable, sturdy, walking shoes: many of our tours include exploring ruins, walking on unpaved or uneven streets, and sand. You can bring another pair of shoes or sandals for days when there won’t be much walking or for the beach.
  • Warm sweater or jacket: in the winter months, it can get chilly, especially at night, and in the desert the temperature can drop dramatically when the sun sets.
  • Casual pants or jeans: lightweight cotton pants are preferable to jeans, especially in the warm season. Jeans are bulky, hot, and don’t hand wash and dry well at all.
  • Cotton shirts: breathable, quick-drying shirts are the best.
  • Windbreaker or raincoat, rain hat and small umbrella: in the winter months it can rain, especially in coastal areas. If you do choose to bring an umbrella, keep it compact.
  • Swim suit
  • Scarf – for entering into a Mosque

Electrical Appliances:

  • Converter and Adapter plugs The electric current in the Middle East is 220 volts. To operate small American appliances such as a hair dryer or curling iron you will need both a Converter and Adapter Plugs. Most hotels will have a hair drier either in the room or in housekeeping that you can borrow.
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Travel hair drier

Other necessities:

  • Day pack
  • Camera, film, extra battery and journal
  • Travel first aid kit
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine, pain reliever, etc…
  • Sun Protection: sunscreen, sun glasses, hat