Algerian dinar exchange rates - basically 100 dinars to a euro.
Price of fuel
Petrol (essence) 23d/litre; Super 30+d/litre where available (unleaded available in the north); diesel 13.7 d/litre.
Fuel is cheap. Meals from 200d, camping from 400d, hotels/rooms from 1000. Despite news of 'food price' riots up north, prices seemed the same as previous years in 2012.
Arabic or French.
Borders with Libya have been closed for years for tourists and as things are now, getting too close to the Libya borders is risky.
You can't cross into Mali (nor would you want to) and crossing into northern Niger will be tense too, if not forbidden. You can't crossing directly into Mauritania either - that part of Algeria is closed. Most overlanders cross and leave from Tunisia via Nefta–Taleb Larbi, or by ferry.
Travellers with vehicles require an agency escort pretty much anywhere in the country, not just the desert. Assuming you get a visa, on public transport you might get around freely in the north, but not in the desert. In Salah seems the control point on the TSH beyond which they insist on agency escort to carry on south. In the Adrar region they will slap a gendarmerie escort on you too, so avoid the road down from Bechar (as we found in 2011). These escorting regs match broadly similar requirements in old Libya and to a lesser extent, travelling in remote parts of Niger and Egypt.
First of all arrange your itinerary (or direct transit to Niger) with an approved agency (see below), then they post/DHL your official invite document aka: certificate d'hebergement which you hand in with a copy (and all the rest) for your visa. More below.
of the type encountered in Morocco or Egypt in unknown in Algeria. You will find the people hospitable, courteous or just normal.
Security is another issue and foreigners are said to be a target. Flying directly into the south for a tour is fine, but driving too close to southern borders (away from the TSH) is unadvisable and may not even be possible. The Tizi Ouzou (Kabylie) region east of Algiers is also an area long avoided by tourists. But remember, Algeria is a very big country.
Needed by all citizens of non-Arabic countries, usually must be applied for in your country of residence (which for most people rules out Tunisia or Niger, for example).
This document from the Washington DC consulate shows prices and other details for many nationalities.
The usual path for the Sahara travels was to apply via an agency as described above. For independent travels in the north you can submit a certificate d'hebergment ('proof of lodging' - 'CdH') by booking a night in a hotel. Finding a hotel that will answer your query and fax the CdH can be another matter. If you have been officially invited to northern Algeria (usually by some institution) a Letter of Introduction with an Algerian address and an explanation is all that is required. In other words travelling around the north without a guide as was possible a few years ago is less easy now.
Coming up from West Africa it used to be possible to obtain a regular 30-day visa in Agadez (Niger) the same day for 24,000CFA. The consulate is here (Mon to Fri & Sat morning). But in early 2011 some tried and failed. They also didn't succeed in Niamey and don't bank on getting an Alg visa in Bamako, either).
Holland requires a hotel booking, a copy of your air ticket, travel insurance and even a bank statement, as well as possibly a confirmation from the travel company you booked with. But in November 2011 this was still not enough to issue a tourist visa.
USA verified Nov 2011 and may contradict info given on consular website:
"We ended up using ABC Visa, which is apparently the same as the Algerian Visa Center. They were very helpful and responsive and they apparently process all Algerian visas coming through any visa agency. We sent them the following items:
• Visa application (2 copies) with passport photos affixed (annotated sample)
• Visa request form (filled out online)
• Postal money order for visa fee ($135) and processing fee ($31)
• Invitation letters from Algerian tour agency
• Flight itinerary (round trip from USA to Algeria - we initially just sent from London - Algiers but had to send along our US to London segments, too.
ª Return airbill (express mail).
From the time we shipped the works off (using overnight mail) until we got everything back was 8 calendar days, and that was with delays as explained above."
Belgium things are said to be relaxed, a 30-day visa issued within 5 days for €60 with only a CdH from a hotel and proof of travel insurance.
APPLYING FOR A VISA IN THE UK
verified Nov 2012 and may contradict info given on consular website.
6 Hyde Park Gate, London, SW7 5EW
Closed Sunday and Monday (Sat - collection only).
Tel. 020 7589 6885
Fax 020 7589 7725
Website - Visa page, read carefully.
The current regs are summarised here. You will need to get on the case 8 weeks before your departure date; firstly by obtaining an invite document from Algeria (lately an emailed pdf is being accepted - last year they insisted on the original copy DHL'd from Algeria), then applying at the consulate and waiting at least a month for your visa.
• Fill out the online visa form here, print off two copies, date and sign both.
• Attach a passport photo to each.
• Make two photocopies of every single double page of your passport, even blank ones.
• Include a letter from your employer, basically saying you work there.
• Fee of £85 (or as below).
If not using a visa agency, apply in the basement 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. Downstairs they look over your docs and if they spot any mistakes they will reject or amend. 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 contradictory sources state you can only make 1, 2 or 3 applications at a time. If you're submitting for a group I guess you rejoin the queue and start again. It's unlikely you could manage more than two runs (2 to 6 passports) on an averagely busy morning at Hyde Park Gate, but as tourist visa apps in person are unusual, they may relent and take up to five at a time.
A single-entry 30-day visa costs £85 for a UK passport holder.
Irish: 7 days £50; 30 days £60; 90-days multi entry £100
Collections are between 3.30 and 40pm Tues-Fri (possibly Sat morning if urgent).
You are 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 boat just very late. Certainly with a ferry, this can mean that the better exterior cabins can be in short supply. Be warned - so-called promotional ferry tariffs (hardly a bargain) cannot be cancelled or even amended to a future date. With planes, who knows.
Tourist agencies in Algeria that can issue necessary invitation for tourists - aka "certificate d'hebergment" include:
Agence Tanezrouft, prices for up to 3-4 cars:
Guide with own car:
Guide in your car :
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
• exact dates of entry and exit to the country
• 'transit' or a 'tourist' visa.
The certificat d'hebergement will only be accepted if the original from the agency is presented with a copy to the consulate where you're applying. In other words they must DHL you the invite from Algiers which costs €70 plus possible travel expenses from the south.
Many travellers use Agence Tanezrouft because I used them, but some have had not such good experiences once out there; the usual combination of duff guides/escorts and their sometimes unreliable cars which have recently improved.
There are plenty of other agencies of course and about half a dozen good ones. I recently worked with a long-established, Tam based Ben Kada who were fine on the ground but then stopped answering emails. I am also told another long-established agency . Akar-Akar near Tam seem to charge more than double and enquiries to 'Expert Algeria' soon dried up.
Border formalities - overland
Allow an hour or four from Tunisia at Taleb Larbi (between Nefta - El Oued; 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 4x4). They also do a health briefing (AIDS awareness?). Then you must check into the gendarmerie a couple of kms down the road.
The trans Sahara Highway is now sealed from Algiers all the way to the Niger border at In Guezzam. From there it's 150km of hard sandy piste to Arlit where the tarmac resumes.
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.
The landscapes of south Algeria offer the best of the true Sahara without committing yourself to crossing the desert to West Africa, with clear tracks, many wells and much nomad life.
The Amguid region and track (A9 and A12) as well as A2 and A3 have been said to be closed for years following the 2003 kidnappings there. Erg Chech is out of bounds too; Tassili Hoggar region SE of Tam reopened in 2011, but it's too late to recover tourism now.
Expect tedious checkpoints in every town and village, some insisting your guide goes to the local barracks to fill out a form; police at every roundabout and checking-in is required with the Gendarmerie if you stop at In Salah and at Tam. A recent report on arriving at Algiers from Marseille is here. May 2010 crossing from Niger here and my February 2011 trip report is here, and 2012 trip here.