Many thanks to Amanda Marsden who has written in from Tunis with all the info below. Great work, Amanda! If anyone has anything to add – please write in.
Although Tunisia is a Muslim state there is no formal dress code, unless you decide to visit a mosque, where only men can enter and they must have their arms, legs and head covered. The women wear just about anything (and sometimes not a lot!) so don’t be put off for that reason.
The postal service is quite slow but things will arrive eventually.
The dialling code for Tunis is 00 216 1. The telephone network is OK, but calls to the UK can be expensive. If you want to use e-mail you have a choice of two providers but both experience technical difficulties at times. The telephone sockets are completely different to those in the UK; here they are more like a credit card fixture.
The voltage is the same as the UK (230V 50Hz), with two-pin round (European-type) sockets.
There are a lot of banks where you can exchange money, the local currency is the dinar and the exchange rate is roughly 2 dinars to the pound. Credit cards are widely accepted if accompanied with a form of identification (eg passport).
Be prepared for the weather here. In summer the temperature can reach 40°C, and the winters are cool and damp. We experience frequent storms and high winds, which can lead to power failures.
Hotel Abou Nawas – there are two of this name. One is in the centre of Tunis and the other is in the “suburbs”.
Abou Nawas, Gammarth. Telephone number: 741 444
Abou Nawas, Tunis. Telephone number: 350 355
Hotel Residence, Gammarth. Telephone number: 910 101
I would say that the approximate price for these hotels is £50 per night (depending on the time of year).
There are a wide variety of restaurants in and around Tunis. Here are some favourites:
Au Bon Vieux Temps: One is situated in Sidi Bou Said and the other in La Marsa. Excellent for seafood with cosy ambience. Prices vary, as does selection of fish, but a three-course meal with local wine would cost in the region of £20 per person.
Le Bœuf sur le Toit: this is a very lively restaurant. The emphasis here is on a good time rather than good food, however the food is OK. A night here will cost £15 for the food (a set menu) plus your drinks (a bottle of wine costs roughly £10). There is a small dance floor and a mixture of local and international (loud) music.
Li Bai: this is located in the Hotel Residence and is in the style of Singaporean food. It is quite expensive but the food is good and the staff are friendly. A meal with wine would cost around £30 per person.
L’Olivier: again in the Hotel Residence but this time Italian. The food is excellent with a choice of Italian or local dishes, but is quite expensive compared to local restaurants. A three-course meal with wine would cost in the region of £30 per person.
When it comes to shopping, it is very different to the UK. Until recently you had to go to a variety of shops to complete your weekly shopping, but last week [April 2001] a new Carrefour supermarket opened, and consequently has been very busy up until now.
There is the Medina where you haggle for locally made products, which can be fun. As the importation taxes are so high here, there isn’t a great choice but you can buy pretty much anything (except vegetarian foodstuff) for inflated prices.
There are no libraries for English speakers, but there is a book club run by expats, which meets monthly. You can contact the Embassy for a number or myself on 745 998.
The larger hotels offer the usual sports, such as tennis and swimming.
There is a golf club at La Soukra, which is frequented by lots of expats. The International Club also meets here on Friday evening and organises quiz nights and other such things.
For local travel you have Hammamet, Sousse or Monastier. These are all situated to the south of Tunis between 1 and 2 hours by car. You can take a “luage”, which is rented, shared car or minibus which will take you door to door, however be warned they will not leave until full so your journey could take some time. Plus the drivers are renowned for being reckless!!
Further afield you can visit El Jem, which is the largest, complete amphitheatre outside of Rome — or even Tatouine, which is where the Star Wars saga was filmed along with The English Patient, among others.
I’ve mentioned the International Club; there is also a Caledonian Society and Hash House Harriers. These are all attended by pretty much the same people and you can contact me for information on any of these.
Contact details correct as of original date of publication in April 2001