Algiers' people share a long history of struggle and uprising and if you plan to visit Algiers you will not only see a buzzling city centre, but also lots of people still coping with poverty. It is still a dangerous country to travel to if you don't follow certain rules. Generally, tourists don't need to be afraid of the people or police which are nearly everywhere around. The Algerians are very friendly and open people and are always happy to help in French if you haven't managed to learn Arabic. Just bear in mind to carry only the minimum personal belongings with you and lock car doors from inside when travelling, don't use your camera out of an open car window and it won't get stolen. Youth crime in certain areas is high and they're equipped with knives and other weapons. Don't go out in an area you don't know in the night and if you are on your own. It is also very handy and safe to have a local guide, especially in the casbah which is a labyrinth of small paths. Obey the cultural rules, it is inappropriate to show too much skin and to kiss in public. If you respect the Muslim traditions there is no barrier to find friends quickly. It is good to know some words such as: insh'Allah (if it's God will) when you speak about the future and Alhamdulillah (Praise to God) as a thank you after meals or if asked how you are.
Here are some other tips not related to the people:
The public toilets are awful and you need to carry your own toilet paper or substitutes as toilet paper is not commonly used. The toilet is normally just a hole in the floor and you need intact knees.
Dinar is the local currency and you can't use credit cards for shopping unless you are in one of the business hotels. Always keep the receipt when changing money in your home country as the border officials want to see it. You can change money on the street and you get usually a much better rate, but I wouldn't recommend it as it is illegal and you come as a tourist without knowing the locals.
You need a visa to go to Algeria which can be obtained in the Algerian embassy in your home country. Fees vary depending on your home country and type of visa.
Don't take pictures of the police or locals, they will strongly complain and you anger them. Also check in some museums such as the museum inside the martyrs' monument if you are allowed to take pictures.
The stray cats are a problem on the streets of Algiers and some Algerians with a good heart feed them. I fed my favourite cats every day, though, cat food cannot be bought in the shops. Keep in mind that they could be sick or transfer diseases and don't touch them even if they are cute and small.
A taxi ride is commonly shared with other strangers and a collective way of transport. The driver will charge you a lower rate if your taxi is shared with others. Bear in mind that taxis cannot stop everywhere which can anger the driver.
You are welcome to ask any questions if you want additional information.
Algiers is not a city that was created by colonialism. Indeed, it has a long history, and was an important place during the Islamic conquest of North Africa, the Barbary States and the Ottoman domination of the northern half of the continent, long before the arrival of the French. Nevertheless, one of the most striking features of the city for any visitor is the strong influence of French architectural styles on the city's landscape. Unlike most other Middle Eastern cities, Algiers exhibits a harmony of aesthetic values, at least along the corniche, and presents a tidy and pretty view of a coastal city. Although the city, and indeed the entire colony, was supposed to represent a new view of France's place in the Mediterranean, the central areas were not meant to follow a drastic philosophically bent architecture, the way the Italians built up Asmara. The streets are lines with whitewashed modernists façades and little blue balconies, occasionally punctured by the presence of a monumental bank or government building. Arabic or Islamic architecture is, of course, not difficult to find, but it requires a bit of trekking behind the seaside areas of the city.
The dinar (symbol : DZD) is the currency of Algeria and it is subdivided into 100 centimes.
1 USD is about 60 DZD
1 EUR is about 86.0556
The euro is very easy to exchange in the black market and the rate is more interesting for sure.
there are pieces of : 20, 50 centimes(barely used) and 1,2,5,10,50,100 dinars
there are banknotes of : 10,20,50 dinars (barely used) and 100,200,500,1000 dinars
The most common in algeria is that prices are used in centimes.. so 5 dinars = 5 hundrand, 50 dinars = 5000 (5 thousands), 1000 dinars = 100 thousands ...etc
The week-end in Algeria is different than western countries, it's thirsday and friday so saturday and sunday are normal days in the week. The only one exception is banks, they close friday and saturday!
Since Algeria is a muslim country, the friday prayer is very important so you may find almost all shops closed that day between 12.30pm and 2pm.
Although Algeria has 1200km of shoreline, the fish is terribly expensive. i wondered why, and then I was explained - the fishing industry is poor and there is not enough boats, nor the technology for fishing, so it mostly ends up to be individual fisherman or small boats. The fish is then sold on the street most often.
Part of the old artisan shops in Casbah, there is also a tailor shop. It's quite rustic and the owner is very friendly and chatty and seemed to be in the great mood. The stuff is traditional, more or less, and the shop features photos of popular singers whose music was coming out of the shop.
Near the main post office (la grande poste) is a stand selling old things, like old coins, newspaper, postcards and stamps, but especially photos from old Algiers, which was very interesting to see. One big photo costs 100 DA (cca. 1 EUR).
You will find lots of places in Algeria to buy souvenirs and the prices are affordable. Even if you're not buying anything it's interesting to look around. The white face cover is not used anymore, only old women still use it. There are also imitations of the prehistoric cave drawings from the south of Algiers, traditional Berber souvenirs, and so on. All of it - hand made usually.
Bread is also sold on the street. Not only of course, but it also happens. This is baguette, the French bread, and my favourite is actually Algerian bread, almost flat like a pancake and very yummy. Pity I don't have the photo of it... They eat it both with salty and sweet food!!!
Algerians don't like infusion tea bags (understandable!), they prefer to serve a home made tea. We were lucky to visit an Algerian home, where my colleague's family served us a traditional couscous and other yummy things, and afterwards we relaxed with a wonderful home made mint tea, freshly picked up from the garden, and served in traditional cups and pot!
Algerian sweets are DELICIOUS!!! OK, they might be a bit too sweet for my taste, but still they are yummy! And prices are very convenient! You can find a huge heavy rich decorated and flavoured cake for as low as 2,5-5 EUR. And in general, when you go visiting somebody, it is a custom to bring a cake.
Although old artisans and their shops are slowly fading away, there are still some traditional workshops, especially in the Casbah. This was a particularly nice and friendly artist, who works mainly in copper and has some impressive items in his shop, all hand made. He inherited the business from his father and the interior of the shop is personalized by awards, praises and family photos. And an Algerian flag!
The weekends are different from western countries. They are thursday and friday. And friday, between 11:30 and 15:00 everywhere is closed down. I am not sure if there are flights between these hours. I know that Turkish Airlines do not have flight in friday. So when you are preparing for your visit, consider the work days. Saturday and sunday are normal work days.
Out of Algiers or in its outskirts you can see much more people in traditional clothes, especially in the small towns and suburbs. In the centre of Algiers there are modernly dressed people.
On the street markets you will often find goods of different type and appliance together, like fruit and clothes, for example, sold on the very same stand. Colourful and fun! :)