Tunisia: Is It Safe For Travelers?
Between Safety and Sustainability, Access All Of Tunisia’s Treasures
By Jill Webb
Tunisia is a stunning North African country on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, but terrorist attacks within the country over the past few years have left travelers wondering if it’s a safe destination.
In June 2015, a terrorist attack at the Imperial Marhaba hotel in Sousse, Tunisia left 38 innocent tourists dead. The fatal attack at the popular resort left governments, including the U.K. and U.S.A., to establish travel advisories toward the country. The June attack came months after a similar incident at the Bardo Museum in Tunis where 22 people were killed.
The current U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs travel advisory to Tunisia is at level 2, informing travelers to exercise increased cautions and not to travel to certain areas. The U.K.-based Foreign and Commonwealth Office also has an up-to-date summary of travel advice to Tunisia.
Since the terrorist attacks the country has gone through in recent years, Tunisia has been working hard towards counter-terrorism tactics.
With help from Britain and other western countries, security forces within the country have been upgraded, including at the Tunis, Djerba, Monastir, and Enfidha airports. Counter-terrorism training from the Metropolitan Police has been given to various staff members from popular Tunisian resorts.
Safety is now a huge concern for the country, especially within tourism infrastructure, so let that give you some peace of mind when exploring all the great attractions Tunisia has to offer.
Tunis, a booming city
The capital, Tunis, is a booming city that boasts some of Tunisia’s most prominent cultural hubs, museums, restaurants, and nightlife.
While in Tunis, venturing through the medina is a must. The Tunis Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, is a captivating maze highlighting the history, religion, and art of Tunisia.
The medina has been in place since the 9th century and is home to over 700 monuments.
The souk, or Arab marketplace, is full of booths lining the alleys the Medina, displaying sparkling jewels, colorful fabrics, and eye-catching knickknacks. Surrounding the Souk are mosques, ancient alleyways, art galleries, and restaurants.
The Bardo Museum, which suffered from a terrorist attack in 2015, is home to the largest collection of mosaics in the world. Don’t let terrorists win by leaving you fearful of visiting the museum, especially if you’re a lover of art history.
The nightlife scene in Tunis is exhilarating for visitors. Le Boeuf sur le Toit is the ultimate out-on-the-town spot for trendsetters. It has a younger, local crowd that is a ton of fun on the dancefloor. Kino Club, dubbed a ciné-café, is perfect for cinephiles. The club has an edgy, artsy vibe to it, putting on film screenings, karaoke nights, comedy shows, debates, and live performances.
A quieter spot for a nightcap is Café Cultural El Ali, located in the medina. Sit on the rooftop terrace and enjoy seeing the city from above, while you enjoy their highly-regarding sweet mint tea.
For the environmentally-conscious, fear not, because Tunisia’s sustainable tourism market is starting to grow.
At the edge of an idyllic flower farm in Zaghouan is Dar Zaghouan, Tunisia’s first eco-friendly farmhouse. This is where you get a taste of traditional Tunisia, indulging in local cuisine, including organic and vegetarian options.
The lodge uses solar energy, solar water heaters, and eco-friendly agricultural techniques. Horseback and donkey riding around the farm, guided walks, archery, and more fun outdoorsy activities will keep you busy during your stay.
If you enticed by the metropolis that is Tunis, Dar Zaghouan is only an hour away, making it a perfect addition to a holiday in Tunisia.
Dars are to Tunisia is what riads are to Morocco– quaint, luxurious townhouses to stay in. Dar Hi Life, in the center of Nefta, is very conscious of its surrounding environment. The oasis supplies hot water to Dar Hi Life and the organic restaurant’s cuisine gathers its ingredients from the hotel garden and village farmers. The hotel was constructed from sustainable palm wood, adding to its eco-friendly factor.
Dar Hi Life has 18 rooms, falling into three categories: the Pilotis, troglodyte suites, and the Dune rooms. Each is inspired by different Tunisia atmosphere.
The Pilotis embody desert forts and are on the top of Dar Hi Life. The troglodyte suites capturing cave houses are a level down, with skylights instead of windows. On ground-level are the Dune rooms are inspired by desert bivouacs. Don’t forget to catch the sunset from the rooftop pool.
When traveling to Tunisia, remember that it has a Mediterranean climate, which makes it very arid. The north and east coast Pack light clothes and bring a water bottle to keep you hydrated as you voyage through the country.
The national language is Arabic, but French and English are spoken in most tourist areas. A lot of the signs are bilingual, but it can’t hurt to read up on some basic Arabic phrases before venturing to Tunisia.
On the United State’s travel advisory, the do-not-travel areas include, Sidi Bou Zid in Central Tunisia, Jendouba El Kef and Kasserine near the Algerian Border, the Desert south of Remada, the Western Mountains and Chaambi Mountain National Park, and the Tunisian-Libyan border. These regions either linked to terrorist groups or are part of militarized zones, and are best avoided.
The advisory also reminds travelers to use caution on public transportation, avoid demonstrations, obtain medical insurance, and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which is a free service allowing U.S. citizens to register their out-of-country travels with the closest U.S. embassy. STEP alerts you to potential dangers and helps the embassy, family, and friends maintain contact with you in case of an emergency.
Jill Webb is a journalist who is always seeking out new and exciting places to write about. She is especially interested in telling stories about people from places that are typically ignored by the mainstream media. She is from Port Jefferson, NY.