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Tunisia

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Tunisia due to the high threat of terrorist attack.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to areas south of, and including, the towns of Nefta, Douz, Medenine, and Zaris, due to the ongoing threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. Except do not travel to the militarised zone south of Dhehiba and El Borma, and within 30 kilometres of the border with Libya.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the governorates of Kasserine, Le Kef, Jendouba and Sidi Bouzid due to the ongoing threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.
  • Do not travel to the militarised zone south of the towns of El Borma and Dhehiba. See Safety and security.
  • Do not travel within 30 kilometres of the border with Algeria, due to the ongoing threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.
  • Do not travel to the Mount Chaambi National Park area, including the town of Kasserine, due to ongoing security force operations and the high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping.
  • Do not travel within 30 kilometres of the rest of the Libya border area north of Dhehiba, including the town of Ben Guerdane and immediate surrounding area, due to the ongoing threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping. See Safety and security.
  • Information indicates that terrorists are planning attacks in locations in Tunisia likely to be frequented by tourists. The Tunisian Government has improved protective security around tourist resorts and major cities following separate terror attacks in Sousse and Tunis in 2015, which killed 60 foreign tourists. However, further terrorist attacks are likely, including in tourist areas. See Safety and security.
  • A state of emergency is in place, which gives security forces more authority to maintain civil order. Authorities may restrict travel or enforce local curfews at short notice. See Safety and security.
  • Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Tunisia. The Canadian Embassy in Tunis provides consular assistance to Australians in Tunisia. The Australian High Commission in Malta can also assist Australians in Tunisia. See Where to get help.
  • See Travel smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

Tourists may be eligible for a visa exemption for stays of up to 90 days. For other types of travel, you will need to obtain a visa before you arrive.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy of Tunisia for up-to-date information.

Passport

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception.  If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible. You can either:

Money

The currency of Tunisia is the Tunisian Dinar (TND). Tunisian law prohibits the import or export of Tunisian dinars.

Declare all foreign currency on arrival in Tunisia, and keep the declaration receipt for departure. You can’t take out a larger amount of foreign currency than you declared on arrival.

You can exchange foreign currency for TND at authorised banks or dealers only. Make sure you keep receipts.

Before you leave Tunisia, you can convert a maximum of TND3,000 back into foreign currency. Keep receipts as you'll need them for your customs declaration on departure.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack in Tunisia.  Terrorist attacks and plots have targeted foreign tourists and popular tourist sites, as well as the Tunisian Government and security forces. In 2015, 38 foreign tourists were killed in a terrorist attack at a beach resort in the tourist area of Port El Kantaoui, near Sousse, and 22 people were killed in a terrorist attack at the Bardo museum in the centre of Tunis.

On 1 November 2017, two policemen in Tunis were attacked with a knife. In March 2016, an attack by militants in the southeast town of Ben Guerdane killed 12 Tunisian security officials and civilians.
A current state of emergency gives extra powers to the police and military to maintain civil order.
Tunisian authorities have responded to terrorist attacks by increasing security across the country, including the security presence on the streets, deployment of armed guards at tourist resorts and security screening at hotels. Local authorities regularly arrest and disrupt alleged militants involved in planning attacks.

Possible targets of future terror attacks include aviation, government facilities, and commercial areas known to be frequented by foreigners such as western diplomatic missions, oil facilities, residential areas, hotels, tourist beaches, clubs, restaurants, bars, schools, market places, places of worship, outdoor recreation events and tourist areas.

The deterioration in security in neighbouring Libya and Algeria has resulted in a more volatile security environment in Tunisia, particularly near the borders. There is a high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping in southern Tunisia, including  the towns of El Borma and Dhehiba, the militarised zone south of them, and within 30 kilometres of the borders with Algeria and Libya.

Military operations against groups of suspected terrorists are continuing in the Kef and Kasserine regions, in Mount Chaambi National Park and at the crossing points to Algeria at El Kef and Ghardinaou. Government security forces regularly engage with extremist groups in the area. A high threat of terrorist attack and kidnapping remains.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

If you decide to travel to Tunisia:

  • consider the kinds of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided
  • if you go to a crowded place or other possible target, have a clear exit plan in the event of a security incident
  • be alert to possible threats, especially at tourist locations, religious sites, identifiably Western businesses and other public places
  • pay close attention to your personal security at all times
  • report any suspicious activity or items to police
  • monitor local and social media for news of any new or emerging threats
  • take official warnings seriously and follow the instructions of local authorities
  • if you decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, seek professional security advice and have effective personal security measures in place.

If there is a terror attack or threat:

  • leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so
  • follow the instructions of local authorities
  • avoid gathering in a group.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.

More information:

Civil unrest and political tension

Tunisia experienced unprecedented political and social change following the 'Jasmine Revolution' in January 2011. During the upheaval and transition, protests and political unrest occurred across Tunisia, resulting in deaths, injuries and extensive damage to property.

There is potential for spontaneous civil unrest, such as political and industrial protests. In January 2018, there were widespread protests driven by economic tensions. Strikes could be called at short notice and could affect essential services.

  • Avoid all protests and demonstrations.
  • Monitor the news and other sources for information on planned and possible unrest or strikes and avoid those areas.
  • Plan your activities to avoid potential unrest on days of national or commemorative significance.
  • Take particular care during the period surrounding Friday prayers.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions. Carry your passport at all times.
  • If you're affected by transport disruptions, contact your airline, travel agent or insurer for assistance.

Crime

You could encounter petty crime, such as theft, scams, pick pocketing and bag snatching. High-value items are sometimes stolen from vehicles and hotel rooms.

Harassment of women, including unwanted physical contact and comments, has been reported. Travellers should take care when travelling alone or at night.

  • Be alert to pickpockets and bag snatchers, particularly in tourist areas.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your cash, jewellery and electronic items in a secure location.
  • Don't leave valuables in a parked vehicle or unsecured in a hotel room.
  • Be wary of friendly strangers and alert to possible scams.

More information: Female travellers

Local travel

There is a heightened security presence at border crossings due to the deteriorating security environment in Libya and Algeria. Some crossings may be temporarily closed at short notice, and access is strictly controlled by Tunisian security forces. Consult with local authorities and read the travel advisories for Algeria and Libya before deciding whether to travel.

Desert areas

You will need to get permission from Tunisian authorities to travel to certain desert areas in the south, and you must be accompanied by a licensed guide.

If you intend to travel into the Sahara, you must inform the National Guard Post at Medenine, located 450 kilometres south of Tunis, before you travel. Use of an experienced guide may reduce the risks associated with travel in the Sahara.

Road travel

Driving in Tunisia can be hazardous due to poorly maintained vehicles, poor local driving practices and inadequate road lighting. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), you are nearly five times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Tunisia than in Australia.

Traffic signs and signals are routinely ignored. Be especially cautious as cars rarely stop at pedestrian crosswalks or stoplights. Motorists sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road and ignore lane markings. Bicycles, mopeds, and motorcycles are routinely operated without lights or reflectors, making them difficult to see. Be aware of animals on the roads, particularly in rural areas.

Military or police security checks on roads are common. Approach checkpoints slowly, don’t cross boundaries without permission, and be prepared to show photo ID if asked.

If you drive in Tunisia:

  • first learn the local road rules
  • make sure your vehicle has all required safety equipment
  • drive defensively
  • avoid driving outside cities after dark.

More information: Road safety and driving

Driver's licence

If you wish to drive, obtain an International Driver's Permit before you arrive in Tunisia. For longer stays, contact the Ministry of Transport (Agence Technique des Transports Terrestres) for information on how to obtain a local licence.

Motorcycles

Avoid using motorcycles due to the low road safety standards. Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when riding a motorcycle. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Use only licensed taxis or reputable limousine services, preferably those arranged through your hotel. Avoid taxis that openly tout for business, especially outside the airport, hotels and tourist attractions as they will often try to charge high prices. Insist that the meter is used.

Public transport

Buses are usually crowded. Buses and the light railway in Tunis are managed by TRANSTU, the Tunis Transport Company. The national transport company SNTRI and Trans-Tour have buses serving remote areas of Tunisia.

Rail travel

The railway network connects most of the major cities in the north, including Tunis, Bizerte and Beja, and the east coast towns of Sfax and Gabes. Trains are quite slow, but more reliable than other forms of public transport. Petty crime occurs on city and inter-city trains. Be vigilant with your belongings at all times.

Sea travel

Regular ferry services operate between Sfax and the Kerkennah islands and between El-Jorf and Ajim on Djerba Island. Tunis and other towns are also serviced by a number of international cruise ship services.

More information: Cruises

Air travel

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Tunisia.

Be prepared for increased security screening at Tunis-Carthage International Airport. 

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular services charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs include mandatory imprisonment.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Penalties for some offences, such as murder and rape, include the death penalty.

If you engage in any of the following activities in Tunisia, you could be imprisoned:

  • homosexual acts - see LGBTI travellers
  • living or staying as an unmarried couple
  • attempting to convert a Muslim to another religion
  • photography of, or near, government buildings, military establishments or other infrastructure
  • importing or exporting Tunisian dinars.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you can be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering.

More information: Staying within the law

Local customs

There are conservative standards of dress and behaviour in Tunisia. Take care not to offend. If you are visiting religious sites or remote areas of Tunisia, avoid wearing short-sleeved garments or shorts. Open displays of affection between members of the opposite sex may cause offence. Women may be harassed, particularly if they are unaccompanied. Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Tunisia, and same-sex marriage is not recognised.

During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, take particular care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. Avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public and in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Information for dual nationals

If you are an Australian/Tunisian dual national, you could be required to complete national service obligations if you visit Tunisia. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Tunisia for up-to-date information before you travel.

More information: Dual nationals

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.  Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to.

Take with you prescription medicines to cover you for your entire stay. Always carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only. 

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Some health risks can be managed. Discuss your travel plans and vaccination needs with your doctor before you travel.

Insect-borne diseases

Insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis and West Nile fever) are prevalent in Tunisia.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, using insect repellent and wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, rabies and tuberculosis) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. Swimming in fresh water may expose you to parasitic diseases such as bilharzia.

  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, especially outside major cities.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
  • Avoid swimming in fresh water sources such as lakes and rivers.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by a dog, monkey or other mammal, get treated with rabies immunoglobulin as soon as possible.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Medical facilities

While the standard of medical facilities in Tunisia is generally good in major centres, medical services in smaller cities and rural and remote areas can be limited. Doctors and hospitals require up-front payment or a guarantee of payment from an insurance company prior to providing services, including for emergency care. Some medical situations require initial treatment or assessment at a public hospital, before you can choose to be treated at a private clinic.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities. Medical evacuation and treatment could be very expensive.

A decompression chamber is available at the Naval Base in Bizert in north-east Tunisia.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, employer or airline. Your travel insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Emergencies

  • Fire and rescue: 198 (telephone service in Arabic or French)
  • Medical emergencies: 190 (in Arabic or French)
  • Criminal issues: 197 or 193 (in Arabic or French) or contact the local police.

Always get a police report when reporting a crime. 

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular services charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Tunisia. By agreement between the Canadian and Australian Governments, the Canadian Embassy in Tunis provides consular assistance to Australians in Tunisia. 

Canadian Embassy, Tunis

Lot 24, Cite Des Pins, Berges Du Lac 2
TUNIS, Tunisia
Telephone: +216 70-010-200
Fax (general): +216 70-010-392
Email: tunis@international.gc.ca
Website: canadainternational.gc.ca/tunisia-tunisie

You can also obtain consular assistance from the Australian High Commission located in Malta.

Australian High Commission, Malta

Ta'Xbiex Terrace
Ta'Xbiex, Malta
Telephone: + 356 2133 8201
Facsimile: + 356 2134 4059
Email: aushicom@onvol.net
Website: malta.embassy.gov.au

Check the High Commission website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the Embassy, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Tunisia is in an active seismic zone.

Dust and sand storms occur frequently in Tunisia.

Heavy rains can cause flash flooding and block roads, particularly in the south of the country.

If there is a natural disaster or severe weather:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag)
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • closely monitor the media, other local sources of information and the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities.

More information:

Additional resources