Tunisia has never been on the top of my preferences as a travel destination. To be completely honest, I feel I ended up there pretty much “by accident”. I recall booking my tickets to Tunis through a promo campaign that looked like a great deal to me (80€ for a direct return flight), without even knowing what was there to see or how much time I would need.
It seems that Tunisia had been overlooked as a tourist destination for years. It all started back in 2015 when a couple of terrorist attacks took place in the country. To be more specific, 22 tourists were killed at the Bardo National Museum and another 38 in Sousse. Ever since Tunisia was considered a dangerous destination for tourists. But not anymore!
After 12 days of road tripping around the country, I came to realize that Tunisia is not only absolutely safe but can offer a whole lot… Apart from a very interesting cultural and historical background, the country boasts a lot of UNESCO World Heritage sites, stunning architecture, mild weather, dazzling turquoise waters, access to the Sahara desert, affordable holidays, friendly people, and so much more!
Through the following travel guide, I will share with you all the essential information you need to start planning your next trip to Tunisia!
Where On Earth is Tunisia?
Easy-peasy! Tunisia is located in the Northern part of Africa, nestled between Algeria and Libya. It is also bathed by the Mediterranean Sea on its north-eastern side. Needless to say that this geographical position has blessed the country with a moderate climate and plenty of sunshine all year round!
One could easily say that Tunisia serves as a bridge between Europe and Africa! Indeed, the strategic significance of its location has made many great empires want to gain control of the Tunisian territory. As an outcome of the various occupations by Romans, Ottomans, Arabs, and French over the centuries, Tunisia is nowadays an interesting blend of many highly diverse cultures and ethnicities.
Languages Spoken In Tunisia
Arabic and French are the official languages of Tunisia. English is not widely spoken, so you will have to rely on your French (if any) or on Google Translate!
Best Time To Visit Tunisia
Tunisia can be visited all year round. However, we need to make a clear differentiation between the various parts of the country vs the intention of your visit. More specifically, while the northern Mediterranean coast is ideal for beach lovers, with June to August being the most favorable months, the southern part of Tunisia (the desert regions) can be almost unbearable in the summertime.
With that being said, for those that would like to cover a bit of everything in one visit, the best time would be either April to May or September to October. Outside of those months (and excluding the summer months), there might be some rain and cooler weather.
Tunisia offers a free Visa on Arrival for citizens of 97 world countries (including all EU passport holders). Citizens of most countries can stay in Tunisia for up to 90 days (BUT, we Greeks can stay in Tunisia for 30 days only)! You can have a thorough look at all visa exemptions on the official page of Visa Tunisia.
If you are eligible for such a free Visa, you will only need to fill in an Immigration Card to enter the country. This card will be either distributed to you on board while heading to Tunisia or can be found on dedicated desks right before the Immigration office in Tunisia.
As always, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months.
Last but not least, to enter or transit Tunisia, you must have one of the following documents:
- A COVID-19 certificate showing that you are fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine
- A Negative PCR COVID-19 test result, taken no more than 48h before departure from the first embarkation point
- A Negative antigen COVID-19 test result, taken no more than 24h before departure from the first embarkation point
© Haythem Gataa
Arriving in Tunis - Airport Survival Tips
Let me start by answering the 3 questions that come to everyone’s mind when arriving in a new country!
1. Transportation – How Can I Get to the City Center?
The first thing you need to know is that the Tunis-Carthage International Airport is roughly 15’ away from the city center. And that’s great news!
Unluckily, our flight arrived at around midnight, so public transportation was no longer available. Our only option at that time was a taxi. I generally prefer to book a taxi through a mobile app, and indeed I tried to do so via Uber. However, little did I know that Uber is not operational in the country! The next day I found out that Bolt is the App I should have used… Now I know, and now you know, as well!
Eventually, we got an airport taxi which charged us 50 dinars (approx. 16€) to our hotel in the city center. Yes, it was overpriced but what else could we have done at that time of the night!?! I cannot be 100% sure that Bolt would have given me a much better fare, but you can at least give it a try!
2. Internet Connection – Where Do I Find a SIM Card?
As you can imagine, nearly all the shops at the airport are closed at night. This means that your options for buying a SIM card are rather limited. For that reason, I recommend that you look for the Orange (mobile carrier) desk located right after the Immigration Office. Here you will be given a free SIM card with 60’ of free calls and 200 MB of Internet data. Still, you will still have to go to an Orange store the next day to top up your card with additional data. For the time being, this data should suffice for calling a Bolt taxi!
If you arrive during the day, you will have various options for getting a SIM card and fully loading it at the same time.
3. Money Exchange – Where Should I Get Local Currency?
Again, if you are arriving at around midnight you will most probably find only one exchange desk open (with the usual not-so-favorable rates, and also big queues). Alternatively, you can withdraw some money from an ATM. The next day you will be able to exchange your cash in the city center at a much better rate. But beware, if the next day is a Sunday, you will most probably find all exchange offices in Tunis closed!
How To Get Around In Tunisia
Public transportation is the best and most affordable option for those that do not want to engage with self-driving. If you want to travel on the main touristic route, you can totally do so by using local trains and buses, since their network is quite extensive. For smaller or more remote towns, you can use shared taxis (called louages). However, do keep in mind that louages only depart when they are full. This means that you can never predict the time needed to get from one place to the other. Last but not least, TunisAir operates a number of internal flights connecting Tunis with other cities such as Djerba, Monastir, Sfax, and Tozeur.
With all that being said, if you want to discover Tunisia to its fullest, I would highly recommend renting your own car. This will give you full flexibility while moving around, as well as access to sites that are not reachable by public transportation. Needless to mention that self-driving will also save you a great lot of time.
For those that may wonder about road conditions, rest assured… The road infrastructure in Tunisia is surprisingly very good, making driving extremely easy and smooth. As a driver, you simply need to be well aware of two important things to keep you absolutely safe:
- There are lots of speed bumps on the road, especially when entering a residential area. Their size is so big that they can cause serious damage to your car if you miss lowering your speed timely. Most of those speed bumps are sign-posted, yet some are not! To be on the safe side, try to be alert while driving outside the highway.
- The drivers and pedestrians are not well-educated when it comes to proper road behavior, so you as the driver need to pay extra attention to them.
Bonus Tip: Driving in big cities can be very chaotic. I would recommend against using a rental car while in Tunis. City taxis are very cheap and can be used by budget travelers also. I generally prefer booking a taxi through an app rather than hailing one on the street. Since the fare is predefined, I don’t need to bargain or be afraid of being scammed. As mentioned earlier, Bolt is the most popular Taxi App in Tunis (but it seems not available anywhere else in Tunisia).
How Much Money Do I Need?
Tunisia can be a budget-friendly option for those that are looking for an affordable travel destination. The good news for us Greeks is that Aegean Airlines, our local air carrier, has launched direct flights to Tunis from Greece! I feel all Greeks will sooner or later visit Tunisia!
Some indicative costs:
- Car Rental (early booking): 240€ for 10 days with full coverage (booking made through DiscoverCars).
- Petrol & Tolls: 110€ (for the route Tunis – Kairouan – Tozeur – Tamerza – Chebika – Douz – Ksar Ghilane – Tataouine – Matmata – Tamezret – Toujane – Metameur – Djerba – Gabés – Sfax – El Jem – Sousse – Monastir – Takrouna – Jeradou – Zriba – Zaghouan – Hammamet – Tunis).
- Accommodation: 10-16€ per person / per night on average for a budget-friendly hotel. Camping will cost you 5€ per person / per night (the cost includes tent + car + Wi-Fi). Note: Not all available accommodation options are listed on booking.com. It does worth checking some on the spot (you can find top options at an affordable price).
- Food: Expect to pay from 1€ (for street food) to 4-6€ (at an affordable restaurant). Prices can get higher at a fancier restaurant.
- Entrance Tickets: approximately 4€ (for a combined ticket), single entrances may cost from 1,5€-3€.
- SIM Card: 6€ for 5GB with Ooredoo (package and provider selected by myself – but there are more providers like Tunisie Télécom and Orange).
How Much Time Do I Need?
The more, the better!
Tunisia, from North to South and from East to West, is unexpectedly interesting, beautiful, hospitable, and what’s more simply amazing! You definitely need to roam around a bit to get the best out of your visit!
Based on our personal experience, I would say that one week is enough for just the northern part of the country. Two weeks seems as the ideal time for getting a very good flavor from all regions of Tunisia.
A new blog post will follow on the ideal itinerary for your Tunisian trip!