Things to know before traveling to Tunisia

Tunis by Night

I don’t generally struggle to find my way in any new place. Or my place for that matter. Tunis has been a bit of a challenge. This has been contributed largely by the fact that in the city the locals speak French and Arabic. You will hardly find anyone that speaks English.

I have been in Tunis staying in the city and the World Heritage site – Medina de Tunis for 3 days. I have found that accommodation establishments hold us back from exploring especially when you are alone as they are so quick to warn you about how the city is dangerous. I have been warned but I am not a good listener cos I have walked these streets so much taking pictures which I have been told not to do cos it is not safe. But the police are everywhere and this city is safe. I guess because you are foreign people tend to go a bit too far to try to keep you safe without realizing that they are instilling fear in you.

Currency & Banking 
The local currency in Tunisia is the Tunisian Dinar (TD). The currency is a closed currency and therefore cannot be traded anywhere out of Tunisia. Should you make a bank withdrawal, always keep the receipts as those are required to exchange your leftover Dinars at the airport. You can change your currency to back to Dollars or Euros. 

There are plenty of banks around the city. most banks do take foreign VISA and Mastercard. Always carry cash as most of the places you may struggle to find an English ATM. The French only ATMs tend to pick cheque account automatically when you use the ATM and if you account is not a cheque account, it will reject your transaction. 
*** Please check the current exchange rate at your time of travel before traveling. 

Most hotels in the city will provide you with Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi is uncapped but there is no guarantee that it will always work. I had bought an Orange sim card at the airport. None of the guys spoke English so you may write your request down and they will help you with a smile while teaching you some French or Arabic. 

Getting Around
Tunis has yellow meter taxis and it is easy to get around. They taxis will seldom cost you over 4 Tunisian Dinar (TD) to get anywhere around town unless it rains. For some reason when it rains traffic stands still and your meter will keep moving.
It is rather tricky to hail these cabs, always go to a busy intersection as it is a lot easier there.

The Tunis Taxi Cabs.
The locals call it a metro but it is a tram that also runs across the city. This is a lot cheaper and will cost you less than 1TD.
The other option that you have to get around not just the city but the country as well is the train. Tunisia has a railway that connects the different cities and towns around the country and also runs to the Algerian border.

if you did not organize with your hotel for an airport shuttle, put on your GPS when riding to the hotel with a local taxi driver. although its a meter taxi, they will go around in circles just so that your bill is a bit higher. 

What to wear
Tunisia is a Muslim country- with a 5% of the population being Christian, mostly Catholic. The locals are very relaxed and most dress in a western way. With that being said, there are parts where shorts are allowed but you seldom see them. I would advise do not wear anything that comes above your knees just to be respectful to the Muslim community in the country.
Wearing a vest is allowed as most of the local ladies also do.

What to eat
Ok, eat EVERYTHING! Tunisian food is really good, a bit spicy for some. The food caters to all dietary requirements. I have been eating in the Medina as the food is affordable. For a meal for 2 with chicken, I have paid TD 7, for a vegetarian meal you can pay up to TD3.

Dinner for 2.
You want to eat at the local restaurants that are owned by the locals as those are cheaper and there you get traditional food.
There are other cafes and restaurants in the city but those are pricey with everything going above TD10 and in most cases no different from the meals you will be served at the smaller family run restaurants.
Should you feel like splashing out and eating at a fancy place, request a receipt before paying. The waiters will tell you a higher price for your bill.

If you are really watching your budget, you also have the option to go to the local supermarket, buy your own groceries and make your own food.

What to drink
I am generally on the safe side and opt to drink bottled water at all cost. A 2L of water won't cost you more than 900 Millisimes – that’s 10 Millisimes less than a Dinar.
Shopping at the supermarket.
A liter of your favourite fizzy drink goes for TD 1.70.
Tunisians are coffee drinkers. Everywhere you go there is good coffee which they usually drink black. It is the culture to let your coffee get cold before drinking it. Apparently, that makes the coffee taste a lot better.

Visa and Travel Documentation
You do not need a visa for Tunisia if you are traveling on a South African passport. You will receive 90 days upon arrival at the airport. This process might take a while as the ladies that stamp you in do not speak English but they will call someone who does speak English who will eventually call their superior to stamp you in.

As you land at the Tunis Carthage International Airport, there will be a tourism office at International arrivals. They will give you a book to guide you through your travels around the country but they also have a map of Tunis the city and Medina. Google maps will work for the city, not for the Medina.

***You can easily google if you need a visa to travel to Tunisia with your specific country passport.
keep in mind that in North Africa, you can only travel by air. stay very far away from bordering areas as those are disputed and you can get arrested and mostly charged with terrorism should the military pick you up from there.  

It is currently summer in Tunisia and the temps tend to hit a high of 33 degrees Celcius. You will survive on cold showers and step out of your hotel for 5min, your skin will be sticky from the humidity. Bring loads of sunscreen and a hat. Wear sunglasses, the white buildings create a glare that will not be kind to your eyes. Wear comfortable shoes with rubber soles especially around the Medina as the rocks that pave the floors are very slippery. Summer rains are always welcome but that doesn’t happen often. 

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