Algeria

algeria 

Updated January 2023

All borders except Tunisia and, at a pinch, Mauritania closed or not accessible to foreign tourists.
Agency guides and sometimes gendarmerie highway escorts required to visit the desert south, but some [nationalities] get away with it.
From 2023 it’s said visas will be issued on arrival (like Libya used to do), but only if travelling on an organised tours with aforementioned accredited agencies. So no real change.

Money
Algerian dinar officially 145 dinars = €1. A ‘parallel’ market in small shops, restos gives 50% more depending on where and who and how you ask. At Algiers airport and up north the parallel rate is said to be better than down south in Illizi or Djanet.

Price of fuel
Unleaded ’95’ (‘super’) 51d/litre where available
Diesel 20d/litre (est) but very high sulphur (bad for modern engines)
World fuel prices.
Algeria: the last place to drop leaded fuel.

Costs
Even before the black market rates, fuel is very cheap. Meals from 300d, camping from 400d, hotels/rooms from 1000d; tourist hotels 3500d.

Useful languages
Arabic or French.

Borders
Borders with Libya were never really open to tourists for long and, as things are now, getting too close to the Libya border is risky or not permitted. What few overlanders there are cross via Tunisia at Nefta–Taleb Larbi. A 2023 account of the Mediterranean border at Tabarka–El Kala. Otherwise cross by ferry from France to Algiers or Almeria to Oran/Ghazaouet.
You can’t cross into Mali (nor would you want to) and crossing into northern Niger via In Guezzam is closed too (see below).
In 2019 a handful of tourists managed to cross directly into northern Mauritania via Tindouf, most recently in February 2022. Read this and the following posts, or read the latest on the Routes page.

Don’t be too encouraged by the large expanses of green on the UK FCO map above right. Currently, only a small corner of the Illizi wilaya (ringed in blue) is open to off-highway tourism (see below).
Then again the French version (top left; modified October 2022) seems a bit extreme. The small print does say: ‘ACTIVITÉS SPORTIVES A RISQUE: Les randonnées dans le désert saharien sont possibles après accord des autorités locales et en restant sur les parcours surveillés par l’armée. L’emploi d’un guide reconnu localement … est fortement recommandés.

dz-gendar

Escorts
Travellers with vehicles from certain countries require an agency escort/guide sat in their car, or guides using their own car from border to desert and back. This is not the same as a gendarmerie escort (right). These escorts change every couple of hours and can slow down your trip massively. They say it’s worse from Algiers southbound than from Tunisia, and they may lose interest halfway down south around In Salah or south of Hassi Messaoud. Military escorts are also required west of Bechar to Tindouf (the road to Mauritania).
Assuming you get a visa, you might get in from Tunisia and travel around the north freely, but not in the desert. In Salah seems the control point on the TSH beyond which they insist on an agency escort to continue south. In the Adrar region they may slap a gendarmerie escort on you too (as we found in 2011). These escorting regs match broadly similar requirements in former Libya and to a lesser extent, in remote parts of Niger and Egypt.

Hassle
… of the type encountered in Morocco or Egypt is unknown in Algeria. You are pleasingly invisible but will find the people hospitable, courteous – or just ‘normal’.

From 2023 visas issued on arrival (VoA) on presenting some pre-approved documentation or similar. This is as yet untested and may only apply to fly-ins, not land/port borders, but some info in red below may become out of date:

Visas
Needed by all citizens of non-Arabic countries, usually must be applied for in your country of residence (which for most people rules out applying Tunisia or Niger, for example).
The usual path for Saharan travels is to apply via an agency. For independent travels in the north you need a certificate d’hebergment (‘CdH’; ‘proof of lodging’) by booking a night in a hotel/Airbnb. Finding a hotel that will answer your query and forward the CdH is another matter, but it does work. In other words, travelling around the north without a guide is possible, but few people try (see link). Last heard, if planning on heading south of Biskra you may run into problems when applying for a visa.
Coming up from West Africa it used to be possible to obtain a visa in Agadez (Niger) but no one’s managed that for over a decade. Agadez is now a people-trafficking route to Libya and southern Algeria and the route to Tam is closed to non-African foreigners.

APPLYING FOR A VISA IN THE UK

Algerian Consulate
5 Portal Way, London W3 6RT
Tel: 0208 752 8068 Fax: 0208 752 8061
Apply Tues–Sat 9.30–noon (collection 3-4pm).
Website Read the visa page carefully

You will need to get on the case weeks before your departure; firstly by obtaining an invite from the Algeria agency you will be travelling with, then applying at the consulate and waiting from a week or more for your visa. Usually, you never see this invite: it is sent directly from the Algerian agency to your consulate. They match your visa application with the invitation and hopefully issue your visa in a week or two. If it takes much longer despite everything being correct; they’re giving you the run-around; give up. It pays to choose flights (or insurance) that allows them to be cancelled last minute.

• Fill out the online visa form here, print off two copies, date and sign both.
• Include two passport photos with your name written on the back.
• Make two photocopies of every page of your passport, even blank ones and the cover.
• Include a letter from your employer, basically saying you work there.
• Travel insurance is not required for British and Irish citizens
• Fee of £85.

If not using a visa agency, apply in at the address above between 9.30am and noon, Tues-Fri. Get there early. If you arrive much after 11am you may not get to the head of the queue before they close the door at noon. Inside they look over your docs and if they spot any mistakes they will reject or maybe amend, depending on their mood on the day. Pay in cash. If all is in order you will be given a receipt with a collection date or they will call you when the passports are ready.
Various sources state you can only make 1, 2 or 3 applications at a time but in 2017 we lodged 8 at a time. We had our visas a week later, but others who’ve gone through the exact same hoops but with invites from other agencies, never made it. It is possible some agencies are more favoured than others. Our invite came from Agence Mezrirene – good luck with getting a reply from them.
A single-entry 30-day visa costs £85 for a UK passport holder, or €105 elsewhere.
Collections are between 3.30 and 40pm Tues-Fri (possibly Sat morning if urgent).

Info needed for your invitation
• names and date of birth
• nationality of the participants
• passport numbers
• how are you travelling to Algeria
• registration number of vehicles
• itinerary
• exact dates of entry and exit to the country
• ‘transit’ or a ‘tourist’ visa.

You’re advised not to get a ferry or plane ticket before you secure a visa; and a visa is not guaranteed if they don’t like the cut of your jib. Of course, this then means booking a plane or a ferry very late.

Some tourist agencies in Algeria
There are hundreds of tourist travel agencies registered in Algeria, but for decades there were only ever about half-a-dozen reliable ones which got all the work. Tourism as we knew it has collapsed so if they reply at all – be they slickly presented but clueless northern agencies, or ostensibly ropey but long-established southern outfits – responses usually often up once you push them with specifics. This may change with the new 2023 VoA rule.

Some agencies I have travelled with or tried to deal with include:

Essendilene Voyages Djanet; recommended, quick replies, English spoken
Timtar Voyages Tam, but work anywhere; speak English if you push them
Agence Mezrirene Illizi; recommended but hopeless at email replies
Zeriba Voyages in town centre hotel in Djanet; good for Jabbaren day trip (if allowed)
Desert Reisen (Germany). More expensive but fast replies
AlgeriaTours16. Seems to have the connections to pull off the Tindouf exit into Mauritania (when others don’t), but latest October 2022 price was 1000 euro pp for three day escort Alger-Tindouf and visa-invitation!

Agency escort (‘guide’) with their own car, normally about €150/day. Agency escort sitting in your car: €90/day. You are also charged €50-100/day for the days it takes the guide to travel or drive up to the northern border or port to meet you.

Border formalities; ferry or overland

Detailed report from Dec 2022 on ferry from Spain to Ghazaouet with immigration procedures.

Allow an hour or four from Tunisia at Taleb Larbi (between Nefta – El Oued; once the most common entry point where your escort meets you. Fill out police forms for you and your car, then customs declaration forms and maybe get a light search. Then you need to declare and change your official money and buy motor insurance (3000d for 4 weeks for a 4×4). Then you must check into the gendarmerie a couple of kms down the road. It’s said the Mediterranean border at Tabarka–El Kala. can be done in 1.5 hours.
Expect the same duration and hoops to jump through for immigration at Ghazaouet or Oran on ferrying from Spain.

Point Zero between Algeria and Niger. End of the road.

The trans-Sahara Highway is now sealed from Algiers via Tamanrasset all the way to the Niger border at In Guezzam, but no overlander has done this crossing since the Arab Spring. They say they’re working on the remaining 250km of hard sandy piste to Arlit where the tarmac resumes. These days the Algerian border hereabouts is now heavily patrolled and lined with berms (sand walls) to discourage northbound smugglers. Migrants are regularly expelled from Point Zero in No Man’s Land (left) to walk the 17km to Assamaka, the Niger entry post.
Leaving via Tindouf to Mauritania, last reports said five hours at Hassi 75. Permits needed.

sp76

Border formalities: flying in
Into Tam for example, on an organised/private tour: no compulsory exchange required (though you may want to change some anyway for personal use). Just fill out the brown card and possibly a white customs form declaring money and phones, cameras/etc (no binoculars aka: jumelles). This customs sheet is looked at but virtually never checked against your money on the way out. They ask but don’t search much. Arriving in Algiers airport in February 2011 all I did was the brown card – no other forms, no search and no questions about who I was or where I was going.

sp32
SEAlg2018

Desert pistes
The landscapes of south Algeria offer the best of the true Sahara without committing yourself to crossing the desert to West Africa (were that possible), with clear tracks, many wells and much nomad life. But these days only a small corner of the southeast and the Assekrem + Tassili Hoggar region close to Tam are officially open to off-road tourism. Both are a long, 3+ days road drive from the north.
The Amguid region and track (A9 and A12 in my old Sahara Overland book) as well as A2 and A3 have been closed since the 2003 kidnappings there. Erg Chech is out-of-bounds too; Tassili Hoggar region SE of Tam appears to have reopened in 2022.

However,in January 2023 an unescorted Swiss couple managed to not only get into Algeria via Nefta without a guide, but then drive from Djanet via Admer over to Tam. No one’s done this for years.
Expect several checkpoints in the south, some insisting your guide goes to the local barracks to fill out a form. With no guide you’ll need to talk a good talk, several times a day. May 2010 crossing from Niger here and my February 2011 trip report here,  2012 here, 2013 here and 2018 here. 2023 here.

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