Located at the very centre of Mediterranean Africa, Tunisia offers spectacular scenery, as well as a historical and cultural heritage that would make many larger countries blush. As one of the more successful post-colonial nations in North Africa, it has welcomed tourists for many years and now has a strong infrastructure of modern hotels and good restaurants. Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach holiday or a more active cultural tour, you are bound to have a great time here.
Arabic is the official and commercial language of Tunisia, although French is also widely spoken. The use of English is very limited.
Useful Arabic words and phrases:
Hello - MarhabaGoodbye - Ma’a salamaPlease - Min FadlakThank you - Shoo kranYes - AiwaNo - LaWhere is…? – Fayn…?How much is this? - Kum Hada
The dinar is Tunisia’s unit of currency, which is divided into 1,000 millimes. Coins come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 millimes, and 1 dinar. The notes are 5, 10, 20, 30 dinars. The letter D usual follows prices.
Current exchange rates (August 2006):
1 British Pound (£) : 2.53524 Tunisian dinar (D)1 US Dollar ($) : 1.34007 Tunisian dinar (D)1 Euro (€) : 1.71380 Tunisian dinar (D)
Tunisia enjoys sunshine and warmth all year round. The coastal regions have long, hot Mediterranean summers, when temperatures can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, well above 35°C (95°F). Winters tend to be a little rainy but always very mild. As you travel further south, it becomes hotter and drier, as the climate starts to become more like that of the Sahara.
Given the extremely high temperatures during the summer months, the period from October to May is generally seen as the best time to visit Tunisia.
Tunis, the nation’s capital, is a compact city, which makes it very easy to navigate. The Medina (old Arab quarter) is at its heart, dating back to as early as the seventh century and is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Dougga ancient Roman ruin, the Bardo Museum, the Zitouna Mosque and the Tourbet el-Bey Mausoleum are all recommended.
Nearby is Carthage, which was one of the major cities of ancient times until the Romans razed it to the ground in the Third Punic War (149-146 BC). Now, visitors can enjoy fantastic views of the gulf and the beautiful surroundings. You should certainly go to Byrsa Hill, the Roman ampitheatre, the Antonine Baths and the Sanctuary of Tophet.
Of a similar ilk are the prodigious third-century colloseum at El-Jem, on the east coast, and the ancient Roman city, Sufetula, which is near the town of Sbeitla in central Tunisia.
The Cap Bon Peninsula is one of Tunisia’s busiest tourist areas. Stretching right out into the Mediterranean Sea, the luscious peninsula has miles of beaches and plenty of nightlife. Hammamet, in the south east corner of the region, is a very popular town, with a gorgeous medina and the very friendly Sinbad Hotel Bar. Another town on the peninsular is Nabeul. Although not as lively as Hammamet, it does have its fair share of bars and restaurants. It is also the Tunisian capital for pottery!
You may also consider a trip to Tozeur, in central Tunisia. This traditional stopover town is home to an enormous palm forest, a magnificent old quarter and a very good museum.
There are all sorts of things you can take back with you from Tunisia (and it is worth remembering that, with a EUR 1 form, you don’t pay any duty on articles up to the value of £900).
Almost everywhere you go, you can find copperware, olive wood sculptures, leather goods, pottery and ceramics (especially in Nabeul), traditional dolls, embroidery and jewellery. Knotted and woven carpets are also widely available; though, if you are buying one, don’t forget to check it has a National Handicrafts Office tag on it. Note that shops normally close for a few hours around lunchtime.
If you venture out to the markets, you will find regional handicrafts and anything from farm produce to second hand goods. Vendors can be quite pushy, but this is easily overcome by being extremely aloof.
There are plenty of bars and cafés in Tunis and the other larger cities, though the serious nightlife generally centres around the popular tourist destinations. In Hammamet most hotels put on dance nights and other entertainment. There are also many discos and bars in the town. If you want to carry on into the smaller hours, it is worth exploring nearby Djerba, where the carnival atmosphere carries on until the sun comes up.
All over Tunisia there is an abundance of festivals taking place throughout the year, whether they are celebrating the harvest, the beginning of spring, the fishing season, or a local saint. Visitors are usually more than welcome to join in with the party.
Traffic drives on the right. Speed limits are 30 kph/19 mph in town and 110 kph/68 mph on motorways. Signs indicate other limits where applicable.
It is advisable that you do not risk any drinking at all before driving as penalties here are extremely heavy, including a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
The quality of roads is generally (though not always) good. Since 2002, the government has undertaken a large improvement project for roads all over Tunisia.
Food and Drink
Tunisian cuisine is often grounded on an interesting hybrid of Mediterranean olives, garlic, peppers and tomatoes with Middle Eastern cumin, saffron and chilli. Lamb is the most commonly eaten meat and is served in a variety of ways. Near the coast you will also find a spectacular range of seafood in most restaurants. Finally, you can’t leave without trying the jewel in the crown of North African cooking, couscous.
Coffee and tea are hugely popular in Tunisia. These are usually served very sweet, so you might want to tell the waiter to ease off on the sugar. Green tea is also very popular, served with sprigs of mint. Wines from the northern regions are very good, especially the Chateau Momag, a light rosé.
Tunisian National Tourism Office (ONTT)1 Ave. Mohamed V – 1001Tunis Tunisia Tel. +216 (0) 71 341 077 Fax. +216 (0) 71 350 997www.tourismtunisia.com
AirportsThe major international airports in Tunisia are Tunis-Carthage, Monastir, Jerba, Tozeur and Tabarka.
On the northeast coast, Monastir-Habib Bourguiba International Airport also caters for millions of domestic and international flights each year.
Most incoming flights are from European, Middle Eastern and North African destinations with Tunisia’s main airline, Tunis Air.
Note that there are no direct flights between Tunisia and North America, South America, Asia or Australasia.
All car hire locations in Tunisia
- Al Ḩammāmāt
- Djerba Zarzis International Airport
- Gabès Matmata International Airport
- Hammam Sousse
- La Goulette
- Monastir Habib Bourguiba International Airport
- Sfax Thyna International Airport
- Tozeur Nefta International Airport
- Tunis Carthage International Airport