Tunis (تونس) is the capital of Tunisia.
Located on the Mediterranean coast but lacking much in the way of beaches, Tunis has been spared the onslaught of package tourism in the resorts to the north and south. With a population of less than 700,000 (the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants), the entire city feels small and compact. There isn't much in the way of must-see attractions, but the Roman ruins of Carthage, now surrounded by houses, is easily accessed from here and the medina is one of the most hassle-free in North Africa. Due to its 20th century history, the country uses French and Arabic. This is very helpful as all signs/notices/menus are shown in Latin letters as well as Arabic font. An understanding of French is therefore a great advantage.
Tunis is divided into the old city, known as the medina, and the new city, or ville nouvelle in French. Ave Habib Bourguiba is the large avenue running through the new city from the clock tower to the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul. It then turns into Ave de France, which runs for a few blocks until ending at the Place de la Victoire and the Port de France, a large free-standing gate that used to be the entrance to the medina. This can be a good landmark for taxi drivers, as some of the smaller streets nearby aren't sure to be known by name.
The Port de France also serves as a good entry point for exploring the medina. Rue Jemaa Zaytouna leads past lots of shops to the ez-Zaytouna Mosque, the great mosque of Tunis and the center of the medina. Running obliquely to Rue Jemaa Zaytouna, and also with an outlet near the Port de France, is the Rue de la Kasbah. This runs all the way through the medina to the Place du Gouvernment and the Place de la Kasbah, a huge square fringed by razorwire. It is fairly easy to move between the two streets by cutting across the labrynthine medina, and it is easy to keep your bearings and find an exit. Rue Jemaa Zaytouna seemed to be a better entry point from the Port de France at night, remaining relatively well traveled. Rue de la Kasbah, on the other hand, is active after dark on the Place de la Kasbah side, but is extremely dark near the Port de France. It is recommended to get a feel for the medina during the day so that you will feel more confident if you find yourself and alone and need to find a landmark at night. The Medina is open during Ramadan from 08:00 until 16:00 and on a Sunday around 1/4 of the shops open. If you want to find your way out just head downwards and you will find your way back to the Port de France. Note that as of May, 2014, most of the central city ( centre ville ) is closed by 9:00pm.
Tunis-Carthage Airport (TUN), 8 km away from the centre, is small and in reasonable shape with all standard facilities. Free wifi is available at several of the restaurants, including Caffe Lindo, but is not always working. International flights will arrive on the ground floor of the airport. Tunisian law requires all currency to be exchanged within the country. It's illegal to bring Tunisian currency with you outside the country or inside, though it can be done at most travel desks if you sign a waiver. The major western carriers who service Tunis-Carthage are Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa, from Paris, London and Frankfurt. You can exchange money at the airport or at your hotel. There are several ATMs, but some seem to struggle with international cards. On the ground floor beneath the Banque de Tunise sign and next to the cafe L'Escale there is a reliable one. Toilets are clean but have attendants that ask for change after use. If you don't bring your own, be sure to get toilet paper from the attendant. If you bring sterling with you then you will get a good exchange rate. There is a desk to the left just after customs with a reliable ATM next to it. When you change money over you will be given a printed receipt of the transaction, keep this as when you return to the airport and change your money back they will not accept it unless you provide a receipt of a transaction. Keep a few dinars when flying home though as although Duty Free is in Euro the food stalls the other side of customs take dinars.
There is a taxi rank immediately outside the terminal building. Do not respond to the touts who will approach you, but go directly to the clearly marked queue. Note that large taxis are intended for regional trips and unmetered, but will attempt to persuade you that they are deluxe. Small taxis are local for trips to Tunis city and should use their meter. Refuse to get into any taxi that offers a fixed or 'special' price. A taxi into the city center — insist on the meter — cost around 5 dinars by meter during the day as of May 2014. Check the meter before commencing your journey and it will start at 0.5 dinar. A favourite trick of the drivers is to not reset their meter and add your fare to their previous one. Some drivers may also have had their meter adjusted to charge at a faster rate. Good luck! A fare from the airport to the Centre Ville will cost no more than 5 dinar.
Alternatively, buses depart fairly regularly during the day (but not at night) and charge a fraction of the price but take much longer.
Many taxi drivers lack a GPS map unit and house signage (numbering) is barely existent. The driver will by no means necessarily be familiar with your destination and probably won't speak English. Make sure you have a map, an address (for what it's worth) and a phone number of someone at the destination. GPS in your phone is best, although the lookup on Google Maps between addresses and physical locations, for Tunis, is not really close enough (especially given the lack of signage) to locate an address.
Beware of the taxi drivers. At night some may ask up to 40 TD depending on where you are going. An unspoken rule is the first taxi driver who grabs your luggage and places it in the trunk of his car makes the contract for your transportation. It's not uncommon to be barraged with over ten taxi drivers at once as you walk outside the terminal. They can reach for your bag aggressively--not to steal it, but to make an attempt at winning your business. Some meters can be tampered with. If you don't trust the taxi's meter, then negotiate a price to where you going before you leave the front of the terminal. It may be advisable to ask for an average taxi rate from your hotel front desk before leaving.
You may also find minor taxi-driver confidence tricks occurring; where as you approach the taxi rank someone will tap you confidently on the shoulder and point you to a taxi, as if he is a dispatcher.
Most people - including taxi drivers - do not speak English. There are various hanger-ons around the taxi rank who do. They will for example once you have picked a taxi without asking move your luggage from your trolley into a taxi and help you converse with the driver - and then ask you for some change. They can be useful, for the translation, but you may well find they then try to ask for ridiculous money for the help - 20 dinar, say, which is four times the price of the taxi ride. Basically, you have to assume *everyone*, no matter what or whom or what for, except the people you yourself speak to and decide to hire, are pushing themselves on you.
Tunis Central Station is near Place de Barcelone for easy interchange onto the light metro. Trains are generally cheap and comfortable, but if you want to ride first class during peak season, do reserve your seat in advance. Trains are run by SNCFT.
Tunis is a main hub of Tunisia railway system - Tunis Railways Station when it this possible to change from north system trains (this system uses normal rail gauge) to south train network (which uses narrow gauge). The station is unique because different platforms has different track gauges.
It is not highly recommended to drive in Tunisia, due to poor quality of roads, driving habits, and poor signage. It is also more dangerous to drive at night, and outside of the city and major tourist areas.
Tunisia has over 70 bus lines, with Tunis at the hub. There are two bus stations in town, with Gare Bab el Fellah serving southern destinations and Gare Bab Saadoun serving those to the north. Buses are run by SNTRI at both stations. The relevant louage stations are beside each.
Ferries connect Tunis to a number of international destinations including Trapani, Palermo, Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno,Malta Genoa and Marseille. The main ferry terminal is at La Goulette, but check your departure terminal carefully as there are also other ports. Operators include GNV, Cotunav, Grimaldi Lines, Sncm.
There is a tram system in Tunis (it's not really a metro, as it's fully above ground). Tickets are very cheap (.48 DT for one trip) but the system is grossly overloaded during the rush hours, and indeed the rush hours are extended by this, as people simply have to let trains go by until enough people have been moved that there comes to be enough space that it is possible to board.
Be clear about this - during the rush hours, the commute to and from work, the tram *cannot* be used, because it is physically *impossible* to board. The tram is full; absolutely packed. You will either have to walk or take a taxi, or wait for the rush hours to pass. Taxis can often be impossible to flag down, too, since they're all full.
Tickets are bought from a little booth at each stop. There are two, one on each side, but usually only one is occupied. A ticket is for one trip; if you're going to make multiple trips, you cannot buy say four tickets when you board, because they are all timestamped at the moment of purchase. Towards the evening, the booths are no longer manned; instead, a staff member will be on board each tram and you buy your ticket on the tram. These staff members do not speak English (but they will speak French).
There are apparently month long tickets, but you cannot buy them at the stations. Note the stations are not marked in anyway; no name plates. You will only know which station you're at by using GPS and a phone map.
Not every stations has a matching station in the other direction. Most station do, but of a few of those, their matching station sometimes is a bit of a walk up or down the line.
Free maps of Tunis and Tunisia are available at the National Tourism Office, who also speak many languages, to the north-east of the clock tower (directly east of the main Medina gate). They are well worth the visit.
light metro is a convenient six line system run by Société des Transports de Tunis  (French/Arabic only, but including the TGM line). The interchange hub for all lines is in the centre of town at Place de la République/Place de Barcelone.The other station change with TGM is Tunis marine. Single trips cost 0,410 TD. A one month pass is 32 TD.
Taxis are also a good option if you need to go a bit farther than the metro, though cabs picking up in front of nice hotels will charge much higher rates. Prices are displayed as 3.700 for 3.7DT. Flagfall is .400. (.4 DT). Assuming they are honest, the meter is a good way to go. Only try to negotiate a price if you know what you are doing and are sure of the value of the trip. Otherwise insist on the meter being used at all times.
The TGM light rail line, starting at Tunis Marine station on Lines 1-4, connects to La Goulette (ferries), Sidi Bou Saïd, Carthage and the beaches of Marsa. Tickets cost 680 millimes each way. At Tunis Marine, be aware that there is an extreme dearth of signage. No obvious signs even say TGM, and on the maps on the trains themselves the station is marked as Tunis Nord. If you arrive at the station on the Tunis Metro, the TGM platform will be perpendicular to the metro cars and is easily accessed across the tracks. Tickets are sold at the end farthest from the metro stop. As of July 2014 the TGM line is under renovation and the line ends at Tunis Carthage. A bus service connects to the other stops. It is advisable to ask for a 'premiere' ticket or you will have to stand in second class.
Signs for station names along the TGM differ slightly from those that appear on the onboard map, but if you can see the signs from the train and they are free of graffiti it is easy to tell where you are. It is not unusual for the trains to stop and wait on the tracks after leaving Tunis Nord or upon return. This usually does not last an extraordinary amount of time, and you will likely be better off not following the example of the optimistic youths that decide to leap from the car and walk along the tracks into the city.
Many stations along along the TGM don't have full-time ticket vendors, so if you are making several trips along the line while visiting Carthage or Sidi Bou Said, you might be forced to risk traveling without a ticket. Conductors frequently get on the train to check and sell tickets. A simple answer is to buy a return to your farthest destination and then your ticket will be valid for wherever you get on and off. The safest option will be to check with the ticket vendors or buy a ticket if you can find them.
Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Tunisiens (SNCFT) is the domestic train company for long distance travel between Tunis and other cities. Visit http://www.sncft.com.tn for more details on schedules and fares. The Tunis train station is in Place Barcelone.
Societe Nationale de Transport Interurbain (SNTI) is the domestic bus line. Although schedules are more flexible and also reach more locations than by train, prices are usually similar. Visit http://www.sntri.com.tn for more on schedules and fares. There are two bus stations, North and South. The North is in the Bab Saadoun neighborhood; the South is located in Bab Alioua, south of Place Barcelone.
Otherwise, louages (shared taxis) are the most flexible of all options. The minivans with 8 passenger seats take off when they are full and therefore run on no particular schedule. Prices tend to be a little bit higher than buses, but the difference is usually negligible. The North louage station is in the parking lot of the North bus station( Gare Bab el Fellah ). The South louage station is across the street from the South bus station ( Gare Bab Saadoun ).
There is an American school in Tunis, the American Cooperative School of Tunis. It is a private, non-profit day school. If you would like to study Arabic or French while in Tunis, there are a few options, including The Language Academy [], or private tutors.
There are little stores near every hotel in Tunis, where you can buy everything you need, but it's difficult to call their prices loyal. So it's better to go shopping to other parts of the city. Aproximate 90% of presented in Tunis goods are of local origin. There are networks of state supermarkets Monoprix and General in the capital.
Most hotels include breakfast, and some include dinner. There are countless coffee shops with delicious drinks and French pastries to enjoy, as well as sandwich shops, but reasonably priced restaurants that serve good meals can be hard to find. When eating out, always make sure to ask for the bill ( l'addition ) otherwise you may be overcharged, especially in the cafes along Avenue Habib Boughiba/de France. The waiters assume you will not remember the prices of everything you ordered and are mindful that foreign tourists will often round up to leave a tip, so may inflate the total to bring it closer to an amount that will further advantage them. This is not a trick particular to Tunisia, but seems to be one too frequently practised in this part of Tunis.
A couple of French supermarket chains have a presence in Tunis. Carrefour have a few supermarkets, as do Monoprix and Magasin General. These are by Western standards small stores, and more particularly, as is common in fact in Tunis, their range of products is significant less than in the West. You will find any single given product doesn't have just one place on a shelf, but a couple; an entire wall fridge unit might be completely packed, but only with two items, one being peas, the other being say strawberries. Supply is also a bit erratic - items which are present one day, once sold out, might not be seen again, or for a long time. Product quality is somewhat poor, although the international brands are of course the same everywhere.
The fresh bread products are typically good.
Fresh meat products are not always all that fresh; fresh chicken for example is best eaten on the day of purchase, and even then it can smell a little. The range of fresh fruit and vegetables is quite limited. You do better for fruit buying from the better of the many street-side vendors or visiting the Central Market.
Prices are a bit cheaper than in the West, but not by much.
Ladies, try to bring a man out with you, and be careful about what bars you frequent, because many are frequented only by men and prostitutes, and can get a bit rowdy. Local beers are Celtia and the elusive Stella, which was never seen but exists on RateBeer. Both are lagers. Local liqueurs include Boukha ("boo-k"), usually taken straight or with coke, and thibina, which is usually taken straight with a single ice cube.
Most tourists will be interested in accommodation in either the Medina or in Ville Nouvelle. The medina includes the youth hostel and several other budget accomdations, and the high end Dar El Jed. The Ville Nouvelle offers a large number of budget and mid-range accomodation, many grouped within a few blocks of each other north of Place Barcelone. Some places expect couples to present some sort of proof of marriage in order to rent a two person room.
As of 2014 most of the budget places in Tunis are fairly horrible. Most are extremely dirty. Lights spark wildly when turned on. Water may not work. Why these hotels have been allowed to slip to such a level is a mystery. Having said that, most of the cheaper places to stay within Tunis can be fully booked. If you cannot find a place to stay in Tunis, consider the 1 hour shared taxi (about 5d) to Hammamet.
As of May 2014, most of downtown Tunis begins closing around 8:00pm and is deserted by 9:00. There is no good reason to be on the streets. The only people who still are will be rummaging through garbage or leaving bars.
Although the locals, as in all of Tunisia, are friendly and helpful once you approach them, most politely ignore foreigners. However there are a number of men, especially in the medina and along Avenue de France/ Habib Bourghiba who make their living by taking advantage of tourists. In general, and as extreme as this sounds, anyone in any area where tourists frequent who approaches you uninvited is almost certain to be a confidence trickster. Tunisian people are far too polite to casually strike up a conversation with a stranger on the street. Those who do are just after your money.
A similar problem exists with unofficial guides who hang around near tourist spots in the medina. Shoo them off if they start to launch into a spiel on the architectural wonders of this or that, or they will demand some payment for their unwanted services. Likewise, people anywhere who help you with anything you're doing are quite likely to be wholly unrelated to where-ever you are, and will definitely expect money afterwards.
Favourite ruses to bypass your defences include sidling up to you while window-shopping to discuss how Tunisian prices compare with your own country; apparently resting outside closed monuments but knowing where to find the guy who has the key (and will demand his tip); or standing guard against boys playing football on the street who you are told regularly snatch tourists' possessions. There is even a guy who pretends to be a French tourist, wears a backpack and takes photos who acts as a supporting actor for some of them. Most are middle-aged, well-dressed, well-spoken, and may actually have accurate information. However, all of them will eventually spring their trap and make outrageous demands when you are not in a good position to refuse. Save yourself the grief and just don't talk to them.
In Tunis, French is the second language and is widely spoken, but English is infrequently spoken, other than by those who need it in their daily work. If anyone whom you meet in a tourist area speaks to you in English, they are much more likely than not to be a con-man. Even if something entirely natural occurs, say you shelter someone else with your umbrella - if they then turn out to speak English, you have quite possibly just sheltered a a confidence trickster who will now attempt to take advantage of the opening to suggest coffee, a bite to eat, etc. Can you guess who will be expected to pay the bill for both of you?
The unemployment rate in Tunisia is about 15% overall, and higher for the younger men, and for some this lifestyle is their normal occupation.
You will also find such people - and not younger men, but adults - particularly in the airport, where they will be extraordinarily persistent in trying to make conversation.
But, don't allow this to give you a bad impression of Tunisian people. They are for the most part honest, warm and welcoming. They just may not speak much English and don't presume to interfere.
For Tunis itself, no immunizations are necessary. If you want to be vaccinated anyway, the only conceivable immunizations are for tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A and B. The last case of polio was in 1992. A full set of travel immunizations are available locally at a fraction (15% or so) of the price in a Western country and can be obtained from the reputable Institut Pasteur de Tunis, a Tunis branch of the Louis Pasteur Institute, which offers a walk-in clinic open during the mornings of the working week. Remember though it takes most vaccinations some weeks to become effective, so if you do take them here, they won't be functional until some time has passed.
The Institut is very busy. Arrive early (9am) for your first visit, as you need to see the doctor. He'll draw up a schedule of appointments, where typically you will attend once a week for a few weeks, as only so many immunizations can be administered at once. For your appointments, arrive about 11am, when things have quietened down a bit. On arrival you are given a ticket. When your ticket is called (there's a numeric display) you go to a counter, which gives you a bill. You then queue for another counter, where you pay. You then wait; your name will be called, and then you take your immunizations. You then wait around about twenty minutes, to make sure you have no adverse reactions. The staff are professional, the doctors speak fluent English, some of the technicians speak some English. They are very good at administering the jabs without discomfort; they do fifty to a hundred each day!
Barbershops can be found in the medina, and there are women's hair salons throughout the city. Many of the nicer hotels also have spas.
Carrefour have a number of shops in the city, which provide a modern, Western supermarket. These are concentrated in the east, by the waterfront (probably a richer part of town).vThere is also a Magasin General on the Avenue de France close to the Port de France.
This is the metropolitan train service, Métro Léger de Tunis. Tickets are less than one dinar and service is frequent, but busy during rush hour. The station is located a few hundred metres to the east of the clock tower and the raised Trans-African Highway No. 1 directly east from the main drag (Avenue Habib Bourgouiba; the one with the main Medina gate - just keep walking away from the Medina). The station is impossible to miss - it's a large building parallel to the road on the south side. Note that if you're heading out this way, there is also a national tourism office on the north-east side of the clock tower (that effectively demarcates the edge of Tunis' larger buildings before the highway), and they provide free maps and advice regarding Tunis and Tunisia.
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