Top events in Tunisia

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...

December
22

The International Festival of the Sahara is a long-standing event, celebrating Saharan culture through a mixture of dance, live performance, craft...

December
27

Local and international musicians and cultural groups come together on the island of Djerba in celebration island communities throughout the world...

Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast
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Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast

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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: 22 November 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 Tunisia-Algeria border crossing points at Ghardinaou, Nefta and El Kef
  • the militarized zone south of, but not including, the towns of El Borma and Dhehiba
  • within 5km of the Libya border area from north of Dhehiba up to but not including the Ras Jedir border crossing

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

  • areas south of, and including, the towns of Nefta, Douz, Médenine, Zarzis (including the Tunisia-Libya border crossing point at Ras Jedir)
  • within 30km of the border with Algeria south of, and including, the town of Jendouba
  • the governorate of Kasserine, including the town of Sbeitla

Some areas of the interior have been declared military zones and require special passes. Trips into the interior of Tunisia should be made with a reputable tour guide.

There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.

Tunisia is going through a period of political transition following the 2011 revolution. Presidential elections are taking place on 23 November. The Tunisian authorities have announced additional security measures over the election period, including at polling stations. You should be vigilant on that date and avoid political rallies and areas where large crowds may gather.

There have been a number of protests in the post revolutionary period. These are not normally aimed against foreigners, but international events can trigger anti-western demonstrations and further protests could occur.

A new exit tax of 30 dinars per person (about £11) will apply to all departing, non-resident foreigners from 1 October 2014. You must buy the stamp before you leave Tunisia. Payment is in cash in Tunisian dinars. You can buy the stamp at hotels, travel agencies, finance offices, tobacco shops, banks and customs offices (including at the airport and other borders). You can either fix the exit stamp into your passport next to the entry stamp yourself, or ask the border police to do it for you.

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.

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