Saturday, September 18, 2021

How To Travel Around Tunisia

AfricaTunisiaHow 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 [www]. 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)[www] 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.