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Tunisia

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AVENUE HABIB BOURGUIBA 31 -Carthage CoastTunis

Tunisia (Arabic: ????? T?nis), officially the Republic of Tunisia (Arabic: ????????? ????????? al-Jumh?riyyah at-T?nisiyyah), is a country in North Africa at the Mediterranean Sea. The turmoil of the Arab Spring began in Tunisia in 2010, and the country is today an island of stability in a chaotic region.

Regions

Cities

  • Tunis — the laid-back capital of Tunisia with easy access to Carthage and a very authentic souk
  • Gabes — large town on the east coast, mostly a rail and bus transit point
  • Kairouan — a major site for Islamic pilgrimage
  • El Kef — Byzantine and Ottoman architecture in this small town in the northwest
  • Monastir - ancient city with a history back to Phoenician times; these days it is 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 a popular beach resort *Douz - the "Gate of the Desert", a Saharan city known for its date tree plantation and Saharan tourism
  • Tozeur - Gateway to several mountain oasis villages

Other destinations

  • 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
  • Djerba — a Mediterranean island in the south which is popular with sun-seekers
  • Dougga — impressive ruins of a remote Roman city
  • El Jem — one of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world
  • 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
  • Ksar Ghilane — on the edge of the sand desert, the saharan oasis known for its hot spring and old roman fort
  • Matmata — berber 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) — a fairly well preserved Roman settlement in the mid-west area of Tunisia

Understand

History

Tunisia has a rich cultural history, ever since antiquity. The Carthaginian Empire, Rome's arch enemy, was centred 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 neighbouring Algeria.

Following independence from France 20 March 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. His forced resignation 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. Ben Ali took a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.

However, this changed in late 2010. Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor set himself on fire in protest of the confiscation of his wares and police harassment. This became the catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution, as well as the Arab Spring. After massive street protests, Ben Ali was forced out of power in January 2011. Since then, Tunisia has taken the path towards democratization of both political and civil life.

Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration.

Tourism

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. 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 travellers.

Tourism is pretty well-developed in Tunisia. Hotel star ratings are not at par with European and US standards - a 4-star Tunisian hotel is the equivalent of a 3-star hotel elsewhere.

Climate

Temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south.

Terrain

Mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara desert.

Public holidays

  • Independence Day, 20th March - a time when hotel rooms are completely booked. Plan accordingly.

Get in

Visa

Nationals of Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guinea, Honduras, 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, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, 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.

Nationals of Canada do not require a visa to enter and stay for up to 4 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

Tunisair is the national airline of Tunisia.

Tunisia's main international airport for scheduled flights is Tunis-Carthage International Airport (IATA: TUN) near Tunis. From the airport, you can catch a taxi to the centre of Tunis (beware, meters may be rigged). They are best hailed from the 2nd floor departure hall to avoid getting swindled and should cost no more than DT4 to downtown Tunis (Avenue Habib Bourguiba area) during the daytime, and no more than DT7, 21:00-05:00 (during which meter rates are 150% of daytime rates).

Alternatively, take bus #635 or #35 to Ave Habib Bourguiba for DT0.470. The bus comes roughly every half-hour and stops in front of the terminal.

The official airport Wi-Fi requires payment, 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 DT0.700). It is next to a utilitarian car wash.

Tunisia's second airport is Habib Bourguiba, Skanes-Monastir (IATA: 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 operates a service to Monastir. Other destinations with international airports include Tozeur and Djerba.

Other airports countrywide serve national and international flights, and here is a list of Tunisia's Airports:

  • Tunis Carthage Intl Airport near Tunis (North Tunisia) -
  • 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) -

By boat

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, GabesSousseSfax, Zarzis)

Get around

By plane

Tunisair express 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 Napoli. French-only website, booking is available online or through agencies Tunisair Express.

By car

Tunisian highways resembles US Interstate or the highways of Europe with a dual carriageway: A-1 runs from Tunis south heading to Sfax, A-4 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. The routes shown on some maps have a planned extension to Gabes then Ras Jedir (Libya Frontiers) in the South as of 2011-2014 and to Ghardimaou (Algerian Frontiers) in the West, but several years later. The remaining Highways have single carriageways, with traffic round-abouts at major intersections, which follow the European model (those in the roundabout have the right of way). Consequently, on roads other than the A-1,4,3 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 Arabic and French.

Like most developing countries, road accidents are the leading cause of death and injury in Tunisia. Tunisians are aggressive, poorly skilled and discourteous drivers. They are unpredictable in their driving habits, jumping traffic lights, seldom signaling when changing lanes, often ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, driving at very high rates of speed regardless of the quality of the roads or condition of their vehicles, and stopping at almost any location even though it may block other cars or potentially cause an accident. Because of the lack of sidewalks, pedestrians walk on the roads often without regard for cars or their own safety. Sadly, Tunisians seldom secure their children in appropriate car seats and these tiny passengers often bear the brunt of most accidents.

Although police are visible at many major intersections, they seldom enforce traffic rules or stop bad drivers unless its to solicit bribes.

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, but somewhat expensive, at DT100 or so a day, for a medium sized car such as a four door Renault Clio.

By taxi

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. When taking the taxi within bigger towns such as Tunis, there are meters installed. Make sure it is started when you leave and in the corresponding mode (night, day, etc). A green light indicates that the taxi is already taken, a red that it is free.

By train

The national train company SNCFT runs modern and comfortable trains from Tunis south to SousseSfax 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 DT12/10/6 (€6/5/3) 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.

A good thing to do is to buy a carte bleue (blue card). It costs around DT20 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 (DT1,50 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 light 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 DT0.675.

By louage

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. The wait is never too long in major cities, most of the time less than half an hour. They are nearly as cheap as the walk up train fares and operate with fixed prices so you won't get scalped. e.g. 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 (although the windows are left open during the ride and that helps!) and tourists may be hassled, if only rarely - most locals will keep to themselves. Furthermore, louages have the reputation to drive at a fast pace, and to be less safe than other transportation, so be aware of that. Louage departures are very frequent, a louage departs as soon as the seats are filled. It is acceptable to pay for an empty seat to leave earlier. 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

Long distance bus (called car)[1] is also a safe and economic way to travel between major cities such as TunisNabeulHammamet, 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. Hours can be found online.

Talk

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, similar to that in neighbouring Algeria and Morocco, is Maghrebi 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. 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 Arabic are used interchangeably.

See

History and archaeology

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

Little remains of Carthage, but what does is relatively well presented compared to the rest of the ruins in 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.

Dougga and Kerkouane are two other must see UNESCO World Heritage sites that have amazingly well preserved ruins, but are sadly less informative with little to no signboards.

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 amphitheater, yet another Tunisian UNESCO World Heritage Site.

North of the desert

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

The desert

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 accessible by tarmac road.

Do

Beaches

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 Kelilbia, Djerba, Ghar El-Melh, Rafrafbeach, Sidi El Mekki, Sounine, Sousse and Zarzis.

A few tour organizations organize day trips from Tunis to beaches in Bizerte and around the area for a price of about DT25 per person, with a meal included. These events can be found mainly on Facebook.

The desert

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. Agencies organizing such treks include Libre Espace Voyage and Au Coeur du Desert.

Buy

Money

The national currency is the Tunisian dinar, denoted by the symbol "?????" or "DT" (ISO code: TND).
Typical banknotes circulate in denominations of DT5 (green), DT10 (blue or brown), DT20 (violet-red), DT30 (orange) and DT50 (green and purple).

The dinar is divided into 1000 millemes, with typical coins being DT5 (Silver with copper insert), one dinar (large and silver in colour), 500 millemes (smaller, silver colour), 100 and 50 millemes, (large brass), 20 and 10 millemes (smaller brass) and 5 millemes (small aluminium). 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 DT as a label like DT85.500. 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 DT12.400 or about US$7 a kilo. Most self-serve supermarkets expect you to put your purchases in the flimsy plastic bags they provide and then bring them to the nearby scales where a worker will weigh them and apply a price sticker.

Eat

See also: North African cuisine

Tunisian cuisine has similarities with the Middle Eastern cuisine, and mainly builds on the Northern African Maghreb tradition, with couscous and marqa stews (similar to the Moroccan tajine) 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 the Tunisian tajine which, unlike the Moroccan dish of the same name, refers to a type of omelette-like pie prepared with a ragout of meat and/or vegetables mixed with herbs, legumes and even offal, enriched with eggs and cheese and 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 and local seafood is plentiful. Pork and pork products are not widely available but can be found in some supermarkets and in some hotels in tourist areas.

  • Harissa: very hot spicy chili paste (sometimes made more mild with carrots or yogurt), served with bread and olive oil as a starter at almost any meal.
  • Shorba Frik: lamb soup
  • Coucha: shoulder of lamb cooked with turmeric and cayenne pepper
  • Khobz Tabouna (pronounce Khobz Taboona): traditional oven baked bread
  • Brik (pronounce Breek): very crispy thin pastry with a whole egg (Brik à l'œuf), parsley and onions and sometimes meat like 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 mixed with tuna.
  • Salade méchouia: puréed grilled vegetable salad seasoned (often with harissa) and served with olive oil and sometimes tuna.
  • Fricassé: small fried sandwich with tuna, harissa, olives and olive oil.
  • Tunisian cakes: sweets related to Baklava.
  • Bambaloni: fried sweet donut-like cake served with sugar.
  • Tunisian "fast food": sandwiches, makloubs (folded pizzas), "libanais"...

Regrettably, Tunisia has a very underdeveloped restaurant culture, and most food prepared in restaurants, outside of Tunisian homes or souks is disappointingly bland and carelessly presented. These characteristics tend to apply across the price scale, though 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 or eat at a food stall in a souk.

Drink

Being a progressive Muslim country, alcohol availability is restricted (but not greatly) to certain licensed (and invariably more expensive) restaurants, resort areas and Magasin Général 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!

  • Beer: Celtia is the popular local brand, but some places also carry imported pilsner beers. Locally brewed Löwenbräu is decent, and Heineken has entered in the Tunisian market 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 till 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 spirit made from the distillation of figs.
  • Coffee: served strong in small cups. Tunisian cappuccino is also served strong in small cups. "Café crème" is available in many tourist areas and may even appear in an "American Cup". Local favorites include the capucin (espresso macchiato) and the direct (latte).
  • Tea: is generally taken after meals. Sometimes served with pine nuts floating in the tea.
  • Mint Tea: very sweet peppermint tea that is taken at any time of the day.

Sleep

There are lots of fine hotels in Tunisia. Many smaller hotels can be found in major cities, tucked into most roads.

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. Other than pricier hotels, most accommodations don't seem to have a website. French would be handy when booking accommodations.

Learn

  • The Bourguiba Institute of Modern Languages, Av. de la liberté, 47 (The school is in the city of Tunis. It's about a 20 minute metro ride to the beach), ? +216 7183 2418, +216 7183 2923, fax: +216 7183 3684. 8:00AM to 1:15 PM. 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 includes students from the USA, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Norway, Croatia, Turkey, Japan, China. 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.

Work

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.

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

Stay safe

Violence

Tunisia recently underwent a revolution and is currently in a contentious transitional period. While large-scale violence is not occurring, demonstrations do still happen from time to time, and are sometimes violent or broken up brutally. So 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.

Be aware that as of 2015, Islamist terrorists have been targeting tourists in Tunisia. In March 24 people were killed at the Bardo Museum in Tunis and in June a terrorist shot dead 39 tourists at a beach and a hotel in Sousse. The UK government has recommended that its citizens leave Tunisia and do not visit for anything other than essential travel.

Female travelers

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 traveller 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.

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.

Note that in most towns, there are outdoor cafes around squares and on the streets, but they are only for men, even when accompanied by men, women are not welcome. Prices are much cheaper in these cafes than mixed gender cafes and tearooms found in Tunis.

Money and scams

Travellers report problems being pestered either to buy something or for other purposes. Persistence is a major complaint. Some say that a refusal often results in a bad reaction, "being hissed at" is one example, but those who have been advised to refuse politely with a smile rarely complain. "Non, Merci" is a very good response, with a smile. This seems to be borne out by the reports of sole female travellers who you would expect to receive the most attention, but who often report the least problems (from an admittedly small sample), perhaps because they are more cautious than accompanied females. It certainly seems to be the case that sole female sea bathers attract a good deal of unwelcome attention (even molestation) until a male friend arrives.

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 dinars) directly from your bank account with a small extra fee (bank transaction from €1 to €2).

Theft is also reported at airports. Keep your belongings under your direct supervision all the time.

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, itemised copy of a bill before handing over any money. Frequently, your waiter will claim to have calculated your total amount due in their heads and this will always be more than you actually owe. Also, check prices on menus before ordering. Some establishments will claim to have no menus, they usually have wall mounted menus. Tunisian workers are extremely low paid (£300 per month approx) and will frequently try and take advantage of tourists without their wits around them.

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 DT20 - 30, you will be invited to return landside 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 (which in any case cannot be spent in the duty free shops) 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.

Stay healthy

  • Malaria - There is not much of a malaria risk in Tunisia, but pack your bug spray.
  • Sunburn - 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); diarrhea is a common complaint from incautious travellers. The tap water in the high-end Tunis-Carthage-Marsa area seems to be safe (2006).

Vaccinations

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

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 more conservative and far more traditional.

Ramadan


At least one Tunisian tourist website says that after the revolution the 2011 ramadan was more strictly observed, and the same for the following years. 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.

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.

At nigth though, the medina comes alive - huge crowds are out and throng the street, and is definitely something to experience! Shops and supermarkets are often open till midnight.

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.

Connect

Telephone

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 three mobile GSM operators, private Tunisiana, private Orange, Tunisia state-owned Tunisie Telecom all offering wide mobile coverage (including some oasis in the Sahara). 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. Orange in July 2016 was offering 2 for 1 packs (30 mins + 500mb for a month for DT2.5) and free SIM cards for tourists entering in Tunis airport.

Emergency Call

  • 197 Police emergency number - general emergency
  • 198 Health emergency number - Ambulance SAMU
  • 1200 Telephone information

Internet

Public internet access is available in many cities and towns, usually using the Publinet logo. Look for a large purple sign with the Publinet logo. Access is usually 0.8DT/hour, and speeds tend to be quite low (1024 kbit/s is the norm in Sousse and 4096 in Tunis). Home internet (ADSL) is not as expensive as it used to be, you can have 1 year ADSL of 4096 kbps speed, for just DT400 per year. You can also have 3G internet access through any cell phone carriers (Tunisie Telecom, Orange Tunisia or Tunisiana),FTP and peer-to-peer access is available anywhere in Tunisia, there is no access restriction by the government anymore. USB keys for internet are rather popular and can be found for varying periods, even for short stays.

Post

La Poste Tunisienne 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.


Exercise a high degree of caution; see also regional advisories.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Mount Chaambi National Park and Tunisia’s Greater South (see Advisory)

There is an increased threat of kidnapping and terrorism in the area of the Mount Chaambi National Park. Military operations against suspected terrorists have been ongoing in the regions of Kef, Jendouba and Kasserine, including Mount Chaambi, since the end of April 2013. The use of improvised explosive device has been reported in these areas.

Exercise a high degree of caution when travelling the Goubellat-Dougga region in the governorate of Beja.

You must inform the authorities if you plan to travel overland through the Sahara, and give a copy of your itinerary, including your point of departure, to the National Guard Post at Médenine. Such travel should be undertaken in a group accompanied by an experienced tour guide, a car equipped with features such as a global positioning system and adequate supplies. Due to the intense heat, travel in the Sahara during the months of July and August is not recommended.

Exercise a high degree of caution, regularly review your security practices and remain alert to the changing situation. 

Demonstrations

Tunisia is facing an increased risk of potentially violent demonstrations. Public order is regularly disrupted for various reasons, including political, social and economic tensions. These disruptions take the form of public protests, labour strikes, roadblocks and other disturbances that on many occasions have deteriorated into violent clashes between members of extremist movements, the police and/or civil society demonstrators, resulting in considerable property damage, injuries and deaths. There have been reports of members of extremist movements harassing foreigners.

Exercise a high degree of caution, regularly review your security practices and remain alert to the changing situation, follow the advice of local authorities, avoid all confrontations, public gatherings and areas where unrest or other demonstrations could occur, since the situation could deteriorate suddenly.

Increased threat of attacks and kidnappings

In 2013, the French military assisted the Malian government in efforts to repel armed rebels. Terrorist groups in the region declared their intention to increase attacks and kidnappings targeting Westerners. While the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali has been supporting the transitional authorities in stabilizing the region since July 2013, citizens of countries supporting the intervention are still at particular risk, but all travellers should exercise increased vigilance in the region.

Terrorism and kidnappings

There is a general threat of terrorism and kidnapping in Tunisia. Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times.

In the past year, a number of suspected terrorists and arms dealers have been captured in various regions of the country, indicating that extremist elements are present and that the instability in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East continues to pose a general threat to the security of foreigners, religious sites, foreign institutions and tourist facilities. A suicide bomber detonated himself on a beach near a hotel strip in Sousse on October 30, 2013. The same day, an attack was foiled at a popular tourist attraction in Monastir. These events did not result in civilian casualties.

Given the threat of terrorism and kidnappings, exercise increased caution, including near tourist facilities, and particularly in the Greater South (south of the towns of Tozeur and Gabes), including Djerba, in areas near the border with Libya and Algeria, the Mount Chaambi National Park including the regions of Le Kef, Jendouba and Beja (see regional advisory). Regularly review your security practices and remain alert to the changing situation.

Crime

Reports of petty crime, including theft, pickpocketing, purse snatching and scams, are much more frequent since the revolution. Watch out for pickpockets in public places and tourist areas. Ensure personal belongings are secure and carry photocopies of identification documents and your passport at all times. Store originals in a safe place.

Women’s safety

Women travelling alone may be subject to certain forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Please consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Guide to Safe and Successful Travel for safe travel advice specifically for women.

Fraud

Cases of young Tunisian men pursuing marriage with older Canadian women for financial gain or in order to gain entry to Canada have been reported in coastal resorts. See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

Borders

Carefully plan any travel in the southern regions of Tunisia and along the Libyan and Algerian borders, as regional tensions increase the risk of terrorism or exposure to other disturbances.

Remain vigilant because of the risk of crime, political demonstrations and road blocks in these regions, which have led to confrontations.

While the borders with Algeria and Libya are open, they may close on short notice. Consult with local authorities for the latest security information. We strongly encourage you to register through the Registration of Canadians Abroad service, monitor local news reports, stay well informed and consult the Travel Advice for these two countries prior to departure.

Transportation

Driving can be dangerous, particularly after dark. Traffic signs and signals are routinely ignored. Be especially cautious as cars rarely stop at pedestrian crosswalks or stoplights. Motorists sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road and ignore priority lanes. Bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles often operate without sufficient lights and reflectors, and regularly dart in and out of traffic. Pedestrians compound the problem by dodging traffic and ignoring vehicles. Police officers frequently stop cars for inspection, especially rental cars.

Taxis are available but may be scarce in major cities at peak hours.

Buses are crowded.

Rail service is generally safe, fast and efficient.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Soccer games

Avoid the crowds that can form at soccer matches as such events have sometimes led to incidents of violence.

General safety information

Despite the ongoing political transition, the security situation remains fragile. There has been a notable increase in the number of violent acts committed by extremists since the beginning of the year. Although these excesses are widely condemned by the authorities, enforcing the law does not always seem possible, which makes it difficult at times to restore order. 

You should be accompanied by a guide on your travels or use a guide to help plan your travel.

A state of emergency remains in effect in Tunisia and travelers should be aware that local curfews could be imposed at any time in any region.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers’ diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in North Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in North Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in North Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, Rift Valley fever, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in North Africa, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are generally good in major centres, but are usually very limited or unavailable in rural areas. Physicians and hospitals often require a deposit or upfront cash payment for medical care. Some clinics may accept private insurance coverage if they have a guarantee of payment from the insurance provider.

Medical evacuation services are available. A decompression chamber is available at the naval base in Bizerte (60 km from Tunis).

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Laws

Possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs may result in jail sentences and heavy fines.

Religious proselytizing is not permitted.

Homosexual activity is illegal.

Both valid Canadian driver’s licences and international driving permits are accepted in Tunisia.

Customs

Strict regulations may be enforced on the temporary import and export of firearms, religious material, antiquities, medications and business equipment. Contact the Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Culture

The majority of the population is Muslim. Dress conservatively and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.

Taking photographs of military installations, government buildings and embassies is strongly discouraged. Ask permission before photographing individuals.

Dual citizens

Tunisian authorities expect Canadians with Tunisian citizenship to enter Tunisia on their Tunisian passports. If Canadians with Tunisian citizenship are able to enter on a Canadian passport, it is likely that they will be required to obtain a Tunisian passport before exiting the country. Dual citizens have been questioned and detained. Consular access may be limited for dual citizens.

A child born of a Tunisian mother or father may be considered a Tunisian national by Tunisian authorities, regardless of the place of birth or whether the child has acquired citizenship of another country.

The Department publishes a booklet entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.

Money

The currency is the Tunisian dinar (TND).

Automated banking machines are widely available in tourist areas and can be found in all major centres. Credit cards are accepted at many establishments in urban and tourist areas. Banks and other establishments could refuse to cash traveller’s cheques if they are not accompanied by original proof of purchase (the purchase contract).

You must declare all foreign currency upon arrival in Tunisia and retain this declaration. Tourists are expected to make foreign exchange transactions at authorized banks or dealers and to retain receipts for dinars obtained. Prior to departure from Tunisia, you may convert a maximum of 3,000 TND into another currency, but must provide proof of purchase (customs declaration or proof of purchase abroad). Tunisian law prohibits the import and export of Tunisian dinars.

Climate

The Sahara can be very hot, especially in the summer, with temperatures well above 40°C. Dust storms and sand storms frequently occur.

Although Tunisia is not in a high-risk earthquake zone, low seismic activity can occasionally occur. In winter, roads can be blocked by downpours.

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