Flying a bike out of Tam

The practicalities of flying a bike out of Algeria. Summer 2003

Desert Riders

If you’ve crashed out (as I did) or have irresolvable mechanical problems then flying a bike out of Algeria is a surprisingly cheap and moderately efficient way of getting your bike home. What follows is also a useful guideline about flying yourself out of Algeria.
Flying it back cost me £120 Tam-Algiers-London
50 euros to a Mr Fixit at Algiers airport
And £22 to the freight people at Heathrow.
The flight for me was £200.

All in all it’s a good deal when you consider you can get a refund on the unused return of your Med ferry (in our case half of £275 each).
Here’s how it worked for us, bearing in mind we had large amounts of help from Claudia from Tarahist in Tam who knew the right people and how to handle them.
Buying the air tickets from Air Algerie
Quite an arseache as the Tam office is not so efficient (better in Djanet we hear). There are flights from Tam to Algiers at least once a day but flights Algiers to London only on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, leaving at 10.40am.
You can only buy a ticket with dinars which have been officially exchanged using foreign currency. But this does not include the dinars you may have exchanged when you entered Algeria and so the entire amount must be paid for with your declared but unchanged foreign currency as appears on your “half white” Customs declaration form; the dregs of the foreign currency your brought into Alg, declared but did not exchange.
In my case I did not have enough declared foreign cash (Tunisian does not count, btw and you can forget credit cards in Tam) to pay for the tickets, but I did have enough (sort of) when I took into account my undeclared ‘rainy day’ stash. The problem with handing over what is clearly more money than you had declared at the border was simply sidestepped by adding the ‘stash’ to the half white Customs declaration. Realistically the individual in the Tam bank or Air Alg office is not bothered by the discrepancies with extra entries for a bunch of euros, pounds or whatever. In case you don’t know they never verify your white form on the way out at Talen Larbi by asking you to re-present your declared foreign currency.
So you are told the price in dinars by Air Algerie, go to the bank and hand in foreign currency to that value and come back to Air Alg with the dinars and, most importantly the “attestation de cession de devise” (change receipt) to prove that you changed it at the bank and not in some back street. With this money you can now buy the tickets and fly back.

Air freighting the bike
You need to get a freight quote for the bike (all the way to London) based on its weight. In out case they took our 170kg estimate at face value. It may well go on the same plane. The tricky part is to get the Customs in Tam to stamp out your bike from Algeria. For this you will need your passport, vehicle ownership papers (logbook); copies of both will help – and the yellow Titre de Circulation or Passage or Conduire you got on the way in (the Algerian temporary importation document – like a carnet).
In our case the Customs jobsworth in Tam would not stamp our bikes out of Tam so they could have been transferred without delay onto the London leg at Algiers. However, again at Djanet we heard from Richard Lees that the Customs were more sympathetic and did this (an owner with a broken leg may have helped). So this meant we had to Customs clear the bikes in Algiers – a bit tricky as we would get to Alg after customs closed there at 4pm, but had to catch the 10.40 plane next morning. Nevertheless we managed this with the help of Claudia’s Algiers airport contact. For 20 euros he will transfer you from one flight to another if you are passing through. We actually gave him 50eu each (he’d asked for 40) to help us sort the bike clearance too. Without him we would have easily missed a London plane or three.
Transporting the bike. We had to:
• Drain the fuel
• Drain the engine oil
• Remove the battery
• Deflate the tyres
• We also removed mirrors, nav gadgets and other damageable/pilferable bits.

Like ordinary baggage he bike gets shoved in through the cargo door off a mobile conveyor belt on its side and alu panniers or giant bikes like BMWs may not fit (removing one box worked for us with a squeeze). If you have to remove a box get a luggage sticker/ticket/receipt for it.

At Algiers airport
Kader met us, quickly located out alu boxes which did not turn up on the carousel and also found that out bikes had not been removed from the plane and were back in Tam! As it happens this was quite handy for us as Jon’s van was still in Italy. By the time they arrived, four days later, he’d recovered it and was able to pick them up from Heathrow).
Kader bought us a coffee, drove us to the seen-better-days Aeroport Hotel (5 mins drive from arrivals – £20 pp for a small en suite small room with TV – nice pizza joint next door) as there was nothing to be done that day, Customs having closed at 4pm.
Next morning half 7 he picked us up to get stuck into Air Alg freight and Customs before we flew of at 10.40. Kafkaesque is the thought that springs to mind, as I shuffled with him from one office to another, getting sent back, turning round three times with our hands on our head saying the magic word, going somewhere else, etc. But with Kader’s help we managed it. I had to sign a form stating that even thought I was leaving the country without my bike (apostacious in the extreme), Algiers Customs would clear it when it turned up. I left them copies copies of my logbook and the Titre de Whatever.
Had we been lucky enough to get the bikes Customs-cleared out of Tam this business would not have been necessary, but it all worked out OK. We checked in our loose boxes as baggage (over the limit but no one minded) and got on board the plane just as they were pulling away the steps (not unlike our departure from Genoa port a few weeks earlier).

Getting the bikes out of Heathrow
No one official actually called me to tell me the bikes arrived on an Air Alg Saturday freight flight four days later, but I’d already faxed Air Algerie’s LHR freight man who called back Monday saying they were at Menzies World Cargo at Heathrow cargo and to avoid charges we had better be quick about getting them out. Unfortunately I was too quick to get to LHR Cargo that day and forgot my logbook (it was the medication). Menzies World Cargo gave us the waybill to get the bikes cleared from Customs at Wayfarer House a couple of miles down the road on the A30 (they give you a map). It’s possible for an agent to do this for a fee but clearing ourselves was easy enough (show ID and fill out a form) and free. If you want to ride away (you’ll need oil, fuel, a pump and battery of course) they will want to see your motor insurance too. Alas my lack of logbook got us stuck so we came back next morning (less of a queue anyway) and were cleared in an hour. With the Customs-stamped waybill and some other receipt we went back to Menzies, paid £43.18p and loaded the bikes into Jon’s van.
Considering the manhandling on their sides only Jon’s bike had a damaged hand guard and grip and my ‘dashboard’ had bent forward on it’s bolts. No big deal as any other scuffs were hard to distinguish from the desert riding preceding the flight.
Moral: Stashed currency can be brazenly added to your official amount on the half white if need be – no one really cares as the black market is barely +10% in Algeria these days.

FYI, Andy flew his bike baclk from Tunis for around 250 pounds but two weeks later it had still not left Tunis.