Travel to Tunisia: should you go?

Is it safe, ethical and enjoyable to travel to Tunisia?

Travel to Tunisia: El Jem
El Jem Roman Amphitheatre, Tunisia

Tunisia’s tourism industry has been through a lot in recent times. Terrorist attacks, hostage-taking, the pandemic, and now an increasingly authoritarian government. What are the implications for those who want to travel to Tunisia?

Quiet beaches, peaceful sites

Travel to Tunisia: Hammamet
Yasmine Hammamet beach

You’ll find few people on Tunisia’s golden windswept sands at the moment. Or, to be more accurate, you’ll find few people beside the long stretches of resort hotels. Closer to Sousse city centre, for example, the beach is full of locals and non-Western visitors.

During the day it feels perfectly safe along these beaches. In some touristy areas of the country there are police guarding roads, checking the occasional vehicle in the name of security. Whether this makes you feel safer or not depends on your trust in the police and the threat actually posed. Being sensible, such as not going to the beach at night and avoiding unsafe areas of the country, should go without saying.

Travel beyond the beaches and you’ll be rewarded with sights such as The Great Mosque of Kairouan (considered the fourth holiest site in Islam), Sousse Medina, Carthage, and El Jem’s Roman Amphitheatre (the second largest outside of Rome). Being in such places with few other tourists is a rare delight, but comes with the worry that those in the hospitality industry may/will be struggling.

Staying in beach resort towns such as Monastir or, as I did, Sousse, provided good value accommodation and easy access to Kairouan and El Jem via train and bus.

Should I go?

Travel to Tunisia: Sousse
Sousse Ribat

I passed dozens of abandoned hotels, many of which must have had hundreds of rooms. This was the most obvious sign of the hit that tourism has taken in Tunisia, but I wasn’t aware of any large-scale desperation. I hope that this was as a result of those previously employed in this industry having since moved on to other jobs. Nevertheless, it is my experience in countries which have suffered dramatic declines in tourism that people are keen to see visitors return. The reasons for this are both financial and psychological; having overseas tourists can reassure people that their country hasn’t been forgotten, as well as provide witnesses to what is happening there.

What is happening in Tunisia isn’t pleasant. The president is a racist authoritarian. Sub-Saharan migrants have, within a matter of months, become the target of violent attacks as a result of the president blaming them for the country’s woes. The numbers of people forced to take the dangerous crossing to Europe has increased exponentially.

In countries where you may vehemently disagree with government policies and actions being able to avoid putting money directly into government coffers can be important. I stayed in privately-owned hotels, travelled by privately-owned bus, ate in private-owned restaurants etc. In Tunisia that was easy enough to do, in countries such as Burma/Myanmar it’s much more of a challenge. If you want to help Tunisian people and those migrants in desperate need there are charities and organisations which help them directly, such as the UNHCR and Medicins Sans Frontiers.

Will I enjoy it?

Kairouan cafe
Berber bread, baklava, beverages with almonds: typical Tunisian fare

Yes. Tunisia has talc-soft beaches for sunseekers. It has labyrinthine medinas for culture vultures. It has scintillating ancient sites for history buffs. Foodies will love the tajines, Berber bread, baklava and plentiful piles of deep red harissa. Plus, due to supply far outstripping demand, it’s a very affordable destination.

Despite the armoured vehicles and soldiers on Tunis’s streets, the people here are as warm and welcoming as those I’ve met in other North African countries. Please do note, however, that this is my experience as a cis, hetero, white man.


Low-cost flights can be taken from throughout Europe to Tunis, Enfidha (for Hammamet and Sousse), Monastir and Djerba.


Ferries to Tunisia depart from Marseille (FR), Genoa (IT), Civitavecchia (IT), Palermo (IT) and Salerno (IT).


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