From the modern malls of Tunis, to the Roman ruins all over the country, the beach towns like Sousse, and of course, Arab hospitality...Tunisia has so much to offer!
Top places to visit
Sidi Bou Said
A village just east of Tunis and Carthage, notable for the blue and white buildings, winding roads, and some wonderful views of the sea. Stay for lunch or at least an ice cream.
Carthage - The Baths of Antoninus
The largest set of Roman baths built on the African continent, and one of the largest built in the Roman Empire. The baths were built in the 2nd century, and were added a UNESCO world heritage site in 1797.
Located 2 hours west of Tunis, through the green rolling hills of the country; visiting here will allow you to see great Roman ruins and the beautiful countryside.
There is history here from the Berbers and Romans, and what makes this unique is the underground structures that are still in existence. There are also extensive mosaics still preserved.
Located 90 minute southwest of Tunis, the Roman and Byzantine ruins of Dougga are extensive. Built from the 6th century BC; there are numerous temples and mausoleums scattered across the site, so you will want to spend plenty of time here.
El Jem Amphitheatre and museum
Located an hour south of Sousse, El Jem is a 3rd century amphitheater and the largest Roman amphitheater in Africa. Holding 35,000 spectators, this is still an impressive structure.
Beach and resort community 2 hours south of Tunis.
Be sure to visit the Ribat of Sousse, built in the 8th and 9th centuries. It is interesting to see how this used to cover the port, and how much the geography has changed since.
Walk through the bewildering streets of the Medina, feel free to get lost. Maybe do a little shopping. Hopefully, you come back out on the top end and see the old Ramparts of Sousse.
and, of course, if the weather is nice, head down to the long beaches on the Mediterranean.
Walled city with bewildering medina streets, and one of the great mosques of the world. This city, in the inland deserts, came to power in the 9th century and is still a pilgrimage site for Muslims.
Unfortunately, I arrived on a holiday, and was unable to visit the Great Mosque of Kairouan. What a shame! That is my fault for not planning properly.
Lodging runs the spectrum in prices. Stays in Tunisia can be very affordable, but cleanliness may not be up to what you are used to. Staying in a brand name hotel, like Movenpick or Novatel will avoid this problem, but for the authentic experience, I always prefer Airbnb. My stays in Tunisia ranged from very nice and affordable to possibly the worst Airbnb I have ever stayed in. But, in 2022; I only spent $35 to $60 per night for Airbnb’s. Lodging is readily available on the coastal cities like Carthage, Tunis, Hammamet, Sousse, and Souk; but, not as available inland. However, most of the things you want to see or do inland are best done with day trips anyway so it is not really an issue.
You won’t see many American tourist in Tunisia. The most common tourists here are from neighboring Algeria and Libya, along with France, Italy and Germany. And, because tourism is down, People trying to sell you goods or services will be a little more aggressive then normal. A polite but firm “no, thank you” will do the trick usually after 2 or 3 times. A person in Sousse gave me a neat trick. It is quite common that a man will approach you with the line, “You don’t remember me, do you? I work security at your hotel”. Well, they don’t, as you can imagine. All you have to do is tell them you work in Tunisia. That did the trick every time.
Cash is king. You will find some places like hotels, the nicer restaurants, malls or large supermarkets take credit cards. But, almost everything else is based on cash.
There are 2 commonly spoken languages in Tunisia…Arabic and French. Almost all signs are in both. In tourist areas, there is often a bit of English on signs, and you will find that many of the younger generation speak English. It is not uncommon for younger people to speak 3 or 4 languages. So, not reading or speaking Arabic will not be a problem at all here.
Staying in Tunis…I found out the hard way that it is much better to stay closer to Carthage than in Tunis center when staying in an Airbnb. You may have to take a lot of taxis. But, they are very cheap and readily available everywhere. You will likely spend 2 to 3 US dollars per taxi ride. So, my advice is to stay away from the center for a more comfortable and enjoyable stay.
Plus, the best things to see around Tunis are in Carthage anyway.
Driving in Tunisia
Driving is aggressive in Tunisia with many drivers failing to keep their lane. Turn signals are rarely used. Seatbelts are ignored. Pedestrians have the legal right of way, but that is not reality, cars will always take the right of way from pedestrians. Police checkpoints are frequent. Have your papers available. On this trip, my luck defied normal. As a driver, I didn’t get asked to stop for papers check a single time. But, the cars that were directly behind me got stopped at least a half dozen times. And, I had 2 taxis get stopped for papers check.
Rural driving means dodging animals. Be diligent.
The good news is that gas is cheap since it is subsidized by the government. Currently, running at 2.22 Dinar per litre ($US 2.95 per gallon) as of March 2022. Gas stations will not display prices as they are all the same. Also, gas stations will not accept credit cards. Have cash. Further, toll roads are very cheap. My experience was paying tolls as high as US$ 1.40 and as low as 34 cents. Though for a decent rental car by western standards, the price will be relatively high. My rental car, which was pretty basic (manual transmission and no cruise control) cost almost as much as I paid for lodging.
Taxis are a great alternative around town also. The key thing with a taxi is to insist on them using the meter. If they won’t, or they don’t have a meter (unofficial taxi), get out. Find another one. There are plenty. An unofficial taxi will want 30 to 40 Dinar ($US 10-13) for a normal trip that would really cost you 6 to 10 Dinar ($US 2-3).
An alternative preferred by most for say trips is to forgo a rental car and hire drivers for day trips. If you are in a small or large group, the cost can be split and will be quite affordable to most travelers. Solo travelers will have to find a group tour to join. This should also not be a problem to the major attractions.
There is also a train that runs North/South to the larger coastal cities from Tunis to Souk. This train is a really cheap alternative. My first class ticket from Tunis to Sousse cost about $US 3. However, don’t expect luxury or comfort. And, buying a ticket doesn’t mean getting a seat. It may be standing room only for a 2 or 3 hour train ride. My ride was interesting. It was packed and I think I was the only non-Tunisian on the train. There is a bar car for “first class”, though it isn’t functional, and was just filled with standing passengers, or sitting on the bar. The ticket checker was constantly yelling at people, including me. All in Arabic, so I didn’t understand a word. He even stopped the train for 45 minutes at one point and had police escort a passenger off. I am not sure the last time the train was cleaned or repaired. To return to Tunis, I found a rental car that I could pick up in Sousse and return in Tunis. With that said, I never felt unsafe. It is just a very basic alternative.