Top events in Tunisia

August
01

Running since the early 1980s, the Tunis Medina Festival takes place in the capital during evening over Ramadan, featuring musical acts and film...

October
01

A prestigious film festival that attracts a few Hollywood names, but the focus is on African and Arab films. In alternate years, the festival is...

December
01

This festival is a smaller version of the International Festival of the Desert, and features several days of camel racing, traditional dance and...

Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast

© Creative Commons / http2007's

Tunisia Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

163,610 sq km (63,170 sq miles).

Population

10.8 million (2013).

Population density

66.2 per sq km.

Capital

Tunis.

Government

Republic. Gained independence from France in 1956.

Head of state

President Moncef Morzouki since 2011.

Head of government

Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa since 2014.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used.

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 is a fusion of everything that makes North Africa enticing. It may be most famous as a summer beach break destination but there's something for everyone here.

Lose your way by following the scent of spice amid the twisting maze of medina alleyways in Tunis or Kairouan to stumble upon remnants of grand Ottoman glory.  Stand on the edge of the glittering Chott El Jerid salt pan to see the silver crust shimmer mirror-like as it stretches boundlessly across the land. Walk through the underground tunnel of El Jem to arrive in the middle of the amphitheatre arena, the way the gladiators of Rome once entered this mighty colosseum. Or hoist yourself onto the high camel saddle and venture out into the desert dunes. It's no wonder Tunisia is such a favoured spot for shooting movies. The diversity of landscapes and experiences, over such a small nation, is its greatest appeal.

Traditionally seen as North Africa at its most laid-back, Tunisia manages a delicate balancing act between traditional Islamic culture and the encroaching tide of modernity. Gender equality rights are written into the constitution, alcohol is freely available, and the state and religion are treated as two separate entities. But that's not to say that the fascinating rhythms of the Islamic world have disappeared.

Sit down at a street side cafe after the last notes of the muezzin's evening call to prayer have faded. Then sink into a hypnotic stupor of apple-scented shisha smoking while old men slam tiles onto the surrounding tables in a clatter of competitive domino playing. Get scrubbed, rubbed and steamed until your skin is smooth and pink, upon a marble slab, under the tiled domes of a centuries-old hammam. Haggle your heart out with the craft vendors in the souks, consuming dozens of tiny glasses of mint tea while you barter for the best price. The age-old customs and traditions of Tunisian life are still alive and well for those who wish to look for them.

It is the beach life though that most visitors come here for and the sun-dappled Tunisian coast doesn't disappoint. Straddling the Mediterranean, the long, rambling coastline has something for every kind of beach-lover. There are modern resort towns boasting all the facilities sun-seekers need, perfect for families looking for an easy summer escape. And there is the gentler pace of the tiny coastal villages with cobblestone streets framed by walls of flowing bourganvillia and jasmine that lead down to the sea.

The Tunisian Revolution of 2011 may have kept the tourists off the beaches and out of the monuments for a while, but it's not hard to see why they're coming back. As a destination, Tunisia balances natural beauty with a pulse-quickening - at times turbulent - energy; a place where you can have as relaxed, or as adventurous a trip as you decide. If you're looking for an evocative taste of North Africa you're in the right place.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 27 July 2014

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.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:

  • the Chaambi Mountain National Park area

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

  • areas south of, and including, the towns of Nefta, Douz, Médenine and Zarzis

  • within 30km of the border with Algeria from south of the town of Ghardinaou

Tunisia is going through a period of political transition following the 2011 revolution, and has experienced protests in the post revolutionary period. After months of political stalemate and heightened tensions, a new constitution was agreed in January 2014 and a new technocratic government was appointed. Parliamentary elections are now scheduled to take place on 26 October and Presidential elections on 23 November. A State of Emergency, which had been in place since January 2011, was lifted on 5 March 2014.

There is a possibility of further protests. These are not normally aimed against foreigners, but international events can trigger anti-western demonstrations.

There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. The FCO advise against travel to some areas of southern Tunisia and near to the border with Libya and Algeria due to the threat from terrorism.

There has been a recent increase in terrorist activity in Tunisia, including an explosion on the beach next to the Riadh Palm Hotel in the tourist zone in Sousse on 30 October. The only reported casualty was the individual carrying explosives. On the same day 2 other individuals found with explosives at the Borguiba Mausoleum in Monastir were arrested.

On 25 May 2014, security forces arrested 16 individuals with explosives near the southern border with Libya. In a press statement the Minister of the Interior announced that the group had plans to attack industrial sites and tourist areas. During the night of 27 May 2014, gunmen attacked a house belonging to the Minister of the Interior in Kasserine, killing 4 policemen.

On 16 July there was a serious attack in the Chaambi mountains which killed and injured a number of Tunisian soldiers.

There were reports of violent clashes over the weekend of 30 May to 1 June between an armed group and security forces in Fernana (in the governorate of Jendouba) and on 22 June in Oued Argoub (in the governorate of Kasserine). No arrests were reported.

The possibility of further attacks, including in the coastal resorts and desert areas can’t be ruled out and the Ministry of the Interior has warned of an increase in threats during the month of Ramadan and in the run up to the elections. The British Embassy is in regular contact with the Tunisian authorities and this travel advice is kept under constant review.

You should be vigilant, keep up to date with this travel advice, and follow the advice of the local authorities and your tour operator.

408,655 British nationals visited Tunisia in 2013. Most British tourists stay in the coastal resorts and most visits are trouble free.

In the resort areas, the dress code is much like any European city or tourist area. In other parts of the country you should dress more modestly.

Some areas of the interior have been declared military zones and will have an increased security presence. If possible, trips into the interior of Tunisia should be made with a reputable tour guide.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Newsletter