Tunisia Travel: Visas, Health, Transport, & More

Traditional Berber houses in Tunisia

Alison Lyons Photography/Getty Images

There are many reasons to plan a trip to Tunisia. Perhaps you're drawn by the North African nation's incredible history, which can be experienced first-hand at some of the world's best-preserved Roman archaeological sites. Maybe it's the sun-drenched resort towns of the Mediterranean coast that appeal to you; or perhaps you're interested in exploring the Berber villages and dramatic dunes of the Sahara Desert. Whatever your inspiration for visiting Tunisia, there are a few practicalities that you need to consider when making your plans. This article gives an overview of them all, from visa requirements to vaccination recommendations.

Visa Requirements

Citizens of 97 countries and territories are eligible to visit Tunisia for short-term tourism purposes without having to apply for a visa. The list of visa-exempt countries includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and all members of the European Union except Cyprus. For most countries, the visa-free period is 90 days, although citizens from Canada and Germany may stay for up to four months, while Bulgarians can stay for two months and Greeks can stay for one. Nationalities that do require a visa will soon be able to apply for an e-visa rather than having to visit their nearest Tunisian consulate in person.

Health & Safety

Vaccinations

Although Tunisia doesn't have any mandatory vaccination requirements for travelers, the CDC recommends ensuring that all of your routine vaccinations are up to date before departure. In addition, hepatitis A and typhoid vaccinations are recommended for most travelers, while rabies and hepatitis B may be advised depending on which part of the country you're traveling to and what you plan on doing there. You can read a complete overview of the criteria upon which these recommendations are based on the CDC website.

General Medical Advice

Before traveling to Tunisia, make sure that your travel insurance is up to date. Quality healthcare can be hard to come by in rural areas, so be sure to check that your cover includes emergency evacuation if needed. Be prepared that you may have to pay for treatment up front and claim back later once you return home. Pack a first aid kit, including any prescription medicines that you may not be able to get in-country. Officially, tap water is safe to drink throughout Tunisia although many tourists prefer to drink bottled water because of the municipal water's strange taste (caused by a high chlorine content).

Staying Safe

The U.S. Department of State has issued a Level 2 travel warning for Tunisia due to terrorism, and advises that travelers exercise increased caution. This includes avoiding areas where attacks are more likely, such as the western mountains (including Chaambi Mountain National Park), the city of Sidi Bou Zid in central Tunisia, and areas along the Libyan and Algerian borders. Safety advice changes regularly, so be sure to check the latest travel warnings before booking your trip. Violent crime rates are low in Tunisia, but you should still be aware of your valuables when walking through crowded tourist attractions and souks to avoid petty theft.

Currency

Tunisia's currency is the Tunisian dinar, which is divided into 1,000 millimes. Coins come in denominations of five, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 millimes; and one, five, and 10 dinars. You can get notes worth five, 10, 20, 30, and 50 dinars. It is illegal to import and export Tunisian dinars, which means that you will not be able to exchange your home currency for dinars before you arrive. You can readily change US dollars, British pounds, and euros in-country, and exchange rates are fixed throughout. Do not exchange too much, though, because you can only re-exchange up to 3,000 dinars upon departure (and only if you have the original exchange receipt).

ATMs can be found in cities, medium-sized towns, and major tourist areas. You should be able to use Mastercard or Visa bank cards (American Express is rarely accepted) in these places as well. However, if you plan on traveling into rural Tunisia, expect to use cash for most purchases. Tipping is not mandatory, but is appreciated for good service.

When to Go

As with many destinations, the weather usually determines the best time to travel to Tunisia. If you want to go camel trekking in the Sahara Desert the best time to go is from late September to November and from March to early May. It will still be chilly at night, but not quite freezing, and the days won't be too hot. If you're headed for the beach and would like to avoid the crowds, May, June, and September are all ideal. Most tourists visit Tunisia in July and August when the sun shines every day, the swimming is perfect, and the beach towns are filled with life. Book your accommodation well in advance if you're planning on traveling during the summer months.

Getting There

By Air

Most overseas visitors will enter the country via Tunis-Carthage International Airport (TUN), located roughly seven kilometers from the center of Tunis, the country's capital. The airport is the home base of Tunisia's national carrier, Tunisair, which offers direct flights to and from destinations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Although no airlines currently offer direct flights to Tunisia from the United States, Tunisair does offer a non-stop service between Tunis and Montreal. Other airlines offering connecting flights to Tunisia include Air France, Lufthansa, EgyptAir, and Turkish Airlines.

By Sea

An alternative option is to travel to Tunis via ferry from Europe. Three companies (Maritima Ferries, Corsica Linea, and Compagnie Tunisienne de Navigation, or CTN) run regular ferry services from Marseilles in France, with the journey taking approximately 20 hours. You can also sail to Tunis from several ports in Italy, including Sicily-Palermo, Civitavecchia, Trapani, Genoa, and Salerno. The quickest route from Italy to Tunis departs from Sicily-Palermo and takes 10 hours. There are two operators to choose from: Grimaldi Lines (two weekly departures) and Grandi Navi Veloci (one weekly departure).

Note: For safety reasons, overland travel between Tunisia and Libya and/or Algeria is not currently recommended.

Getting Around

By Air

If you have limited time, consider using Tunisia's domestic flight network (operated by Tunisair Express) to travel in between its larger cities. Possible destinations include Tunis, Djerba, Tozeur, Sfax, Gafsa, Garbes, Monastir, and Tabarka.

By Train
Trains in Tunisia are generally comfortable, cheap, and safe, although journeys are frequently delayed and the trains can be slow. Although the national network is not extensive, most of the major tourist destinations are covered. Tunis has its own light rail network. Trains are operated by SNCFT.

By Bus
Tunisia's long-distance bus network is far more comprehensive than its train network, connecting every major town in the country. Buses are comfortable, air-conditioned, and cheap. The national bus company, SNTRI, has a decent website with schedules and fares.

By Louage

Louages, or shared taxis, are an affordable and convenient (if not particularly comfortable) option for both short and long-distance journeys. They don't have a fixed schedule, instead leaving when they're full. Head to the louage station and ask for help finding the right vehicle for your destination.

By Car
Most major car hire companies are represented in Tunisia and you can rent a car upon arrival at the airport or in any major city. Tunisian roads are generally well-maintained (although you will need a 4WD if you plan on heading into the desert) and gas is inexpensive. Your regular driving license should be sufficient.

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