Is Tunisia a Safe Place for Women Traveling Alone?

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Find out how safe Tunisia is for women traveling alone, from what to wear to local customs and etiquette, here's everything solo female travelers need to know.

A woman stands beneath the large columns at Dougga, Tunisia Photo © Getty Images/Mehdi Majoul / EyeEm

Tunisia is one of the African countries where women can travel solo in relative safety, however there are still reports of occasional harassment towards travelers. Here's what you can do to stay safe.

Women in Tunisia

Tunisia is a conservative country, and gender roles of men and women will likely be different to what you may be used to back at home. However, women in Tunisia do have more opportunities than other countries in the region, as they are able to study and work. In July 2017, gender equality took another massive leap forward in the form of the Tunisian government repealing Article 227 in its criminal code. The law previously had allowed a rapist to escape prosecution if they married their victim.

The new legislation criminalizes all violence and discrimination against women, including marital rape. Police are now also required by law to refer women who have been raped to a forensic doctor at a hospital for treatment. Previously, police would not take complaints from domestic violence or rape victims seriously; now it's a criminal offense for them not to take a report and refer the victim.

While there is still much more to do, this is an important step for womens safety in Tunisia, and considered by human rights experts to be one of the best examples of taking action to protect women in the region.

LGBTQ+ laws in Tunisia

Legal challenges face people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) in Tunisia.

Same-sex relationships between both men and women are illegal. Since the Tunisian revolution in 2011, a growing number of gay men have been jailed.

Keep public displays of affection to a minimum in Tunisia, and avoid expressing your feelings or opinions on these laws to locals.

Harassment hassles

While most locals are friendly and welcoming, harassment of women travelers tends to occur due a few factors. Partly due to the fact that Tunisian men don‘t associate all that much with women before they get married, and the sexualisation of women in western media gives some Tunisian men the perception that foreign women will do just about anything if someone asks them. So, they ask.

Some Tunisian men are particularly prone to asking young foreign women to kiss them, and seem honestly confused when a woman says they aren't interested. The freedom of foreign women can also be mistaken as promiscuity.

Showing that you’re familiar with Muslim culture and etiquette can help tone down negative interactions with the locals.

Most of the time, the unwanted attention comes from local men staring at women travelers or trying to drum up a conversation. Seeing a woman traveling alone can be somewhat a novelty for local men.

A polite, firm non merci (no, thank you) or la shukran and continuing on your way tends to work.

If you happen to encounter unwanted attention, particularly of the physical kind, a good phrase to remember is "Harem alek". That‘s Arabic for "shame on you" and tends to work quite well with the shopkeepers who may touch your elbow to try to get you to shop in their store. Feign deep offence that a man who is not a family member has touched you. But usually a polite and firm non merci does the trick to avoid these unpleasant situations.

Dress conservatively in Tunisia

As Tunisia is an Islamic country, you will see the local women dressed conservatively, so when in Tunisia, do as the locals do: wear long sleeved clothing, making sure your shoulders and knees are covered. This can hopefully minimize those unwanted comments. If you feel you’re getting lots of attention, pop a scarf over your hair. It's handy to carry one even if you don't wear it if you plan to visit any important monuments or buildings such as mosques, where covering your head may be required. Sunnies are also handy, not just for blocking out the sun but to avoid unwanted eye contact.

A few handy safety tips

As you would in many other countries while traveling around, take basic precautions such as sitting in the back of taxis, sitting next to other women on public transport, avoid walking around alone at night and avoiding the dodgy hotels (these tend to be nearest souks or bars).

If you are traveling solo, another good way to feel safe and meet other people is by joining a local tour. Your accommodation will have suggestions on what to do and it can be a great way to socialize.

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  • Cat said

    I traveled to Tunisa, (Djerba in Sept 2018), on what I thought would be a nice beach break from long term hostel travel in Europe. I paid for a week in a non-beach side resort called Joya Paradise. I had never been to north Africa and was keen on soaking up the culture and taking lots of pictures while being a respectful visitor. (Dressing appropriately, being polite, while watching for scams, pick pockets, the usual...)

    I am a single, western female in my early 30's. I've traveled to over 30 countries, and yes, I have been harassed before, but never like this. As it turns out, my week turned out to be one of my most stressful travel experiences, and i've been chased by an elephant.

    I was directly harassed or asked to go out for 'drinks', (heavy emphasis on the sexual innuendos), by more then a dozen local men while walking around town, resort workers, (including the man who made up and had access to my room), and international men (Algerian, Russian, Arabic...) who were staying at my resort. (One resort guest who approached me while I was reading alone in the lobby... I moved to another seat to get away from him and later he even followed me back to my room).

    I was repeatedly harassed on the beach by the men who rented jet-skis or sold camel/horse rides, one man came up to me repeatedly, (in my resorts roped off section), to ask me out 4 times over a period of 4 hours). Finally when I left the beach for the day and didn't 'go with him', he screamed all manner of profanities at me.

    I was harassed while walking along an ocean marsh to take photos of flamingos by a guy who grabbed my hand and insisted I would be his new wife!

    I was harassed by the man I hired to drive me around to various landmarks in Djerba. He wouldn't take no for an answer and kept asking "how I would like to date him." (he finally took no for an answer and while dropping me back at my hotel continued to ask, 'come out baby!'

    I was walking down the street when a motor bike with two local boys cut me off by riding up on the sidewalk insisting that I come with the for some 'fun'. Apparently, "No, No, No... followed by a generous F-Off" doesn't work. I kept walking but they tried to cut me off another two times.

    And, the worst part of the week was being "romanced" by a resort worker who brokered day trips... We started talking about various things I could book, camel rides, market visits, and after a couple days of talking we became friends.

    After the 5th day he asked me if I would like to come over to meet his mom over dinner. My initial reaction was no, but after some talk I said ok. - I'm usually up for good experiences but then I got a weird vibe from him. The next day pulled him aside and told him that I'm not interested in dating him and I wanted to be very clear on that. He said "he understood", and that, "he didn't want me to feel uncomfortable".

    I declined his dinner offer, to keep things simple. Within 5 minutes of talking his demeanor changed. He asked me "when would I come back to Tunisia?" I told him, "it's not likely, as there are many other countries I'd like to see." He responded with, "well, you'd better start making me a priority if we're going to be together." He then asked, if I had a house back in Canada and that he would like to see it.

    I thought to myself, "whaaaat!" After that, I made a point of avoiding him, which made my resort freedom very small.

    Overall, my week in Tunisia had me feeling constantly on edge. By the end of the week I was glad to be leaving. I'm glad I got to see the colourful doorways and the spice markets, eat the food and grab a couple of hours by the pool. I typically travel solo, so I'm no stranger so watching my 6 while trying to be an open and friendly person, but as my short 7 days in Tunisia progressed, I found myself being more and more on guard, like my back was against the wall.

    I probably won't go back, but I hate the idea that I would avoid a region because the men are overly aggressive. I think that you should be able to travel solo without pretense of a absent fiance.

  • Gemma said

    Thank you Cat for your detailed comments. They are very helpful. Now I am seriously considering abandoning my plan to go - there are other places to see in the world. Or maybe, as I am older, saying in Arabic 'Be ashamed. I could be your mother' would help in some cases? :) Would not protect against the Russians though :)

  • Lena said

    most men in tunisia are very respectful i find that it’s mostly the algerian men that are always catcalling and harassing women. i visit tunisia all the time as my family are from here and me recent visit was last summer and it was great. however, my mum had argued with many algerians which were harassing me on the street even in my hotel my mum had left me alone on the beach and 2 young algerian men sat next to me and were bugging me for my number and i politely refused and they left me alone but i told my mum because i only know english and i was quite intimidated and the hotel immediately kicked them out. my cousins have told me that some of the algerian men think that they’re better than everyone in tunisia and think they can get any girl they want. i also had another awful experience when i was in a cafe. there was this car playing music very loud driving round near where we were and one of the lads came down and asked if they could all join (about 5 of them and only 2 of us) my mum said no and on the way to get a taxi they came again in their car telling us to get in and they’ll take us back to the hotel. we refused again and quickly got into a taxi and told them. my mum said they were algerians yet again as they had a yellow plate of their car and tunisian cars have a white plate. anyways we ended up getting the police involved because they were following us in our taxi and kept stopping infront and our taxi guy didn’t want them following us all the way back to the hotel. despite all the harassment i still would go again as tunisia has so much to offer and many of the local men will help u out if there’s an algerian harassing you. there can also be some tunisian men that will harass you too it’s not just algerian but i’ve found that it was mostly just algerian men. i’ve decided to visit again to see family and bring along my friend as i want to show her around my family’s home town and this will be the first time going without my mum. i would still recommend going to tunisia despite this issue as some people i know haven’t experienced this when they went. i hope this helps

  • Karen said

    Omg how frightening, to be harassed in this way just because you’re a females is harrowing . We’ve just booked a trip in August of this year and I’m glad my husband will be with me “ given what I’ve read, I don’t think I’d be interested in soloing a trip” . However I’ll be using a head scarf as a deterrent and maybe saying “ Harlem Alek” a few times. Hopefully my age and husband will be deterrent enough.

    Thank you for the information on staying safe.

  • Angelic Hamdi said

    I'm married ti a Tunisian for almost 14 years just moved to monastir Tunisia January of 2018 I've had a few taxi drivers try to get friendly and one guy at souq in monastir ask if I knew a women for getting papers to USA but in general I've had a good experience once you know how to defend yourself from the them I go out all the time alone as hubby works in USA and comes every few months I live with his family and I'm Muslim and wear the hijab maybe that why only a few have tried to hit on me

  • Donna said

    I've travelled to Tunisia on many occasions, with friends and alone and although, yes, harassment was a pain i actually met 3 Tunisian men from the capital, they were holidaying in Sousse at the same hotel, I visited Tunisia alone on a few occasions and they travelled from their home to meet me on all occasions, today we still keep in contact and I would like to meet up with them again

  • Jennifer said

    On holiday with 3 grown up daughters 5 years ago and any one of us could have came home with a prospective husband. My daughter was taken out of the hotel at night by one of the ‘entertainment’ team despite me telling him under no circumstances was he permitted to do this. He disrespected me & took her. They both lied to me though not just him. When back in the UK she started wiring him money tegularly, then a few months later she went over alone with 2 engagement rings and announced via Facebook she was engaged. Again despite me finding out he’d moved on to someone on the next plane load that arrived after we had left. But he threatens to take his life if she wouldn’t forgive him & marry him. She came home & bought herself a wedding dress, flowers, wedding rings, a suit for him, shoes etc n married him with none of her family there. I ended up with angina. She paid thousands and got him here a year later on a visa. He arrived with nothing but the clothes he stood in & they save thousands for each time this visa needs renewed. They have children now & the public face of the loving father of far from the real one. I’ve witnessed him threaten to slap their 2 year old girl. He swears at her in arabic. The way he talks to my daughter sometimes if downright appalling. What are you wearing?, why you wear that?, are you stupid or something?,….she is the major wage earner and does everything for them & around the house. He walks about in designer clothes, has a beautiful home, a car, a family n they all get Muslim values of which he’s none!,..thrust down their necks. Sure he gets his Matt out n prays to Alah, he puts a copy of the Quran in the babies cot but he’s not very Islam in his threatening, bullying, disrespectful behaviour. I can’t help but ask; Why marry a Christian girl then do all you can to change her, turn her to Muslim, do the same with your tiny children… Hate is a very strong word & for my daughters sake I don’t. I try to tolerate but, I Really don’t like him & if I catch him or hear or see him threaten my 2yr old grand daughter again. He’s going to wish he’d stayed in Tunisia. I’d urge ALL young girls to steer well clear of this place unless you have a protective father, then they won’t come near you. I’ll never set foot in Tunisia again. Don’t go if your a single female. Every member of the hotel ‘entertainment’ team are all out of Tunisia. They married British girls, French girls, Irish girls etc I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something off about it all.

  • Gh said

    You should be ashamed of yourself for writing such an ignorant and untruthful article. I am a Tunisian woman that saw her dad and mom go to protest hand in hand for women rights.

    Hello there housewives of the western world that trying to give us; Tunisian women a lecture in feminism and writing propaganda while eating an avocado toast paid by their husband. Give me a f**** break. I grew up most of my life in Tunisia and then now live in Berlin.

    First of all Tunisia is not an Islamic republic. We don’t have a state religion: it stipulates that Tunisian is a republic with a majority of Tunisians being Muslim and that the state guarantees the respect of all religions. I worn bikinis my whole life, my mom wears bikinis, shorts, skirts. Wear conservatively ? I grew up most of my life in Tunisia and now live in Berlin. I wear the same exact clothes that I wear in Berlin or Tunisia.

    FYI: Tunisia has abortion right for free and anonymous since 1973 and it is a truly a none negotiable right. And not like even the most advanced countries like Germany where a doctor can refuse to perform an abortion, Under Tunisian law, a gynecologist cannot refuse to perform an abortion.

    Men don’t have contact with women ?! Like seriously where do you guys come up with such things? My whole life I’ve been around Tunisian men, roommates in uni… We don’t even have boys and girls school. We all go to same schools, university… everywhere together.

    Obviously cat calling is still a problem ( which has been by the way criminalized since 2017). If you’ve been to France, Italy, Spain … you would have the same issues with sexual harassment on the street, it is more of a Mediterranean culture macho toxic masculinity problem more than specific to Tunisian men.

    And One of your commentators said that she had an accident with an elephant ? That just shows how dumb you are: we don’t even have elephants 😂

    My boyfriend of 5 years now is British (don’t worry: i didn’t lie to him to make my papers, i was already in Berlin doing my studies when I met him) and every Tunisian person he meets is genuinely grateful to see him loving Tunisian food and cheering for our football team…

    I am sorry that some people are desperate to leave the country and would lie to get paper. But also ask yourself, how is the 70 year old woman that says that they have been lied to and manipulated is the victim while she is the one being with 18 year old young men? She is the criminal and the responsabilité lies on her shoulders. He is 18 or 20, he is a child. The 70 year old is getting something out of it too: a young man that gives her attention and sexual intimacy that she wouldn’t get otherwise.

    Obviously Tunisia like any other country have its issues, the fight for more right and social change is still on going. Tunisians by far are one of the most welcoming people, fun and easy going and Genuinely curious about other people cultures etc. And I really pride myself in that.

    Now for you ignorant people: please don’t come to Tunisia, we can REALLY do without the 500 euros all inkl that you bring to the country.

    Bisou bisou 💋

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