Thursday, December 8, 2022
Tunisia Travel Guide - Travel S Helper

Tunisia

travel guide

Tunisia, formally the Tunisian Republic, is Africa’s northernmost country, spanning 165,000 square kilometers (64,000 square miles). Cape Angela, its northernmost point, is the northernmost point on the African continent. It is bounded to the west by Algeria, to the southeast by Libya, and to the north and east by the Mediterranean Sea. In 2014, the population of Tunisia was projected to be little under 11 million people. Tunisia gets its name from its capital city, Tunis, which is located on the country’s northeast coast.

Geographically, Tunisia includes the eastern end of the Atlas Mountains as well as the northernmost parts of the Sahara Desert. The rest of the country’s terrain is mostly fertile. Its 1,300-kilometer (810-mile) coastline contains the African confluence of the western and eastern portions of the Mediterranean Basin, as well as the African mainland’s second and third closest points to Europe after Gibraltar, through the Sicilian Strait and the Sardinian Channel.

Tunisia is a democratic country with a unitary semi-presidential system. It is regarded as the Arab World’s sole true democracy. It has a high index of human development. It has an association agreement with the European Union; it is a member of La Francophonie, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Arab Maghreb Union, the Arab League, the OIC, the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Group of 77; and it has been designated as a major non-NATO ally by the United States. Tunisia is also a member of the United Nations and a signatory to the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute. Economic collaboration, privatization, and industrial modernisation have established close ties with Europe, particularly with France and Italy.

Tunisia was largely populated by Berbers in ancient times. In the 12th century BC, Phoenician colonists arrived and built Carthage. Carthage, a key commercial and military competitor of the Roman Republic, was conquered by the Romans in 146 BC. The Romans, who occupied Tunisia for the majority of the following eight centuries, brought Christianity and left architectural monuments such as the El Djemamphitheater. Following repeated efforts beginning in 647, the Arabs invaded Tunisia in 697, followed by the Ottomans between 1534 and 1574. For almost three hundred years, the Ottomans ruled the world. Tunisia was conquered by the French in 1881. Tunisia proclaimed independence with Habib Bourguiba in 1957 and established the Tunisian Republic. The Tunisian Revolution of 2011 culminated in the removal of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was thereafter replaced by legislative elections. On October 26, 2014, the country voted for a new parliament, and on November 23, 2014, it voted for a new president.

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Tunisia - Info Card

Population

11,708,370

Currency

Tunisian dinar (TND)

Time zone

UTC+1 (CET)

Area

163,610 km2 (63,170 sq mi)

Calling code

+216

Official language

Arabic - French

Tunisia | Introduction

If you want to travel to Southern Africa, South Africa is a good place to start. Although you can travel to any country in Southern Africa, most flights will pass through South Africa. South Africa is also a good place to get used to travelling in the region (although some will say Namibia is better for this). Of course, South Africa is not only a starting point, but also an excellent destination rich in culture, wildlife and history.

Foreigners’ opinions of South Africa are shaped by the same stereotypes as the rest of Africa. Contrary to popular belief, South Africa is not so poor as to be devastating with an unstable government. Although the rural part of South Africa remains one of the poorest and least developed regions in the world, and township poverty can be appalling, progress is being made. The process of recovery from apartheid, which lasted nearly 46 years, is quite slow. In fact, South Africa’s United Nations Human Development Index, which slowly improved during the final years of apartheid, has been declining since 1996, largely due to the AIDS pandemic, and poverty appears to be on the rise. South Africa has a well-developed infrastructure and has all the modern conveniences and technologies, much of which was developed during the years of white minority rule. The government is stable, though corruption is widespread. The government and major political parties generally have a high level of respect for democratic institutions and human rights.

Despite the problems the country currently faces, South Africa remains the strongest economy in Africa and is the only African country in the elite group of major economies in the G-20.

Tourism in Tunisia

There are different ways to enjoy your holiday in Tunisia. You can spend your holiday on the gorgeous beaches of the Mediterranean or plan a round trip through Tunisia. Numerous charter airlines can arrange flights and hotels, many of which are visa-free for entry. There are also some agencies that offer running tours for groups and private travellers.

Tourism is quite well developed in Tunisia. Hotel stars are not up to European and American standards – a 4-star hotel is the same as a 3-star hotel.

Weather & Climate in Tunisia

Tunisia has a Mediterranean climate in the north, with mild rainy winters and hot, dry summers. The south of the country is desert. The relief in the north is mountainous, which, moving southwards, gives way to the hot, dry central plain. Along a line stretching east-west along the northern tip of the Sahara, from Gulf of Gabès up to Algiers, can be found a number of salt lakes that are known as “chotts” or “shatts”.The lowest point is Chott el Djerid at 17 metres (56 ft) below sea level, and the highest is Jebel ech Chambi at 1,544 metres (566 ft).

Geography of Tunisia

Tunisia is located on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Delta. To the west it is bordered with Algeria and to the south-east with Libya. It lies between latitudes 30° and 38°N and longitudes 7° and 12°E. A sudden bend of the Mediterranean coast in northern Tunisia to the south provides Tunisia with two distinct Mediterranean coasts, to the north in a west-east direction and to the east in a north-south direction.

Although relatively small, Tunisia has great ecological diversity due to its north-south extension. Its east-west extension is limited.To the north of the Dorsal lies the Tell, an area characterised with low, gentle hills and plains, again a prolongation of the mountains in western Algeria. In Khroumerie, which is the north-western edge of Tunisia’s Tell, the elevations reach 1,050 metres and in winter there is snow.

The Sahel, a spreading coastal plain along Tunisia’s eastern Mediterranean coast, is one of the best olive-growing areas in the world. Most of the southern part of the country is semi-arid and desert-like.

Tunisia has a coastline of 1,148 km. As for the sea, it claims a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles (44.4 km) and a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (22.2 km).

Demographics of Tunisia

Tunisia’s population is estimated to be just under 10.8 million in 2013. The government has supported a successful family planning programme that has reduced the population growth rate to just over 1% per year, thus contributing to Tunisia’s economic and social stability.

Ethnic groups in Tunisia

Sociologically, historically and genealogically, the population of Tunisia is mainly composed of Arabs, Berbers and Turks. While Ottoman impact has been most significant in the establishment of the Turkish-Tunisian community, there have also been other peoples who immigrated to Tunisia at different periods, which include sub-Saharan Africans, Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians (Punic), Jews and French settlers. Nevertheless, by 1870 the distinction between the Arabic-speaking masses and the Turkish elite had blurred, and today the overwhelming majority of about 98% identify themselves simply as Arabs. It also has a small pure Berber community (1% or less) concentrated in the Dahar Mountains and on Djerba Island in the south-east, as well in the mountainous region of Khroumire in the north-west.

For the period from the late 19th century until after the World War II, Tunisia hosted large populations of French and Italians, but almost all of these people, as well as the Jewish population, left after Tunisia’s independence. The history of Jews in Tunisia goes back some 2,000 years. The Jewish population in 1948 has been estimated at 105,000, however, in 2013, only around 900 were actually remained.

Historically, the first known people in what is now Tunisia have been the Berbers.

After the Reconquista and the expulsion of non-Christians and Moriscos from Spain, many Spanish Muslims and Jews also arrived.

Religion in Tunisia

Most of Tunisia’s population ( approximately 98%) are Muslims, while approximately 2% are Christian and Judaism and others. Most Tunisians belong to the Maliki branch of Sunni Islam, whose mosques are easily identified by their square minarets. However, the Turks brought with them lessons from the Hanafi school during Ottoman rule, which is preserved to this day among families of Turkish origin, and their mosques traditionally have octagonal minarets. Sunnis constitute the majority, with non-denominational Muslims being the second largest group of Muslims, followed by the Amazigh Ibadites.

Tunisia has a large Christian community of about 25,000 followers, mostly Catholic (22,000) and to a lesser extent Protestant. Berber Christians lived in Tunisia until the beginning of the 15th century. The 2007 International Religious Freedom Report estimates that thousands of Tunisian Muslims are converting to Christianity. With 900 members, Judaism is the country’s third largest religion. A third of the Jewish population lives in and around the capital. The rest of them live on the island of Djerba where there are 39 synagogues where the Jewish community is 2,500 years old, on Sfax and Hammam-Lif.

In Djerba, an island in the Gulf of Gabès, is the El Ghriba synagogue, one of the oldest synagogues in the world and the oldest in continuous use. Many Jews consider it to be a place of pilgrimage where, because of its age and the legend that the synagogue was built with stones from the temple of Solomon, is celebrated once a year. In fact, Tunisia, along with Morocco, is considered the Arab country that accepts its Jewish population the most.

The constitution declares Islam the official religion of the state and requires that the President be Muslim. In addition to the President, Tunisians enjoy a high degree of religious freedom, a right that is enshrined and protected in the constitution and guarantees freedom of thought, belief and practice of one’s religion.

The country has a secular culture in which religion is separated not only from political but also from public life. At one point in the period before the revolution, there were restrictions on the wearing of the Islamic headscarf (hijab) in government offices, as well as on the streets and at public gatherings. The government believed that the hijab was “a garment of foreign origin with partisan connotations”. Tunisian police reportedly harassed and arrested men with an “Islamic” appearance (such as bearded men) and sometimes forced men to shave their beards.

In 2006 the former Tunisian President announced he would “fight” the hijab, which he describes as “ethnic clothing. Mosques were not allowed to hold common prayers or classes. However, after the revolution, a moderate Islamist government was elected, leading to greater freedom in the practice of religion. It also gave way to the rise of fundamentalist groups such as the Salafists, who demand a strict interpretation of Shari’a law. The overthrow in favour of the moderate Islamist government of Ennahdha was in part due to the objectives of the secret service of the modern Tunisian government to suppress fundamentalist groups before they could act.

Individual Tunisians tolerate religious freedom and generally do not inquire about a person’s personal beliefs.

Language

The official language of Tunisia is Arabic, which is also one of the languages of commerce, the other being French, a heritage of Tunisia as a French protectorate until 1956.The dialect of Arabic spoken in Tunisia, similar to neighbouring Algeria and Morocco, is Maghreb Arabic, which is almost incomprehensible to speakers of the Gulf dialect, so don’t be surprised if you don’t understand the locals even if you know Arabic. However, all Tunisians learn standard Arabic at school, so most locals will be able to communicate in standard Arabic if necessary.

Most of the locals speak Arabic and French. French is the primary language of higher education and is widely used in administration, commerce and the media. English has limited use, but is good for use in tourist areas. Tunisians often use what is called code-switching. This is when two or more languages are used in a conversation or even in a sentence. French and Arabic are used interchangeably.

Internet & Communications

Phone in Tunisia

All towns and most villages have public telephones under the name of Publitel or Taxiphone. International calls are usually quite expensive (DT 1,000/minute for calls within the EU).t There are three GSM mobile operators, the private Tunisiana [www], the private Orange [www] and the state-owned Tunisie Telecom [www], all of which offer wide mobile coverage (including some oases in the Sahara). Rates are usually quite low for national calls, but very high for international calls (around DT 1,500/minute). Orange offered 2 for 1 packages (30 minutes + 500 MB for one month for DT2.5) and free SIM cards for tourists arriving at Tunis airport in July 2016.

Emergency call

  • 197 Police emergency number – general emergency
  • 198 Emergency health number – SAMU Outpatient Clinic
  • 1200 Telephone information

Internet in Tunisia

Public internet is available in many towns and cities – look for the big purple sign with the Publinet logo. Usually charged at 0.8 DT/hour, speeds are usually low (1024 kbit/s is common in Sousse, 4096 in Tunisia). Internet at home (ADSL) is not as expensive as it used to be, and for 400 dinars/200 euros you can get ADSL at 4096kbit/s speed for a year. You can also get 3G internet access through any mobile operator (Tunisie Telecom, Orange Tunisia, Tunisiana), and FTP and peer-to-peer access are everywhere in Tunisia. And there are no more government access restrictions. USB sticks for internet are quite popular and can be found for different periods of time, even for short stays.

Post in Tunisia

[ La Poste Tunisienne]  is reasonably fast and efficient. Post restante is offered in certain (larger) offices. A stamp for international letters costs DT 0.600.

Rapide Post is the Post Office’s service for sending letters and parcels quickly. Once a Rapide Post package enters the US, it is processed by FedEx. It is the best and safest way to send things in Tunisia.

Entry Requirements For Tunisia

Visa & Passport

Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark nationals of Dominica, the Falkland Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany and 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, Trinidad, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands,. Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Vatican City State do not require a visa for entry or stay of up to three months.

Citizens of Canada do not need a visa to enter the country and stay for up to 4 months.

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

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

How To Get in Tunisia

With plane

The main international airport for regular flights to Tunisia is the International Airport Tunis-Carthage (IATA: TUN), which is located close to Tunis. From the airport, you can take a taxi to the centre of Tunis (be careful, the taxi meters may be tampered with). They are best stopped in the departure hall on the 2nd floor to avoid being scammed, and should cost no more than TND4 to the centre of Tunis (Avenue Habib Bourguiba area) during the day, and no more than TND7, 21:00-05:00 (during this time, meter prices are 150% of daily prices).

Alternatively, take bus #635 or #35 to Ave Habib Bourguiba for TND 0.47. The bus comes about every half hour and stops in front of the terminal.

The official airport Wi-Fi is chargeable, but connection to the public “LINDO CAFE” network from a restaurant of the same name is free.

To buy cheap snacks and coffee/tea instead of paying exorbitant fares at the airport, go straight from the lower level of the airport (arrivals level), past the fountain and through the car park for about 3 minutes, where you will find a small convenience store and café selling products at local prices . It is next to a utilitarian car wash.

The 2nd largest airport in Tunisia is Habib Bourguiba, Skanes-Monastir (IATA: MIR), which serves low-cost charter flights from various European destinations. Monastir is closer to most holiday destinations. Low-cost charter flights (at least from the UK) are offered by airlines such as Thomas Cook. From May 2010, Jet2.com will also offer a connection to Monastir. Other destinations with international airports are Tozeur and Djerba.

Other airports around the country offer domestic and international flights. Here you can find a list of airports in Tunisia:

  • Carthage Intl Airport located near Tunis.
  • Habib BourguibaSkanesMonastir near Monastir (Central East Tunisia)
  • Sfax Thyna Airport near Sfax
  • Tozeur Nefta Intl Airport near Tozeur (Southwest Tunisia)
  • Gafsa Airport near Gafsa (Southwest Tunisia)
  • Tabarka 7 November 1987 near Tabarka (Northwest Tunisia)

Djerba International Airport on the island of Djerba (south-east Tunisia)

With boat

Ferry services connect Tunis with Malta, Trapani and Palermo (Sicily, Italy), Naples (Italy), Genoa (Italy) and Marseille (France). The ships usually depart from the port of La Goulette (near Tunis). Other commercial ports are also present (Rades, Gabes, Sousse, Sfax, Zarzis…)

How To Travel Around Tunisia

With plane

TunisAir express is the domestic airline branched off from TunisAir. There are flights between Tunis and Tozeur, Djerba and Gabès, and also those to Malta and Naples. The website is only available in French. Booking is possible online or through the Tunisair Express agencies.

With car

Tunisian highways are similar to US motorway highways or European two-lane highways: the A-1 runs south from Tunis towards Sfax (the section from Sousse to Sfax was only opened in June 2008), the A-2 runs north from Tunis towards Bizerte and the A-3 runs west from Tunis towards Oued Zarga. The speed limit on Tunisian motorways is 110 km/h. It is possible to maintain this speed very easily on this road. The route shown on some maps is planned to be extended south to Gabes between 2011 and 2014, then to Ras Jedir (border with Libya) and west to Gardimaw (border with Algeria), but that is a few years away. The rest of the motorways are single lane, with roundabouts at major intersections following the European model (road users in the roundabout have right of way). As a result, it can be difficult to maintain an average speed of more than 75km/h in most cases, as the speed limit is 90km/h on all roads except A-1, 2 and 3. Most road signs are written in Arabic and French.

As in most developing countries, road accidents are the main cause of death and injury in Tunisia. Tunisians are aggressive, poorly trained and rude drivers. They are unpredictable in their driving habits, run traffic lights, rarely signal when changing lanes, often ignore traffic lights and stop signs, drive at very high speeds regardless of the quality of the roads or the condition of their vehicles, and stop at almost any point, even if it means obstructing other cars or possibly causing an accident. Since there are no pavements, pedestrians often walk on the streets without regard for cars or their own safety. Unfortunately, Tunisians rarely secure their children in proper car seats, and these small passengers often bear the brunt of most accidents.

Although the police are visible at many major intersections, they rarely enforce traffic rules or stop wrong-way drivers, except to collect bribes.

People who are not familiar with driving in developing countries are best off using public transport or hiring a driver.

Driving in Tunis is made even more difficult by the narrow streets and limited parking. The best way to visit the Medina of Tunis is to park a short distance from the Medina, take the light rail (called TGM) from Marsa/Carthage and the green tram (called Metro) to the city centre, or take a taxi from the suburbs.

Rental cars are relatively easy to find, but a bit expensive, about 100 dinars per day for a medium-sized car like a four-door Renault Clio.

With taxi

Private taxis are also cheap for long distances, but you should agree on the fare before you start your journey. Example prices for a four-seater are €40 for Tunis-Hammamet or €50 for Monastir-Hammamet. Taximeters are installed for taxi rides within larger cities like Tunis. Make sure it is started when you leave and in the appropriate mode (night, day, etc.). A green light indicates that the taxi is already occupied, a red one that it is free.

With train

SNCFT , which is the national railway company, is operating comfortable and modern trains between Tunis South and Sousse, Sfax and Monastir.There are three classes, Grand confort (1st luxury class), 1st and 2nd class, and all are perfectly adequate. The fare from Tunis to Sousse, for example, is 12/10/6 dinars (6/5/3 euros) in Grand/1st/2nd class. Although the carriage/seat numbers are noted on the tickets, this is largely ignored by the locals. So if you are travelling with more than one person, try to board quickly to find adjacent seats.

A good thing to do is to buy a carte bleue (blue card). It costs about 20 dinars for a week and you can travel all over the country on the banlieue (short distance) and the grande ligne (long distance). For the long distance, you need to make a reservation and pay a small fee (about 1.50 dinars). These passes can also be bought for 10 or 14 days. There are rarely queues at the booking office and a little French goes a long way.

Trains also run to Tozeur and Gabes in the south, from where you can easily get to the Sahara and Ksour respectively. At stations with a low train frequency ( For example Tozeur), the ticket office is closed for most of the day and only reopens when the next train is about to depart. A light rail (called TGM) also connects Tunis to the north with Carthage and Marsa. Take this light rail to Sidi Bou Said as well. A one-way ticket on the light rail costs about 675 millimes (1 dinar = 1,000 millimes).

With louage

Locals use louage or long-distance shared taxis when there is no train or bus. There are no timetables, but they wait at the louage station (which is usually near a train station if your destination is accessible by train) until 8 people show up. The wait is never too long in big cities, usually less than half an hour. They are almost as cheap as the trains on foot and have fixed prices so you won’t get ripped off. e.g. Douz to Gabes (120km) for 7 dinars.

Be aware that while the louages are very cheap, they can also be very hot in the summer months (although leaving the windows open during the journey helps!) and tourists can be harassed, although rarely – most locals keep to themselves. Louages also have a reputation for being fast and less safe than other forms of transport, so be aware of this. Louage departures are very frequent, a louage leaves as soon as the seats are filled. It is acceptable to pay for an empty seat to leave early.

All Louage cars are white in colour, with a side stripe indicating the service area. Louages between major cities are identifiable by their red stripe, louages within the region are identifiable by their blue stripe and louages serving rural areas are identifiable by their yellow stripe (the rural louage may be yellow with blue stripes, or a van painted entirely in brown).

With bus

The long-distance bus (called Auto) is also a safe and inexpensive way to travel between larger cities such as Tunis, Nabeul, Hammamet, etc.. There is usually a station in each major city, with daily departures (every 30 minutes between Tunis and Hammamet).Some of the buses, locally called “auto-comfort”, offer higher standards (TV, air conditioning) at reasonable prices. Hours can be found online.

Destinations in Tunisia

Regions in Tunisia

  • Northern Tunisia (Ariana, Bèja, Ben Arous, Bizerte, Jendouba, Mahdia, Manouba, Monastir, Nabeul, Siliana, Sousse, Tunis and Zaghouan)
    The capital Tunis, the entire northern coast and the mountains, as well as a number of very popular seaside resorts on the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Central Coast Tunisia (Gabès, Madanine, Sfax and Sidi Bouzid)
    The Southern Beaches and the Bus Route to Libya
  • Tunisia in the Sahara (Gafsa, Kairouan, Kasserine, Kebili, Kef, Tataouine and Tozeur)
    The Sahara hinterland – rocky plains, desert dunes, trekking in the desert, several important archaeological sites.

Cities in Tunisia

  • Tunis – the relaxed capital of Tunisia with easy access to Carthage and a very authentic souk
  • Gabes – large city on the east coast, mostly a rail and bus transit point.
  • Kairouan – an important place for Islamic pilgrimages
  • El Kef – The architecture of Byzantine and Ottoman times in this small town in the north-west
  • Monastir – ancient city with a history dating back to Phoenician times; today home to the country’s main charter airport
  • Sfax – historic town with a large old Kasbah; also access to the Kerkennah Islands
  • Sousse – a popular seaside resort with architecture listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • Douz – “gateway to the desert”, a Saharan town known for its date palm plantations and Saharan tourism
  • Tozeur – gateway to several oasis villages in the mountains

Other destinations in Tunisia

  • Carthage – Phoenician colony, largest trading metropolis in the ancient world; famously razed by the Romans; remains now housed in a museum; easily reached by train from Tunis.
  • Djerba – a Mediterranean island in the south popular with sun-seekers
  • Dougga – impressive ruins of a remote Roman town
  • El Jem – The Roman amphitheatre is one of the best-preserved in the world.
  • Jebil National Park – A large national park in the Sahara with impressive sand dunes and rock formations.
  • Kerkouane – Remains of the only untouched Punic settlement listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Ksar Ghilane – on the edge of the sand desert, the Saharan oasis known for its hot spring and ancient Roman fort.
  • Matmata – Berber village with cave dwellings where Star Wars’s Tatooine was filmed
  • Metlaoui – board the restored vintage Red Lizard train as it winds through picturesque gorges and hills.
  • Sufetula (Sbeitla) – a fairly well preserved Roman settlement in mid-western Tunisia.

Accommodation & Hotels in Tunisia

There are many good hotels in Tunisia. In the bigger cities there are many smaller hotels hidden in most of the streets.

You can also rent a furnished flat. Some private people offer their own flats for rent, especially in summer.

It is advisable to organise your accommodation online or by phone before you arrive. Apart from more expensive hotels, most accommodation does not seem to have a website. French would be handy when booking accommodation.

Things To See in Tunisia

History and archaeology

Although Tunisia is now mostly known for its beach holidays, the country has an amazing heritage with some extraordinary archaeological remains to explore.

Little remains of Carthage, but what is there is relatively well preserved compared to the rest of the ruins in Tunisia. This great city from the Phoenician and Punic periods dates from the 6th century BC and was the base of an enormously powerful empire that stretched across the southern Mediterranean. Its most famous general was Hannibal, who crossed the Alps to fight the Romans. In 202 BC, at the Battle of Zama, Hannibal suffered one of his first major defeats. And after being closely watched by Rome for over 50 years, Carthage was attacked and completely destroyed in the 3rd Punic War. A century later, the city was rebuilt by the Romans and Carthage became the capital of the Roman province of Africa. What we see today are the remains from that time.

Dougga and Kerkuoane are two other UNESCO World Heritage sites worth visiting with amazingly well-preserved ruins, but unfortunately they are less informative and have little to no signposting.

Both Monastir and Sousse are known among sun-worshipping Europeans as seaside resorts, but they are also towns with great historical heritage. Monastir has a history dating back to the time of Hannibal, a particularly remarkable museum and a wonderful ribat (fortified monastery). Sousse is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its authentic medina and souk, not to be missed.

El Kef has a magnificent Byzantine kasbah rising from the old medina, showing both Byzantine and Ottoman architecture. In El Jem you will find extraordinary remains of a Roman amphitheatre, another Tunisian UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The desert

Tunisia has some of the most accessible, beautiful desert landscapes in the Sahara. If you’re a fan of George Lucas, you’ll probably would recognise the village of Matmata. The troglodyte dwellings here were used as the setting for young Luke Skywalker’s home on Tatooine. In the west-central part of the country, the desert towns of Tozeur (where Mos Eisley’s film was set) and Douz are surrounded by a landscape of beautiful Saharan dunes. Since 2009, the oasis of Ksar Ghilane has been accessible via a tarred road.

Things To Do in Tunisia

Beaches

Beach holidays in Tunisia are very popular, especially with Europeans. Some of the most important beach resorts are along the east coast, from La Goulette (near Tunis) to Monastir.The southern island of Djerba is an alternative. Many water sports activities are widely available or you can just relax and take advantage of the almost relentlessly sunny climate.

While the whole of Tunisia can be proud of its beaches, you just need to know where you can find the “undiscovered” ones. Not far from Sousse, there is a beach called Shot Merriam. The beach is clean with white sand and nice clean sea. The best beaches in Tunisia can be found in Kelilbia, Djerba, Ghar El-Melh, Rafrafbeach, Sidi El Mekki, Sounine, Sousse and Zarzis.

A few tour organisations organise day trips from Tunis to the beaches in Bizerte and the surrounding area for around TD25 per person, including a meal. These events are mainly found on Facebook.

Trekking in the desert

Trekking in the desert is very popular in Tunisia and the towns of Douz and Tozeur are excellent starting points. Near Tozeur is the small town of Metraoui, which is the starting point for the ride. The beautifully restored carriages date from 1904, and the luxurious train takes you into some truly stunning desert mountain scenery. Agencies that organise such trips include Libre Espace Voyage and Au Coeur du Desert.

Food & Drinks in Tunisia

Food in Tunisia

Tunisian cuisine is similar to Middle Eastern cuisine and is based on the traditions of the North African Maghreb, with couscous and marka stew (similar to Moroccan tagines) forming the backbone of most dishes. Unlike the Moroccan dish of the same name, the Tunisian tagine is an omelette-like pâté, made of meat and vegetables mixed with herbs, legumes and offal, filled with eggs and cheese, and baked in a casserole dish until the eggs are set, similar to an Italian frittata. Lamb forms the basis of most meat dishes and local seafood is abundant. Although pork products are not widespread, they can still be found in certain supermarkets and in tourist hotels.

  • Harissa: very hot, spicy chilli paste (sometimes made milder with carrots or yoghurt), served with bread and olive oil as an appetiser to almost any meal.
  • Shorba Frik: Lamb soup
  • Coucha: Lamb shoulder cooked with turmeric and cayenne pepper
  • Khobz Tabouna(pronounced: Khobz Taboona): traditional bread baked in the oven.
  • Brik (pronounced breek): very crispy thin dough with a whole egg (brik à l’œuf), parsley and onions and sometimes meat such as minced lamb or tuna (brik au thon). Very tasty as an inexpensive starter. Eat it very carefully with your fingers.
  • Berber lamb: Lamb cooked in a clay pot with potatoes and carrots.
  • Merguez: small spicy sausages.
  • Salade tunisienne: lettuce, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, olives, radishes mixed with tuna.
  • Salade méchouia: A salad of puréed grilled vegetables (often seasoned with harissa), served with olive oil and tuna.
  • Fricassé: Little fried sandwiches with tuna, harissa, olives and olive oil.
  • Tunisian pastries: sweets related to baklava.
  • Bambaloni: deep-fried, sweet, donut-like cake served with sugar.
  • Tunisian “fast food”: sandwiches, makloubs (folded pizzas)

Regrettably, restaurant culture in Tunisia is very underdeveloped and most food prepared in restaurants outside Tunisian homes or souks is disappointingly bland and carelessly presented. These characteristics run the gamut of prices, although occasionally you can eat tasty couscous or “coucha” stew in some budget restaurants. In Tunisia, the best chance of getting a good meal is to be invited to someone’s house as a guest or to eat at an open-air market food stall.

Drinks in Tunisia

Being an advanced Muslim country, the availability of alcohol is limited (but not severely) to certain licensed (and invariably more expensive) restaurants, holiday areas and magasin général shops. Major department stores (Carrefour in Marsa/Carthage) and some supermarkets (e.g. Monoprix) sell beer and wine, as well as some local and imported hard liquor, except on Muslim holidays. Female travellers should be aware that outside resorts and areas with high concentrations of tourists, they may find themselves having a beer in a smoky bar full of men drinking in a more dedicated manner. Some bars will refuse to admit women, others will ask for a passport to check nationality. Look around a bar before you decide to drink!

  • Beer: Locally, Celtia is the most popular brand, but in some places you can find imported pilsner beer. The locally brewed Löwenbräu is decent, and Heineken is planning a Tunisian brewery in 2007. Celtia “En Pression” (On Tap) is good. Celestia is a non-alcoholic beer that is also popular.
  • Wine: Most places that serve alcohol have Tunisian wine, which is quite good. Tunisian wine has always been produced by French oenologists. Most of it was exported to France until the 1970s. What remained were wine cooperatives that produce 80% of the wine, which is mainly served to tourists. Since the privatisation of some parts of these cooperatives, international wine tastes have entered Tunisia. Small companies such as Domaine Atlas, St Augustin and Septune have succeeded in launching a new generation of Tunisian wines. Importing wine is extremely difficult because of the very high taxes. Some upscale hotel restaurants can miraculously find French or Italian wines for a price.
  • Boukha: A typical Tunisian spirit distilled from figs.
  • Coffee: is served strong in small cups. Tunisian cappuccinos are also served in strong, small cups.” Many tourist areas sell ‘coffee creamers’, which may also appear in ‘American cups’. Local favourites are the Capucin (espresso macchiato) and the Direct (latte).
  • Tea: generally drunk after meals.
  • Mint tea: very sweet peppermint tea taken at any time of the day.

Money & Shopping in Tunisia

The national currency is the Tunisian dinar(TND).

Typical banknotes are circulated in TND5 (green), TND10 (blue or brown), TND20 (purple-red), TND30 (orange) and TND50 (green and purple).

The 2 nars are divided into 1000 milleme and the typical coins are TND5 (silver with copper insert), 1 nar (large – silver), 500 milleme (small – silver), 100 and 50 milleme, (large – brass), 20 and 10 milleme (small – brass) and 5 milleme (small – aluminium). It is forbidden to import or export dinars to Tunisia, so you must change your money locally.

Prices are usually in dinars and millemes, with a decimal point such as: 5,600 or 24,000 or 0,360, sometimes with TND as a designation such as TND85,500. In the markets, goods are usually sold per kilogram. For example, tomatoes may have a mark “480” on them, which means 480 millemes per kilo. Good cheese will be marked at about 12,400 or about US$7 per kilo. Most self-service supermarkets expect you to put your groceries in the flimsy plastic bags provided and then take them to the nearby scales, where an employee weighs them and puts a price sticker on them.

Festivals & Events in Tunisia

  • 1 January: New Year
  • 14 January: Revolution and Youth Day
  • 4 February: Mouled (anniversary of the Prophet) – (shifts by 11 days per year towards the beginning of the year, depending on the lunar calendar)
  • 20 March: Independence Day
  • 9 April: Martyrs’ Day
  • 1 May: Labour Day
  • 18 July (2015) : Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) (shifts 11 days per year towards the beginning of the year, depending on the lunar calendar)
  • 25 July: Republic Day
  • 13 August: Women’s Day
  • 24 September (2015): Eid al-Idha (Feast of Sacrifice) (shifts 11 days per year towards the beginning of the year, depending on the lunar calendar)
  • 15 October (2015): Hegire (Islamic New Year) (shifts 11 days per year towards the beginning of the year, depending on the lunar calendar)
  • 15 October: Eid El Jala’ (Evacuation Day, re-established as a public holiday after 14 January).

Traditions & Customs in Tunisia

Tunisia is a Muslim country and dress code is important, especially for women. While a lot of skin (even topless) is tolerated on the beaches and in hotel complexes, a modest amount of exposed skin may be frowned upon outside these areas.

Be aware that Tunisia becomes more conservative the further south you travel. While most women in the capital (which has a mix of Mediterranean, European and Arabic cultures) wear Western clothes, southern Tunisia is more conservative and far more traditional.

Ramadan in Tunisia

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

At least one Tunisian tourist website says that after the revolution, Ramadan was observed more strictly in 2011, and hinted that this might be even more the case in 2012. For three days at the end of July 2012, the vast majority of shops were closed during the day, although the medina of Tunis was mostly open. Virtually all restaurants were closed. Apart from a few tourists sipping Coke, nobody eats or drinks during the day, not even in the tourist cafés in Sidi Bou Said. It was not clear if any of the tourist restaurants were serving at all.

In Tunis, on Ave Habib Bourgiba, all the cafés had cleared away their tables until after iftar (the breaking of the fast) at sunset, around 7:30pm. After that, many people were outside and you could order food in some cafés and coffee and desserts in others. Just before iftar, Ave Habib Bourgiba is completely lifeless and devoid of words. In small cafes like 3 Etoile on Mustafa Mubarek Street, families and men can be seen sitting around tables eating and waiting for the sun to set.

At night, however, the medina comes alive – huge crowds are out and about, thronging the streets, and it’s definitely an experience! Shops and supermarkets are often open until midnight.

Be prepared for a somewhat unique experience when visiting Tunisia during Ramadan. Eat and drink very discreetly during the day (including water). For lunch the next day, go to a stall in the late afternoon and buy some bread or focaccia, or find a local shop that is still open and buy something. As hardly anyone drinks alcohol (at least in Tunisia), the Hotel Africa is the place to go.

Culture Of Tunisia

Culture Of Tunisia is mixed, having been shaped by external influences for a long time: Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Italians, Spaniards and French – they have all left their mark on the country.

Painting in Tunisia

The emergence of contemporary Tunisian painting is closely linked to the School of Tunis, founded by a group of artists from Tunisia united by the desire to incorporate indigenous subjects and reject the influence of oriental colonial painting. It was founded in 1949 and brought together Muslims, Christians and Jews from France and Tunisia. Pierre Bouchard was its main initiator along with Yahya Turki, Abdelaziz Gurki, Moses Levy, Ammar Farhat and Jules Le Rouche. As a result, some members turned to sources of Arab-Muslim aesthetic art, such as miniature paintings of Islamic architecture. The expressionist paintings of Amara de Bach, Jalal bin Abdullah and Ali bin Salem gained recognition, while abstract art captured the imagination of painters such as Edgar Nakash, Nero Levi and Hedi Turki.

After independence in 1956, the art movement in Tunisia was driven by the dynamics of nation-building and artists serving the state. A Ministry of Culture was established, led by ministers like Habib Boularès, who saw art and education and power. Artists gained international recognition like Hatem El Mekki or Zoubeir Turki and influenced a generation of new young painters. Sadok Goumek drew inspiration from the wealth of nations, while Monsef Ben Amor embraced fantasy. In another development, Youssef Rekik revisited the technique of painting on glass and founded Nja Mahdaoui calligraphy with its mystical dimension.

There are currently fifty art galleries hosting exhibitions by Tunisian and international artists. These galleries include the Yahia Gallery in Tunis and the Essaadi Gallery in Carthage.

Literature in Tunisia

Literature in Tunisia has two forms: Arabic and French. Arabic literature dates back to the 7th century with the arrival of Arab civilisation in the region. It dates back to the 7th century with the arrival of Arab civilisation in the region. It is more important, both in volume and value, than French literature, which was introduced during the French protectorate from 1881.

Literary figures include Ali Duagi, who wrote more than 150 radio novels, 500 poems and folk songs and nearly 15 plays; the Arab novelist Khleif Bashir, whose dialogues written in a Tunisian dialect caused a scandal in the 1930s; Moncef Gachem; Mohamed Salah Ben Murad: Mohamed Salah Ben Murad and Mahmoud Messadi, among others.

In terms of poetry, Tunisian poetry typically opts for non-conformity and innovation with poets like Aboul-Qacem Echebbi.

As for literature in French, it is characterised by its critical approach. Contrary to the pessimism of Albert Memmi, who predicted that Tunisian literature was doomed to die young, many Tunisian writers are abroad, including Abdelwahab Meddeb, Bakri Tahar, Mustapha Tlili, Hele Beji or Mellah Fawzi. The themes of wandering, exile and heartbreak are central to their creative writing.

The national bibliography lists 1249 non-school books published in Tunisia in 2002, of which 885 titles were in Arabic. In 2006, this number had risen to 1,500 and in 2007 to 1,700. Almost a third of the books were published for children.

Music in Tunisia

At the beginning of the 20th century, musical activity was dominated by the liturgical repertoire associated with various religious brotherhoods and the secular repertoire consisting of instrumental pieces and songs in various Andalusian forms and styles of origin, essentially adopting features of the musical language. In 1930, the “Rachidia” was founded, which became very well-known thanks to artists from the Jewish community. The creation of a music school in 1934 help revive Arabic Andalusian music largely led to a social and cultural revival by the elite of the time, who were aware of the risks of losing the musical heritage and which they believed threatened the foundations of Tunisian national identity. It did not take long for an elite group of musicians, poets and scholars to come together. The creation of Radio Tunis in 1938 gave musicians a greater opportunity to disseminate their works.

Among the most important contemporary Tunisian artists are Saber Rebai, Dhafer Youssef, Belgacem Bouguenna, Sonia M’Barek and Latifa. Other notable musicians are Salah El Mahdi, Anouar Brahem and Lotfi Bouchnak.

Media & TV in Tunisia

For a long time, the TV media were under the rule of the establishment of the Tunisian Broadcasting Authority (ERTT) and its predecessor, Tunisian Radio and Television, founded in 1957. On 7 November 2006, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali announced the unbundling of the companies, which came into effect on 31 August 2007. Prior to this, RTCI controlled all public television stations (Tunis 1 and Tunis 2, replacing the disbanded Tunis 2), four national radio stations (Radio Télévision tunisienne Radio Culture, Radio Jeunesse and Radio RTCI), and five regional radio stations (Sfax, Monastir, Gafsa, Le Kef and Tataouine). Most of the programmes are in Arabic, but some are also in French. The growth of the private sector in radio and television has created numerous stations, including Radio Mosaique FM, Jawhara FM, Zaytuna FM, Hannibal TV, Ettounsiya TV and Nessma TV.

In 2007, there were approximately 245 newspapers and magazines (compared to 91 in 1987), 90% of which were owned by private institutions or independents. Tunisian political parties have the right to publish their own newspapers, but those of opposition parties have very limited circulations (such as Al Mawkif or Mouwatinoun). Before the recent democratic transition, freedom of the press was formally guaranteed in the constitution, but in practice almost all newspapers followed pro-government reporting. Critical approaches to the activities of the president, the government and the Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (then in power) were suppressed. Essentially, the media was dominated by the state authorities through Agence Tunis Afrique Presse. This has since changed, as media censorship by the authorities has largely been abolished and self-censorship has decreased significantly. Nevertheless, the future of press and media freedom is still unclear due to the current legal framework and social and political culture.

Sport in Tunisia

Football is the most popular sport in Tunisia. The Tunisian national football team, also known as “The Eagles of Carthage”, won the African Cup of Nations (ACN) held in Tunisia in 2004. They also represented Africa at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2005, held in Germany, but did not advance beyond the first round.

The first football league was the “Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1”. The main clubs were Espérance Sportive de Tunis, Étoile Sportive du Sahel, Club Africain, and Club Sportif Sfaxien.

The Tunisian national handball team has participated in several World Handball Championships, finishing fourth in 2005. The national league consists of about 12 teams and is dominated by ES.Sahel and Esperance S.Tunis. Tunisia’s most famous handball player is Wissem Humam. At the 2005 Tunis Handball Championship, Wissem Hmam was voted the tournament’s top scorer. The Tunisian national handball team won the Africa Cup eight times, making them the dominant team in the competition. The Tunisians won the 2010 Africa Cup in Egypt by beating the host country.

In recent years, the Tunisian national basketball team has become a top team in Africa. The team won the Afrobasket in 2011 and hosted Africa’s most important basketball event in 1965, 1987 and 2015.

In boxing, Victor Perez (“Young”) was world champion in the flyweight weight class in 1931 and 1932.

At the 2008 Summer Olympics, Tunisian Oussama Mellouli won a gold medal in the 1500m freestyle. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, he won a bronze medal in the 1500 m freestyle and a gold medal in the 15 km marathon.

In 2012, Tunisia participated in the Summer Paralympic Games for the seventh time in its history. It finished with 19 medals; 9 gold, 5 silver and 5 bronze. Tunisia ranked 14th in the Paralympic medal table and 5th in athletics.

Tunisia was suspended from the Davis Cup for 2014 because the Tunisian Tennis Federation found that Malek Jaziri was not allowed to play against an Israeli tennis player, Amir Weintraub. Francesco Ricci Bitti, President of the ITF, said: “In sport and in society, there is no prejudice of any kind to speak of. The The ITF Executive Committee decided to deliver a very clear message to the Tunisian Tennis Federation that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Tunisia

Stay safe in Tunisia

Violence

Tunisia has recently experienced a revolution and is currently in a controversial transition phase. Although there is currently no large-scale violence, demonstrations do occur from time to time and are sometimes violent and/or brutally dispersed. Therefore, before travelling to Tunisia, check with your foreign office about the current conditions and, if possible, stay away from large demonstrations that might take place during your stay.

Be aware that since 2015, Islamist terrorists have targeted tourists in Tunisia. 24 people have been killed at the Bardo Museum in Tunisia in March and a terrorist shot 39 tourists at a beach and a hotel in Sousse in June. The British government has advised its citizens to leave Tunisia and only visit for important travel.

Female travellers

It is apparently not considered rude for a man to stare at a woman’s body, which should indicate that modesty attracts less attention. Women can expect to be the target of frequent boos (“gazelle” seems to be particularly popular). If travelling as part of a couple, stay together as much as possible, as the female traveller should not walk around alone if she does not want to be harassed. The harassment is usually limited to bizarre words and occasional touching, but can be extremely persistent and annoying.

Tunisian women often wear outfits you would normally see on the streets of any major cosmopolitan city (tight jeans, slouchy top), but they do so while showing traditional modesty by exposing virtually no skin. Arms are covered up to the wrists, collars reach the neck (there is no cleavage) and a headscarf may be worn. Western women visitors can minimise attention by choosing clothes that show as little skin as possible. V-neck is fine if another layer with a higher collar is underneath.

Note that there are street cafés around squares and in the streets of most towns, but these are for men only, even when accompanied by men; women are not welcome. Prices are much cheaper in these cafés than in the mixed-sex cafés and tea rooms you find in Tunis.

Money and fraud

Travellers report problems being harassed, either to buy something or for other purposes. Persistence is one of the main complaints. Some say that refusal often leads to a bad reaction, “being hissed at” is an example, but those who have been advised to politely refuse with a smile rarely complain. “Non, Merci” is a very good response, with a smile. This seems to be borne out by reports from women travelling alone, who one would expect to receive the most attention but who often report the fewest problems (from an admittedly small sample), perhaps because they are more cautious than female companions. It certainly seems to be the case that female seafarers travelling alone attract a lot of unwelcome attention (even harassment) until a male friend arrives.

Theft of belongings, including from hotel rooms and room safes, is often reported and the usual caveats apply – keep valuables in a safe place (e.g. a monitored hotel safe), don’t show too much cash and keep wallets, purses and other coveted items where pickpockets cannot reach them. A good recommendation is to carry only enough cash for immediate needs and only one credit or debit card, provided you can be sure of the security of your reserves. Also, most ATMs are available and foreign credit cards are accepted. Cash (equivalent to Tunisian dinars) can be withdrawn directly from your bank account for a small fee (bank transfer of €1 to €2 ).

Thefts are also reported at airports. Always keep your belongings under your direct supervision.

When it is time to settle the bill at a Tunisian café or restaurant, it is advisable to make sure you are presented with an actual, itemised copy of the bill before handing over the money. Often your waiter will claim to have calculated the total amount in his head, and it will always be higher than you actually owe. Also check the prices on the menu before you order. Some places claim not to have menus, but they usually have menus on the wall. Tunisian workers are extremely poorly paid (around 300 pounds per month) and will often try to take advantage of tourists without understanding.

Be aware that the export of Tunisian currency is prohibited and searches of wallets and purses can and do occur at Tunis airport. If you are found with more than 20-30 dinars, you will be asked to return to the land side to change them. The problem is that this “invitation” comes after you have already gone through passport control and handed in your exit card; so it is not practical. You are then asked to hand over some or all of your Tunisian money to the uniformed officer (which cannot be spent in the duty-free shops anyway). You don’t get anywhere with arguments, and the request for a receipt is flatly refused. Judging by the way the money is quickly taken in hand, you have almost certainly just paid a bribe.

Stay healthy in Tunisia

  • Malaria – There is not much risk of malaria in Tunisia, but pack your bug spray.
  • Sun Please remember that the sun is often your worst enemy. We would recommend applying a high (factor 30 or better) sunscreen frequently. It is usually cheaper at your local supermarket than at the resort.
  • Be careful where you eat and drink (and remember the ice too). Diarrhoea is a common problem of careless travellers. Tap water in the Tunisian-Carthaginian-Marsa area seems to be safe.

Vaccinations

Always see your doctor 4-8 weeks before travelling (the 4-8 weeks is important as some vaccinations take weeks to take effect and with polio you can also be contagious for a while):

  • Yellow fever is required for all travellers entering from a yellow fever-infected area in Africa or America.
  • Hepatitis A is usually recommended Two Havrix injections given 6 months apart provide protection against hep A for 10 years
  • Typhoid
  • Polio
  • Hepatitis B – Strongly recommended if you are likely to have intimate contact with locals or if you are staying longer than 6 months.

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