Taxis and Shared taxis
The taxi situation is a little confusing in Algeria. There are plenty of them, but they're not as well marked as in some countries, and in cities, they tend to operate like minibuses, picking up additional passengers who are going in roughly the same direction. For the newly arrived, it makes it tricky to find an empty taxi, and you have to get into the habit of flagging down an already occupied taxi and shout out your destination on the off chance they're heading that way.
Oran is no different. I found it incredibly difficult to find a ride to the shared taxi station, as no taxi would stop for me around my hotel. I ended up walking out to the train station to try and find one there, which I managed after a longish wait. On my last day, I also had difficulties finding a taxi to take me the short distance down the hill to the port. A driver did approach me outside the hotel to offer his services, but he wanted 35 euros, telling me it was a huge distance...well, it isn't far at all, and without luggage I could have walked it in 15 minutes. Eventually, after a long wait in the hot sun, a taxi with two passengers slowed just enough for me to shout out where I was going, and he let me get in...five minutes later, we pulled up outside the port, and I gave him more than he had asked for which was still less than 5 euros.
The shared taxi station is on the outskirts of town, too far to walk. Here you can find taxis heading to Algiers, Tlemcen, Mostaghanem and other major cities in the west of the country. A shared taxi (taxi collectif) costs slightly more than a bus, but doesn't stick to a timetable, leaving instead whenever there are enough passengers, so on popular routes you don't have to wait long, but for more obscure destinations you might be waiting a while unless you decide to shell out for the empty seats. The journey to Tlemcen is quite busy, so I waited only a few minutes for the last passenger, and we sped off towards Tlemcen, arriving a couple of hours later. The driver started off well, sticking to the speed limit and driving safely, until one of his colleagues overtook us, making rude hand gestures at him through the window. The driver was enraged, and decided to show his colleague who could drive faster, so we had a ridiculous ten minute race, overtaking on blind corners, swerving across the road to prevent the other car from overtaking us, and generally behaving like a total idiot until the lady in the passenger seat screamed abuse at him. It wasn't particularly enjoyable, but thankfully we got there in one piece.
Trains to Algiers
Oran's train station is about a mile from the city centre. There are four trains to/from the capital Algiers, three ordinary trains taking 5 hours, and one express train in the evening taking 3 hours. A one way ticket first class costs 1200DA, second class 900DA, with the express train costing a couple of hundred more.
Trains are comfortable, and a good way to see a bit of the countryside between the two cities. There are a few major stops en route...Blida, Chlef and Relizane are the main cities, but there are a few stops in tiny towns too. Tickets give a carriage and a seat number, but in reality you can sit anywhere...or at least that was what the other passengers told me when I tried to find my seat.
From Algiers, Oran trains leave from a suburban station called Agha, not the main train station down by the port...important to know when you check timetables online.
Arriving in Oran, I was expecting to find a taxi, but trains carry a lot of passengers and there were only half a dozen taxis waiting...you have to be quick, otherwise it's a longish walk into town!
There's no real need to book in advance...I asked about this, but was told to just arrive ten minutes before departure time and buy the ticket then.
There are also four trains a day to Tlemcen, taking just under 3 hours, but it is quicker by shared taxi.
Ferry from Oran to Almeria
Once a week in summer, the MS Vronskiy runs between Oran and the Spanish port of Almeria, taking 8 hours (well...once the ferry leaves the port, it takes 8 hours!). Ferries are operated by the Spanish company Trasmediterranea, and tickets aren't as cheap as you might expect. A one-way ticket cost me 93 euros as a deck passenger, or you can pay more for a reclining seat or even a cabin, although the ferry to Almeria is in the daytime so you don't really need a cabin, and there are plenty seats on the deck and in the cafes so you don't really need a seat either.
At the port in Oran, you have to go through a bag search to enter the port, then walk down the hill to another bag search and passport check. I was directed to the passenger terminal, but they forgot to tell me I had to first go to a tiny and well-hidden Trasmediterranea office to collect a boarding pass (an online ticket reservation isn't enough, it seems). Lots of passengers weren't aware of this, so it caused a bit of fuss at the final baggage search and immigration check before boarding the ship, as passengers were sent back across the port to the office where a very confused lady struggled to print the boarding passes from her computer.
We were scheduled to leave at 13:00, and at 14:00 walk-on passengers were still queuing up at immigration. It is a car ferry as well, and there seemed to be only one official dealing with all the cars, taking ages to check documents and search the cars for contraband. At 15:00, those who had arrived on time began to get impatient, as the line of cars waiting to be checked didn't seem to be getting any shorter. Finally at around 16:00, the captain sounded the horn, and we chugged out of the port. Oran is quite a beautiful city to sail from, so plenty passengers were on deck taking photos.
Once Oran and Algeria had disappeared from view, I ventured inside to find a spot to sit. Large families had made themselves at home in the reclining seat lounges, spreading blankets on the ground or between chairs to make mini tents. The cafes were a lot more peaceful, although the food and drink on offer was quite different from that posted on the menus...as a Spanish owned ship, lots of ham featured in the sandwiches, and beer and wine was also advertised, but refreshments on board consisted mainly of cheese baguettes, crisps and coffee, all rather expensive after Algeria as prices were in Euros. The duty free boutiques on the lower decks remained closed for the duration of the journey, no idea why. Staff on the ship were mainly Moroccan, and very friendly and chatty, as were many of the passengers...not to many non-Algerians were on board, so again I found myself an object of curiosity!
Arriving in Almeria after midnight, immigration for me was incredibly quick, but I hadn't expected a complete absence of taxis waiting outside. Luckily a policeman noticed me looking a bit lost, and called a taxi firm for me...not sure what happened when all the Algerian passengers cleared immigration and found no transport.
Oran has other car ferries to Marseille in France, taking much longer, run by Algerie Ferries. Alternatively, Trasmediterranea's MS Vronskiy also runs once a week between Almeria and Ghazaouet, a small port to the west of Oran close to the Moroccan border, for the same price.
Travel by train around North Algeria
Travelling by train in Algeria (from Oran to Annaba, via Algiers) is great, cheap and safe.
There are night trains and you can chose your compartment for 4 or 6 persons. The price is about 10 euro, so much cheaper than a hotel. On board you will be given, for free, a juice plus a snack. There is a cafeteria selling drinks, coffee, tea, plus biscuits, etc.
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
to get there? while there? etc.etc....
Flights between Europe and Algeria are just TOO COMMON! book it online, go to an agency etc.etc. Contrary to popular belief, the national company, is nice. People are just so full of prejudice and never give things a chance.
Whose fault is it that there's always a few "redneck" passengers who are not used to planes and who will just sometimes make it an awful trip for every1 else!!!
A Montreal-Algiers direct flight is on its' way and should be available within a few months (late 2006?)
Otherwise the boat-ride from Spain or France to Algeria is also very convenient, pleasant, and very affordable.
When in Oran, like in all big cities, the best is to have your own transportation. Otherwise, like you would in most developing nations, hire a driver.
Taxis are just fine too, but the drivers can be very moody and random.. but still, not harmful!
Within in Algeria, there's plenty of flights between various cities and regions; all are affordable (in western, and even in local, standards). The train is just fine as well.
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