Some countries leave their mark on travelers. They take their visitors into a strange, fantastic world from times long past. They amaze and enchant and touch you deep in your heart. For us, Tunisia is one of these countries.
The exciting mix of traditional and modern, desert and sea makes the small Maghreb state at the Mediterranean sea a very attractive travel destination. And if you bring a pinch of adventure, you will be richly rewarded in Tunisia – with the most delicious dates, beautiful beaches, barren canyon landscapes, fertile oases, film sets, fortified castles, real hidden gems and a golden, endless sea of sand, so beautiful that it almost hurts.
But Tunisia not only scores in terms of landscape. Above all, the genuine warmth and friendliness of the locals make every traveler’s heart beat faster. Despite the economic crisis and collapsed tourism, you are not pushed as a traveler. On the contrary! You will be welcomed with optimism, patience and open arms.
To be honest, Tunisia and its people have touched us deeply. In the future, we hope that more travelers will find their way to Tunisia and fall in love with the country and the people just as we do.
Here are the absolute highlights of our Tunisia trip. If you scroll further down, you will also find a lot of general information about Tunisia (e.g. about (free) camping in Tunisia, about road conditions, currency, security, etc.).
Arabic is spoken in Tunisia. The second language is French. But many Tunisians also speak some English and often Italian. Many also understand German in the tourist resorts.
Knowledge of French is certainly an advantage for an individual trip to Tunisia (especially if you have to speak to police officers/officials).
currency / money
The currency is the Tunisian dinar (TND). 1 € = 3TND (as of February 2019)
There are exchange offices at the airports and in front of the ferry terminal in Tunis. Otherwise you can withdraw dinar at ATMs. New ATMs can even pull in euro or dollar bills and change out of dinar bills (e.g. in the luxury department store Grammarth Center).
Generally Tunisia is a very cheap travel destination.
Local vegetables and fruits and staple foods are cheap. However, foreign branded products (e.g. Lindt chocolate) are very expensive.
The gasoline and diesel prices are also very low. (In December 2019, 1l of diesel cost the equivalent of around € 0.50.) Certain services are also very inexpensive (e.g. car wash including underbody cleaning = € 3)
The state religion is Islam. Tradition is very important, but even though most Tunisian Muslims follow the rules, they reject any kind of religious fanaticism.
As in any other Muslim country, travelers should follow a few rules of conduct: no overly affectionate public statements, no overly irritable, skimpy or see-through clothing.
According to the constitution, women are equal and self-determined in Tunisia. Headscarf is only worn by around 50% of women. Tourists do not have to wear a headscarf (except in religious institutions).
In Tunisia there are two broadly divided „climate zones“: in the northern parts of the country there is a Mediterranean climate (summers are pleasantly warm, the winter months are mild but often rainy), in the Sahara foothills in the south-west of the country there is a desert climate (in summer the thermometer likes to rise over 40 degrees. The winters are nice and warm. Attention, do not forget: it can get very cold in the desert at night!).
The months of May to October are recommended for a beach holiday on the coast. For a tour to the Sahara oases you should choose the winter months.
Most travelers come into the country by plane. There are connections between numerous European cities and the cities of Tunis, Enfindha, Monastir and Djerba.
If you want to travel with your own vehicle, you have to use a ferry to Tunis. They run several times a week, for example from Italy (Palermo, Civitavecchia, Genoa) or France (Marseille). The ferry prices can vary greatly depending on the provider, travel time and route! It is best to inform you in advance at www.directferries.com and compare the prices there.
More information about arriving and departing at the Tunis ferry port you can find in this separated blog post.
With a valid passport, visitors can stay in Tunisia for up to 3 months.
There are some very good motorways in Tunisia (they connect Tunis with Gabès in the south, Bizerte in the north and Beja in the northwest). A toll is charged for some sections (the toll must be paid at small toll booths on the motorways – similar system as in Italy and Portugal). There are also numerous well-kept rest areas along the motorways.
Attention: on the freeway you will often come across pedestrians and cars parked on the side of the road – this is where you have to be extremely vigilant!
In Tunisia there are also many good „main roads“ that connect all of the larger towns. They are used by all road users equally: heavy transport, donkey carts, taxis, pickups, carriages … There is often heavy traffic.
There are also many small streets (paved and unpaved) that connect the smaller villages. They often run crisscross the landscape and are only rarely used.
In general the road conditions are good.
But be careful: the locals are quite breakneck – especially on the busy main roads they pay little attention to oncoming traffic, speed limit or right of way rules.
the jasmine revolution
The so-called „Arab Spring“ began in 2010 with the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution. Young, well educated Tunisians with no future prospects in particular demonstrated against the autocratic regime. When the military also sided with them, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the current head of state, fled after 23 years in government. The first democratic presidential elections finally took place in 2014. Tunisia was the only Arab country that was able to implement the ideals of the Jasmine Revolution and make the transition to democracy.
Tunisia has long been considered one of the safest countries in North Africa. The 2010 Jasmine Revolution and the 2015 terrorist attacks, which also killed many tourists, have shifted this picture.
Tourism has practically come to a standstill since 2015 – and even years later, Tunisia is still a red sheet for many holidaymakers.
We personally would classify Tunisia in general as a safe travel destination. The past few years have been very quiet. The Tunisians are trying very hard to rebuild trust. There are police controls at practically every city entrance and exit. However, vacationers are mostly waved through.
In „potentially critical areas“ (e.g. border region with Algeria), foreign travelers are treated with extreme care. The police officers in particular are very keen to convey a feeling of security (you are escorted, the sleeping areas are patrolled, etc.).
It is not easy to assess the actual security situation of a foreign country. Our assessment is subjective and based on our personal experiences during our trip to Tunisia in December 2019.
We personally have not experienced any „dangerous situations“. Once we saw a small street blockade of demonstrators (but were safely led around by other locals. The police were also on site).
Once we were escorted by the police from El-Guettar to Gafsa (from Gafsa we were then allowed to continue on our own towards Tozeur, but were told to not leave the main road).
In Tozeur the police patrolled several times around our sleeping place, our data was documented and even the local chief of police came over personally to leave us his private number – „Just in case!“ 😉
In Grammarth near Tunis we were sent by the police to a „safer“ sleeping place at night, where they later patrolled several times.
We have also heard similar reports from other travelers. We cannot assess whether these security measures are actually necessary. In our opinion, they were more about rebuilding trust. For us it seemed as if the „Garde Nationale“ (National Guard) was always called upon to take care of tourists with full commitment.
„The German Foreign Office warns against trips to the area south or southeast of a line that runs from the Algerian border via Tozeur – Douz – Ksar Ghilane – Tataouine to Zarzis, into the immediate border area with Algeria and the mountainous regions around El Aioun and the province of Kasserine and from individual, unorganized desert tours. „
The greatest health risk for tourists in Tunisia is probably gastrointestinal infections. Travelers should take care to only eat peeled and/or well-cooked food and only bottled water (no ice cubes).
In the desert, you should protect yourself from the strong sunlight with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen. Don’t forget to drink enough!
There are some poisonous animals in Tunisia (snake, spiders, scorpions). They mostly live in dry desert and rock regions. Even if an encounter is very, very rare, you should always pay close attention to where you are stepping and grasping (never lift large stones or wooden parts from the floor, but only lift/move them with a stick, pay attention at irregular traces in the sand and knock out shoes before putting them on, etc.).
Tunisia and its crowded medinas are a real shopping paradise!
Tips for nice souvenirs:
– Dates from Douz (the so called „Deglet en-Nour“ are considered the best dates in the world. They are available in every supermarket).
– high-quality, cold-pressed olive oil (available in every supermarket)
– Harissa (a spicy, red paste. Available in every supermarket)
– Ceramic ware, like filigree painted, colorful plates and bowls (in Sidi Bou Said you can find lots of small shops that sell beautiful ceramic ware – don’t forget to bargain for the price!)
– „Sand roses“ (every dealer in the desert and practically every shop in the south of Tunisia sell the fascinating crystal structures that are actually reminiscent of rose petals. They are made of plaster and are caused by rapidly evaporating surface moisture, for example at the Chott el Djerid salt lake).
As in every other arab country, bargaining is very important in Tunisia too. Don’t forget: Arabs are very capable businessmen who know exactly what they’re doing. So don’t be annoyed if you pay an excessive price until the end 🙂 If you can push the price mentioned at the beginning by 30-50%, you can be very proud of yourself. A few shops (e.g. in Sidi Bou Said) have fixed prices – then the prices are shown on the respective souvenirs.
Note: we personally did not find the Tunisian sellers as intrusive and pushing as in other Arab countries. On the contrary, they usually behaved very friendly and reserved. They show their goods, you can take your time and have a look and they will politely say goodbye – even if you don’t buy anything.
If you are planning a longer trip through Tunisia, a Tunisian SIM card is recommended. There are, for example. from the providers ORANGE or OOREDOO. The prices are very good at 25 dinars for 25GB and 55 dinars for 55GB!
The SIM cards are available in the many small corner shops and tobacco shops along the main roads (look for the „Orange“ or „Ooredoo“ signs at the shop). Warning: most of these shops are closed on Sundays!
In the beautiful Zephyr shopping mall in La Marsa near Tunis there is an Ooredoo shop that is also open on Sundays.
Reception is practically everywhere except in the deep desert!
Wifi is usually only available in hotels, shopping centers and some restaurants.
Tunisia is not (yet) the classic destination for campers. Although many Mediterranean countries, such as Morocco, Spain and Portugal, have been experiencing a real vanlife and camping boom for years, the trend has not yet spread to Tunisia. Accordingly, it looks poor with conventional campsites.
There are only a few paid campsites (with electricity and toilets/showers), but they are not always open. Most of them are located at the foothills of the desert in Tozeur and Douz. They were built here during the Sahara tourism boom in the 80s and 90s.
Campsites by the sea – with pool, supermarket and restaurant – like in Italy, there are (still) none.
But despite the lack of facilities, Tunisia is a great, worth seeing destination for campers! Because here you can still stand free – practically anywhere you want. Between olive trees, on the shores of the lake, on the beach, at the edge of a village, in the mountains, in the desert …
Wild camping is actually prohibited in Tunisia, but in reality campers are not punished or scared away. On the contrary! Everywhere welcomes you with open arms, because the locals sincerely look forward to every visitor who visits their country.
In potentially dangerous areas (e.g. near the Algerian border – see also point „Safety“) it can happen that police officers come past the parking lot and check whether you are doing well. They may make a note of the camper data and may refer to a safer place or patrol several times around the sleeping area at night.
What we personally liked very much in Tunisia is the fact that as a camper you are never bothered by locals. No matter whether you are camping between dunes or clearly visible near a village, in Tunisia there are no annoying sellers who want to talk you into a souvenir 🙂
At the moment only very few campers and vanlifers are coming to Tunisia with their vehicles. If anything, you meet desert drivers who take part in a desert rallye with their jeeps or motorcycles. There are no vans. And I mean REALLY NONE! But that will certainly change in the next few years! The warm, sunny climate, the affordable prices, the beautiful landscape and the warm locals will attract more and more campers. And I am certain that Tunisia will soon experience the same boom as Morocco. So just go ahead! Off to Tunisia – before the masses come! 🙂
Tip: there are some sleeping places on the Park4Night app. We also marked our most beautiful pitches there.