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Tunisia

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Medina of Hammamet
Location
Tunisia in its region.svg
Flag
Flag of Tunisia.svg
Quick Facts
Capital Tunis
Government Republic
Currency Tunisian Dinar (TND)
Area total: 163,61 km2
water: 8,250 km2
land: 155,360 km2
Population 10,777,500 (2012 estimate)
Language Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)
Religion Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, and Jews 1%
Electricity 127-220V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code +216
Internet TLD .tn
Time Zone UTC +1

Tunisia (Arabic: تونس‎) [1], officially known as the Tunisian Republic (Arabic: الجمهورية التونسية‎), is a country in Northern Africa that has a Mediterranean Sea coastline in the very centre of Mediterranean Africa. Tunisia lies immediately to the south of Italy and Malta. Libya borders Tunisia to the south-east, whilst Algeria lies to the west.

Understand[edit]

Recent decades have clearly seen government neglect of the country. Consequently the economy is depressed, infrastructure showing signs of decay and mass tourism has largely deserted the country. This is unfortunate as Tunisia has much to offer. However, there are also signs of renewal, especially in Tunis. Expect to be adaptable and patient and you will be rewarded.

History[edit]

Independence 
20 March 1956
National holiday 
Independence Day, 20 March - a time when hotel rooms are completely booked. Plan accordingly.

Tunisia has a rich cultural history, ever since Antiquity. The Carthaginian Empire, Rome's arch enemy, was centered in Tunisia. Its capital, Carthage, is now a suburb of Tunis. Founded by Phoenician settlers from Tyre and Sidon (modern day Lebanon), Carthage was an ancient Mediterranean powerhouse. Three wars between Rome and Carthage (known as the Punic wars) were waged in the first few centuries before the birth of Christ. These culminated with the decimation of Carthage in 146 B.C. by the Roman general Scipio, who is said to have wept at its destruction.

Between the destruction of Ancient Carthage and the Arabic conquests of the 7th century, many cultures have made Tunisia their home. Carthage enjoyed a new period of prosperity under the Roman Empire until its collapse in the 5th century. Roman rule was replaced briefly by the Vandals, who made Carthage the capital of their kingdom. Carthage was then absorbed temporarily by the Byzantine Empire, until the rise of Islam in the 7th century.

After the dissipation of the Arabic Caliphates, the Ottoman Empire's Turkish Pashas ruled Tunisia. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Tunisia eventually fell under the sway of European Imperialism, as a French Protectorate, along with neighboring Algeria.

Following independence from France in 1956, President Habib Bourguiba established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation.

Bourghiba was quietly replaced in 1987 by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (Ben Ali, for short). His forced abdication was carried out under the pretext that he was unfit to carry out his duties as president, due to his ailing mental and physical state as a result of extreme old age. Nonetheless Bourghiba is still credited with the birth of the modern state of Tunisia, for which he fought his entire life.

In recent years, Tunisia has taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.

In Jan 2011, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali left the country along with his wife, after he saw widespread protests in the country also known as the Jasmine Revolution, the first event in the so-called Arab Spring. The new government was elected in Tunisia on December 2011. Protests remains ongoing in the country and Tunis still has military control points and razor wire in service, although this appears to be largely symbolic.

Tourism[edit]

The Ribat at Sousse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

There are several ways to enjoy your vacation in Tunisia, including spending your vacation on the gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, or planning a circuit of Tunisia. Numerous charter flight companies can arrange flight and hotel, many that waiver a visa to enter. There are also some agencies that have ongoing tours for groups and private travelers.

You can also easily travel independently in Tunisia using public transport. Louages are cheap and fast and safe for single women.

The south of Tunisia is very different from the north. A reputable tour guide is advisable for the south of Tunisia and visitors are advised to avoid the regions adjacent to the Algerian and Libyan borders where kidnappings have been reported.

Tourism is pretty well developed in Tunisia, although not on par with other countries like Egypt and Morocco. Hotel star ratings are not on par with European and US standards-- a 4 star hotel is the equivalent of a 3 star. Hotels in Tunisia can be very cheap reflecting the lower standard. There are still many almost 'undiscovered' parts for the adventurous traveller.

Climate[edit]

Temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south. The Tunisian Sahara is quite gentle compared with other deserts, climate-wise. Tunisia is best visited in late spring or late autumn.

Terrain[edit]

Mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara desert. Tunisia offers a fantastic and varied landscape.

Elevation extremes[edit]

lowest point 
Shatt al Gharsah -17 m
highest point 
Jebel ech Chambi 1,544 m

Regions[edit]

Map of Tunisia with regions colour-coded
Northern Tunisia
the capital Tunis, all of the north coast and mountains, and a number of very popular Mediterranean beach resorts
Central Coastal Tunisia
Sfax, Gabes, the southern beach resorts and the bus route to Libya
Saharan Tunisia
the Saharan hinterland - rocky plains, dunes, desert trekking and some major archaeological sites

Cities[edit]

  • Tunis — the laid-back capital of Tunisia with easy access to Carthage and a very authentic souk
  • Djerba — a Mediterranean island town in the south which is popular with sun-seekers
  • Gabes — large town on the east coast, mostly a rail and bus transit point
  • Kairouan — a major site for Islamic pilgrimage and carpet capital of Tunisia
  • El Kef — Byzantine and Ottoman architecture in this small town in the northwest
  • Monastir - ancient city with a history back to Phoenecian times; these days home of the main charter flight airport in the country
  • Sfax — historic town with a great old kasbah; also access to the Kerkennah Islands
  • Sousse - a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its architecture and also a popular beach resort option
  • Tozeur - gateway to several Saharan oasis villages

Other destinations[edit]

  • Carthage — Phoenician colony, biggest trade metropolis of the antique world; famously razed by the Romans; remnants now encased in a museum; site easily reached by train from Tunis.
  • Dougga — impressive ruins of a remote Roman city
  • Douz — on the edge of the Sahara, where you can hitch a camel ride.
  • El Jem — one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world.
  • Hammamet — on the coast between Tunis and Sousse.
  • Jebil National Park - a large Saharan National Park with impressive dunes and rock formations
  • Kerkouane — remnants of the sole untouched Punic settlement which is a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Matmata — desert village of cave abodes, where Star Wars's Tatooine was set
  • Metlaoui — get aboard the restored Red Lizard vintage train snaking through scenic gorges and hills.
  • Sufetula (Sbeitla) — well preserved Roman settlement in the mid-west area of Tunisia.

Get in[edit]

The remarkably well preserved Roman amphitheater at El Jem

Visa[edit]

Nationals of Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Gibraltar, Gilbert Islands, Greece, Guinea, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, South Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Monaco, Montenegro, Montserrat, Morocco, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saint Helena, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and Vatican City do not require a visa to enter and stay for up to 3 months.

A landing visa (on arrival) is available for Australians.

For New Zealand, other African and Asian countries' nationals, a visa must be applied for at the embassy of coverage.

By plane[edit]

Tunisia's main international airport for scheduled flights is Tunis-Carthage International Airport (TUN) near Tunis.

Official airport wifi requires purchase, but connection to the public "LINDO CAFE" network from a restaurant of the same name is free.

For cheap snacks and coffee/tea in place of overpriced airport fare, walk 3 minutes straight out of the airport's bottom floor (arrivals), past the fountain, through the parking lot, and you'll find a small convenience store and cafe selling items at local prices (espresso for 700 millimes). It is next to a utilitarian car wash.

You can get an internal flight to Tozeur.

Smoking is officially not allowed in the airport. You will, however, see a lot of people walking around with a lit cigarette. At the bars (at gate 14 and at gate 50) ashtrays are provided and even airport staff will be seen smoking here.

Tunisia's second airport is Habib Bourguiba, Skanes-Monastir (MIR) which is served by low cost charter flights from all over Europe. Monastir is nearer to most of the holiday destinations. Inexpensive charter flights (at least from the UK) are available through airlines such as Thomas Cook. Jet2.com [2] will also operate a service to Monastir. Other destinations with international airports include Tozeur and Djerba.

Recently, a brand new airport opened in Enfidha (NBE) to gradually replace the Monastir airport. This now offers the cheapest flights. There is a free shuttle to Hammamet.

Other Airports countrywide are serving national and international flights, and here is a list of the Tunisia's Airports: Tunis Carthage Intl Airport near Tunis (North Tunisia) - [3] Habib Bourguiba Skanes Monastir near Monastir (Central East Tunisia) - Sfax Thyna Airport near Sfax (Central East Tunisia) - Tozeur Nefta Intl Airport near Tozeur (South West Tunisia) - Gafsa Airport near Gafsa (South West Tunisia) - Tabarka November 7th 1987 near Tabarka (North West Tunisia) - Djerba International Airport in Djerba Island (South East Tunisia) - [4]

By boat[edit]

Ferry services link Tunis to Malta, Trapani and Palermo (Sicily, Italy), Naples (Italy), Genoa (Italy) and Marseille (France). Travelling boats generally leave from La Goulette port (near Tunis). Other commercial ports are also available (Rades, Gabes, Sousse, Sfax, Zarzis...)

Get around[edit]

By plane[edit]

TunisAirExpress (Previously named SevenAir) is the domestic airline branched off of TunisAir. You can fly between Tunis and Tozeur, Djerba and Gabes, as well as flights to Malta and Bizerte. French-only website, booking still not online only through agencies TunisAirExpress[5]. You can book online through some foreign agencies such as destinia.com

By car[edit]

Some Tunisian highways resembles US Interstate or the Highways of Europe with a dual carriageway: A-1 runs from Tunis south heading to Sfax (The section from Sousse to Sfax has recenly been opened June 2008), A-2 runs from Tunis north heading to Bizerte, and A-3 runs from Tunis West heading to Oued Zarga. Tunisian highways speed limit is 110 km/h. It is possible to maintain that speed on that road very easily. Once you get to Gabes the quality of the roads diminishes considerably. Although there were plans for continued road improvements, since the revolution it is unclear what the new priorities will be. The remaining Highways have single carriageways, with traffic roundabouts at major intersections, which follow the European model (those in the roundabout have the right of way). Consequently, on roads other than the A-1,2,3 it can be difficult to maintain an average speed of more than 75 km/h most of the time as the speed limit is 90 Km/h. Almost all road signs are in both Arabic and French.

Like most developing countries, road accidents are the leading cause of death and injury in Tunisia. Because of the lack of sidewalks, pedestrians walk on the roads often without regard for cars or their own safety.

People unfamiliar with driving in developing countries are best to use public transportation or hire a driver.

Driving in Tunis is further compounded by narrow streets and limited parking spots. To see the Medina of Tunis, it would be best to park some distance from the Medina, and take the light rail (called TGM) in from Marsa/Carthage, the green tramway (called Metro) downtown, or perhaps a taxi in from the nearer outskirts.

Rental Cars are fairly easy to find. The price for rentals at the airport is much higher than you you will pay for the same types of vehicles in town or away from the airport. For instance, a Renault Symbol will run you between 80-100 dinars at the airport and 30-50 dinars in town depending on the length of the rental. The is no insurance available to foreigners in Tunis except for third-party which is mandatory and included in the price of the rental. Ensure you can either obtain travel insurance in your home country which covers car rentals or ask your credit card company if they provide coverage for Tunisia. If you don't have insurance, you will be expected to pay for any damage to your vehicle. Inspect the vehicles thoroughly to ensure they have suitable tires. Rentals come with an empty gas tank and any gas remaining after your trip will not be refunded. Expect to be pulled over by the police who will inspect your car for all safety requirements such as fire extinguishers, and other mandatory items. It is the responsibility of the rental company to provide this material, so ensure it is there.

By taxi[edit]

When leaving the Tunis airport terminal you will be accosted by several men offering taxis. Also, once you approach the vehicle, others will gather around to "help you" with your luggage expecting a tip for putting your bag in the boot of the car. Ignore the touts and walk towards the line of yellow taxis and insist on the use of the meter. A taxi from the airport to the city center was TND15 by meter as of May 2014.

Private taxis are reasonably priced even for long-distance travel, just be sure to agree on the fare before you set off. Sample fares for a four-seater are €40 for Tunis-Hammamet or €50 for Monastir-Hammamet [6].

By train[edit]

Passanger connections in Tunisia:
red and purple - routes with passanger trains
black - routes with only freight trains
grey - not used routes
Interactive map

The national train company SNCFT[7] runs modern and comfortable trains from Tunis south to Sousse, Sfax and Monastir. There are three classes of service, namely Grand confort (deluxe 1st), 1st and 2nd, and all are quite adequate. Example fares from Tunis to Sousse are 12/10/6 dinars (6/5/3 Euros) in Grand/1st/2nd class. Although tickets are issued with wagon/seat numbers marked on it, that is largely ignored by locals. So if you are travelling with more people, try to get onboard quickly to find adjacent seats.

The Tunsia railway network is divided to two separate networks - northern one which uses normal track gauge and southern one which uses narrow track gauge. These two systems meet in the Tunis Railway Station which has some platforms with narrow track gauge and some with normal gauge.

A good thing to do is to buy a carte bleue (blue card). It costs around 20 dinars for a week and you can travel all around the country using the banlieue (short distance train) and grande ligne (long distance). For the long distance you will have to make a reservation and pay a small fee (1,50 dinars or so). These passes can also be bought to cover 10 or 14 days. There are rarely queues at the booking office and a little bit of French goes a long way. Trains go also to Tozeur and Gabes in the south where it is easy to access the Sahara and Ksour regions respectively. In some stations where the frequency of trains is small (e.g. Tozeur), the ticket booth will remain closed for most of the day and reopen around the time of the departure of the next train.

A railway (Called TGM) also connects Tunis northward to Carthage and Marsa. Take this light railway system to Sidi Bou Said as well. One-way light railway tickets will cost approximately 675 millimes (1 Dinar = 1,000 millimes).

Louages (shared taxis) are ubiquitous in Tunisia

By louage[edit]

Locals use louage or long-haul shared taxis where there is no train or bus. There are no timetables, but they wait in the louage station (which is generally near a train station if your destination is accessible by train) until 8 people turn up. They are nearly as cheap as the walk up train fares and operate with fixed prices so you won't get scalped. eg Douz to Gabes (120km) for 7 dinars. Be aware that while louages are very cheap, they can also be stifling hot during the summer months. This form of transport is used by Tunisian women as well as men. As a single foreign woman, I have frequently used them without any trouble. Louage departures are very frequent especially in the morning, a louage departs as soon as the seats are filled. All Louage cars are of white color, with a side stripe showing the coverage area. Louages between major cities are recognizable by their red stripe, louages within region are recognizable by their blue stripe and Louages serving rural areas are recognizable by their Yellow strips (the Rural Louage can be Yellow with blue stripes, or a van fully painted in brown color).

By bus[edit]

Long distance bus (called car)[8] is also a safe and economic way to travel between major cities such as Tunis, Nabeul, Hammamet, etc. You will generally find a station in each major city offering many departures per day (every 30 minutes between Tunis and Hammamet). Some of the bus locally called "car comfort" offer higher standards (tv, air conditioner) at cheap prices.

Talk[edit]

Arabic is the official language of Tunisia and one of the languages of commerce, the other being French — a relic of Tunisia's former status as a French protectorate until 1956. The dialect of Arabic spoken in Tunisia is called Tunsi, similar to that in neighbouring Algeria and Morocco (North African Arabic), which is nearly incomprehensible to speakers of the Gulf dialect, so don't be surprised if you don't understand locals even if you are competent in Arabic. However, all Tunisians learn standard Arabic in school, so most locals will be able to communicate in standard Arabic if needed. Almost all locals are bilingual in Arabic and French. French is the primary language of higher education, and is commonly used in administration, commerce, and the media. English is of limited use, but fine for use around tourist areas. English is becoming more widespread. Tunisians will often use what is known as code switching. This is when two or more languages are used within the same conversation, or even the same sentence. French and Tunsi are used interchangeably.

See[edit][add listing]

Byrsa Hills, some of the remains of Carthage

History and archaeology[edit]

Although Tunisia is best known today for its beach resort holidays, the country has an amazing heritage with some exceptional archaelogical remains to be explored.

Little remains of Carthage, but what does is well presented and an absolute must see for every visitor to Tunisia. This great city of the Pheonician and Punic periods dates from the 6th century BC and was the base of a hugely powerful empire spanning the entire south Mediterranean. Its most famous general was Hannibal who crossed the Alps to battle the Romans. Hannibal suffered his first significant defeat at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC, and after over 50 years of being watched closely by Rome, Carthage was attacked in the 3rd Punic War and completely destroyed. The city was redeveloped by the Romans a century later, and Carthage became the capital of the Roman province of Africa. What we see today are the remains of that era.

Both Monastir and Sousse are well known as beach resorts amongst sun-worshiping Europeans, but they are also towns with great historical heritage. Monastir has a history back to the time of Hannibal, an especially notable museum and a wonderful ribat (fortified monastery). Sousse is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its authentic medina and souk, which should not be missed.

El Kef has a splendid Byzantine kasbah rising out of the old medina with both Byzantine and Ottoman architecture evident. At El Jem you will find exceptional remains of a Roman ampitheater, yet another Tunisian UNESCO World Heritage Site.

North of the desert[edit]

In the northwest, Jugurtha's Table is a large mesa with a moon-like surface and deep crevasses and is normally accessed from the town of El Kef.

The desert[edit]

Tunisia has some of the most accessible, beautiful Saharan desert scenery. George Lucas fans will recognise the village of Matmata. The troglodyte dwellings here were used as the set for the young Luke Skywalker's home of Tatooine. The central western desert towns of Tozeur (with the film set of Mos Eisley) and Douz are surrounded by beautiful Saharan dune scenery. Since 2009 the oasis Ksar Ghilane is accessable by tarmac road.

The Ribat at Monastir

Do[edit][add listing]

Beaches[edit]

Beach resort holidays in Tunisia are extremely popular, especially with Europeans. The main resorts are on the east coast from La Goulette (close to Tunis) south to Monastir. The southern island of Djerba is an alternative. Many water sport activities are widely available or you can just relax, taking advantage of the almost relentless sunny climate.

All of Tunisia can be proud of its beaches, you just have to know where to find the "undiscovered" ones. There is a beach not far from Sousse called Chott Meriam. The beach is clean with white sand and beautiful clean sea. The best beaches of Tunisia can be found in Djerba, Ghar El-Melh, Rafrafbeach, Sidi El Mekki, Sounine, Sousse and Zarzis.

The desert[edit]

Treks into the desert are an increasingly popular part of a visit to Tunisia, and the towns of Douz and Tozeur are good starting points. Close to Tozeur is the small town of Metlaoui, and this is the starting point of a great train journey. The beautifully-restored wagons date from 1904, and the luxurious train takes you into a truly stunning desert mountain landscape.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Tunisian coins with the exception of the 5 milleme coin. From the top left, left to right, the values are: 5, 1, .500, .100, .050, .020, and .010 dinar.

The national currency is the Tunisian dinar (TND). As of April 2013, 1 USD = 1.60 TND. Typical banknotes are in the values of 5 (green), 10 (blue or brown), 20 (violet-red), 30 (orange), and 50 Dinars (green and purple). The Dinar is divided into 1000 Millemes, with typical coins being 5 Dinars (Silver with copper insert), 1 Dinar (large silver color), 500 Millemes (1/2 Dinar: smaller silver color), 100 and 50 Millemes, (large brass), 20 and 10 Millemes (smaller brass) and 5 Millemes (small aluminum). It is prohibited to bring dinars in and out of Tunisia, so you have to change your money locally.

Prices are typically marked in dinars and millemes, with a decimal point like: 5.600 or 24.000 or 0.360 sometimes with TND as a label like TND85.500. Markets typically sell items by the kilogram. So tomatoes may have a sign "480" on them which means 480 millemes per kilo. Good cheese will be marked something like 12.400 or about $10 a kilo. Most self-serve supermarkets expect you to put your purchases in supplied plastic bags and then bring them to the nearby scales where a worker will weigh them and apply a price sticker.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Tunisian cuisine is very much in the Northern African Maghreb tradition, with couscous and marqa stews (similar to the Moroccan tajine, however what Tunisians refer to as "tajines" are nothing like the Moroccan variety) forming the backbone of most meals. Distinguishing characteristics are the fiery harissa chili sauce, the heavy use of tiny olives which are abundant in the country, and tajines in Tunisia (not to be confused with their Moroccan counterparts) refer to a type of omelette-like pie prepared with a ragout of meat and/or vegetables mixed with ingredients such as herbs, legumes and even offal, then enriched with eggs and cheese and finally baked in a deep pie dish until the eggs are just set, somewhat like an Italian frittata. Lamb forms the basis of most meat dishes. Local seafood is plentiful. Not all food is over spicy and there are many local specialities to try.

A fiery plate of Harissa
  • Shorba Frik - lamb soup
  • Coucha - shoulder of lamb cooked with turmeric and cayenne pepper
  • Khobz Tabouna - (pronounce Khobz Taboona) traditional oven baked bread
  • Brik - very crispy thin pastry with a whole egg (Brik à l'oeuf), parsley and onions and perhaps, meat too e.g. minced lamb or tuna (Brik au thon). Very tasty as an inexpensive starter. Eat it very carefully with your fingers.
  • Berber Lamb - Lamb cooked with potatoes, carrots in a clay pot.
  • Merguez - small spicy sausages.
  • Salade Tunisienne - lettuce, green pepper, tomato, onions, olives, radishes all finely chopped mixed with tuna.
  • Tunisian cakes - specialities are made with dates or almonds, also Baklava. There is an almond orange cake often served for breakfast.
  • Harissa - very hot spicy chili paste (sometimes made more mild with carrots or yogurt), served with bread as a starter at almost any meal.
  • Fricasse - small fried sandwich with tuna, harissa, olives and olive oil.
  • Bambaloony - fried sweet donut-like cake served with sugar.

Regrettably, Tunisia has a very underdeveloped restaurant culture. There are the local restaurants inhabited by Tunisians serving very cheap food and the tourist restaurants. One can occasionally eat tasty couscous or "coucha" stew in some low-priced restaurants. One's best hope for good eating in Tunisia is to be invited as a guest in someone's home.

Drink[edit][add listing]

Being a progressive Muslim country, alcohol availability is restricted (but not greatly) to certain licensed (and invariably more expensive) restaurants, resort areas and Magasin General shops. Large department stores (Carrefour at Marsa/Carthage) and some supermarkets (e.g. Monoprix) sell beer and wine, and some local and imported hard liquors, except during Muslim holidays. Female travelers should be aware that, outside resort and areas of significant tourist concentration, they may find themselves with a beer in a smoky bar full of men drinking in a rather dedicated fashion. Some bars will refuse to admit women, others may ask for a passport to check nationality. Look around a bar before you decide to imbibe!

When self-catering, be sure to stock up on beer around Muslim holidays. Cafes and magasins générals may run out of beer and it can take a few days before they have enough.

  • Beer - Celtia is the popular local brand, but some places also carry imported pilsner beers. Locally brewed LowenBrau is decent, and Heineken is planning a Tunisian Brewery in 2007. Celtia "En Pression" (On Tap) is good. Celestia is a non-alcoholic beer which is also popular.
  • Wine - Most places that serve alcohol will have Tunisian wine, which is quite good. Tunisian wine always was produced by French oenologists. Most of it was exported to France until the 1970s. Wine cooperatives were left and produce 80% of the wine which is served mostly to tourists. Since the privatisation of some parts of these cooperatives the international taste of wine entered the market in Tunisia. The small companies like Domaine Atlas, St. Augustin, Ceptunes etc. have successfully established the new generation of Tunisian wine. Importation of wine is extremely difficult because of very high taxes. Some high-end hotel restaurants can make French or Italian wines miraculously appear at a price.
  • Boukha - is a Tunisian brandy made from figs.
  • Coffee - served strong in small cups. Tunisian cappuccino is also served strong in small cups. "Cafe Creme" is available in many tourist areas and may even appear in an "American Cup".
  • Tea - is generally taken after meals.
  • Mint Tea - very sweet peppermint tea that is taken at any time of the day.
  • Fehria.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are lots of fine hotels in Tunisia.

You can also rent a furnished apartment.Some private people offer their own apartments for rent especially in summer.

It is advisable to organise your accommodations online or by phone prior to your arrival.

Alternatively, many cities and towns in Tunisia have a central marketplace located in a medina (a walled-in quarter), where decent walk-up, budget accommodations can be found for around 40-50 dinars per night. Be aware that double beds are rare in Tunisia outside tourist hotels, and your room will likely contain two twin beds, even if you are traveling as a couple.

Learn[edit]

The Tunisian Desert

The Bourguiba Institute of Modern Languages [9] offers intensive summer sessions in July and August for anyone interested in learning Modern Standard Arabic or Tunisian dialect. In the 2005 summer session, there were over 500 students of all ages from throughout the world. This included students from the USA, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Norway, Croatia, Turkey, Japan, China, etc.

On the first day of class, there is a placement exam. The levels range from absolute beginner to advanced, with 15 to 25 students per class. Only Arabic is allowed in the classroom. Both used are a course book developed by Bourguiba Institute and also music videos in Arabic with the accompanying text.

The courses are daily from 8:00AM to 1:15 PM. In the afternoon there are activities and tours of the medina and museums. They also offer optional weekend excursions to sites in Tunisia. At the end of the one-month course there is both a written and oral exam.

Several students complained about the lack of cleanliness in the student dorms. Some students stayed in a hotel and then rented a beach-side apartment for the month. It's usually easier to negotiate rental prices once you are in Tunis.

Some students also expressed concern with the school's methodology, which appears to be antiquated and in need of great revision. If you have studied Arabic before, whether in your home country or in another school in the region, be prepared for a substandard continuation of your Arabic studies.

The school is in the city of Tunis. It's about a 20 minute metro ride to the beach. If you go to the summer school, be prepared for the hot temperatures.

Work[edit]

Work issues are quite sensitive in Tunisia as job offers are limited even for Tunisian nationals.

An estimated 15% of the population is unemployed and many more survive on meager jobs. And as more and more of the new generation earn degrees predominantly in business, computer science, and engineering, those industries are getting saturated as well. For a foreigner, functional knowledge of Arabic and/or French will aid you well, and your likeliest bet for finding a job will be somewhere who has needs for your national language too. While pick-up restaurant and handyman jobs are common in other countries, these positions are much less likely to present themselves in Tunisia because of local competition. Safest is to arrange for a job before arrival. For a high level job, lots of experience and excellent skills are of course required. Low level jobs are mainly in the service sector as in much of the world. Salaries in Tunisia are naturally lower than those in Western Europe or North America, due to the lower cost of living.

Foreign investors are welcome to establish projects and the government is providing facilities related authorizations for such initiatives.

Stay safe[edit]

Tunisia recently underwent a revolution. Consult your foreign office to check on current conditions before traveling to Tunisia, and do your best to steer clear of any large demonstrations that may occur while you are there.

It is apparently not considered rude for a man to stare at a woman's body which should indicate that modesty will attract less attention. Women can expect to be the target of frequent catcalls ("Gazelle" seems to be especially popular). If you travel as part of a couple, stay together as much as possible as the female traveler should not wander around on her own if she doesn't want to be pestered. The pestering usually amounts to nothing more than bizarre words and the occasional touch but it can be extremely persistent and annoying. As a woman traveller to Tunisia since 1997, I can assert that if you make it clear you wish to be alone, Tunisian men do listen. This is a Muslim country, ladies cover yourself up appropriately.

Tunisian women often wear outfits that would normally be seen on the streets of any major world city (tight jeans, slinky top), but they do so while showing traditional modesty by exposing virtually no skin. Arms are covered down to the wrists, collars go to the neck (cleavage is non-existent) and a head scarf may be worn. Western women visiting can minimize attention by selecting clothing that minimizes skin shown. V-necks are fine if another layer with a higher collar is worn underneath.


Theft of belongings, even from hotel rooms and room safes, is widely reported and the usual caveats apply - keep valuables in a secure place (e.g. supervised hotel safe deposit), do not flash too much cash, and keep wallets, purses and other desirable items where pick pockets cannot reach them. A good recommendation is only to carry enough cash for your immediate requirements and only one credit or bank card, provided you can be assured of the security of your reserves. Besides, most of the Automatic Bank-notes distributors are available and foreign credit cards are accepted. You can take cash (in equivalent Tunisian Dinar) directly from your bank account with a small extra fee (Bank transaction from €1 to €2).

Theft is also reported in the Airport. Keep your belongings under your direct supervision all the time.

Be aware that the export of Tunisian currency is forbidden and searches of wallets and purses can, and do, occur at Tunis airport. If you are found with more than about 20 - 30 Dinars, you will be invited to return land-side to change them. The problem is that this "invitation" will come after you have already been through passport control and handed in your exit card; therefore it is not practical. You will then be invited to hand some or all of your Tunisian money to the uniformed official. Arguing will get you nowhere and a request for a receipt will be met with an outright refusal. Judging from the way the money is swiftly palmed, you will have almost certainly just paid a bribe. The bars in the airport do only accept dinars or cards, so if you want to drink or eat anything after security, smuggling a few dinars is your only option (a can of coke is 3,700D, Oct 2012).

When it's time to settle the bill in a Tunisian cafe or restaurant, it's advisable to ensure that you are presented with an actual paper, itemized copy of a bill before handing over any money.

Violence against foreigners

Following the revolution, there was no increase in violence against foreigners. However, foreigners have reported feeling more insecure since the attacks on the U.S. Embassy and the American school, especially in smaller towns with higher numbers of conservative Muslims and Salafists.

Stay healthy[edit]

  • Malaria - There is NO malaria risk in Tunisia, but pack your bug spray.
  • Sun Please remember that the sun is frequently your biggest enemy, we would recommend frequent application of a high factor (30 or better) sun screen. It is usually cheaper in your local super market than at the holiday destination.
  • Be careful what and where you eat and drink (remember the ice cubes too); diarrhoea is a common complaint from uncautious travellers. The tap water in the high-end Tunis-Carthage-Marsa area seems to be safe (2006).

Vaccinations[edit]

Always check with your doctor 4-8 weeks before traveling (The 4-8 weeks is important, as some vaccinations take weeks to become effective, and with Polio you can be contagious for a while too):

  • Yellow fever is required for all travelers arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas.
  • Hepatitis A is usually recommended Two Havrix injections, given 6 months apart, provide 10 years of Hep A protection
  • Typhoid
  • Polio
  • Hepatitis B - Highly recommended if likely to have intimate contact with locals or if visiting for more than 6 months.

Respect[edit]

Tunisia is a Muslim country, and dress code is important, particularly for females. Whilst a lot of skin (even topless) is tolerated on beaches and within hotel complexes, a modest amount of exposed skin may be frowned upon outside these areas.

Be aware that the further south one travels, the more conservative Tunisia becomes. While most women wear western clothes in the Capital (which has a mix of Mediterranean, European and Arabic cultures), the south of Tunisia is practically devoid of any lingering European influence and is thus far more traditional.

Drinking alcohol is possible in Tunisia, some restaurants, all hotels and discos have bars. Big supermarkets like Carrefour, Monoprix sell alcoholic drinks and beer. Celtia is the local popular brand for beer and there are local wine brands of very high quality. But never attempt to drink in the street where drunk individuals can be arrested.

Ramadan[edit]

This information is based on experience in the first few days of the 2012 Ramadan.

At least one Tunisian tourist website says that after the revolution the 2011 ramadan was more strictly observed, and suggested that this might be even more true in 2012. For three days at the end of July, 2012, the vast majority of shops were closed during the day, although the Tunis medina was mostly open. Virtually all of the restaurants were closed. Beyond a few tourists drinking coke, not a single person was eating or drinking during the day, even at the touristy cafes at Sidi Bou Said. It was not clear if any of the tourist restaurants were even serving.

In Tunis, on the Ave Habib Bourgiba, all of the cafes had their tables put away until after iftar (the breaking of the fast) at sunset, around 19:30. After that many people were out, and you could order food at some cafes, and coffee and desserts at others. Just before the iftar, Ave Habib Bourgiba is completely devoid of life and other-wordly. At smaller cafes, like 3 Etoiles on Rue Mustapha M'Barek, you can see families and men sitting around tables full of food, waiting for sunset.

Be prepared for a somewhat unique experience if you choose visit Tunisia during ramadan. During the daylight hours, eat and drink (even water), very discretely. Buy bread and foccaccia from the street vendors in the evening for lunch the next day, or find one of the local shops that is still open to buy something to tide you over. Virtually no one drinks alcohol, and your best bet (at least in Tunis) might be the Hotel Africa.

Contact[edit]

Telephone[edit]

Public telephones are available in all towns and cities and in most villages under either the name of Publitel or Taxiphone - in cities simply look around - there is at least one on every street. International calls tend to be quite expensive (DT 1,000/minute to call anywhere in the EU). There are two mobile GSM operators, private Tunisiana [10] and state-owned Tunisie Telecom[11], both offering wide mobile coverage (including some oasis in the Sahara). In May, 2010, a third operator, Orange started commercial service with GSM and 3G (UMTS/HSPA) networks. Coverage is not wide, but roaming with Tunisie Telecom available. Rates tend to be quite low for domestic calls, but very high for international calls (around DT 1,500/minute). Ask for a carte prépayée for a prepaid SIM card.

Internet[edit]

Public internet access is available in many cities and towns, usually using the Publinet logo. Since home internet access is quite expensive in Tunisia, many locals will use these, so they are very widespread, especially in the non-touristic areas of cities. Look for a large purple sign with the Publinet logo. Access is usually 0.8DT/hour, and speeds tend to be quite low (512kbps is the norm in Sousse and 2048 in Tunis). Note that FTP and peer-to-peer access is not available anywhere in Tunisia, and access to certain web sites, particularly those that engage Tunisian political issues, is restricted by the government.

Post[edit]

La Poste Tunisienne [12]is quite efficient and fast. Post restante is offered in certain (bigger) offices. A stamp for international letters costs DT 0,600.

Rapide Post is the Poste's service for sending mail and packages quickly. Once a Rapide Post package enters the US it is handled by FedEx. It is the best and most secure way to send things in Tunisia.

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