Tips for Oran
Customs: I arrived by ferry from Marseille a couple of days ago. It took six and a half hours to get out of the port with the car. If you are heading south, do not make my mistake and mention the fact to the passport guy. This caused a big stir, and they said that I need a guide to meet me in Oran (same as at the port in Algiers). In any case, they finally let me go, making me promise not to leave Oran withut a guide. N.B. It would have been 6.5 hours even without this negotiation.
I have a guide organised from Kerzaz and may just head on to Tlemcen and Bechar alone and see how I get on. Any thoughts?
Hotels: I stayed at the Hotel Windsor, which was 1800 with a shower & hot water. Very central on Bvd Larbi Ben M'hidi and exceptionally helpful staff. Just as good as the Hotel Atef, who wanted 4800 a night.
Changing Money: I was offered 8500 for 100 Euros by my hotel and 8900 by the bank. After alot of askng around, I was pointed in the right direction. Go to the Spanish Consulate just off Bvd Mohammed Khemisti. Just around the corner is an open doorway and a room with a few armchairs. An old fellow called Omar sits in there 7 days a week. People in the area all know him. He gave me 12000 and was very professional. Didn't feel like a black market transaction at all.
Hope this helps.
If anyone is doing the circuit of the western oases in the next couple of weeks, let me know and we can meet for drink. I will be driving Timmimoun-In Salah-Tam-Djanet-El Oued in the first 2.5 weeks of March. Room in the car if anyone wants to share guide/petrol costs.