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COVID-19 in Tunisia: From 22 March, an “obligatory confinement period” is in effect in Tunisia. Between 6am and 6pm, people can only leave their houses for essential business such as grocery shopping or medical care. Flights between Tunisia and all other countries were suspended on 18 March. Maritime borders are already closed.
Every time I visit in Tunisia, I am astounded by the landscape that runs from coastal zones, villages and mountains to vast sweeps of Sahara desert. Tunisia teems with life, from densely-populated buzzing cities to rugged outlying islands where dolphins, whales and rare bird species thrive. Curiosity teased me out to the flower-filled trails and Berber villages of distant mountains, and to Tabarka's oak and cork forests, Djerba’s sands, Lake Ichkeul’s flamingos and the olive groves, fig trees and lunar-like plains that edge huge swathes of the Sahara Desert.
Tunisia is ranked significantly lower than the UK, France and Germany on the Global Terrorism Index, and heavy government investment has beefed up protective security in major cities and resorts.
Obvious off-limits areas include the militarized zones on the Algerian border and the border with Libya.
Crimes against tourists tend to be opportunistic incidents, such as pickpocketing and bag-snatching – however, targeting tourists is strongly frowned upon by the locals, and punishments are harsh.
Since the beach terrorist attack of 2015, improved security measures have given visitors the confidence in Tunisia as a safe place to vacation.
Societal values place family life at the heart of Tunisian culture, and almost 70% of all holidaymakers in the country are families.
Clean, safe waters, sandy beaches, camel rides in the desert, and water parks offer plenty of options for capturing the imagination of holidaying children. Few countries as easily accessible from Europe, can compete on affordability not to mention warm waters, sunny skies and 800mi (1,200km) of coastline.
Like every country, Tunisia has pockets of petty theft and crime, and care should be taken in crowded places. Exercise the same precautions as at home and remain alert in souks and busy city shopping streets. Use the hotel safe to store cash, valuables and passports and only carry what you need.
Tunisian society values modesty. To avoid stares, glares and unwanted attention, women should opt for loose-fitting outfits that cover shoulders, cleavage and midriff. Shorts and skin-tight trousers should be avoided. Knee-length skirts are best. Outside of the main tourist resorts, and capital city Tunis, lone women should avoid going out after after dark.
Same-sex relationships are illegal in Tunisia, and although this law was challenged after the 2015 Spring Uprising, judicial harassment, homophobia and imprisonment remain – and a repeal looks unlikely.
Despite this, Tunisia is home to North Africa’s biggest LGBTQ+ community, staging an LGBTQ+ film festival in Tunis in 2018. Gay-friendly bars aren’t easy to find, though the main tourist resorts have some low-key hang-outs. Tunisia has an online gay magazine ≠ Gayday – with an LGBTQ+ Tunisian editor at the helm. Public displays of affection and talking publicly about homosexuality are taboo.
Unfamiliar weather extremes, considered part of climate change, have seen Tunisia’s year-round Mediterranean climate peak with fierce highs in August, the hottest month.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Tunisia has one of the worst road traffic accident records in North Africa, however most visitors are happy to allow experienced local drivers to transport them over potholes and poorly-lit roads.
For me, driving in Tunisia is part of the experience – but only during daylight and if the roads are quiet and dry. Cars travel on the right, seat belts are mandatory and a valid driver's license, registration documents and insurance documents should be carried at all times.
Taxis are plentiful, cheap and safe if booked by phone. There is no Uber.
Dehydration is the major danger when taking part in activities and sports in Tunisia. Carry water with you at all times and book excursions with accredited Tunisia Ministry of Tourism licensed guides who carry first aid kits and GPS.
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