Helpful tips for travellers

Etiquette

Hospitality is a core element of Algerian culture. Foreigners are always welcomed with conviviality. Men greet each other with two kisses on the cheeks, and handshakes are usually firm and last much longer than in Western societies. Women shake hands with both men and women during business meetings but kisses on the cheek may be regarded as forward. Locals always greet visitors with tea or coffee, and it is better to accept it as a sign of goodwill. Chitchat is often centred on family, work and health.

Language

Arabic is used in schools, government offices and the media. While it is considered the official language, the informal Algerian Arabic dialect, Darja, is more commonly used than standard Arabic. Unlike other Arabic dialects, it is strongly influenced by French and Tamazight. Due to colonial heritage, French remains the primary language of business. Even though it is still limited, English is becoming more popular among the younger generation.

Business Hours

Business hours are from 8am to 5pm, with a one-hour lunch break usually taken at noon. Hours for the public sector are slightly different and public administrations are usually open until 4.30pm. During the month of Ramadan, working hours are flexible and companies allow their employees to arrange their schedules. In 2009 the official work week switched from Saturday through Wednesday to Sunday through Thursday in an effort to be more aligned with international norms. While it is still unconfirmed, the government has expressed interest in shifting the weekend to Saturday and Sunday.

VISAS: Applications for visas are usually conducted by visitors in their country of residence prior to arrival, though exceptions are possible. Business visas require a letter of invitation and proof of accommodation. Together with valid travel insurance this is usually enough to receive tourist visas of up to three months.

Electricity

Algeria uses 220-V, European-style two-pin plugs. Both US- and UK-style plugs require adaptors, though they can easily be found and purchased.

National Character

Algeria is a diverse society with roots in Arab, Mediterranean and African cultures.

Dress Code

Urban business dress codes for men are very similar to prevailing norms in Western Europe and North America. Dress codes for women are slightly different and can vary from liberal to conservative. The Islamic dress code is not expected to be followed, although modesty is highly appreciated. Female visitors should pay particular attention to ensure that their shoulders, knees and chest are covered. Outside of major cities, traditional dress is usually the norm and travellers should dress more conservatively.

Transport

Tramway and metro systems have been introduced in recent years to improve urban transportation in Algiers and offer an alternative to traffic congestion. Work is currently under way on the metro’s extension to the inner parts of the city and completion is expected in 2016. Tramway projects are also under way in other cities such as Constantine and Oran and are slated for completion in the medium term. Road congestion remains a critical issue in Algiers as traffic can cause significant delays and trips need to be planned in consideration of many factors.

One of the largest infrastructure projects ever completed in Algeria, the East-West Highway, drastically improved connection across the country as it crosses the northern section of Algeria, from Morocco to Tunisia. Taxis remain the most common way to travel. They run on a shared basis and while they are easier to find in big cities, they also do longer trips on specific routes. Taxis are fairly cheap but negotiation for trips outside specific routes is often necessary.

The domestic air sector is operated by Air Algerie and Tassili Airlines, and they offer frequent flights between the major cities.

Tipping

Service is usually included in the bill, although it is appreciated to leave a few extra coins with the bill depending on the quality of the service. Compared to Western standards, service levels are usually lower and it is common to reward exceptional service.

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The Report: Algeria 2014

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