Algiers

Mosque Ketchaoua

Mosque Ketchaoua

 

I decided to make a brief visit to Algiers in late 2018. My decision was based largely on cheap and readily available award flights bookable with some British Airways Avios from Europe that had been burning a hole in my pocket. I don’t pretend to be an expert on miles or points, I just know that for me the award ticket made sense given that I would’ve much rather spent Avios, which I had in abundant supply at the time, than I did cash, which I had in not such great supply at the time.

The happiness I was feeling due to the lack of cash outlay soon began to evaporate as I recalled that I would also need an expensive visa, and that there was a distinct lack of hotels in Algiers that could be booked on awards. There are certainly some available, but the SPG and Hilton points I had to spend yielded only two options – a Hilton that was undergoing renovations and was therefore unavailable, and the Sheraton Club des Pins Resort, which was located well outside of the city itself. I opted instead for the Sofitel Algiers Hamma Garden, an Accor Hotels property.

I found the Sofitel to be perfectly average, but I probably would’ve enjoyed it quite a bit more had I not run into serious issues with the hotel due to the third party booking site I had used in lieu of going directly through Accor to save a few bucks. Lesson learned. In any case, the Sofitel’s strong suit in my experience ended up being its location. It’s located right next to the city’s botanical garden El Hamma, and a short walk from the Shrine of the Martyr, a large monument dedicated to the individuals who fought for Algerian independence, and one of the city’s main landmarks. A word of warning – the short walk to the monument is up a somewhat steep hill.

The Shrine of the Martyr

The Shrine of the Martyr

The best aspect of the Sofitel’s location though, was its proximity to one of the crown jewels of the city – the subway. I attempted to research Algiers a bit before I went, but to be frank, I just didn’t find much. Tourism seems to still be in its very early stages in Algeria given the country’s tumultuous recent history, and even some of the more well known guide books didn’t have much to offer. Once I was on the ground though, I learned a valuable lesson about the Mediterranean city – that it is quite large and spread out. I normally prefer to explore cities on foot. In some places, that are compact and relatively flat, this is easy and works well. However, in places like Algiers, which are quite hilly and spread out, you really need to have some additional transport options.

Algiers Subway

Algiers Subway

The Algiers subway really made navigating the portion of the city near the coast pretty easy. Signs are posted in Arabic and French, and there is only one line so far, so there isn’t much to figure out. Even I can navigate in French when all I need to know is the name of a subway stop. The construction of the subway took decades, but was only finished recently, so the cars are modern and clean. Trains are on time and run every few minutes, and tickets go for 50 dinar, or about 40 cents USD, which is a huge plus if you are trying to be frugal with your remaining dinar. Or dinars. Or dinarii. Honestly, I have no idea what the plural of dinar is, I can barely wrap my head around my native language.

Botanical Garden El Hamma

Botanical Garden El Hamma

Unfortunately, the only line runs more or less parallel to the coast, and really only extends from one end of the central part of the city to the other. You can’t take it to or from the airport, and if you want to venture inland, you’re out of luck. However, it will get you to many of the places you’ll probably want to see as a visitor (Hamma Jardin, Martyrs Square, Ketchaoua Mosque, Casbah, Grande Poste de Alger) , and I’d definitely recommend making use of it if you find yourself in Algiers.