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Tunisia

If you’re travelling to Tunisia, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security Status

We advise against all travel to:

  • the Chaambi Mountain National Park area
  • within 30 km of the borders with Algeria and Libya
  • the town of Ben Guerdane and the immediate surrounding area
  • the militarized zone in Tatouine Governorate that lies south of, but does not include, the town of El Borma

We advise against all but essential travel to:

  • areas south of, and including, the towns of Nefta, Douz, Médenine, Zarzis
  • the governorate of Kasserine, including the town of Sbeitla (except the Chaambi Mountain National park area, where we advise against all travel).

Latest Travel Alert

In consideration of the security situation, Irish citizens are being advised to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to Tunisia. The Department also recommends against all travel, and all but essential travel, to specific areas (see above).

Following an explosion in central Tunis on 24 November 2015, which resulted in 12 fatalities, a state of emergency was put in place by the Tunisian authorities throughout the country. This state of emergency has been extended on a number of occasions and remains in place.

The threat of terrorism in Tunisia remains high. There have been several terrorist attacks in Tunisia in recent years in which tourists have been targeted, most recently in Sousse in June 2015. In response, the Tunisian government has improved security in major cities and tourist resorts. This notwithstanding, terrorists are still very likely to try to carry out further attacks in Tunisia.

Any Irish citizens travelling to or residing in Tunisia should avoid all protests and demonstrations; minimise time spent in crowded areas, particularly those frequented by foreigners; and follow the advice of the Tunisian security authorities and your travel company if you have one. In addition, we recommend that you devise and/or review a personal security plan.

You are advised to download the Department's TravelWise Smartphone App and activate alerts for Tunisia. You can also follow the Irish Embassy in Madrid, which is accredited to Tunisia, on Twitter (@IrlEmbMadrid) and register your details with us through the Citizens' Registration Facility.

If you choose to travel to or reside in Tunisia, then you should check that your insurance policy provides adequate cover.

If you are travelling to or from Tunisia via the UK, you should familiarise yourself with hand luggage restrictions on some flights to the UK.

Emergency assistance

The best help is often close at hand, so try talking to your local contacts, tour operator representative or hotel management.

You can contact the emergency services by calling 197 (police), 190 (ambulance) or 198 (civil protection).

There is no Irish Embassy in Tunisia, so we are limited in the help we can provide in the event of an emergency. You can contact the Embassy of Ireland in Madrid, which is accredited to Tunisia, if you require assistance or advice. Irish citizens with a genuine emergency can leave a voicemail message on the Embassy answering machine outside of office hours. Make sure to leave your name, mobile number, current location and the nature of the emergency, and an Embassy Duty Officer will return your call.

Other EU embassies

You can also contact the Embassies or Consulates of other EU countries for emergency consular assistance, advice and support.

Our tips for safe travels

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a family emergency
  • Follow us on Twitter @dfatravelwise and @IrlEmbMadrid for the latest travel updates
  • Read our Topical Know Before You Go guide

Safety and security

Unrest

Tunisia is undergoing a period of political change following the “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011. The assassination of a political leader in February 2013, followed by a second assassination of a leading politician in July 2013, led to a wave of unrest and violent protests. After a period of political stalemate, mediated negotiations between political parties led to an agreement in December 2013 for a caretaker government to run the country until new elections. Parliamentary elections passed off peacefully on 26 October 2014, as did Presidential elections in November and December 2014. Tunisia’s new President, Beji Caid Essebsi, was sworn in on 31 December 2014.

Demonstrations

Tunisia experiences frequent demonstrations and protests. Travellers are advised to avoid protests and demonstrations. It may be advisable to avoid the centre of major cities on Friday afternoons, which is when most demonstrations take place. Always keep yourself informed of what’s going on around you by monitoring local media and staying in contact with your hotel or tour organiser.

While demonstrations are not normally aimed at foreigners, international events can trigger anti-western protests. Violent protests took place in front of the US Embassy in Tunis in September 2012 resulting in several deaths among protestors and significant damage to the US Embassy and American school.

State of emergency

Following an explosion in central Tunis on 24th November 2015, a state-of-emergency was imposed. It has been extended on a number of occasions and remains in place.

You should follow the instructions given by local security authorities and/or your tour operator. Carry a copy of your passport, or other form of photo ID, at all times as proof of nationality and identity.

Border areas

Tunisia’s borders with Libya and Algeria are open but the security situation is very tense. Unrest in Libya is having a serious impact on the security of southern Tunisia, with a significant increase in cross-border trafficking and the availability of weapons, and occasional violent clashes between armed groups and the Tunisian security forces. Border crossing points can be temporarily closed without notice. We recommend that you avoid all non-essential travel to Tunisia’s Greater South and to the border areas with Algeria. Do not travel to the Chaambi Mountain National Park or within 30 km of the borders with Algeria and Libya. There is a risk of kidnap from terrorists operating in the south of Tunisia, close to the border with Algeria. You must get permission from the Tunisian authorities (National Guard) to enter certain desert areas near the border with Algeria. You are also strongly advised to travel with a reputable tour operator or a licensed local guide if you plan to travel to this region, which you are recommended not to do.

Terrorism

There is a high risk of terrorist attacks in Tunisia. Irish citizens should maintain a strong level of security awareness, monitor the local media closely and follow the instructions of the Tunisian authorities. Terrorist attacks, in which foreign tourists were targeted, were carried out in two separate incidents in 2015 at the Bardo Museum (March) and in Sousse (June).

Crime

The level of theft and similar crimes in Tunisia is relatively low, but be aware that pickpockets operate in crowded marketplaces and bag-snatching does happen in tourist areas. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings: 

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
  • Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
  • Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
  • Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations

Kidnapping

There is a risk of kidnap from terrorists operating in the south of Tunisia, close to the border with Algeria.  Two Austrian tourists were kidnapped in this area and held for several months in 2008.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Tunisia, report it to the local police immediately. And you can contact the Honorary Consulate in Tunis or the Irish Embassy in Madrid if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Tunisia, you should be extremely careful as traffic can be fast and erratic. If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Pedestrians

Pedestrians should also be extremely careful, particularly when crossing roads and regardless of whether there is a signal allowing pedestrians to cross – drivers don’t always stop.

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or may even be illegal.

Personal identification

You should carry some form of photo ID (such as a copy of your passport) at all times.

Muslim culture

Tunisia is a Muslim country and its laws and customs reflect this. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions. You should be aware of your actions and take care not to offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or other religious festivals, or if you intend to visit religious sites. In the main coastal resorts the dress code if often similar to any European tourist area, but in the cities, at religious sites and in more rural areas dress codes are conservative. It is advisable to dress modestly outside of the coastal resorts.

During Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke during daylight hours. It may cause offence to eat, drink or smoke in public during this time.

Sexual behaviour

Homosexuality is a criminal offence and sexual relations outside marriage are also punishable by law. Caution and discretion should be exercised at all times.

Illegal drugs

There are harsh penalties (long prison sentences and heavy fines) for possession of illegal drugs, including small amounts of ‘soft’ illegal drugs.

Natural disasters and climate

Natural disasters

Tunisia is in an active seismic zone and earth tremors do occur. You can get up-to-date information from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service and monitor local media carefully. If you’re travelling to or living in Tunisia, make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake and always follow the advice of local authorities.

Climate

Tunisian summers are hot and humid on the coast, drier in the interior. Winters are cool and damp, particularly in coastal areas. Tunisia experiences frequent dust and sand storms.

Additional information

Exit Stamp

From 1 October 2014, non-resident foreigners departing Tunisia must pay an exit tax of 30 dinars per person (about €13). To pay the tax you should buy an exit stamp, which will be on sale in hotels, travel agencies, finance offices, tobacco shops, banks and customs offices (including at the airport and other borders). The stamp will then be placed in your passport alongside your entry stamp.

Passports

It’s advisable to take a number of photocopies of your passport with you when travelling to Tunisia and you should carry a photocopy of your passport at all times during your stay.

Health

Check with your doctor at least 8 weeks in advance of travelling to see what vaccinations you need for Tunisia. 

Before travelling to Tunisia you should ensure to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs.

Water

We recommend that you drink only boiled or bottled water during your stay.

Money

Tunisian currency

The export and import of Tunisian dinars is expressly prohibited.

Foreign currency

When you arrive in Tunisia, you must declare any large amounts of foreign currency you are bringing with you. It is obligatory to declare sums greater than the value of 5,000 Tunisian Dinars. If you don’t declare it, you may have problems bringing it back out of the country. You could be required to show the currency declaration on departure, as well as receipts for any currency exchange operations made during your stay.