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Sorry to hear it didn't work out for you Chris.
Fyi RR, in London you queue for 2 hours and pay the £80+ in advance in cash. You may get a visa. Last year 2-3 weeks, this time who knows.
It seems to me that the requirement for MoI/MFA permits we heard about months ago are being implemented in the last few weeks - this was the warning from a local op I mentioned in my post 2 weeks ago. I just heard a Swede - whose app was going well - has suddenly come up against this requirement.
As some of us predicted, this new govt permit requirement to secure visas is really going to slow down the process and choke tourism. At least 2 months might be needed for Algiers to respond which gets difficult if you're booking planes or ferries or time off work without some certainty.
And being Algeria, it's not like the MoI/MFA are working with state Tourism or the consulates. Technically the country is not closed to tourists, but it seems to me they are making it as difficult as possible, if for no other reason than to ensure our safety in the south (as RR described) is a whole lot of bother.
Just back, a brief update on the overall situation:
It seems like the process is very much dependent on country/embassy. We used the same agency Chris mentioned, Essendilene, same pdf invitation letter, no issues. An aussie travel companion received the visa within two weeks of applying, in Budapest it took three weeks longer but no issues, and Irishman living in Malta had to drop out because the assigned Rome embassy refused to cooperate in doing the process by mail and not in person.
We were supposed to make a trek on the Tamrit-Sefar-Jabbaren areas of the plateau. All was fine, I was doing our shopping at the Djanet market when our guide came back from the military with a gloomy look, saying the military have just closed off the plateau (everything was apparently fine that morning), as some undentified group have been reported crossing from Libya, and were suspected of hiding there somewhere. A quick reorganisation, and we decided to visit the Iheren/Tin Abenhar area west of Iherir which is also a major rock art area. In the end we had a superb trip, and in retrospect actually seen more than what we originally expected. However the fact remains that the area with the well known Tassili paintings remains closed indefinitely.
The Tadrart is surprisingly open, supposedly because the military is controlling all possible access points (I have some lingering doubts about 'all'...). No restrictions between Djanet and Illizi, but as previously mentioned, exact itineraries must be provided to the police/military, and must be kept to.
The Djanet - Tam road is firmly closed. Another operator was told that it will open 'very soon' in November, but in Djanet nobody beleives that, it is expected to remain closed to foreigners indefinitely.
We flew to/from Djanet from Algiers, no issues whatsoever with arrival/departure or the flights. Have used the London office of Air Algerie for booking the domestic tickets (the only ones able to speak english over the phone), they were very nice and frendly, kept extending the ticketing deadline until all visas were issued. Have not seen any tourists on the flight other than us either way (flight is combined Tam/Djanet).
One member of our party stayed on for another two weeks (planing to travel to Tam with the hopeful company after a visit to the Tadrart), will post an update when he is back.
For what it’s worth……
…… I managed after numerous failed attempts to speak on the phone to the consular visa section, and the gist of it was
“We never received your special delivery envelope for return of the passport” Then several “What date? / what name?” type questions followed by waiting whilst an unsuccessful search took place. After 5 mins the official stated that the envelope was never received, and that I’d have to collect in person (not tomorrow as the consulate is closed). She said that the visa is stamped into the passport.
So should I choose to do so, I could go to London Friday and collect, then get a flight to Algiers for the remainder of my available holiday time. But I’m terrified that there will be another screw-up and that I’ll lose the second fare as well.
CS – is the collection process at the consulate (16:00 – 16:30, I’m told), reliable and efficient? Are there queues and a cut-off if you don’t turn up 2 hours early? …..yes, I understand that all info is provided in good faith but absolutely without guarantee…… just trying to understand my options and make a well-informed decision.
I sure wish I'd known the difference between Recorded Delivery and Special Delivery when I sent the original postal application. SD = shiny silver plastic envelope.
…… I managed ... to speak on the phone to the consular visa section
They do a Nobel prize for that.
Glad you told me it's closed tomorrow - I was setting the alarm.
If they say you have the visa stamp in your ppt then I imagine they're not making it up.
Collection in the afternoons is easy - not like apps in the morning where couriers are queuing 90 mins before opening time. No queues, just walk in with your ticket and collect your ppt. Check it has the right dates and so on, before you leave.
Thanks for update Andrasz. Dodgy goings on on the plateau doesn't sound so far fetched as it's so close to the border. Maybe just smugglers rather than kidnappers but I suppose the army can't get up there in jeeps.
Would be nice to continue right down the back of the Tadrart towards in Ezzane one time.
Thanks for that, Chris….. on due reflection I think I’m going to stump up and go anyway, I feel pretty bad about leaving my friend there alone (Japanese woman who can’t speak any French and doesn’t even have a guidebook because there aren’t any in Japanese). Luckily an Algerian woman on the same flight decided to be her guardian angel and my friend is now staying free of charge in GA’s Algiers home.
One little point of clarification – when you say “just walk in with your ticket and collect your ppt” – is that a ticket issued by the consulate or an actual ticket to the destination?
Dodgy goings on on the plateau doesn't sound so far fetched as it's so close to the border.
Not at all. In fact I was quite impressed that rather than giving no explanation, we were informed about this, and I had to fully agree with the army's assessment. They acted on specific intelligence, and given the terrain up there, a group of 20 can easily hide amongst the rocks even if the patrol helicopters have IR cameras. They said that until they find this group and figure out who they are, they cannot guarantee safety in the area. Fair enough.
fyi we (Brits) got visas 4 weeks after re-applying. Presumably that is how long it takes for the MoI in Algiers to come up with approval or whatever and send it to the relevant consulate. I think it was broadly the same for the other European nationals coming with.
So I would say, allow 6 weeks from applying in UK (with an agency invite which specifies an itinerary) to getting your passport. Twice as long as last year.
And, according to my post here - the plateau will be re-opened for the New Year period.
I have only used agency invites for travel in the south.
Agency invites may be different documents from family invites but amount to the same thing, although travel in the south now requires additional permits prior to visa issue, as well as the usual escorts once there.
Visa procedures are set to be changed again, following some sort of ministry indaba this week, which the main agencies have been invited to attend.
If I understand correctly, they are considering making things less onerous, in the hopes of resuscitating the tourism which has been so badly affected.
The Djanet-Tam road remains as closed as a closed thing can be, and advice is not to include Tam on one's intended itinerary (presumably due to Mali situation)
I must say I have come to that conclusion too recently and am taking it into account on my future plans in the area.
Priffe's note about a guide he met getting done for kidnap plans (dont know if that was the main Akar Akar case), plus the (botched) suicide bombing, plus the general drugs mafia scene and blow-ins associated with north Mali mixing in.
Plenty of army/police/etc there too of course, but best to reduce the risks. There's fuel in and food in In Amguel and you can get to Assekrem via the rugged back roads if you like.
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