Advice on sailing in Algeria

Algeria is slowly but surely opening its doors to tourists and this includes granting tourist visas to sailors. The days of armed escorts are a thing of the past and Algerians like to think what they call the dark days are behind them. However caution must be exercised, isolated incidents still occur and the latest information from your country foreign office must be checked before considering a trip there. Facilities are basic with only one marina in Algiers and anchoring is not permitted meaning you will either dock in friendly fishing ports or large commercial harbours. Algeria still remains a destination for the adventurous but its rewards can be high. It is a country rich in history, roman ruins are still part of everyday life and most of the old French architecture still exists. People not used to tourists are extremely friendly and welcoming. For sailors this now provides the opportunity to sail the northern African coast of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. You can read our account of our travels in Algeria at www.yachtadina.co.uk/algeria.
 

Before you go

Before arriving in Algeria you will need to obtain a tourist visa from the Algerian Embassy/Consulate in your country of residence. This should be applied for well in advance of your visit. A lot of paperwork is required and the authorities will want to understand the purpose of your visit but they do understand a sailing yacht wanting to proceed along the African coast. An alternative is to try and get a visa in Tunis, Tunisia but ensure you factor time for the paperwork to happen. You may even be required to pick up your visa in Tunis even when issued in your country of residence.

The recommended pilotage book for Algeria is North Africa by Graham Hutt. A very good book however some items particularly about officials being friendly or unfriendly differ as they come and go.

Do not even think about entering the country without an Algerian courtesy flag. North African countries are very sensitive to this. Upon entering Algerian coastal waters it is highly advisable to call ‘Algerian Coastguard’ on channel 16 and announce your arrival. They will then ask you for various details but ensure you mention you have a tourist visa. Algerian coastal waters are closely monitored. The coastguard will call you most days, asking for your details each time – they are simply looking out for you and monitoring your progress.
 

Formalities

Official paperwork is lengthy and can be tiresome/testing and you will need a great deal of patience. On the whole officials are courteous. As a general rule fishing ports are more relaxed with friendly officials while harbours are more formal. Expect visits from coastguard, police (marine or frontier), customs, and harbour master. Each will have their own paperwork and each will want copies of your passport (including tourist visa), ship papers, skippers license and optionally lists of radio equipment and insurance details. You can ask them to make copies but you will save a great deal of time by having lots of copies. A boat stamp will be asked for. You can also save a great deal of time by volunteering to fill their forms in. Have a list and copies of radio equipment, valuables (laptops, cameras, phones), and spirits with your boat stamp. It will save time. Explaining and showing you have a tourist visa eases things considerably.

Inspections of the boat can be asked by any of the officials. Generally they are just being curious but in ports closer to Morocco they are looking for smuggled persons. Sadly immigration officials in Mostagonem and Oran near Morocco are asking for ‘presents’. Be polite and simply say no or say you do not smoke to avoid this practise common in other African countries growing in Algeria.

On your first entry ensure customs board your boat and give you a form that states the currency you have onboard. You will need this to change money in banks.

Always have your AIS on so the coastguard can follow you. You will get called and asked details of crew, nationality, last and next destination. They pass this information on and are looking out for you. They have a soft approach but you may need to repeat yourself. They will tell you if they think it is safer to move offshore. Thank them for their help!

As a general rule harbour master are your best contact for any questions, they are switched on and know how things work. They are very friendly even if you are small fish compared to the large vessels they handle.
 

Ports and harbours

Usually you will be moored outside coastguard or police stations for your own protection. Make effort towards them, be friendly and they will often reciprocate.

On exiting any harbour/port to explore the towns you will again have to show passports/visas.

Always ensure you call the harbour master before entering any port. As a general rule they monitor channel 16 and channel 14. Pilot boats mostly operate on channel 10 if you cannot get hold of the above.

Many harbours have coastguard stationed at the entry and you have to stop to complete their paperwork on entering AND leaving.

Before you leave the harbour on your boat check with police, coastguard and harbourmaster if they have any formalities to be completed. These can take up to 2 hours.

The old practise of giving you armed escorts is largely gone and you are free to wander day or night. Exceptions are Dellys (a lot of security and best not visited in the near future) and Mostagonem.

Fishing ports are the most rewarding visits as officials of these are generally friendly and relaxed as are the people of the smaller towns. They will go out of their way to help you.

Be warned officials taking your lines don’t always know what to do with them and often they will do this with a gun swinging around them.

ALWAYS tell police what your plans are if you plan to leave the port and explore.

The coastline is stunning but anchoring is probably out of the question for now.

In harbours you will be mixing it up with tankers, cargo ships, ferries and often parked near them. You will need a good supply of fenders and ropes as you will moor against walls and on moorings designed for cargo ships. Protect against chafe.

Don’t expect electric points anywhere.

Sidi Feuch is Algiers is the only marina in Algeria but is largely run down and mainly aimed at Algerians with motorboats. It is however the one place with a fuel pontoon where you can easily get fuel.

Fuel is cheap but not easily obtained. In harbours it has to be bought by tanker. Sidi Feuch in Algiers has a marina style fuel station. Most coastguard stations have a watertank and they will do their utmost to help get water to you.
 

People

The highlight of a visit to Algeria is the people who are friendly and will go to great lengths, and do acts of kindness. You will often hear Shouts of “Welcome to Algeria” from people who appreciate your visit. Your side make effort and greet people – it will break the ice and create favourable impressions. Unlike other African countries there are no demands for baksheesh (bribes) and people will want to help you.
 

Port by port guide

Annaba
Port of Entry.
This is the recommended port of entry if coming from Tunisia. You can expect a radio call from Algeria Coast Guard as soon as you enter Algerian waters and even a visit (ensure your courtesy flag is hoisted!) Yachts are not regular here and telling them you have a tourist visa is recommended.
Ensure you call the port authorities before you enter the harbour – they monitor VHF ch 14 and ch 16.
You will most likely be berthed outside the police station with the coastguard boats.
Expect visits from coastguard, police, customs, and harbourmaster. All are courteous and often friendly. Make sure you get a customs form which lists all your currency as this is needed to change currency in the banks.
Water and fuel – ask Harbourmaster.
Ashore: You are allowed to freely walk the town without an escort. The town is pleasant enough with a good market. A visit to the St.Augustine church is recommended but ensure your driver knows you want the church not the hospital. Taxi around 300dh. Town taxi rides 100dh.

Skikda
Recommended for visiting Constantine.
Ensure you call the port authorities before you enter the harbour – they monitor VHF ch 14 and ch 16.
You will be berthed in a corner far from any action and it’s a fair walk to the gate.
Expect visits from coastguard, police, customs, and harbourmaster. All are courteous.
Water and fuel – ask Police/Coastguard.
Ashore: You are allowed to freely walk the town without an escort. The town does not really have anything to offer and can feel a little intimidating. The main reason to stop in Skikda is to visit the wonderful town of Constantine with all its bridges. Get a taxi 60-80dh to take you to the bus/shared taxi station. Shared taxis are safe and cheap. Ask locals around you the price, generally you won’t be scammed but it’s worth asking.

Chetaibi
A small fishing port.
Coastguard/police will attract your attention when entering. After completing formalities they will find a place for you. As of August 2013 work was being done to the fishing port wall and only a one night stay was permitted on the floating pontoon where the works were being done. There is a bay in which anchoring is possible, you can only try and ask. Ashore: The town has no real attractions but provisions can be obtained. The port is friendly and people fish and walk around the port when things cool down in the evening. There is a coffee shop where you can sit and watch the world go by.

Collo
A friendly small fishing port.
Coastguard/police will attract your attention when entering. After completing formalities they will find a place for you usually between the many fishing boats. As in all fishing ports officials are friendlier. The harbour master is particularly kind. Fuel can be obtained from a pump. The man who supplies it will ask you to sign his guest book. He will also use a combination of his and your hose to supply you water if you need it. But it is a slow flow.
Ashore: The town has a large bay with a beach which can be accessed by walking to town and heading right. Just ask people. No central market but centre of town has many provisions. This is one place you can encounter friendly people interactions. In the port you will be a curiosity and people will stand and look at your boat. Engage them in French. A lovely place to take your time and relax.

Bejaia
A large and busy port.
Ensure you call the port authorities before you enter the harbour – they monitor VHF ch 14 and ch 16.
The harbour is a busy one as a cargo skipper told us they can wait at anchor for up to two weeks to get in. You will be berthed in a remote corner that is particularly dirty with oil/grime that officials will proceed to traipse all over your boat. You get the impression yachts are not particularly welcome! It is a long walk to the gate and you will walk between ships loading and off-loading with a lot of trucks.
Expect visits from coastguard, police, customs, and harbourmaster. All are courteous if a little stern.
Water and fuel – ask Police/Coastguard.
Ashore: Town has a good market. A taxi to the stunning headland of Cap Cabon is well worth it. Downside is that you may have to walk the 4km back to town as there are no other taxis waiting at Cap Cabon. Do not walk pass the military zone sign on the path to the lighthouse!

Dellys
A convenient stopping place between Bejaia and Algiers.
Coastguard/police will attract your attention when entering. You will be berthed next to the police/coastguard. There is a heavy military presence as it is rumoured there are still small terrorist groups in the mountains near here. You are completely safe and officials are friendly / will do anything for you. Although lighting up your yacht at night may make you think it’s not so discrete! Only worth stopping for the night.
Ashore: Unlikely you will be allowed to walk your own but officials will drive you to a small supermarket for provisions and there is a pleasant enough coffee shop at the port.

Sidi Freuch
Algeria’s only marina, access to Algiers.
This is a rundown marina with electricity and water points destroyed. The marina is very prone to silting but was dredged in 2013. Shallowest parts seem to be around 2.5m.
Tie up to the fuel pontoon straight in front of you to complete formalities. Expect visits from coastguard, police, customs. Be warned officials here seem disorganised and to make matters worse duplicate everything on a computer. Clearing out also takes a long time.
Easy place to take on fuel (recommended) and you can fill water tanks and clean your boat on the fuel pontoon while waiting for the officials.
You will be rafted up to the few local yachts by the entry. The one man who owns the outer most yacht is kind and has electricity access and will share that and his water hose. Entrance is tricky in N/NW winds and a chop arises due to the shallow depths.
Ashore: The only reason to stay here is to see the stunning city of Algiers. Shared taxi and local bus just outside marina although boys on fuel pontoon will tell you they don’t exist and try sell you a private taxi.

Cherchell
Friendly fishing port.
Coastguard/police will attract your attention when entering and berth you next to coastguard/police buildings. Expect visits from coastguard/police. As in all fishing ports officials are friendlier. You will be given an unarmed policeman dressed in civilian clothes who will act as a guide and look after you on your first excursion into town. After this you are free to wonder but you MUST tell them if you are leaving town and for example visiting the nearby town of Taipasa to see the roman ruins. Be courteous and tell them what you are doing – they are simply looking after you. Water easily available from tap outside police buildings.
Ashore: Good provisioning. Museum worth a visit and you will be amused by old roman ruins being used in everyday life. People are friendly. It is worth organising a trip to nearby Taipasa to see the extensive roman ruins.

Tenes
Ensure you call the port authorities before you enter the harbour – they monitor VHF ch 14 and ch 16.
You will be called over by coastguard at the entrance to complete their formalities.
Expect visits from police, customs, and harbourmaster.
Immigration police seemed a little corrupt and asked to see the boat and proceeded to see if he could get anything. Decline this and any requests for presents. Likewise a man claiming to be a chandlery who will bring items to your boat for a profit. Harbourmaster friendly.
Water and fuel – ask Police/Coastguard.
Ashore. Not much for the tourist. Town is a shared taxi ride away for provisions.

Mostagonem
Ensure you call the port authorities before you enter the harbour – they monitor VHF ch 14 and ch 16. You will be called over by coastguard at the entrance to complete their formalities.
Expect visits from coastguard, police, customs, and harbourmaster. Immigration police asked for a present. Be polite and decline.
Water and fuel – ask Police/Coastguard.
As town is a 5-10min ride away you will be escorted by unarmed police dressed in civilian clothes. They will take you to what you need, are friendly and helpful.
Ashore: The town has a good market, there are a few buildings to see. A taxi is 60-80dh. Do not believe the police who tell you it’s 200dh.

Oran
A lovely city with a lot of old colonial architecture.
Ensure you call the port authorities before you enter the harbour – they monitor VHF ch 14 and ch 16. You will be called over by coastguard at the entrance to complete their formalities.
Expect visits from coastguard, police, and harbourmaster. Immigration police asked for a present. Be polite and decline.
If entering or leaving Algeria insist on getting a visit from customs – can take some time to organise this.
Water and fuel – ask Harbourmaster. Fuel is expensive as they charge 250 euros to bring it to your boat by tanker.
Yachts are now placed near the ferry terminal and not the marinas as advised in the pilot book.
Ashore: Oran is a pleasant city to walk around with lots of French, Spanish and Italian architecture. Some of it is now being restored. A visit up to Santa Cruz for the views is a must. Taxi prices fluctuate wildly but 600-900dh is reasonable for a trip there and back and they will wait for you. Visit both fort and church. Taxi to town is around 200dh as officials don’t like you walking up by yourself.
 

2 responses to “Advice on sailing in Algeria”

  1. Tie says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing!

  2. Roger Wood says:

    We are looking to sail the North African coast this June in our 46ft Motor Yacht. She is currently in Yasmine Hammamet where we have spent 18 months after leaving Turkey in June 2013 and sailing through the Greek Islands, the Corinth Canal, up to Corfu then across to Italy, round Sicily and then to Tunisia. After reading this article we will be leaving with greater excitement and a more relaxed attitude to the Algerians. Thank you for an excellent insight into your journey.

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