Updated: Apr 28
If I am being honest, Tunisia is one of those destinations that were not high on my bucket list for a long time, especially since I've been to Morocco over 7 times now. I felt like it was similar. However, when looking at destinations to meet up with a friend from the U.K., she said she could easily find flights to Tunisia.
I much rather meet her in a new country, so I said yes. She booked her flights, we coordinated the days, and started planning the trip. I found that I needed at least 10 days in Tunisia to be able to see everything. Some places I wanted to reach also meant I would have to come back another time. Despite knowing I'll only have 6 days in Tunisia this time, we decided to find ways that we can make the most out of it.
Below are some reasons I would go back, and reasons you should consider visiting if you haven't yet:
1. THE PEOPLE.
I haven't come across any person that wasn't a pleasure to meet on this trip. The locals were so friendly, welcoming, and genuine. One of the things I really appreciated is that NO ONE tried to scam us by making us pay extra for taxis, clothes, souvenirs, etc. (unlike many encounters I've had in other countries).
We hired a taxi driver's brother as our guide/driver for the day and he was the sweetest. Our taxi driver had so much fun with us on the way to the mall. Everyone's happy.
2. THE SIGHTS.
Want to know how I felt as I was going around Tunisia? (I wish I had a lot more time there so I can explore more of the country) I saw it like Santorini and Rome on a budget. El Jem is one of the sights we visited, a UNESCO site, which is pretty much the Colosseum's twin, without the huge crowd of tourists.
Sidi Bou Said brought me back to Greece. If I had more time, one of the places I wanted to visit was Tozeur and all the Star Wars filming locations. I feel like the landscapes there (based on my research) are quite unique. Keep in mind that it takes about 6 hours to reach Tunis (by car) so while it may be doable if you are short on time like me, it might mean that you will miss out on other sights (which is why I decided to modify my itinerary to visit more places instead).
3. THE COST.
Though the time we visited was off-peak, I found Tunisia very affordable. I couldn't believe my eyes when we got 4-5 star hotels for less than 100 bucks and dined at a fine dining restaurant, for as low as $10 (including appetizers, mains, and tea).
I even got to pamper myself at a family-owned hammam for less than $60 (my package included so many different things too, such as a 1-hour massage, foot bath, facial treatment and so much more). We also used Bolt (the equivalent to Uber) to get around which made our trip even more affordable as we got a better idea how much we were going to be spending for the ride and we paid in cash.
4. THE GASTRONOMY.
One of the must-dos in every destination I visit is indulging in local cuisine. I love getting lost and coming across hidden gems, local cafes and trying the food that people there eat every day. Though we did not get to fully experience Tunisian cuisine as we originally wanted, I was glad to be able to taste it in different areas. From the street food in Sidi Bou Said to the beautiful Sultan restaurant in Kairouan, Tunisia's food scene impressed me. Keep in mind that the food can be a little spicy as they use harissa. If there are some items that you must try, make sure they include bombolini, makroudh, couscous and brik.
5. THE CONVENIENCE.
I wouldn't say I am picky with destinations, but I do need to have access to public transport. I have pushed my travel dates for some destinations before due to the convenience of getting around. In some places, it is only best if you have a car, while others, you can get by using the buses only. When it comes to Tunisia, what I love is that you have so many options and what you decide is totally up to you.
When we first landed in Tunis, we decided to use the Bolt app right from the airport and quickly realized it was a bad idea unless you've got a SIM card. Why? As soon as you get to the parking lot of the airport, you lose the internet connection and ultimately, can no longer connect with your driver. For Bolt app pickups from the airport, the drivers have a designated area where they wait (and that we could not find). Ultimately, it was thanks to the help of some locals (who called our driver) that we were able to find them. In this case, it would have been better to get a taxi or book a transfer though it may cost you more.
When it came to moving around to the different cities, our options included either the train (which may take you back in time), the shared mini vans (known as the louage), taxis, or renting a car. We used the train from Tunis to Sousse and came back to Tunis with the louage. Both were very affordable and saved us the hassles of driving along the narrow streets.
Now tell me, is Tunisia on your list yet?
If not, then this underrated country needs to added ASAP!