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Safety Travel Safety: Africa: Algeria

Algeria: People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
Capital: Algiers
Population: 32,277,942
Currency: Algerian dinar (DZD)
Languages: Arabic (official), French, Berber dialects
Religions: Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99%, Christian and Jewish 1%
Borders: Libya 982 km, Mali 1,376 km, Mauritania 463 km, Morocco 1,559 km, Niger 956 km, Tunisia 965 km, Western Sahara 42 km

Algeria is the second largest country in Africa, with over four-fifths of its territory covered by the Sahara desert. The main population centers are found on the northern coast. Facilities for travelers are widely available, but sometimes limited in quality.

The workweek in Algeria is Saturday through Wednesday, and the U.S. Embassy workweek is the same.

Although no Americans are known to have been killed by terrorists in Algeria, more than 120 third country nationals were murdered at the height of the terrorism threat in Algeria in the 1990s. In January 2001, terrorists killed several Russian citizens in the mountains of eastern Algeria. In February 2003, 32 Western Europeans were taken hostage in the Sahara desert areas of southeastern Algeria. Fourteen of the hostages were taken by the terrorists into northern Mali. One of the hostages died in captivity. All the others were released by late August 2003.

In response to the terrorist threat, the U.S. Government substantially reduced the number of U.S. government personnel in Algeria during the 1990s. Currently, Embassy staffing is gradually increasing, and Embassy services are returning toward normalcy. Adult (over 21 years of age) family members may accompany Embassy officers and staff assigned to Algiers on two-year tours.

U.S. government employees now travel on official and personal business by commercial carriers to, from and within Algeria. U.S. citizens should carefully consider the security implications of traveling on regularly scheduled public ground transport and in taxis.

Although terrorist violence has substantially diminished in the major cities, terrorists continue to attack security forces and strike randomly at civilians outside urban areas. In recent months, there have been sporadic terrorist incidents near the capital. Terrorist acts in rural areas continue on an irregular basis.

Although the Government of Algeria has discontinued a late-night curfew in the central area of Algiers, it continues to maintain roadblocks on some of the principal roads heading into and out of the capital. (See the Traffic Safety section below.)

There were several large political demonstrations in Algiers and the Kabylie region to the east of the capital during the spring and summer of 2001. Since then, demonstrations in Algiers have been banned, although there were several small demonstrations in March and April 2003 against the war in Iraq. There were several large demonstrations in the Kabylie region and throughout Algeria in Spring 2004 in the run-up to the presidential election.

Travel overland, treacherous in many parts of Algeria, requires a permit issued by the Algerian government. The Department of State recommends that American citizens in Algeria avoid traveling overland outside major urban areas. Americans who must travel overland or work in locations outside of major cities should do so with substantial armed protection.

The crime rate in Algeria is moderately high and increasing. Serious crimes have been reported in which armed men posing as police officers have entered homes of occupants, and robbed them at gunpoint. False roadblocks/checkpoints have been employed to rob motorists. Some of these incidents resulted in the murder of the vehicles� occupants. Armed carjacking is also a serious problem. 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, pickpocketing, theft on trains and buses, theft of items left in hotel rooms and purse snatching are common. Alarms, grills, watchdogs and/or guards protect most foreigners' residences.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Algeria's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Algeria are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Hospitals and clinics in Algeria are available, but of uneven quality, and are 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.

While in a foreign country, 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.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor 
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair 
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Drivers will encounter checkpoints on principal roads heading into and out of Algiers and other major cities. Security personnel at these checkpoints expect full cooperation, although they rarely stop foreigners. Motorists should be aware that terrorists have occasionally been reported to put up false roadblocks as ambushes, primarily in parts of eastern Algeria.

Travel overland requires 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. For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at

As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Algeria, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Algeria's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Travel Warning for Algeria and to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

May 19, 2004 | Travel Warning

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