Dodgy taxis and dodgy henna tattoos are there and waiting for the unsuspecting tourist..
Tunisians are aware that tourists bring much needed money into the econmy - and it's been in short supply recently. So scams, con's, rip-offs and harrassment of foreigners is much less than in other countries in the region.
So, without overstating it, be aware of the potential for some of the following.
Violent crime in Tunisia is somewhat of a rarity and foreigners are not targeted though there is a risk of kidnapping, particularly in border areas and in Mount Chaambi National Park. Petty theft, pickpocketing, and bag snatching are more common than violent assault or muggings, but remain pretty rare.But watch out for the drive-by bag snatchers. The bike flashes past and the passenger snatches purses, handbags or cameras from tourists. It‘s not intentionally violent, but several people have been knocked over and injured. Don‘t walk around with your bag hanging out where anyone can grab it if they feel so inclined.
Types of Crime
This is true of everywhere, incidents of pickpocketing and bag snatching are higher in crowded streets and marketplaces where criminals can more easily lose themselves in the crowd.
Theft of valuable items from vehicles is also a risk, with computers, luggage, and cameras being the most highly desired items. Yes, you may well have locked all the doors and put the alarm on, but anyone with a rock can break the window and steal your gadgets regardless of how locked the door is.
Scams and Cons
As a general rule, check the price of everything before you order or even touch anything. Overpriced food and beverages is a VERY common scam and more often than not this is backed up with some reasonably intimidating stand over tactics. The really irritating thing is that the police rarely do anything when it happens.
Taxi drivers seem to take particular delight and pride in the way they run their particular scams. The usual standard tactic is to simply give a mind bogglingly high quote for the ride at the beginning of the journey instead of putting the meter on.
However, the taxi drivers are savvy enough to know that some people will insist on putting the meter on…so they drive the longest way possible with the taxi meter on, just to show you that they weren‘t trying to rip you off, when of course, that‘s exactly what they were trying to do.
Beware of henna artists in market areas. A lot of them use what is called ‘black henna‘ which can give nasty reactions after a period of weeks. Many of them will offer a spot test, where they put a bit of it on and tell you to come back the next day to see if you get a reaction. Problem being, the reaction can take three weeks to occur.
Some henna artists show a medical form saying that their henna is safe, even though they know it isn‘t. So be careful!
If you‘re unused to the cut and thrust of haggling in a tourist-heavy locale, the merchants and shopkeepers in the medina can seem like complete jerks. It isn‘t just that they‘re trying their hardest to rip you off as much as they possibly can, it‘s also how pushy they are about it. Some of them will literally grab you and try to show you their wares or pull you into their shop while quoting utterly insane prices.
Shopkeepers tend to quote three prices. The first one is incredibly high, to see if you fall for it. They will then often lower the price substantially, and by comparison you think that‘s a good deal. But it‘s still ludicrously high. Only after that can serious negotiating begin.
An easy way to avoid harassment is to keep moving, smile and say “Non, merci.“, and most of all, keep walking.