Tunisia is a popular holiday destination among Brits – it’s a decent flight time from the UK and a relatively cheap holiday. But lot’s of people ask me ‘Is Tunisia worth visiting?’ There are many amazing things to see in Tunisia including Roman Ruins, Mosques and Kasbahs. Some of the beaches are beautiful. But Tunisia isn’t without its travel challenges. It can be a tough place to travel with security issues, scams and potential food poisoning to look out for. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of visiting Tunisia, and work out if Tunisia is worth it….
Is Tunisia Worth Visiting? Mostly Yes, but not the best Beach Holiday!
If you are interested in culture and history then Tunisia is absolutely worth visiting. I would go as far as to say that it is worth visiting to see the Roman ruins of Carthage alone. Tunisia has some of the most amazing Roman ruins outside of Rome. For example, El Djem Roman amphitheatre is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world – even better preserved than the Coliseum. Culturally, there are some amazing mosques to see in Tunisia including the Great Mosque of Kairouan and although you will not be able to enter if you are a non-Muslim you will be able to go into the courtyards.
However, if you are not interested in religion, culture and history, but you’re more looking for a relaxing beach holiday, then Tunisia may not be the ideal place for that. Bear in mind that on a Tunisian beach you will need to cover up more than if you were on a beach in Spain, Portugal or Greece, because you would need to respect the modest dress code. Skimpy bikinis wouldn’t be appropriate as you would have too much flesh on show – take a full bathing suit plus cover up for Tunisia.
If you are looking for nightlife and a drinking culture then you may also find this limited in Tunisia – many Muslims do not drink and it is inappropriate to be drunk in public places in Tunisia.
So, in short, if you are looking for culture, religion and history with the added bonus of nice beaches in Hammamet and Sousse then go to Tunisia. If you are looking for a beach holiday with booze and sex then it is not for you!
The Pros of visiting Tunisia
Tunisia is a great place for exploring Roman ruins, mosques and Kasbahs. It’s very accessible from the UK with direct flights from London and Manchester, and also Tunisia is quite cheap – making for a good value family holiday.
Amazing Museums, Mosques and Medinas
The mosques in Tunisia are fantastic – some of the most amazing mosques are the Kairouan great Mosque, the great Mosque of Monastir and the Zitouna Mosque in Tunis. They are quite impressive in structure and design and non-Muslims can still enter the courtyard of the Kairouan great Mosque and get a view of the Zitouna Mosque in Tunis from nearby terraces.
Accessible from UK
Tunisia is a very accessible destination if you are travelling from the UK – there are Direct flights from Manchester to Tunis and Enfidha (closest airport to Hammamet). You can also fly direct from London Gatwick to Enfidha.
English and French widely spoken in Restaurants and Hotels
There is no need to worry about being understood in Tunisia as most people in the hospitality industry (Hotels and Restaurants) do speak English. If you are communicating with someone in Tunisia who doesn’t understand English, you can also give French a go. The fact that it was once a French colony makes it common for people to use French especially in business environments. The first language of Tunisia is Arabic.
Well geared up for Tourists and Great Day Trips
There are some great day trips that are well run as Tunisia is eager to look after tourists and the tour groups are well set up. I went on a day trip that combined El Djem and Kairouan and it was very well organised and reasonably priced (£45 for the full day). Make sure that you take water and a sun hat in the summer months.
Cheap Holidays and Good Value
Tunisia is a popular option because on Tui and Thomas Cook are amongst some of the cheapest available. Generally, holidays to Tunisia come up cheaper than Greece, Spain or Portugal. If you are travelling with a family of 4/5 this could make a big difference to the overall price of the holiday. We managed to get a holiday to Tunisia all inclusive for £380 for a week – although it was in March and the weather was not the best (we had a couple of rainy days) it was still excellent value.
Food and Drink
Food and drink is decent quality and good value in Tunisia. Expect a lot of Mediterannean dishes cooked with olive oil, spices and tomatoes. There are a lot of seafood and meat dishes served with rice and cous-cous.
The beaches in Tunisia are generally nice sandy beaches. I liked Hammamet beach which was family friendly with good facilities. Although it was cold when I went in March, it will be warmer in the summer months. Other popular beaches are El Haouaria and Djerba beach.
Where to go for a Holiday in Tunisia
I had a lovely holiday in Hammamet – it’s a family friendly area with nice sandy beaches. As well as Hammamet, other good places to choose for a holiday in Tunisia are Sousse, Monastir and Djerba. I had a day in Tunis and the sites were fantastic there, but I would recommend staying in Hammamet over Tunis and doing it as a day trip like I did, rather than staying overnight in Tunis. You could do a day for Carthage ruins and then even potentially another day for Tunis itself to see the Kasbah and the Bardo Museum.
Hammamet has lovely sandy beaches and fun for all the family including some family friendly parks (Carthageland). The closest airport is Efidnha and this is very accessible (about 45 minutes drive). The other good thing about Hammamet is that it is pretty central to a lot of the tourist destinations – you can easily take a day trip to Tunis, El Djem or Monastir.
Sousse is a popular tourist spot with a nice Kasbah and Mosque. There is an extensive tourist resort with decent beaches along the port area of Port El Kantaoui, which is popular with British tourists. From Sousse you can easily do day trips to Monastir and El Djem.
Monastir is a popular coastal destination slightly further South from Sousse. Don’t miss the Bourghiba Mausoleum, Monastir Rabat and Monastir Marina. I’d also recommend a trip out to the Kuriat islands.
Djerba is a small island further South of Sfax. The island houses one of the most beautiful Synagogues in North Africa – El Ghriba Synagogue – and it is a popular place of pilgrimage for the Jewish community. Djerba also has a great souk, street art (Djerbahood) and Jama Fadloud Mosque. Finally you can head for some relaxation on Sentido Djerba Beach.
Sadly, there are a few downsides to travelling in Tunisia that you need to be aware of. The most concerning are risk of sickness or food poisoning and security threats. Read about the cons of Tunisia here and remember to always check your advice with the Foreign and Commonwealth office.
Scams in Tunis and some of the other cities
Be aware that there are a few scams that happen in Tunisia, even in hotels. The most common is the one where they say that they need to change some English money (or Tunisian) and when you give them change you find out that the coin or note is a fake.
Rip off Taxi drivers and Crazy Roads
Also be aware of rip off taxi drivers in Tunisia. Know what you are to pay (by pre-booking through the hotel) and having the correct change ready. The roads can be a little insane sometimes with taxi drivers speeding and dodging traffic. I experienced one taxi driver being on his phone while he was driving our car and he was not concentrating on the road whatsoever. I reported him to the hotel gate staff (they witnessed our kerfuffle!) and they said he would not be allowed to pick up from there in future.
One of the most serious concerns when travelling in Tunisia is security threats and terrorism. Sadly there have been several very serious incidents when tourists have been killed. In 2015 there was a gunman shooting in the Bardo Museum (Tunis) and also on a beach in the tourist resort at Port El Kantaoui with several people (including British tourists) killed and injured. In May this year (2023) there was a gunman attack at the El Ghibra synagogue in Djerba during a Jewish pilgrimage.
Many people look at the Foreign office website, see the Green on the map and think that they’re good to go. But that is not the case – Green does not mean safe to travel, it means read the travel advice before travelling. The foreign office guidance currently states ‘Terrorists are still very likely to try to carry out further attacks in Tunisia, including against UK and Western interests’. Plan carefully with the foreign office guidance in mind and be vigilant for security threats when travelling in Tunisia.
Tunisia is a Muslim country and it is important to respect that. Ladies, you may want to bring a headscarf to show respect when visiting Mosques or Mosque courtyards. Remember to cover yourself with an appropriate swimsuit cover up on the beach and not to take alcohol to the beach to get drunk in Tunisia. If you are buying alcohol from a bar that serves on the beach that is OK.
Temperature and climate
Although the meditteranean climate is very comfortable in the summer months, August may be too hot. In the shoulder seasons you may not be guaranteed the weather which is why the prices are cheaper. We did experience shitty weather in March (one very rainy day indeed!), but it was still OK to go out and do tours of ruins.
Stomach Upsets and Food Poisoning
One of the biggest complaints that I hear about Tunisia (and it’s a similar story with Egypt I’m afraid) is that people often come down with an upset stomach or food poisoning. I actually got sick in Tunisia with projectile vomiting! Not fun! Avoid all-inclusive deals as they often leave the food out longer than it should be. You may also choose to avoid ice in drinks and only drink bottled water.
Most important Tunisia Travel Tips
- Carry your passport with you when driving either self-drive or with a tour guide driver – police may want you to stop and confirm your identity.
- Avoid all-inclusive hotels as these are what seems to cause the most issues with food poisoning in Tunisia (they leave out the meat and fish longer than they should).
- Avoid ice in drinks and buy bottled water – many people say the water is drinkable in Tunisia, but why risk it when bottled water is so cheap?
- Don’t agree to change money for anyone – it’s usually a scam.
- Challenge or double check the taxi quotes you are provided (even by the hotels!)
- Don’t miss: Carthage, El Djem, Kairouan Great Mosque, Dougga.
- 1-2 weeks is a good amount of time to spend in Tunisia, but it is possible to see the highlights of Tunisia in 3 days.
What to pack for Tunisia
- Sun hat, sun cream and after sun (especially if it is a summer trip)
- Comfortable but conservative clothing such as long sleeved linen tops, cotton trousers or hiking trousers (avoid vest tops and spaghetti straps).
- Take a scarf and or cardigan with you for covering up your shoulders.
- Footwear – pack a pair of flip flops for beach wear, a comfortable pair of sandals or flats and a decent pair of hiking boots.
- The Tunisia Lonely planet is a decent guidebook to take. I enjoyed reading mine on the plane.
- Dioralyte sachets and medication for stomach upsets.
Overall Verdict – Is Tunisia worth visiting?
Overall, is Tunisia worth visiting? I was say yes absolutely, but be aware of the security and health issues as well as the cultural differences. If you are into Roman ruins and history, you MUST visit Tunisia – Carthage, El Djem and Dougga are amazing.
If you are looking to go to clubs, flirt and get drunk on the beach, Tunisia wouldn’t be right for you….maybe better to book Fuengirola, Albufeira, Aya Napa or Mykenos!
Further Reading on Tunisia
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