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Travel Guide Africa Tunisia Tunis

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Introduction

tunis medina

tunis medina

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Tunis is a city of great contrasts, from the bustling centre to the peaceful, upmarket suburb of Sidi Bou Said, and from clusters of smart, modern buildings to ancient Carthage.
Just through the Sea Gate (also known as the Bab el Bahr and the Porte de France) begins the modern city, or Ville Nouvelle, transversed by the grand Avenue Habib Bourguiba (often referred to by popular press and travel guides as "the Tunisian Champs-Élysées"), where the colonial-era buildings provide a clear contrast to smaller, older structures. As the capital city of the country, Tunis is the focus of Tunisian political and administrative life; it is also the centre of the country's commercial activity. The expansion of the Tunisian economy in recent decades is reflected in the booming development of the outer city where one can see clearly the social challenges brought about by rapid modernization in Tunisia.

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Neighbourhoods

Tunis is divided into the World Heritage Listed old city, known as the medina, and the new city, or ville nouvelle in French. Ave Habib Bourguiba is the large avenue running through the new city from the clock tower to the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul. It then turns into Ave de France, which runs for a few blocks until ending at the Place de la Victoire and the Port de France, a large free-standing gate that used to be the entrance to the medina. This can be a good landmark for taxi drivers, as some of the smaller streets nearby aren't sure to be known by the driver.

The Port de France also serves as a good entry point for exploring the medina. Rue Jemaa Zaytouna leads past lots of shops to the Zaytouna Mosque, the great mosque of Tunis and the center of the medina. Running obliquely to Rue Jemaa Zaytouna, and also with an outlet near the Port de France, is the Rue de la Kasbah. This runs all the way through the medina to the Place du Gouvernment and the Place de la Kasbah, a huge bleak square subject to heavy security. It is fairly easy to move between the two streets by cutting through in the labyrinthine medina, and it is easy to keep your bearings and find an exit. Rue Jemaa Zaytouna seems to be a better entry point from the Port de France at night, remaining relatively well traveled. Rue de la Kasbah, on the other hand, is active after dark on the Place de la Kasbah side, but is extremely dark and almost scary near the Port de France. It is recommended to get a feel for the medina during the day so that you will feel more confident if you find yourself and alone and need to find a landmark at night.

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Sights and Activities

  • The Bardo Museum - holding fascinating collections of Roman artefacts, including some huge reconstructed mosaics.
  • Sidi Bou Said, a pretty, peaceful suburb built up onto a hill overlooking the sea with attractive whitewashed buildings.
  • Carthage, where the ruins of the ancient city of Carthage can be found.
  • The Medina, including several important mosques.

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Weather

Tunis has mediterranean climate with warm dry summers and mild winters. Rain mostly falls between November and March. Although most days during summer are pleasantly warm, the occasional southern winds blowing directly from the Sahara can make temperatures rise to around 45 °C, but these days are rare. Mostly it is around 30 °C or a bit more. Winters are around 15 °C to 20 °C on average.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max15.7 °C16.5 °C18.1 °C20.7 °C24.9 °C29 °C32.6 °C32.7 °C29.7 °C25.2 °C20.5 °C16.7 °C
Avg Min7.2 °C7.4 °C8.3 °C10.4 °C13.7 °C17.3 °C20 °C20.8 °C19 °C15.5 °C11.3 °C8.2 °C
Rainfall59.3 mm57 mm47.2 mm38 mm22.6 mm10.4 mm3.1 mm7.1 mm32.5 mm65.5 mm56 mm66.8 mm

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Getting There

By Plane

International
Tunis-Carthage International Airport (TUN) near the capital Tunis is in fact the second busiest airport in the country, after Monastir International Airport. Tunisair is the national airline of Tunisia. International destinations include those to and from Algiers, Amman, Amsterdam, Athens, Bahrain, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Casablanca, Copenhagen, Damascus, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kuwait, Lisbon, London, Lyon, Madrid, Marseille, Milan, Munich, Paris, Rome, Stockholm and Zürich, among many others. Several French cities are served as well. About 20 other airlines serve the airport as well, mainly from Europe and Northern Africa.

Domestic
Sevenair operates several daily flights between Tunis and the island of Djerba and several weekly flights from the capital to Tozeur, Sfax and Gafsa.

By Train

SNCFT operates the train network in Tunisia and the main route is north-south between Tunis and Gabès, stopping in places like Sousse and Sfax. Trains are generally cheap and comfortable, but if you want to ride first class during peak season, do reserve your seat in advance.
The rail network is actually connected to Algeria, but unfortunately there are no international services since the demise of the Maghreb Express. There are plenty of trains from the main border city of Ghardimaou however.

By Car

Driving is not for the faint-hearted in Tunisia, due to the poor driving habits of many local drivers. However self-hire car is by far the easiest/safest way to travel around Tunisia (north of Gabes). Signage is quite good as it is in French and Arabic script universally. Driving at night is ok, just look out for idiots driving the wrong way on dual carriageways without lights on, and outside of the city. The freeway/motorway A1 from Gabès, Sfax, Sousse and Tunis is in a reasonable shape, and the tolls very cheap.

If you want to rent a car, the airport is the place to go. Local rental companies usually have lower rates than the international ones.

By Bus

SNTRI operates an extensive network of bus connections between Tunis and many cities in the country.
There are two bus stations in town, with Gare Bab el Fellah (in the Bab Saadoun neighborhood) serving southern destinations and Gare Bab Saadoun (south of Place Barcelone) serving those to the north.

By Boat

Ferries to mainland Europe:

  • GNV has ferries from Genoa, Palermo and Civitavecchia in Italy to Tunis.
  • Grimaldi Lines offers the same routes, as well as from Salerno and Malta.
  • Cotunav has crossings from both Genoa and Marseille to Tunis.
  • SNCM has services from Marseille to Tunis as well.

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Getting Around

Free maps of Tunis and Tunisia are available at the National Tourism Office, to the north-east of the clock tower (directly east of the main Medina gate). The tourist office offers assistance in many languages.

By Car

Taxis are also a good option if you need to go a bit farther than the metro, though cabs picking up in front of nice hotels will charge much higher rates. It's a better idea to hail one on the street; there are a lot of them so you don't need to search for one very long. Prices are displayed as 3.700 for 3.7DT. Flagfall is .400. (.4 DT). Assuming they are honest, the meter is a good way to go. Only try to negotiate a price if you know what you are doing and are sure of the value of the trip. Taxis are generally safe.

By Public Transport

Tunis is well-served by a convenient five-line light metro system run by Transtu. The interchange hubs for all lines are in the centre of town at Place de la République and Place de Barcelone. Single trips cost 0.430 TD.

The TGM suburban train line, starting at Tunis Marine station on Lines 1-4, connects to La Goulette (ferries), Sidi Bou Saïd, Carthage and the beaches of Marsa. Tickets cost 680 millimes each way. At Tunis Marine, be aware that there is an extreme dearth of signage. No obvious signs even say TGM, and on the maps on the trains themselves the station is marked as Tunis Nord. If you arrive at the station on the Tunis Metro, the TGM platform will be perpendicular to the metro cars and is easily accessed across the tracks. Tickets are sold at the end farthest from the metro stop.

Signs for station names along the TGM differ slightly from what appears on the onboard map, but if you can see the signs from the train and it is free of graffiti, a not uncommon problem, it is easy to tell where you are. It is not unusual for the trains to stop and wait on the tracks after leaving Tunis Nord or upon return. This usually does not last an extraordinary amount of time, and you will likely be better off not following the example of the optimistic youths that decide to leap from the car and walk along the tracks into the city.

Many stations along the TGM don't have full-time ticket vendors, so if you are making several trips along the line while visiting Carthage or Sidi Bou Said, you might be forced to risk traveling without a ticket. The guidebooks say that officials will sometimes get on the train and check tickets, so travel without a ticket at your own risk. It might be safest to buy a return to your farthest destination. The price difference should be minimal, and that way you might plausibly just have boarded the train, and your ticket will be valid for wherever you get on. The safest option will be to check with the ticket vendors or buy a ticket if you can find them.

Transtu operates a public bus network as well. Bus fares depend on how far (how many zones) you will travel, starting at 0.320 TD for a short ride.

Otherwise, louages (shared taxis) are the most flexible of all options. The minivans with 8 passenger seats take off when they are full and therefore run on no particular schedule. Prices tend to be a little bit higher than buses, but the difference is usually negligible. This is a suitable transport medium for young people, but definitely not recommended if you have children with you as the minivans can be quite oppressive. Driving style tends be the 'flat-out' variety.The North louage station is in the parking lot of the North bus station. The South louage station is across the street from the South bus station.

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Eat

Most hotels include breakfast, and some include dinner. There are countless coffee shops with bitter coffee, other drinks and French-style pastries to enjoy, as well as sandwich shops. Count yourself lucky if you find a dish that does not include canned tuna! Know that during Ramadan it's difficult to find an open restaurant during daytime.

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Drink

Be careful about what bars you frequent, ladies should perhaps try to bring a man out with them. Local beers are Celtia and the elusive Stella, which is rarely seen but exists on RateBeer. Both are lagers. Local liqueurs include Boukha ("boo-k"), usually taken straight or with coke, and Thibina, which is usually taken straight with a single ice cube. Alcohol is mostly only served in hotel bars.

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Sleep

Most tourists will be interested in accommodation in either the Medina or in Ville Nouvelle. The medina includes the youth hostel and several other budget accommodations, and the high end Dar El Jed. The Ville Nouvelle offers a large number of budget and mid-range accommodation, many grouped within a few blocks of each other north of Place Barcelone. Some places expect couples to present some sort of proof of marriage in order to rent a two-person room.

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Blue Oasis Guest House19 Impasse de Casablanca la SoukraGuesthouse-
El BahyAvenue Habib Bourgiba,Hotel-
Dar El Medina64 Rue Sidi Ben Arous ,Hotel-
Naplouse20 Rue Naplouse TunisHotel-
Regency TunisLa MarsaSourkaHotel-
Sun Beach Resort (All incl.)Zone Touristique B.p 47 Bonj CedriaHotel-
YADIS IBN KHALDOUN30 Rue du KoweitHotel-
CCW City 1 GammarthBp 592Hotel-
Tunisia Palace (Golden Yasmine)13, Avenue de FranceHotel-
Caribbean World Borj CedriaZone Touristique Bp 47Hotel-
Ariha Hotel110 Rue De PalestineHotel-
Saint Georges Tunis16 Rue De CologneHotel-
Acropole TunisBerges Du LacHotel-
Le Pacha Hotel Tunis2-4 Avenue Kheireddine PachaGUESTHOUSE-

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Keep Connected

Internet

Public internet access is available in many cities and towns, usually using the Publinet logo. Look for a large purple sign with the Publinet logo. Access is usually 0.8DT/hour, and speeds tend to be quite low. You can also have 3G internet access through any cell phone carriers.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Tunisia's international telephone code is 216.

Public telephones are available in all towns and cities and in most villages under either the name of Publitel or Taxiphone - in cities simply look around - there is at least one on every street. International calls tend to be quite expensive (DT 1,000/minute to call anywhere in the EU). There are three mobile GSM operators, private Tunisiana, private Orange, Tunisia state-owned Tunisie Telecom all offering wide mobile coverage (including some oasis in the Sahara). Rates tend to be quite low for domestic calls, but very high for international calls (around DT 1,500/minute). Ask for a carte prépayée for a prepaid SIM card.

Post

La Poste Tunisienne is the national postal service of Tunisia. Services are generally very reliable and relatively fast as well, up to international standards. It usually takes less than a week to European countries and no more than two weeks to the USA or Australia. Opening times of post offices vary, but the larger ones in cities usually are open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Mondays to Saturdays and a few hours on Sunday morning (usually 9:00-11:00am). Note that in July and August, there are long lunch breaks (kind of like the Spanish siestas), closing between 1:00-5:00pm. Smaller officies in towns also keep slightly shorther hours, closing for lunch year round and only open during the morning on Fridays and Saturdays. Als note that during Ramadan, opening times might be different as well. Stamps can also be bought outside these times at small shops and kiosks selling postcards. For sending larger packages, you might also choose international companies like DHL, TNT, FedEx or UPS, which are about the same price but have better standards.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 36.80027
  • Longitude: 10.18872

Accommodation in Tunis

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Tunis searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Tunis and areas nearby.

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This is version 19. Last edited at 8:34 on Nov 9, 16 by Utrecht. 47 articles link to this page.

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