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5 things to know before travelling to Tunisia

by yang

Where else can you find ancient Roman ruins, sparkling turquoise Mediterranean beaches, a touch of the Sahara and the unique Berber culture? Only in Tunisia!

Despite its reputation as a summer holiday destination, Tunisia is so much more than that. The country is just starting to open up to independent tourism, which means it’s a fantastic time to go before the crowds arrive.

Once you have your Tunisian visa for US citizens, it’s time to start planning. To help, we’ve rounded up our top Tunisia travel tips and everything you need to know before you go.

Best time to go to Tunisia

Due to Tunisia’s climate and geographical location, certain times are better than others if you want to enjoy a comfortable trip to Tunisia.

For example, summer is the best time for those looking for a sunny beach holiday. Between June and August, temperatures can reach up to 35C (95F), perfect for swimming and lounging on the beaches.

If you want to explore the country and do some sightseeing, you should plan your trip for the low season. April to May and October to November offer pleasant temperatures between 20 and 25C (68 and 77F).

Another thing to watch out for are the jellyfish. Most of them can be found off the coast of towns such as Sousse and Monastir at the end of August. Although their stings are not fatal, they are slightly painful, so take this into account when planning your trip.

Where Africa meets Europe

Walking through the streets of Sidi Bou Said, you might think you’ve been transported to Santorini or a small Italian village – and you’re not wrong! Some parts of Tunisia feel more European because of the country’s long French influence. You can see the French influence in everything from the architecture to the friendly customer service and even the language.

The combination of elements of Arab culture, unspoilt African nature and European friendliness is sure to surprise and delight first-time visitors.

Money and currency

The official currency is the Tunisian Dinar. You can easily exchange dollars or euros at most banks, bureaux de change, hotels and airports.

In major cities, credit cards can be used almost everywhere. In smaller towns, however, you may need to carry cash in small shops or cafes.

There is one interesting rule that not too many travellers know: it is illegal to take the local currency out of the country! Don’t worry though, you can easily exchange your unused Tunisian dinar at the airport.
Another tip is to bargain in places where there are no price tags, such as souvenir shops. Bargaining is a way of life in Tunisia, and if you’re lucky, you can get the price down by two or three times the original amount.

Getting around

Tunisia has an excellent transport system that won’t cause you any problems as you explore the country. The best way to get around the city is to take a yellow taxi, which is ubiquitous. The cost of a taxi ride is only a few dollars and the price is determined by the meter (just make sure the driver turns it on before you go!).

There is also an excellent public transport system with air-conditioned buses, metro and trams in major cities. You can travel between cities by train, with carriages of varying comfort, or by intercity bus.

If you want to get off the beaten track and plan your own itinerary, it’s best to hire a car. The only requirements are that you have a driving licence valid for at least one year and are at least 21 years old. Some places to visit by car are the Sidi Driss Hotel in Matmata (which featured in the first Star Wars film!), Lake Ichkeul and the Dougga ruins.

Food and water

Tunisian cuisine is a unique blend of cultures and ingredients you won’t find anywhere else. On the one hand, Tunisia is influenced by its Mediterranean location and indigenous Berber roots, along with bits of Italian, Andalusian, French and Arabic cuisine. On the other hand, the food has a particular spiciness that sets it apart from its neighbours.

You’ll find tasty grilled meats, chicken and freshly caught fish cooked with special spices – after all, Tunisia borders the Mediterranean!

But don’t mistake Tunisians for a savoury bunch. Their desserts are absolutely fantastic and have no competition, whether it’s baklava, bambalouni (sweet doughnuts), almond shortbread and more.

When it comes to drinking, avoid tap water and buy bottled water instead. It is also worth noting that alcoholic drinks are not sold everywhere in Tunisia and you may have to look around to find a shop. Alcohol is usually sold in the city’s largest grocery store and a few selected supermarkets.

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