What makes Algeria a unique country to travel to?
Algeria is the largest country in Africa, with over four-fifths of its territory covered by the Sahara desert. The country has a population of 37.1 million people mainly located near the northern coast. Algeria is a multi-party, constitutional republic. Facilities for travelers are available in populated areas but are sometimes limited in quality and quantity.
The crime rate in Algeria is moderate. Serious crimes have been reported in which armed men posing as police officers have entered homes and robbed the occupants at gunpoint. Petty theft and home burglary occur frequently, and muggings are on the rise, especially after dark in the cities. Theft of contents and parts from parked cars, pick-pocketing, theft on trains and buses, theft of items left in hotel rooms, and purse snatching are common. Alarms, grills, and/or guards help to protect most foreigners' residences.
Kidnappings, orchestrated by both criminals and terrorists, are a common occurrence in Algeria. Kidnappings for ransom occur frequently in the Kabylie region, but also in other parts of southern Algeria. Kidnapping by terrorist organizations or armed criminal groups is an immediate threat in both the Kabylie region in northeastern Algeria and the trans-Sahara region in the south. An Italian tourist was kidnapped by AQIM in February 2011 and later released in April 2012. In January 2011, two Frenchmen were kidnapped by AQIM in Niamey, Niger, and were killed during a rescue attempt near the Malian border. In October 2011, two Spanish nationals and one Italian national were kidnapped from a refugee camp near the town of Tindouf, near the borders of Morocco, Western Sahara, and Mauritania by the newly formed Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). In April 2012, seven Algerian diplomats were kidnapped in Kidal, northern Mali by MUJAO, and in September 2012, one diplomat was killed, and three were released. MUJAO still holds three Algerian diplomats.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, but you may also be breaking local law too.
Social unrest has become commonplace in Algeria. The frequency and intensity of localized, sporadic, and usually spontaneous civil disturbances have risen dramatically since 2010. In 2012, there were similar spontaneous protests and demonstrations with some being well-organized in advance. These disturbances are overwhelmingly based on longstanding, deeply seated socio-economic grievances. Some people involved in these protests, demonstrations, and riots have ignited fireworks, thrown Molotov cocktails, brandished knives, looted businesses, damaged property, and robbed passersby. Most victims displayed obvious signs of wealth and were targets of opportunity. Travelers should avoid crowds, protests, demonstrations, and riots.
Arabic is the official language of Algeria. French was the primary language of business before 1992 but is now only rarely used in the country. Various Berber dialects are spoken in Berber homes and in remote areas but most Berbers also speak Arabic. Arabic speakers constitute 75% of the population, while Berber speakers make up 25% approximately, with French speakers reduced to less than 50,000.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Hospitals and clinics in Algeria are available and improving in the large urban centers but are still not up to Western standards. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services. Most medical practitioners speak French; English is not widely used.
Prescription medicines are not always readily available. Some pharmacies may at times be out-of-stock. In addition, the medicine may be sold under a different brand name and may contain a different dosage from that sold in the United States. Please be aware that some newer medications may not yet be available in Algeria. It is usually easy to obtain over-the-counter products.
Emergency services are satisfactory, but response time is often unpredictable. In all cases, response time is not as fast as in the United States.
Cases of tuberculosis are regularly reported but do not reach endemic levels. For further information on tuberculosis, please consult the CDC’s information on TB. Every summer, public health authorities report limited occurrences of water-borne diseases, such as typhoid. In addition, HIV/AIDS is a concern in the remote southern part of the country, especially in border towns.
Safety and Security
Terrorism continues to pose a threat to the safety and security of U.S. citizens traveling to Algeria. Terrorist activities, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes occur often, particularly in the Kabylie region east of Algiers and in the southern part of the country. Terrorists continue to use vehicle-borne explosive devices like the ones used in the June 2012 attack on a military facility in Ouargla and the March 2012 attack on a military facility in Tamanrasset. On January 16, 2013, terrorists attacked the oil facility near In Amenas, 800 miles southeast of Algiers, killing numerous hostages, including three U.S. citizens, and more than two dozen other western workers. On January 19, 2013, the Department of State authorized the departure from Algiers of eligible family members following the attack on the In Amenas oil facility and subsequent, credible threats of the kidnapping of western nationals. On February 19, 2013, the authorized departure of U.S. citizen eligible family members was rescinded, but a heightened security posture remains in place.
Kidnapping by terrorist organizations is a real threat to U.S. citizens in Algeria, particularly outside major cities (see below). The same group that has claimed responsibility for these attacks, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), operates throughout most of Algeria, including its southern region, and has kidnapped foreigners in neighboring countries. This kidnapping threat is noted in the Department of State’s Worldwide Caution. The Travel Warning for Algeria contains the most current information concerning the threat from terrorism.
The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens avoid overland travel in Algeria. U.S. citizens who reside or travel in Algeria should take prudent security measures while in the country, including making provisions for reliable support in the event of an emergency. Additionally, sporadic episodes of civil unrest have been known to occur. U.S. citizens should avoid large crowds and maintain security awareness at all times. Visitors to Algeria are advised to stay only in hotels where adequate security is provided. All visitors to Algeria should remain alert and adhere to prudent security practices, such as avoiding predictable travel patterns and maintaining a low profile.
While the Consular Section is open for public services, the Embassy’s ability to respond to emergencies involving U.S. citizens throughout Algeria is limited and the Embassy may not be able to provide full emergency consular services in certain areas of the country due to security restrictions. U.S. government employees traveling between cities must be accompanied by a security escort. Overland travel is not recommended. U.S. citizens should also carefully consider the security risks involved when using public transportation, such as buses and taxis.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Algeria, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Algeria is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Algerian roads are overcrowded, and traffic-related accidents kill a large number of people every year. Drivers will encounter police and military checkpoints on major roads within, and on the periphery of, Algiers and other major cities. Security personnel at these checkpoints expect full cooperation. Motorists should be aware that terrorists and criminals employ false roadblocks as a tactic for ambushes and kidnappings, primarily in the central regions of Boumerdes and Tizi Ouzou and some parts of eastern Algeria (see Crime section above).
Travel overland, particularly in the southern regions, may require a permit issued by the Algerian government. For specific information concerning Algerian driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Algerian embassy.