Tunisia Holiday Planning Guide
Tunisia benefits from its thin, slivery form, with a range of landscapes and climates causing diverse cultures, traditions, and lifestyles to develop over time. The lesser-visited south of the country possesses some major archaeological sites, impressive dunes, and caravans of nomadic peoples crossing the sands. The north contains many of the main cities in the country, located along the historic Mediterranean coast. Carthaginian and Roman ruins are found in and just outside the contemporary urban areas, which themselves blend African, Ottoman, and European influences. Many come for a beach holiday in Tunisia, but those who don't stop there are richly rewarded.
Places to Visit in Tunisia
Regions of TunisiaTunis Governorate
: Although the smallest governorate in Tunisia, Tunis Governorate holds the largest industrial center in the country and its capital.Mahdia Governorate
: Consisting largely of coastal lowlands, this region excels in weaving and fish processing industries and contains structures dating from Greek, Roman, and early Muslim histories.Sousse Governorate
: If sunbathing and water sports are on your Tunisia itinerary, head to Sousse Governorate, where a beach forms most of the coastline.Medenine Governorate
: In addition to fishing and farming, Medenine Governorate offers the country's largest island, with numerous tours and outdoor activities.
Cities in TunisiaHammamet
: Blooming with lush trees and flowers, Hammamet is a popular tourist town known for its labyrinthine lanes filled with craft shops, restaurants, and historic sites.Djerba Island
: Djerba Island attracts tourists and locals with picturesque beaches and culture dating back to Roman, Spanish, and French colonization, still evident in the villages and traditional crafts.Sousse
: A must-see for anyone's Tunisia trip, Sousse boasts historic attractions, a World Heritage Site, and colorful marketplaces just minutes away from a sandy beach.Tunis
: Tunisia's capital, this Mediterranean port city charms visitors with its vibrant scene full of shopping, history, and sunbathing opportunities in a laid-back atmosphere.Monastir
: Most people visit Monastir on their way to the World Heritage-listed amphitheatre, but this coastal city also boasts an 8th-century fortress and ancient mosques.
Popular Tunisia Tourist AttractionsYasmin Hammamet
: Built around the harbor and beach, this resort district is a popular Tunisia attraction for its turquoise waters, hotels, restaurants, and shops.Medina of Hammamet
: A stroll through this 15th-century walled district remains one of the top things to do in Tunisia, with its souvenir shops and picture-perfect whitewashed homes.Medina of Sousse
: A World Heritage Site built during the Aghlabid period, this medina features a maze of alleys winding through shops, houses, mosques, and monuments.Hammamet Beach
: Sunbathe on this long stretch of golden sand, or enjoy water sports, camel rides, and volleyball--all with the ocean on one side and restaurants on the other.Medina of Tunis
: Explore the 700 madrasas, mausoleums, palaces, mosques, and fountains of this World Heritage-listed medina founded in 698 CE.Friguia Park
: Get a close-up look at exotic creatures at this small zoo--home to tigers and crocodiles, and offering sea lion shows and camel rides.Bardo Museum
: Add some culture to your Tunisia tour at this museum, which is dedicated to the nation's history and development since the Classical era, and housed in a 15th-century building.El Jem Amphitheatre
: Hailed as one of the best-preserved Roman ruins and a World Heritage Site, this amphitheatre has hosted spectator events and features grand Roman arches in its architecture.Krokodilfarm Animalia
: Marvel at the size of the animals at this observation center that hosts 300 crocs and allows visitors to watch feeding time.Bourghiba Mausoleum
: Accompanied by a small museum, this burial site holds the remains of president Habib Bourguiba, father of Tunisian independence, who died in 2000.
Planning a Tunisia Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Tunisia with Kids
Thanks to a large tourism industry and numerous resorts, you'll have plenty of family vacation ideas in Tunisia.Djerba Island
in Medenine Governorate
stands out as a family destination with attractions like zoos, museums, and outdoor tours. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the island's beaches.
Tunisia's oldest beach resort, Hammamet
retains plenty of charm with its historic buildings and citrus and olive trees. Lounge on the sands, do a bit of cultural tourism, and then hit the amusement park for a good dose of thrills.
Things to Do in Tunisia with Kids
In addition to the beaches, Tunisia offers plenty of kid-friendly activities. Start at Djerba Explore
and learn about the island's people, including their Islamic and Mediterranean dress. While in the area, take a horseback ride around the island with Ranch Adada Djerba
Give your young travellers a memorable experience on a camel or vehicle ride through the Sahara Desert
. This activity also features a look at a Star Wars' filming location.
Another top kid-friendly Tunisia attraction, the enormous Aqua Palace Water Park
boasts daring slides and wave pools. If your children are too young for those, check out Carthageland
: small kids love the trains and gentle rides surrounded by interactive decorations like pirate ships.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Tunisia
Tunisians generally act friendly and welcoming toward families, and hotels and tours often offer discounts for pint-sized visitors. Keep in mind that if you go during high season (peaking in July), lines and crowds for Tunisia sightseeing spots can be hot and overwhelming. Plan ahead of time to visit attractions during the early morning, which may be coolest and quietest. Additionally, try to book tours through a major resort for ease and peace of mind. Opt to stay by the beach so you are steps away from fun activities like swimming and water sports.
Protect yourself and your children from the hot sun by applying sunscreen at regular intervals throughout the day and packing hats for everyone. Stay hydrated, but avoid drinking tap water (including ice cubes).
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Tunisia
Cuisine of Tunisia
Tunisian cuisine boasts unforgettable flavors adopted from Arabic, Berber, European, and Middle Eastern cultures. During your tour of Tunisia, taste dishes seasoned with olive oil, anise, coriander, cumin, caraway, and cinnamon. Also look for harissa, a spicy chili and garlic paste.
In addition to roast chicken and baked lamb, couscous is a popular dish served widely from Tunis
to Djerba Island. Coastal cities like Hammamet serve up mouth-watering seafood, and every city has its sweet shops displaying croissants and pains au chocolat.
Shopping in Tunisia
Shopping in Tunisia is an exciting experience in itself, and the vibrant markets offer authentic items like pottery, ceramics, embroidery, mats, spices, and perfumes.
Search for the perfect memento of your Tunisia holiday at Nabeul Market
, one of the largest in the country. Brightly designed jugs and urns line its walkways, and cafes offer a place to rest.
In Tunis, wind your way through the medina's
labyrinthine streets and stalls selling products and produce. Set in the town's World Heritage-listed quarter, the experience combines shopping and history in a treat for the senses.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Tunisia
Interesting Facts About Tunisia
Tunisia is Africa's northernmost country and has with strong trade ties to Europe.
The country was a French protectorate from 1881 to 1956, when it gained independence.
The official language is Arabic, though many people also speak French.
Most of the population is Muslim, with the majority being Sunni Muslims.
Things You Should NOT Do in Tunisia
As you tour Tunisia, keep the country's Muslim culture in mind and take care not to offend. At your resort and at popular beaches, feel free to dress a little more relaxed; note, however, that topless sunbathing is not acceptable. While sightseeing or near any religious building, women should cover their shoulders and legs and dress modestly.
Photographers should observe that Tunisia forbids taking pictures of military and government buildings. Usually the site will have a "no photography" sign posted.
Lastly, visitors might be surprised to learn that importing or exporting Tunisian dollars is illegal. During your arrival be sure to declare the amount of foreign currency you are bringing. Additionally, at the end of your trip, only a limited amount may be converted back to foreign currency.
Holidays & Festivals in Tunisia
Thanks to Tunisia's ancient history, vibrant culture, and religious backgrounds, there is always something to celebrate.
Hosted in Tunis during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan each year, the Tunisian Medina Festival features exciting international films, musical performances, and street shows with performers in medieval costumes.
If historic sites star in your Tunisia itinerary, you will likely venture to Carthage
for its ancient Roman amphitheatre. Visit during July or August to attend the International Festival of Carthage, an entertainment festival that has hosted musicians like James Brown and Louis Armstrong in the past.
Tunisia finishes off each year with the International Festival of the Sahara, the country's oldest and most famous celebration. Founded in 1910, it highlights Tunisia's nomadic cultures and traditions with camel marathons, Arabian horse racing, and a popular poetry contest.
Useful Tunisia Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Tunisia
Say hello ("aaslemma") and farewell ("ma'a eisalama") respectfully when in Tunisia by following a few basic etiquette rules. Among members of the same sex, shaking hands is acceptable, but a man should not shake a woman's hand unless she initiates the gesture. Nevertheless, each person should be addressed individually in greetings and goodbyes.
Tunisians are a very friendly people and prefer to discuss each other's families and lives with polite interest, so do not be surprised if a simple "How are you?" gets you more of an answer than you bargained for.
Climate of Tunisia
Do keep the weather in mind when planning your trip to Tunisia. The country has a typical Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Summertime, between July and August, gets stifling with the Saharan heat rolling in from the desert, and temperatures often rise to 40 C (104 F). The intense heat makes coastal resorts especially popular during this time, or you can avoid the crowds and heat by visiting in the spring or fall.
Alternatively, visit during the low season in winter from December to February. In the coldest month, January, temperatures average around 12 C (53 F). As in any desert, temperatures drop sharply at night, especially in the winter, so pack accordingly and be prepared for rain.
Transportation in Tunisia
Getting around during your Tunisia holiday is easy with the country's extensive public transportation system. Tunis is the only city that offers a metro, but yellow, metered taxis operate in all cities. Air-conditioned buses reach destinations across the country, or you can hire a louage (long-distance van) to deliver you more comfortably.
For more freedom, rent a car and see the country on your own time--but do be wary of the local driving customs. Traffic rules are generally ignored, pedestrians cross the road wherever they please, and bikers recklessly weave between cars.
Tipping in Tunisia
Tipping is customary in Tunisia and similar to the practice of Western countries. In general, tip between 5 and 15 percent depending on the quality of service from restaurant staff, drivers, and hotel porters and housekeeping. If you hire your own personal tour guide, expect the tip to be included in the negotiated cost. However, if your hotel books a group tour for you, it is unnecessary to tip the guide.