Algiers, Algeria Report of what it's like to live there - 12/18/11
Personal Experiences from Algiers, Algeria
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No -- Tel Aviv, Kabul, Amman.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington -- 12-14 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Embassy housing was either on the compound, or not far from the embassy. Commute times could vary, as traffic could be quite bad. There were surely times when walking to the Embassy would have taken less time than driving.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The economy remains very Soviet. A rudimentary selection of groceries is available, and not too expensive. Most anything imported can be difficult to find. Little imported fresh produce is available, and you will often be limited to what is produced locally. We shopped frequently from amazon.com and netgrocer for dry goods.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More liquid goods -- cooking sauces and the like.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are few appealing fast food restaurants. The only worthwhile pizza place I found was Woodpecker, in Hydra. Some decent French-style restaurants, and a few very good Indian restaurants, can be found.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Little to none of these things are available. Those seeking these should ship them, or order them, from outside the country.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No insect problems.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the embassy pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is widely available, but is all Algerian. Quality can be decent but spotty, and you can expect to pay well for good help.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are few gyms or workout facilities. That said, the city is very hilly, so if you are a jogger or runner, you may find running in the city very challenging.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Except in the major hotels, credit cards and ATM cards issued outside Algeria do not work in Algeria.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I am not aware of any English-language religious services, except perhaps at the Anglican Church attached to the UK Embassy.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
One can get satellite TV, though I have no experience here. I saw little in the way of English-language printed press.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Those who speak only English and no French will struggle to get by, and almost certainly will not have a good time.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There are few accommodations for handicapped people, in my limited experience.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I have no experience here.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Local roads can be small, so the smaller the car, the better. Roads in the city are decent, but often crowded. Carjackings are not a major problem.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Residential DSL is not expensive (circa $30 per month), but not terribly fast.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
American non-GSM cell phones likely will not roam here, though many from Europe likely will.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Not in my experience.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
One veterinarian, Dr. Hamiti, is available. She does house calls, and took very good care of our cat.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
I would imagine not.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Algerians are very formal. Men should expect to wear suits and ties to work every day.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
In the wilaya of Algiers, security is good. Police are ubiquitous.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is decent, but not great. There are relatively few local health concerns. Sanitation is decent, and there are few if any endemic diseases.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air is decent.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather is nice -- mediterranean and moderate. Summer has maybe three really hot weeks per year. The rest of the time, it is not bad, certainly nicer than places in the Gulf. In the winter, the weather changes frequently. You will rarely have long stretches of cold or rainy days during winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is no American school.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
I don't have any experience here.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Maybe a few hundred diplomats.
2. Morale among expats:
Fairly good, given the closeness of the community.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
As noted above, options here exist but can be limited.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Living here is fairly dull in general, for couples or singles. There were no families in our embassy with school-age kids when I was there.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Well -- homosexuality is not something widely spoken or or celebrated, but it certainly exists. I would imagine that gay men would have an easier time than gay women.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I can't really speak to this.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The diplomatic community there was small, but very close. And I had the good fortune to meet the local wine broker during my third week there.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are circa 10-12 restaurants in the city worth visiting. There are occasional cultural events which are worth attending. Getting out of Algiers, as a diplomat, was rather difficult under Algerian government rules. If you can do so, the city of Oran is supposed to be interesting. And tourism in the southern areas of Ghardaia, Tamanrasset, Taghit, etc. can be enjoyable if you have the time and money to do so.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Carpets, handicrafts, and the tile work is quite good.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Few -- it's close to Europe.
11. Can you save money?
Maybe, as there is not much to spend money on.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Perhaps, but it would not be tops on my list.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
110-volt appliances and high expectations. And check the wine/alcohol import rules, as these can be restrictive and can change frequently.
3. But don't forget your:
Given that the economy is so Soviet, bring most anything else, and a great deal of patience.
4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?