Getting there & away
At the time of research, Algiers was the only advisable entry port for travellers. The ferry terminal is near the main train station. The French company SNCM (021-73 65 69; 28 Blvd Zighout Youssef, Algiers) operates ferry services between Marseille and Algiers once or twice a week. Algérie Ferries (021-42 30 48; Gare Maritime, Algiers) serves Algiers, Annaba, Béjaia and Oran from Marseille via Alicante (Spain). Tickets between Algiers and Marseille (the most common route) cost around US$160/240 for a seat/cabin. The voyage takes about 21 hours.
Algeria’s southwestern borders are frequently closed, and there is very little transport along these routes. The road to Mauritania also passes near the disputed territory of Western Sahara, which is best avoided.
The border with Morocco has been closed for some time due to ongoing political disputes.
The border between Algeria and Niger slices through the emptiness of the central Sahara, with just one official crossing point between the sandy outposts of In Guezzam and Assamakka, on the main overland route from Tamanrasset to Agadez (the Route du Hoggar). Driving through the desert alone is now illegal but, surprisingly, there’s plenty of traffic (mainly local trucks and 4WDs, plus a few brave travellers in their own vehicles), so backpackers can find lifts, although you’ll probably have to pay and do the trip in stages. If you’re very lucky you might get one lift all the way.
From Tamanrasset, trucks and battered old 4WDs run to the Algeria border post at In Guezzam (US$18, nine to 12 hours plus waiting time), where you can complete most formalities. From here you can hitch on a truck to the lonely checkpoint on the actual border and then to the chaotic Niger border post at Assamakka. Lifts on trucks between the border posts will cost about US$3, but as it’s mostly private vehicles they can ask for whatever they want. From Assamakka, numerous trucks and 4WDs head to Arlit (about US$6) and Agadez (US$9).
The road is sealed as far as Tamanrasset, a sandy track from there to Arlit, then tarmac to Agadez and beyond. Note that a ‘tourist tax’ of CFA1000 (US$2) is payable at the Niger border post. Make sure you have some CFA francs or you’ll have to pay DA1000 (US$15) instead.
There are numerous border-crossing points between Tunisia and Algeria, but the main one is just outside Hazoua on the route between El-Oued and Tozeur. This is used by louages (shared taxis), travellers driving their own vehicle and the odd overland truck.
Air Algérie (021-74 24 28; www.airalgerie.dz; 1 Pl Maurice Audin, Algiers) serves destinations throughout North and West Africa, including Tripoli (Libya), Casablanca (Morocco), Dakar (Senegal) and Bamako (Mali). It also flies daily to France, three times a week to London, two or three times weekly to Dubai and two to five times weekly to Germany. Air France (021-73 16 10; Immeuble Maurétania, Pl de Perou, Algiers) mainly serves Europe. Most travel agents sell tickets for both companies.