Tunisia travel guide
From broad sweeps of beach overlooked by a tumble of sugar-cube houses, to grand ancient ruins and the vast, rolling dunes of the Sahara, Tunisia encapsulates everything that’s enticing about North Africa.
Lose yourself in the maze of medina alleyways in Tunis, explore the Maghreban mosques of Kairouan and stand on the shimmering salt flats of Chott El Jerid. Tuck into freshly baked brik at a bustling street market, pretend to be a Roman gladiator at El Jem’s impressive amphitheatre and hoist yourself onto a camel for a trip into the desert.
Traditionally, sun-seeking tourists came to Tunisia for its beaches – lining the Mediterranean, the long, rambling coastline is impressive. But while modern resorts are perfect for an easy escape, more adventurous travellers can explore tiny coastal villages, where fishermen haul in the day’s catch on quiet beaches and cobblestone streets are lined with blooming bougainvillea.
But Tunisia is so much more than a seaside destination. You’ll realise as much sitting down at a café after the last notes of the call to prayer have faded. Or puffing on apple-scented shisha as you watch old men play dominos. Otherwise, get scrubbed and steamed on a marble slab under the tiled domes of a hammam. Or haggle in the souks, sipping glasses of mint tea while you barter for the best price. Suffice to say the age-old traditions of Tunisian life are still alive and well.
Regarded as one of North Africa’s most politically moderate countries, Tunisia balances traditional Islamic culture with modern influences. Beyond the ancient medina, the cities are full of restaurants, cafes and bars, many of which have a European air about them.
Though tourism took a hit during the Arab Spring, travellers are returning to the country in increasing numbers. The appeal of Tunisia endures.
163,610 sq km (63,170 sq miles).
11,375,220 (UN estimate 2016).
67.4 per sq km.
President Beji Caid Essebsi since 2014.
Prime Minister Habib Essid since 2015.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Legislative elections took place in October 2014, and Beji Caid Essebsi became the country’s first democratically elected President in December 2014. The current government under Prime Minister Youssef Chahed was approved in parliament on 26 August 2016.
Demonstrations sparked by economic, political or religious tensions may occur. Most protests are peaceful, but some have affected key services, disrupted traffic or have become violent.
There were violent confrontations between protesters and security forces across Tunisia in late January 2016. This resulted in a night-time curfew on 22 January 2016, which was lifted on 4 February 2016.
You should keep up to date with developments, avoid all protests and places where large crowds gather and follow instructions given by the security authorities, your hotel and your tour operator, if you have one.
There is a heightened Tunisian security presence at the borders with Libya and Algeria due to cross border terrorist activity and fighting in Libya. Border crossings are sometimes closed temporarily without notice. Some violent incidents have occurred.
The FCO advise against all travel within 5 km of the Libyan border from north of Dhehiba to south of Ras Ajdir, and against all travel through border crossing points to Algeria at Ghardimaou, Hazoua and Sakiet Sidi Youssef.
See FCO travel advice for Libya and Algeria.
The FCO advise against all travel to the Chaambi Mountain National Park area where Tunisian Security Forces continue to conduct security operations. Security personnel have been killed and severely wounded in attacks and by booby-trap explosives in this area.
Incidents of mugging, pick pocketing, bag-snatching and petty theft occur. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. Where possible, avoid carrying all your important documents, money and other valuables in the same bag. You should remain alert to potential confidence tricks.
Personal attacks are rare but they do occur. Harassment of foreign women, including uninvited physical contact, appears to be increasing. Four cases of sexual assault in Tunisia were reported to British consular staff in 2015. Women should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK and should avoid going to secluded areas alone.
Rail travel is generally safe, although safety standards tend to be lower than those in the UK. There is a risk of petty crime on trains.
Driving standards are erratic. There is very little lane discipline and often confusion about the right of way, especially at roundabouts. There are few pedestrian crossings and traffic lights are sometimes ignored. Take care when driving in towns as pedestrians tend to walk on the roads and have the right of way. Take particular care when crossing roads on foot, even where there is a signal allowing you to do so.
Roads are generally of a reasonable standard although large pot-holes can appear quickly following heavy rain.
You may come across military or police security checks. If you do, approach slowly, don’t cross boundaries without permission and be prepared to present photo ID if asked.
Demonstrations can occasionally affect road travel.