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. English is becoming more widely studied among young Algerians, though its use remains limited.
Tram and metro systems have been introduced in recent years to improve the public transport network in Algiers and ease congestion. The Algier’s metro extension to El Harrache was completed in mid-2015, and other line extensions are due by the end of 2017. Tramway projects are also under way in other cities and are set to come on-stream in the coming years. Other forms of public transport are popular, including buses, which are operated by private and public companies and offer affordable fares. Efforts have been made to improve comfort, such as at the beginning of 2015, when buses operated by the public transport authority of Algiers began offering free Wi-Fi.
Taxis remain the most common mode of public transport; they are easily found in big cities and also operate longer trips on certain routes. While rides are relatively inexpensive, negotiation on longer journeys not on specific routes is often necessary.
Road congestion remains an issue in big cities, as traffic can cause significant delays and trips need to be carefully planned during rush hours. One of the largest infrastructure projects ever completed in Algeria, the East-West Highway, has drastically improved connections across the country as it crosses the northern part of Algeria, from Morocco to Tunisia. Some portions are being revamped, however, causing small delays.
In terms of air travel, Algeria is well served from Europe, with many carriers flying to its major cities. Domestic routes are run by Air Algérie and Tassili Airlines, which offer flights between the main airports.
Algerians are warm and welcoming, with hospitality holding high value. It is customary to say “salam” or “as-salamu alaykum” (peace be upon you) upon entering a store, business or home.
Greetings rituals vary based upon the region, but generally people greet each other with two kisses on the cheeks and a handshake. Many, but not all, women will shake hands with both men and women, so men should wait for women to initiate a handshake. Discussions are often oriented towards personal life, family and professional projects.
Business hours are from 8.00am to 5.00pm, with a one-hour lunch break usually taken at 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.
Algeria is a diverse society with roots in Arab, Mediterranean and African cultures. Regional identities are very strong, with each possessing its own traditions and character.
In urban centres the business dress code for men is similar to prevailing norms in Western Europe and North America. However, the standard for women is slightly different and can vary from liberal to conservative depending on the region.
Female visitors should pay attention to ensure that their shoulders, knees and chest are covered. Outside major cities, traditional dress is usually the norm and travellers should wear more conservative clothing.
Tipping is not particularly engrained in the culture and on the whole it is not expected. Nevertheless, should you decide to tip, it is greatly appreciated by locals whether in a taxi or at a restaurant.
Visa applications are usually conducted by visitors in their country of residence prior to arrival. Business visas require a letter of invitation and proof of accommodation. Along with valid travel insurance, this is usually enough to receive a visa for up to three months.