Few travellers will have cause to visit Algeria but if you are considering travelling there for business or leisure purposes you will use the Algerian dinar while you are in the country.
Those who live in Algeria have used the dinar for some years now. Officially the dinar is divided into santeems (also sometimes seen and referred to as centimes, similar to the old French franc) but this denomination is largely unused now, even though it is still referred to at times.
The current set of coins in use is as follows – ¼, ½, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dinars. Algeria celebrated its half century of independence in 2012, and this coincided with the commemorative release of another coin – the 200 dinar. While there are four coins valued at less than 5 dinar, these are rarely seen in general circulation.
The original set of banknotes for the Algerian dinar was a set of four – the 5, 10, 50 and 100 denomination notes. Since the currency was first introduced two more banknotes have joined the collection, with a 500 dinar note and a 1000 dinar note added in. The most recent release was that of the 2000 dinar note which was issued in 2011. Additionally the 100 dinar note will soon be obsolete, replaced instead by coins of the same value that are currently available.
While you are unlikely to see a santeem in circulation, you should be aware that some traders will still charge in santeems. However it is easy to convert the sum to dinar if this should happen. If you see something that is labelled as costing 1,500 santeem, simply divide it by one hundred to get the price in dinars. Remember the santeem was worth 1/100th of a dinar. So the item costing 1,500 santeem will be equivalent to 15 dinar. Simply move the decimal place up two positions to get a quick and easy answer when paying in dinars.
When compared to some currencies that have been around for a long time, the Algerian dinar has a relatively young history. It was brought into circulation on 1st April 1964. Prior to this date Algerians used the Algerian new franc. The new currency was brought in at the same value (‘at par’ in the proper financial language) so there was no difficulty in getting used to new values as they stayed the same. An object costing 150 new francs would now cost 150 dinar.
The previous currency was introduced by the French when they occupied Algeria, hence the new franc name. This system was used for more than one hundred years, from 1848 until the change was made in 1964. The name dinar is derived from the denarius, a currency that was used back in ancient Roman times. This is something the Algerian currency has in common with several others around the world.
The relevant currency code for the Algerian dinar is DZD. You’ll need to look for this when buying the dinar. However this is a rather more challenging currency to buy if you haven’t done it before and you are familiar with converting currencies prior to leaving your own country for your destination. Make sure you know how to do it and when so you aren’t caught out.
You cannot import or export the Algerian dinar if you are not a resident of the country itself. Even residents are prohibited from doing this on a large scale – the most they can import or export is 200 dinar. This means you must be prepared to exchange your currency for the dinar on arrival in Algeria.
The good news is this can be done at the airport as well as at the bank. Some say it is easier to exchange either the Euro or the US dollar as not all banks will exchange the British pound. However if you go to a large bank you shouldn’t have any problems. Most importantly you must hang onto the receipt you are given when you exchange your currency in this way. This will have a record of the amount you exchanged into dinars upon your arrival. You will need to present this receipt along with any remaining dinars you have when you are about to travel home in order to convert them back into your local currency.
If you need more information on any aspect of visiting Algeria you may find the UK embassy website useful. You will find it at http://www.algerianembassy.org.uk/. It is packed with lots of information about the country and what you need to know.
It is simple to find out the latest information on exchange rates between any currency and the Algerian dinar by going online and using a currency converter.
However it is worth remembering the exchange rate you see online will be the general one and it may not be the same as the one you will be given when you arrive at the airport on arrival in Algeria. Some money changers will charge huge rates so it is worth going to a big bank to make your exchange if you can.
You may wonder how safe it is to travel through this country. It is not among the safest countries in the world and it is far from being the most developed either.
Some areas of Algeria – namely along the southern and eastern borders with Libya, Niger, Mali and Mauritania – are not safe to visit according to current advice from the UK government. The threat from terrorism in the country is high and has been for some years. Algiers is said to be one of the safest and best areas to visit, but even here you should be careful to preserve your own safety and act with caution at all times. It is always best to retreat to your hotel at night. Major cities are likely to be safer than other areas, but if you are planning to travel to this country do check the latest situation and travel advice before you go.
Be sure you don’t carry large amounts of dinars on your person and don’t make it obvious you have a lot of cash on you. It is often a good idea to keep it in several places in case anyone does attempt to rob you.
Before you travel it is worth knowing that credit cards are not easy to use in Algeria. This is one country in the world where cash still rules, so you will need to make sure you have enough cash on you to buy whatever you may need. Traveller’s cheques can be hard to use as well, so you really are left to rely on cash. Even if you are able to find a cash point you will undoubtedly find credit or debit cards cannot be used in them.
Algiers is the capital of Algeria and it is probably the best and most popular part of the country for foreigners to visit. Algiers is on the northern edge of the country, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The waterfront is stunning and the city is highly cosmopolitan. Be sure to check out the Kasbah quarter and Maquam E’chahid – the Monument of the Martyrs.
Oran is the second biggest city in the country and is situated just along the coastline to the west of Algiers. It boasts many hotels of all descriptions and ratings, and there is much to see and do here. The airport is just a short distance from the city centre too, so it is easy to reach. It is worth noting though that the travel infrastructure here leaves a little to be desired. You should be fine if you stay within the city itself, but if you were to venture to the outskirts you would probably find travel gets more challenging.
Obviously there are many hotels here that you can book into for several nights. You can also spend your money on food and drinks, enjoying many local dishes and specialities in the area. If you do travel to the country for some reason you will find it provides an altogether different experience compared to other countries.
Algeria is not the type of country lots of people will choose for their summer holidays. However the main two cities are worth considering if you do ever get the chance to pay a visit.
As you can see, the main thing to remember is the particular way you have to exchange your local currency into the dinar when you arrive in the country. If you do not follow local rules in this way you will be breaking the law – and this is not something you want to do when you are in Algeria.