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Algeria

  • Capital: Algiers
  • Languages: Arab (official language), French and Berber (Tamazight)
  • Time difference: GMT/UTC +1h
  • Entry formalities: Get information at the Algerian embassy in your country. Tour operators usually take care of it.
  • Electricity: 220 V, 50 Hz
  • Country code: + 213

Money

General information: Major foreign currencies may be exchanged at all commercial banks, and foreign exchange counters. Cashpoints are still extremely rare and are only found in big cities. Foreign currency, must be declared upon arrival.

Currency: Algerian dinar (DZD)

Daily budget: Majority of tourists go to the Algerian South in organized tours. Weekly trekking with round trip flight included cost around 1500 USD. This price include a rustic accommodation or bivouacking.  Algiers hotels are very secure. A hotel room with continental breakfast included will cost around 100 USD per night.

Food: 

  • Economic budget: < 500 DZD
  • Average budget: 500 – 1000 DZD
  • Higher budget: > 1000 DZD

Accommodation: 

  • Economic budget: < 1,500 DZD
  • Average budget: 1,500 – 3,500 DZD
  • Higher budget: > 3,500 DZD

The best travel period and climate

Best travel period: Sahara Desert trips are possible in winter season, when the heat is bearable. Winter season lasts between the end of October and at the beginning of May, but the weather can be very hot in April. Algerian coast weather is very pleasant in any season

Festivals and holidays: National Holidays New year (January 1st), Labor Day (May 1st),  Revolution Reawakening Day (June 19th), Independence Day (July 5th), Revolution Day (November 1st). Muslim holidays are Aïd-el-Fitr (celebration of the end of Ramadan), and Aïd-el-Kebir, approximately two months later.

Climate: In the north of the country, summers are hot and humid whereas winters are mild. The heat is oppressive during summer in the vast Saharan area (temperatures vary between 25°C in winter and 50°C in summer).  Nights can be very cold in the Sahara Desert, particularly in Hoggar. Rainfall varies from 1,000 mm per year in the mountainous regions (north of the country) and none in the Sahara desert. Certain Saharan will not experience any rainfall for 10 years.

Visa

Except for nationals from Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Seychelles, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen, French, Swiss, Belgians and Canadians nationals are required to apply for a visa before going to Algeria. Visa must be applied in the Algerian embassy or consulate prior to the trip. It is best to apply for your visa in your country of residence although it is possible to apply for a visa in Agadez (Niger) if travelling from West Africa. Visa is valid one month or three months from the date of entry on the territory. Obtaining the three month visa can however be more difficult because it requires to provide a precise itinerary for all the length of the stay.  To obtain your visa, you will have to fill out two forms (to be downloaded from the website of the embassy), provide two passport photos and, if you are invited by parents or friends,  a certificate of hosting signed by your host in Algeria and authenticated by the authorities of the city where your host reside. Otherwise, you must show the confirmation your hotel reservation or an invitation from a travel agency. If you are going to travel in the south of Algeria, an invitation from the tour operator is required as well as the detailed route of your circuit. Travel agencies will fax the invitation signed and stamped to the embassy when you apply for the visa. The 90 days (or less) visa costs 100 USD. Up to 90 days, the visa will cost 150 USD for Europeans, 120 USD approximately for Canadians nationals. The visa with multiple entries will cost you more money. If you need a transit visa you must show a proof of sufficient financial resources and valid visa of country of destination. Visa extensions are issued in Algiers (Blvd Youssef 19A). In other cities you need to go to Wilaya headquarters to get your visa extension.

Accommodation

Except for major cities in the north of the country and touristic cities of the South, quality accommodations are rare and far from each other. Single rooms are rare, but if you are alone, you will normally get a reduction on the price of the double room. Although rates tend to remain constant during all year, rates are reduced during low season. Peak season runs from November to March in the South (when temperatures are cooler) and from June to September in the North. It is important to make your hotel reservation long time in advance before travelling to Algiers: the city is known for its lack of hotels. Also, you must reserve your room before visiting other cities of the Mediterranean coast. In the South, it is usually easy to find a room, but the best hotels can be fully booked by large travel groups in peak season. Few campsites and gites in the South are sometimes closed from May to September, when intense heat dissuades the tourists to come.

Hostels: Also called guestrooms or gites, hostels are an interesting alternative. In the South, they are sometimes called “campsites” because they provide areas where tourists can set up their own tent while having access to the bathroom and the restaurant. These campsites are tailored for tourists and they have more character than hotels. Travelers will stay in bungalows or traditional huts decorated with artisanal objects. Rooms are very comfortable and common bathrooms are very clean. In most hostels, prices are calculated per person on the basis of a half-board or full board accommodation. Meals are taken collectively and the menu is often made of excellent quality local food. Many of these hostels organize excursions and other activities.

Campsites: There are many campsites in the country, in particular along the Saharan tourist routes. In the North, campsites along the coast have very basic comfort. Algeria tragic political and social tensions in the nineties have led to the closure of many campsites. Today the few of them which survived the 90s tragic events are intermittently open for business. But these are poorly equipped. Daily pricing varies between 200 and 500 DZD per person, and approximately 200 DZD to rent a car. It is generally not possible to set up a tent.  Along the Algerian coast there are gites (misleadingly called “campsites”) for tourists. Most of them have an area where tourists can set up their tent. Their prices are more expensive but they are well equipped and offer quality meals.

Youth hostels: The network YHA (Youth Hostel Association) have many dormitories in the country with beds for 100-150DZD per night. They are not very comfortable. Sanitary facilities are very basic, but there is often a TV room and a coffee shop where you can get something to eat. These places are remote and not very secure. Not recommended for women travelling alone.

Hotels: If you are on a small budget, don’t expect more than rudimentary room with a wash basin, sometimes a fan, and shared bathroom. Modest rooms have only toilets and you will have to go to the Hamam to shower.  Cleanliness varies largely, from impeccable to really filthy. Always have a look at the room before renting it. You will find high standard hotels only in Algiers and in major cities in the north of the country. They are usually have good restaurants of and some have even an Internet access Wi-Fi. Most of them will accept the payments by credit card and change currency.

Health

No vaccinations are required prior to entering Algeria. But if you are not going with an organized tour, it is necessary to take precautions and bring your vaccination record

Elementary precautions: Be cautious of what you eat or drink. Gastric and intestinal disorders are quite frequent, but they remain most of the time without gravity. Do not hesitate to frequently wash your hands. However, do not be paranoiac and taste the local food which is part of your journey.

Water: Golden rule: never drink tap water (even in the form of ice cubes). Drink mineral water and soft drinks, while ensuring that the bottles are uncapped in front of you. Avoid the fruit juices, often mixed with water. Be cautious with milk, rarely pasteurized. No problem for boiled milk and yoghourts. It’s fine to drink tea and coffee because water was boiled. To sterilize water, the best solution is to boil it for fifteen minutes. Do not forget that in high altitude the water boils at a lower temperature and the germs have better chances to survive. Simple filtering can be very effective but will not eliminate all the dangerous germs. Also, if you cannot boil water, chemically purify the water. Micropur (sold in pharmacy) will kill most pathogenic germs.

Health problems and treatment: Self-diagnosis and auto-treatment are risky. If possible you must see a doctor. Embassies and consulates will be able to recommend one of them to you. Ask advice to the locals: if you told not to swim in the sea because of jellyfishes or of the bilharziasis, listen to them

Security

For more information on the security in Algeria, go to the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs before your departure. Delinquency has increased significantly the last 10 years in Algeria in the great urban centers of North. Bag-snatching, pickpocketing, burglary and aggressions occur especially in downtown area. You must avoid carrying large sums of money and store your valuables out of sight, preferably in a safe deposit box.

Road safety: Be careful while driving, the Algerian roads being taken by many road hogs and traffic offenders.  In the south of the country, watch out sandstorms and the camels crossing the roads. It is not advised driving night between different cities, in particular in the North mountainous regions. Also avoid the small roads at night in particular in Kabylie: although they became extremely rare since the end of the black decade, fake police roadblocks made victims in recent years.

Terrorism threat: The terrorist threat, which has considerably reduced, still remains high in Algeria. 2007 was the year of terrorist attacks in Algiers, Batna and Dellys. In January 16th, 2013, big terrorist attack occurred on a major gas site localized in the south-east of Algeria, near the Libyan border. About thirty foreign nationals died in this terrorist act. The north of the country still faces problematic situations linked to terrorist activity. It is important to remain vigilant around Algiers, in particular in Kabylie, and in the North-East of the country.

The best of Algeria

When you going on a trip to Algeria you will have the choice between spending your vacation on the Mediterranean coast and going for an escapade in the desert.

The Sahara (Hoggar and Tassili of Hoggar): The Tamanrasset area (“Tam” for the initiates) reveals a vast diversity of the Saharan landscapes of the south of Algeria. Don’t miss the volcanic massif of Atakor (1400m) located at the heart of Hoggar and the mythical Saharan dunes in Tassili and Hoggar. With its cubic houses and its sandy streets, the peaceful Tamanrasset is the meeting ground of many immigrants from Mali, Niger and touareg people. This is an opportunity to meet the famous “blue men” who are now more and more sedentarized. Villages surrounding the city are worth a short detour to visit, just like the dunes in the north of Tamanrasset, going towards Aïn-Salah (In Salah)

The Sahara around Djanet (Tassili Ajjer and Tadrart): Between oueds and canyons, chains of sand dunes and acacias, the beautiful palm plantation of Djanet is the nearest place from Tassili Ajjer. This exceptional archaeological sanctuary emerged from the sands is famous for its beautiful collections of rock paintings and engravings. Discovered in 1934, the 4,000 year old paintings of Tassili Ajjer represent animals and men. In the south of the mountainous plateau, Tadrart sees its popularity growing because of its dunes of red and orange sands. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the oasis of Essendilène, in the north of Djanet (south-eastern area of the Algerian Sahara)

Timimoun and the Great Western Erg:The oasis of Timimoun is the departure point to go visit dunes of the Great Western Erg.  Constructed at the convergence of two oueds (rivers), the city is astonishing with its vast palm grove and its red and clay Sudanese style houses, built in « toub », a red clay. Many consider Timimoun, sometimes are called “the queen of the desert” as the most beautiful oasis of the Algerian south.

Algiers, Tlemcen, Ghardaïa, El-Wadi, Batna: Algiers is famous for its medina; Tlemcen for its mosques. Ghardaïa is known for its beautiful rugs and the beautiful architecture of El-Wadi once famously known as « The City of One Thousand and One Domes». Batna, in the heart of the city Aurès, is built near the Roman ruins of Timgad. The city Djemila, near Sétif, gives access to the ancient site of Cuicul. Béni-Abbès and El-Goléa are oases located near great Western Erg, on both sides of Timimoun.

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