Tunisia is a very small country yet somehow it manages to boast a huge number of attractions. Hostory and culture fans will love the ancient ruins of Carthage, outdoors types come to see the stunning oases, sun seekers com for the glorious beaches and geeks and film buffs alike will make eager pilgrimages to Star Wars sets of Matmata. Many travellers dismiss a country this small, or include only a cursory few days of a longer tour but they are doing this country a grave injustice in not exploring all that this feature packed destination has to offer.
- Currency: Tunisian Dinar (TD) = 1000 millimes
- Time Zone: GMT + 1
- Language: Arabic
- Telephone Services: Country code +216, International access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: 197 police, 198 firefighters, 190 emergency
Tunisia is hot and dry all year round especially inland. The best time to visit is in the spring and autumn when temperatures drop slightly to a more comfortable level. Winter is very mild and experiences the most of what little rainfall Tunisia experiences.
Things to see and do
The capital of Tunisia, Tuni, in many ways reflects its parent country. It is small by the standards of modern capitals yet still manages to pack literally scores of compelling sites within its boundaries. The medina is the oldest area of the city, constructed in 7AD it also houses the Zitouna Mosque which was built in part from the ruins of Roman Carthage, although non-Muslims are not allowed right into the mosque it is still a fascinating structure to see. Just a stones throw away is the Tourbet el-Bey which is an enormous mausoleum which houses the remains of much of the Husseinite court. Also worth cheking out is the Dar Ben Abdallah Museum which specialises in popular arts and the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul.
One of the most interesting areas of the country is Carthage. This city was once an incredibly influential city under both Carthaginian and Roman rule. Most of the ruins which remain are from the Roman period but they are still quite spectacular. The key sight is the huge Roman amphitheatre which is rumoured to have once been one of the biggest in the world and despite much of the ruins being scavenged for other building projects it is still worth taking a look at. The other main attraction is the Sanctuary of Tophet which was a Carthaginian sacrificial sight with an adjoining burial ground, the myths and folklore around this sight is immense but it is rumoured that the Carthaginians killed and roasted children at this sight to appease their gods.
Tunis air operates a small number of domestic flights although these are quite reasonably priced they are only really useful if you are in a hurry, especially since they are so busy that you will normally have to book in advance.
The SNCFT operates the rail network which links Tunis, Gabès, Sousse, Sfax and Gafsa. It is worth noting that cikets bought on the train are usually over double the price of those bought at stations so it is well worth purchasing before you get on the train. The majority of services now have air conditioning and a buffet car although the air conditioned facilities are very popular so when you can try to book them in advance. Trains passing through Tunis, Gabès, Sousse, Sfax and Gafsa are all air-conditioned, but for travelling from Tunis to Hammamet through Bir bouregba it's not advised to take a train as they are not comfortable.
There is a state-run bus service recognisable by its green and yellow buses, these are operated by SNTRI and are air conditioned, comfortable and affordable. In addition there are numerous small private companies offering a similar service. Between these and the SNTRI buses you should have any problem reaching anywhere in Tunisia.
There are plenty of hotels in Tunisia, mainly centred around urban areas. Hotels are graded by a star sign ranging from luxury (close to international standard) 5 star hotels to cheap and basic 1 star hotels. During the peak tourist season it is advisable to book in advance as hotels can fill up.
There are a number of youth hostels throughout Tunisia and they are open to all members of the International Youth Hostel Association. Hostels are moderated by the Association Tunisienne des Auberges et Tourisme de Jeunes and standards are of good quality. Reservations should be made well in advance especially if you are travelling in a group as these hostels are extremely popular.
Tunisia has a fairly well developed health service but it is not available throughout the country. Health insurance is essential and it is advisable to purchase a policy which will cover the cost of repatriation if required.
There is a significant cholera risk in Tunisia and you should consult your GP for advice concerning the somewhat disputed cholera vaccination. Vaccination against typhoid is recommended; this can be supplied by your local GP and should cost around £40. Rabies is present in the country and those at risk (i.e./ working around animals) should consider vaccination before arrival. Anyone bitten by an animal is advised to seek immediate medical advice.
Water in the main urban areas is chlorinated and while safe to drink may cause mild stomach upset, it is advisable to use bottled water for the first week or so of stay. Drinking water from other sources should be treated as potentially contaminated and should be sterilised before use. Both pasteurised and unpasteurised milk is sold so always check the packaging and ensure you are buying pasteurised milk. If pasteurised milk is unavailable milk should be boiled before consumption. Dairy products should be avoided as they are not guaranteed to be made from properly sterilised milk. Meat should be well cooked and eaten hot, fruit and vegetables should be washed and cooked or peeled where appropriate. Caution should be observed when buying food from street vendors.
Tunis air operate a small number of domestic flights between major towns
The Association Tunisienne des Auberges et Tourisme de Jeunes runs a number of youth hostels in Tunisia