Rating Tunisia's safety for holidays: Where not to go, what to avoid, and other tips for tourists
Tunisia has long been a popular summer vacation destination on the Mediterranean Sea thanks to its wonderful beaches and breathtaking scenery. But over the past decade, the country has experienced some significant unrest, causing many travellers to justifiably question whether Tunisia is safe for tourists. Indeed, some areas should not be considered as travel destinations, but they are far away from the main tourist centers. Still, you should know about them to say how safe is Tunisia for tourists and to understand what to avoid for yourself. We have collected relevant information and some tips to make your holidays in Tunisia safe and comfortable.
Getting around Tunisia
Local authorities have compiled recommendations to ensure tourism safety in Tunisia. Travellers should follow them and keep them updated. In some remote areas, especially in the southern part of the country, cell phone service may be intermittent or non-existent.
Foreigners can drive if they have a valid international driver's license and are required to have documentation of proper insurance coverage. Driving standards in Tunisia can be so unusual for residents of other countries that one wonders if vacations are safe here. In particular, many travellers report a disregard for traffic rules and confusion about lanes. Driving at night is best avoided due to insufficient road lighting in many cities and rural areas, vehicles without adequate lighting, and the possibility of encountering animals on the roads. You may also be stopped by the police or military for inspection. In this case, you should approach slowly and show your photo ID when asked for it.
If you are travelling on foot, be careful as sidewalks are missing all the time and motorists may drive in the wrong lane without lights or reflectors and ignore crosswalks and traffic lights.
Cabs are available, but they can be scarce during peak hours in major cities. Buses are overcrowded and a significant portion of thefts occur on them. Rail travel is safe, but there are cases of petty crime on trains.
What to avoid in Tunisia
Tourists are not recommended to visit the areas on the borders with Libya and Algeria. Security measures have been increased here due to terrorist activity and fighting in Libya. Keep an eye out for possible warnings from the relevant ministries in your country.
Areas that are designated as unsafe include the Chambi Mountains National Park, Salloum, Mghila, and Sammamma mountain areas, and the town of Ben Guerdane and its surroundings. Do not go to the paramilitary zone south of Dehiba and El Borma towns or the 20-kilometer area from the Libyan border zone north of Dehiba town.
The province of Kasserine with the town of Sbeitla, areas west and north of the town of Ghardimaou in the province of Jendouba, as well as El Fejja National Park and Mount Orbata are also not safe for tourists in Tunisia.
Travel within a 10-kilometer zone from Mount Mghila and south of Kasserine province to the Algerian border should be avoided. Prohibited areas also include a 30-kilometer zone from the border in the provinces of Jendouba and El Kef south of the city of Jendouba, which includes the archaeological site of Sbeitla. The area within 75 kilometers from the Libyan border, including the towns of El Borma and Zarzis, should not be visited.
Despite the rather impressive list of off-limits areas for travellers, they are all a decent distance from the main seaside resorts and tourist areas. Choose destinations that are recommended. For example, if we talk about whether Djerba is safe for tourists, it is usually described as of the same level of danger as any major city in the world.
Safety and security in Tunisia
When visiting Tunisia or other countries in the world, travellers should be on their guard and take reasonable precautions to safeguard their health and property. Keep up to date with all current events in Tunisia to understand if it is safe to travel to Tunisia in 2023. Here cases of robbery, pickpocketing, and petty theft are quite common. Therefore, tourists are advised not to carry all important documents, money. or valuables in one bag.
A state of emergency has been introduced in Tunisia since 2015, which was once again extended in 2022. Before deciding whether Tunisia is safe for holidays, you should take into account the possibility of social unrest and terrorist attacks. Demonstrations can lead to clashes between protesters and security forces. They often occur spontaneously and start without warning, most often on weekends on the eve or days of major national dates. When it comes to locations, they are mostly in the central areas of major cities. Avoid any crowds.
Because of the risk of terrorist actions, Tunisia cannot be considered completely safe for vacation. You should be aware of the changing situation and do not ignore the authorities' recommendations for visit restrictions in certain regions. Tunisian security forces are constantly on alert to prevent terrorist attacks. It cannot be unequivocally stated that Tunisia is dangerous for tourists, but despite all efforts, the risk of a terrorist attack remains. The most unsafe places in Tunisia that could be the target of such attacks are government and transportation facilities, including airports, places of worship, and public places (tourist attractions, cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, markets and others frequented by foreigners). Be especially vigilant in such places and follow the advice of local security authorities. Be aware of your surroundings and situation if you attend sports and major political events or religious and social celebrations.
You may be stopped and searched by security forces in areas under martial law. Therefore, you should always carry identification and cooperate with the military and police. Plan time to travel around the country with enough time to spare in case you are stopped at checkpoints.
Save emergency numbers in Tunisia in your phone and duplicate them in your notebook:
- 190 - Ambulance
- 197 - Police (in cities and towns)
- 193 - National Guard (for rural areas)
- 198 - Civil Protection (incident assistance like car accidents, fire reporting, and medical assistance).
Requirements for entering the country
Tunisia is a safe vacation destination if you follow the tourist guidelines. But it is best to get travel advice before travelling.
You should also check the validity of your passport. It must be valid for the duration of your stay in another country. A visa will be required if you will be in Tunisia for longer than 90 days. Upon arrival, you may be asked to provide the authorities with some information: contact details, purpose and other travel information. Not always, but quite often, proof of a hotel reservation or an explanation of alternative accommodation will also be required.