Useful tips for new arrivals to Algeria

 

Language

Modern Standard Arabic is used in schools, government offices and the media. In practice, Darja – the local Algerian dialect of Arabic – is more commonly used and varies from one region to another.

French is frequently spoken in business, though this is less true outside Algeria’s main urban areas where Arabic or Tamazight are spoken in all aspects of daily life. Though its use remains limited, English is becoming more widely studied among young Algerians.

Business Hours

Business hours are from 8.00am to 5.00pm with a one-hour lunch break, usually taken around noon. Public administrations are open until 4.30pm. During the month of Ramadan, companies allow their employees to leave early. Since 2009 the weekend has fallen on Friday and Saturday.

ATM

Although there are few ATMs for international cards in Algeria, they can be found in most high-end hotels in Algiers and other main cities. In big cities, few international bank offices have ATMs compatible with VISA cards. Despite some recent progress, payment terminals remain rare, and most day-to-day transactions are completed using cash.

National Character

Algeria is a diverse society with roots in Arab, Mediterranean and African cultures. Regional identities are very strong and each possesses its own unique traditions and character.

Etiquette

Algerians place high value on hospitality. It is customary to say “salam” or “as-salamu alaykum” (peace be upon you) when entering a store, business or meeting. Rituals vary based on the region, but generally people greet each other with two kisses on the cheeks and a handshake. Many, though not all, women will shake hands with both men and women, so men should wait for women to first initiate a handshake. Conversations are traditionally oriented around personal life, family and pertinent professional projects.

Tipping

Tipping is not deeply engrained in the culture and generally it is not expected. Nevertheless, should you decide to tip, it will be greatly appreciated by locals.

Visas

Applications for visas are usually completed by visitors in their home countries of residence prior to arrival in Algeria. Business visas require a letter of invitation and proof of accommodation. With valid travel insurance, this is typically enough to receive a visa for up to three months.

Transport

Tram and metro systems have been introduced in recent years to ease congestion and improve the public transport network in Algiers. The metro extension to El Harrach was completed in mid-2015, and in 2018 the line was extended to Place des Martyrs in the centre of the capital. Another extension to Houari Boumediene’s international airport is anticipated to open in 2019. Tramway projects are still ongoing in other cities and two lines were opened in Sétif and Ouargla during the first half of 2018.

Other forms of public transport are popular, including buses, which are operated by private and public companies and offer affordable fares. Efforts have also been made to improve comfort, and at the beginning of 2015 buses operated by the public transport authority of Algiers began offering free Wi-Fi to users.

Taxis remain the most common mode of public transportation; they are easily found in big cities and operate longer trips on certain routes. While rides are relatively inexpensive, negotiation on longer journeys may be beneficial. Road congestion remains an issue in big cities, and traffic can cause significant delays in arrival times. Trips during rush hours need to be carefully planned prior to departure. The East-West Highway is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever completed in Algeria, and has drastically improved connections across the country, crossing the northern part of Algeria from Morocco to Tunisia. Some sections are being revamped, however, causing small delays.

Algeria is well served with air travel from Europe, and many carriers fly to its major cities. Additionally, domestic routes are run by Air Algérie and Tassili Airlines, which offer flights between the main airports.

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Cover of The Report: Algeria 2018

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