Tunisia perches between Libya and Algeria. Crowned by the Mediterranean Sea on the north, Tunisia has the Gulf of Sicily to the northwest. Currently, Tunisia is not a safe place to travel. Recently, several acts of violence against tourists occurred. Thus, if you are visiting the country, make sure to take safety measures.
In the north of the country, you will see a beautiful Mediterranean coastline with beach resorts. The vibrant environment ends there. Further south, you will find rolling plains and weary deserts. This part of the country has many trekking trails for you to discover. The Gulf of Gabes is on the central coast, and it will serve as a refreshing change of landscape.
Tunis is the easy-going capital city. Aside from the capital, El Kef, an ancient Byzantine town, Gabes, a coastal city, and Sfax, which has a rich history, are all worth a visit. Also, Monastir, boasting Phoenician ruins, and Sousse, a UNESCO world heritage site, are fascinating places to travel.
Places to See in Tunisia
The ancient city of Matmara doesn’t only boast the 1000-years-old dwellings. It also played a big role in the first Star Wars film and attracts thousands of travelers annually. The main attraction is Hotel Sidi Driss, which was in Episode IV: New Hope and still hosts numerous Star Wars paraphernalia.
Cap Bon Peninsula
There is something for everyone on the Cap Bon Peninsula. Sun and sea seekers will enjoy the facilities of Nabuel resort. History and culture lovers can explore Kelibia’s fort, and the old Roman remains at Ghar El-Khabir, as well as the Punic ruins of Kerkouane. And, of course, every person will enjoy lovely beaches of El Haouaria’s.
A number of tourist agencies offer tours into the Sahara Desert. The choice is very wide, from a couple of hours trip on a camel to an all-inclusive voyage into the sands. Anyway, you can’t visit Tunisia, without a trip to this highly dramatic place with the fabulous horizon.
Lake Ichkeul, listed among the World Heritage Sites, is a paradise for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. The best time to visit is between December and March when thousands of birds migrate and descend on the wetlands to pass the winter. These include flamingos, egrets, and storks.
Sidi Bou Said
Sidi Bou Said is a picturesque town on the gorgeous shore of the Mediterranean. The view of white-and-blue buildings, cobblestone alleyways, and charming old-fashioned beaches makes the town highly appealing to travelers. So does the tasty Arabic coffee in a cliff-side café.
The island of Djerba is a paradise in the Mediterranean, with whitewashed villages, craft markets, and palm-shaded beaches. It’s a great place to relax, enjoy fabulous shopping and taste some delicious seafood.
Tabarka is country’s top spot for diving and snorkeling. The town is a perfect destination if you need to stop for a couple of days and recharge your “batteries”. Also, the underwater world of the Galite Islands is situated not far from the shore. It is the main destination for scuba diving enthusiasts.
Combining the influence of Ottoman, Arabic and French colonial cultures, the capital of Tunisia is a fantastic mixture of ancient and modern, definitely worth a visit.
Grand Erg Oriental
The fantastic sand dunes of the Grand Erg Oriental look truly out of this world and were used as a magnetic landscape in The English Patient movie. You can book a camel or a jeep trip into the dunes. There are also opportunities for dune skiing and desert dune buggy trips.
One of the country’s most impressive archeological sites, ruins of Bulla Regia offer its visitor a pick into the history of Roman Empire. The Roman used the underground architecture of the city to escape the extreme heat. However, it also helped the city to stay preserved over the centuries.
Listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, El-Jem Colosseum in Tunisia is a real historical highlight. Build in the 3rd century, it modeled the famous Colosseum of Rome and was the largest amphitheater in the Northern Africa, once able to host up to 35 thousand visitors.
One of the North Africa’s best-preserved ruins, Dougga is also on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list and offers a glimpse into the history of Roman Empire as it was. Situated on the top of the hill and boasting a number of monumental buildings and temples, Dougga becomes one of the most impressive and popular travel destinations in Tunisia.
The city offers its visitors a skyline carved with minarets, as well as the number of Islamic architectural treasures, including the breathtaking 9th-century Great Mosque. The city was founded in 670 and dates back to the beginning of Islamic tradition, becoming the fourth holiest site for Muslims. However, the city has something to offer, aside from sacred landmarks. You will have a great time wandering in the labyrinths of the medina and exploring the ancient architecture.
When to Go
The most popular area among tourists is the north of the country. This region has a typical Mediterranean climate. It means summers here are hot and dry, while winters are mild and sometimes rainy. It is a popular summer holiday destination.
If you are interested in more appealing climate and fewer tourist crowds, choose spring or autumn. It would also be the perfect time to visit southern and central regions of the country.
On the other hand, during winter, accommodation prices go down, as it is low season in Tunisia. Days are still full of warmth and sunshine, but nights tend to be rather cold.
What to Wear
Clothes you need depend on the season and the purpose of your travel. In summer, choose light clothing made from natural fabrics. If you plan to look around and not only stay in the resort area, don’t forget about cultural differences. Pack some shirts with long sleeves and long trousers or skirts. If you plan to go into the desert, on the other hand, you will need something warm for the evening. Also, take a pullover and a raincoat if you travel during winter. For spring and autumn, some warm clothes will not be a bad idea too.
Arabic is the official language of Tunisia. However, many locals are bilingual; speaking Arabic and French. Knowledge of French or Arabic will help you get around. Moreover, some of the population also speaks English; although you will be lucky to spot a native who speaks English.
One USD is equal to 2.32 Tunisian Dinars. The currency exchange is available at banks, bureau de exchanges, and at post offices. ATMs are widely available in tourist resorts and most towns. MasterCard and Visa credit cards are acceptable by many facilities.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
Local SIM Card can be purchased at Tunisie Telecom offices. However, you will have to provide identification.
Free Wi-Fi is available for guests of most hotels, hostels and other accommodations. There are also plentiful hot spots in Tunis and other cities throughout the country. Cafes and restaurants in tourist areas also provide free Internet connection for their visitors.
Although there are small Christian and Jewish minorities, the predominant religion of the country is Islam. Tunisia is an Arabic country in cultural traditions. It has a liberal, modern and rather tolerant Muslim society. However, this relates more to cities, than rural areas, which are still rather conservative, which you should keep in mind, not to get into any trouble.
If you leave the resort area, dress modestly and respect local customs and traditions. Cover your arms and knees, when entering religious buildings. Women should also cover their heads. Casual dressing is acceptable. However, when visiting somebody’s house, it is advised to dress scruffily, as a show of respect.
The common form of greeting is shaking hands. Also, women meeting other women and men greeting other men can be seen kissing on the cheek. It is polite to place your right hand on your heart after shaking hands or to express gratitude.
Hospitality is an important quality for Tunisian people. A small gift is always appreciated when visiting someone’s house.
Tunisian cuisine is a mixture of Arabic, Berber, European and Middle Eastern influences. Food is usually cooked in olive oil. Most popular spices are aniseed, coriander, cumin, caraway, cinnamon, and saffron. Other common flavors are also mint, orange blossom, and rose water. Harissa, chili, and garlic are also often used.
Seafood is common in coastal areas. On the other hand, Sahara region is known for Berber food, mostly stews. There are also dishes popular throughout the country. These include roast chicken, baked lamb, and couscous. Salads are usually simple and lightly dressed.
If you are a sweet tooth, Middle Eastern desserts will not disappoint you. There is a wide range of sweets and cakes. The most popular ingredients are nuts, honey, and syrup. There are also plentiful desserts left after French time of the country, which include croissants and pains au chocolat.
Local specialties include couscous, harissa, salade mechouia, tajine, brik, merguez, filfilmahshi, lablabi, marqa, and ojja. In restaurants and cafes, tips are not obligatory. However, 10% tip is appreciated. Although Tunisia is a Muslim country, you can still order alcohol in dining places. The minimum drinking age is 18.
You can book domestic flights online. The primary cities of Tunis, Djerba, Gabes, and Tozeur are connected via airlines.
Regular trains connect Tunis with major towns. The main route is between Tunis and Gabes, via Sousse and Sfax. It also branches away to Monastir and Mahdia. Other lines connect the capital with Bizerte and other northern areas.
Regular ferries operate between Sfax and the Kerkennah Islands, as well as between El Jorf and Djerba Island.
Roads are generally in good condition. Buses are a great answer to traveling long distance at low prices. The busses even beat flying regarding comfort. Public transportation system is extensive. Even small villages have some public transportation.
The roadways between the major cities are in good condition. But beyond that, there is no regular maintenance of the roads.
Renting vs. Bus, Train, Taxi
Taxis are available near the airports. However, do not be swayed by drivers who will “help you.” Hire the taxis with meters, and you will not be overcharged.
Car hire is available at all international airports and within bigger towns. Hire is relatively expensive. The charge usually includes insurance and breakdown cover. To hire a self-drive car, you must be over 21.
You can also hire a bike from a hotel or guesthouse in your resort area. However, most bikes for rent are old and not in a very good condition.
Right or Left Driving
Cars drive on the right side of the road here.
Tunisia Trip Cost
A metered taxi will charge you US$6 to move from the airport to the city. However, the cost of traveling in the country varies, and you should investigate further before visiting. If you would like to hire the taxi for a half or full day, it’s usually cheaper to negotiate a price rather than work by the meter. And an inter-city bus trip will be around US$10.
Trip cost depends on the conditions you stay in and your budget. For example, a bed in a hostel dormitory will cost US$10. On the other hand, a price for a double room in a midrange hotel varies between US$20 and US$60. And a room in a top-end hotel can cost as much as US$150.
As for food, the price for a meal in a local restaurant will start from US$5. And a dinner in a top-end place will cost you as much as US$50. Organized day trips and excursions usually cost US$50 – US$100.
Electricity & Plug Type
Tunisia uses types C and E sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 230 V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
How to Reach
The national airline is Tunis Air. It operates flights from numerous European cities, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Zurich. Also, Air France flies to Tunisia from Paris and Eurowings fly from Cologne. The best air fares can be found during the low season, which is November to February. It takes 3 hours to fly from London to Tunisia. And you will fly 11 hours from New York, including stopovers.
There is a rail system connecting Tunisia with Algeria. However, currently, there is no service available.
There are ferry routes operating from France and Italy to Tunisia. The main routes are from Marseille, Genoa, Civitavecchia, Salerno, and Palermo. The main port of Tunisia is Tunis-La Goulette. Other are Sousse, Bizerte, Rades, Sfax, Zarzis, and Gabes.
Where to Stay
Tunisia has no lack of high-standard international resorts and hotels. They are quite similar in facilities and designs, so choose any to your liking. All major tourist resorts and hotels are situated in a “Zone Touristique” in coastal regions. Less luxurious accommodations are located in the town center. There are also several boutique hotels, restored from splendid old mansions.
You can camp on beaches and in parks. However, if it’s private property, you need to get owner’s permission. There are also numerous campsites available. Some of the best are Camping Les Jasmins in Nabeul, Les Beaux Reves in Tozeur, Camping Desert in Douz, and Camping Ghilane in Ksar Ghilane.
Homestay accommodation industry is not really developed nowadays. However, it is a great way to explore the local life. The widest choice is available in Tunis, but it is advised to book in advance.
Hostels are a cheap way to stay in, although offering simpler amenities. These accommodations are available in Tunis, Djerba, Bizerte, and Nabeul. Accommodations vary in facilities and cleanliness. Some only offer dormitories for male visitors. Others provide private budget rooms, with shared bathrooms. The best ones are family-run businesses and offer a real home atmosphere.
How Safe is Tunisia
Tunisia will not be dangerous if you act sensible and take the necessary precautions. Mugging, pickpocketing, bag snatching, and petty theft incidents sometimes occur. Don’t show your valuable in public and don’t carry all you documents and money in one place. Don’t walk alone at night. Personal attacks are rare. However, the number of incidents of harassment of foreign women is increasing, so you should be aware.
When traveling to Tunisia, you need to have a good medical insurance. In large towns, the public healthcare system is rather good, but keep in mind, cash payment is always required, even if you have insurance. There is also a variety of private medical facilities offering a wide range of services.
The emergency number is 190. Also, if you need to bring necessary medications into the country, you need to have a letter from your doctor on you, with a list of medications. Before coming into the country, you need to have vaccinations against the following disease: tetanus, hepatitis A, and sometimes typhoid, rabies, malaria, and diphtheria. Vaccination against hepatitis B is also recommended.
Food and Water Safety
As for food, you should only eat well-prepared meat, fish, and vegetables. Fruit should be peeled before eating. When choosing a restaurant, look for popular places with a big number of everyday visitors. The food there will be fresher. Avoid ice cream sold in the street. There is a big risk it has melted and then has been frozen again.
Mains water is chlorinated in urban areas. It is safe but can cause a mild abdominal upset. It is highly advisable to buy bottled water for drinking, which is widely available. Keep in mind, ice is not generally made from bottled water, so it is better avoided. Milk is usually pasteurized. If not, it should be boiled. UHT is advised for drinking.
August 22, 2016 12:00 am Leave your thoughts