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Tunisia: A Guide to Tunisia for First-Time Travelers

Forget what you’ve heard about Tunisia. Tunisia is safe and ready to welcome you to its incredible beaches and unbeatable hospitality.

I was blown away by the comforts of Tunisia and inspired by the diverse history of this great country. It’s a 5-star destination that is perfect for families, romantic getaways, and relaxing retreats.

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • Tunisia’s Diverse History
  • Safety in Tunisia
  • Women in Tunisia
  • Where to Stay
  • Things to do

For this guide, I’ll mostly be focusing on the Hammamet/Cap Bon area. It is easily accessible and there are incredible 5-star resorts and picturesque beaches for all to enjoy.

Tunisia’s History

Being located along the edge of the Mediterranean came with its advantages as well as its disadvantages. Over the years, many well-known empires have ruled over Tunisia – which was home to the mighty city-state of Carthage – and this diversity is reflected in the present-day culture, architecture, and tradition.

Tunisia is highly influenced by nearby Arab countries, but it possesses a certain modernized history that is unique in its own right. After declaring independence from France in 1956, Tunisia continued to blend Islamic traditions with European modernization to create an open and inviting environment for all genders and religious preferences.

Cap Bon – Tunisia’s tourist hub – is a small peninsula in far northeastern Tunisia. Known today for its incredible beaches and fine wine, Cap Bon grazes the Mediterranean and has a rich history that spans into the early 5th century BC. As a lush agricultural region, Cap Bon was responsible for feeding the major cities and acting as a strategic military base.

The Romans called the region the ‘beautiful peninsula’ and for good reason, with white sand and turquoise waves, Cap Bon is a holiday-maker’s dream.

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Safety in Tunisia

The most common question I get about Tunisia is this – “Is Tunisia Safe?” If you’re late to the party, Tunisia has a bad reputation for a terrorist attack in 2015. It was horrible and the world mourned. But this is not a unique experience for any country.

Terrorism knows no boundaries, has no sympathy, and does not discriminate based on passport. But with so many horrible things happening in the world, it’s easy to forget what has happened in our own countries.

A few examples include:

  • Paris, France (2015) – 130 people were killed
  • Vegas, U.S. (2017) – 58 people we killed, and 422 were wounded
  • Manchester, UK (2017) – 22 people were killed and 116 injured
  • Bali, Indonesia (2002) – 202 people were killed and 209 injured

Even with these bleak moments in our history, the above tourist hubs aren’t considered to be synonymous with terror – so why is Tunisia? Perhaps it’s because Tunisia is not in the news as predominantly so people have fewer things to associate the country with. Well – here are some things to change your perception!

Tunisia is...

  • Alive with energy and culture
  • Vibrant with natural landscapes untarnished by man
  • Flushed with local produce and spicy delicacies
  • Ready to welcome the world

In terms of day-to-day safety, the government is now relatively stable and Europe is investing heavily in local initiatives and programs. In fact, the European Council on Foreign Relations reports:

“Tunisia’s security services have improved significantly since the country’s high-profile terrorist attacks in 2015 (2018).”

Recently, European countries have worked very closely with Tunisia specifically on security, by ‘providing training and equipment for counter-terrorism and conducting some joint operations with Morocco’ (ECFR, 2018).

On a personal note, I felt safe walking around in the markets, on the streets, and we regularly spoke to friendly people. As a precaution and to ease the concern of tourists, large resorts will check under all taxis and cars coming in and out of the grounds for anything suspicious. There are also security guards and lifeguards on all of the beaches as well.

Women in Tunisia

Women are not expected to dress or behave in any specific way. There are active laws in place to protect young girls from forced marriage and assault (UNICEF, 2017) and Tunisia’s youth literacy rate for girls is 96% (UNICEF), which is one of the highest in the Arab world. The education system here actively encourages women to better themselves, whether that’s inside the home or outside. It’s up to them.

In terms of clothing, Tunisian women dress on a wide spectrum. Some are in traditional wear and others look like they are strolling the streets of Paris. The tourists wore whatever they wanted (including tiny bikinis), but I would recommend being respectful of the somewhat conservative nature of North Africa generally.

Where to Stay – Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa 

Tunisia is most known for its incredible beaches and there’s nowhere better to experience this than at the Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa in Hammamet. Located just 1 hour from the Tunis-Carthage International Airport, the Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa is just outside the tourist mecca of Hammamet. The Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa is a 5 Star Resort that specializes in:

  • Luxury Suites
  • Restorative Spa & Hammam
  • Pristine Private Beaches
  • 5 Star Hospitality and Service
  • Dynamic Dining
  • Events and Weddings
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We were lucky enough to enjoy an Ambassador Suite with a pool view (1668 sq ft), which was 10 times bigger than any flat I have seen in London (lol). The resort had graciously left us a table of specialty dates, nuts, fruit, and a bottle of wine upon our arrival and this was just a small example of Tunisia’s incredible hospitality legacy.

Most of the tourists at Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa were regulars. Visitors are greeted by name and with a firm handshake. You can tell that years have gone into the relationship and many of the staff members have been working for this hotel for YEARS (some over a decade).

The treatments at the Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa were pretty incredible as well.  ‘Thalassa‘ derives from the Ancient Greek “Thálassa (Θάλασσα)”, meaning “sea or salt water,” and Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa did NOT  disappoint. I chose to do a hammam session with a full-body mud mask, a restorative massage, and a collagen facial.

I walked out feeling like Aphrodite herself.  I noticed there were multiple solo travelers doing the same thing during my time there. Hasdrubal Thalassa & Spa has a rich history of catering to those who are looking to relax their bodies and mind. Even Mariah Carey has been known to frequent the Presidential Suite!

Cities & Regions to Visit

Some notable highlights are:

  • Hammamet – Beach resorts, boardwalks, and 5-star accommodation. What’s not to love! This is the perfect place to have as your base camp to visit other beautiful areas of Cap Bon.
  • Sidi Bou Said – Sidi Bou Said is a picturesque town of blue and white Mediterranean buildings that are buzzing with tourists. Enjoy delicious cinnamon bambalonis (pastry) while you’re visiting.
  • Matmata – Tunisia’s warm and dry climate makes it a perfect setting for the fictional planet Tatooine (The Phantom Menace). Head south and have a look.

I hope this guide gives you the confidence you need to experience Tunisia’s wonderful magic for yourself. Tunisia is such a wonderful and beautiful country; it’s ready to welcome the world.

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