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The essentials to know before visiting Tunisia

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Pau Monfort
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Whether you are in Tunis or in Djerba, you will never cease to marvel at the architecture, sometimes borrowed from Arab-Muslim art, sometimes from Byzantine art. This refinement will seduce you as soon as you arrive in the country. But Tunisia is also the smell of jasmine and spices in the alleys of a medina, or even the discovery of the Sahara.. Visiting Tunisia is entering the land of smiles and generosity!





The Tunisian sweetness of life

In Tunisia, you will take the time to live, especially in the south of the country: the heat of the desert thus encourages the economy of physical activities. In the souks, everyone compares prices and bargains. Some people go to the hammam in the morning to hear the latest news. But this tranquility also applies to the eastern coast of Tunisia. It is not Monastir and Djerba who will contradict these statements. You can stroll along the shaded alleys or sip a fresh fruit juice on the terrace of a café.. In short, to visit Tunisia… is to let live, not to worry if the bus is late or if the museum is not yet open. "Insh'Allah" (God willing) is the word you will hear the most here!

Stroll in Sidi Bou Saïd

Visit Tunisia, a source of pleasures

Djerba la Douce is a maritime oasis which offers many thalassotherapy centers and Spas. These are often services offered by accommodation, where you will therefore have plenty of time to relax, caressed by the sun, intoxicated by the scents of jasmine, this flower typical of Tunisia. The Mediterranean thus offers an ideal holiday setting in Tunisia.. It caresses the fine sand of the beaches of Monastir and Hammamet with its waves. It also offers cooks its best fish, for the preparation of the famous couscous. Finally, the offshore wind softens the country's climate, especially when he enters the desert. With its geography between sea and desert, Tunisia has not finished spoiling its vacationers!





The Tunisian desert

The gates of the Sahara are partly on Tunisian soil. So you will certainly want to discover this incredible space. Be accompanied by a Bedouin to guide you on a safe adventure in the world's largest desert. You can discover cave villages, but also oases and salt deserts. The perfect opportunity to take a 4 × 4 road trip or an expedition on the back of camels!

Desert of Tunisia

When is the best time to visit Tunisia?

You should know that the further you descend into the country, the more the temperature rises. In summer, the weather can quickly turn to heatwave! Instead, choose a stay by the sea during this period. Hammamet, Monastir, the discreet Mahdia or the island of Djerba will offer you havens of freshness in crystal clear waters. But be aware that if you want to go sightseeing, you might end up suffering from the heat, especially if you are traveling with young children. Avoid the desert at this time, which is sweltering!

Bathing in Tunisia

Winter is mild in Tunisia but the sea is cool, therefore no swimming possible. Idyllic places like the Kuriat Islands, near Monastir, are then closed to tourists. If you rent an apartment there, be aware that there is no heating in the houses (or very rarely). The nights can therefore be very cool! On the other hand, it is a good period to discover the desert. The best time to visit Tunisia, so these are the spring and fall periods. The days are then still very beautiful, even hot. You can swim in some places, such as on the island of Djerba. During these periods, the desert does not yet suffer from the heat wave.





What budget is to be expected for your stay?

Again, it all depends on the period! In summer, the price of accommodation climbs to its highest level. French school holidays are also periods when hotel and rental prices increase.. To visit Tunisia on a low budget, opt for youth hostels (here called "Maison jeunes"). Small local hotels, far from tourist places are quite affordable (20 to 30 euros per night). The more upscale hotels range from 30 to 130 euros per night. Which is still cheaper than in France!

Hotel in Tunisia

In terms of meals, the offer is very affordable. You can eat in restaurants for 2 to 8 euros on average per person. You can also go to the souk to do your market and cook locally. It won't cost you much and you will have fresh produce available. Don't hesitate to haggle, even the food! For transport, there too, the cost is lower. A bus ticket costs around 0,30 cents and taxis are affordable. You can also take the train inexpensively and thus enjoy a slow and epic journey. Tunisia remains a destination where life is good at a lower cost!

How to get to Tunisia from France?

Tunisia is a country which has been able to develop its transport and thus exploit its capacities to attract tourists. The easiest way to come and visit Tunisia is to fly. The country is indeed very well equipped in terms of airports. Thus, you can land in Tunis-Carthage, Monastir, Djerba, Sfax, Tozeur, Tabarka or even Gafsa. And take advantage of it because the Tunisian sun is only two hours from Paris!





Sunset in Tunis

More you can also come by car, by taking a ferry. You can embark from Marseille in France, or from Genoa in Italy. You will then have to wait about twenty hours, but you will enjoy a nice crossing on the Mediterranean Sea. And what a joy to be able to admire the sunset in the open sea or to have the chance to meet dolphins!

How to get around on site?

On site you can use your vehicle if you have come with it, but you can also rent a car. For this, no need to apply for the international permit. Only your French driving license is sufficient. However, be careful when driving… anarchy reigns on Tunisian roads!

There are then several kinds of taxis: metered taxis, taxis instead and rental:

  • Taxis-meters: These are the yellow taxis that you can stop by the side of the road. They take you to the address you give them and have a meter (make sure it is running when you leave).
  • Taxis instead: They are often parked at various places in the city. They can be yellow or white. They make a predefined route and leave as soon as the car is full. We therefore pay a price instead.
  • The hires: They are big white cars with colored stripes. They are found in rental stations. They connect the different Tunisian cities, which can be interesting to visit the country! Again, it is a price instead that you pay at the counter. The car leaves as soon as it is full. It's a kind of well-organized carpooling!

Be careful, in Tunisian taxis, you will not necessarily find seat belts in the back. Only the front passenger has to buckle up! Corn visiting Tunisia by taxi or hire allows you to chat with locals and get to know Tunisian culture better.

The Red Lizard Train

Finally, since the time of the French protectorate, the Tunisians have equipped themselves with railways. LTrains connect the big cities of northern and eastern Tunisia very well, even if they are aging. The fare is very affordable, but don't expect to find high speed trains! If you are traveling to southern Tunisia, you can also board the Red Lizard. An incredible experience aboard 6 wagons built in France at the start of the XNUMXth century! This tourist train passes through sublime landscapes, which you can admire from the various wagons. He crisscrossed the Metlaoui mountains for about 2 hours. A nice getaway on the rails!

What are the culinary specialties of Tunisia?

The reputation of Tunisian gastronomy is well established. Let yourself be embarked on typically oriental flavors! Tunisia is a Mediterranean country, and like many of these sunny countries, spices have a large place in the preparation of dishes. Emblematic of this country, harissa is an ingredient that gives any dish its typically Tunisian character.. It is a puree of crushed peppers with caraway or cumin. You might as well say that you need a strong stomach to resist this national sauce! For your beginnings, ask that we only serve you a little ...

Tunisian Harissa

As in most other Mediterranean countries, Tunisians use olive oil a lot. In Tunisia, these olives come mainly from the region of Hammamet. They are used a lot as appetizers, as are pistachios or toasted almonds.

We take a date!

In Tunisia, dates picked from palm trees are found in large quantities, on the stalls of the souks… but also on the tables of restaurants. They have very useful medicinal properties in the desert. Above all, they are widely used for weddings, since they are considered to be good luck charms. When accompanied by a cup of milk, they show the generosity of the hosts.

The fish

Tunisia being a predominantly coastal country, many national dishes are prepared with fish and seafood. In restaurants, expect to see them often on the menu. Fried or grilled calamari are usually a hit. Taste the fish accompanied by egg, fries and tomatoes. Also, fish is widely cooked in couscous in the Sahel. But also quite simply grilled on the barbecue in the patios of the houses!

The couscous

Couscous is the true national dish of Tunisia. It is often made with lamb and chicken. However, it is indeed the fish and in particular the grouper, which allows Tunisia to stand out from other Maghreb countries. Couscous is a naturally complete dish, accompanied by small vegetables that bring color and cheerfulness to the table. If you are traveling, do not hesitate to eat it in different cities: it changes depending on what the region offers.

Couscous with fish

Typical and little-known dishes

There are obviously many dishes that we have no idea on our continent. For example, the brick (very thin pancake topped with tuna and hard-boiled egg) and the chakchouka, the Tunisian equivalent of a ratatouille topped with a poached egg. Finally, the mechouia salad combines the tomatoes, with garlic and grilled peppers, chopped and seasoned with olive oil. A real treat ! And if by ordering a tagine, you expected to have the Moroccan recipe, you may be surprised! The Tunisian tagine is prepared with eggs, potatoes and meat, which gives a result close to a thick Spanish tortilla.

The land of dessert

Anyway, always save room for Tunisian pastries! Tunisia is indeed a hospitable land, and as such, you will find sweets in each of the houses. Makrouds are semolina cakes with honey and dates. They are matched only by samsas, cakes made with brik leaves topped with squeezed fruit. A pure treat, often accompanied by mint and pine nut tea!

Which corner of Tunisia to favor for your stay?

Tunisia is not a very big country, so you can easily get around during your stay. If you like old stones and architecture in general, the Tunis region will be perfect for you. Indeed, the archaeological site of Carthage offers you to go back in time to meet Hannibal the barbarian. You will also discover the Roman thermal baths and the charming village of Sidi Bou Saïd. Further west of Tunis, the city of Dougga presents an archaeological site classified as World Heritage by Unesco.

The ruins of Carthage

If you are more attracted by beaches and idleness, the cities of Hammamet, Monastir or even the island of Djerba will be places to favor. Fine sand beaches, turquoise waters, they have everything to attract sea lovers! But they are not left out to offer pleasant and historic visits. Finally, if it is the desert that attracts you, the cities of Tozeur, Matmata or even Tataouine will please you. The Berber village of Chenini also offers some lodgings lost in the mountains. A true haven of peace at the gates of the desert! You can easily reach the oases, the chott (salt deserts) or even sleep in the heart of the dunes of the Sahara. An incredible experience that you will remember for a long time!

Chenini, the Berber village at the gates of the desert

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15 must-see places to visit in Tunisia

Where to shop in Tunisia?

Of Arab origin, the souks are markets located in the medinas of cities (or nearby), that is to say in the oldest districts. In Tunisia, there is one souk per city, which takes place at a fixed frequency, generally once a week.

What to find there?

Visiting Tunisia without strolling in a souk would be a real sacrilege. This is where you can find good deals ... but also find yourself in a high-energy atmosphere! In a souk, as in oriental bazaars, you can find everything from food to clothing. Do not hesitate to haggle over the prices, because many offer high prices ... and many tourists regret their eagerness a few stalls away!

Affordable prices

These souks are an opportunity to see onlookers bustling about to snatch the lowest prices. Indeed, the prices indicated are indicative prices which are always negotiated. However, you will have to remain firm in your positions to carry the coveted object. But having said that, it is such an exotic form of shopping that everyone takes part in the game with obvious pleasure!

Memories memories…

Obviously, the souks are the perfect places to bring back memories to your loved ones, or simply to make you happy. Everywhere, you will find a hookah, spices, braided mat tote bags or even leather goods. A little more atypical: slippers and chéchia will surely remind you of your holidays. Each region has its specialty, certain purchases are more recommended than others.

Souk in Tunisia

In Hammamet, you will find pottery, which is the specialty of a neighboring village, that of Nabeul. The region of Djerba is also specialized in ceramics. From Kairouan, you will mainly bring back carpets. Warning ! they must wear well the ONAT label, guarantee of quality. You can also buy makrouts, small local pastries. You will also find other Tunisian desserts… but will you give them time to come back intact? In Tunis, the stalls will be covered with copper objects and Berber jewelry at a lower cost.

Useful information

Here is some practical information to help you prepare for your stay and visit Tunisia with peace of mind:

  • Formalities: To come to Tunisia, you will need your valid passport. Remember that your children must also each have one!
  • Health : There are no compulsory vaccines to enter Tunisia. Just be up to date with your vaccination record!
  • Cash : The local currency is the Tunisian Dinar (DT), divided into millimes.

Under the Tunisian sun!

If you are planning to visit Tunisia soon, do not miss the must-see places to do there. Have you ever been to this land of a thousand flavors? Let's talk about it in the comments!

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