What You Need To Know
Algeria’s second city is a lively port with plenty of history and a lot of rhythm. And it’s this rhythm, more than any discernible sights, that’s the city’s real attraction. Admire the imposing French colonial-era architecture of the public buildings, watch giant containers being unloaded in the port and wander the hazy back lanes where young men kick footballs and washing flutters from little balconies and you’re sure to end up falling for Oran.
- The local currency is the Algerian dinar (DZD/AD), which is made up of 100 centimes. Coins are available in 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 groupings while notes are available in 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50 dinar denominations. These are widely accepted around the country and it is best to get as much of your money converted as you can. This can be done at the local bank in the city you are visting, which is usually open from 9am to 3pm from Monday to Thursday.
Though efforts have been made to make foreign exchange easier in Algeria, opportunities to exchange your money into the local currency remain quite limited. Therefore it is usually best to exchange enough money at a time to carry you through until your next money changing opportunity. The banks you will come across in Algeria are Banque d’Algerie, (Bank of Algeria); and Banque Nationale d’Algerie (National Bank of Algeria). They will be able to perform this service for you quite effectively.
- Working with money in African country is somewhat difficult for most foreigners, and there are not many foreign exchange outlets. Great Britain Pounds are readily accepted and US Dollars are sometimes also appreciated, but credit cards are often rejected. Travelers checks are only accepted at four-star or more hotels so it is usually best to exchange a reasonable amount of cash into GBP and Algerian dinars in one sitting.
Oran features a semi-arid climate. Oran’s climate does show influences of a Mediterranean climate; however the combination of the city’s relatively high average annual temperature and relatively low annual precipitation precludes it from falling under that climate category. Oran averages 326 mm (13 in) of precipitation annually, the bulk of which falls between November and May. Summers are the warmest times of the year, with average high temperatures in the warmest month (August) approaching 32 degrees Celsius. Winters are the coolest times of the year in Oran, with high temperatures in the coolest month (January) at around 17 degrees Celsius.
Algeria’s official language is Arabic, which is spoken by an estimated 81% of the population. All official documents are printed in Arabic and those from non-Arab households usually learn the language in school. Arabic has been the official language of the country since 1963. More recently, Berber has become recognized as one of the country’s national languages. This occurred in 2002 and is an appropriate step since 99% of the population speaks Arabic, Berber or both. Although being introduced in French-colonial times, and still often taught in schools and used in government and higher education, French has no official status in Algeria. While a large majority of the country can understand the language, it is estimated that only about 20% can read and write it.
Algerian Arabic is somewhat different to the Arabic commonly spoken in other parts of the world. The language has been greatly influenced by Berber, Turkish and French from which it has many borrowed words. It also has a much more simplified vowel system. There are quite distinct local variations of Arabic in the various parts of Algeria. Though there are many different Berber dialects, they are all grouped under the same name. Only about 19% of the population speaks Berber but the language is so widespread that you are likely to encounter it virtually anywhere in the country. Algerian Sign Language is widely used by the deaf community in the country and is sometimes seen on national TV.
Health and security
- Algeria has a relatively developed health care system compared to many other African countries. So if you intend to move there, accessing to health care services should not be a major issue. You can choose from various hospitals and other health care institutions providing quite fair health care services. But you are also advised to subscribe to a health insurance with the assistance of your employer.
- Health care services in Algeria are quite unequal and this has long been criticized by locals. In fact, there is a doctor for some 1,200 inhabitants and a single pharmacist for an average of 8,000 inhabitants. Moreover, practitioners are encouraged to refer patients to private structures for biological and radiological care, as well as for hospitalization. In fact, private clinics are better equipped for patients requiring advance medical care.
Nevertheless, free health care services are provided 24/7 thanks to contributions made by the government along with the population. Moreover, the Ministry of Health is currently focusing on prevention programs regarding communicable diseases.
However, with contributions by employees and employers to social insurance, free health care is provided in continuity. In addition, health facilities are present in all departments, enabling geographically coherent health coverage.
- The police are known for having a good attitude towards tourists, but know that you are not allowed to photograph them or any government buildings. If you are uncertain about whether you are allowed to take pictures of a certain location or activity, ask a police officer before doing so. They may even help you position your camera so you don’t take a picture of something you’re not supposed to. If you’re driving along and you see a police stop or roadblock ahead, turn your interior lights on and slow down. If they need to check you out further, they will pull you aside.
If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s easy to get lost and confused in the desert. Before you go, be sure your car is working perfectly and take plenty of water with you. It might be a desert, but flash floods can occur almost instantly if there’s significant rain at higher elevations. Find a good guide who can give you a heads up about possible flooding and if you need to stay anywhere outdoors and camp overnight, be aware that scorpions are plentiful It’s best to set up your tent away from rocky areas.
- You should take precautions for your personal safety, avoid political gatherings and demonstrations and take local advice. Always observe instructions given by the local security authorities.
- While most visits to Algeria are trouble-free, in certain areas of larger cities incidents of robbery and thefts do occur. Avoid areas that you don’t know, especially after dark. Avoid carrying large amounts of money or valuables around with you.
- The 1,560 hectare Foret de Msila is just west of Oran on the hills of Boutlélis. It is a lovely forest that is known for its recreational activities.
Cyclists, joggers and walkers will truly enjoy the pathways throughout the forest, where they can breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the beautiful scenery. The majority of the forest is cork oak and aleppo pine trees.
- Oran’s main port is one of the most important in the country. It is a great place for boat lovers to watch freighters, cruise ships and private shops coming in and out of the country.
Ferries arrive regularly from Sète, Alicante, Marseilles and Almería. Some of these are passenger and car ferries, so you can easily get on one of these boats and head on a Mediterranean adventure.