The North African nation of Tunisia has a wealth of places that will delight tourists, from beautiful beaches to historic gems. If you’ve decided this is the year you’ll come, here are Mundana’s seven tips for visiting Tunisia.
Don’t confine yourself to the coast
Though Tunisia is a popular destination for fly and flop holidaymakers, there’s far more going on across this fascinating nation. You might like to take a train ride as far as the capital, Tunis. Travel back in time in storied Carthage, whose ruins are a window into the life of the ancient city of the Phoenicians. There are a number of other UNESCO World Heritage sites to explore, such as Kairouan, the medina in Sousse and El Djem. Pretty Sidi Bou Said boasts brightly coloured bougainvillea which pops against whitewashed walls. It’s not hard to see why this has long been a favourite among artists. In the south, the Sahara beckons, with salt flats, dunes and oasis towns to discover. If you’re travelling around the country, pack insect repellent as bugs can be bothersome in some parts of the country, though it’s considered malaria-free.
Know that the country’s not just a summer destination
One of the great things about Tunisia is that it’s a year-round destination. The coastal resorts that line the Mediterranean Sea tend to be busiest in July and August. That’s when you have the best chance of fine, sunny weather. But further south in the desert areas, the heat during the summer months can be stifling. It’s better to visit those outside peak season. Winter visitors might like to travel to Douz for the International Festival of the Sahara. This fabled event was first held in 1910. It began as a Bedouin bridal fair and you’ll still see traditional weddings as part of the festivities. It also features dancing, food, camel races, horse races and other cultural events. Time your visit for December if you’re keen to join in. If you are planning to ride a camel in Tunisia, satisfy yourself that they are well cared for.
Try local food
It’s possible to eat international food in hotels and restaurants throughout Tunisia. However, one of our tips for visiting Tunisia is that it would be a pity to miss out on local specialities. Tunisian food is delicious. The coast, as you’d expect, serves up fresh, tasty seafood. Pair grilled fish with fluffy couscous, the country’s staple. Also seek out kabkabou, a flavoursome fish stew, and the perennial favourite shakshuka. Further inland, couscous might be teamed with meat such as lamb. Harissa paste comprises chilli peppers and garlic, which provides heat and flavour. If you’re looking for a snack on the go, it’s hard to beat brik. These triangular deep fried pastries are filled with potato, egg and tuna. Another must-try is ojja. It is a common breakfast option though Tunisians eat it at any time. The dish pairs eggs and merguez, a spicy lamb sausage, enveloping both in a savoury tomato sauce. Be cautious when it comes to drinking the local water; bottled is safest.
Always use licensed taxis
Getting around on your own is straightforward, though there are plenty of local tour operators that can arrange day excursions. While Mundana will happily make arrangements for you, including airport transfers, you may wish to use local taxis at some point during your stay. If that’s the case, if you’re trying to get around Tunis, you may wish to download the BOLT app. The most reliable option is always to seek help from the hotel concierge in finding a reputable driver. Safety is important, so never be tempted to use an unlicensed taxi to save a few dinars – it’s just not worth it.
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Watch Star Wars before you go
Various places in Tunisia were used as filming locations for the Star Wars movies. Although anyone can visit, you’ll add an extra dimension if you’ve already watched the films. Tour Djerba, where you can see Chalmun’s Cantina and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s house in Ajim, as well as the Toshi Station in Sidi Jemour. Sidi Bouhlel, sometimes referred to as “Star Wars canyon”, is home to the Jawa rock where R2D2 was kidnapped. Move on to the Mos Espa film set. Beside it is the Yardangs, the setting for the lightsaber fight scene between Darth Maul and Qui-Gonn. Most iconic of all the filming locations is Matmata. These troglodyte caves were famously featured in the franchise. Hotel Sidi Driss doubled as the Lars Homestead, Luke Skywalker’s home on Tatooine.
Change up your dinars before leaving the country
One of the most important tips for visiting Tunisia that we can share has to do with money. The Tunisian dinar is a closed currency. What that means in practice is that travellers aren’t permitted to purchase currency outside the country. You can exchange hard currency in banks, post offices or bureaux de change. It is likely you will be asked to show your passport as proof of your identity during the transaction. At the end of the trip, all remaining notes and coins should be exchanged before you fly home. It’s important that you keep receipts; ATM slips may not be accepted. Credit cards can often be used instead of cash. Note that VISA is more widely accepted than MasterCard.
Shop around before purchasing anything
The last of our seven tips for visiting Tunisia is to do your research before you buy your souvenirs. The country’s souks are a traveller highlight. These historic medinas date back centuries and experiencing what they’re like is a popular distraction. Nevertheless, the thought of haggling can be daunting for some visitors. It’s a time-honoured tradition with a lot to recommend it. You’ll need a crash course on haggling etiquette to avoid causing offence. Negotiations should always take place in a good-natured manner. You should never bargain too hard, as this is someone’s livelihood; however, participating is expected. Preparation is important: there are fixed price shops which give you an indication of price and quality before you dive in to the markets.
Mundana’s travel experts can help you find the ideal base for your Tunisian holiday and suggest a tour itinerary for all or part of your trip so that you get to see more of this fascinating country. Why not get in touch now and see what you could do in this incredible part of North Africa?