Is Tunisia Safe for Travelers in 2020?

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How safe is Tunisia for travelers? Sarah Woods answers questions about crime, etiquette and safety for families and LGBTQ+ visitors.

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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.

Is Tunisia safe?

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. 

Is Tunisia safe for families?

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. 

Does Tunisia have crime?

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.

  • Wear handbags strapped cross-body-style close to your body, or opt for money belt that can be worn under clothing
  • Carry only small amounts of cash to cover what you need and store valuables in a safe place
  • Keep ID, credit cards, passports and driver licenses in the hotel safe
  • Request small denomination notes in currency to reduce the need to attract attention with big buck notes
  • Distraction pickpocketing relies on catching you off guard, so stay alert in markets and shopping streets
  • In restaurants and cafes, keep your handbag off the floor – wear it cross-body-style
  • Don’t walk after dark, book a taxi and ask the driver to you right to the door
  • Avoid upsetting local people by respecting the cultural norms of a honor/shame society (also see below)
  • In Tunis, it pays to exercise caution on public Two car bomb attacks have targeted western foreign embassy buildings in the city since 2015 – while these aren’t common, they can’t be ruled out
  • Protests and demonstrations can turn ugly quickly, and are best avoided – even those that are meant to be peaceful
  • Be aware that seduction by a local can often be more about getting money, a European visa and a ticket out of the country, than about love
  • Unless you’re an expert, avoid antiques, as dust-covered cheap, poorly-made imported trinkets are good enough to dupe.

Are female travelers safe?

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.

Is Tunisia LGBTQ+ friendly?

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.

Best time of year to visit Tunisia

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.

Local laws and etiquette tips

  • Formal greetings are characterized by a handshake followed by a light touch of the heart with your right hand. Foreign men should wait for Tunisian women to offer handshakes
  • Don't handle food with your left hand, especially if eating from a communal dish as the left hand is considered unclean only for toilet duties
  • Avoid eating, drinking and smoking openly during the month of Ramadan (April to May). 

Food safety and water hygiene in Tunisia

  • Tap water is safe to drink throughout Tunisia
  • Avoid buffet food that has been standing for some time
  • Squat toilets are common.

Transport safety in Tunisia

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.

Stay safe in the outdoors of Tunisia

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.

Get a travel insurance quote for Tunisia

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2 Comments

  • Ali said

    there is no black Henna there is only red the black fake with ppd.

    Reply

  • TS said

    Ive just been in Tunisia and, after travelling to 50 countries, including neighbouring Morocco, have NEVER been ripped off so much and so frequently. From taxi drivers (expected) to cafe owners, to "tour guides" to even a train station staff member telling me the wrong price then refusing to give me change when I pointed out the value on the ticket. Sousse, Sidi Bou Said, and Tunis Medina particularly bad.

    Don't bother unless you can afford private day trips either, the infrastructure is atrocious. So is it safe? Yes, at the moment. But the people there are simply abhorrent.

    Reply

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