Tunisia Tours & Holidays
Straddling Africa and the Middle East, this once-overlooked Mediterranean gem is well and truly back on the map.
From the sun-drenched beaches of the north to the unforgiving desert of the south, and with desolate, lunar landscapes in between, Tunisia has quite the unique allure. And as the fog continues to lift after the jarring events of 2015, there’s never been a better time to experience it. It’s not often you can clock Roman ruins this grand, seaside living this perfect, and medieval towns this well preserved, in such quietude. Morocco may be what’s hot, but Tunisia is where to find that next-level slice of North Africa, with a fraction of the tourists.
Tunisia at a glance
Tunisian dinar (TND)
Arabic, Italian, English
(GMT+01:00) West Africa / Central European time
Type C (European 2-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth)
Learn more about Tunisia
Best time to visit Tunisia
Tunisia boasts a Mediterranean climate in the north and an arid, desert-like climate in the south. Tunisia typically receives most of its visitors in July and August, when the hot weather draws tourists to the beaches. The coldest and wettest months are January and February, although the rainfall average for this time is low and many interior Saharan regions of Tunisia do not see rainfall for years. March to May is a great time to travel as it is less crowded, the temperatures are cooler and the scenery is spectacular. November is considered the optimal time for trekking in the desert. Travelling during the holy month of Ramadan presents benefits and challenges as many restaurants close and business hours can be interrupted, although travelling during Ramadan often provides rare insight into a country and culture during this holy period.
Culture and customs
Tunisia is an Arabic country with a strong sense of history and tradition, yet a good dose of modernity. The overwhelming majority of people are Arabic speaking Muslims; nine in ten Tunisians are Berber, with the remainder a mix of European, African and Arab peoples.
These days social and political life in Tunisia is mostly secular. Since the Arab Spring – a region-wide revolutionary movement sparked in 2010 by the Tunisian Revolution – the Tunisians have enjoyed more religious and social freedom and greater democracy. Still, when travelling, it’s important to keep in mind the country’s Islamic culture. If Ramadan is on, be careful not to drink or smoke in the public presence of those practising it.
The family is an important part of Tunisian life and a good topic of conversation when meeting new acquaintances. Wearing a headscarf is not necessary for women travelling in Tunisia (unless visiting mosques), but it pays to dress conservatively. Language-wise, French and Arabic are the officials, but English is increasingly prevalent – children are nowadays taught it at school.
Eating and drinking
Tunisian cuisine is a mix of Mediterranean flavours, recipes from France and Italy, and Turkish and Berber influences. Seafood is naturally popular in coastal areas in the north, while hearty regional classics like Shakshouka (baked eggs in tomato) are common all over. Two major staples of Tunisian cuisine are harissa (a spicy chilli paste made with coriander and caraway seeds) and couscous (the buttery semolina granules popular in neighbouring countries such as Morocco).
Must-try food in Tunisia
Translating simply to couscous, this is the national dish of Tunisia. The Berber people are thought to have created it, perhaps as far back as the 3rd century. A simple yet delicious plate of flavoured couscous is usually accompanied by baked vegetables and chickpeas, or by meats such as beef, lamb or chicken.
2. Brik pastry
Brik (or “brick”) pastry comes in many forms, both sweet and savoury. It’s the egg- and meat-filled kind you’re likely to stumble upon first. Though its name may suggest otherwise, the dough is relatively thin and delicate. A great first snack you find yourself at a street stall in Tunis.
Not to be confused with the Moroccan version (that’s very different), Tunisian tajine is similar to a quiche or frittata, more of a European-style finger food. Typical ingredients are onions, spices and ground meat, all held together with egg and breadcrumbs and flavoured with herbs and spice.
A fantastic option for vegetarians, Lablabi is a hearty chickpea soup with liberal doses of cumin and coriander. Tuna or egg are sometimes added for a bit of extra punch, and some extra harissa doesn’t go astray. Capers or chopped almonds sometimes top the dish off.
5. Bambalouni (Tunisian donut)
Sweet tooths shouldn’t miss the ‘yo-yo’, also known as a bambalouni, or simply Tunisian donut. Deep fried, but with the subtlety of so many other sweets from the region, it’s often lightly flavoured by rose water, orange blossom or lemon.
Geography and environment
Sandwiched in between Libya and Algeria, Tunisia benefits from its location on the Mediterranean Coast. The south is characterised by arid plains and desert, which gives way to rolling hills and fertile areas prime for cultivation in the north. With a coastline along the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia has plenty of white sand beaches that are popular with swimmers, surfers and divers. Tunisia's capital and largest city, Tunis, is mostly modern in design, except for the old medieval medina in the middle of town.
Tunisia is a treat for those who love to haggle the North African way. At the country’s many souqs and medinas, you can get a great price on local and authentic items. Shop for endemic spices, blown-glass perfume bottles, traditional ceramics and more.
You may like to purchase a Tunisian rug, an item that will be truly evocative of your stay in the region. Kairouan is a particularly good place to shop for a rug. Just look out for the ONAT (Office National de l’Artisanat Tunisien) stamp of approval on the back of your rug before you buy it, to make sure it’s authentic.
A traditional Arabic shisha (also known as a hookah) is also worth considering as a souvenir. It’s the apparatus used to smoke the characteristic flavoured tobacco of the Middle East. It’s not for everyone, of course, but travellers are known to buy them on their aesthetic qualities alone.
Festivals and events
International Festival of Sousse
This three-week festival brings together a miscellanea of arts from across the country. See performances, eat African cuisine and enjoy the biggest carnival parade in Africa.
Festival of the Sahara
It started as a Bedouin marriage market but became a full-blown celebration of arts, culture and sports in the region. There’s delicious food, military parades, greyhound racing and much more.
Ulysses immortalised the island of Djerba when he visited thousands of years ago. The island comes alive yearly with cultural events and performances from across the Mediterranean.
|Carthage Must Be Destroyed||Richard Miles|
|The Tremor of Forgery||Patricia Highsmith|
|The Pillar of Salt||Albert Memmi|
|Behind Closed Doors: Women's Oral Narratives in Tunis||Monia Hejaiej|
|The Influence Peddlers||Hedi Kaddour|
Tunisia travel FAQs
Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards
From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).
However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Check the Essential Trip Information section of the itinerary for more information.
Tipping is expected by most service workers in Tunisia. Drivers, waiters, porters and other hotel staff will generally expect a small tip for serving you at a restaurant, showing you to your room or carrying your bags. Set aside some dinars for this.
Internet access in Tunisia is growing, with internet cafes and Wi-Fi hotspots increasingly common in large cities, especially Tunis.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in Tunisia, especially in large cities. Coverage may not be available in more remote areas, especially if travelling through the desert. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your mobile carrier before you leave home if you wish to use your mobile while in Tunisia.
You'll have to adjust to different standards of hygiene and sanitation while in Tunisia. The standard toilet is of the squat variety and this may take some getting used to, although western-style toilets can be found in some tourist areas.
Cup of coffee in a coffeehouse = 1-2 TND
Street food snack = 2-3 TND
Basic lunch at a cafe = 6-10 TND
Dinner in a restaurant = 15-20 TND
Exercise caution when drinking water in Tunisia. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water. Ask your tour leader where filtered water can be found, some hotels we stay in may have drinking water available.
ATMs can be found in large cities like Tunis but are less common in rural areas and smaller towns. It’s best to carry plenty of cash with you if you’re travelling out of the city.
- 1 Jan New Year’s Day
- 20 Mar Independence Day
- 21 Mar Youth Day
- 9 Apr Martyrs' Day
- 1 May Labour Day
- 16 May Start of Ramadan
- 14 June End of Ramadan
- 25 Jul Republic Day
- 13 Aug Women's Day
- 21–23 Aug Aid El-Kabir / Feast of Sacrifice
- 21 Sep Islamic New Year
- 7 Nov New Era Day
- 30 Nov The Prophet's Birthday
For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/tunisia/public-holidays
Major credit cards are usually accepted by large hotels and shops in the cities and areas frequented by tourists, but are less commonly accepted by smaller vendors, in remote towns and rural areas. Make sure you carry enough cash for purchases, since credit cards aren't always an option in Tunisia.
Before making travel plans, LGBTQI travellers should be aware that homosexuality is illegal in Tunisia, punishable by imprisonment for up to three years. In recent years there has been a groundswell of LGBTQI activism, and in 2018 the president of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, publicly announced plans to decriminalise homosexuality. LGBTQI travellers should nonetheless exercise caution.
For more detailed and up-to-date advice, we recommend visiting Equaldex or Smartraveller before you travel.
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/
Go to: https://travel.gc.ca/
From the UK?
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/
From the US?
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
The World Health Organisation also provides useful health information.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance