Difference between revisions of "Sousse"
Revision as of 14:52, 10 November 2009
Sousse (سوسة Susa) is in Tunisia.
Sousse is one of the older cities in Tunisia possessing an authentic medina, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a popular tourist destination, particularly with Russian, Serbs, Croats, British, German and East European people. Located on the coast it has good beaches and a clear turquoise sea.
The most convenient airport is Monastir which is to the south on the coast, 20 minutes away and frequently used by holiday charter flights; however Tunis is still easily accessible with numerous train and shared taxi options.
Highway A1 connects Sousse with Tunis. A toll applies for using the highway. Additionally, Sousse is crossed by National Road 1 (RN1), connecting the city with the south of the country, and Libya. Roads are in very good condition. Additionally, a car ferry connects Sousse with Trapani in Italy once a week i the summer months. Please note that driving in Tunisia can be a very dangerous and harrowing experience, with drivers rarely observing even basic rules of the road, accidents being extremely frequent.
Buses (car) connect the city with most other parts of Tunisia. Additionally, there is a louage (shared-taxi) service covering the entire country. The far bus station (Gare Routiere) is located in some distance to the west of the Medina at the Souk El Ahad ("Camel Market") - the City bus station is located next to the Medina in the town center). Prices are slightly lower than those of second class train tickets, but many buses do not have air conditioning.
Car ferries and express boats connect Sousse with Trapani (only in the summer months, once a week for cars and passengers) and Mazara del Vallo via Pantelleria 3 times a week, only for passengers. It takes up to 7-8 hours to Trapani and 5 hours to Mazara del Vallo. Private boats and yachts can use the marina at Port El Kantaoui (a resort about 12 km north of Sousse).
Taxis have a bad reputation and the advice is to agree a price before getting in and ensure that the price is not 'per person'. They do have meters, but the drivers are often reluctant to use them; if you can persuade them ensure it is reset to 0,310 dinar at the start of your journey. Between 9 PM and 5 AM rates are 0,510 dinar/km. However, many drivers have altered their meters, and use "special rates" for tourists. A typical daytime fare between Sousse and Kantaoui, with a proper meter, is 4,100 dinar, but, in most cases, with the meter, the fare will be about 7 dinar. You can, however, agree to a fare of 5-6 dinar before getting in the taxi. Taxis are yellow, and have a taxi license sticker on the windshield.
Shared taxis (Collection taxis, Louages) are large cars or minibuses/people carriers which start their journey when they are full. Well used by the locals, expect to pay 10% of the price of a taxi. Shared taxis can take you further than regular taxis, connecting the city with most bigger towns in Tunisia. Shared taxis for destinations in the same or a closely adjacent city (eg. Hergla, Chott Mariem) are also yellow with a blue stripe on the middle of the taxi. Shared taxis between cities (far connections) are white with a red stripe. In Sousse, there are also white taxis with red, black, blue and yellow stripes serving destinations in the greater Sousse area (eg. Akouda, Hammam-Sousse, Kantaoui, Chott Mariem).
Tuk-Tuk's and Mini-trains can get you a fun ride to Port El Kantaoui, which is about 12 km away. They are open, shared transports and start their journey when they're full (or almost). Expect to pay 2 dinars per journey at the first and 2,5 at the latter. Tuk-tuks are bright purple.
Horse-drawn carriages provide another option for a fun ride to Port El Kantaoui at no more than double the price of a taxi (if you bargain).
All of Sousse's sights are located within the labyrinthine medina in the heart of the city.
The property centers on a open courtyard from which access to all the rooms can be gained, including bedrooms for the first and second wife and, in turn, to the children's rooms.
All are delightfully fully furnished, with some curtains dating back 200 years, and with German clocks imported from the 1800's.
The house is complete with a tower, orginally used to watch the stars for the onset of Ramadan, from which views over Sousse can be gained.
Whilst not as impressive or extensive as the Ribat in Monastir this fortified holy site is a worthwhile visit and served as home to a branch of Islamic warriors very similar in nature and creed as the Hospitaller Knights that lived in Rhodes. Climbing to the top of the watch tower affords you fantastic views over the Medina.
Don't expect to have language issues as merchants speak almost anything common (French, English, Spanish, German...) - you can mix all languages if you want to :-)
Everything is pretty cheap. When bargaining, establish (for you) the price you are willing to pay and drop the price that the merchant asks for half. Negotiate from there, act a little (as they do too) and have fun.
Don't waste your and their time if you don't intend to buy anything. Say nicely and with a smile that you are not interested or that you don't have any money left. However don't feel obliged to buy if you can't agree a price.
Don't keep thinking in the price after you buy something. Think on the good deal that you have made and the price that you would've paid in your home country.
Two people can have a nice meal for around 10 dinars or less (depends on the place), but prices are generally low. For this you don't have to negotiate prices.
Drinking tap water is generally not harmful - some people and almost all tourists prefer, though, to use the bottled water that you can find everywhere (very cheap, for around 0,200-0,400 TND for 1/2 liter, 0,300-0,650 for 1.5 liter). Non-carbonated (non-sparkling) water is the most popular, and is called "mineral water". Carbonated water is available as well, but you must specifically ask for water with gas (eau avec gaz) or Garci (the most popular brand).
Expect to find a Coke for around 0,800 to 1,5 TND (depends if in a supermarket or hotel).
The favorite beverage of the locals is tea, with many tea based specialties being available at the many cafes and restaurants around town. A favorite amongst locals is the au menthe (tea with mint leaves and sugar) and the aux ammandes (tea with crushed almonds and almond essence). Most locals will drink it while smoking from the chicha (the local name for a hookah). Expect to be offered tea while buying things of relatively high value (over 60-70 dinar) from shops in the souk.
Being a city in a Muslim country, alcohol may be rather hard to find and quite expensive, because of little demand. Some cafes and stores will sell wine and beer, since many locals also drink these beverages. Expect to pay 2-3 dinar for a 0.3 bottle of local beer (invariably Celtia brand), and 2-12 dinar for a bottle of local wine in a store (double in a bar). Hard alcohol is very hard to find and extremely expensive (more expensive than even in the Nordic Countries), since most locals avoid it. Your best bets are hotel bars (3-6 dinar for 50 ml of vodka or gin) and Magasin General supermarkets (state owned stores, the only ones authorized to sell hard liquor - one is located on 7 November avenue, near the Sousse Palace hotel). A bottle of gin or whiskey is about 80,000-120,000 dinar. No alcohol is sold on Fridays.
Don't compare the category directly to european hotels. Expect to take a star (or even two) from these hotels. 4/5 star hotels are recommended. You can book a hotel in Sousse online. 
There's no danger on walking alone at any time. Most streets are very busy till late night. Respect the locals and you will be respected. Crime is nearly non-existent, even if some of the neighborhoods of the city may look shabby or feel dangerous.
Expect some hassle in the souk (medina) and this is most normal. Merchants always try to show their goods/shops and see what you like. You have to get into the spirit to enjoy, always be nice and have a smile on your face. Even if sometimes annoying, this is absolutely not dangerous.
Women may want to avoid the red light area in the north west of the medina, reached through two overlapping walls which screen that street from the rest of the medina. Single women walking alone may be stared at, but, again, this is not dangerous, but rather a curiosity of some local men.