I am planning a trip for high school students for Mar 09. I am travlling with a very experienced and reputable company from Canada. They have sent many studnets all over the world including Tunisia (and this year I went along with a group to Egypt-Greece-Turkey butnot as the main chaperone/planner).
I have begun the planning for the Tunisia trip but have gotten 2 very different takes on the country. The company's owner says the country is quite westernised (compared to say Morocco) and very safe. He highly recommended the trip. A fellow female teacher who spent 3 weeks there in Fall 06 had a very different take. She felt women were very uncommon because they mostly stay at home and in that regard got a lot of attention from the men. She also said they were very few tourists in general present so westerners stand out quite abit. Lastly her experience with tourist guides was that they were very unprofessional and had questionable safety standards with respect to transportation, dealing with the tourists and giving relavent information (although very nice people).
Just looking for some advice. Any information would be valuable and useful.
I would certainly agree with the first one although the second is right about certain things.
In some places westerners stand out, but basically that's mainly in the coastal areas where there are many resorts and hotels, like in Monastir and on the island of Djerba. And of course the sights of interest are mainly visited by westerners as well.
And although some females might get attention, this is the case in many other countries, like Egypt and Turkey as well, especially when travelling alone or 2 females together. But that doesn't mean it is unsafe, when handled normally.
I saw many local women just walking around the streets of Tunis but also in the more conservative place of Tozeur in the south, where women dress more traditionally.
I am also sure that a good search will come up with reputable tourist agencies with good and helpful guides. With tourist guides, you never exactly know what you are going to get, but it is their job and in most cases they turn up to be good and helpful. I would advice though to give the students some free time as well, especially in Tunis, Kairouan and smaller Tozeur, where just walking around and soaking up the atmosphere sometimes is more important than having the obligate tourist guide talk.
In general places not to be missed: Tunis (medina/souq is wonderful), Carthago, El Djem Colosseum, Kairouan, Matmata caves, the Sahara sand dunes, Chott el Djerid salt flats and Tozeur and nearby oasis.
Good luck with sorting things out and have fun!
Thank you so much Michael for your post. I appreciate your advice.
Any other thoughts/advice from other trafvellers is also welcome, the more info I have the better prepared I am to make a decision.
If you are a woman travelling alone you need to be prepared for the crap you might get from Arab or Muslim men, regardless of the country you are in - Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia or Morrocco. If you are not and don't know how to protect yourself it can totally ruin your trip.
The same goes for young female students, say 12-14 year olds - they might be too young or too careless to understand. They need to be prepared to deal properly with potential sexual harrassment. Western women are seen as "available", which can result in unabashed grabbing. (The result of porn from European satellite channels - if all you know about Western Women comes from porn ...) You need to know how to deal with that.
First keep your flock together and second watch that the girls don't wear clothes that are too revealing.(Shirts with short sleeves and no cleavage, no bare midriff and knees covered. Skin-tight or see-through is a no-no.) It is best if you have them go out in mixed groups. In North African society boys and men are supposed to be the protectors. Have the boys assume that position. If a Tunisian man walks up to one of your girls a boy from your group should pay attention to what is going on and threaten the Tunisian guy and make a big fuss if the other gets too close (Feeling up the arm or so.). The girls should wear sunglasses to avoid making eye contact. What is seen as being friendly or polite in Europe or North America can be flirting and open invitation ("fuck me") in North Africa. (Egypt is the worst in that, btw.) It is not impolite to ignore somebody adressing you "hey lady, you are beautiful"etc, instead it shows that you have no amorous intentions. Drive all that home to your girls, all in the sake of "respecting the culture". It will ward of potential problems. (Did your fellow teacher follow those rules of safe female travel, I wonder?)
It is true that Tunisia is very westernised and safe compared to Morocco, especially for group of students. In Morocco you might have the problem that some would sneak of to get their hands on drugs - very dangerous and not recommended at all. (There is a reason all the Hippies went to Morocco.)
Sound advice above. Overall I definitely found Tunisia to be safe and modern compared to, say, Egypt or some parts of Turkey. I have to say that though I'm sure Tunisia isn't a 'druggy destination' like perhaps Morocco could be for some, I was offered hash quite regularly - maybe that says more about the assumption that some folks make when they see a slightly hippyish-looking twentysomething western tourist - important to be aware of nonetheless.
Edited to say that regarding getting good tourist information, I found it difficult when asking in English, but easier in French. I'm sure Arabic would be even better!
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 24, 2008, at 9:34 AM by magykal1 ]