Highlights of Tunisia Trip Notes

Embark on a circuit journey of Tunisia from the country's capital, Tunis. Visit the Roman ruins of Dougga, the Holy City of Kairouan, the mountain oasis villages around Tozeur and El Jem's World Heritage-listed amphitheatre.

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There is a later version of this trip also available for travel from Jan 1, 2015 to Dec 31, 2015. View later Highlights of Tunisia.
Print Version
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2014
Highlights of Tunisia
Trip code: XLKA
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Journey through Tunisia, an incredibly diverse wedge of northern Africa. Combining Arabic, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and French influences into every aspect of local life, Tunisia gives you the opportunity to explore modern cities and ancient ruins while tasting mouth-watering food and sipping tooth-tingling sweet mint tea. Experience unique cultures, stunning sights and warm local hospitality while exploring the far corners of this underrated nation.
This trip is run by our experienced sister company Peregrine Adventures. Your group is therefore likely to be a mixture of Intrepid passengers and other like-minded international travellers.
Warning - this is a new trip for us!
While we have thoroughly researched this area to put together this trip, it still must be remembered that this is a relatively new trip for us. To be frank, we expect some things to go wrong. When we head to new destinations, we usually find there are more pleasant surprises in store than unpleasant ones, but the warning is sincere. If it concerns you then we recommend that you wait for a year until we get any bugs ironed out.
Table of Contents
StyleGroup sizeHealth
ThemesYour fellow travellersSafety
MapAccommodationTravel insurance
ItineraryMealsResponsible Travel
Culture shock rating TransportA couple of rules
Physical ratingArrival complicationsThe Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeEmergency contactCarbon offset
Spending moneyEmergency fundsFeedback
TippingVisas
Important notesIssues on your trip
Style
Comfort
  • Comfort is your style of travel if you want the whole grassroots experience with more inclusions, meals and creature comforts. While accommodation is predominantly tourist class (3-4 star), on some itineraries there is the opportunity to stay with a local family, spend the night on a train or camp out in exotic places (without putting up your own tent of course). Along the way, you'll really experience the destination up close. You'll mingle with locals, enjoy a taste of their way of life and gain special insights from your leader. This is not luxury travel, but real world experiences - just with a softer landing!
Themes
Explorer
Map
Highlights of Tunisia
Itinerary
Days 1-2 Tunis
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Tunisia.
On arrival at Tunis Airport, you are met by our representative and transferred to your hotel.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
After breakfast you will start your sightseeing tour with a visit to the medina (old quarter) of Tunis, which the largest in North Africa (larger than those in Fez, Algiers or Cairo). While wandering the narrow lanes and alleys of the medina there are scenes reminiscent of a surreal Orientalist painting, sunlight illuminating its colourful souks and the exquisite craftsmanship of the country's artisans. Be on the lookout for the medina's distinctive blue doors - very photogenic.
Amidst the outer suburbs of Tunis is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Carthage, which was founded in 814 BC and was the oldest Phoenician settlement on the coast of North Africa. Many wars were waged against the other Mediterranean powers such as the Greeks and the Romans before the city was ultimately conquered by the Romans in 146 BC. Although partially hidden due to ongoing development over ensuing years, monuments such as the Antonine baths, Roman amphitheatre and the Punic ports hark back to the glories of a bygone era, whilst some of the best relics can be found in the archaeological museum of Carthage. We continue to the quaint Andalusian village of Sidi Bou Said and stroll through narrow streets lined with whitewashed houses with blue shutters and doors, bougainvillea spilling over walls in a riot of colour. Here we can also check out the various art galleries or try a bambalouni (a light and crispy Tunisian style doughnut) in one of the cafés that offer superb views of the Gulf of Tunis.
Tonight there's a welcome dinner at Restaurant La Victoire in Tunis.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Dougga/Kairouan
Today we will visit the Bardo Museum, the finest museum in the country and one of the best archaeological museums in the Mediterranean region. Housed in an old palace that once belonged to the Husseinite beys, who were former rulers of Tunisia, it is especially known for its beautiful and extensive collection of mosaics that date back to Roman times.
You will then proceed to the archaeological site of Dougga, one of the best-preserved Roman cities in Africa. Built on an elevated site overlooking a fertile plain, it was the capital of both the Punic and Roman states. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, Dougga was originally a Punic town that sided with the Romans against Carthage and was granted some degree of independence as a reward. It became an influential agricultural centre, controlling important trade routes to Carthage, on the coast. Its important marble quarries and fresh water supplies contributed to making it a prosperous and successful town. After lunch there's a drive of a few hours to the holy city of Kairouan.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 4-5 Kairouan/Tozeur
Kairouan is the fourth holiest site in Islam, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. It is said that seven pilgrimages to Kairouan equates to one pilgrimage to Mecca. A sightseeing tour visits the 9th century Great Mosque of Oqba Ibn Nafi, an important example of Islamic architecture. Exploring the souks is a delight to savour, tasting makroudh - a traditional local pastry stuffed with dates - and learning about traditional rug-making.
The oasis town of Tozeur, four hours away to the southwest, is lined by extensive palm groves. The Dar Charait Museum is housed in an impressive complex that evokes images reminiscent of the classic fable, 'One Thousand and One Nights'.
On a full day to explore and enjoy the scenery around Tozeur, there are three options to choose from: a 4WD tour of the mountain oasis villages, the Lezard Rouge train through the weird and wonderful rock formations of the Seldja Gorge, or both. The tour leader will discuss the options on arrival in Tozeur in the previous afternoon and will take payments and make bookings then.
Tonight you will enjoy a local speciality - lamb cooked in a clay pot - at Kmar restaurant.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 6 Douz/Ksar Ghilane
The route to Douz requires a crossing of the dry salt lake of Chott el Jerid. It follows a causeway across a blistered, moon-like landscape with outcrops of crystals receding to a shimmering horizon. Star Wars fans may see mirages of Luke Skywalker here, where he pondered the two moons in the first episode. If it's a sunny day, don't forget your sunglasses if you step out of the vehicle for a photo stop.
Douz, considered the gateway to the Sahara, is a quiet oasis village that is home to the Festival of the Sahara and also features a daily camel market. Here's your chance to ride a camel in the area of the Golden Triangle, which is made up of three small oases. After an optional lunch it's a two-hour drive along sandy roads to Ksar Ghilane, an exotic oasis famous for its dunes and hot water spring. Amidst this awesome Saharan landscape you can appreciate why 'The English Patient' and other films were shot here. The night is spent in comfortable tents in the desert, on the fringe of the Grand Erg Occidental. The silence and vastness of the surrounds makes for a magical and unforgettable night.
Accommodation
Desert camp (1 nt)
Days 7-8 Matmata/Mahdia
Matmata is famous for its troglodyte dwellings, houses built underground to protect the Berbers from intense heat in the summer. These Berber villages are exciting places to explore and one of these, together with the surrounding lunar-type landscape, was the set for the mythical planet of Tatooine (which got its name from the nearby town of Tataouine) in George Lucas' landmark movie, 'Star Wars'. Scenes from Steven Spielberg's 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' were also filmed here. We make our way along the Mediterranean coast to Mahdia, a small and charming fishing village that has a relaxing feel about it.
There is an entire day to appreciate the attractions of Mahdia. The morning is taken up by a visit to the Borg el-Kebir, a large 16th-century fortress that dominates the peninsula on which the town stands. The views from the ramparts are excellent, across the rooftops and streets of the medina in one direction, and to the sea in the other. The rest of the day is free time to absorb the ambience of this lovely place. There are beaches located northwest of town and a small museum that showcases the long history that has left such a magnificent legacy on Mahdia. The Skifa el-Kahla is a massive fortified gate that survives from the original 10th century city, standing as a forlorn sentinel at the entrance to the medina. The narrow, cobblestone streets of the old city become progressively more quiet and residential as you approach the lighthouse at Cap d'Afrique - photographers will take many shots en route.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 9 El Jem - Tunis
No trip to Tunisia would be complete without a visit to El-Jem's spectacular amphitheatre, a World Heritage-listed structure that dates from 238 AD and is the second largest of its kind in the world after the Colosseum in Rome. We visit the newly-opened small museum and investigate the excavations extending behind the museum where beautiful mosaics have been found. We then continue back to Tunis, where we spend the last night of our tour enjoying an evening out (optional) to commemorate our journey.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 10 Tunis
Your trip ends today, after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around 12.00 noon and you are free to leave at any time. If you have arranged a private airport transfer you will be advised of the pick-up time. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Tunis.
      Culture shock rating

      Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
      Physical rating

      Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
      Money Exchange
      The official currency in Tunisia is the Tunisian Dinar (TND).
      ATMs are by far the easiest way to access cash and can be found in all major towns.
      Currency exchange rates often fluctuate. For the most up to date rates please refer to the following website: www.oanda.com.
      The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) which are plentiful throughout all the main cities. Check with your bank for information on ATM international fees.
      When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it is stolen. Keep this in a safe place. When using your debit card, check your receipts and keep them to compare against your statement when you get home.
      We recommend that you carry some foreign currency cash for when ATMs can not be accessed, have broken down or run out of cash. There are few problems changing money as there are many banks and currency exchange facilities. Cash in EUR, GBP and USD dollars are favoured for exchange.
      Occasionally banks will also allow cash advances on your credit card, but it is not recommended to rely on this.
      While some banks and 5 star hotels will change Travellers' Cheques the process is time consuming and commissions can be high (up to 10%) and it can be difficult to change on weekends and public holidays. The easiest cheques to change are Thomas Cook or American Express in USD, EUR or GBP.
      Spending money
      Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
      Tipping
      If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations.
      The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
      Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
      Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$3 per day for local guides.
      Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-US$2 per day for drivers.
      Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-US$4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
      In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-US$10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
      Over the years we have found that many of our travellers find the need for tipping to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, we have established a tipping kitty system. At your group meeting, your tour leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members.
      Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult
      Important notes
      OUR LOCAL PARTNER:
      This trip is operated by Peregrine Adventures and you will be joined by other like minded Intrepid and non Intrepid travellers. Single travellers will share accommodation with another traveller of the same sex.
      RAMADAN & THE EID UL-FITR FESTIVAL (BAYRAM) 2014:
      In 2014 the important month of Ramadan will be in progress from the 28th June through till the 27th July, and the Eid ul-Fitr festival will be held directly at its conclusion for 3-4 days. Ramadan is a festival of sacrifice where the devout refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. During Ramadan business hours are shortened, including opening hours at some tourist attractions. Alcohol is not permitted during daylight hours and many restaurants will be closed. While you should expect some delays and inconveniences during this period, the month is a fantastic opportunity to travel in a Muslim country and witness this unique period, particularly the nightly celebrations when the sun sets and the fast is broken. Please note that although the Eid ul-Fitr festival can also be a fascinating time to travel it is a period of National holiday. Most government offices and businesses will be closed and some tourist site opening hours may be impacted.
      Group size
      Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
      Your fellow travellers
      As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
      Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
      Accommodation
      Hotel (8 nts), Desert camp (1 nt)
      Meals
      9 Breakfasts, 1 Dinner
      Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
      Transport
      Minibus
      Arrival complications
      We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
      Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
      Emergency contact
      In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, our local Tunisia based Office (Siroko Travel) can be reached on Tel: +216 27522442
      In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Melbourne Office can be reached on Tel: +61 3 9473 2650. For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week. For further contact details please use the following page:
      Emergency funds
      Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
      Visas
      Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
      We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
      TUNISIA:
      Australia: No - not required
      Belgium: No - not required
      Canada: No - not required
      Germany: No - not required
      Ireland: No - not required
      Netherlands: No - not required
      New Zealand: No - not required
      South Africa: Yes
      Switzerland: No - not required
      United Kingdom: No - not required
      USA: No - not required
      Please note that visa requirements can and do change. It is essential that you confirm requirements with the nearest relevant embassy or check with your travel agent before you travel. At the time of writing, Australian, New Zealand, British, Canadian and American passport holders do not require a visa for stays of up to 3 months. All other nationalities should check with the Tunisian Embassy or Consulate in their country for up-to-date visa information.
      Please note that it won't be possible to enter Tunisia with an Israeli stamp in your passport, or if your passport shows evidence of a visit to Israel.
      A new tourism tax is being levied by the Tunisian Authorities.
      From 01st October 2014 all customers departing Tunisia will have to pay 30 Dinar departure tax to exit the country. This stamp can be bought either in resorts/hotels or at the airport, and is in the form of a stamp affixed to the passport. This is approximately AUD20 per person, and includes adults, children and infants.
      All passengers must also provide Intrepid or their travel agent arrival flight date, flight number and flight time into Tunisia at least 30 days prior to travel.
      Issues on your trip
      While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
      We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
      You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
      Health
      All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
      You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
      DRINKING WATER:
      As a rule we recommend you don't drink tap water, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of different minerals than the water you may have at home. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for visitors drinking the tap water can result in illness. Generally this isn't serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it's enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday. Bottled water is widely available and your leader can recommend safe alternatives when available. Water consumption should be about 3 litres a day. Rehydration salts, motion sickness tablets, and diarrhoea blockers are available from many pharmacies.
      Safety
      Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
      We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
      Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
      For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
      Travel insurance
      Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
      When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
      If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
      Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
      Responsible Travel
      We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
      A couple of rules
      Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
      The Intrepid Foundation
      Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
      The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
      Carbon offset
      Carbon Offset C02-e 541.00 kgs per pax.
      Feedback
      After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
      Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.